The Rev. Salvatore Cordileone did not single out any Catholics in his latest letter calling for Holy Communion to be withheld from public figures who support abortion rights. But the 17-page missive from the archbishop of San Francisco may have important implications for one of the archdiocese’s most famous parishioners: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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Pelosi, a California Democrat and high-profile Catholic, has long supported women’s right to access abortion care — and, for nearly as long, she has come under fire from those who say her views contradict the teachings of the church, which considers abortion a grave sin.
Even though Cordileone, among the country’s most conservative Catholic leaders, did not mention Pelosi by name, his letter implies that figures such as she should be denied Communion, the holiest of the religion’s sacraments. If an “erring Catholic” continues supporting abortion rights, even after conversations with church officials, a pastor’s “only recourse” is to temporarily exclude them from the sacrament, Cordileone wrote.
“This is a bitter medicine, but the gravity of the evil of abortion can sometimes warrant it,” he added.
Cordileone’s letter is the latest entry in an evolving debate about how Catholic leaders should handle politicians whose stances — particularly on abortion — do not jibe with the church’s doctrine. And the controversy has intensified since the election of the nation’s second Catholic president, who some say should also be denied Communion.
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The archbishop acknowledged the polarizing political dynamic, writing in an addendum that he intentionally waited to publish his thoughts until after the 2020 election year to avoid “confusion among those who would misperceive this as ‘politicizing’ the issue.”
“Regardless of which political party is in power at a given moment, we all need to review some basic truths and moral principles,” Cordileone wrote.
Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment, and representatives for the archdiocese did not respond to questions about whether Cordileone thinks Pelosi specifically should be barred from Communion.
The letter — titled “Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You” and released Saturday — comes in the run-up to a June gathering of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where church leaders will vote on whether to draft a document on the Communion issue.