A New Era?

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has a profound understanding of what the U.S. bishops have called the preeminent issue of our time, and his stand is courageous.

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone attends the mass and imposition of the Pallium upon the new metropolitan archbishops held by Pope Francis for the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica on June 29, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone attends the mass and imposition of the Pallium upon the new metropolitan archbishops held by Pope Francis for the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica on June 29, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. (photo: Franco Origlia / Getty)

The May 20 decision by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to publicly notify U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to receive Communion because of her extreme support for legal abortion is truly remarkable. It marks the first time that a shepherd has undertaken to issue a member of his flock such a decree involving a figure at the highest levels of national political prominence. 

In light of this dramatic action, we should be asking an important question:

Does Archbishop Cordileone’s painstaking pastoral approach signal the start of a new era? Or will it prove to be an act by a bishop standing largely alone, as other prominent Catholics in public life reject Church teaching unchecked while they continue down the same path of pro-abortion extremism as Speaker Pelosi? 

Will other bishops be prepared to stand up in greater numbers and teach with the same clarity as Archbishop Cordileone is doing? 

San Francisco’s Catholic shepherd has a profound understanding of what the U.S. bishops have called the preeminent issue of our time, and his stand is courageous. As detailed by the letter he sent to the faithful of his archdiocese, the archbishop has been patient and deliberate, despite ample provocation from Pelosi’s abortion extremism, alongside her repeated public claims that she remains a “devout Catholic,” while flagrantly flouting Church teachings regarding the sanctity of unborn human life. 

Archbishop Cordileone’s application of Canon 915 is a pastoral, not punitive, measure. It simply communicates publicly the reality that Nancy Pelosi, by her own actions, has made herself unfit to receive Communion. And out of concern for his entire flock, the archbishop has made this information public — because, if he didn’t, many other Catholics will continue to be led astray by Pelosi’s scandalous example, mistakenly believing that one can be in full communion with the Church while holding beliefs contrary to what the Church has always taught is morally unacceptable. 

Indeed, Archbishop Cordileone has expressed great sadness at needing to take this step. But he judged that he has no choice in light of Pelosi’s exceptionally extreme promotion of abortion since last summer — and her refusal during this period to respond to his repeated private attempts to dialogue with her about this profoundly important matter.

The archbishop was well aware that he would be criticized for his courage in exercising his pastoral duties. One of the most egregious attacks came from his hometown San Francisco Examiner, which published a compilation of falsehoods and misrepresentations about what the Church teaches about abortion and reception of Communion and openly called for his replacement as archbishop. 

Such attacks will have no impact in terms of undermining Archbishop Cordileone’s support among faithful Catholics, yet they do underline how misinformed so many have become. After 50 years of legal abortion in the U.S., it’s a tragic reality that a multitude of Catholics erroneously have come to believe that the killing of babies in their own mothers’ wombs is not merely acceptable but is actually necessary for the welfare of women. There can be no doubt that this is precisely what Nancy Pelosi currently believes with respect to abortion. 

Political ambition has doubtless played an important role in her formation of this belief, as it has for many other prominent pro-abortion-rights Catholic politicians, notably including President Joe Biden. But it’s also the case that, throughout the years, many pastors have failed to consistently communicate the truth about the evil of abortion to these wayward political Catholics. Instead, they have chosen a path of private dialogue, refraining from publicly calling pro-abortion-rights Catholic politicians to account for continuing to represent themselves as devout Catholics who are entitled to receive Holy Communion.

Dialogue is indeed a central element in the Catholic pastoral response with anyone who obstinately persists in a gravely sinful action. But for these Catholic political leaders, dialogue has failed completely. They are not interested in what the Church teaches about the sanctity of human life. Nor, for that matter, are they interested in what biological science teaches about the incontrovertible fact that human life begins at the moment of conception. The only arguments they are willing to entertain are the false claims propagated by abortion activists, which always omit abortion’s most fundamental truth — that it entails the intentional killing of an unborn human baby.

And with the U.S. Supreme Court now poised to overturn its disastrous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made access to abortion a constitutional right, the new political dynamics that are about to come into play will mandate something more forceful than private dialogue. If Roe is toppled, abortion law will return to the authority of individual states. Faced by this prospect, an array of pro-abortion Catholic politicians at both the federal and state level have, like Pelosi, declared that they are determined to go far beyond what Roe stipulated, by seeking to legislate abortion on demand without restrictions right up until the moment of birth. 

Moving forward, this abortion extremism will be on display at every statehouse in the nation, as well as in Congress and the White House, whenever an abortion-related bill is under consideration. As a result, there will be a pressing and ongoing need for clarity about how such abortion extremism precludes Catholics in public life from seeking to receive the Church’s central sacrament of Communion.

It’s false, however, to claim that whenever one of our shepherds is required to call out an individual politician, as Archbishop Cordileone was forced to do by Nancy Pelosi’s public actions, it is intended as a punishment. Instead, it’s a call to conversion of heart and mind. Like every other disciple of Christ, pro-abortion-rights Catholic politicians should strive to be true to what Jesus teaches. With respect to their promotion of abortion, they need to change direction for the good of their own souls as well as for the sake of saving the lives of unborn babies — just as every other Catholic needs to change course whenever they become aware of a serious personal error with respect to faith and morality.

A related imperative is a renewed understanding among all Catholics of the significance of the Eucharist. That’s the specific objective of the U.S. bishops’ three-year National Eucharistic Revival — which providentially is launching right at the same time as the Supreme Court will be delivering its decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that is expected to overturn Roe v. Wade

When we fail to understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and its transformative effect on all those who receive it in a state of grace, then it becomes far easier to believe there are no spiritual consequences associated with our moral choices. And we are at risk of depriving ourselves of the sacramental graces that we need to strengthen us on our journeys of faith.

In light of this providential juxtaposition of the National Eucharistic Revival and the Dobbs decision, let us pray at this moment for a true renewal of Eucharistic belief in America and for the end of legal abortion in every state of our nation. 

God bless you!