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Pope Benedict and Speaker Pelosi Have Much in Common

February 17, 2009

Washington DC – Jon O’Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement about the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

“As the United States, under the presidency of Barack Obama, seeks to lead the world out of the economic crisis, it is fitting that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives and second in the presidential line of succession, is to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. They have much in common.

“In the last election, a majority of Catholics supported the policies that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party represent. Time and again, in the run-up to the election, it became clear that Catholic voters wanted action on the bread-and-butter issues that were closest to their hearts. The social justice issues of the economy, poverty reduction, the minimum wage, health-care reform, making child care more readily available and finding a way to end the carnage in two wars were the central issues that concerned Catholic voters in 2008. Undoubtedly, the pope and Speaker Pelosi will find that they have much in common on most if not all of those issues. If anything, the desire of Catholics to alleviate the impact that the recession is having on the poor and disenfranchised will have increased since the election.

“It is true that there have been differences of opinion between some members of the Catholic hierarchy and Speaker Pelosi. However, Speaker Pelosi represents the views of her constituents, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, on issues such as the availability of and access to contraception and abortion, the use of new reproductive technologies, and the rights granted to gay men and women. Many Catholics, and in some cases the majority of Catholics, disagree in good faith with the teachings of the hierarchy on these matters. These disagreements do not nullify the good standing of these Catholics in their church. In fact, as good Catholics, they know that freedom of conscience is the final arbiter when it comes to matters of faith and morals, and that they are obliged to follow their consciences.

“A small number of bishops around the world may have a different view but that does not mean that the bishops are right. There can be no question about the right of Catholics to hold these views, be in full communion with the church and receive Communion and the other sacraments.

“Catholics for Choice is encouraged that this dialogue has started and trusts that it will continue. This meeting is a good and important step that will help unify all Catholics who are concerned about social justice.”