By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 4, 2010 ( – In defending her pro-abortion views against the teachings of the Catholic Church in late December, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a professed Catholic, argued that restricting abortion amounts to a violation of women’s free will and is inconsistent with her Catholic faith.

Pelosi told Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift December 21 that she had “some concerns” about the Catholic Church’s positions on abortion and homosexuality.

“I am a practicing Catholic, although they’re probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith,” said the Speaker. “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will.”

Rep. Pelosi also discussed her interaction with Church hierarchy over the last-minute decision to include Hyde-amendment restrictions on federal abortion funding in the House’s health care bill in early November. After a group of conservative Democrats signaled that they would not support the bill without the abortion funding ban sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Pelosi turned to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to negotiate adequate pro-life language. Pelosi was ultimately forced to include the Stupak ban, which was rejected in the later Senate version.

Pelosi maintained that the bill’s original abortion language, which segregated the government-appropriated monies funding abortion, would have kept the legislation “abortion neutral.”

“I said to [one of the cardinals] that I believe that what we are doing honors the principles we talked aboutâEUR¦. They said, ‘We believe that it does not,'” she said. “That’s what the meeting was about — to make our case. Clearly, the people at that table were not willing to accept what we know to be a fact.”

Asked whether it was difficult for her to reconcile her faith with her public life, the Speaker responded: “You know, I had five children in six years. The day I brought my fifth baby home, that week my daughter turned 6. So I appreciate and value all that they want to talk about in terms of family and the rest.”

She continued: “When I speak to my archbishop in San Francisco and his role is to try to change my mind on the subject, well then he is exercising his pastoral duty to me as one of his flock. When they call me on the phone here to talk about, or come to see me about an issue, that’s a different story. Then they are advocates, and I am a public official, and I have a different responsibility.”

Pelosi’s bishop, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, reportedly met quietly with her last February in what Pelosi’s spokesman called a “cordial” exchange on the topic of abortion.

Niederauer and 25 other U.S. bishops publicly corrected Pelosi in August after she indicated in a Meet the Press interview that historic Catholic Church teaching was unclear about the morality of abortion.