Pelosi & the Pope: Do Not Be Afraid

A couple of emails from Catholics expressing displeasure at the news that Nancy Pelosi is heading to Rome with a contingent of legislators and will take a meeting with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.

Wrote a former marine who seem pretty angry:

I am deeply concerned about this matter as I personally believe that Mrs. Pelosi should be excommunicated

I understand where this fellow is coming from, but I am elated, rather than disturbed, that Mrs. Pelosi is meeting with the pope. I hope the Holy Spirit, who has a habit of confounding us by using the most surprising people and circumstances to work God’s will, finds the meeting irresistible and begins to use Mrs. Pelosi to God’s purpose.

The idea of pro-choice Catholics receiving Communion causes scandal for many who believe that such an action diminishes what the Holy Eucharist is: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. To them, a prominently pro-choice woman like Mrs. Pelosi meeting the pope brings equal scandal; to their way of thinking, unless he “excommunicates her on the spot or publicly corrects her,” Benedict’s authority will be diminished, as well.

Well, “bringing scandal,” which can shake the faith of many is a legitimate concern, but we should remember firstly that Jesus cannot be diminished by any mere human; he is the gift freely given. The pope can be diminished by another human, but I do not believe his meeting with Mrs. Pelosi effects this, and this is why: God is not done with any of us, yet.

Pope Benedict, while the Vicar of Christ, is still first and foremost a shepherd and pastor. His duty is to tend the sheep, both healthy and sick, obedient or straying. Some may insist that Mrs. Pelosi is a “sick” sheep that should be excommunicated and set apart, lest she infect the rest of the flock.

Mrs. Pelosi is a public Catholic who has clearly demonstrated her woeful misunderstanding of some church teachings. Whether her lack of comprehension is willfull lying, an immature spirituality or a true deficiency we can only guess, because none of us can read souls. Since she clearly needs instruction, who better to give it than the Bishop of Rome?

Whether she will accept that instruction will remain to be seen…but we must always remember this from the Catechism:

The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant. The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ. He should have a proven knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen. He must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord’s mercy.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1466

This describes the role of the confessor – to lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity – but it also describes the role of every pastor. If a shepherd has a wandering sheep, his first concern must be to teach and to retrain, not to cast the sheep aside or banish it to the corral, where the chances of its ever learning how to safely graze will be so greatly diminished that it will have no protection from the wolves.

Of course Benedict should meet with Mrs. Pelosi. And of course that meeting will seem like a “victory” for dissenting Catholics who will consider that she has lorded something over on the humble Benedict. Looking at things with earthbound eyes, it will be all they see, and it will be an illusion.

What we will not see, and will not be able to measure, will be the impact of this meeting – long range – on Mrs. Pelosi. Now, it’s possible that the meeting will effect no change in her. If she is resolutely “closed” then it will have little impact; recall that when Jesus was in his hometown where belief was minimal, he did not perform many miracles because he had no openings to do so.

But if Mrs. Pelosi has any openness at all, then the Holy Spirit will do what He will and eventually – perhaps not for years, but eventually – we will see the fruits of that openness.

How many times in life have you found that a prayer you tossed off without much thought ended up having repercussions you only learned about much later.

We may not ever know the whys and wherefores – we each of us, no matter how public, still intercourse privately with God – but it is hard to believe the Holy Spirit will allow this meeting to go to waste. Good seed will be sown; whether Pelosi allows it to take root in her will be up to her – faith is a choice for all of us – but I suspect she will come away from this meeting surprised in some way. And – for those focusing on her role as a Catholic politician, that may affect how things go in this country. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually.

Truthfully, there is no down side to this meeting. The Pontiff is doing his job; if Pelosi remains unmoved, she’ll simply continue to be who and what she is, but if she is “turned” or “converted” – retrained by the shepherd to safely graze – then that can only be a positive for America. As Deacon Greg writes, God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. We have no idea what can happen when a shepherd confronts a recalcitrant sheep in prayer and love.

