Pope Benedict XVI is planning to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Vatican on Wednesday. The meeting has been the subject of considerable chatter in the conservative Catholic corner of the blogosphere for days, anticipating Pelosi's time in Rome as head of a congressional delegation to Italy. Pelosi, of course, is a practicing Catholic and mother of five (and grandmother of seven), but also is a supporter of abortion rights, and that combination has infuriated some conservatives who argue that support for abortion rights should disqualify Catholic politicians from receiving Communion and from being honored by Catholic universities. (Pelosi conspicuously received Communion at the papal Mass in Washington last year; she has in the past been honored by Catholic universities, but not recently.)
"It is our hope that the Holy Father will not grant the floundering Speaker of the House what she surely wants and expects, a quick and valuable photo-op, but will rather give her a stern lecture on contraception and abortion and let her know that her eternal salvation is in danger. Further, this would be the perfect opportunity to formally excommunicate the Speaker, as she has done everything a public official possibly can to declare her lack of communion with the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church on every conceivable issue."
But The Anchoress blogs:
"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."
Deal Hudson takes the pragmatic view, blogging:
"The Holy Father is a head of state and must, as a matter of course, meet with political leaders from every nation, regardless of their positions on issues important to the Church. It's also a good idea for Benedict XVI to meet with misguided souls like Pelosi, because you can never underestimate the impact of being in his presence on someone who is running from the truth as fast as she/he can."
But, Hudson also writes:
"Benedict XVI should use the opportunity of the visit to make a strong public statement about the attack on unborn life being waged by the new Congress and the new administration. Pelosi's ordinary, Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco, should issue a public statement strongly critical of Pelosi as a Catholic politician. He should include a statement that if she presents herself for communion he will deny it to her."
What do you think? Is the pope right to meet with Pelosi? Is she right to meet with him? And what should they say to one another? (Remember, if you want anyone else to see your comment, no obscenities and no hate speech.)
(Photo, by Alessia Pierdomenico of Reuters, shows Pelosi visiting a chestnut vendor in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome earlier today.)