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Will Nancy Pelosi take a page from her father’s playbook?

The chief obstacle to emergency financial aid for the low- and middle-income parents who still wish to choose Catholic schools for their children is resistance to such aid in the Democratic caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Feb. 6, 2020. (CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters). Rght: Students walk out of the Institute of Notre Dame building in Baltimore, in this 2014 photo. The Catholic school, which began educating girls in 1847 with alumni that include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, closed its doors for good at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. (CNS photo/courtesy Institute of Notre Dame)

In 1918, Mayor James Preston presented a 264-piece silver service to Cardinal James Gibbons on behalf of Baltimore and its citizens – a municipal tribute to the city’s beloved archbishop on the 50th anniversary of his episcopal consecration. Funded by public subscription, the cutlery, plates, tea pots and coffee pots, serving bowls, trays, and platters of the “Gibbons silver” featured a unique decorative pattern, the cardinal’s monogram, and his coat-of-arms. For decades, much of the jubilee silver service was displayed in the dining room of the residence of the archbishops of Baltimore, located just behind Benjamin Latrobe’s magnificent Cathedral of the Assumption.

Then disaster seemed to strike.

One morning in the 1950s, the cathedral rector came downstairs to find that the Gibbons silver was gone: stealthy burglars had entered the residence during the night and made off with it. The rector called the police. The police called City Hall. And Mayor Thomas J. D’Alesandro, Jr., suspecting who might have been responsible for this caper, put the word out: If that silver isn’t returned in 48 hours, somebody’s gonna be in a world of hurt.

The next day, the telephone rang in the rectory of Our Lady of Fatima parish, several miles east of Baltimore’s downtown. The caller, declining to identify himself, simply said, “Look in your trash cans.” The pastor did. And there, in plastic bags, was the Gibbons silver service.

Thus Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro: paragon of efficient local government.

Another theft of something far more consequential than silver is on the near-term horizon – the theft, by COVID-19, of the Catholic school education on which tens of thousands of poor children and their parents rely as preparation for a life beyond poverty. And another D’Alesandro – Tommy’s daughter, more familiarly known as Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives – can and should emulate her father’s example and do something about it.

Many Catholics schools in the United States are in serious trouble because of COVID-19. The trouble is not educational; across the country these past four months, Catholic schools showed themselves far more supple in responding to the pandemic than the state schools, as Catholic schools implemented online learning far more quickly and efficiently. The trouble is financial: too many parents, unemployed or under grave financial stress because of the shutdown of the economy, face the prospect of not being able to afford tuition at the Catholic schools they’ve freely chosen for their children’s education and formation.

If inner-city and other low- and middle-income Catholic schools are emptied because of unbearable financial pressures on parents, there will be multiple victims. The first victims of this education-theft will be those Catholic schools’ former students. The second victim will be state school systems, overwhelmed by an influx of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of new students they cannot handle – especially under the restrictions that will likely be necessary to avoid an autumnal spike in COVID-19 cases.

Speaker Pelosi has publicly lamented the recently-announced closing of her Baltimore alma mater, the financially strapped Institute of Notre Dame: a venerable secondary school for young women whose first graduating class had heard the rumble of Civil War cannon from their classrooms. Many of my elementary school classmates attended IND and I share the Speaker’s sense of loss. But what are we to say, and do, about the virtual certainty that many, many Catholic elementary schools across the country, especially those serving low- and middle-income children, will be decimated by COVID-19 economic distress?

The chief obstacle to emergency financial aid for the low- and middle-income parents who still wish to choose Catholic schools for their children is resistance to such aid in the Democratic caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaker Pelosi rules that caucus with a firm hand. Might she adapt a page from her father’s playbook? Might she put the word out that anyone acquiescing in education-theft, by blocking financial aid to the low- and middle-income parents who choose Catholic schools for their children, is going to be in trouble as they seek campaign dollars and plum committee assignments?

The long-term question of federal funds for independent schools can be debated and settled later. This is an emergency: a crisis for Catholic schools and state schools, for children and parents. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful woman in American political history, can help resolve that crisis by being her father’s daughter.


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About George Weigel 289 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His new book, The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission, will be published by Ignatius Press on July 7.

20 Comments

  1. Just because a school Carrie’s the word “Catholic” in its name doesnt necessarily make it so. Using Nancy Pelosi as an example of the fruit of a certain Catholic school in MD is not a ringing endorsement for government bailouts.

