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Nancy Pelosi's archbishop bans her from receiving communion over abortion advocacy

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on August 25, 2021, in Washington, D.C. |

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will not be allowed to receive communion due to her staunch support for abortion rights, according to the congresswoman’s Roman Catholic archbishop.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone sent a letter on Thursday to Pelosi, D-Calif., a practicing Catholic, informing her that she had been warned to either “repudiate your advocacy for abortion ‘rights’” or “refrain from referring to your Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion.”

“I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance,” stated Cordileone.

“I also ask all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to pray for all of our legislators, especially Catholic legislators who promote procured abortion, that with the help and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they may undergo a conversion of heart in this most grave matter and human life may be protected and fostered in every stage and condition of life.”

The archbishop also stated that he was “ready to continue our conversation at any time” regarding his concerns “and will continue to offer up prayer and fasting for you.” Cordileone cited a 2004 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, as the justification for his call for Pelosi to refrain from communion.

In the letter to top Catholic Church officials in the U.S., Ratzinger explained that “when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”

“When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect …,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,’” Ratzinger added.  

Additionally, Cordileone quoted from the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, which proclaims that “those obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” 

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, head of the archdiocese of San Francisco, stands at the site where Father Junipero Serra's statue once stood in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. |

Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson took issue with the archbishop’s letter, claiming in a statement that “Archbishop Cordileone is waging a culture war that the bishops have already retreated from.”

“Last year, a core contingent of U.S. bishops launched an unholy crusade to prohibit President [Joe] Biden and other pro-choice politicians from receiving communion,” Manson said.

“Thankfully, they backed down due to overwhelming pushback from a vast majority of Catholics from both sides of the political divide who let them know that abusing the power of our sacraments is unacceptable.”

Last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to move ahead with “the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” While opponents of this effort characterized the document as a direct rebuke of pro-choice Catholic politicians, the USCCB later clarified that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.” 

“The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons,” the body of bishops insisted in a statement. “It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Manson went on to characterize Cordileone’s letter to Pelosi as “one more step in a long line of attacks that the Church hierarchy has waged on women and their reproductive rights.”

“Cordileone might be coming after Speaker Pelosi now, but if he had his way, the Church hierarchy would come for all women who have pro-choice beliefs,” she added.

While Manson objected to Cordileone’s letter to Pelosi, Brian Burch of the faith-based advocacy organization CatholicVote had a different reaction. 

“Catholics across America commend Archbishop Cordileone and his pastoral leadership in handling the scandal posed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” he asserted in a statement Friday.

“For too long Catholic public officials have created confusion and disunity by advocating for policies that destroy innocent human life — in direct contradiction of the teachings of the Catholic faith.  The persistent disobedience of these public officials is a source of enormous sadness and scandal that begged for a response.  The Church has no choice but to protect itself and to encourage all of its members to live in communion with its teachings.”

Cordileone has been critical of Pelosi’s pro-choice advocacy in the past, having disputed the claim that a person can call themselves a “devout Catholic” while lobbying for abortion.

In July 2021, for example, when Pelosi expressed support for expanding federal funding of abortion, the archbishop stated in an interview with the Catholic News Agency that “no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it.”

Cordileone’s letter to Pelosi comes after the leak of a draft opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, indicating that a majority of justices are primed to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The prospect of overturning Roe has horrified pro-abortion politicians and brought the contentious issue of abortion back to the forefront of American politics.

Ryan Foley contributed to this piece.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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