Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has written a 17-page letter on abortion, in which he states that politicians and others who publicly and actively support abortion rights, along with those who practically assist women to procure abortions, should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion. Archbishop Cordileone is Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) bishop.
“Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life” is divided into four parts, the first addressing the moral gravity of abortion, the second part addressing the issue of cooperation in moral evil, the third speaks to the meaning of receiving Holy Communion, and the final part is on the responsibilities of Catholics in public life.
In his letter, Cordileone writes, “Our responsibility to the rest of the Catholic community is to assure them that the Church of Jesus Christ does take most seriously her mission to care for ‘the least of these,’ as Our Lord has commanded us, and to correct Catholics who erroneously, and sometimes stubbornly, promote abortion. … This correction takes several forms and rightly begins with private conversations between the erring Catholic and his or her parish priest or bishop. … Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion.”
Cordileone joins Cardinal Raymond Burke and Archbishop Charles Chaput, retired from Philadelphia, in counseling Catholic politicians to not present themselves to receive Holy Communion. Other bishops, such as Robert McElvoy of San Diego, have opposed denying Catholic politicians Holy Communion based on public policy stands. Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, Biden’s bishop while he resides in the capital, has said he would not deny Biden Holy Communion.
The U. S. Catholic bishops are expected to make a collective statement on the question of Catholic politicians and other public figures receiving Holy Communion. The bishop’s Committee on Doctrine is working on the statement, which is scheduled to be considered at their meeting in June.
The Catholic Church has for centuries connected the worthy reception of Holy Communion to living faithfully, or at least attempting to, the faith and moral life of Christ according to the revelation given to the Church by God through Scripture and Tradition. The Church has never required perfection, sanctity, or sinlessness as a pre-requisite for receiving Holy Communion, but has always recognized the distinction between those who struggle, while too often failing, to live the faith faithfully, and those who have either given up on doing so, or never intended to do so in the first place. The Church has for centuries counselled Catholics who have abandoned the faith or who live public lives that are contrary to the faith and moral life of Christ, beckoning them to either come back to the Church or embrace fully the revelation of God given to the Church. If such Catholics remain steadfast in their rejection of the faith and moral life of Christ, however, the Church has counselled that they refrain from participation in the sacramental life of the Church, including receiving Holy Communion. Why this centuries-old practice of the Church should be set aside today, or set aside specifically in the case of Catholics who enter the political arena, is beyond me.
It gives the Catholic faithful a confusing message that the bishops are not one on this matter. If Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and other Catholic politicians who are fervent, consistent, and public in their support for abortion may do so without consequence to their participation in the sacramental life of the Church, how are Catholics to interpret that other than as a signal that the faith and moral life of Christ as revealed to the Church is not of supreme importance for the sake of our salvation? If one can publicly reject even central articles of Catholic faith and morals and still live fully the sacramental life of the Church, still claim to be fully in communion with the Church, then what credibility does the Church possess in terms of her claim that she is the instrument of God’s revelation in Christ and the pillar and foundation of truth?
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.