You can’t have it both ways—fully integrate religion into the program of the convention and then complain when you find your party in the middle of a theological argument. No sooner had the Speaker of the House of Representatives pinpointed the inception of life according to her self-declared theological studies than high officials in the Roman Catholic Church took exception to her remarks and rejected her declaration as a position of the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, here again it is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. Many more people may agree with Pelosi’s views than with the views of a number of outspoken Archbishops in the Catholic Church. But, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is not going to change the doctrinal position of the Holy See. If Catholic leaders will not pay attention to the theological thought of experienced theologians and Catholic women religious like Joan Chittester and Maureen Fiedler, they certainly are not going to assign religious credibility to the conviction of a woman best known for her work as a politician.

But my question is whether or not this is the kind of debate that best serves the nation when it is spawned by efforts to incorporate more religious language into Democratic rhetoric. It seems to me that, for Democrats, the most fundamental question is constitutional rather than theological—Are we going to protect reproductive rights for women in our work as a political party?

I fear entanglement of religious rituals, doctrines, and institutions with the political process even as with government because I want religion to retain independence and an integrity that can be lost among partisan motivations. What’s more, both parties may be inviting more than they expected and biting off more than they want to chew by substituting debates about theology and the development of faith-based initiatives for old-fashion fidelity to work that fulfills traditional constitutional promises such as providing for the public welfare, maintaining a strong defense, contributing to domestic tranquility, and keeping the peace.

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