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Monday, September 01, 2008



While I am certainly pleased and impressed many U.S. bishops have issued strong statements about this matter, since it started last week, I have debated with myself a bit why so many bishops, seemingly not responsible directly for Ms. Pelosi, have made chosen to respond. If we go with the certainly plausible argument that she left them no choice when she went outside her authority and purported to present Catholic doctrine and got it badly wrong, then I am left wondering if anyone has seen any statements from any other U.S. Cardinal other than Cardinal Egan and most especailly from the archbishop of San Francisco. Are they simply deferring to the Bishops' Conference's statement?

Ed Peters

This level of response was unthinkable 30-20 years ago, maybe even 10. The center of gravity, (which was never in the center, but let that pass) has shifted in the bishops' conference.


Pelosi's archbishop is Niederauer. I don't expect a peep from him. Much love and appreciation for the bishops who have spoken out.


Certainly, I perceive is that we are getting in most cases, if not all, very sound appointments to U.S. bishoprics in the last several years. Sure, it may be true that the center of gravity has shifted.

However, I don't think this reaction to Pelosi is a kind of litmus test of where the Conference sits. No one should be surprised that Catholic bishops are against abortion. Maybe we should be surprised as to the zealous, enthusiastic defense of the Church on this issue from those who are her chief guardians.

Maybe you can prove me wrong, but I am unaware of any analogous situation in the last 30 or so years. Thus, maybe this reaction would have taken place if the circumstances had been the same.


We all, including shepherds, need to listen to Holy Mother Church as she knows best how to correct and discipline her children.

Please read Raymond Arroyo’s May 3, 2008, Blog posting at

“Following our program this week, many correspondents have asked for a copy of Archbishop Raymond Burke's extended reflection on Canon 915, which governs reception of the Eucharist. As one of the premiere canonists in the country, Archbishop Burke's words are worth reading and reflecting on. The entire piece can be found here:”

Please go to above link and read Archbishop Burke’s extended reflection of Canon 915. Under conclusion, here are his last 3 paragraphs:

“I am deeply aware of the difficulty which is involved in applying the discipline of can. 915. I am not surprised by it and do not believe that anyone should be surprised. Surely, the discipline has never been easy to apply. But what is at stake for the Church demands the wisdom and courage of shepherds who will apply it.

The United States of America is a thoroughly secularized society which canonizes radical individualism and relativism, even before the natural moral law. The application, therefore, is more necessary than ever, lest the faithful, led astray by the strong cultural trends of relativism, be deceived concerning the supreme good of the Holy Eucharist and the gravity of supporting publicly the commission of intrinsically evil acts. Catholics in public office bear an especially heavy burden of responsibility to uphold the moral law in the exercise of their office which is exercised for the common good, especially the good of the innocent and defenseless. When they fail, they lead others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to be deceived regarding the evils of procured abortion and other attacks on innocent and defenseless human life, on the integrity of human procreation, and on the family.

As Pope John Paul II reminded us, referring to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the Holy Eucharist contains the entire good of our salvation [91]. There is no responsibility of the Church's shepherds which is greater than that of teaching the truth about the Holy Eucharist, celebrating worthily the Holy Eucharist, and directing the flock in the worship and care of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Can. 915 of the Code of Canon Law and can. 712 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches articulate an essential element of the shepherds' responsibility, namely, the perennial discipline of the Church by which the minister of Holy Communion is to deny the Sacrament to those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.”


@LovesParaclete Niederauer's public response was prepared for Catholic San Francisco and will be published with the Sept. 5th issue.


The following may answer a few questions.

8/28/08, I emailed Archbishop Niederauer the following article:“Pelosi unrepentant, spokesman issues statement defying bishops” (see I also included John Henry Weston’s, 8/19/08, article “Head of Vatican’s Highest Court: Ministers Have “Obligation to Deny” Communion to Pro-Abortion Politicians (see

8/29/08, I received the following response: (I understand others who are sending emails are receiving the same response from the Archdiocese of S.F. as well.)
Archbishop Niederauer is Chairman of the Communications Committee of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He had prior knowledge of the official
USCCB statement (August 25) by Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Losi, signed as
heads of the Pro-Life and Doctrine Committees. Rather than issue an
immediate (redundant) statement, Archbishop Niederauer decided to take up
the subject of Ms. Pelosi's recent remarks in his column in the next issue
of the Archdiocesan newspaper.
-- M. Healy
Director of Communications


it's been reported that archbishop niederauer will issue a statement on sept 5. as to why there's a delay, i'll give him the benefit of the doubt (maybe he's giving pelosi a chance to get in touch with him?). but with the long delay for a response from pelosi's own bishop, i can't help but expect nothing but a watered-down, ambiguous statement from him.


Here's a clue for the curious. From Feb. 2007.........
"San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer Says He Doesn’t Know Nancy Pelosi Stand on Abortion"
While the Catholic Church’s official teachings on the issues are very clear and direct, the Archbishop was described as having taken “great pains to avoid direct answers.” The California Daily Catholic, which transcribed portions of the interview, also said that the Archbishop of San Francisco “resisted every opportunity to make a clear statement about what the Church teaches.”

One of the show hosts described Pelosi as “not only pro-choice, but she would be someone who would be working to try to keep abortion legal.” The Archbishop was asked, “In your view is she less of a Catholic because of that?” He replied saying about Pelosi, “We haven’t had an opportunity to talk about the life issues. I would very much welcome that opportunity, but I don’t believe that I am in a position to say what I understand her stand to be, if I haven’t had a chance to talk to her about it.”

Niederauer did say that he had spoken to Pelosi last year, but not about abortion, but about “immigration”, explaining “because that was very much the hot-button topic of the time.”


