Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has announced that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, will no longer be able to receive communion at masses celebrated in the Archdiocese until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion.
Archbishop Cordileone said the decision was “purely pastoral and not political” and only came after Pelosi, who describes herself as a “devout Catholic,” repeatedly rebuffed his efforts to contact her about her defense of abortion.
The Archbishop added that he notified Mrs. Pelosi, who lives in California, on May 19. Mrs. Pelosi did not react after the communication of the case to the media. She said in 2008 that being denied communion would be “a heavy blow.”
Archbishop Cordileone's decision only applies within the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In Washington, for example, she will be able to receive communion as usual because Cardinal Wilton Gregory authorizes it.
In the letter addressed to his diocese, the bishop explains that he issued this instruction in accordance with canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that: “Those ... obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Letter to Priests
In a letter sent to priests in the Diocese of San Francisco, Archbishop Cordileone has preemptively responded to criticism that he was “politicizing the Eucharist.” He insists his decision was “simply the application of Church teaching.”
The Archbishop also describes his repeated attempts to meet with Pelosi since she announced in September 2021 that she would be seeking codify Roe v. Wade as a statute under U.S. federal law.
The Prelate explains that he wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in April of this year, asking her to repudiate this position or else refrain from receiving Holy Communion and referring to her Catholic faith in public.
“I also warned her that if she refused to do so, I would be obliged to make a public announcement to say that she would not be admitted to Holy Communion.” When she described herself as a “devout Catholic” while explaining why she supported abortion, he decided to act.
Bishop Cordileone and Nancy Pelosi have clashed several times over abortion since the appointment of Cordileone as the pastor of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2012.
Tension skyrocketed in 2021, when the possibility of overturning the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade reached the Supreme Court and the U.S. bishops had a heated discussion about whether pro-abortion politicians should be denied communion.
In May 2021, Pelosi said she was “satisfied” with a letter from the Vatican to the U.S. bishops addressing the debate. She said the Vatican had asked the bishops not to “divide” on the issue.
In July 2021, Bishop Cordileone sharply criticized Pelosi after she invoked her Catholic faith in defending her efforts to allow federal funding for abortions.
Support from Several Bishops
The Archbishop of San Francisco received the support of several American bishops in his refusal to give communion to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said, “Archbishop Cordileone is a pastor with the spirit of Christ, and the teaching of the Church is clear about people who put their souls at risk if they separate from God because of a grave sin and then receive the Holy Eucharist unworthily.”
“And when that person is a public person, love for the community means guarding against scandal and confusion and allowing others to be swept into sin if they do not see the matter dealt with appropriately and with compassion.”
Bishop Donald Hying of Madison: “I fully support Archbishop Cordileone's prudent decision to recognize that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, has consistently taken public stances in favor of legal abortion, contrary to her professed Catholic faith, choosing to separate herself from full communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore she should not present herself to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler tweeted, “I commend Archbishop Cordileone for 'loving Nancy Pelosi in the Truth of Jesus Christ.'”
Bishop James Conley of Lincoln tweeted in turn: “I support Archbishop Cordileone in his courageous pastoral action regarding a member of his flock. His actions are done as a shepherd with the heart of Christ.”
Finally Msgr. Robert Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa – suffragan bishopric of the Archdiocese of San Francisco – said: “I have visited the parish pastor of Pelosi and I informed him that if the archbishop forbade someone to receive Holy Communion, then this restriction follows the person and the pastor is not free to ignore it.”