Nancy Pelosi criticizes the U.S. Catholic bishops during Georgetown panel discussion
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 16:12 pm
Speaking at a panel discussion at Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice on Thursday, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops over their opposition to abortion and transgender treatments for children.
“They [the bishops] are willing to abandon the bulk of [Catholic social teaching] because of one thing [abortion],” Pelosi said. “And that’s the fight that we have.”
As an outspoken abortion advocate as well as a supporter of the LGBTQ+ movement, Pelosi regularly cites her Catholic faith as the reason behind her policy positions.
During her time as speaker of the House, first in 2007–2011 and then again in 2019–2023, Pelosi backed legislation opposed by the U.S. bishops, including the Affordable Care Act and the Respect for Marriage Act.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called abortion a “grave evil” and LGBTQ+ legislation “deeply concerning.”
In May 2022, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the city Pelosi represents, announced in an open letter that he would begin forbidding the priests in his diocese from distributing holy Communion to Pelosi because of her stance on abortion.
On Thursday, Pelosi said, “I figure that’s his problem, not mine.”
“He made it very clear, maybe we’re not all God’s children. Maybe we do not have a free will,” Pelosi said of Cordileone, whom she also criticized for opposing LGBTQ+ ideology.
“We have had very negative, anti-LGBTQ stuff coming from our archbishop and others,” Pelosi said, criticizing in particular the bishops’ stance against transgender surgeries on children.
“Right now our challenge is trans kids, that in certain states they will arrest you if you try to meet the health needs of your trans child. They will call that child abuse. So, yeah some of it is stirred up by some of the more conservative leaders in the Church. It’s sad to say — not His Holiness.”
When it comes to her pro-abortion stance, Pelosi said she considers herself pro-life because she had five children in just over six years and because she cares about children.
“I was raised in a family that you would describe probably as ‘pro-life,’ although I think I’m pro-life because I care about children,” Pelosi said. “Because I had five children in six years and one week … so I keep saying to my members, you got five kids in six years? You want to talk about this subject?”
According to Pelosi, she and the bishops are “pretty much in sync” with most Catholic social teaching except for the abortion issue.
Pelosi also touted her role in passing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in 2010.
The USCCB opposed Obamacare on the grounds that it would result in taxpayer dollars being used to pay for abortions as well as force employers to cover abortions and include contraceptives in their employees’ health insurance plans. Congress eventually passed the legislation by overcoming opposition from pro-life Democrats with the inclusion of restrictions to abortion in ACA insurance plans.
Pelosi claimed that the U.S. bishops “were mischaracterizing what was in that bill,” adding that she believes that “their purpose was to destroy Roe v. Wade, right in that bill.”
“Today is the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, something that I’m very, very proud of,” Pelosi said. “But all I can say about how we passed that is, thank God for the nuns, thank God for the nuns because they offset the bishops.”
Though the USCCB opposed the Affordable Care Act, the bill was endorsed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Vatican has investigated the organization and censured it for embracing a political agenda in contrast with the teaching of the Church.
Jim Wallis, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice, also chimed in, saying that “Catholic women religious were central” in passing Obamacare, “because they thought the Affordable Care Act was pro-life.”
Wallis called this a “consistent ethic of life” based on Catholic social teaching that is “not just focus[ed] on one issue.”
Instead, she asserted that “because we had the nuns, we were able to prevail … So, when we pushed open that gate, the nuns were right there with us, pushing open the gate.”
According to Pelosi, her style of faith and politics is something she shares with President Joe Biden.
“Justice is something that means a great deal to President Biden, in his Catholicism, justice in how we meet the needs of the people, justice in listening to how they want their needs,” she said. “When you’re in [politics], you have to be prepared to take a punch, and you have to be prepared to throw a punch, for the children, always for the children.”
“My ‘why’ is one in five children lives in poverty, goes to sleep hungry at night,” Pelosi added. “That’s what took me from the kitchen to the Congress, from housewife to House speaker.”
During the discussion at the Jesuit Catholic university, Pelosi also called for the Church to start allowing women to become priests, saying that her mother had wanted her to be a nun, but she would have preferred to be a priest.
“Every day [priests] have the power … of turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, that is real power, now we’re talking power, and that’s why I was more attracted to that than being a nun,” Pelosi said. “On the other hand, maybe women will be able to do that as well, that’s something to think about, something I was hoping the pope would do.”