Cordileone Teaches Pelosi and the World: If Abortion Is Not Wrong, Then Nothing Is Wrong

This is no time for complacence among Catholics, for whom spiritual medicine — beginning with prayer — must be administered with ever more courage and zeal than before.

Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi arrive for the funeral of Rep. Elijah Cummings at New Psalmist Baptist Church on Oct. 25, 2019, in Baltimore.
Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi arrive for the funeral of Rep. Elijah Cummings at New Psalmist Baptist Church on Oct. 25, 2019, in Baltimore. (photo: Tasos Katopodis / AFP via Getty Images)

When Lady Astor first went to the Soviet Union back in 1931 in the hope of meeting Josef Stalin, she committed a cardinal breach of protocol by asking the dictator, “When are you going to stop killing people?” A perilous question, one would think, to put to someone who already had enough blood on his hands to rival Attila the Hun. Her membership in the British Parliament, however, provided sufficient cover, which is doubtless why, unlike most people then living under Stalin, she was free to leave and return safely to England. 

So, what was Stalin’s answer? Totally unperturbed by the provocation, he replied, “Just as soon as it is no longer necessary for the protection of the state.”

Now Uncle Joe was a bit of a pragmatist, you see, which meant that he only liquidated people who got in his way, people who threatened the survival of his regime. Of course, by the time he died in 1953, to the immense relief of almost everyone, much of the Soviet Union had become one vast killing field, as many as 60 million human beings having been murdered in his name.

Meanwhile, here at home in America, in whose name are we doing the killing? With more than 60 million dead babies in less than half a century, and no apparent end in sight, it’s looks as if we’ve already exceeded the standard set by Stalin.  No mean achievement that. So, on whose hands will their blood be found? 

Now, aside from the obvious diplomatic dustup occasioned by Lady Astor’s question, there were never any real sanctions available for her to impose. Mere verbal warheads were not going to bring down the Stalinist regime. Any more than Pope Pius XII, for example, was in a position to punish Stalin when, behaving in his usual beastly way, the Pope expressed the sternest possible disapproval. “How many divisions does the Pope have?” asked Stalin with his customary contempt. In other words, until you’re in a position to stop me, I’ll continue to do awful things to people just as I please. 

What excuse have we got? How do we stop the killing of innocent children? By the exercise of the ballot box?  We are, after all, a democracy, which means that the decisions made by our leaders depend on our approval of them. But in the case of putting an end to abortion, that will only work to the extent there are enough citizens sufficiently opposed to the practice to vote out of office the politicians who promote it. And, alas, we simply haven’t got the votes to do that. Not at the federal level, we haven’t. At least not yet. 

Ah, but isn’t that fact precisely the best reason we’ve got going for us at the moment? Because, thanks be to God, we’ve finally got a majority of the Supreme Court who, in their expected repeal of Roe v. Wade, will do the work for us. Right?

Just a minute now. Can they actually make abortion go away? By a single stroke of the judicial pen? No, they don’t seem inclined to do that, not at this point they don’t. But in returning the issue to the states for adjudication, which is what repeal will mean, we the people living in all those contested states, have now got a fighting chance to save great numbers of unborn children otherwise condemned to die.

It really is a great day in the morning. And, oddly enough, thanks to the continuing rage and hysteria of the enemies of life, with their unlawful protests in front of the homes and families of individual justices, who — please God! — appear to be undaunted in their determination to return the issue back to the people, they unwittingly render the cause all the more attractive and persuasive. 

Of course, this is no time for complacence. Not among Catholics, it isn’t, for whom spiritual medicine — beginning with prayer — must be administered with ever more courage and zeal than before. We will not succeed in defending the right to life of unborn babies unless we ask God to help us.

The thing to remember about prayer, citing Pascal’s famous prediction, is that the reason we do so is in order that God, “who instituted prayer … may thus confer upon his creatures the dignity of becoming a cause.” By our prayers, in other words, we literally cause things to happen. Like changing hearts and minds.

Even those of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, to take the two most notorious examples before us? There are simply no other Catholics in the public life whose repeated refusals to do anything to protect life in the womb — indeed, who by their actions positively advance the abortion agenda — amount to the gravest possible scandal in the life of the Church in this country. Which is why prayer remains so imperative a need if we are to move them to a conversion of heart and mind. 

And we do so not only for the sake of unborn children, whom we are obliged to try to rescue, but also for the sake of the souls of those who seek to kill them. If a far greater death awaits those who, by their refusal to turn off the killing machine when they are in a position to do so, which means the loss of God forever, then we’ve got to pray as if everything depended upon our asking God to intervene to make that happen.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco certainly thinks it is possible. Why else would he have urged Catholics to send Rosary bouquets to Pelosi, his most prominent parishioner, if he didn’t think it possible that, by enlisting the help of God’s own Mother, we might awaken the conscience of the most conspicuously “pro-choice” politician in the U.S. Congress? 

Perhaps the most obdurate as well, given the apparent hardness of her heart when it comes to children waiting to be born. Which is why he now believes it necessary to invoke the ultimate sanction, and thus withhold the Holy Eucharist, the supreme sign of a unity Pelosi no longer shares. “This is a bitter medicine,” the San Francisco archbishop admits, “but the gravity of the evil of abortion can sometimes warrant it.”

We must pray that other bishops in this country are prepared to follow Archbishop Cordileone and administer that medicine. Because not to do so is the clearest sign that killing babies is not so serious after all — or as divisive, say, as the issue of slavery proved to be on the eve of the Civil War. Concerning that “irrepressible conflict,” it was Lincoln who said that “if slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” That is exactly the sort of conviction we need to apply to abortion, along with the courage to sanction those Catholics in public office who will not accept it.

Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You,” declared the prophet Jeremiah more than 2,500 years ago. It is that very text, fixed to the title page of the Archbishop’s “Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life,” issued more than a year ago, which should be especially convicting to Catholics in the public life, who will someday answer to God for their failure to defend the least of his children. 

“Speaking for myself,” he writes, “I always keep before me the words from the prophet Ezekiel: ‘When I say to the wicked, You wicked, you must die, and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood’ (Ezekiel 33:8). I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood.”

It is a fearful summons that surely awaits us all. Unless, that is, we all redouble our efforts in praying for an end to the killing and in confronting those who will not go along with the effort to do so.