Editorial - Room with a View

Room with a View: The Speaker and the Archbishop

The Speaker is Nancy Pelosi, arguably the most politically powerful woman in the United States and a prominent self-professed Catholic. Her home is in the City of San Francisco, within the territorial boundaries of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The Archbishop is Salvatore Cordileone, the leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Speaker Pelosi is outspoken about her support for abortion rights. For example, according to the Washington Examiner, shortly after a draft opinion suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade, she issued a joint statement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that stated:

“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years — not just on women but on all Americans,” the joint statement shared with the Washington Examiner said. “The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”

Her public support of abortion rights is in conflict with the millenia-old assertion by the Catholic Church that abortion is intrinsically evil, a grave mortal sin.

After several attempts to convince the Speaker to change her stance, this past week the Archbishop lowered the canonical boom. In particular, he invoked Canon 915.

Canon law

The governance of the Catholic Church is guided by Canon Law. According to Ed Peters, an expert on Canon Law:

Canon Law, the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the Western world, is the internal legal system of the Catholic Church:

  • Internal: canon law lies wholly within the Church’s authority to compose and administer; this, in contrast to the wide variety of external (usually civil) laws to which the Church generally defers in the pursuit of her divine mission;
  • Legal: canon law operates according to the principles of law chiefly as set out in Aristotelian-Thomistic legal philosophy; this, in contrast to suggestions that canon law is simply applied theology, morals, or the rules of religious cult;
  • System: canon law must be read as a whole for proper understanding and use; this, in contrast to suggestions that canon law is a collection of principles or aphorisms that are capable of being rightly appreciated in isolation from each other.

Canon 915 deals with receiving Holy Communion. Catholics should view the reception of Holy Communion with gravity and joy. It is one of the seven sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church, and the sacrament most Catholics will receive most often during life. The consecrated wafer distributed near the end of a Catholic Mass is believed to be the the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

It should never be trifled with.

According to Canon Law, “The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments.” (1983 CIC 213)

The default is that every baptized Catholic can receive Holy Communion.

But: you must be in a state of grace — no mortal sin unconfessed* — to receive Holy Communion.

Active, prolonged, and public support of abortion qualifies as a mortal sin. So Nancy Pelosi should not present herself for Communion.

If she insists on presenting herself for Communion within the territorial boundaries of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, those who are distributing Communion should refuse to give it to her.

This will endure, according to Archbishop Cordileone, until she publicly renounces her sin.

Note that the Archbishop is not telling Speaker Pelosi how she should conduct her politics. As is his responsibility as a shepherd of the Catholic Church, he is instructing her how to save her immortal soul. Speaker Pelosi is free to continue in manifest grave sin in the political arena. She just shouldn’t think that God will look the other way when she presents herself for judgement after death.

Territoriality and the application of Canon 915

The Catholic Church is organized as a hierarchy, with the Pope at the top. He answers only to God, and woe be to that pope who betrays that trust and responsibility. His judgement will be severe.

Beneath the pope are cardinals, archbishops, and bishops — who may or may not individually govern a territorial diocese comprised of parishes, their priests, and the regular churchgoers in the pews.

The bishop of a diocese is pretty much The Boss — within his territory. He has no jurisdiction outside his diocese.

Thus Archbishop Cordileone can forbid Holy Communion to Nancy Pelosi if she presents herself within his Diocese. For instance, Congress is not currently in session. Speaker Pelosi could return home and attend Mass within the Archdiocese of San Francisco. If she presented herself for Communion, she would be refused.

However, Archbishop Cordileone’s authority does not reach into the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where Wilton Cardinal Gregory presides. He has stated publicly that he will not apply Canon 915 to the elected officials within his territory. If Speaker Pelosi attends Mass in the Archdiocese of Washington, she will not be refused.


Should Canon 915 be applied consistently across all dioceses in the United States?

I believe so.

Should all professed Catholics publicly supporting abortion be refused Communion?

I believe so.

If Speaker Pelosi is denied Holy Communion, so should be Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom and any other elected official who has publicly stated support for abortion.

* Confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is another of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. The penitent sinner lists sins committed since the last confession, declares sorrow for the confessed sins, and resolves not to sin again. The Catholic priest in persona Christi then absolves the person, removing the stain of sin. The penitent must perform some sort of reparation outside of confession, and most importantly must be sincerely sorrowful for the sin and resolved to do better. God will not be mocked. Absolution is not granted if the person is not sincere.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy Pelosi believes she is above the law of the land and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Cordileone should be commended for his decision that she does not receive communion. The church hierarchy in Washington D.C. make their decisions based on who is in office. Biden is the poster boy for totally going against the Church’s laws. Americans can see this disparity of who you are versus the law. If you have power AKA Pelosi, you answer to no one, not even God.

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