The Vatican has released a statement after meeting with Nancy Pelosi, apparently mindful of the controversy created by giving an audience to a pro-choice American politician. Before Pelosi has a chance to characterize the discussion, Benedict apparently wants everyone to know that he saw this as a teaching moment (via The Corner):
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.
The consistent teachings, Benedict apparently emphasized, in contradiction to Pelosi’s strange insistence that Catholic opposition to abortion only goes back 50 years:
REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator–St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child–first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There’s very clear distinctions. This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and–to–that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided…
MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it…
REP. PELOSI: I understand that.
MR. BROKAW: …begins at the point of conception.
REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That’s why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must–it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take–you know, we have to handle this as respectfully–this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been–and I’m not saying Rick Warren did, because I don’t think he did, but others will try to.
Message from Benedict: Study more. And he sent another message as well — that those with higher positions have higher responsibilities not to formally cooperate with the sin of abortion. That message undoubtedly was intended not just for Pelosi but for the entire class of Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Joe Biden, among others.
As for excommunication, that question rightly belongs to Pelosi’s bishop, not the Pope. Also, it likely would not have arisen in this setting, as the Pope does not give Communion during private audiences; that would only be an issue if Pelosi had attended a Papal Mass. It seems clear, though, that Benedict XVI does not share Pelosi’s view of Catholic teachings on abortion — and used the visit to make that clear.
Update: Jim at Gateway Pundit wonders whether Pelosi will heed Benedict’s teaching. I’d say: doubtful. The teaching has always been plain; it’s the student that has the problem.
Update II: Even MS-NBC can’t spin this one:
Pope Benedict, underscoring the Vatican’s ruling on an issue that divides Americans, told U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday that Catholic politicians and legislators cannot back abortion rights.
Pelosi, a powerful U.S. politician who is Catholic and pro-choice, has been accused by U.S. bishops in the past of misrepresenting Church teachings on abortion.
The headline? “Pope to Pelosi: Catholics cannot back abortion”.
The Anchoress has a great round-up on this story.