Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Nancy Pelosi, her archbishop, and her conscience

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 30, 2009

In an interview with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a sympathetic Eleanor Clift of Newsweek eventually gets around to the question of Catholicism:

Clift: Is it difficult for you to reconcile your faith with the role you have in public life?

Pelosi: You know, I have five children in six years. The day I brought my fifth baby home, that week my daughter turned 6. So I appreciate and value all that they want to talk about in terms of family and the rest.

Comment: The message here—delivered without much subtlety—is that since Pelosi had several children she must perforce be a good Catholic. When she speaks of “family and the rest,” that dismissive term (“the rest”) refers to human life, which is identified in the Declaration of Independence as an “unalienable right.” You remember Jefferson’s immortal phrase: “liberty, pursuit of happiness, and the rest.”

Pelosi (continuing): When I speak to my archbishop in San Francisco and his role is to try to change my mind on the subject, well then he is exercising his pastoral duty to me as one of his flock. When they call me on the phone here to talk about, or come to see me about an issue, that’s a different story. Then they are advocates, and I am a public official, and I have a different responsibility.
Comment: Nice try. It’s true that a public official has a duty to treat constituents equally. If the archbishop were lobbying for some special consideration—a government contracts for Catholic Charities, say—then his request should weigh no more heavily than that of any other supplicant. But Archbishop Niederauer is—or should be—reminding Pelosi of a moral obligation: “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” It doesn’t matter whether he delivers that message in person or by phone; it’s still a pastoral duty rather than a lobbying effort.
If there’s any defense of Pelosi’s argument, it is this: Perhaps she’s so accustomed to having bishops and their representatives approach her in the guise of lobbyists, looking precisely for contracts for Catholic Charities—that she doesn’t recognize them in their primary role. 


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 08, 2010 7:02 PM ET USA

    Pelosi and her arch-bishop should be ashamed to call themselves Catholic. Protestant, yes, but not Catholic. How dangerously they are living when they depend on what their constituents think of them, and not of what Jesus Christ thinks of them; especially the Holy Mother of God. Can you ever imagine what She must be thinking of her children condoning the killing of Her children? The tears she must be shedding; it's like the death of the Holy Innocents during Herod's rampage.

  • Posted by: adamah - Jan. 02, 2010 9:41 PM ET USA

    It would seem that Ms. Pelosi's archbishop and conscience are both MIA.

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - Jan. 01, 2010 4:06 AM ET USA

    Strange comment on a woman exercising her free will. If I, as a woman, decided to rob a bank, I would be exercising my free will. If exercising my free will were to be applauded in all circumstances, then I should not face any consequences from society, for merely "exercising" my free will. A congressional or senate representative who legalized bank robbery by women, should then be applauded as a woman's rights advocate, regardless of the impact such a law would have on society as a whole.