In a much-anticipated encounter, Benedict XVI met House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a private meeting at the Vatican. No photos–officially–and just a 15-minute chat after his weekly public audience. (Besides, Pelosi already got her baciamano shot last April.) And as the AP story says, the pontiff made a point of indicating that politicians cannot support abortion rights–which Pelosi does, to the frustration of Catholic leaders and pro-lifers. Here is the Vatican statement about the meeting, via CNS:
“Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.
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 enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”
Conservative Catholics who are furious at Pelosi had been calling for Benedict to read her the riot act, or refuse her communion (there was no mass) or something short of–I think–burning her at the stake. Some will be pleased at the pro-life focus of the Vatican statement, but other, like Fr. Tom Eutener of Human Life International, who called for Pelosi’s public excommiunication, will likely be disappointed. Deal Hudson had predicted that “Benedict will very likely make comments criticizing the Obama administration for ending the Mexico City Policy and warning the new Congress against passing the Freedom of Choice Act.” The pope didn’t do that either.
It was in fact more dog-bites-man, frustrating partisans but about right for the Vatican and the U.S. bishops and the Speaker. The pope got his point across, and he isn’t about to do a local bishop’s job for him–in this case Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, who is under the gun now from pro-lifers. And Pelosi, a practicing Catholic and mother of five and grandmother of seven, got to meet the Holy Father and get her views across, as this statement from her office (via CNS) shows:
“It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI today.
In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.
I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.”
Pelosi was heading a congressional delegation to Italy–remember she isn’t the president, so this encounter seemed about right in terms of protocol–and she sought out the papal audience. She had to, or it would have been seen as a snub. And the Vatican had to accomodate it, or it would also have been seen as a snub. Disappointed? Remember, there is still Pewsitter’s petition aimed at getting 1 million signatures to present to the Vatican and U.S. bishops calling for them to deny Pelosi and other pro-choice Catholic pols communion.
And the telling encounter will be this July when Obama travels to Italy in July for the G-8 summit, when he will undoubtedly make a visit to the Vatican.