Saturday, July 27, 2013

Second Thoughts About Wrestling With Pigs: No Communion for Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi
Photo credit:
Back in the days when I practiced law, my senior partner gave me some very good advice. Admit your mistakes as quickly as possible, he advised. The longer you wait to address a mistake, the more the mistake will cost you.

A few days ago, I posted a blog entitled "Never Wrestle With a Pig," in which I argued that the bishops should not deny Communion to Nancy Pelosi, one of the nation's most prominent pro-abortion politicians. 

But I was wrong to give that advice.

I am reading Philip Lawler's wonderful book, The Faithful Departed, about the collapse of Catholic culture in Boston. I wish I had read it before I posted that blog.

Lawler shows how poor leadership over more than half a century led to the downfall of Catholic values and Catholic culture in Boston.  Basically, three cardinals--Cardinal Cushing, Cardinal Medeiros, and Cardinal Law--responded to every major challenge to the Faith by compromising with the enemies of the Church instead of providing courageous leadership.

As Lawler wrote in Chapter 10 of his book, the American bishops have largely shied away from confronting Catholic politicians who openly support abortion on demand.  Perhaps, as Lawler suggested, "they believed that they should avoid  confronting dissident politicians so that the liberal media would not accuse the Church of authoritarianism."

But by refusing to sanction Catholic political leaders who openly defy Catholic doctrine, the bishops have only weakened the Church and demoralized faithful Catholics.

And what have they gotten in return for their compromising spirit? The liberal media still attack the Church regularly.  How many times has Frank Bruni attacked the Catholic Church in the op ed pages of the New York Times?

In arguing against denying Communion to Nancy Pelosi, I said we should not wrestle with pigs by engaging in unseemly controversy that the Church's enemies would love to see.  But Lawler's book convinced me that compromise on basic doctrinal issues only weakens the Church.

I also wrongly compared Nancy Pelosi with ordinary Catholics who might have strayed from the Catholic life--by living with someone out of wedlock, for example. Of course I hope the clergy will be generous and forgiving to the Church's common sinners. But Nancy Pelosi is not a common sinner.  She is a powerful politician who openly defies Church doctrine on abortion--one of the most basic teachings of the Church.

Finally, I wrongly personalized this issue, comparing Nancy Pelosi to myself. Of course I would be devastated if my priest denied me Communion. And perhaps Nancy Pelois would be devastated as well. But people who repeatedly and publicly undermine Church teaching on the dignity of life should not receive Communion, no matter how painful it might be for the person who is turned away.

No, I am now convinced that the bishops should deny Communion to Nancy Pelosi and other pro-abortion Catholic officials--Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden among them. Edward Peters' blog essay, which I include in my references, makes a compelling and balanced case that Nancy Pelosi should be denied Communion under Canon 915.

Mr. Peters is right. I was wrong.


Edward Peters. One canon 915 case at a time: Nancy Pelosi. In the Light of the Law, March 25, 2013. Accessible at:

Philip Lawler. The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture. New York: Encounter Books, 2008.

Cort Kirkwood. Pelosi's Support for Abortion Tells a Larger Story. Crisis Magazine, June 20, 2013.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. I would include politicians who support unjust wars like Iraq and Afghanistan too.