Thursday, September 4, 2008

Archbishop Niederauer addresses Speaker Pelosi's Meet the Press comments

As promised, I am posting the link to Archbishop George Niederauer's response to comments made in two interviews late last month by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, published in his archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco. Speaker Pelosi is a canonical resident of San Francisco. He begins his response stating, "Last month, in two televised interviews and a subsequent statement released through her office, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a Catholic residing in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, made remarks that are in serious conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church about abortion. It is my responsibility as Archbishop of San Francisco to teach clearly what Christ in his Church teaches about faith and morals, and to oppose erroneous, misleading and confusing positions when they are advanced." You can read the rest of the public correction, entitled San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer addresses recent comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by clicking here. I urge everyone to read the whole thing because His Excellency does a really great job in a very short space of setting forth of the church's teaching on a number of issues that are very relevant to the discussion we have been having here.

Perhaps more important than the opening paragraph are the two closing paragraphs, in which Archbishop Niederauer, charateristically, shows what it means to be a pastor by teaching and shepherding. In doing so he also corrects those who think it is their perogrative, not his, to make certain determinations, particularly about the serious matter of denying communion: "Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and my predecessor as Archbishop here in San Francisco, wrote in 2004: 'No bishop is eager to forbid members of his flock from receiving the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who invites us into communion with Himself and his Body, the Church, as grace and salvation.' In that same year, the U.S. bishops acknowledged that pastoral sensitivity, and they endorsed the following approach to this question of denying Holy Communion: 'Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action. Nevertheless, we all share an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity and to preach the Gospel in difficult times.' From that statement I conclude that it is my responsibility as Archbishop to discern and decide, prayerfully, how best to approach this question as it may arise in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

"I regret the necessity of addressing these issues in so public a forum, but the widespread consternation among Catholics made it unavoidable. Speaker Pelosi has often said how highly she values her Catholic faith, and how much it is a source of joy for her. Accordingly, as her pastor, I am writing to invite her into a conversation with me about these matters. It is my obligation to teach forthrightly and to shepherd caringly, and that is my intent. Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide us all toward a more profound understanding and appreciation for human life, and toward a resolution of these differences in truth and charity and peace."

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