Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone took extra pains Friday to explain to priests of the Archdiocese of San Francisco his decision barring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion because of her advocacy of abortion.
In a May 20 letter addressed priests of the archdiocese, Cordileone explained that his instruction is nothing but the application of the Church’s teaching. The archbishop addressed a separate letter to the laity.
“There are those who speak of such actions as I am taking as ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist. However, this is simply application of Church teaching. One would have to demonstrate that a person’s actions in following Church teaching is explicitly for a political purpose in order to justify the accusation of ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist,” the archbishop wrote. “I have been very clear all along, in both my words and my actions, that my motive is pastoral, not political.”
He added “that one can also violate Church teaching and take Holy Communion for a political purpose as well, thus ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist for one’s own ulterior motives.”
Cordileone had notified Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a resident of the archdiocese, May 19 that because of her obstinate support for legal abortion she is not to present herself for Communion, and that should she do so, she is not to be admitted.
Cordileone’s instruction applies only within the San Francisco archdiocese.
The archbishop explained to his priests that since September 2021, he has made several attempts to have a dialogue with Pelosi about her support for legal abortion. His efforts, he said, were met either with no response or “that the Speaker was unavailable due to her schedule.”
“In consequence of all this and all that has led up to it, it is my determined judgment that this resistance to pastoral counsel has gone on for too long, and there is nothing more that can be done at this point to help the Speaker understand the seriousness of the evil her advocacy for abortion is perpetrating and the scandal she is causing. I therefore issued her the aforementioned Notification that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
His notification added that she may be admitted to Communion after having publicly repudiated her advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and having received absolution.
Cordileone pointed out that the law he is applying in this situation, Canon 915, is found in the book of canon law that deals with the Church’s sanctifying office, rather than in “Book VI, which is the Church’s legislation on penal law.”
“Thus, this is not a sanction, or a penalty, but rather a declaration of fact: the Speaker is ‘obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin’ (canon 915). A sanction, on the other hand, such as excommunication, has its own particular process and reasons for being applied. This is quite distinct from the application of canon 915,” he explained.
The archbishop went on to note that the promulgation of Pope Francis’ recent revision of penal law described “three pastoral motives that have also guided my discernment here: responding to the demands of justice, moving the offending party to conversion, and repairing the scandal caused.”
He observed that “Pope Francis’ purpose in issuing this revision of the Church’s canonical legislation on penal sanctions is clearly motivated in large part by the commitment to insuring the integrity of the Church’s sacramental life.”
“It is for this reason,” he added, “that there is now a canon which punishes by suspension, to which other penalties can be added, one who ‘administers a sacrament to those who are prohibited from receiving it.’”
Cordileone added that his decision had not been made lightly, but is “the fruit of years of prayer, fasting and consultation with a broad spectrum of Church leaders whom I respect for their intelligence, wisdom and pastoral sensitivity, and it continues my efforts to invite the Speaker down the path of conversion.”
With regard to the sanctity of life the Church is in a spiritual battle, he maintained: “It is not poetic rhetoric to call the proliferation of abortion demonic.”
Because of this, he asked of his priests three things: to preach about the topic; to promote living the consecration of the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to pray the St. Michael prayer after Mass.
“This is no time to be intimidated into silence,” he urged. “Do not dodge addressing the grave evil of abortion, but do so, obviously, with great pastoral sensitivity, recognizing that many of your people in the pews listening to you have been personally affected by this terrible scourge.”
Cordileone added that the archdiocese is “fully committed to assisting women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies, both during the pregnancy and for years after the birth of the child.”
“Ask your parishioners to help in our efforts as a Catholic people to be truly pro-life: both pro-child and pro-woman,” he exhorted the priests.
The archbishop recommended the following ways to live out the consecration to the Immaculate Heart: pray the rosary daily; fast on Fridays and perform other acts of penance; go to confession more frequently; and regularly adore the Blessed Sacrament.
“In closing, allow me to observe that what we are facing in this particular moment of history is a powerful reminder to us that the Priesthood is not for the faint-hearted. Of course, it never was. But for a long time, up until recently, we lived in a society that allowed us to imagine that it was. Let us not fool ourselves any longer,” he said.
“And know how deeply grateful I am to you,” he concluded, “for being with your people, shepherding them, challenging them, and leading them to the green pastures that are deeper life in our Lord Jesus Christ.”