  2. Obviously Speaker Pelosi is a secular catholic not orthodox. Her higher power is secular power. As she has stated abortion is a sacred topic for her. She wants to protect the ability of parents to kill their unwanted children. With this ice cold soul she will not give a hoot about sacrificing catholic schools to maintain the votes from the of the radically liberal teacher’s union. It would be more beneficial to try and splash her with Holy Water than appeal to her conscience.

  3. Not a chance.The long and evil march of the Marxist socialist/democrats is “hell bent” on erasing the 2000 year old Catholic Church in America.NO if’s,ands,or but’s will be allowed.

  4. Is this article meant to be an act of begging the wicked witch of the west or is it meant to shame her? In my opinion if she cannot increase her power over the elected it will not happen. In addition, the fact the her father could put out a warning such as he did speaks loudly about the roots from which nancy came from. Evidently, he knew the criminals who took the silver and had the power to make them return it.

  5. Why doesn’t the Napa Institute create a philanthropic organization to help Catholic schools, or is that organization just for rich Catholics to hobnob in wine country every summer?

  6. Given that Weigel and (then) D’Alessandro both grew up in the Baltimore area in the 50s – this is an interesting question.

    Will she help? I wouldn’t bet on it, but I pray I’m wrong.

  7. Unfortunately, this is the worst time for us to be at the public trough asking for more government money, direct or indirect. We should have learned by now that it won’t come without unacceptable strings. If anything we should be renouncing all government support of any kind and declaring our independence from government interference, and, while we’re at it, renounce our tax-exempt status besides. The independence of Catholic schools is more important than getting a little more government aid. If we have good Catholic schools that teach solid Catholic principles, we’ll find non-governmental aid without trouble, the same way Mother Angelica didn’t have any trouble building and supporting EWTN without government help.

    • Agreed! We do not need the aid of the government for our schools. The people of the Catholic parish will give the funds needed to those children who cannot afford it if the parents ask.

  8. It is interesting that you continue to trash Pelosi and give Trump, the liar and con man, a Catholic get out of jail free card. If Pelosi deserves any credit her caucus has the freedom to express their position on an issue. Her caucus is diametrically opposite to the Republican caucus commanded by the grim reaper, McConnell an associate of the president. McConnell only frees his caucus to blast the Democrats using childlike names, disrupt a congressional inquiry panel and oversee the senate to watch his party to remain silent on critical bipartisan House legislation when it is not aligned with Trump’s position.

    • i am still confused as to how any Catholic could possibly want to support that “thing” and his regime. trump is completely useless and has turned america into a hateful nation. i pity all who support him

      • President Trump is more “Catholic” than many other elected officials who claim to be Catholic! Abortion is definitely not “sacred” in the Catholic Church but seen as an abomination! Many elected officials are trying to destroy this country and the Constitution! St. Michael the archangel defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil, who prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls!”

      • What? Is this a question about two people? Those who promote abortion are the least truthful, rational and informed in our politics.

    • It is very sad that Nancy fell to the lows she’s in, but a small wonder. I bet her daddy/mayor is more to blame for where she’s at than the school she attended. It is the policies of democrat run cities that gave us the worst public schools and the most racist police departments. Cities that have been run by democrats from generations.

      Not sure why one would advocate the way Nancy’s daddy “handled” policing. More importantly, not sure why one would advocate bailing out failed schools. Abolishing the Department of Education would be a better step. Abolishing public school/leftist indoctrination system would be an even better way to go about it. And abolishing the democrat party that got us to where we are academically and culturally, would be the ultimate fix. After all, democrats are the party of KKK, Dewey, Sanger, Ocasio, Omar, Pelosi, Obama, and other calamities that befell our nation in the past.

  9. the last thing this world needs right now is another 4 years of trump. i dont know how anybody could possibly want that “thing” and his regime in office. i was Republican but no more. there are no good Republicans anymore. they all bow down to their new god trump. i pity all who support him and his regime. do the right thing, america, and vote this “thing” out

  10. Pelosi is anti life and for the most violent organization in America, Planned Parenthood. It is the rotten core of America. Pelosi is anti life, anti God, anti constitution. What is their to like about her and her party. Nothing.

  11. With federal bailout, subsidy, public subscription, whatever you wish to call it, using such money automatically brings full government control. Catholic schools are in enough trouble already without adding another layer of administration.This is not speculation–it has happened to every so-called “private” school at every level of education. And if the main job of Catholic schools is to lift children out of poverty rather than to teach them the Catholic faith, why go to the trouble?

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