• Matthew C. Mai

Pelosi's Catholic Hypocrisy

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

J. Scott Applewhite, The Associated Press

After announcing impeachment proceedings against President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scolded a reporter who asked her if she hates the president.

“This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of the oath of office. And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me”.

Notwithstanding the political theatrics, this isn’t the first time Pelosi has cited her “faith” in public. In a TV appearance after the Ukraine story initially broke she said “It's really sad. We have to be very prayerful. I pray for the president all the time… I pray for the safety of his family — wish he would pay for the safety of other families and do something on guns — but I also pray that God will illuminate him to see right from wrong”.

The repeated references to her Catholic upbringing are a disingenuous way for Pelosi to claim moral insight mainly because for much of her career she has disregarded the Church’s teaching on an issue of paramount importance.

The Speaker has been at the forefront of the “abortion rights” movement since she was first elected into Congress in 1987. In an attempt to reconcile her political approach to the issue with the position of the Church, Pelosi falsely claimed that the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion has never been rigidly defined and therefore subject to personal interpretation. She was rebuked by multiple US bishops who corrected her by saying that, since the first century, the Church has maintained abortion is a grave moral evil.

In this regard, Pelosi isn’t the only politician to invoke Catholicism when it suits her political interests.

Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s pick for vice president, made his “faith” a functional political tool throughout the 2016 election (“I do what I do for spiritual reasons.”) despite his active support for abortion. While campaigning with Clinton, Kaine pledged to support efforts to overturn the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal funds for abortion services.

In order to withstand pressure from his party former vice president, Democrat presidential candidate, and Catholic Joe Biden flip-flopped on the issue of abortion while on the campaign trail this summer. Biden previously supported the Hyde Amendment but renounced his position after citing the pro-life bill in Georgia as an “extreme” effort to roll back abortion access. In October he was denied communion at a South Carolina church in which the parish pastor later explained, “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”. Not only was the action taken by the pastor appropriate but it should be copied by any priest who serves communion to an individual known to actively subvert the Church’s teaching on abortion.

But unfortunately, Pelosi, Kaine, and Biden are representative of a larger phenomenon within the American Catholic community. According to a 2014 Pew Research poll, 48% of Catholics said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. A common line heard from nominal Catholics is that while they may personally oppose abortion, they don’t think the government has any business restricting it for someone else. The aforementioned Catholic politicians have all made similar arguments.

We live in a diverse, pluralistic society so obviously there are elements of the Church’s teachings that cannot be practically implemented into public policy. For example, it would be legitimate for Nancy Pelosi in her capacity as a legislator to argue that while she personally opposes the use of contraception, she doesn’t think that the government should restrict or support it.

But if elected representatives want to make a public pronouncement of their faith to underscore their personal principles then their support for abortion is irreconcilable with their moral duties as Catholics. Abortion is foremost among the issues that the Church identifies as “intrinsically evil” given that it is an affront to human dignity and a violation of the sacredness of human life. Practicing Catholics elected (or appointed) to public office have the moral responsibility of directly affecting policy changes that reflect this understanding. At the ballot box, rank and file Catholics are obligated to do their part by voting for canidates with a pro-life agenda.

If Pelosi, Kaine, and Biden didn’t continually use their Catholic upbringing as a way to establish moral credibility then none of this would be an issue. But since they have and continue to do so, their positions must be examined and called out if they fail to uphold the responsibilities of being a Catholic in the public square.

Suffice it to say that Nancy Pelosi, Tim Kaine, and Joe Biden are all hypocrites on that count.

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