BREAKING: Pelosi's archbishop orders her to stop receiving communion over abortion

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Begun, the Eucharist Wars have. Exercising his authority as prelate of San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone proclaimed that Nancy Pelosi’s support for unlimited abortion at all stages of gestation prevents her from legitimately receiving communion in the Catholic Church. Cordileone demanded that Pelosi repudiate and repent for “the grave evil she is perpetrating.”


Will she comply, or will Pelosi try to pick a fight at the altar?

Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi’s position on abortion has become only more extreme over the years, especially in the last few months. Just earlier this month she once again, as she has many times before, explicitly cited her Catholic faith while justifying abortion as a “choice,” this time setting herself in direct opposition to Pope Francis: “The very idea that they would be telling women the size, timing or whatever of their family, the personal nature of this is so appalling, and I say that as a devout Catholic”; “They say to me, ‘Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope.’ Yes I do. Are you stupid?”[4]

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. I have accordingly sent her a Notification to this effect, which I have now made public.

Please know that I find no pleasure whatsoever in fulfilling my pastoral duty here. Speaker Pelosi remains our sister in Christ. Her advocacy for the care of the poor and vulnerable elicits my admiration. I assure you that my action here is purely pastoral, not political. I have been very clear in my words and actions about this. Speaker Pelosi has been uppermost in my prayer intentions ever since I became the Archbishop of San Francisco. It was my prayer life that motivated me to ask people all around the country to join me in praying and fasting for her in the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy Campaign.” I especially pray that she will see in the roses she has received a sign of the honest love and care that many thousands of people have for her.


If this looks like a shot out of the blue, it’s not — not even in the acute sense. These issues have percolated at the episcopal level in the US for years, and came to a head after Joe Biden won the 2020 election. The USCCB spent a lot of time debating amongst themselves and then with the Vatican over whether to make the same kind of edict on abortion regarding Biden. The Vatican pressed the bishops to stay out of politics, and they opted to do a broader but more ambiguous statement on maintaining worthiness to receive the Eucharist instead.

Of course, at that time neither Congress nor Biden were promoting a bill that would effectively remove any restrictions on abortion at any time in a pregnancy, too. The House passed such a bill recently and Chuck Schumer tried to push it through the Senate, including a provision that would have excluded any resort to religious objections for providers to performing abortion. That push to radically expand abortions across the United States appears to have been the last straw for Cordileone.

But what about the USCCB and the Vatican? Cordileone doesn’t mention either of them in his letter, and it’s unclear whether he coordinated this decision with one, both, or neither. As prelate, Cordileone has the authority to make this decision, but Pope Francis has the authority to reassign Cordileone if he acts in a way contrary to the pontiff’s leadership, too. It will be quite interesting to see what actions Francis and the USCCB take in regard to this form of enforcement of doctrine and canon law [see update].


Equally interesting will be what happens the next time Pelosi goes for communion. Will the priests of the archdiocese comply and refuse her access to the Eucharist? They’d better or else they might find themselves in serious breach of their oath to faithfully serve their bishop, from whom their authority to act as priests originates.  Also, what happens when Pelosi goes to Mass elsewhere — especially in Washington DC? Technically, Cordileone’s writ only runs to the boundaries of the archdiocese. Will Cardinal Wilton Gregory honor that declaration?

The National Catholic Register argues that Cordileone’s declaration is in full consonance with Pope Francis’ teachings and writings on canon law:

In fact, Archbishop Cordileone’s measure is in many ways inspired by Pope Francis, to whom he makes frequent reference in his letters to Speaker Pelosi, archdiocesan priests, and the San Francisco faithful. Particularly noteworthy is that the archbishop’s decision flows in part from Pope Francis’s recent revision of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, the Church’s legislation on penal sanction, promulgated in Pascite Gregem Dei. Although Archbishop Cordileone is not issuing a penal sanction on Speaker Pelosi, and is instead making a public declaration that she is “obstinately preserving in manifest grave sin” according to canon 915, he says that the Pope’s revisions to canon law emphasizes the importance of “insuring the integrity of the Church’s sacramental life.” For instance, the canon punishes by suspension one who “administers a sacrament to those who are prohibited from receiving it.”

The takeaway is that Pope Francis’ pastoral example is not that no one should ever be denied communion, as some will likely falsely claim. Instead, it’s that bishops should make such decisions as pastors, not as politicians. And again, it seems like that’s what’s happened in San Francisco.


If nothing else, this is a sign from at least one bishop that extreme activism for abortions has consequences in the Catholic Church. Momentarily, at least. Stay tuned for updates.

Update: A friend corrects me on two points. First, Cordileone’s authority only extends to the boundaries of his archdiocese, so Cardinal Gregory could choose not to enforce this. Second, Pelosi is eligible for all other sacraments as this is a disciplinary matter and not a canon crime, so to speak, so it was inaccurate to call this a de facto excommunication. I’ve changed the text above.

Update: Pelosi has a second home in Santa Rosa, and the bishop there plans to honor Cordileone’s declaration. The Pillar got that scoop:

Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa told The Pillar May 20 he has instructed priests to observe the decision of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone when Pelosi attends Mass at the parish nearby her Napa Valley vacation home and vineyard.

“I have visited with the pastor at [Pelosi’s parish] and informed him that if the Archbishop prohibited someone from receiving Holy Communion then that restriction followed the person and that the pastor was not free to ignore it,” Vasa said in a statement provided to The Pillar by the Santa Rosa diocese.

Cardinal Gregory has yet to comment.

Update: Gloria Purvis at America Magazine asked about excommunication, but Cordileone wants to approach this in such a way as to leave room for sincere repentance:

G.P.: You’re the first bishop that I can think of to make a statement like this—other than, in most recent memory, I’m thinking of Archbishop Rummel of New Orleans, who actually went a step further and excommunicated people for interfering in his authority as a bishop to desegregate. Why not excommunicate her?

A.C.: First of all, I’m actually not the first bishop to do this. I was a new bishop back in the early 2000s when then-Bishop Burke of La Crosse, right before he moved to St. Louis, issued such a notification with regard to Catholic legislators in his diocese. Also the then-Father [Kevin] Vann, who’s now Bishop Vann of Orange, he was the pastor in a parish in Springfield, Ill., that was a parish of Dick Durbin. [He] spoke with him and advised him he should not be receiving Communion. The bishop of the diocese at that time, then-Bishop [George] Lucas, now-Archbishop Lucas of Omaha, backed him up. The current bishop there, Bishop Tom Paproki, has reaffirmed that. Also Archbishop Joseph Noumann of Kansas City, Kan., took this action with regard to Kathleen Sebelius, who was the governor of Kansas at the time.

So other bishops have taken this action, but excommunication has a whole other set of considerations. It’s more severe; I don’t want to take a more severe tack if I don’t have to. I’d rather do the minimum I need to do in order to repair the scandal.


Cordileone wrote a lengthy essay in the Washington Post last September detailing some of this history. Keep that handy for when the media attacks Cordileone for acting in a radical and/or unprecedented manner.

Update, 7:22 pm ET: A handful of other bishops have expressed support for Cordileone too. They include, thus far, Bishop Donald Hying of Wisconsin, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. The USCCB has not reacted publicly yet, and so far there haven’t been any dissenting American bishops.

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