San Francisco archbishop says Rep. Nancy Pelosi is not entitled to receive Communion

Christian Martinez, David Lauter and Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Ross noted that a common inquiry among native San Franciscans is, “Where did you go to school?”

“What they’re asking is not where you went to college,” he said. “They’re asking which parochial high school did you go to?”

Outside San Francisco, the fight over whether politicians who support abortion rights should get Communion goes back many years and has ebbed and flowed.

Father Thomas Rausch, professor emeritus of Catholic theology and theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, noted that although Cordileone’s move applies only to the Archdiocese of San Francisco — Pelosi would be able to receive Communion in other dioceses — “his actions reflect the division in the American Catholic hierarchy.”

“We have some bishops who insist on making abortion the preeminent moral issue faced by the church, and we have others who are personally against abortion but do not want to politicize the Eucharist,” Rausch said.

In the Vatican, however, church officials do not appear inclined to support Cordileone’s approach, Rausch said.

“I don’t want to question the archbishop’s right to teach on faith and morals,” he said. “But the question is, how does one resolve a highly controversial question like this when there’s a difference between one’s personal position and what is the law of the land?”

Years ago, the late Cardinal Edward Egan of New York publicly said that he had an “understanding” with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani that he would not try to take Communion. That became public in 2008 when Giuliani took Communion during a papal visit to New York and Egan said that it should not have been allowed.

In 2009, the Bishop of Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, barred then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy from Communion because of his support for abortion rights. A few months before that, some conservative Catholics sharply criticized Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley for officiating at the funeral of Patrick Kennedy’s father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, because of his support for abortion rights.


Last year, a group of 60 congressional Democrats including California Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Ted Lieu and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but notably not Pelosi, signed a statement urging the church to not deny Communion to supporters of abortion rights.

“The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory,” the statement said. “No elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist as they support and have supported policies contrary to the Church teachings, including supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, denying asylum to those seeking safety in the United States, limiting assistance for the hungry and food insecure, and denying rights and dignity to immigrants.”

Although the Catholic Church strongly opposes abortion rights, the views of American Catholics are divided along lines that are similar to the rest of the country: A majority believes that abortion should be legal in most circumstances and opposes overturning Roe v. Wade.

Nationwide, about 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal all (19%) or most (42%) of the time, while about 40% say it should be illegal with some exceptions (29%) or illegal in all cases (8%), according to a recent large-scale survey by the Pew Research Center.

The divide among Catholics is similar: 56% of Catholics say abortion should be legal in all (13%) or most (43%) cases, while 42% say it should be illegal with some exceptions (32%) or illegal in all cases (10%), Pew found.

The views of white and Latino Catholics are almost identical. Polling by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 59% of white Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 57% of Latino Catholics said the same.

For most Catholics, the church’s teachings are not key to their decision about abortion. About 4 in 10 Catholics say religion is either “very” or “extremely” important in shaping their views on abortion, Pew found. That contrasts with white evangelical Protestants, among whom 73% say religion is very or extremely important in shaping their views. Evangelicals are now the biggest force in the anti-abortion movement.

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