Archbishop Cordileone and a public life ordered to reality

On May 20th, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco publicly notified U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she is prohibited from Holy Communion in her home diocese until she repents and receives absolution for her promotion of abortion:

A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others.  Therefore, universal Church law provides that such persons “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” (Code of Canon Law, can. 915). …

I am grateful to you for the time you have given me in the past to speak about these matters.  Unfortunately, I have not received such an accommodation to my many requests to speak with you again since you vowed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in federal law following upon passage of Texas Senate Bill 8 last September.  That is why I communicated my concerns to you via letter on April 7, 2022, and informed you there that, should you not publically repudiate your advocacy for abortion “rights” or else refrain from referring to your Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion, I would have no choice but to make a declaration, in keeping with canon 915, that you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

As you have not publically repudiated your position on abortion, and continue to refer to your Catholic faith in justifying your position and to receive Holy Communion, that time has now come.  Therefore, in light of my responsibility as the Archbishop of San Francisco to be “concerned for all the Christian faithful entrusted to [my] care” (Code of Canon Law, can. 383, §1), by means of this communication I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publically repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.

Please know that I stand ready to continue our conversation at any time, and will continue to offer up prayer and fasting for you.

I also ask all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to pray for all of our legislators, especially Catholic legislators who promote procured abortion, that with the help and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they may undergo a conversion of heart in this most grave matter and human life may be protected and fostered in every stage and condition of life.

Mary Eberstadt writes on this news within the context of that generation of Catholic politicians who believe that moral truth and sacramental reality are divorced from politics. Politics, which exists to order public life to the common good, necessarily involves the sorting out of truth claims—with one’s conclusion about the rightness or wrongness of abortion arguably the most obvious moral issue in contemporary political life:

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s pastoral letter, or notification, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she is barred from receiving Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco amounts to a depth charge beneath the surface of the Roman Catholic Church. It makes clear that the phrase “pro-abortion Catholic” is an oxymoron. Pressure will likely increase on Catholic bishops elsewhere to do what Cordileone has just accomplished: articulate what is indisputably church law. …

First, any clarification of facts is its own virtue. The letter to Pelosi, alongside the archbishop’s accompanying letters to priests and the laity, calmly informs others what Catholicism actually teaches about some subjects. In an age when more and more people are unchurched, this is itself a public service. The letters say, in effect, The catechism professes this. The archbishop’s letter to the laity quotes this utter nonequivocation from Pope Francis: “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ.” Also clarified is another teaching worth reiterating at a time of rising secularization: Everyone sins, and there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. But leading others to sin, repeatedly and impenitently, is uniquely grave. …

Finally, the archbishop’s notification might mark the beginning of the end for another experiment run amok: the notion that Catholics can simultaneously rattle rosary beads in public while working overtime against bedrock teachings.

Politics exists to promote, to safeguard, and to manifest realities. A politics that suggests an act like abortion is good will promote, safeguard, and manifest a culture that regards abortion as if it were good.

A politics that is ordered to reality, however, will not be at war with the obvious good that is human life. A politics ordered to reality will not be ambivalent in uplifting and providing real choices to those most vulnerable to the predations of abortionists. A politics ordered to reality will, in its language, speak clearly rather than ambiguously about what is at stake.

Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P. writes, “Archbishop Cordileone is not politicising the Eucharist but Eucharisticising politics; for politicians too are subject to Christ’s law.”