This just in: A fictional account of what may have happened this morning from an imaginative journalist who has covered the pope and the Vatican.
On Wednesday February 18, 2009, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats, Rep. George Miller, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Rep. John Larson, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Edward Markey, Rep. Michael Capuano, and Rep. William Pascrell Jr. had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican released only this description of the meeting:
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.
This is what might have transpired:
Speaker Pelosi: (Draped in a floor length mantilla, clutching rosary beads) Your Holiness, it is an honor to be with you again.
Pope Benedict: God bless you.
Pelosi: (Pulling a “Obama/Hope” holy card from her purse): The president sends his greetings. (Near shouting) My colleagues and I wanted you to have this as a memento of the historic election of our new president.
Pope: (Faintly smiling): Ah, yes. How thoughtful of you.
Pelosi: (Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Edward Markey move forward with a huge framed photograph) And this, Holy Father is a little something I thought might look nice here in the library. It’s a picture of me taking the gavel as Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Shouting again) I am the first woman to do so in American history.
Pope: Another historic memento . . .
Pelosi: It really is.
Pope: (Pointing at the portrait) And who are all these children surrounding you?
Pelosi: These are my grandchildren, here. And these are the children of members. Members of Congress. (Loudly) The legislative, elected body that I lead. I’m sort of the pope of Capitol Hill. Uh-ha. Though I wear white only occasionally . . . uh-ha ha ha.
Pope: (Sarcastically) All of these children must be a terrible burden on the states and the federal government?
Pelosi: (Beaming) Why yes, Holy Father, they can be. It is interesting that you should mention that as I was trying to make that . . . the point to George Stephanopoulos — he’s Greek Orthodox I believe — that children can be a real drain on states during this fiscal budget crisis and that contraception . . .
Pope: I am quite familiar with your statements, Madame Speaker. I have attempted to examine them carefully.
Pelosi: Well, I’m glad we are in agreement. I AM an ardent, practicing Catholic and I myself have studied all of these issues very, very carefully.
Pope: Perhaps this will aid your studies. (The papal secretary hands the Pope a book). Some light reading for your flight home. It is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I edited. Do you have a copy?
Pelosi: No. I mean — not one that I have read. (Nervously looking to Rep. George Miller for help) Yes, I have a copy that is still in its cellophane wrapper.
Pope: I have taken the liberty of marking a few passages for you. I believe this section which reads, “Human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception,” might interest you.
Pelosi: Excuse me your Holiness, but . . . I, I, I don’t have to read that, I’ve been studying this issue for a long time. The National Catholic Reporter, and the New York Times, also, each had wonderful pieces on this back in the early 80’s, I believe. And over the centuries the Church has not been able to define when life begins. You know — when it actually starts.
Pope: The Church does not need to define such a thing; science has defined it for us. Regardless of one’s belief: Life begins at conception, Madame Speaker. This is a fact.
Pelosi: I knew you were going to say that. And I have to protest — uh . . . We are in a new era in America, your Holiness. It is a time of change. With President Obama’s election we are rediscovering many things . . .
Pope: Has there been some new discovery regarding when life begins?
Pelosi: Well, whatever it is — the Church — Senator, uh, Saint Augustine said it was three months. Life begins at three months. We just don’t know. But whenever it is, it has no bearing on a woman’s right to choose.
Pope: Right to choose what?
Pelosi: Right to choooooose.
Pope: Choooooose what?
Pelosi: Well, to terminate the . . . uh. The abortion. The fetus. The control of our bodies to terminate the choice . . . abortion.
Pope: To abort one that does not yet exist? Didn’t you just say life didn’t begin until three months after birth?
Pelosi: I knew you were going to say that. I said, the Church has not defined when life begins.
Pope: Science has definitively proven that life begins at conception. This is not matter of faith, but of fact.
Pelosi: Well, I have free will, you know.
Pope: I can see that.
Pelosi: In the United States we want abortions to be safe and rare and reduce the number of abortions.
Pope: By permitting more of them?
Pelosi: Yes. Uh. Legal and rare. We want them to be (raising her voice, the mantilla slipping) reduced. We want the numbers of abortions to reduce.
Pope: And to reduce abortions you are dedicating more money to pay for abortions?
Pelosi: Yes. No. We reduce the people by paying for more abortions. But we leave that choice to the woman.
Pope: The choice to murder her child?
Pelosi: I don’t see it that way.
Pope: (Opening the Catechism once more) There is a fascinating section . . . Ah, here it is: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.” (Eyeing the assembled) Politicians who publicly and manifestly support such a grave moral evil should not present themselves at communion. Have you read that anywhere?
Pelosi: I told you mine is still in the wrapper. And you should know Holy Father, I am an ardent, practicing Catholic in good standing in my diocese. I present myself with a clean conscience every Sunday.
Pope: I am sure you present yourself, my child . . .
Pelosi: It is really my choice.
Pope: Abortion or communion?
Pelosi: Communion! (Dead silence. Uncomfortable silence. Then in a sheepish voice, she reaches down to pick the mantilla off the floor) I really am an ardent, practicing Catholic. (She crosses herself. More silence) Holy Father?
Pope: (The papal secretary hands him a few typed pages) Being an ardent scholar, Mrs. Pelosi, I think you will be very interested in these citations from the Canon Law of the Church. I will put them in the back of your book. They speak of ways and means by which a Catholic, even a public official, can incur certain penalties for causing scandal or for publicly leading others astray. Suppose an elected official said foolish, heretical things on television for millions to hear? Well, that person might be endangering their soul and could be barred from the sacraments.
Pelosi: (Grabbing the book and curtseying as she backs out) It has been wonderful meeting you again your Holiness. I will read your latest catechism book. Do you need a blurb or anything? I’ll have my office contact your secretary. This has been a historic moment for my colleagues and myself — uh, me.
Pope: Madame Speaker, it has been truly hysterical. I will keep you all in my prayers.
Pelosi: Thank you, Holiness. (She and the congressional delegation move toward the door) Go! Rosa, stop looking at the ceiling and go.
Pope: (Turning to his secretary) Was she smiling or grimacing as she left? Her expressions are hard to read, no?