NEW YORK – In the latest chapter of a long-running debate, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has barred U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from receiving communion in the archdiocese over her support of abortion.

“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a declaration that she is not admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confesses and receives absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of penance,” Cordileone said in a May 20 letter to the faithful.

Cordileone said he notified Pelosi of his decision before making it public. The Archdiocese of San Francisco is Pelosi’s home diocese, therefore the decision on whether she can receive communion while she’s there lies with Cordileone.

The decision comes at a time of growing national tensions after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade – the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide – and put abortion law solely in the hands of state lawmakers. If that were to happen, about half of the states would restrict access to abortion.

The topic of Catholic pro-abortion rights public figures – mainly politicians – receiving communion has been contentious since at least 2004, when the Democrats nominated John Kerry, a Catholic who supports legal abortion. The controversy has intensified with the election of President Joe Biden, another Catholic Democrat who supports abortion rights.

Pelosi, a Democrat and self-described devout Catholic, has long been outspoken about her pro-abortion rights stance. In the letter, Cordileone stated that Pelosi’s abortion stance has “become only more extreme over the years.” In particular, he highlighted statements she made to the Seattle Times at the beginning of the month that are “in direct opposition to Pope Francis.”

“The very idea that they would be telling women the size, timing or whatever of their family, the personal nature of this is so appalling, and I say that as a devout Catholic,” Pelosi told the Seattle Times. “They say to me, ‘Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope.’ Yes I do. Are you stupid?”

Francis and Pelosi met at the Vatican in October. The pontiff has also spoken out against denying communion to Catholics, saying the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect.”

Cordileone claims to have received many letters from parishioners over the years about Catholics in public life who promote abortion, such as Pelosi, and has always responded that “conversion is always better than exclusion.”

Ultimately, though, he grounded his decision in canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which stipulates that “Those … obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” He also noted that as archbishop of San Francisco he is bound to be concerned with and care for all of the faithful in the archdiocese.

“This most serious duty can sometimes become unpleasant, especially when Catholics in public life explicitly promote practices that involve the direct taking of innocent human life, which abortion does,” Cordileone said, adding that he has struggled with the issue for many years, especially with regards to Pelosi.

The archbishop’s decision to bar Pelosi from communion comes about seven months after he launched the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign, where Catholics could sign up to send her a rose as a symbol that they were praying and fasting for her “conversion of heart.” The campaign was a direct response to pro-abortion legislation.

Months earlier, in July 2021, Cordileone responded to Pelosi calling herself a devout Catholic in a press conference by saying, “Let me repeat: No one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it.” In May 2021, Cordileone issued a letter calling for pro-abortion public figures to be barred from communion.

In January 2021, he issued a public correction of Pelosi after she took part in a podcast with Hillary Clinton and asserted that pro-life Catholic voters had helped elect Donald Trump, thereby being “willing to sell the whole democracy down the river on that one issue.” Cordileone replied that Pelosi stood “in direct contradiction to a fundamental human right that Catholic teaching has consistently championed for 2,000 years.”

In his May 20 letter, Cordileone said he finds “no pleasure” in his decision. He also noted that Pelosi “remains our sister in Christ,” and her “advocacy for the poor and vulnerable elicits” his admiration.

“I assure you that my action here is purely pastoral, not political. I have been very clear in my words and actions about this,” Cordileone said. “Speaker Pelosi has been uppermost in my prayer intentions ever since I became the Archbishop of San Francisco.”

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