Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s decision to deny Holy Communion to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is in accordance with Church law and Scripture.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says that “those obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” Promotion of or participation in abortion, for which Pelosi is infamous, is a grave sin.
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has stated: “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession.” Pelosi is well aware that her Church finds her to be in grave sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that grave sin, freely chosen, results in the loss of one’s state of grace. St. Paul explains that to receive the Eucharist in a state of grave sin brings judgment and condemnation on oneself.
In 1 Corinthians 10:21, St. Paul warns: “You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and likewise 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 blood of the Lord.”
Our Sins Cause Us to Be Outside
Unworthy reception, then, is another sin. So, the Church tells Catholics to refrain from the Eucharist when in grave sin, not to punish or shame them, but because it wants to protect Catholics from committing that further sin.
It should be noted that Pelosi has not been excommunicated. The archbishop is simply trying to convey to her the seriousness of her situation. He is not being political. He is acting as Pelosi’s pastor trying to get her to recognize her sin for the sake of her soul.
Mortal sin severs our relationship with Christ. It is an act of rebellion that pains God deeply. By contrast, the Eucharist is an act of love, both from God and to God. Without repentance, the sinner cannot be reunited with God in Holy Communion.
Pelosi cut herself off from communion. Nobody else cut her off—not the archbishop, not the Vatican, not her political foes. She did it to herself by her abortion activism and her repeated refusal to meet with the archbishop for pastoral guidance.
Pope Francis Confirms Pastoral Motives
People are making much of the fact that Pope Francis once said he has “never refused the Eucharist to anyone.” Maybe not, but the Pope has also said that doing so “is not a penalty: [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 declared: “We must adhere to ‘eucharistic coherence’” That is,
“[We] cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.”
As a cardinal in 2010, Pope Francis co-wrote a book in which he said, if a person “rather than uniting the people of God, has devastated the lives of many persons, he cannot receive communion; it would be a total contradiction.”
Justice, Conversion, Repairing Scandal
Catherine Hadro, a national Catholic speaker, writer, and broadcaster associated with EWTN wrote about the consistent stance of Pope Francis on this issue.
Hadro said: “Pope Francis pointed out three pastoral motives for refusing to give communion: responding to the demands of justice, moving the offending party to conversion, and repairing 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 Archbishop Cordileone has done. Justice demands that Pelosi be called to account. Cordileone has repeatedly tried to have a dialogue with Pelosi to help her, and the San Francisco community, to understand why abortion is abhorrent.
Finally, Cordileone acted in hopes that the scandal caused by a prominent Catholic giving her support to abortion could be overcome by her conversion. Instead, Pelosi is defiant and flaunts her disobedience.
Critics have said that the Eucharist is a grace given by God, not by bishops (who are mistakenly thought to have an agenda). Yes, it is a grace to strengthen us against sin, but that’s wasted if the person is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.”
Again, as Pope Francis puts it, “This is not a penalty: you are outside.” None of us is worthy to receive the Eucharist, but God’s love and mercy allows us to this special intercourse until doing so is more of an offense, a profanity, than a seeking of grace.
Pray for Speaker Pelosi and all the Catholic politicians who see the Eucharist as an entitlement instead of a commitment to be a more faithful Catholic.