Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Vatican smiles on Pelosi, undercuts US bishops

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 11, 2021

The Vatican certainly rolled out the red carpet for Nancy Pelosi. The blood-red carpet, you might say.

Even as Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was urging faithful Catholics to pray for the wayward Speaker, that she might have a “conversion of heart,” a smiling Pope Francis was greeting her at the apostolic palace, giving the world no indication that he is troubled by her outspoken promotion of abortion on demand.

Archbishop Cordileone—Pelosi’s archbishop—has told the world that the Speaker’s support for abortion is incompatible with her Catholic faith. But her photo-op with the Supreme Pontiff will likely cancel out whatever impression the archbishop’s appeal has made on the general public.

Less than a month ago the Pope told journalists that “abortion is murder.” Now he greeted one of America’s leading supporters of the practice. His meeting with Pelosi was markedly warmer than his grim-faced meeting, some months earlier, with former President Trump. For that matter, he made more time for the Speaker than he has made for the cardinals who pressed with questions on urgent doctrinal issues, in the dubia. Obviously Pope Francis is capable of conveying disapproval, either by refusing to meet with prominent individuals or by sending an unmistakable message with his body language during the obligatory photo. No hint of such disapproval was shown with Pelosi.

Before her meeting with the Pope, Speaker Pelosi had dropped in on Cardinal Peter Turkson, whose office announced that he was happy to speak with her about the environment, health care, migration, and human rights. Well, some human rights. Cardinal Turkson presides over the new Vatican department with an ungainly name: the dicastery for Integral Human Development. But apparently he did not find time to speak with the American politician about the human development that takes place in the womb.

Then after her meeting with the Pope, Pelosi found her way to St. Patrick’s church in Rome, where an obliging rector scheduled her to do the second reading. (“Indeed the Word of God is living and effective… everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.”) Unfortunately the Speaker left the church not long after the Mass began, and the rector told the congregation that she left because of a “security incident”—giving her sympathizers an opportunity to hint that intemperate pro-lifers had threatened her safety. (In fact the “security incident” was a demonstration by Covid-lockdown opponents, who were marching near the church for reasons unrelated to Pelosi’s appearance.)

The timing of Pelosi’s visit was not accidental. Oh, yes, she was attending a meeting of legislators in Rome. But have you seen any reports from that meeting? Any front-page photos, of the sort she collected at the Vatican? No; her business with the Holy See was more important than the international gathering.

In just a few weeks, the US bishops will meet in Baltimore, to discuss a statement on “Eucharistic coherence.” The most significant question about that statement is how it will handle the problem created by Catholic politicians like Pelosi and President Biden, who continue to claim that their advocacy for abortion can be reconciled with their professed Catholicism. Pelosi’s mission in Rome was to persuade American prelates that they should not take a forthright stand on that question. And let’s face it: the Vatican gave that mission an enormous boost.

Ironically, the day after greeting Pelosi, Pope Francis opened a new Synod of Bishops, incorporating a process that he has advertised as an unprecedented worldwide “listening session,” gathering suggestions from interested parties all around the world on how the Church might be reformed. Why, then, is the Vatican not listening to the pleas of the pro-life movement—pleas for honesty and consistency?

Pope Francis has called for a “synodal” Church, characterized by a decentralized leadership. Why, then, is he not respecting the leaders of the American hierarchy, allowing them to speak to their own flocks on a critical moral issue? Why has he undercut the initiative taken by Pelosi’s own archbishop?

Three years ago, when the US bishops’ conference had scheduled a statement on the McCarrick scandal, the Vatican sent a last-minute “request” to table the discussion, and the American bishops obliged. If the signals sent by Pelosi’s visit to Rome are any indication, the Vatican is now hoping that the American bishops will not press the issue of Eucharistic coherence. Let’s hope and pray that, in the interests of “synodality,” the American bishops will ignore that message and take a bold stand: for truth and for life.

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: feedback - Oct. 14, 2021 5:01 AM ET USA

    Francis with his weird smiles (forced, or sincere - hard to tell) to Pelosi caused grave scandal to the Catholic people worldwide.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Oct. 14, 2021 4:38 AM ET USA

    O Lord, how long must we endure this . . . . [fill in the blank]? To paraphrase a former Protestant chaplain of the US Senate, when asked whether, given the state of the country, he prayed for the Senate. He replied, "No, given the state of the Senate, I pray for the country!"

  • Posted by: Pius _X - Oct. 13, 2021 11:54 AM ET USA

    Very confusing times to be a Catholic.

  • Posted by: tjbenjamin - Oct. 12, 2021 8:31 PM ET USA

    It is impossible for me to explain what is going on with the Pope to my husband, a recent convert. I say the Holy Spirit will protect the Church in the long run, and I talk about Church history and difficulties in the past, but that seems to be the best I can manage. Frankly, the Pope comes across as paranoid schizophrenic, and I pray for him every day.

  • Posted by: gvmv6904 - Oct. 12, 2021 7:50 PM ET USA

    I don’t get it, murder is murder. And if the Pope is associating with these people, how does that help us regular Catholics understand? Is this another example of rules for thee, not for me, by our Pope???

  • Posted by: Cory - Oct. 12, 2021 7:56 AM ET USA

    The American bishops taking a bold stand for truth and life? You are kidding right? But wait a minute... is that a pig flying?