A handful of American bishops have already made public statements of their support for Archbishop Cordileone’s communion ban for Nancy Pelosi, and others no doubt will follow. Archbishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, California, was quick to announce that Speaker Pelosi would also be barred from Communion in his diocese, where she owns a vacation home. But all eyes will now shift toward Washington, DC, where Pelosi spends most of her time (and does most of her abortion advocacy), and where Cardinal Wilton Gregory has indicated that he would not withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians. Archbishop Cordileone’s disciplinary action forces Cardinal Gregory to decide whether or not he will uphold his brother bishop’s ban.
A critical question here—one on which canon lawyers disagree—is whether the ban travels with the Speaker. Archbishop Cordileone is her pastor, and he has determined that she is not qualified to receive the Eucharist. But does that determination apply only within the geographical limits of his own archdiocese? When she is in Washington, can Cardinal Gregory (who is not her pastor) make a different judgment?
From Speaker Pelosi’s perspective the problem seems simpler—at least at first glance. John Allen of Crux reasons:
Unless a large contingent of other bishops impose similar bans in their dioceses, almost everywhere Pelosi may go, good advance work probably will be able to identify a sympathetic pastor willing to administer communion should she want to attend Mass.
But wait. If he gives Communion to Pelosi in violation of the ban, that “sympathetic pastor” could face severe sanctions himself. A new provision (1379§4) of the Church’s canon law, signed into force by Pope Francis just last year, stipulates:
A person who deliberately administers a sacrament to those who are prohibited from receiving it is to be punished with suspension.
So again the issue hinges on the question of whether the ban imposed by Archbishop Cordileone is in force in other dioceses. The Vatican, which handles canonical debates at a leisurely pace, is not very likely to resolve that question any time soon. And Pope Francis has avoided taking a clear stand on the issue, one way or another. While it is true that the Pope has said he never denied the Eucharist to anyone, it is also true that he said that Catholics who support abortion are “outside the community” and therefore should not receive Communion.
Yet beyond the questions of canonical jurisdiction and Vatican authority, there is a question of conscience, which Archbishop Cordileone addressed in that pastoral letter last May. He explained that he could not, in conscience, remain silent while prominent Catholics joined in public campaigns for abortion. “I tremble,” he wrote, “that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I have to answer to God for innocent blood.” The same logic that prompted Archbishop Cordileone to act—the same demand of conscience—should prompt every other American prelate to support him.
Full story at Catholic Culture.