Pelosi And The Popes: Two meetings, Two Versions

Steven Mosher
written by Christopher Manion
October 19, 2021
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited Rome to participate in a meeting of international legislators preparing for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Scotland next month. During the Rome meeting, she took the opportunity to meet privately at the Vatican with Pope Francis, who was scheduled to address the meeting the next day.

Videos released after the meeting show Pelosi as she entered the room and greeted the pope, holding his hand while the cameras rolled. Pelosi later released a statement on her official website which read in part, "His Holiness' leadership is a source of joy and hope for Catholics and for all people, challenging each of us to be good stewards of God's creation, to act on climate, to embrace the refugee, the immigrant and the poor and to recognize the dignity and divinity in everyone."

"It would be a dereliction of duty for us not to go into the future in a green way and (one) that responds to the urgency of the climate crisis," she wrote. "We will leave them a world where they can be healthy, where they can thrive and reach their fulfillment."

"It's all about the children," Ms. Pelosi added - but which children? Did she mean the unborn? No ... but perhaps Pope Francis did. We'll never know for sure, because the Vatican, following its usual protocols, did not release a statement after the meeting.

In his address to the assembly the next day, Pope Francis reaffirmed Pelosi's call for "change" in policies regarding the environment. "This demanding change of direction will require great wisdom, foresight and concern for the common good: in a word, the fundamental virtues of good politics," he said. "As political leaders and legislators, you are responsible for influencing people's actions by those means provided by the law, which lays down rules for admissible conduct in the light of the common good, and with respect for such other fundamental principles as the dignity of the human person, solidarity and subsidiarity."

Pope Francis knows that the U.N. climate crowd is strongly pro-abortion . His appearance before the assembly offered him a unique opportunity to defend the right to life, but he did not take advantage of it.

The Vatican's Long Memories

Rome watchers have remarked that Pelosi's visit was reminiscent of an earlier occasion when she met with Pope Benedict XVI in February 2009. There were no cameras at that meeting, but Ms. Pelosi did release a statement afterwards:

"It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today," she wrote on her official website. "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."

She did not mention at all Pope Benedict's message to her. And we note with interest that, in the statement after her visit with Pope Francis last week, she praised "His Holiness' leadership," while after her meeting with Pope Benedict twelve years ago, she praised "the Church's leadership."

Why not Benedict 's leadership?

Veteran Vatican-watcher Phil Lawler gives us a hint : Pelosi said that she had "spoken to the Pontiff about world hunger and global warming. Perhaps those topics were on her agenda, but it is significant that they were not mentioned in the terse Vatican statement. There was no happy-talk from the Holy See: no mention of shared concerns and mutual interests, nothing that would distract attention from the one essential point that the Pope wanted to make."

And what was Pope Benedict's "essential point"? The Vatican issues statements after such visits only rarely, so this one was clearly designed to send a message:

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 co-operation 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.

In Pelosi's meetings with the two Supreme Pontiffs, Pope Benedict reiterated the Church's timeless teaching on life both in private and in public. Pope Francis, on the other hand, might well have addressed it in private, but was silent about it in public, both after Pelosi's visit and during his public address the next day.

But there were other messages as well. Vatican regulars have long memories. The Pope's PR flaks were well aware of the optics surrounding the 2009 meeting: no cameras to portray a smiling Pelosi holding Pope Benedict's hand; and a frankly blistering public Vatican statement following the meeting.

But this time, the optics were reversed. Pelosi was intent on getting that picture that Pope Benedict hadn't allowed, and Pope Francis generously provided it.

What message was Pelosi sending to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone with that picture, showing her gripping Pope Francis' hand so tightly that he couldn't let go?

And what message was Pope Francis sending to Abp. Cordileone, and to the American hierarchy, when the bishops meet next month at the USCCB's annual meeting in Baltimore?

In Richard Nixon's memorable phrase, Pelosi, for her part, was making one thing perfectly clear: she was challenging Archbishop Cordileone to back off.

The archbishop is in a perilous bind; his recent public plea for prayers for Pelosi's conversion should have been resonated with a resounding and unanimous "Amen!" from his brother bishops. It wasn't.

That means that, however the USCCB addresses the issue of Biden and the Eucharist next month in public, the bishops conference's influential cadre of Biden supporters will privately point to that Rome photo-op as a signal to the bishops from Pope Francis to cease and desist from all efforts to clarify and apply the Church's teaching regarding the worthy reception of the Eucharist.

That's certainly the way Pelosi sees it. And whatever the bishops do, our long experience with the Pelosi's of the world has taught us one hard lesson: The Left never backs down, and neither should we.