San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Friday he would prevent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving communion in her home diocese. Ms. Pelosi, a Catholic, has been at the center of a Democratic push to codify abortion protections into federal law after a proposed Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade leaked this month. She has spent decades framing her political career as an expression of her faith, while working to expand access to abortion in defiance of Catholic doctrine.
In a letter to Ms Pelosi, Bishop Cordileone said he had previously discussed with her the church’s teaching on the immorality of abortion. The Archbishop said Ms Pelosi eventually stopped taking his calls. He felt the time had come to make a decision about the spiritual consequences of Mrs. Pelosi’s sacramental life, both for herself and for the sake of her flock. His friends say he was reluctant to do so.
In Catholic theology, the Eucharist is the sacramental presence of the body and blood of Christ. It is also an expression of the unity of the Church. Since the first centuries of Christianity, communion has been accessible only to believers living under the authority of their bishops and in obedience to Catholic doctrine.
Everyone sins, but there is a difference between struggling to get it right and publicly rejecting that struggle. Church law says that a Catholic “stubbornly persevering in manifest grave sin” should not be offered communion because the inconsistency between life and practice causes spiritual harm.
Archbishop Cordileone is not the first American prelate to ban the sacrament from a Catholic politician. Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki banned two lawmakers for an abortion bill in 2019. But state lawmakers don’t have the same stature as the speaker of the US House of Representatives. United.
At their annual meeting last year, the US bishops debated how to handle pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Most agreed with Bishop Cordileone that at some point the abortion advocacy scandal requires a concrete sacramental response. Some theologically liberal bishops view Bishop Cordileone’s position as “anti-Francis.” But Pope Francis himself said last year that while bishops should work as pastors with pro-abortion politicians for a change of heart, those lawmakers “cannot commune, because they are out of community”.
The emphasis is now on the reaction of the other bishops. Bishop Robert Vasa of Napa Valley, where Ms Pelosi has a vacation home, said Friday the San Francisco ban will apply while she is in his diocese. But Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC is unlikely to uphold the ban. He likened the prospect of sacramental discipline to a “gun on the table” when engaging with pro-choice politicians. But the dialogue is not always fruitful. And on big moral issues, like abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty, politics has enduring spiritual significance.
Archbishop Cordileone said this week that when Catholics flout moral reality in political discourse, souls – and lives – are at stake. And when souls are at stake, pastors have an obligation to act.
Mr. Flynn is editor and co-founder of Pillar Catholic.
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the print edition of May 23, 2022.