Did you read the story last week about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging Catholic leaders to instruct their parishioners to support immigration reforms? Probably not. It barely got any media coverage. And I'm honestly confused as to why. It was overtly political, which is normally enough to get too much ink. It involved Pelosi and Catholic bishops -- who already have a newsworthy history. They've had to speak with her about her misrepresentation of Catholic teaching on abortion but also tried working with her, unsuccessfully in the end, to ensure federal funds would not be used to pay for abortions in the new health care legislation. Now, if it were a Catholic bishop telling a Catholic politician how to vote, I still think that would be newsworthy. So why is it not newsworthy when Pelosi makes comments such as these?:
"The cardinals, the archbishops, the bishops that come to me and say, 'We want you to pass immigration reform,' and I said, 'I want you to speak about it from the pulpit. I want you to instruct your' -- whatever the communication is," said Pelosi, who is Catholic, speaking at the Nation's Catholic Community conference sponsored by Trinity Washington University and the National Catholic Reporter.
"The people, some (who) oppose immigration reform, are sitting in those pews, and you have to tell them that this is a manifestation of our living the gospels," she said.
That's what FOX News reported, even going so far as to ask Pelosi if she wanted to clarify her comments. Cathy Lynn Grossman highlighted the comments -- rather exuberantly, in fact -- on her blog at USA Today. Pelosi made the comments at a conference also attended by Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. Grossman also tells readers about Keehan's remarks to the group:
Yesterday, Pelosi with a standing ovation and shouts of gratitude from the nuns, priest, academics and activists gathered for a "Washington Briefing" on faith and public policy. Now they added sports event-worthy cheers for the sister who spoke out for the controversial legislation.
Keehan, president and CEO of Catholic Health Association and one of Time magazine's Top 100 most influential people this year, rolled her eyes when she was introduced by a long list of honors awarded by the Church and joked that she may have seen the last of those. That's because angry bishops say the legislation does not adequately block federal funding for abortion.
We learn late in the story that only about 100 people were gathered to hear Pelosi. Anyway, that's the general vibe from the story -- rock stars and gratitude versus "angry" bishops. But at least the event and speeches were covered.
It seems interesting and newsworthy to me. If it were Tom DeLay giving marching orders to evangelicals, I'm sure that would have been covered by more media outlets. I personally don't find anything troubling -- in terms of church-state issues -- with what Pelosi said but usually comments of this nature get much more media coverage. Is it just that we have a hard time discussing religion and immigration?
I just wish we could get a much meatier conversation going about religious values and immigration law. Is Pelosi the only religious expert on immigration we have out there? What do other Catholics say? Does everything think this issue is so cut and dry as politicians make it out to be? I know members of my church body are attempting to discern how to balance competing obligations when it comes to immigration law. Wouldn't Pelosi's doctrinal statements be a great hook for a bigger discussion? What are some of the theological concepts in play?