23 May 2022, The Tablet

Archbishop bars Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Communion

The announcement puts Cordileone at odds with both Pope Francis, who has said that he has never denied communion to anyone.

Archbishop bars Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Communion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
CNS composite/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters, and Lisa Johnston, St Louis Review.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has  announced that Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who represents a district within the city, is not to be admitted to Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

Cordileone said his decision came “after numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing and the danger to her own soul she is risking”.

The announcement puts Cordileone at odds with both Pope Francis, who told reporters last September that he had never denied communion to anyone, and Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory who refused calls to deny communion to President Joseph Biden because of the president’s support for legal abortion. Gregory said that in going to discuss policy issues with the president, only the second Catholic to ascend to the White House: “I don’t want to go to the table with a gun on the table first.”

Additionally, last year the US bishops as a body declined to mandate a policy of refusing communion to pro-choice politicians during their year-long debate about “eucharistic coherence”. The bishops’ conference has no canonical authority to dictate such policy to diocesan bishops one way or another, but it became clear that the majority of bishops resisted such public weaponising of the sacraments for political ends. In the wake of last week’s decision, only a handful of bishops voiced support for Cordileone’s action.

Cordileone denied his action was motivated by politics. “Please know that I find no pleasure whatsoever in fulfilling my pastoral duty here,” Cordileone said. “Speaker Pelosi remains our sister in Christ. Her advocacy for the care of the poor and vulnerable elicits my admiration. I assure you that my action here is purely pastoral, not political. I have been very clear in my words and actions about this.”

It is unclear what response Pelosi will make to Cordileone’s action. Her office declined to comment immediately about the matter but, as a Catholic, she is entitled to receive the sacraments under Canon 213. Cordileone cites Canon 915 which says those guilty of manifestly grave sin can be barred from receiving Communion. It is unclear if voting on legislation was ever intended to fall within the scope of Canon 915 and Pelosi has never procured an abortion herself. Pelosi would need to ask Cordileone to repeal his decree within ten days if she intends to bring a challenge to the Vatican.

The controversy comes while the entire nation is on edge awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in an abortion case, Dobbs v Jackson. A leaked draft opinion indicated a majority of the court intended to set aside Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion nationwide. A final decision is expected by the end of the term in June.



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