Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly rebuked Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, saying his decision to bar her from receiving Holy Communion was “his problem, not mine,” and criticized him for not supporting LGBT causes and opposing abortion.
Pelosi was speaking at an event at Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice, part of the “Higher Calling” series focused on the faith of politicians. The March 23 event was moderated by Jim Wallis, a progressive Christian and the Center’s executive director.
In May 2022, Cordileone issued a letter announcing that Pelosi would be barred from Communion in churches under his purview due to her stance on abortion.
Pelosi has long been an advocate for abortion rights, a position that is in direct contrast with the teachings of the Catholic Church. “I have a problem with my archbishop and I figure that’s his problem, not mine,” she was quoted as saying at the event.
At least three other bishops have since barred Pelosi from Communion in their dioceses. However, Pelosi has persisted in partaking in Communion in Washington, D.C., and participated in the Eucharist during her visit to the Vatican last year.
In June 2021, a group of 60 House Catholic Democrats published a public letter urging clerics to avoid “weaponizing” the Eucharist. Pelosi was not among the signers.
Pelosi also spoke about the 13th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare, and the opposition to the bill by the bishops. “Thank God for the nuns,” Pelosi said, crediting them for helping with the legislation.
She also said she was pretty much “in sync” with much of the teachings of the Catholic Church. “We go right to the one issue, because everything else, we are pretty much in sync when it comes to the social compact of the Catholic bishops and the rest. But they are willing to abandon the bulk of it because of one thing,” the California Democrat said.
Later in the program, Pelosi specifically mentioned Cordileone while addressing a question concerning her advocacy for LGBT causes, according to Church Leaders. She said the bishop played a significant role in the adoption of California’s Proposition 8, which temporarily prohibited same-sex marriage in the state. “We’ve had very, very negative anti-LGBTQ stuff coming from our archbishop,” she said.
In September 2021, Cordileone wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post illustrating “Our duty to challenge Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.” He called Pelosi out as one of several Catholic politicians who support a practice that directly contradicts the church’s teaching.
“I find it especially disturbing that so many of the politicians on the wrong side of the preeminent human rights issue of our time are self-professed Catholics,” he wrote. “You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings.”
Cordileone also praised Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which passed in 2021 and banned abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, usually at around six weeks gestation, and allowed private citizens to sue individuals who perform abortions as well as those who facilitate illegal abortions.
In his May 2020 letter to Pelosi, Cordileone wrote, “I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.
“I also ask all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to pray for all of our legislators, especially Catholic legislators who promote procured abortion, that with the help and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they may undergo a conversion of heart in this most grave matter and human life may be protected and fostered in every stage and condition of life.”
Cordileone cited a 2004 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, as the justification for his call for Pelosi to refrain from communion.
In the letter to top Catholic Church officials in the U.S., Ratzinger explained that “when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”
“When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect …,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,’” Ratzinger added.