As abortion rights battles rage across the country, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is facing criticism from top Catholic leaders over her abortion stance.
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, who leads Pelosi’s home Archdiocese of San Francisco, announced earlier this month that he was prohibiting the speaker from receiving Communion in his region after failing to persuade her to change her stance on abortion rights.
“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,” he wrote in a letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
The Rev. Cordileone wrote that his decision was “pastoral, not political” and that he had sincerely and diligently worked to change Pelosi’s mind.
Many conservative Catholic leaders have praised the decision. According to Religion News Service, three went so far as to extend the Rev. Cordileone’s ban to their regions, meaning Pelosi is now barred from receiving the Eucharist in at least four dioceses.
Other prominent Catholics have criticized the decision, arguing that it is wrong to deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights while allowing politicians who support the death penalty to continue receiving it.
“Some people want to make amends for the scandal of pro-choice Catholic politicians by refusing them the Eucharist.” But that’s a misguided response for at least two reasons: As Jesus said, it’s the sick people who need a doctor, not the healthy, and he gave us the Eucharist as a healing remedy; don’t deny the people who need the medicine. Also, to be consistent, to repair the scandal of Catholics being indifferent or opposed to all those other life issues, they would have to be denied Holy Communion as well,” said Archbishop Michael Jackels of the Archdiocese of Dubuque in a statement last week.
Pelosi made a similar point during her appearance on “Morning Joe” on May 24.
“I’m thinking about the death penalty, which I oppose.” So is the Church, but they take no action against those who disagree with them,” she explained.
With President Joe Biden’s return to the political spotlight, tensions over Communion access have risen in recent years.
In 2020, a South Carolina priest made national headlines when he refused to serve then-Presidential candidate Joe Biden at his church. Last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops debated whether to name Catholic politicians who support abortion rights in a new document on the role of the Eucharist in church life. “In the end,” The Washington Post reported, “the document did not mention politicians who support abortion rights or single out abortion in particular.”
According to Religion News Service, Pope Francis has previously stated that he has never denied anyone the Eucharist, and he offered Biden his support during the US bishops’ debate last year.
“After meeting with the pontiff at the Vatican in October, the president said the pope told him to ‘keep receiving Communion,'” according to the article.