SF Archbishop: Catholic Politicians Who Support Abortion Must Not Receive Communion

Michael W. Chapman | May 3, 2021 | 1:35pm EDT
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Salvatore J. Cordileone, head of the archdiocese of San Francisco.
Salvatore J. Cordileone, head of the archdiocese of San Francisco.

(CNS News) -- In a May 1 pastoral letter on the moral evil of abortion, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco explains why Catholic politicians (and other public Catholics) who support abortion must not receive Holy Communion and why they must stop pretending that advocating for abortion is compatible with the Catholic faith.

"It is not," says Cordelione, who adds that those who back abortion are aiding "effectively, a genocide against the unborn."

In his 17-page letter, "Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You," Archbishop Cordileone does not name Catholic politicians or other public figures who support abortion, such as President Joe Biden or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  However, in June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will have a vote "on the topic of Communion," whether to draft a document on the topic,  according to USCCB spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"[T]hose who reject the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of human life and those who do not seek to live in accordance with that teaching should not receive the Eucharist," states the archbishop in his letter.  "We all fall short in various ways, but there is a great difference between struggling to live according to the teachings of the Church and rejecting those teachings."

"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," writes Cordileone. "This adds an even greater responsibility to the role of the Church’s pastors in caring for the salvation of souls."

"... With regard to Catholics in public life who participate in abortion or seek to advance it through legislation or advocacy, precisely because these are actions of which many people are aware it introduces another consideration: scandal," he writes. 

(In the above video, Dr. Anthony Levatino testifies before Congress about his former abortion practice. Dr. Levatino is cited by Archbishop Cordileone in his letter.)

The Catholic Church defines scandal as "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil."

The archbishop continues, "Prominent figures in society help to shape the mores of that society, and in our culture their advocacy of abortion definitely leads others to do evil. This must be stated with clarity: anyone who actively works to promote abortion shares some of the guilt for the abortions performed because of their actions." (Emphasis added.)

For the bishops and priests who are responsible for teaching the truth and helping people to save their souls, they have an obligation, a duty, to correct those Catholics who support abortion. 

Archbishop Cordileone explains that with a pro-abortion Catholic politician, a bishop (or priest) must first speak to that person in private to try to persuade him of the truth. 

"[W]e pastors have a responsibility both to them and to the rest of our people," says Cordileone. "Our responsibility to them is to call them to conversion and to warn them that if they do not amend their lives they must answer before the tribunal of God for the innocent blood that has been shed."

President joe Biden, a pro-abortion Catholic, addresses a joint session of Congress. (Getty Images)
President joe Biden, a pro-abortion Catholic, addresses a joint session of Congress. (Getty Images)

"This correction takes several forms, and rightly begins with private conversations between the erring Catholic and his or her parish priest or bishop," he writes. "The experience of some of us in Church leadership over many years demonstrates the sad truth that often such interventions can be fruitless. It can happen that the conversations tend to go nowhere, thus leaving it easy for the individual to continue participating fully in the life of the Church. Such a situation is a cause of scandal to many of the faithful."

If those private interventions fail, "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."

"If you find that you are unwilling or unable to abandon your advocacy for abortion, you should not come forward to receive Holy Communion," says the archbishop.  "To publicly affirm the Catholic faith while at the same time publicly rejecting one of its most fundamental teachings is simply dishonest. Heeding this perennial call to conversion is the only way to live the Catholic faith with integrity."

Concluding his letter, Archbishop Cordileone says that when one looks at "what actually happens in an abortion, it is hard to imagine anything more heinously evil," except perhaps "genocide." Given that one out of five pregnancies in the U.S. ends in abortion, he adds, "what we are witnessing before our very eyes is, effectively, a genocide against the unborn."

A baby killed by saline-injection abortion.  (Priests for Life)
A baby killed by saline-injection abortion. (Priests for Life)

Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 60 million American babies have been killed by abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute and the CDC. 

To the pro-abortion Catholics in public life, "the killing must stop," urges the archbishop.  "Please, please, please: the killing must stop. God has entrusted you with a prestigious position in society. You have the power to affect societal practices and attitudes. Always remember that you will one day have to render an account to God for your stewardship of this trust."

"You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing," writes Cordileone. "Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil—one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right—is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith. We await you with open arms to welcome you back."

To read the archbishop's letter, click here

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