Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was not aware of the negative comments about Pope Benedict XVI made by an adviser to President Barack Obama that were published in a San Francisco newspaper.
However, Pelosi praised the Catholic Church for what it has done about poverty, disease and climate change when asked about the Obama adviser's comments.
In April, Obama named Harry Knox to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Knox, a Christian, is the director of the faith and religion program at the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights organization.
On Mar. 19, Knox told the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco-based gay newspaper, that the Catholic Knights of Columbus do “a great deal of good” but they are following “discredited leaders,” such as Pope Benedict.
“The Knights of Columbus do a great deal of good in the name of Jesus Christ, but in this particular case, they were foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression,” Knox told the newspaper. He was referring to the Knights’ support for Proposition 8, a California state constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2008 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
The newspaper further reported: “Knox noted that the Knights of Columbus ‘followed discredited leaders,’ including bishops and Pope Benedict XVI. ‘A pope who literally today said condoms don’t help in control of AIDS.’”
In an interview with CNSNews.com after his appointment, Knox stood by his comments about the pope. This prompted a public dustup as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Family Research Council, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a recent convert to Catholicism, publicly criticized Obama for appointing Knox to the faith-based advisory board.
Also, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) issued a statement calling for Obama to withdraw the appointment.
Nonetheless, Pelosi said Wednesday she was unaware of Knox’s comments, first published in a newspaper in her congressional district. But Pelosi, a Catholic, defended the church and the pope.
“I’m so sorry. I’m just totally unaware of that statement,” Pelosi told CNSNews.com. “I really don’t know about that. But certainly, his Holiness is the head of an organization that has done more to alleviate poverty, eradicate disease, and is now addressing climate change issue and the rest. I am just not familiar with the statement and the circumstance.”
The White House has declined to respond to questions about the Knox appointment.
In his statement last month, Pence said, “Appointing a man who has publicly attacked the pope and other religious leaders for their support of traditional marriage is deeply offensive to millions of Americans and the faith-based community he is appointed to serve. I call on the president to withdraw this appointment and select a person who can serve the faith-based community with the respect and dignity it deserves.”
Penny Starr contributed to this story.