Fr. Pavone Just Confronted Nancy Pelosi – a Canon Lawyer's Opinion
by Steve Ray on June 21, 2013
I have some opinions on Fr. Pavone. I also have opinions on Pelosi. I think Pelosi is a fool and I think Fr. Pavone’s letter to her is brilliant and spot on!
I just spent a week with Fr. Pavone in Rome with 150 pilgrims, leading the Priests for Life and Footprints of God pilgrimage for the Day of Life in Rome with the new Holy Father. Having spent a week with Fr. Pavone, I have the right to say what I think.
Fr. Pavone was nothing short of stunning with his homilies. He was precise, accurate, fair-minded and clear. He was approachable, unswervingly orthodox and probably the best defender of the unborn on the planet today.
I can’t imagine spending a week with Pelosi. I think if I did it would be the cause of nightmares for years upon end.
According to a headline at The Daily Caller, Pavone did. I caution against that characterization of his words.
It would be a grave sin for any Catholic to urge another Catholic, for any reason and in any manner, to leave the Church; if the one doing such urging were a priest the viciousness of the sin would be magnified. So, to suggest that Pavone urged Pelosi to leave the Church is serious stuff. But having read Pavone’s open letter to Pelosi I do not see him doing that.
The closest Pavone comes to saying anything like ‘leave the Church’ is when he tells Pelosi “Either exercise your duties as a public servant and a Catholic, or have the honesty to formally renounce them.” Now I take the referent for “them” in that sentence to be Pelosi’s “duties as a public servant and a Catholic”.
To be sure, any renouncing of duties is problematic, for as long as one holds an office one may scarcely renounce the duties attached to such office. But Pavone’s words here can, I think, be fairly interpreted as asserting Pelosi’s duty to resign not her duties but the public office that gives rise to those duties (for which office, I would agree, she is unfit).
I think one should take Pavone’s words to Pelosi as follows: if you (Pelosi) really can’t discuss abortion and infanticide competently, let alone recognize and act against the depravity of both, then have the honesty to admit your failing and resign your public office. To that I could only add Amen.
My reading of Pavone’s words is, I grant, more strained when it comes to his perhaps implying that Pelosi should renounce her duties as a Catholic, for one can hardly do that without (sinfully) failing in one’s duties precisely as a Catholic (c. 209).
But, to borrow an insightful observation by a noted pro-life leader, one cannot practice vice virtuously, and so one cannot renounce one’s duties as a Catholic “honestly”. I simply doubt that Pavone is proposing that Pelosi perform the impossible.
Rhetoric sometimes gets in the way of precision but, in the absence of clearer evidence, I do think that Pavone has called upon Pelosi to cease her campaign against babies or, in the alternative, to leave the Catholic Church (honestly or otherwise) for that alternative would itself be a sin, and good priests don’t counsel others to sin. Ever.