On May 1,  San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone celebrated the monthly archdiocesan pro-life Mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral. He began his homily by recounting the story of Simeon Cardon and five other Cistercian friars, who were massacred on May 13, 1799. Napoleonic soldiers who had invaded Italy had attacked the Cistercians’ Casamari Abbey, and had scattered consecrated hosts all over the abbey floor. When the friars sought to protect the Blessed Sacrament, they were murdered. The archbishop said, “In that awful moment, Simeon and his brothers knew what the most important thing in life was: to protect and defend the sacred.”

The archbishop then equated the reverence due the Blessed Sacrament and the reverence due to human life. He said, “The two are intimately connected: reverence for the Eucharist and reverence for human life, especially when human life is most vulnerable and defenseless. That is why, in a little while this morning, at 9 a.m., I will release a pastoral letter on this very topic, entitled  ‘Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life.’”  This is why I, as your pastor, must speak. It is overdue. We need to put an end to this barbarity, and we also need to make corrections to this irreverence with which the Blessed Sacrament is treated.”

The archbishop’s pastoral letter builds logically through four subsections: (1) The Human Foundation: Law and Science; (2) Cooperation in Moral Evil; (3) The Question of the Reception of the Holy Eucharist; and (4) Catholics in Public Life.

Excerpt from section (1): “The answer from science is clear: a new, genetically-distinct human life begins at conception, defined as fertilization: ‘Development of the embryo begins at stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote.’ Because an embryo is a unique and developing human organism, it follows that she or he possesses an inherent right to life from the moment of conception. Thus, the violent invasion of the act of abortion ends a human life.”

Excerpt from section (2): “… it is never morally permissible to cooperate in a formal way in an evil act. It is never morally permissible to cooperate in an immediate material way in the act itself. There can be circumstances where it is permitted to cooperate in a mediately material way in an evil act, and this is determined by the seriousness of the evil and one’s proximity to or distance from it. However, given the reality that abortion violates the most fundamental moral principle, the right to life itself, the teaching of our faith is clear: those who kill or assist in killing the child (even if personally opposed to abortion), those who pressure or encourage the mother to have an abortion, who pay for it, who provide financial assistance to organizations to provide abortions, or who support candidates or legislation for the purpose of making abortion a more readily available ‘choice’ are all cooperating with a very serious evil. Formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation in evil is never morally justified.”

Excerpt from section (3): “In examining one’s conscience about being properly disposed to receive the Holy Eucharist, the definitions regarding the kind and degree of cooperation in an evil act serve as a necessary guiding principle. Most of the time this is a private matter. There are, however, circumstances in which such is not the case, occasions when those in public life violate the boundaries of justifiable cooperation. In the case of public figures who profess to be Catholic and promote abortion, we are not dealing with a sin committed in human weakness or a moral lapse: this is a matter of persistent, obdurate, and public rejection of Catholic teaching.”

Excerpt from section (4) “When public figures identify themselves as Catholics and yet actively oppose one of the most fundamental doctrines of the Church — the inherent dignity of each and every human being and therefore the absolute prohibition of taking innocent human life — we pastors have a responsibility both to them and to the rest of our people…. Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion. As seen above, this discipline has been exercised throughout our history, going back to the New Testament. When other avenues are exhausted, the only recourse a pastor has left is the public medicine of temporary exclusion from the Lord’s Table. This is a bitter medicine, but the gravity of the evil of abortion can sometimes warrant it.”

The Mass was followed by a Rosary procession to the nearby Planned Parenthood. The archbishop’s full pastoral letter can be found here, and the archbishop’s Mass and homily may be viewed here.

The above comes from an exclusive story by Gibbons Cooney.