Here’s the latest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose church history lecture on “Meet the Press” last Sunday has been condemned by six bishops, will not get a scolding — yet — from her own bishop.
Instead, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco wants to write “a larger, more thoughtful look on the issue,” his press people tell me. The date it will go up on the archdiocesan Web site Sept. 5.
Mediawise, that’s light years down the road. The Republican convention will be wrapping up at that point, and maybe everyone will have forgotten Mrs. Pelosi’s thoughts on how St. Augustine did not consider abortion to be homicide.
Why the San Francisco archbishop is going the leisurely route while six other bishops could not wait to paste their objections, Wittenburg-door style, up on their sites within two days of the House speaker’s remarks is a mystery. Last I talked with her press people, Mrs. Pelosi was pretty defiant, insisting her read of fourth-century patristics was correct.
Earth to Nancy:
Do not mess with the bishops. Do not suggest your understanding of church doctrine trumps theirs, especially when your only academic claim to theological expertise is a B.A. from Trinity College. If anything gets a bishop going, it’s someone trying to supplant his traditional role as teacher of the faith.
Sen. John Kerry would be happy to inform you of what happens when you defy church officials. Not only can they deep-six your political career by telling you not to receive Communion at their altars, they can do serious damage to one’s presidential aspirations. Remember Ohio.
When I called around yesterday asking why six bishops in a space of 18 hours issued statements condemning you, starting with Monday’s salvo from the Denver bishops, well, there were a number of factors. Said one person at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The bishops were taking advantage of a teachable moment in the culture to correct the misrepresentation of church teaching on abortion.” In other words, if it’s already being splashed around cable TV, it’s time to put those church Web sites to use. Starting Monday night, this popped up on the Archdiocese of Washington’s site, followed by this on the USCCB’s site and then this on the New York archdiocese’s site. Only the pope gets a faster reaction than that.
You are fortunate to have a bishop who moves kind of slowly on these issues. Everyone thought that the “wafer watch” of 2004 would not repeat itself. You and Sen. Joe Biden have helped resurrect that. Which is great for us religion reporters. But it might not be so helpful for you.
— Julia Duin, assistant national editor/religion, The Washington Times