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Excommunicate Pelosi Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Sunday, 20 June 2010

It’s an election year: time for some provocative thoughts about faith and politics. 

Two Februarys past, Nancy Pelosi met with Benedict XVI in Rome. No press attended the meeting; there was no photo op. Afterwards, Mrs. Pelosi praised the “Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom . . .” This was somewhat at odds with the Vatican’s version of the papal-politico confab:

His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoins all Catholics, and especially legislators . . . in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.

Mrs. Pelosi has been cautioned, lectured to, and scolded by any number of priests, bishops, and cardinals since then, but she proceeds blithely along as before.

“I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess,” she told Newsweek in December, “and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

This led San Francisco’s archbishop, George H. Niederauer, to once again undertake some remedial instruction. To wit: free will does not excuse sin.

In May of this year, the Speaker addressed a meeting of something called the Catholic Community Conference and said:

My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference; you know the Gospel reference of the Word. And that Word is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word.
As some exasperated Catholic wags quipped at the time, this suggests a new bumper sticker: WWJA (“Who Would Jesus Abort?”).

Now, nobody expects Mrs. Pelosi – mother of five and grandmother of seven – to be a politician and a theologian (moral or otherwise). Her stepping into the middle of such things has been foolhardy. Remember 2008 when she tried to instruct the American bishops on the theology of St. Augustine, which was only slightly sillier than Joe Biden attempting to instruct them about Aquinas? Her political position and profession of Catholicism in private and public require something more than wrist-slapping and finger-wagging so that American Catholics will see that what she is pushing is not Catholicism.

It’s time somebody finds the gumption to excommunicate her.

She is all but certainly excommunicated already, latae sententiae (literally, “given sentence,” meaning her loss of union is inherent in her actions), but where is the public value of that? Her continued misstatements about the faith and her unrepentant support of abortion rights (where she most obviously stands outside the faith) amount to textbook case of scandal, the sort that begs for formal redress.

One of America’s leading canon lawyers, Edward N. Peters, has written: “If her prolonged public conduct does not qualify as obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin, then, in all sincerity, I must admit to not knowing what would constitute obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin.” His point of reference is to a passage in Canon 915: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin , are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” [Emphasis added. And, N.B., I had originally included this (parenthetical) note in the Comments section below, but now think it best to insert it here as well: I must qualify the opinion of Edward Peters. At his website (In the Light of the Law) he points out in response to this column that he has never called for Mrs. Pelosi’s excommunication – only that she be denied Communion. It’s an important distinction and one I’m sorry I hadn’t grasped right away.]

And here’s the rub: How is a priest (in Washington, D.C. where Mrs. Pelosi works or back in her California district or, for that matter, at St. Peter’s in Rome) to certainly know that she should not be allowed to receive the Host unless he has been directed to refuse her by ecclesial authority? (I ask this even though a priest may be required by 915 to refuse Communion even without a bishop’s formal declaration.) How are Catholics to judge the distinction between her position on abortion and that of a pro-life candidate who may be her opponent? (In fact, opponent John Dennis is not a pro-lifer, but a libertarian Republican who opposes government funding of abortion.)

Why haven’t bishops in Washington, San Francisco, and . . . Rome stepped in to make clear that Mrs. Pelosi should be refused at the rail? Recall the 2007 statement of Archbishop Raymond Burke : if “the lack of right disposition is serious and public, and the person, nevertheless, approaches to receive the Sacrament, then he is to be admonished and denied Holy Communion.” Admonished and denied, he means, by the individual priest – without the necessity of a bishop’s direction.

But with all due respect, isn’t that kicking the can down the road? Isn’t that like the Joint Chiefs giving platoon leaders ad hoc responsibility for rules of engagement? There’s bound to be a priest out there who’d like nothing better than to be the one to say “No!” to Nancy (and then get three minutes on “The O’Reilly Factor”). But the faithful will only be left wondering if the priest hasn’t “acted alone.” Archbishop Burke’s wiggle-waggle will be confusing, given his strong summary statement:

No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow.

Donald William Wuerl, George Hugh Niederauer, Raymond Leo Burke, allow me to introduce Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi. She gives unending scandal to the Church, and she is about to be re-elected with a majority of the Catholic vote in California’s 8th Congressional District – unless, that is, one of you says what needs to be said.

As you know, Mrs. Pelosi’s salvation may also be at stake. Correct her – for her own sake.

Brad Miner, a former literary editor of National Review, is senior editor of The Catholic Thing and author of The Compleat Gentleman.

