Nancy Pelosi and the Scandal of Unfaithful Catholics in Public Life
On July 28, 2015, thousands of people gathered in cities around the nation to call for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Under the banner of #WomenBetrayed, the rallies were a part of a growing national outrage over the barbarous actions of Planned Parenthood in harvesting and selling the body parts of babies killed in their facilities.
My hope is that the Center for Medical Progress videos not only turn stomachs but melt the frozen heart of a nation that fails to hear the silent screams of her own children. The devil often overplays his hand, and can there be any doubt that these videos reveal a diabolical scheme?
One actor in this horror-movie spectacle is Nancy Pelosi, a professed Catholic. She has weighed in by defending Planned Parenthood and calling for a Department of Justice investigation of the Center for Medical progress!
How can this be? Her public views and actions on abortion contradict twenty centuries of unbroken teaching of her own Church, which has condemned all procured abortion. She has been corrected by Bishops and reminded of the true teaching of the Church by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Yet she has claimed for years that what she is doing is consistent with her Catholic faith. In fact, she is in open and public dissent from the teaching of her own Church. That not only puts her own soul in jeopardy but requires a public challenge.
This Conscience Thing
In a 2011 attack on a legal provision to protect the consciences of health-care providers who oppose abortion, Pelosi referred to fellow Catholics in a disparaging way. She suggested they did not see things the way she did because they had what she called “this conscience thing.” This comment exposes the heart of problem for Nancy Pelosi. She does not understand the Catholic faith she claims to practice.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. … For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. … His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (CCC #1776).
However, in Catholic teaching, consciences aren’t moral trump cards. The teaching is crystal clear: “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. The education of the conscience is a lifelong task” (CCC #1783, 4).
Consciences are only good guides when they are properly formed. “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,” the Catechism further explains, “we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church” (CCC #1785).
To put it bluntly: if, as a Catholic, what you think is your “conscience” points one way, while Scripture, unbroken Church teaching and the natural law point the other way, your “conscience” is deformed. It’s a broken compass. Follow it, and it will send you off the nearest cliff. This is precisely what Nancy Pelosi constantly does when she takes public positions which are diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Church while claiming to be following the Catholic faith. In doing so, she puts the state of her own soul at risk.
However, she is engaged in something even more reprehensible and dangerous.
Pelosi is not just a misguided private citizen wandering down a blind alley. She is an influential public figure and the Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives. As a result, her views help shape public opinion and the very laws that govern us. And here again, she is contradicting Catholic teaching. The laws which she supports are contrary to the Natural Moral law.
Her recent public defense of Planned Parenthood and the dismembering of children in the womb in order to maximize the marketing of body parts causes what the Catholic Catechism refers to as “scandal” (sections 2234-2246).
Here’s how the Catechism puts it:
Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice,” or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.
For decades, Nancy Pelosi has enacted and vocally defended laws that have led to the destruction of millions of innocent human beings by procured abortion, while claiming to be a “devout Catholic.” Last year, for her efforts, she even received the top award from Planned Parenthood, named after racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger. This is the very epitome of scandal.
It is one thing for someone to claim to be a Catholic and openly dissent from the Church. When that person is an influential leader and does so in such a public manner, however, she is committing what the Catechism calls a grave offense which may lead others into “spiritual death.”