On 24 August house Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the Sunday morning news show Meet The Press told host Tom Brokaw a pack of lies about what the Catholic Church teaches.
She stated incorrectly that the Church has not made a determination about when human life begins (it begins at conception), cherry-picked a non-relevant quote from the fifth-century theologian St. Augustine of Hippo (whose knowledge of embryology wasn’t very advanced) and then… what is worse… said it didn’t make a difference when life began, women should be able to choose abortion anyway.
Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) was on Meet The Press yesterday. There was this exchange with Tom Brokaw. They are discussing the choice of Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) as the GOP’s VP candidate. My emphases and comments.
GOV. PAWLENTY: I would also say on that, Tom, if I could, you never hear Barack Obama getting asked whether he would pick a pro-life candidate for his ticket…
MR. BROKAW: Huh.
GOV. PAWLENTY: …or whether it was important to have a pro-choice candidate on the Democratic side. You notice that question never gets asked of the Democrats.
MR. BROKAW: In the governors race–as a matter of fact, Nancy Pelosi and I talked about this just last week, and  she got in a lot of trouble with the Catholic Church because  [s]he refused to say when life begins, and when I asked her about it, she then had  her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine, and  the church came after her. So  we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can.
There are several points to discuss here. Let’s take them in order.
Note that Brokaw’s comments seem a bit a non sequitur.
I surmise he had every intention of saying something at some point during the show, saying precisely this, as a matter of fact. This was probably a statement he had thought through, rather than spoke off the cuff. As such, it must bear some scrutiny.
1. "she got in trouble with the Catholic Church".
Speaker Pelosi misstated the teachings of the Church, on American television, during one of the most viewed Sunday morning new talks shows in the world, in the midst of a presidential campaign. Pelosi, introduced her errors by saying that she is an "ardent" Catholic. "Ardent" suggests sincere attachment and even love for the Church and the Catholic Faith. When you love something, you seek to know it thoroughly and in truth. You want to know the details, the history, the thoughts of the people you love. A Catholic who is ardent desires to know what Holy Church teaches about serious issues. If she "got in trouble", she didn’t do so as an ignorant little girl making a mistake in listing the seven sacraments before her first Holy Communion. Brokaw phrases this as if she was slapped on the knuckles with a ruler. I sense that he is subtly trying to diminish the importance of the reaction of the Church’s leaders and elevate Pelosi’s sincere attempt to express herself, poor thing.
2. "[s]he refused to say when life begins".
Nancy Pelosi, the "ardent Catholic", could have simply responded "some people have differing views, and it is hard to understand, but as a Catholic, I know that the Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception". After all, no one really expects that the Speaker of the House of Representatives has the authority to pronounce on this matter.
However,… A public figure who is Catholic, who knows what the Church teaches and who refuses to state when human life begins when publicly questioned, is hardly able to be defended. And I think we must accept that she knows what the Church teaches and that her subsequent response was a dodge.
3. "her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine"
Is it possible that Nancy Pelosi the self-professed "ardent Catholic" should deliver her own position on the beginning of human life?
She said she studied the issue. Is it possible that she got it so wrong by accident? If so, then she must be monumentally dense. But I suspect stupid people don’t get named as Speaker of the House.
Brokaw’s statement attempts to paint her has having been sincere. In her poor attempts to express her genuine understanding of the teachings of her Church she, oops, got it wrong and the "Church" rapped her knuckles.
4. "the church came after her"
Had someone on Meet The Press started to misquote Brokaw’s words or writings, I think Brokaw would have objected and tried to clarify the situation. Imagine for a moment tom Brokaw interviewing a man who wrote a book denigrating the memory of the selfish people of "the greatest generation" during the Second World War:
GUEST: As you wrote in your own book, Tom, those who lived, and worked, fought and died during World War II, were not the "greatest generation". As you argued, we really don’t know what they were.
TOM: Ummm… hey…. wait a ….
GUEST: They were, as a matter of fact, probably pretty selfish and just in it for their own gain and fame. At least that is what your book says.
TOM: WHAT?!? That is not at all what I…
GUEST: And I have studied your book really carefully since I am a huge fan of yours. Sure, there might be countless of examples of selflessness and sacrifice in the millions of people from those days, but none of that really matters: In the final analysis you had no idea what to say about them in your book and we should be able to run them down.
TOM: Clearly, sir, you have not the slightest idea what is in my book. You have mischaracterized it. You either didn’t read it at all or you are purposely distorting it for your own purposes.
See what I mean? Any person or organization with a public stance and record of statements has the right to be cited and quoted correctly, in such a way that those positions are not distorted. Someone who is mischaracterized has the right to object.
This was decidedly not and matter of the "Church going after her", as if the negative attention she gained was undeserved, as if the Church was a playground bully at the parish school. The leaders of the Church had the right to object to Pelosi’s misstatements. However, the Church also has the right to correct a member of the flock, an "ardent" member, who has seriously gone astray in public about one of the gravest matters of our day.
5. "we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can"
He had every intention of making this statement on the show and this was his moment. What he stated was thought through and really reflects what he thinks. He is aiming at a certain effect with his words.
And that target wasn’t the truth about what happened with Speaker Pelosi on Meet The Press.
Tom Brokaw’s statement was a defense of Nancy Pelosi and Pelosi’s position as well as a criticism of the Church.
Now watch the 24 August interview with Pelosi again and listen carefully.