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Pelosi pushes back on archbishop: How come Catholics who support the death penalty can take communion?

Yeah, I don’t understand that either. If supporting legal abortion without repentance is a sin sufficiently grave to bar you from the Eucharist, one would think unrepentant support for capital punishment or war is sufficient as well.

But the Lord works in mysterious ways.

What’s amusing about this clip is that no one but no one thought the archbishop’s admonition would convince Pelosi to do some serious soul-searching about her support for abortion, right? Of course she was going to resort to whataboutism instead. Of course her commitment to her liberal credo takes precedence over her commitment to the Church, even when her local prelate considers her offense so dire that he’s moved to bar her from communion over it.

That’s another thing I don’t understand. If your Catholicism matters so little to you that a moral remonstrance from your archbishop is something to be batted away on a morning talk show, just another barb from a political enemy a la Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy, then why be a Catholic? There are plenty of Christian denominations that demand less in the way of obedience from their flocks.

Sounds to me like what we have here is a Protestant in all but name.

“These same people are against contraception, family planning, in vitro fertilization. It’s a blanket thing and they use abortion as the frontman for it,” she says at one point. “These same people”? Does she mean Republicans? Or Church leaders?

“These same people” would be a weird way for a Catholic to describe her own faith’s clergy. Although less weird for a Catholic In Name Only.

As if to emphasize her disinterest in the archbishop’s view, Pelosi went to Mass and took communion this weekend — in Georgetown, not San Francisco:

According to the Fr. John Beal, a canon lawyer and professor at The Catholic University of America, Cordileone’s ban is not believed to affect Pelosi’s ability to take Communion outside of churches under the archbishop’s purview.

“It applies only to ministers, ordained and non-ordained, in the Archdiocese of San Francisco,” Beal told Religion News Service in an email, noting that it applies to diocesan leaders as well as those who belong to a religious order. “It does not apply outside the Archdiocese.”

Several conservative bishops voiced support for [Archbishop] Cordileone’s decision after his May 20 announcement, but Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, is one of several who have signaled that they don’t have any plans to deny Communion to politicians dissenting from church teaching.

It remains surpassingly strange to me that the Catholic Church follows a sort of “federalist” system in matters as basic as whether unrepentant support for killing another should bar you from receiving the body of Christ. Other bishops have said they’ll follow Cordileone’s prohibition and bar Pelosi from taking the host in their dioceses but Gregory is obviously an exception. As such, wayward Catholics like Pelosi can essentially go “forum shopping” if they want to skirt a solemn reprimand from the prelate who oversees their home parish.

How long can the Pope bite his tongue here, wonders Ed Kilgore?

But given Pelosi’s exalted position and the timing — not long after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops backed down from excluding pro-choice politicians from the Eucharist and not long before the Supreme Court rules on abortion rights — Cordileone is throwing down the gauntlet not only to Catholics who support abortion rights but indirectly to the Vatican. Pelosi, after all, had a cordial private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican last October, shortly before Francis met with Biden and reportedly told the president he was a “good Catholic” who ought to take Communion. Aside from quietly but emphatically undermining the conservative bishops’ plots against Biden and other pro-choice American politicians, Francis has made it clear he regards the Eucharist as “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” while noting he has never denied Communion to anyone.

It’s unclear whether the Vatican can or will do anything about the decision of an individual bishop to do as he wishes in individually “disciplining” Catholics within his jurisdiction. Pelosi herself, like Durbin and others, can still go to Mass and can seek Communion in Washington or in churches outside the prescribed territory. But if Francis and other Catholic leaders who are worried about the politicization of the church let this go without comment (and so far, most of the comments from American bishops have reflected enthusiastic support from his fellow hard-liners), the culture wars will divide a church that values unity above all.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tilts conservative. Pope Francis famously leans liberal. Which means the Pope ends up in an awkward spot here no matter what he does or doesn’t do. If he demands that all American politicians be allowed to receive communion, he’ll antagonize the Conference. If he continues to take the “federalist” approach by letting individual archbishops set policies for their own dioceses, he’ll end up with a patchwork in the U.S. lacking internal coherence. Whether you can take the host as a pro-choice politician may depend on whether your archbishop happens to sympathize more with conservatives or with liberals. And as those lines are drawn, other archbishops who haven’t confronted the question may feel obliged to take sides. Not even the Vatican is safe from America’s abortion wars.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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