Whatever we may think of Archbishop Niederauer, I think Ed Peters has the main point here;

"This level of response was unthinkable 30-20 years ago, maybe even 10."

And, ironically, we can thank Speaker Pelosi for inadvertantly bringing;

1. the issue of Church teaching on abortion to the forefront of this election while the Obama campaign has tried to "back-burner" the issue, and
2. to the general public eye the issue of Church authority to teach on faith and morals for those who call themselves Catholic, so that dissenting Catholics cannot hide in plain sight as it were, and may be forced under the public spotlight to fish or cut bait.

So kudos to those Bishops who have spoken and continue to speak. I would be very surprised at this point of Archbishop Niederauer were to make any kind of statement that would in any way be contraversial. Too many people are watching very closely. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we were to learn that the Vatican is paying very close attention to these developments.


"I very much respect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s right to speak to public policy."

I think he's being too nice. As an 'ardent Catholic,' she should be censured for such blatant blasphemy.


"This level of response was unthinkable 30-20 years ago, maybe even 10."

I am not at all trying to stir anyone up, but I fear this statement might be hyperbole. With kindest respect, I entreat someone to offer an example or two of similar circumstances in the last 30 years. If no examples suffice, I propose this statement is simply conjecture and not a just assessment of the bishops the Church provided us during this time period.

Ed Peters

Kirk, we're you around and watching for the last 20-30 years? I was, and the number of instances in which PRECISELY this sort of episcopal response SHOULD have been made, but wasn't numbers, well, in the dozens. It almost never happened, and indeed NEVER happened to this degree. We (faithful Catholics) we're left dismayed time and time again asking "Why don't the bishops respond to this?" I think anyone who was around and watching would agree, but I don't feel like proving the point, so if you want to say it's just Ed's opinion, that's fine. Folks who know me, know that I conjecture with the best of them about college football, but I don't idly conjecture on American Church history or episcopal demographics. Folks are free to disagree even that, I need hardly add.



What you are saying by implication is that numerous bishops should be responding to issues that arise reguarly. I don't disagree, but I don't see that going on in the last couple of years such that I can say with confidence there has been a gravitational shift. I see a huge response to the Pelosi issue, period. If they start responding to other issues in the same kind of numbers, I will agree with you. Until then, I cannot see how you can assert confidently there has been a shift in gravity. There might be a shift, but the Pelosi issue does not prove it. However, I still welcome examples, even a couple, and then I might change my position.

There is no need for all CAPS nor the tone. Let's communicate calmly. Regards.

Roman Sacristan

I myself feel caught in a strange place of being impressed and underimpressed by the bishops. I am very happy to see so many bishops responding to this issue, and would partially agree with Ed Peters that we may be seeing a "shift" in the bishops' conference. This is great to see, and thanks be to God that they are doing it promptly and in the "controversial time" of an election year.

However, I just wonder how great this "shift" really is, as Kirk has mentioned. Some of these "responses" by bishops merely say they support the USCCB statement. I wonder how many of these bishops would have said anything on their own, had this USCCB statement not been made. How many bishops are really ready to stand up on their own without having to depend on the USCCB to say something for them? Why have they only made a statement to Pelosi's remarks? Why not Biden as well? Afterall, he's the one up for election, not Pelosi.
I think it remains to be seen how great a shift there has been. I mean, if you look at the last USCCB conferenece there were still enough bishops to have a sudden rejection of the translations over some biased petty translation issues. While not a major moral issue like abortion, I think it's a sign that there's still a long way to go.
But I do pray that the current Pelosi statements have finally awoken the sleeping guard dog that is the United States bishops.

Ed Peters

Kirk writes "What you [Ed] are saying by implication is that numerous bishops should be responding to issues that arise reguarly." No, I do NOT suggest that, not remotely, and I do not bother to say that I am not suggesting things that I did not suggest. fwiw, It would be silly to say that bishops should reply to everything under the sun. I tend not to be silly.

I really don't understand Kirk's posts. All I said was, the episcopal reaction to Pelosi would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago, but certainly 20. What is so confusing about that simple claim? Also, I said NOTHING about whether it was establishing a trend.

Finally, I use CAPS to underscore words with emphasis. It indicates NOTHING about my degree of emotional involvement, if any, in an argument. Points phrased pointedly are not necessarily phrased meanly. I wish people could tell the difference. It would save us all a lot of time.



Where is the evidence that bishops 10-20 years ago would not have responded in the same degree to a comparable situation to the Pelosi case? A case in which a politician overstepped his bounds and proposed to present Catholic teaching or lack thereof.

You say there are dozens of examples. That is where I got the notion that you were suggesting by implication that they should be responding regularly to such issues. I am not sure why my suggestion that you imply that, based on your words, is so wrong-headed and difficult to understand. However, you have an advanced degree(s) and maybe know logic better than I do, and I guess I will defer to your education.

Same point regarding what you called a "shift in gravity." I take that to mean you think there is a trend. Again, I guess I will defer to your education and logic.

I respect your point regarding CAPS regarding emphasis, but I do not see many writers doing this for such purpose unless it is combined with emotion, and based on your comments and the way you wrote, I thought it reasonable that you were emotionally engaged. I apologize for that apparently false interpretation.

BTW, I have been advised that it not clear that I believe the reason we have seen an outcry from the bishops regarding Pelosi is that she moved from politician to alleged theologian in what she said, and THAT is the reason we are hearing from so many bishops, not because there is necessarily a "shift in gravity." Hence, possibly the reason we are not hearing more from them about Biden, communion to pro-abort politicians, etc.


Ed Peters

"Where is the evidence that bishops 10-20 years ago would not have responded in the same degree to a comparable situation to the Pelosi case?"

Umm, you mean, besides the fact that they never did?

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