Defying Pope Francis, San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Friday announced that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may no longer receive the sacrament of Communion because of her position supporting abortion rights.
In a public statement to Pelosi, Cordileone said because the lawmaker hadn’t “repudiated your position on abortion … 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.”
The ban will remain in place “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,” added Cordileone, one of the nation’s most conservative Catholic leaders.
Pelosi has not yet responded to the Communion ban.
Jamie L. Manson, president of the abortion rights group Catholics for Choice, condemned Cordileone’s statement while speaking to Catholic News Agency, saying he is “waging a culture war that the bishops have already retreated from.” He called on church leaders to “stop stigmatizing and start listening to Catholics who are pro-choice.”
Cordileone said on “The Gloria Purvis Podcast” Friday that he took the action now because of Pelosi’s support to “codify the Roe decision into federal law.” Pelosi said that she would do so in a bid to protect reproductive rights in light of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that would gut the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Cordileone said he considered Pelosi’s legislative action a “more extreme and more aggressive” support for abortion rights. (The law failed in the Senate.)
Pope Francis warned last September that Communion should never be politicized. Communion is a central sacrament of the church and the focus of Mass in which bread and wine are believed by the faithful to be transformed into Christ’s flesh and blood.
“What should a shepherd do?” Francis said about the issue while speaking to reporters. “Be a shepherd and not going around condemning or not condemning. They must be a shepherd with God’s style [of] closeness, compassion and tenderness.”
Francis said he had “never denied the Eucharist” to anyone.
The pontiff was responding to calls then by conservative Catholics to deny Communion to President Joe Biden, also because of his stance supporting women’s reproductive rights.
Catholic lawmakers have often emphasized that they are secular leaders and have no intention of imposing Vatican rules on the American public.
When John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president (Biden is the second), ran for office, many voters feared he would take orders from the pope and not voters. It was a critical issue in a nation whose Constitution demands separation of church and state.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month found that 55% percent of U.S. Catholics want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade, even though Catholic teaching opposes abortion.
After heated debate last year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided there would be “no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.”