Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s decision to deny Holy Communion to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is consistent with Church law and scripture.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that “those who stubbornly persevere in manifest grave sin should not be admitted to Holy Communion”. Promoting or participating in abortion, for which Pelosi is infamous, is a grave sin.
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has stated, “A person conscious of grave sin should not receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession.” Pelosi is well aware that her Church finds her in grave sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that grave sin, freely chosen, entails the loss of the state of grace. Saint Paul explains that receiving the Eucharist in a state of grave sin entails judgment and condemnation upon oneself.
In 1 Corinthians 10:21, St. Paul warns, “You cannot partake of the table of the Lord or the table of demons. He adds in 11:27: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily profanes the body and the blood of the Lord”.
Our sins cause us to be outside
An unworthy reception is therefore another sin. Thus, the Church tells Catholics to abstain from the Eucharist in case of serious sin, not to punish or shame them, but because she wants to protect Catholics from committing this new sin.
It should be noted that Pelosi was not excommunicated. The archbishop is simply trying to make him understand the seriousness of his situation. He doesn’t do politics. He acts as a pastor to Pelosi trying to get him to acknowledge his sin for the sake of his soul.
Mortal sin severs our relationship with Christ. It is an act of rebellion that deeply hurts God. On the other hand, the Eucharist is an act of love, both of God and towards God. Without repentance, the sinner cannot be reunited with God in Holy Communion.
Pelosi cut herself off from communion. Nobody else cut it, not the archbishop, not the Vatican, not his political enemies. She did it herself through her activism for abortion and her repeated refusal to meet with the archbishop for pastoral counseling.
Pope Francis confirms pastoral motivations
People make a big deal out of the fact that Pope Francis once said that he “never refused the Eucharist to anyone”. Maybe not, but the pope also said that this “is not a sanction: [those with grave sin] are outside. Communion is to unite the community.
In fact, when Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he approved a document that stated, “We must adhere to ‘Eucharistic coherence’.”
“[We] cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act by deeds or words against the commandments, especially when abortion, euthanasia and other serious crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly heavily on legislators, heads of government and health professionals.
As cardinal in 2010, Pope Francis co-authored a book in which he said that if a person “rather than unite the people of God, has devastated the lives of many people, he cannot receive the fellowship; that would be a complete contradiction.
Justice, conversion, reparation of the scandal
Catherine Hadro, a national Catholic speaker, writer and associate host with EWTN, wrote about Pope Francis’ consistent stance on this issue.
Hadro said, “Pope Francis highlighted three pastoral motives for refusing to give Communion: to respond to the demands of justice, to bring the wrongdoer to conversion, and to repair the scandal caused.” https://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2022/05/25/papal_precedent_behind_mercifully_denying_pelosi_communion_834077.html?mc_cid=0e9d0ab9cc&mc_eid=ca5ab6844c
This is exactly what Bishop Cordileone did. Justice demands that Pelosi be called to account. Cordileone has repeatedly attempted to have a dialogue with Pelosi to help her and the San Francisco community understand why abortion is abhorrent.
Finally, Cordileone acted in the hope that the scandal caused by a prominent Catholic who had supported her in favor of abortion could be overcome by her conversion. Instead, Pelosi is defiant and displays her disobedience.
Critics have said that the Eucharist is a grace given by God, not by bishops (who are mistakenly seen as having an agenda). Yes, it is a grace to fortify us against sin, but it is wasted if the person “willfully persists in gross and manifest sin.”
Again, as Pope Francis says, “It’s not a sanction: you’re out.” None of us is worthy to receive the Eucharist, but God’s love and mercy allow us to have this special relationship until doing so is more an offense, a blasphemy, than a seeking grace.
Pray for President Pelosi and all Catholic politicians who see the Eucharist as a right rather than a commitment to be a more faithful Catholic.