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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, November 18, 2002



Nancy Pelosi: How Conservative A Catholic?

So she says, in this NY Times piece:

"...leaders of both parties have grown far more savvy about the image they project. Republican leaders were carefully pledging to reach across the aisle and build bipartisan coalitions last week, while Ms. Pelosi was arguing, with a centrist's smile, "It's not about left and right." As she noted at one point, "I'm a liberal Democrat, but I'm a conservative Catholic — put that into the mix."

Andrew Sullivan noted this as well, so perhaps between his readers and mine, this riddle will be answered.

Now, Sullivan poses the following questions to verify Ms. Pelosi's "conservative Catholicism":

"Does she oppose women priests? Does she oppose married priests? Does she favor allowing gay priests to serve openly and chastely?

Well, as a political figure she may not feel obliged to comment on those church-related issues. However, Mario Cuomo famously and eloquently agonized, as Governor of New York, over his role as a Catholic in, for example, capital punishment or abortion. I am unable to find similar agonistes at Ms. Pelosi's website. In fact, putting her views as a "conservative Catholic" into the mix would not be possible based on this website, which does not contain any obvious reference to her religious background. Here, for example, is her personal data:

PERSONAL BACKGROUND. Prior to her election to Congress, Rep. Pelosi served as the State and Northern Chair of the California Democratic Party and Chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention Host Committee. She served as a Democratic National Committeewoman from California for 20 years between 1976 and 1996.

Congresswoman Pelosi comes from a strong family tradition of public service. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., served as Mayor of Baltimore for 12 years, after representing the city for five terms in Congress, where he served on the Appropriations Committee. Her brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, also served as Mayor of Baltimore. Rep. Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1962. She and her husband, Paul Pelosi, a native of San Francisco, have five children: Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul and Alexandra, and five grandchildren."


Well, her father could be Italian - bit of a clue. And Trinity College was "founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Notre Dame as a Catholic liberal arts college for women. Today, the College continues the founders' commitment to offer students of all faiths...", so perhaps this is a straw in the wind.

But surely her public statements and recorded votes are a better place to look. Here she strongly opposed to the "Defense of Marriage Act". In a thought provoking bit of alliteration, she says this:

"Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this ill-named Defense of Marriage Act and I do so on the basis of conscience, Constitution and constituency."

Hmmm, "Catholicism" would have fit the alliterative scheme, although not, perhaps, the intellectual one.

And, on the partial birth abortion ban, she has several statements, none supporting it. To her credit, she does say this:

"This is a very sad debate today. Abortion is a failure in every respect. We want to keep them safe, and we want to keep them legal."

But no clear mention of any reservations she may personally feel as a "conservative Catholic".

So, add "conservative Catholic" to the mix - but only for certain audiences, when the politics work.

UPDATE: Bold words from Ms. Pelosi via Tacitus. Hmm, I guess the link sort of revealed that, didn't it?


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