Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco wrote to his priests last week, to let them know that he was prohibiting Nancy Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion. The archbishop insisted that his priests comply. He noted that any priest who “administers a sacrament to those who are prohibited from receiving it” will be punished with a suspension.
Apparently, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in Washington, D.C. did not get the memo. Pelosi received Holy Communion on Sunday.
In his letter to the priests of his archdiocese, Cordileone claims that he has not imposed a penalty on Speaker Pelosi. Rather, he has merely “declared a fact.”
That Pelosi “is obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.”
According to the Code of Canon Law, canon # 915, if you obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, you “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Just like people who have been formally excommunicated.
Cordileone wrote, in his Notification to Speaker Pelosi, that “a Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits manifestly grave sin.” The archbishop apparently has concluded that it is a fact beyond dispute that Pelosi falls into this category.
Doesn’t Pelosi have the right to dispute this? Doesn’t everyone deserve due process of law?
On what basis has Cordileone determined that it is his prerogative to declare this fact, without a properly legal procedure? The Code of Canon Law does not itself indicate anywhere that a diocesan bishop has this particular prerogative.
To the contrary, Canon 915, which considers withholding Commuion from people, refers first to the excommunicated and the interdicted–who only become such after a proper legal process. Then the canon refers to “others” who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin. This last category, it would seem, would fall to all ministers of Holy Communion to identify, not just diocesan bishops.
Any minister of Communion might have to withhold the sacrament from someone in a given instance, because it would scandalize everyone present if the person received. But this would not represent a “diocesan policy” announced on the website and through media interviews (as Cordileone has done). Rather, such circumstances would obtain only in a particular parish or chapel, and only the people there would know the facts.
I imagine that, if she had a forum in which to defend herself before Archbishop Cordileone, Speaker Pelosi would make a distinction between support for procured abortion and support for the legality of procured abortion.
Abortion–at least in the early stages of pregnancy–remains legal in the US. As of now, there’s nothing any legislator can really do about that. The final Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case might change the state of affairs. But even if the states become free to outlaw abortion, it remains a political impossibility, in the short run, that California would do so.
So what exactly is Speaker Pelosi supposed to do or say to resolve the situation that Archbishop Cordileone has created with his public Notifcation? If the archbishop had followed due process, then perhaps that means of satisfaction might have been clarified into something that Speaker Pelosi could actually do.
If Cordileone really cared primarily about saving Pelosi’s soul, as he says he does, then wouldn’t he have issued his Notification only after following a genuine legal process, with the right to self-defense afforded to the accused? And wouldn’t he issue his Notification in conjuction with the Archbishop of Washington, where Pelosi also attends Mass regularly?
Now, as I mentioned last time, I think Mrs. Pelosi should indeed fear the divine Judge. He will conduct a thoroughly fair inquiry. He wil present her with all the evidence that His all-knowing Mind perceives. That’s more than enough to terrify me, and I never voted in favor of using taxpayer money to pay abortionists.
But I, too, have had my practice of the Catholic faith thoroughly messed-up by the arbitrary decrees of a self-righteous autocrat who did not follow due process of law. So I relate to that part.
None of us mortals has the right to appoint ourselves prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner–all at the same time. Not even the almighty bishops.
The irony is: Archbishop Cordileone appears to be pursuing a public agenda here, with Nancy Pelosi as a kind of prop. The agenda in this case is, in fact, so good, so urgent–the Gospel of Life is so compelling and beautiful, all by itself–that it hardly needs an partisan political hack like Nancy Pelosi for a prop.