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Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stands in front on the U.S. CapitolU.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington May 18, 2022. (CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters)

At a Georgetown University forum about faith and politics, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cited the Gospel of Matthew as the motivation for her focus on social justice issues and said that U.S. bishops have focused too narrowly on abortion at the expense of other societal challenges.

“The Lord did not just say, ‘When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was homeless, you sheltered me. When I was in prison, you visited me,’” Ms. Pelosi said, paraphrasing Matthew 25. “He also said, ‘When I was homeless, you did not shelter me.’”

“I think that other part of it is really important,” she said, “because it broadens our responsibility.”

Last year, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco took the unusual step of publicly barring Ms. Pelosi from receiving Communion over her support for abortion rights. Ms. Pelosi alluded to that on Thursday, saying she focuses on the “free will” of a woman to make decisions about her health care.

Ms. Pelosi said she grew up in a home that would be considered “pro-life” and said that she also applies that label to herself because of her advocacy for children and women.

Ms. Pelosi said she grew up in a home that would be considered “pro-life” and said that she also applies that label to herself because of her advocacy for children and women. She said that she regrets that some Catholic bishops are “willing to abandon the bulk” of Catholic social teaching by focusing too narrowly on abortion.

Ms. Pelosi spoke to the Rev. Jim Wallis at an event hosted by the Center on Faith and Justice in the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy on the 13th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act. She recounted the many hurdles lawmakers faced in passing the bill, and she praised Catholic sisters for their advocacy of the legislation.

“Because we had the nuns,” she said, “we were able to prevail.”

When it comes to the role of religion in politics, Ms. Pelosi invoked President John F. Kennedy and said faith can inform one’s political views but that it should not be forced on others who do not believe.

“Kennedy said God’s work must truly be our own,” she recalled. “And we’re big enough to accommodate God’s work in our public arena without having a state religion.”

Ms. Pelosi said that she exhorts believers that “if we’re going to pray in church on Sunday,” that they should “avoid preying on people…the rest of the week.”

Ms. Pelosi said that she exhorts believers that “if we’re going to pray in church on Sunday,” that they should “avoid preying on people…the rest of the week.”

Asked about how her faith squares with her support for L.G.B.T. people, Ms. Pelosi lamented what she called “the very negative, anti-L.G.B.T.Q. stuff coming from our archbishop,” referring to Archbishop Cordileone’s advocacy for the church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality. She recounted that her first speech as a newly elected member of Congress in 1987 highlighted the plight of people affected by H.I.V. and AIDS, even though her colleagues told her it was too risky to bring up such a sensitive topic on the House floor.

“Right now, our challenge are trans kids,” Ms. Pelosi said Thursday.

“I see kids on the streets of San Francisco, where they are because their families disowned them,” she said. “All God’s children, they have their own dignity and worth, their own individuality, their own authenticity. And that’s a beautiful thing for us to embrace God’s creation.”

A longtime defender of human rights in China, Ms. Pelosi voiced disagreement with Pope Francis and the Holy See’s outreach to the Chinese government.

The former speaker, who resigned from House leadership following the 2022 election but who retained her congressional seat, also weighed in on internal church matters.

Asked about a story from her childhood in which Ms. Pelosi’s mother urged her to become a nun, she recounted how she was more attracted to the priesthood, in part because of a priest’s ability to preside over the Eucharist.

“Maybe one day women will be able to do that as well,” she said. “That’s something that I’m thinking about. I was hoping the pope would, too, but…”

A longtime defender of human rights in China, Ms. Pelosi voiced disagreement with Pope Francis and the Holy See’s outreach to the Chinese government.

Paraphrasing the Gospel, Ms. Pelosi recalled the words of Jesus to Peter, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.”

“Now it’s President Xi having veto power over who the bishops are in China,” she said.

Asked about her faith life, Ms. Pelosi said she often feels “the call to pray” and expressed her belief that “faith is such a gift.”

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