Archbishop’s edict denying key sacrament was issued in response to Pelosi’s views on abortion access.
By John Riley
DignityUSA, the LGBTQ-affirming organization representing U.S. Catholics who support full inclusion, denounced San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s decision to deny Communion to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion rights.
Cordileone, who last year called for Communion to be withheld from pro-abortion public figures without mentioning specific names, issued his edict on Friday, specifically rebuking the 82-year-old Democratic House Speaker for her longstanding support of reproductive rights, including access to birth control and abortion.
“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 said in a letter to members of his archdiocese.
The archbishop’s edict drops at a time when Democrats, facing a difficult midterm election, have sought to rally their base by warning of the loss of access to abortion should the GOP regain control of Congress. That move comes on the heels of a leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that appears to signal that the nation’s highest court is poised to overturn the nearly five-decades-old decision in Roe v. Wade, which established the right to obtain an abortion. By overturning Roe, abortion access would be determined by individual state laws, making it illegal in several states but potentially legal in neighboring ones.
But DignityUSA argues that Pelosi should not be penalized for defending the right to obtain an abortion, particularly since polling indicates a majority of rank-and-file Catholics do not support overturning the Roe decision, regardless of their personal views on abortion rights.
“DignityUSA firmly believes that the sacraments of our church should never be weaponized against Catholics, no matter their identity, beliefs, or public stances,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “Communion is a gift to help us grow in grace, not a reward for compliance.
“It is wrong for Speaker Pelosi to be denied Communion for striving to serve the people of this diverse nation,” Duddy-Burke continued. “We call on Archbishop Cordileone to withdraw this ban, and for Catholics across the country to stand against attempts to use Communion to coerce the violation of anyone’s sincerely held beliefs.”
In November 2021, DignityUSA lead the “Bread Not Stones” witness at the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sought to sway bishops from issuing barring Catholics, including President Joe Biden, from receiving Communion for holding opinions on political or public policy matters that run counter to the Church’s views on abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage, among others.
The bishops ultimately rejected an explicit ban, instead issuing guidelines for practicing Catholics to consider when receiving Communion — relying on individuals’ ability to examine their actions and their consciences, rather than a top-down edict.
Madeline Marlett, the co-chair of DignityUSA’s Young Adult group, who volunteered as an altar server for Archbishop Cordileone for several years, praised Pelosi for standing up for her political beliefs and criticized Cordileone for seeking to punish and ultimately force her into compliance with his preferred worldview.
“We call for this injustice to be righted and will continue to hold Speaker Pelosi in prayer as she faces the unjust weaponizing of this core sacrament of Catholicism,” Marlett said in a statement.
“Withholding Communion from any Catholic pushes them to the margins of our Church,” Duddy-Burke added. “It shames them by encouraging people to speculate about why they are unworthy of approaching the sacred table. It violates the duty of care that is the central ministry of the ordained. It is simply wrong.
“Speaker Pelosi holds the same view on abortion that the majority of U.S. Catholics share. Nearly two-thirds of Catholics do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. Denying her Communion is a clear attempt to intimidate Catholics. It will not work. It will simply disgust and alienate Catholics and widen the growing gap between church leaders and members,” she said. “The majority of U.S. bishops seem to understand this, based on their rejection of the kind of ban Archbishop Cordileone has announced. We call on Catholics to speak out against the weaponization of Communion.”
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