The May 20 letter of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone instructing his priests not to give communion to pro-abortion Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was reported worldwide. The archbishop gave a detailed explanation for his actions, invoking Canon 915. As of this writing, at least 14 U.S. bishops have voiced their support for Cordileone.
Throughout his episcopate Cordileone has reached out to Speaker Pelosi. But Cordileone is not the first archbishop of San Francisco, nor is he the highest-ranking Catholic prelate, to have attempted to convert Pelosi.
As far back as 2008, San Francisco’s then-archbishop, George Niederauer, invited Pelosi to meet with him to discuss abortion. The invitation followed Pelosi’s widely publicized misstatements on Catholic doctrine during a Meet the Press interview.
On September 5, 2008, the Catholic News Agency reported: “The archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer has issued a response to remarks made by U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi regarding her recent comments on abortion and Catholic teaching. Commenting that her rejection of the immorality of abortion has produced ‘widespread consternation,’ the archbishop said it is his duty to consider whether Rep. Pelosi should receive Holy Communion. He then invited the Democratic leader to converse with him about Catholic faith and morals.
“I regret the necessity of addressing these issues in so public a forum,” he continued, “but the widespread consternation among Catholics made it unavoidable. Speaker Pelosi has often said how highly she values her Catholic faith, and how much it is a source of joy for her. Accordingly, as her pastor, I am writing to invite her into a conversation with me about these matters.”
On February 8, 2009, the two met. On February 19, Real Catholic TV reported “A spokesman for Nancy Pelosi has told Real Catholic TV and Our Sunday Visitor that San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer met with the House Speaker on February 8 to discuss her position on abortion. Commenting on the meeting, spokesman Brendan Daly said, ‘She is not changing her position on abortion.’”
Niederauer passed away in 2017.
Archbishop Niederauer was not the only one attempting to convert Pelosi. On February 18, 2009, ten days after her meeting with Niederauer, Pelosi attended a general audience with then-Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The Vatican released this terse statement:
“Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.
“His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”
– California Catholic exclusive by Gibbons Cooney