Wednesday, February 18, 2009

For Madame Speaker, a Talking-To

Just dropped from the Holy See: a Press Office statement on the Pope's post-audience bacimano earlier today with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

With the meeting become a flashpoint in media, political and church circles alike (and both left and right at that), the following was released by the Vatican in Italian and English:
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.
According to the Italian wires, the encounter between the pontiff and the California Democrat extended for some fifteen minutes.

A lifelong product of church schools who's described herself an "ardent Catholic," the Speaker's solidly pro-choice record has landed her in the crosshairs before, most notably after Pelosi sought to defend her position in an August interview on Meet the Press.

Via CNS, the Speaker's post-meeting statement:
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.”
For the record, in a break from one standard Vatican practice, no photos of the encounter were released by the Holy See's photographers, nor were shutterbugs from other outlets admitted to the meeting.

Indeed, it is telling.

That said, though, today's word from Rome for left-leaning pols wasn't all bad: while the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ran the Press Office statement on the face-to-face as its third story in tonight's edition, its front cover led with a piece on the economic crisis by the British Prime Minister, Labour's Gordon Brown.

In its wrap of the meeting, the AP notes a foreshadow of this morning's unusual protocol:

The treatment of Pelosi echoed the Vatican's earlier treatment of Geraldine Ferraro, a Catholic who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984. The Vatican did not disguise its irritation at Ferraro's position that she opposed abortion but also opposed outlawing it.

Pope John Paul II's meeting with Ferraro in 1985 was never officially announced and — like the Pelosi audience — no photo was released.