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Comments (14)Add Comment
ONLY Pelosi?
written by Francis S., June 20, 2010
So refreshing to read an article that tells the TRUTH. Except...why only Pelosi? What about Biden, Kerry, Durbin, and all the rest? And abortion is an evil in a league of its own but what about the GAYS? Sweep the church clean!
written by william williams, June 21, 2010
The Canon that you cited refers to those who have been excommunicated AND others who are in manifest in grave sin, suggesting that there is a difference. Secondly, from what I gather (and I am not a canon lawyer), the latae sententiae penalty is restricted to a specific set of offenses (is this one of those cases?)Certainly, something should be done. But the more prudent course might be to begin with canonical sanctions of some kind. Perhaps as well Bishops should be more direct in their statements (correct her theological mistakes certainly, but also admonish more forcefully and more directly in public).
Sweep Clean?
written by Mark, June 21, 2010
Excommunication isn't about sweeping the Church clean. It is a medicinal action, the primary intention of which is to urge the excommunicant to repent in order to return to the Church. The failure to make public what is almost certainly already a fact regarding Madame Speaker's excommunication not only creates disunity and fails to address the scandal she causes. It also fails to treat her with genuine charity.
written by Willie, June 21, 2010
Pelosi and others have in fact thumbed their noses at the Church. These so called Catholic politicians parade around as good Catholics because their freedom of conscience allows them to embrace evil? Since when and by what kind of reasoning does freedom of conscience trump evil? If the Church condemned state sponsored murder for the sake of eugenics would this be a violation of "separation of church and state?" Yes! I believe the Church has an obligation to denounce these hypocrites for what they are or allow the scandal to corrupt the body of Christ. Abortion is a flammable issue. We hear very little teaching about the subject from the pulpit. The Church, I believe, is being held hostage by a liberal agenda. It is time to speak out and prune out this ugly canker sore!
written by Joe, June 21, 2010
Well said, Brad. Along with others mentioned, if possible throw Ted Kennedy out posthumously. His last-ditch effort to win the Pope's blessing was pathetic, but Rome's tepid response was disappointing. The Church needs to make it crystal clear that there is nothing more important than the sacredness of a single human life.
The burden is on the laity, in this
written by Christopher Manion, June 21, 2010
No, the laity cannot excommunicate, that responsibility (it is not a choice) lies with the hierarchy. But our prelates are very preoccupied these days -- with the residue of the scandals, advocating the nationalizing of health care, lobbying hard for amnesty - and it is thus the burden of the laity to work to fight contraception, scandal, and other intrinsic evils that have unfortunately fallen off the bishops' radar (Let us hope only temporarily).

One of a myriad of examples, little-known to the people in the pews: The USCCB **supports** full funding and passage of a foreign aid bill that contains half a billion for contraceptives and abortifacients for many Catholic countries, and another $55 million for abortions. These are intrinsic evils. Why do our bishops support funding them?

Our bishops are obviously distracted. We love them but we must oppose them when their prudential political opinions get as bad as Pelosi's. Their mistakes are unintentional, to be sure (after all, they have to rely on their bureaucratic "experts"), but hers are very intentional, manipulative, and yes, objectively scandalous.
I agree that she should be excommunicated for promoting falsehood in the church but
written by Kathleen Torres de Klavon, June 21, 2010
Kick out the gays? No where in the CCC does it say that homosexuals cannot be Catholic. They must be abstinent.
Thank you, Mr. Miner...
written by Martial Artist, June 21, 2010
Pelosi's apparently intransigent refusal to recognize Church teaching is a continuing scandal and a continuing embarrassment to the Church. I pray that her Bishop will have the courage to take whatever action(s) are available to him and proper, to resolve this scandal. You have my gratitude for making the case.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer
written by Liz, June 21, 2010
The bishop in Washington DC and the bishop in San Francisco are the ones to refuse to excommunicate Pelosi. I don't believe Bishop Burke has this ability. But Wuerl and Niederauer are Vat II bishops - those who believe, incorrectly, that God is a warm and fuzzy being who admits all to His table and we should teach with Love and not excommunicate anyone. They are sorely mistaken as God is also Justice. Pelosi has learned nothing from these bishops, who converse with her, as well as the Pope. Are they afraid of her power? are they her "friends"? Why are they afraid to take on this woman whose arrogance and hubris trump anything I have seen in years. She has done nothing for the Church. She should be excommunicated. I urge all to send Mr. Miner's column to them. Lord knows I have written them enough on this subject. Maybe his article will do the trick!!
pelosi is just the tip of the iceberg
written by Howard Kainz, June 21, 2010
The sea change with regard to Democratic politicians' view on abortion came at the instigation of Jesuit Father (and Congressman) Robert Drinan's counseling, along with other noted theologians, of Ted Kennedy in 1964. Numerous Democrats followed suit. The theologians have continued ever since, up to and including Marquette theologian Dan Maguire. The politicians are following what is considered sound but dissident theological opinions. If excommunication is considered, it should be directed at the source.
Pelosi more than Biden, et. al
written by miss, June 23, 2010
Francis, because Pelosi is probably the only one who is so blantantly obstinate? my thought anyway.
A correction
written by Brad Miner, June 23, 2010
I need to add to my column a qualification from canon lawyer Edward Peters, whose work I cited. At his website (In the Light of the Law) he points our that he has never called for Mrs. Pelosi's excommunication - only that she be denied Communion. It's an important distinction and one I'm sorry I hadn't grasped and made clear. About Mr. Peters' position, that is. I remain persuaded excommunication is ther appropriate correction.
written by hoome, June 27, 2010
And where in the CCC does it say that homosexuals must be Catholic?
There have been claims, emitted by some, that alcoholics, zoophiles and pedophiles are born that way and, like homosexuals, cannot help what they are. So apparently with that reasoning society must accept those forms of behavior also. Remember; "love the sinner, hate the sin."
written by Hank Mullaney, January 27, 2013
The Bishops have NO COURAGE! Get used to it. It's pathetic to even discuss the possibility that even one bishop in the US would dare take such an action against this diabolical collection of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Because of their lack of action, few lay people bother to listen to the Bishops on all levels. Empty robes.

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