No Jesus for Nancy Pelosi? House speaker could appeal bishop’s communion ban to Rome

·3 min read
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone claims that barring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving communion in her home diocese of San Francisco has nothing to do with politics. Which is a silly thing to say, since no one who would believe him needs to hear it, and no one who wouldn’t will be at all persuaded by it.

No Jesus for Nancy, Cordileone announced last week, on account of her support for abortion rights. Only if this is, as the archbishop and others insist, a purely pastoral act of love and compassion — a charity, really, intended to save her soul and others — then, as Fordham University’s David Gibson asks, “My question is why these bishops don’t love Republicans as much as they love Democrats.”

Where were the public rebukes to award-winning Catholic Bill Barr for not only reviving the federal death penalty as attorney general, but rushing the execution of a whole sad collection of the abused and the brain damaged in the final days of the Trump administration? There was no time to waste on following the Constitution because Barr feared that the Biden administration couldn’t be counted on to kill them.

Or how about the many Catholic Republicans who act like “welcome the stranger” and “feed the hungry” was Christ’s advice on what not to do?

If Chief Justice John Roberts, who at this point has a lot more to do with setting abortion policy than Pelosi, does not go along with his fellow GOP-appointed colleagues on the Supreme Court in overturning Roe v. Wade, then will he, too, be told he can no longer receive communion?

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Answer: No, fortunately, because he lives in a diocese where Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, is adhering to what Pope Francis has said on this subject, which is that he has never denied communion to anyone. Of course, Francis adamantly opposes abortion rights and has equated abortion with homicide.

Yet “if we look at the history of the church,” Francis told reporters last year, “we can see that every time the bishops did not act like shepherds when dealing with a problem, they aligned themselves with political life, on political problems.”

When Gregory has been asked about denying communion, he has said that when he goes to talk to politicians, he doesn’t put a gun on the table.

Somehow, the same people who say there’s no right to privacy because that’s not mentioned in the Constitution will also tell you that something never mentioned in the New Testament is more important than everything Jesus did say put together.

So yes, that feels inconsistent, and in a way that’s highly political.

According to a canon lawyer I consulted, Speaker Pelosi does have a right of appeal to Rome. If she chose to, she could base that appeal on Canon 213, which is that Christ’s faithful have a right to receive the sacraments, Canon 843, §1, that the Church’s ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who properly seek them, and that the archbishop has improperly interpreted Canon 915, barring “obstinate public sinners” from communion.

She’d have to first ask the bishop to rescind his decree, and would have to do so within 10 days of receiving notification last Friday.

Since bishops in other dioceses are not bound by Cordileone’s decree, which is valid only in his diocese, Pelosi may well prefer to just keep right on living her Catholic life, attending Mass in D.C. while attending to her work there, like trying to lower health care costs and ease the shortage of baby formula.

If the archbishop, who previously made news for his DUI arrest and for saying that he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, talked more about all pro-life issues, and for that matter all lives, then more of us might believe his claim that punishing Pelosi is not a partisan act.

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