House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent run-in with San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is only the latest in a long line of clashes she has had with U.S. bishops. Her record of openly rejecting key moral teachings of the Catholic Church is extensive, calling into question her repeated assertions that she is a "devout Catholic."
Here is a partial list of her departures from Church teachings and her interactions with the various bishops.
- 1990: Rep. Pelosi took umbrage with New York Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor for raising the possibility of excommunication for Catholic pro-abortion politicians. She replied, "it has to be clear that we are elected officials and we uphold the law and we support public positions separate and apart from our Catholic faith."
- 1995: The bishops objected to having Frances Kissling's pro-abortion and anti-Catholic group, Catholics for a Free Choice, at the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. The head of the bishops' conference, William Cardinal Keeler, said, "To use the name Catholic to promote the taking of innocent life is offensive." Pelosi worked hand-in-hand with Kissling. She defended her by saying, "Many women are concerned about freedom of speech and association at the conference. Accreditation should not be a politicized process."
- 2004: Pelosi defended her pro-abortion stance, saying, "I believe that my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their own lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end." She lashed out at her Catholic critics, commenting, "I'm certainly concerned when the church comes together and says it's going to sanction people in public office for speaking their conscience and what they believe."
- 2004: Following her party's loss in the election, Pelosi said, "As a devout Catholic, I observe with great regret the intervention of some Catholic bishops who joined evangelical leaders in the political arena."
- 2005: San Francisco Archbishop William Levada said that Catholics, including Catholic politicians, must accept Church teaching about "the evil of abortion" if they want to remain "in full communion with the faith of the church." Pelosi publicly complained that she was being "singled out" by the bishops for her defiance of Church teaching on abortion.
- 2006: Pelosi redefines "people of faith" as those who support the federal budget, not the life issues. She defended 114 protesters for blocking the entrance to the Capitol, saying, "They had events in the Capitol, they were arrested on the steps of the Cannon Building...." They were arrested because they broke the law.
- 2008: Pelosi was asked on "Meet the Press" to comment on when life begins. "I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition." Following the show, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer chided her for misrepresenting Church teaching and asked to see her. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a news release correcting her. Pelosi struck back saying Saint Augustine took a different view. The USCCB answered her with a two-page document outlining the Catholic Church's historical opposition to abortion since the first century. Cardinal George Pell responded by saying Augustine "believed that the embryo was ensouled at 46 days. Nevertheless, he also believed it was gravely wrong to kill a formed or unformed fetus."
- 2009: Pelosi meets with Pope Benedict XVI and she quickly put a positive spin on it. In fact, she was rebuked by the pope. The Holy See Press Office commented as follows: "His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."
- 2014: Pelosi is awarded Planned Parenthood's highest honor, The Margaret Sanger Award, named after the notorious white racist.
- 2014: Pelosi is one of 48 Catholic Democrats who signed a letter criticizing the bishops for considering the withdrawal of Holy Communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The dissidents said such a move would be "counterproductive and would bring great harm to the church."
- 2014: Pelosi publicly lectures San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone on his decision to speak at the March for Marriage, an event that supported marriage as the union between a man and a woman. He had never heretofore publicly criticized her, making plain that she started the public feud between the two of them.
- 2015: Pelosi received an award from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, bringing her grandchildren to the gala. She falsely claimed that same-sex marriage is perfectly "consistent" with Church teachings.
- 2015: Pelosi attacked a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed.
- 2015: Pelosi invoked Pope Francis in her remarks defending government funding of Planned Parenthood. A month earlier at the United Nations the pope called for "putting an end as quickly as possible" to such "baneful" practices as "the marketing of human organs and tissues." He called for "respect for the sacredness of every human life," including "the unborn."
- 2017: Pelosi seeks to restore the Obama administration's Health and Human Services mandate, which Trump rolled back. Thus did she seek again to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for abortion-inducing drugs in their healthcare plans.
- 2020: Pelosi sought to discriminate against Catholic schools by denying them money awarded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bishops spoke out against her effort. Yet she defended awarding funds to illegal aliens and sanctuary cities.
- 2020: Knoxville Bishop Rick Stika said, "It really confuses me that both Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi time and time again state that they are faithful Catholics and yet promote unlimited abortion as well as deny so many of the teachings of our faith."
- 2021: The USCCB urged Pelosi to withdraw her plan to force taxpayers to pay for abortions in Medicaid and other federal programs.
- 2021: San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone called on Catholics to join a prayer campaign seeking Pelosi's "conversion to heart" on abortion rights.
- 2022: Archbishop Cordileone tells Pelosi not to present herself for Communion given her long-standing obstinacy defending abortion rights.
- 2022: Over a dozen bishops rush to support Archbishop Cordileone.
- 2022: Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge, Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample and Tyler, Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland announce that Pelosi is not welcome to receive Communion in their dioceses.
- 2022: Pelosi goes on TV to say that not only is Cordileone wrong, so are Church teachings on contraception, in vitro fertilization, gay and transgender issues and abortion.
There is no Catholic politician who has a record of openly defying the Catholic Church on the issues of women, marriage, the family, and sexuality worse than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Worse, she defines herself as a "practicing, devout Catholic," thus giving scandal to the Church by inviting Catholics and non-Catholics alike to believe that one can be a Catholic in good standing with the Church and at the same time reject core moral teachings.
There are atheists who are more in harmony with the Church's teachings on these issues than Pelosi is. She sought the confrontation — now she is paying for it.
Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of nine books and many articles.