A Catholic pro-life group is pressing Pope Benedict XVI to excommunicate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the Catholic Church because she supports abortion.
Human Life International, which is based in Front Royal, Va., petitioned the Pope this week to excommunicate Pelosi, CNSNews.com reported Friday.
The pro-life group’s petition, which the organization’s Rome office delivered to the Vatican, came as the California Democrat met with the Pope Wednesday. The pontiff told her during their 15-minute private session that Catholic politicians have a responsibility to protect life "at all stages of its development," according to a Vatican news release.
After the meeting, Pelosi's office issued a statement expressing her delight at meeting with the Pope but not mentioning the abortion issue.
Speculation for days before the session was that the Pope would not meet with Pelosi because of her strong support for abortion, but the Vatican eventually announced that they would meet privately. But after the audience, speculation took another tack, with observers saying the Vatican didn’t allow the usual photo op of the Pope with a visiting dignitary signaled disapproval of her abortion support.
The controversy over Pelosi’s abortion position and her standing as a Catholic is a continuation of a spirited debate that has polarized Catholics for decades. One side argues that politicians who vote for laws allowing abortion should be excommunicated because they are, in effect, participating in abortions. The other contends that politicians should be able to oppose abortion on private, religious grounds but still vote to allow it as a matter of conscience.
This week, the lack of the papal photo with Pelosi generated discussion over whether Pope Benedict still might excommunicate her. Last year, when the Pope was asked whether Catholic politicians who had legalized abortion in Mexico City should be considered excommunicated, the pontiff said yes.
A Vatican spokesman said later that the Pope did not intend to excommunicate politicians formally but said politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive Holy Communion.
On Friday, CNSNews.com quoted the Rev. Thomas Euteneur, president of Human Life International, as explaining his group’s petition by saying, “The reason we called for the Pope is because so many people have called on the bishops in the jurisdictions she lives in, who could possibly do it — and they won’t.”
Pelosi has a home in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, where Archbishop George Niederauer presides, and she works in Washington, D.C., the jurisdiction of Archbishop Donald Wuerl.
In August, Wuerl chastised Pelosi for saying during a “Meet the Press” interview that the moment of conception has been a matter of controversy within the church. Wuerl issued a statement saying the church has made it clear for centuries that abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law.”
Wuerl also said Pelosi “misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion."
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