WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has found herself at direct odds with the newly appointed archbishop of San Francisco, the city she represents. In a speech at the Ethics in Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., the Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone warned that government attacks on religious liberty indicated the United States could be headed in the direction of “despotism”.
Cordileone also said church leaders “cannot get political in the sense of being partisan,” but noted that protecting religious liberty is not a political issue but an issue of “first principles.”
The new archbishop holds a doctorate in canon law and previously served as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee on the Defense and Promotion of Marriage. He has been a leading spokesman for Catholic teachings on marriage and sexual morality and a candid opponent of same-sex marriage and civil unions.
In his speech, Cordileone referred to a speech Cardinal James Gibbons gave in Rome in 1887. Gibbons’ 1887 speech focused on the unique heritage of liberty enjoyed by all Americans, including Catholics.
The Catholic Church has been “forced to struggle for her existence wherever despotism has cast its dark shadow, like a plant shut out from the blessed light of heaven,” Gibbons said in that speech. “But in the genial atmosphere of liberty she blossoms like a rose.
“For myself,” Gibbons continued, “as a citizen of the United States, and without closing my eyes to our shortcomings as a nation, I say, with a deep sense of pride and gratitude, that I belong to a country where the civil government holds over us the aegis of its protection, without interfering with us in the legitimate exercise of our sublime mission as ministers of the Gospel of Christ. Our country has liberty without license, and authority without despotism,” the American cardinal told that European congregation more than a century ago.
Bishop Cordileone said he became concerned about the future of religious liberty in the United States after he got involved in the issue of same-sex marriage. “When I saw what was happening and my eyes were opened, it made me fear that we could be starting to move in the direction of license and despotism,” the bishop said.
He cited a number of examples of attacks on religious liberty in the United States, including a New Mexico photographer who was sued for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” and the numerous Catholic Charities around the country that have had to stop providing adoption services because states have declared it discriminatory for adoption services not to place a child with a same-sex couple.
Bishop Cordileone added that church leaders cannot “get political” but that the fight in defense of religious liberty and against recent Health and Human Services mandates is not a political fight by a fight over first principles. “We cannot get political in the sense of being partisan, not those of us who are church leaders at any rate,” he said. “Ultimately, it would compromise our role as the conscience of society and as that buffer we heard about earlier between the government and individual.”
“Also, this is not really a political struggle, it is a struggle for first principles, principles that we should all be able to agree upon,” he said. “We would as faith communities compromise who we are called to be if we became tied to any political agenda or platform.” However, the Bishop reminded his listeners that calling political leaders to remain true to the spirit of the Constitution is not political but rather basic to being American.
Minority Leader Pelosi, who is Catholic, was asked if she would stand with her church in opposing the Obama administration sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation to which she replied, “First of all, I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics in supporting the administration on this. I think it was a very courageous decision that they made, and I support it.”