Archbishop Cordileone Responds to Criticism That He’s ‘Politicizing the Eucharist’
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone noted that many Catholics don’t understand Church teaching on the Eucharist.
WASHINGTON — San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Monday responded to criticism that he is “politicizing” the Eucharist by denying Nancy Pelosi Holy Communion, saying he would prefer the Democratic House Speaker remain in office “and become an advocate for life in the womb."
"What does it mean to politicize the Holy Eucharist if one is following Church teaching and applying Church teaching?” Archbishop Cordileone said in an interview with EWTN News’ Erik Rosales that aired May 23 on EWTN News Nightly.
“One would have to demonstrate that one is doing that for a political purpose,” the archbishop said.
“I've been very clear all along, my purpose is pastoral, not political,” he added. “I am not campaigning for anyone for office. As a matter of fact, my preference would be for Speaker Pelosi to remain in office and become an advocate for life in the womb."
On Friday, Archbishop Cordileone announced that he had notified Pelosi, who describes herself as a devout Catholic, that until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion, she should not be admitted to Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her home diocese, nor should she present herself for Communion.
Archbishop Cordileone told Rosales that he has not received any response from Pelosi so far. Nor has the 82-year-old speaker issued any public statements about the Communion ban as of yet.
As of May 23, at least a dozen U.S. bishops have publicly supported Archbishop Cordileone’s action, which only applies within the San Francisco Archdiocese. Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila called Archbishop Cordileone “a shepherd with the heart and mind of Christ, who truly desires to lead others towards Christ’s love, mercy, and promise of eternal salvation.”
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where Pelosi spends much of her time, has not commented publicly on Archbishop Cordileone's action, but has indicated in the past that he does not intend to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who actively promote abortion and other policies at odds with Church teaching.
Archbishop Cordileone told Rosales that politicizing the Eucharist can even occur “in reverse.” One could “receive Communion as a means to furthering a political agenda, when one is motivated for that reason,” he said. “So it cuts both ways.”
Archbishop Cordileone noted that many Catholics don’t understand Church teaching on the Eucharist, “what it is, who it is, and what the proper disposition is to receive it, what it means to receive the most Holy Eucharist.”
He added that he wanted to help Catholics understand “the grave evil of abortion and what it means to cooperate with evil on the different levels.”
“I wanted to be clear in laying out that teaching,” he said.
‘Aggressive’ Abortion Stance
Rosales said that Archbishop Cordileone told him his decision is not related to the recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that shows the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.
However, Rosales said that Archbishop Cordileone was “motivated by Speaker Pelosi's reaction to the Texas Heartbeat Law,” which bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks gestation.
“That's when Speaker Pelosi became very outspoken and aggressive — I'll use that word — in vowing to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into federal law,” Archbishop Cordileone told Rosales, referring to her ardent support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives but failed to garner enough votes in the Senate.
“So it would guarantee open, unqualified access to abortion for all 9 months, all through out the country,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “This was very alarming, very disturbing.”
It was at this time that Archbishop Cordileone began the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign, asking Catholics to pray and fast to soften her heart for the unborn.
Archbishop Cordileone said that Pelosi frequently speaks fondly of her five grown children.
“I think she has a maternal heart, there is a real sensitivity there,” he said.
“So I asked people to pray and fast for her and I've been trying to meet with her. Ever since then I've made several attempts to speak with her. I've either been denied or just received no response.”
Archbishop Cordileone added that Pelosi “knew in advance that I would make this announcement if she did not repudiate her position on abortion or at least not refer to her Catholic faith and not go to Communion.”
Rosales brought up Pelosi’s recent October meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican and asked whether the Pope should take a greater stance on the issue.
“I think Pope Francis has taken a very strong stance on this,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “He's been very outspoken about the evil of abortion. He sees how everything is interconnected.”
Citing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, Cordileone said the Pope “talks about the interconnectedness of it all. He brings up this issue that care for the environment, care for our common home also includes care for the poor and the vulnerable, including life in the womb, and he compares it to hiring a hitman to solve the problem.”