Nancy Pelosi’s eternal soul is in deep, dark danger. This, at least, is the opinion of Salvatore Cordileone, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco. In a public statement entitled “Letter to the faithful on the Notification sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi” he wrote: “After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance.”
Pretty extreme stuff, especially as other bishops have been noticeably reluctant to so politicise the Eucharist in such a clinical way. Just last year Pope Francis responded to the notion that Joe Biden, an observant Catholic, should be refused the sacrament: “I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone. Be a pastor, don’t go condemning.”
Cordileone, however, has history. He’s an outspoken conservative, a supporter of the traditional Latin Mass, and made it known during the height of the Covid pandemic that he hadn’t received a vaccination. He’s also vehemently opposed to equal marriage. In 2014 he spoke to a rally that was considered too extreme even for many opponents of marriage reform. A number of religious leaders signed a petition urging him not share the podium “with individuals who have repeatedly denigrated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people”. It didn’t convince him.
All of this comes, of course, as the Supreme Court is expected to overturn the Roe vs Wade ruling that guarantees abortion rights. Cordileone and Pelosi know that, as do those reading the letter. As such, the intervention is a blatant attempt to mingle religion and politics, in a manner that the Catholic Church has been trying to avoid for more than a generation. So, on a political level this move could have far-reaching and potentially dangerous implications.
It’s equally, if not more, troubling in a theological context. Abortion is an issue never mentioned by Jesus, and is in fact treated ambiguously in scripture. Even if it weren’t, the idea of refusing the Eucharist to someone as a form of punishment is abhorrent. At the Last Supper, the origin of what is celebrated at the altar, Jesus allows Judas to participate, even though he knows of the betrayal to come. Pelosi, apparently, is worse than Judas.
Then there are the double standards. Politicians who, for example, support the death penalty or expansionist and immoral wars, or who oppose gun control, or indeed measures that would give support to the very women the Archbishop insists are to have no control over their bodies, can receive Communion at their leisure.
Pelosi can only receive Holy Communion, in San Francisco at least, if she bends the knee and performs the walk of shame. Damned, as it were, if she does or if she doesn’t.
In 2012, by the way, Cordileone was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. His mother and a visiting German priest were with him in the car. He admitted the offence and was given three years’ probation. But he said that he was sorry, so it’s all OK.