Can you feel the excitement? In a few days, Nancy Pelosi will seize the reins as Speaker of the House, and boy, does she want you to know it:
On a scale associated with presidential inaugurations, Nancy Pelosi is planning four days of celebration surrounding her Jan. 4 swearing-in as the first female speaker of the House. She will return to the blue-collar Baltimore neighborhood where she grew up, attend Mass at the women's college where she studied political science, and dine at the Italian Embassy as Tony Bennett sings "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
But the hoopla is more than just a party.
Pelosi is grabbing the moment to present herself as the new face of the Democratic Party and to restore the party's image as one hospitable to ethnic minorities, families, religion, the working class and women.
On Jan. 3, Pelosi will attend morning Mass at Trinity University, her alma mater in Washington, and then attend a tea in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium for about 400 female politicians, supporters and activists. In the evening, she will be honored at a dinner at the Italian Embassy, where Bennett will perform.
The next day, Pelosi will participate in a nondenominational service at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Capitol Hill and then eat brunch with hundreds of supporters at the Cannon House Office Building and the Library of Congress. At noon, the House will convene to elect Pelosi speaker. That night, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will hold a fundraiser at the Building Museum, where 1,200 partygoers will pay $1,000 each to applaud Pelosi between performances by Jimmy Buffett, Carole King and Mickey Hart, among others.
Trinity is understandably excited about the achievement of its alumna, but the burning question is, what will the Archbishop of Washington do?
One could say...ah, well it's a function in a university chapel. It's not directly associated with the Archdiocese. In fact it's a couple or three steps removed from the Archdiocese. One could say that and a lot more. And I'm fairly ignorant about what an Archbishop's options are in a situation like this. I am fairly sure, however, that one of his options would be to open his mouth and say something.
Ah, but what of the agony of the Catholic politician...struggling to serve her conscience even as she serves her constituents in a way that is consistent with both her faith and the Constitution! What a dilemma! What valiant creatures these Catholic pols are, attempting to live out their faith in the public square!
- Voted YES on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
- Voted NO on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
- Voted NO on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
- Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)
- Voted NO on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
- Voted NO on funding for health providers who don't provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
- Voted NO on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
- Voted NO on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
- Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
- Voted NO on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
- Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record. (Dec 2003)
- Supported funding contraception and UN family planning. (Jul 1999)
Rep. Pelosi has earned a fully pro-choice voting record from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Clift: I think the issues that brought you into politics were the environment and also choice. [You had] five children in six years, a Catholic background…Was embracing choice an issue with your family?
Pelosi: To me it isn’t even a question. God has given us a free will. We’re all responsible for our actions. If you don’t want an abortion, you don’t believe in it, [then] don’t have one. But don’t tell somebody else what they can do in terms of honoring their responsibilities. My family is very pro-life. They’re not fanatics and they’re not activists. I think they’d like it if I were not so vocally pro-choice.
Doesn't sound much of a struggle to me. Sounds like her mind is made up. And there's not a bit of Catholic-tinged reasoning even touching the edges of her actions, associations or explanations. So while comments about "how we can be pro-life while still espousing limited legal abortion" have been part of the discussion here before, they have no place at this moment, for that is not what Nancy Pelosi is interested in, that's not where her head is.
So. Will the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church let itself be played? Will it allow Nancy Pelosi to "celebrate" her Catholic roots as an act of obvious, frank political manipulation to get ethnic Catholics to start thinking Democrat again? Or will the leadership of this Church swallow its instinctive institutional self-protectiveness and pride, consider the spectacle of a Catholic who has achieved a position of political power, trumpets her Catholic identity, but is viciously indifferent to the plight of the weakest and most helpless in our society and say...Hmmm. Something wrong here. Maybe we should...do something? Maybe?
Folks, this is not about being Catholic. The world is full of bad Catholics and most of us are in that category, for sure. We all need a little mercy now, as Mary Gauthier says. I have long maintained that the most fundamental spiritual difference between Catholics Then and Now is the shift from "We're all bad Catholics except for that little saintly lady who comes to 6am Mass in the snow, and even she probably thinks she's a bad Catholic" to "We're all Good Catholics Now!" Great, even.
No,it is about playing and using Catholic identity as a political tool and not being called on it, especially when the one doing the playing uses her power to actively work against what the bishops of this country say is a priority of theirs. And frankly, if this self-aggrandizing, cynical spectacle is met only with silence, who can blame the rest of us, engaged in far less visible professions and efforts in this world, for shrugging and saying, "Huh. So that's how it is? That's what being a disciple means? Using the position we've achieved and the place that we've taken and either ignoring or actively working against the Church's efforts? Well, Who knew? That's easier than I thought!"