Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced on Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should not be admitted to Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, nor should she present herself to receive the Eucharist, until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion.
Cordileone said on May 20 that the step was “purely pastoral, not political” and came after Pelosi, D-Calif., who has described herself as a “devout Catholic,” repeatedly rebuffed his efforts to reach out to her to discuss her abortion advocacy.
Cordileone said that he sent the notification to Pelosi, “a member of our archdiocese,” on May 19. The Democratic leader did not immediately respond publicly to Cordileone’s announcement after it was released to the media Friday afternoon. In a 2008 interview with C-SPAN, Pelosi said being denied Communion would be “a severe blow,” describing herself at the time as a “regular communicant.”
Cordileone's instructions apply only within the San Francisco Archdiocese. Other bishops have jurisdiction over such matters when Pelosi is Washington, D.C., and other dioceses around the U.S. and abroad.
In a May 20 letter addressed to lay Catholics, Cordileone explained that he issued the 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.”
“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone wrote in the letter.
Separate letter sent to priests
In a separate letter to priests of the San Francisco Archdiocese also released Friday, Cordileone responded preemptively to criticism that he was “weaponizing the Eucharist.”
He insisted that his decision was “simply application of Church teaching.”
“I have been very clear all along, in both my words and my actions, that my motive is pastoral, not political,” he said in the letter.
In the same letter, the archbishop described his repeated attempts to meet with Pelosi — who represents San Francisco, California’s 12th District, in Congress — since she announced in September 2021 that she would seek to codify Roe. v. Wade into U.S. law.
He said that he wrote to the Speaker in April this year, “detailing the extreme position to which she has moved on the abortion question and explaining the scandal that it is causing and the danger to her own soul.”
“I asked her to repudiate this position, or else refrain from referring to her Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion,” he wrote.
“I also advised her that if she refused to do this, I would be forced to make a public announcement that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
He said that he received no response, but contacted Pelosi again a month later when she described herself as a “devout Catholic” while explaining why she supported abortion, in the wake of the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court could strike down Roe v. Wade.
“In consequence of all this and all that has led up to it,” Cordileone told priests, “it is my determined judgment that this resistance to pastoral counsel has gone on for too long, and there is nothing more that can be done at this point to help the Speaker understand the seriousness of the evil her advocacy for abortion is perpetrating and the scandal she is causing.
"I therefore issued her the aforementioned Notification that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion," he wrote.
A long-running impasse
Cordileone and Pelosi have clashed repeatedly over abortion since Benedict XVI appointed Cordileone to lead the San Francisco Archdiocese in 2012.
Tensions rose notably in 2021 as the push to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision reached the Supreme Court and the U.S. bishops engaged in a heated discussion over whether pro-abortion politicians should be denied Communion.
In May 2021, Pelosi said that she was “pleased” with a Vatican letter to the U.S. bishops addressing the debate. She claimed that the Vatican had instructed the bishops not to be “divisive” on the issue.
In response, Cordileone said the Vatican was in fact promoting “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion politicians, “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart.”
In July 2021, Cordileone sharply criticized Pelosi after she cited her Catholic faith while defending efforts to permit federal funding of elective abortions.
The archbishop launched a prayer campaign in September 2021 aimed at inspiring “a conversion of heart” among politicians supporting abortion, “beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
Cordileone urged Catholics to sign up for the prayer campaign campaign, which delivered thousands of roses to the speaker as a symbol of prayer and fasting for the 82-year-old mother of five.
In October 2021, Pelosi met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Commenting on the audience, Cordileone said that “popes meet with everyone” and that the encounter didn’t signal a papal endorsement of the Speaker’s views on abortion.
Warning about reprisals
In his letter to priests, Cordileone acknowledged that his decision could lead to an increase in attacks on Catholic churches.
“Our churches are already being targeted for violence, and our worship services are being disrupted, which motivated me to send you the memo last week asking you to be more attentive to security measures on your property. These attacks may now likely increase. I realize this,” he said.
“But for us, as faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is a cause for rejoicing, for the only reason this is happening is due to the Catholic Church’s consistent defense of the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, and especially at its beginning in the womb of the mother.”
Cordileone continued, “I am convinced that this is a time that God is calling us to live the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven’ (Matthew 5:11-12).”