Whoopi Goldberg to San Fran archbishop: It's not up to you to tell Pelosi not to take communion, dude

Whoopi Goldberg to San Fran archbishop: It's not up to you to tell Pelosi not to take communion, dude

There’s no shame in being ignorant about another person’s religion.

Although maybe there’s a little shame in being this ignorant of Catholicism if one of your best-known roles as an actor was playing a Catholic leading a church choir.

As I say, I can understand ignorance. What I can’t understand is making an assertion like this on national television without double-checking before the show. How did Whoopi arrive at the conclusion that it’s not the place of an archbishop to say whether a local parishioner is entitled to receive communion? And how did she gain such immense confidence in that conclusion that she felt empowered to lecture a Catholic archbishop on Catholic dogma?

Add “Catholicism” below “The Holocaust” on the long list of stuff Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t know a lot about.

This may come as a shock to her, but the Catholic Church is a hierarchy. You don’t set your own rules.

We went through this a year ago when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began debating whether to exclude Joe Biden from communion due to his pro-choice views. Normally there are two relevant authorities who can decide whether a Catholic should be able to receive communion: One is the Pope, of course, and the other is the bishop of the diocese where that Catholic attends Mass. Biden’s bishop, Wilton Gregory, has said he’ll permit the president to take communion. Pelosi’s bishop feels differently about her.

Bottom line: It *is* up to the bishop to tell her whether or not to take communion, dude.

As for Goldberg’s point about the eucharist being the bread of sinners, of course that’s true. (If parishioners weren’t sinners, there wouldn’t be any need for the Church.) But back when I was Catholic, we were expected to confess our sins before receiving the host so that we’d be in a state of grace when we took the body of Christ. “A bishop or priest may intervene to stop such sacrilegious communions if the nature of the sin itself is public and if the church member shows some level of obstinacy in refusing private correction from the pastor or bishop,” writes Michael Brendan Dougherty of the decision to bar Pelosi. Because she won’t repent of her support for abortion — reportedly she won’t even take the archbishop’s phone calls anymore — she can’t attain that state of grace.

You can understand why all of this is hard to grok for Whoopi. She’s a hardcore “my body, my choice” abortion-rights supporter. When you’re so invested in personal autonomy that you’re willing to support abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, the idea that you might be deprived of a choice about whether to take communion is bound to sit uneasily.

I think the Church is about to run into political trouble because of the Pelosi situation, though, for two reasons. One is that it’s not obvious why there should be different rules for Pelosi and Biden, where one is denied communion while the other continues to receive it purely as a happenstance of geography. Because the Church is a hierarchy with a supreme authority, you would expect a uniform rule for all worshippers. There can’t be a “circuit split” on a matter as basic as whether it’s God’s will that those who support legalizing the killing of children in the womb should receive the body of Christ without repenting. The Pope will keep a low profile on this subject for as long as he can, I assume, but if more American bishops start bringing down the hammer on prominent Democrats, the silence will become deafening.

The other dilemma is that it’s hard to explain why support for legal abortion should be seen by the Church as a sin so uniquely grave that you might be denied communion over it while not being denied communion for supporting other policies that offend Church teachings. “It’s a matter of life and death,” you might say. Right, but so is capital punishment, which the Church opposes. Wars of choice are also a matter of life and death — many, many deaths — yet I don’t recall any Catholic legislators being denied the host for voting for war in Iraq. (Among them: Joe Biden.) Ed tried to explain the distinction last year, pointing to the fact that participating in abortion earns you instant excommunication from the Church according to its catechism whereas there’s no similarly severe sanction for capital punishment or war.

Right. But why? It can’t be a matter of whether the life being taken is innocent. Many innocents are lost in war. And the Church believes that all life is sacred, even the lives of murderers. If the practice of excluding pro-choice Democratic politicians expands, Catholic Democrats will want the Church to explain why voting for legal abortion is a sin grave enough to deny you the host but voting for the death penalty or a foreign invasion isn’t. It happened on “The View” today, in fact, with Sunny Hostin and Joy Behar wondering why Greg Abbott, a Catholic, continues to receive communion despite presiding over dozens of executions in Texas. What’s the answer? What will the bishops say?

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