We all of us become passionate about our politics, but we can never forget the simple truth that even these politicians are mere mortals, subject to the work of God. As Christians we can only want healing and conversion for this woman, and trust that Christ – who is big enough to take on all comers, and who likely will be received in Communion before the world’s camera’s at some point in her trip – is given the opportunity to work on her “from the inside out,” so to speak.

Because even a worthy and faithful shepherd needs the help of Christe Jesu, pastor bone, the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, and who ate with tax collectors and sinners.

So be generous – not negative, for there are no negatives in Christ – and pray for Mrs. Pelosi. Pray for her, and for Pope Benedict, that their meeting may bear good fruit by God’s measure, not our own.

Be creative and broad in your prayer. Ask your Guardian Angel to carry your prayer before the Lord of Hosts and to remain there, a while, in prayer for Nancy Pelosi. Ask Anna – the woman who lived in the temple, “praying day and night,” to pray for Pelosi, whose name is a derivative of “Anne.” Ask Padre Pio, the great, famously cranky Franciscan confessor and reader of souls to pray with you, for her. Invite the great teacher Cardinal John O’ Connor into your prayer. Ask Mary, the Mother of Christ – who is a mother, like Pelosi, and the Patroness of the Unborn – to pray for both Pelosi and the pope. Ask Pope John Paul II to pray for Benedict and support him in their meeting. Ask some of our presidents, Washington, Lincoln, even Reagan – to pray that God’s will be effected in the life of Nancy Pelosi. Otherwise, what’s the point of confessing the Communion of Saints in the Apostles Creed?

Pray every day for our leadership, but during these next 8 days, why not pray for Pelosi, especially, in this way?

And then trust. And do not be afraid. All things work to God’s purposes, even when we cannot imagine how. Surprises and mysteries are the most joyful and interesting part of the life of faith! And praying for others will only strengthen our own faith, hope and charity.

It’s good training for Lent, too, which begins on February 25.

Deacon Greg has more “upset-Catholic” email on this meeting.

Deal Hudson has more thoughts

The Guardian Angels
Praying with the Cloud of Witnesses
“Do Not Be Afraid; John Paul called out to the world

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • KIA

    Great post; was hoping you would write on this. I was thrilled to know Nancy is seeing Benedict. The timing couldn’t be morely perfect.

    I often think how “close” we really are, having Joe Biden as VP and Nancy as SOTH. I sometimes imagine if only one of them would have a great “conversion”, how much it might change America and possibly American Catholicsm.

    We saw it happen with Ronald Reagan. Reagan is truly an example of a true change of heart, especially on abortion.

    As you so beautifully note, in God’s time,with our prayers!

  • Jeanette

    If I understand you properly you are basically saying those
    who are already in the flock (the choir)don’t need to hear
    what the Pope has to say as they already believe him.

    The sinners are the ones who get the most out of an experience such as she is about to have. Is that a correct

    Protestants or at least Baptists say we don’t need just the
    saved in our churches, but we need the unwashed masses, because those are the people in need of the sermons and the ministry that is offered.

    [J, I'm not saying at all that only the sinners "get the most" out of such a meeting or that the choir does not need to hear the pope at all - if that is what you think I wrote, then I wrote it very badly. We all need to hear our teachers and shepherds. But we don't know the workings of God. Everything happens for a reason, and perhaps there is no accident that directly after passing an opaque and dishonest bill this woman is going to stand in front of a successor of Peter. I'm saying, let's see how things play out. And that God is not done with any of us, yet, so I'm not keen on throwing casting anyone out - that's God's job, not ours. The church is the place for all of us sinners, our hospital...not a museum for saints. -admin]

  • ultraguy

    Tremendous post. We are not the final judges (thankfully).

    “If she is resolutely “closed” then it will have little impact… there is no downside to this meeting.”

    I know you were talking more in earthly terms here, but we ought to remember that for Ms. Pelosi (and for all of us), free will means that, in turning our backs, there is an eternal and un-ending downside. It’s not much in vogue to talk about that anymore, but Jesus did and so we cannot avoid doing so if we are to be faithful to him.

    That, as much as anything else she could possibly do here and now, in her public role, with a changed heart, is one of the biggest reasons we should pray for her.

  • Jeanette

    The church is the place for all of us sinners, our hospital…not a museum for saints. -admin]

    No, you didn’t say it wrong—I was awkward in my reply.

