Has Archbishop Cordileone Stolen A Base?

Because of Nancy Pelosi’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge Catholic teaching that abortion is an unspeakable evil, she has placed herself in a state of serious objective estrangement from the Church.

Elevation of the Host
Elevation of the Host (photo: Shutterstock)

It is surely an astonishment that, even now, more than a year after Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone issued his Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life — a copy of which cannot possibly have failed to reach Speaker Nancy Pelosi — not a single syllable has moved her to reconsider her views regarding the impermissibility of killing defenseless children in the womb.

Not outright killing, mind you, as if she were actually holding the knife; but, in the spirit of the hitman hired by another (to use the language of Pope Francis), actively promoting their destruction by her long and tireless support of legal abortion. And all this in the very teeth of the Church’s emphatic and, indeed, most fierce opposition to the practice, from which she has not drawn back for more than 2,000 uninterrupted years.

Is it the closet Platonist in me that continues to believe that, because knowledge leads to virtue, she ought to have come round by now, so clear and compelling is the language of the Letter? Unless, of course, she really is unfamiliar with it, and that not even a summary of its contents managed to slip by the watchful dragons of her soul.

A hardly credible prospect, one would think. 

But if so, then, here is a highlight lifted from the text that perfectly expresses what the archbishop had in mind. From the very beginning, he reminds us, it has consistently and universally been understood,

that those who receive the Eucharist are publicly professing their Catholic faith and are seriously striving to live by the moral teachings of the Church. Those who reject the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of human life and those who do not seek to live in accordance with that teaching place themselves in contradiction to the communion of the Church, and so should not receive the sacrament of that communion, the Holy Eucharist. We all fall short in various ways, but there is a great difference between struggling to live according to the teachings of the Church and rejecting those teachings.

Now, is it at all likely that the archbishop of San Francisco, for all that he may believe the above, is nevertheless quite mistaken about the Church’s teaching? That when you get right down to it, she who is both Mother and Teacher (Mater et Magister), really does not believe the things he ascribes to her? And that, pursuant to his enforcement of that imaginary teaching, when applying sanctions to those who persist in their rejection of it by barring them from Holy Communion, he’s stealing a base? For the mistaken reason that, all other avenues having been exhausted, “the only recourse left is the public medicine of temporary exclusion from the Lord’s Table?”

Because if that is not the teaching of the Church, leaving the archbishop clearly in the lurch, why hasn’t anyone come forward to disabuse him? Thereby setting the record straight on his egregious misuse of Canon 915, which otherwise authorizes him to go ahead and ban Speaker Pelosi from receiving the Eucharist? The language of the canon is plain enough, certainly, which suggests that those who object to its application have the burden of proof in showing that in fact Pelosi is not among those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin,” and ought therefore to be admitted to Holy Communion.

This is not a matter of Speaker Pelosi’s private views about reproductive freedom, by the way, or the importance of defending a woman’s right to choose; nor is it a matter of assigning the exact extent of her guilt before God, which is a question only she and God can answer. It is rather a matter of knowing that because of her obdurate and persisting refusal to acknowledge the truth of the Church’s teaching about abortion — that it is an unspeakable evil — she has placed herself in a state of serious objective estrangement from the Church. Which is why, in presenting herself to receive the sacrament, she affects a state of Communion that is neither real nor true, but instead illusory and false. And not to point this out to her, along with the consequences that most certainly follow, would be a dereliction on the part of the archbishop of his pastoral duty and responsibility. 

It would also constitute a grave invitation to scandal, which is to place a stone of stumbling in the path of others and so lead them to sin. Facilitating the commission of sin has never been the job description of men for whom the crosier they carry signifies the power of the shepherd to pull the wayward sheep back onto the path of righteousness. Nor are they to blunt the business end of the symbol of their authority, which is pointed and sharp, in order the better to prick and goad the sheep when they have lost their way. In short, they are to behave as bishops. 

Not to behave as such would amount to nothing less than a failure of love, in which the soul of Nancy Pelosi matters so little that whether she takes herself to Hell, or allows God to take her to Heaven, really makes no difference at all. In other words, the Apostle Paul was pretty much off his rocker in getting so worked up with the Corinthians about ensuring Eucharistic coherence and integrity. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). If the most precious gift God has, is himself, broken to become our Bread, then the last thing bishops should be doing is to so trivialize the truth of it that it hardly matters who or in what circumstance anyone may be allowed to profane the sacrament.