Related video: VP Harris, Speaker Pelosi Make History During Speech

Pelosi’s archbishop calls for high-profile catholics to be denied communion if they back abortion

‘This is a bitter medicine, but the gravity of the evil of abortion can sometimes warrant it’ Archbishop writes in 17-page letter

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Monday 03 May 2021 21:26
Leer en Español

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco archbishop has called for high-profile Catholics to be denied communion if they back abortion, a move seen by some as harsh indirect criticism of one of his most well-known parishioners.

In a 17-page pastoral letter, the Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone wrote: “Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion.”

He added: “When other avenues are exhausted, the only recourse a pastor has left is the public medicine of temporary exclusion from the Lord’s Table. This is a bitter medicine, but the gravity of the evil of abortion can sometimes warrant it.”

Ms Pelosi, a pro-choice Democrat and high-profile Catholic, has been a supporter of women’s reproductive rights for a long time. During this period she has also been frequently criticised by those who argue that her faith and politics clash.

The debate has intensified since the election of Joe Biden, who’s only the second Catholic president in American history. Fellow Democrat John F Kennedy became the first after being elected in 1960.

The archbishop wrote in a seven-page add-on that he waited to share his thoughts on the issue until after the 2020 election to avoid “confusion among those who would misperceive this as ‘politicising’ the issue”.

Archbishop Cordileone wrote: “Regardless of which political party is in power at a given moment, we all need to review some basic truths and moral principles.”

The Conference of Catholic Bishops will gather in June to decide whether to draft a document on the issue of communion.

While the conference carries some heft, only the Vatican holds actual authority over bishops. Local bishops and their priests hold varying views on how to treat politicians who support abortion rights. Some priests have called for President Joe Biden to be denied communion.

Mr Biden was reportedly stopped from receiving communion at a church in South Carolina while on the campaign trail in 2019, The Morning News reported. 

But Catholic leaders in both DC and Mr Biden’s home state of Delaware have long said they won’t deny the president communion because of his stance.

Ms Pelosi appeared on Hillary Clinton’s podcast, on which she blasted Trump supporters for being “willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue”.

She said on the mid-January episode: “There’s one other element that I have been talking about for a long time that gives me great grief as a Catholic. I think that Donald Trump is president because of the issue of a woman’s right to choose. When he signed that paper saying, ‘These are the judges that I will appoint’, that was the dog whistle to the Evangelicals, to the Catholics and all the rest. A woman will not have the right to choose.”

Rev Crodileone responded to Ms Pelosi’s remarks, saying that she “does not speak for the Catholic Church”.

He added: “She also speaks in direct contradiction to a fundamental human right that Catholic teaching has consistently championed for 2,000 years.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke said in 2013 that Ms Pelosi could be denied communion because she “persists in a grave sin, cooperating with the crime of procured abortion, and still professes to be a devout Catholic”.

In his 1 May letter, Rev Cordileone wrote: “Our responsibility to the rest of the Catholic community is to assure them that the Church of Jesus Christ does take most seriously her mission to care for ‘the least of these,’ as Our Lord has commanded us, and to correct Catholics who erroneously, and sometimes stubbornly, promote abortion.”

When asked in a 2008 interview with C-SPAN if the church gives her “any difficulties”, Ms Pelosi said: “Not really. But I think some of it is regional. It depends on the bishop in a certain region. Fortunately, for me it has not, communion has not been withheld and I’m a regular communicant so that would be a severe blow to me if that were the case.”

The Independent has reached out to Speaker Pelosi and the Archbishop for comment. 

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments