House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s archbishop is defending a pro-life law that went into effect in Texas and doubling down on his previous assertions that Catholics in good standing cannot support abortion.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post illustrating “Our duty to challenge Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.” Cordileone, who oversees territory that includes the area Pelosi represents in the Congress, called her out as one of several Catholic politicians who support a practice that directly contradicts the church’s teaching.
“I find it especially disturbing that so many of the politicians on the wrong side of the preeminent human rights issue of our time are self-professed Catholics,” he wrote. “You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings.”
Cordileone praised Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which took effect on Sept. 1. The law bans abortions after a baby's heartbeat can be detected, usually at around six weeks gestation, and allows private citizens to sue individuals who perform abortions as well as those who facilitate illegal abortions.
He also thanked Texas for “investing $100 million to help mothers by funding crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies and maternity homes and providing free services including counseling, parenting help, diapers, formula, and job training to mothers who want to keep their babies.”
The archbishop began his piece by noting that “prominent politicians lost no time in reacting hyperbolically to the Supreme Court’s decision refusing to enjoin Texas’ new law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.” He specifically mentioned the responses from President Joe Biden and Pelosi, both of whom portray themselves as practicing, faithful Catholics.
“President Biden announced a ‘whole-of-government effort’ to find ways to overcome the Texas measure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) denounced the Supreme Court’s refusal as a ‘cowardly, dark-of-night decision to uphold a fragrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health,’ and promised new legal action: ‘This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade’ in federal law.”
Cordileone suggested that Catholic bishops have an obligation to address “prominent laymen in public life who openly oppose church teachings on abortion” because their pro-abortion advocacy violates “core Catholic teachings and basic principles of justice” in addition to leading others into sin. According to Cordileone, “Abortion kills a unique, irreplaceable human being growing in his or her mother’s womb. Everyone who advocates for abortion, in public or private life, who funds it or presents it as a legitimate choice participates in a great moral evil.”
Bringing up the ongoing discussion within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops about whether to withhold communion from Catholic politicians who support abortion, Cordileone recalled how church officials were “accused of inappropriately injecting religion into politics, of butting in where we didn’t belong.” He responded to that accusation by declaring, “I see matters differently” before outlining the importance of the Catholic Church’s advocacy in the civil rights movement.
“The example of [the late] New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel, who courageously confronted the evils of racism, is one that I especially admire. Rummel did not ‘stay in his lane.’ Unlike several other bishops throughout this country’s history, he did not prioritize keeping parishioners and the public happy above advancing racial justice. Instead, he began a long, patient campaign of moral suasion to change the opinions of pro-segregation white Catholics.”
Cordileone discussed some of the actions taken by Rummel at the height of the civil rights movement that critics could interpret as “butting in where we didn’t belong,” including admitting African American students to the seminary, ordering the removal of ‘white’ and ‘colored’ signs from the Archdiocese’s churches, ordering desegregation among the churches, closing a church over its refusal to accept a black priest and ordering the desegregation of Catholic schools.
As Cordileone explained, Rummel’s actions led to “protests and boycotts” among white Catholics who supported segregation. “Rummel patiently sent letters urging a conversion of heart, but he was also willing to threaten opponents of desegregation with excommunication,” he said. “On April 16, 1962, he followed through, excommunicating a former judge, a well-known writer and a segregationist community organizer. Two of the three later repented and died Catholics in good standing.”
Implying that critics of Rummel’s actions would characterize his strong advocacy on behalf of desegregation as “weaponizing the eucharist,” Cordileone defended the late archbishop: “Rummel recognized that prominent, high-profile public advocacy for racism was scandalous.” He added that “in our own time,” nothing constitutes a more egregious “denial of the unity and solidarity of the human race” than abortion.
“Since the Roe decision, more than 60 million lives have been lost to abortion. Many millions more have been scarred by this experience, wounded victims whom society ignores. Abortion is therefore the most pressing human rights challenge of our time,” he added.
Cordileone maintained that Catholic Church officials cannot “speak softly when the blood of 60 million innocent American children cries out for justice.” He proclaimed that “the answer to crisis pregnancies is not violence but love, for both mother and child,” adding “That is hardly inappropriate for a pastor to say.”
The op-ed is not the first time Cordileone has asserted that Catholics in good standing cannot support abortion. After Pelosi classified herself as a “devout Catholic” while defending efforts to repeal the Hyde Amendment that bans taxpayer funding of abortions, Cordileone remarked 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.”
In a pastoral letter published in May, Cordileone delivered a message to Catholic politicians who engage in abortion advocacy: “Please stop pretending that advocating for a grave moral evil — one that sniffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right — is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not.”
As Cordileone indicated in his op-ed, U.S. Catholic bishops have been engaged in a debate about whether to withhold communion from Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion. The Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law teaches that “those obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” A 2004 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, affirms that “the Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin.”
Quoting from the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, Ratzinger declared that “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law or to vote for it.” Supporters of withholding communion from pro-abortion politicians cite the Ratzinger letter to justify their push to enact such a policy.
At its virtual general assembly meeting this spring, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to move ahead with the drafting of a document that addresses “the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.” While the document was characterized as a rebuke to pro-abortion politicians, the body of bishops emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”
According to a question-and-answer document about the vote that took place at the general assembly, “The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. 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.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org