Top American Catholic politician barred from receiving Communion because she supports abortion.
Nancy Pelosi banned by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Top American politician barred from receiving Communion because she supports abortion.
Nancy Pelosi banned by Archbishop
San Francisco’s Bay Area archbishop has just barred US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the second most important person in the US Government - from receiving Communion over her support for abortion access.
The move, comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the law supporting abortion.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he had written to Pelosi in April warning her that he was prepared to bar her from receiving Communion.
“As you have not publicly repudiated your position on abortion, and continue to refer to your Catholic faith in justifying your position and to receive Holy Communion, that time has now come,” he wrote this week.
Cordileone has challenged Pelosi over her abortion rights stance several times.
In 2021, she responded by saying the two had “a disagreement about who should decide this. I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities.
“I keep saying to people who say things like that, when you have five children in six years and one day, we can talk about what business it is of any of us to tell anyone else what to do,” Pelosi said. “For us it was a complete and total blessing, which we enjoy every day of our lives, but it’s none of our business how other people choose the size and timing of their families.”
The leak this month of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe vs. Wade not only reignited the dispute between the Catholic Church and San Francisco officials but also upended a midterm election cycle that is widely expected to favor the GOP.
College-educated women, who tend to favor abortion rights, have been a critical voting bloc and could be pivotal in congressional races in affluent regions such as Orange County as well as in similar districts, such as in the suburbs of Atlanta and Phoenix.
Since the leak of the potential ruling, which would overturn the landmark 1973 decision that created federal protection for access to abortion, politicians on both sides of the aisle and interest groups have spent millions of dollars on television and digital ads focused on the issue.
Pelosi, who represents one of the most liberal congressional districts in the U.S., is expected by many to announce her retirement after she wins re-election, setting off an intra-party succession battle.
“She’s an 82-year-old woman who has been a devout Catholic her entire life,” said one long time Pelosi observer. “What we know is she is a person of deep faith who deeply believes in privacy rights and is likely to maintain her view that this is something between herself and her church, and not something she wants litigated in public by friend or foe.”
The L.A. Archbishop, who issued the ban, has come in for strong criticism.
“He might be the archbishop of San Francisco, but he is not from San Francisco,” said one commentator. “I don’t think in any way what he does reflects the opinion of the majority of the community of the Catholic faithful here in San Francisco.”
Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney who lives in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco and is one of California’s three representatives on the Republican National Committee, said that the matter was “between [Pelosi] and her church” but that Cordileone’s decision was appropriate.
“My response was ‘That’s right,’” Dhillon said. “That’s what the Catholic Church doctrine says, and she’s grossly out of step…. I don’t think this is unprecedented, as seen in the prior instruction from D.C. cardinals and what others say: People who advocate legislation that is pro-abortion are out of step with church doctrine.”
Jim Ross, a Democratic consultant who has worked in San Francisco politics for 35 years, suggested that Cordileone was attempting to use Pelosi’s name recognition and popularity in the city to draw attention to his message.
“Pelosi’s maybe three times, four times more popular than the archbishop and much better known,” Ross said. “He’s trying to use Nancy Pelosi to make a point around a woman’s right to choose. This is a publicity stunt.”
Ross, a lapsed Catholic, was also critical of the direction Cordileone has led the church in terms of its relationship with the city.
“The archbishop in San Francisco has not been relevant in civil life in years. He’s made a choice — that he wants to be in opposition to the civic and government life in San Francisco rather than find places of agreement. As somebody who’s a lapsed Catholic, who went to Catholic school, I found it disappointing that the archbishop hasn’t found a way to work with the city on things that they can work on together.”
The move is the latest salvo in the struggle between those within the church who believe abortion must be their preeminent concern and others who want to focus on a spectrum of issues such as poverty and social justice.
“Part of the challenge here is that it’s tremendously selective, what Cordileone is doing,” said Tom Poundstone, associate professor of theology and religious studies at St. Mary’s College of California in the East Bay. He also noted that Cordileone has praised Pelosi’s attempts to address poverty and other issues. “If I’m consistently pro-life, I need to certainly be pro-Black lives matter in that sense.”
Like much of the West Coast, San Francisco has roots in the Catholic Church and Spanish missions, Ross said, noting that the city has large Catholic communities of Irish, Italian and Latino families.
The city’s Old St. Mary’s Cathedral is among the oldest Catholic churches on the West Coast. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio posed for wedding pictures outside Saints Peter and Paul Church after a civil ceremony (they could not have a church wedding because DiMaggio’s first marriage had not been annulled).
Nationwide, about 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal all (19%) or most (42%) of the time, while about 40% say it should be illegal with some exceptions (29%) or illegal in all cases (8%), according to a recent large-scale survey by the Pew Research Center.
The divide among Catholics is similar: 56% of Catholics say abortion should be legal in all (13%) or most (43%) cases, while 42% say it should be illegal with some exceptions (32%) or illegal in all cases (10%), Pew found.
The views of white and Latino Catholics are almost identical. Polling by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 59% of white Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 57% of Latino Catholics said the same.
For most Catholics, the church’s teachings are not key to their decision about abortion. About 4 in 10 Catholics say religion is either “very” or “extremely” important in shaping their views on abortion, Pew found. That contrasts with white evangelical Protestants, among whom 73% say religion is very or extremely important in shaping their views. Evangelicals are now the biggest force in the antiabortion movement.
WHAT THEY SAY
Raymond Friel OBE
Weaponising access to Holy Communion for selective breaches of Church teaching has more to do with ideology than the Gospel. Have a look at Jesus’ unconditional approach to table fellowship in Luke’s gospel. Could be a fruitful study in Year C of the liturgical calendar.
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Nancy Pelosi response to ban
Nancy Pelosi said that while she respects people who hold a different view on abortion rights than her own, she does not respect their efforts in imposing those views onto others.
“I come from a largely pro-life, Italian-American Catholic family, so I respect people's views about that, but I don’t respect us foisting it onto others,” Ms. Pelosi said during an interview on “Morning Joe.”
During the interview, the mother of five and grandmother of nine asked why other politicians who take political stances opposed to church teaching have not been targeted with similar restrictions.
“I wonder about the death penalty, which I am opposed to—so is the church—but they take no action against people who may not share their view,” she said.