    What you said is what I also believe. We are all sinners, but those who already believe the doctrine are in less need of that teaching than those who do not. (I still think I’m stumbling here ;) )

    It is never too late to humble oneself before God and realize our place in the whole scheme of things.

    I am no holier than anyone else and less holy than many, so I cannot judge the state of anyone’s soul.

    I believe Pope Benedict XVI will clearly state the position of the Church to Ms. Pelosi. It is then up to the Holy Spirit to convict her of that sin and bring her back into the fold, forgiven.

    I’m not even a Catholic, but if the Pope told me something I would certainly listen, as he is a man of God.

  • Gino

    Like you, I’m an eternal optimist. Your little essay, “Pelosi & the Pope: Do Not Be Afraid,” comes from the heart of a Christian who truly believes that “for those who love God all things work together unto good.” Pope John Paul II’s booming voice still echoes in my ears: “Do not be afraid, do not be afraid.” It was the first thing he said after his election as pope. It was the sentiment that endeared the young people worldwide to this great man. Pelosi’s visit to the Pope won’t do any harm; it might do a lot of good. In fact, if I were Satan, I would have done everything possible to keep that woman from going to Rome to visit the Pope. One never knows…. Why take chances?

  • ShanaSFO

    I understand some people’s frustrations with Mrs Pelosi and the Church; it seems that so many public persons who support and promote and advocate for the death of others and to advance their own political power get a ‘free pass’. Her own bishop seems to have no spine to do his job to discipline her and she takes that as a sign to go one step further. Mrs Pelosi is actually already excommunicated by her own actions. Her political twisting and use of her ‘Catholic faith’ will stand in judgment against her in the end, along with every child that dies as a result of her actions — and we all should mourn that and pray for her (and for ourselves, because we too will be judged by our inaction in this matter).

    But the Pope is not a weak nor spineless man, and neither is he a stupid man or a worldly man. He is not interested in political power or in looking good for the press. He seems not to care a whisker what others think of him, but boldly goes where he must and works in the way he feels called to work.

    I do not think he will be ‘impressed’ with Mrs Pelosi’s hunger for power, nor will he be ‘impressed’ with her wealth or her position and I’m most certain he is wise enough to know how politicians use visits with him to make themselves look good. I think he will look at her as a deeply impoverished soul in need of salvation and instruction. He will do his job as he is called by God to do it.

    She may not understand, she may refuse all grace and instruction and she may well use him for her own political power grabs, but the Holy Father will no doubt do what he knows he must do for her conversion and pray for her.

  • singleton

    I understood that the reason non-Catholics were not supposed to receive Communion in a Catholic Church (I remember you being so proud of GWB for crossing his arms to signal that he should just be blessed and not given the Host, while Bill Clinton “ate the cracker and drank the wine”) was because they did not understand the Host the way Catholics do.

    Well Pelosi’s understanding of Catholic teaching seems to have a lot to be desired, so why should she take Communion

  • alexandrag

    The Church is a hospital for sinners, and we all are sick in some way or another, in need of the healing offered by Christ. Christ ate and drank with sinners, much to the disgust of those who considered themselves pure and righteous. The Eastern Orthodox prayer before communion begins, “I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first,” and always reminds me that yes, I’m number one and have some giant planks to address in my own eye.

    People can and do change, some visibly, and others not so visibly or perhaps only known to God. The pro-life movement is populated with many women who were pro-choice at some time, some of whom had abortions, and now work diligently and with love to change hearts and souls and welcome all life.

    Thank you, Anchoress, for urging us all to prayer, prayer, and more prayer.

  • nan barber

    “The pope can be diminished by another human, but I do not believe his meeting with Mrs. Pelosi effects this, and this is why: God is not done with any of us, yet.”

    So profound and true…your blog is a blessing.

  • Susan K.

    I came in from an outing with my son, read your site about Pelosi. I actually had been praying in the car about her meeting with the Pope. Excellent post and reminder that under all that power and veneer is a person with a soul. This Pope doesn’t waste time and words, and he as an emissary for Christ will have His words for this woman.

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