The Archbishop of San Francisco on Monday responded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said last week she was “pleased” with a recent Vatican statement on Communion.
Pelosi, who is Catholic and pro-abortion, had claimed that a May 7 Vatican letter to U.S. bishops instructed the bishops not to be “divisive” on the matter of Communion for pro-abortion politicians.
On Monday, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco – Pelosi’s home diocese – said that the Vatican actually supported “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion Catholic politicians “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart.”
The Vatican also acknowledged the possibility of denying politicians Holy Communion if they persist in their cooperation with legal abortion, Cordileone said. The Church’s code of canon law paragraph 915 states that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
“I’m happy to know that Speaker Pelosi said she is pleased with the letter,” Archbishop Cordileone said of the Vatican’s letter. “Speaker Pelosi’s positive reaction to Cardinal Ladaria’s letter, then, raises hope that progress can be made in this most serious matter.”
He emphasized that legal abortion in the United States has resulted in 66 million babies “murdered in their mothers’ wombs.”
“This is not a matter about which one can use judgment. It is a fact,” he said on Monday. “If we look around us and see what is happening in our society today, we will see that this fact once again demonstrates that violence begets violence.”
The archbishop in January said, regarding Pelosi’s support for legal abortion, “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion.”
The Vatican letter which Pelosi cited was authored by the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – Cardinal Luis Ladaria – and directed to the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.
Gomez had previously written the congregation, informing it that the U.S. bishops would be considering the situation of Catholics in public office who support permissive laws on abortion, euthanasia, or other evils.
In his letter, Cardinal Ladaria said that before issuing any “national policy” on Communion, the bishops must first undertake a “serene” dialogue among themselves to ensure unity on the Church’s teaching that Catholics cannot support pro-abortion laws.
Then, the bishops must dialogue with Catholic politicians who support such laws, to understand their positions “and their comprehension of Catholic teaching,” Cardinal Ladaria said.
After that, the bishops must discern the way forward to address the matter, he said.
If the bishops issued a “national policy” on Communion, he said that such a policy would need to reflect the consensus of the conference, uphold the rights of local ordinaries, and be situated in the broader context of worthiness to receive Holy Communion among all Catholics. In addition, it must not give the appearance of framing abortion and euthanasia as the only grave evils, the Vatican said.
Cardinal Ladaria had cited a 2004 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratizinger to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the head of the U.S. bishops, as a reference the U.S. bishops could use on the matter of Communion. He wrote that as it was a “private” communication, “insofar, therefore, as these principles are not published by the Conference, they may be of assistance in the preparation of the draft of your document.”
In his 2004 memo, Ratzinger applied canon law to the situation of Catholic politicians who are “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws.” Such officials, Ratzinger said, were engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.
He instructed that pastors meet with them and make clear their break with Church teaching, informing them that they should not receive Communion. If these officials persist in their advocacy, then “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”
Ladaria also instructed that the 2004 letter should be read in light of the congregation’s 2002 note on Catholic participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries.
Archbishop Cordileone said that the Vatican instructed that dialogue take place between bishops and public officials.
“In his letter, Ratzinger confirmed that consistently advocating for abortion and euthanasia constitutes formal cooperation in grave sin, and that bishops must dialogue with Catholics prominent in public life who do so in order to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart,” Cordileone said.
The 2004 letter, he added, said that “if these dialogues prove to be fruitless, then, out of respect for the Catholic belief of what it means to receive Holy Communion, the bishop must declare that the individual is not be admitted to Communion.”
Individual bishops have recently spoken out about admission to Communion.
Last week, Pelosi said “I think I can use my own judgment” when asked by EWTN News Nightly correspondent Erik Rosales about receiving Holy Communion.
Pelosi has long supported legal abortion and has advocated for taxpayer-funded abortion by repealing the Hyde Amendment. She has also supported the Equality Act, legislation that the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has warned would “punish” religious groups opposed to the redefinition of marriage and transgender ideology.
She added that she was “pleased with what the Vatican put out on that subject” of Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians, claiming that the Vatican’s statement “basically said ‘don’t be divisive on the subject’.”
In October 2019, Joe Biden was denied Communion at a parish in the Diocese of Charleston while he was campaigning for president. A diocesan policy stated that “Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance.”