And Pelosi has now escalated things. Her spokesman Brendan Daly (an Irish Catholic name if there ever was one) said:
The Speaker is the mother of five children and seven grandchildren and fully appreciates the sanctity of family. She was raised in a devout Catholic family who often disagreed with her pro-choice views.
After she was elected to Congress, and the choice issue became more public as she would have to vote on it, she studied the matter more closely. Her views on when life begins were informed by the views of Saint Augustine, who said: the law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation (Saint Augustine, On Exodus 21.22)
While Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not ascribe to that view. The Speaker agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions. She believes that can be done by making family planning more available, as well as by increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and caring adoption programs.
The Speaker has a long, proud record of working with the Catholic Church on many issues, including alleviating poverty and promoting social justice and peace.
Now the bishops have a clear choice. She has thrown down the gauntlet. This is an arrogant, direct slap in their faces. If they do not move to discipline her, she wins.
I know they would like to finesse this by insisting that she should voluntarily abstain from Communion, I know that they fear a media backlash with them becoming the villains if her bishop were to excommunicate her. I understand all that.
But this is an act of deliberate escalation, a deliberate provocation, a bluffingly arrogant spitting in their faces because she is confident the media have her back on this.
If the bishops fold on this, if her bishops fails to hold her accountable, they have given away the store, squandered any hope of regaining any authority.
This is a krisis moment, a moment of decision not unlike the run-up to World War II when Hitler tested the resolve of the West and Chamberlain capitulated.
It did not eliminate the necessity of fighting a costly war, it only delayed that necessity and made the fight all the more bloody.
Until now, I cut the bishops some slack, hoping that the sharp scolding from Chaput, Egan,Wuerl etc. might be enough.
But now it seems like the ball is in Niederauers court. She has poke her thumb in his eye, calculatingly, arrogantly, banking on timid appeasement.
Sadly, I am not optimistic that Niederauer will rise to the challenge. Its a sad day, because the statements by Egan, Chaput et alii gave me some cause for hope.
Surprise me, Archbishop Niederauer, surprise me. We need to beg God for the grace, for once, of courage on the part of our bishops, particularly the archibishop of San Francisco.