A SHEPHERD, HIS FLOCK AND CANON LAW
I am guessing that most people above the age of reason now know that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, in whose archdiocese Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi resides, has banned Pelosi from receiving communion in that archdiocese. He explained his pastoral action in a well-reasoned letter that he made public after attempting for the past 10 years to talk to Pelosi about the meaning for her soul of her sinful actions in promoting abortion, even to the extreme moment of the baby’s birth.
Pelosi and also President Biden, both of whom identify as Catholics, have been in the news a great deal, especially since January 2021, for their adamant, non-stop promotion of abortion which is antithetical to any and all Catholic teaching on doctrine and morals.
Click here to read the full text of that letter: Full text of Archbishop Cordileone letter to Nancy Pelosi banning her from Communion | Catholic News Agency
There has been absolutely stunning reaction to his move with diatribes from many sides that indicate that the writers have no idea of the duties of a bishop, absolutely no idea of the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist, no idea of Church’s teaching on sin, and no idea of what – for the Catholic Church – can bring on such a punishment from a bishop.
Or, they have an idea but the Church is not being run according to their ideas!
The life of the Catholic Church – the Pope, bishops, priests, deacons, members of religious orders, the lay faithful, the sacramental life, you name it – is ruled by Canon Law. Church law.
Those who know absolutely nothing about the Church and Canon law have suggested that this was a political move by the archbishop, not a pastoral move as he wrote, and should therefore have political consequences. They will not even try – nor do they care to try – to understand what the word pastoral means, especially when political is a much more incendiary term.
For Catholics, abortion – the killing of an innocent, unborn human being in the womb – is more than abhorrent, it is mortal sin. Therefore a pastoral matter.
I’d like to think that people of all faiths or no faith actually would see abortion as the deliberate taking of a human life. I say that as an optimist but I’m also a realist and know that far too many do not agree with the science that says this is a life in the womb and abortion is the taking of that life. It is murder.
What Archbishop Cordileone did – barring Pelosi from communion – is imposed on him as a shepherd of his flock by Canon 915 of The Code of Canon Law: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion (The bold is mine for emphasis).
This is from Canon Law. TITLE III. THE MOST HOLY EUCHARIST (Cann. 897 – 958) (Code of Canon Law – Book IV – Function of the Church Liber (Cann. 879-958) (vatican.va)
Has Archbishop Cordileone taken a similar stand with anyone else in his diocese for an analogous offense? We probably will never know unless it was made public.
The archbishop himself explained why he had to make this prohibition to Pelosi public. In fact, he has been reticent to make public his pleas with her over a period of 10 years. He prayed over this decision, he discerned, he asked the advice of others, because he knew the weight of such a sentence.
What do we as Catholics hold and believe about the Holy Eucharist, about communion? Why would banning someone from communion be such a dire punishment?
Can. 897 The most August sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated through the ages is the summit and source of all worship and Christian life, which signifies and effects the unity of the People of God and brings about the building up of the body of Christ. Indeed, the other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it. (bold is mine)
Can. 898 The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration. In explaining the doctrine about this sacrament, pastors of souls are to teach the faithful diligently about this obligation. (photo from catechist)
How serious are we about the Eucharist – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ? There is even a provision in Canon law that inflicts automatic excommunication on “a person who throws away the consecrated Eucharistic species or takes and retains them for a sacrilegious purpose.”
If you are a believing, practicing Catholic, this should all make sense.
To clarify one point in this story: Nancy Pelosi was not excommunicated.
There are 3 types of censures in the Catholic Church: excommunication, interdict and suspension: Excommunication means one cannot participate in certain liturgies or church governance. Interdict has same liturgical restrictions as excommunication, but allows participation in church governance. Suspension affects only members of the clergy, prohibiting certain acts by a cleric.
Excommunication is either latae sententiae (excommunication is automatically incurred upon performing a specific act) or ferendae sententiae (imposed by a proper authority).
Here in simplified form are the 9 cases of latae sententiae excommunication: this drastically cuts one off from the life of the Church and demands sacramental reconciliation before communion with the Church can be restored): From BOOK VI. SANCTIONS IN THE CHURCH : Code of Canon Law – Book VI – Sanctions in the Church (Cann. 1364-1399): Part II. penalties for individual delicts (vatican.va)
- an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic;
- a person who throws away the consecrated Eucharistic species or takes and retains them for a sacrilegious purpose;
- a person who uses physical force against the pope;
- a priest who absolves his accomplice in a sin against the commandment against adultery;
- a bishop who ordains someone a bishop without a papal mandate, and the person who receives the ordination from him;
- a confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal of confession;
- a person who procures a completed abortion;
- accomplices without whose assistance a violation of a law prescribing latae sententiae excommunication would not have been committed; **
- a person who attempts to confer a holy orderon a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive it.
** There are many who feel that Canon Law should be amended to extend excommunication to include those persons who, especially because of the high visibility of the positions they occupy, vocally and publicly support and encourage abortion, for example.
Pelosi was noted as receiving communion over the weekend in the Washington, D.C. area, not in her home diocese of San Francisco. No such interdiction was made by Cardinal Gregory.
Be it in California or D.C., Pelosi’s reception of communion was seen as defiance.
Abp. Cordileone’s ban on communion has been supported by a number of bishops but that begs the question: why are not all the bishops on board with this if Canon Law demands it! I repeat part of Canon 915: “… those obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
By the way, Raymond Arroyo appeared on Fox and Friends on Sunday morning, May 22, with Fox’s Rachel Campos Duffy and, as Catholics, they offered a well-reason explanation of Abp. Cordileone’s censure of Pelosi: (11) Pelosi barred from receiving Holy Communion over abortion support – YouTube
P.S. I took the time to research and write this piece to answer some questions that appeared on a number of Facebook pages after the Pelosi communion ban was announced. There were many good, honest questions. I hope this helps those who want to know the truth and understand. And I will pray for those whose minds are closed and the only “truth” they want to hear is their own.