In an interview discussing his recent admonition of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco emphasized the need for Catholics to recover the sense of worthiness to receive Holy Communion.
“Catholics no longer understand the idea of worthiness to receive Communion. It’s just seen as a sort of a token gesture of welcome and belonging,” Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in an interview that will air on Thursday night.
The archbishop was addressing the topic of denial of Holy Communion to someone “for the sake of their soul.” He said that Catholics must first understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist in order to grasp the significance of the denial of Holy Communion to a public figure.
“For that kind of action [denial of Communion] to make sense to a lot of people, we need to reclaim this sense of what it means to receive [Communion],” Cordileone said, pointing to a lack of belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist among Catholics.
“What are you really saying when you receive Communion? To me, it goes hand-in-hand with this decline in the belief of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” he said.
Archbishop Cordileone was explaining to EWTN his Jan. 21 statement to Speaker Pelosi, a Catholic who hails from the San Francisco archdiocese.
In that statement, Cordileone had said that “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion,” referring to Pelosi’s public support in Congress for legal abortion.
Pelosi, on a Jan. 18 podcast with former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, had referred to the issue of abortion as “a woman’s right to choose” and said that Catholics should “love contraception” for reducing the abortion rate.
In response, Cordileone said that Pelosi “does not speak for the Catholic Church,” and that her phrase “right to choose” to describe legal abortion “is a smokescreen for perpetuating an entire [abortion] industry that profits from one of the most heinous evils imaginable.”
Regarding denial of Holy Communion, Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that Catholics who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
In a 2004 memo to U.S. bishops, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote that a Catholic politician who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaging in “formal cooperation” in grave sin, cooperation that is “manifest.”
In these cases, Catholic politicians should not receive Communion, Ratzinger wrote, and their pastor must admonish them on the Church’s teaching.
The politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Ratzinger wrote.
If these conversations “have not had their effect,” he added, then “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”
When asked by EWTN under what circumstances Communion can be denied for the sake of the recipient’s soul, Cordileone answered that “private conversations” must first take place “to try to move the person in their conscience.”
The archbishop did not comment on whether he has had private conversations with Pelosi about her stance on abortion, or whether he is considering publicly prohibiting her from receiving Communion.
In November, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. told a reporter that he would not deny President Joe Biden the reception of Holy Communion, if Biden were to present himself for Communion at Mass. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden pledged his support of taxpayer-funded abortion and promised to codify Roe v. Wade in law.
On EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Cordileone emphasized that worthiness to receive Holy Communion is a much broader problem among Catholics than just Catholic politicians who contradict Church teaching.
“We have a bigger problem too, in that so many Catholics don’t even understand the concept of worthiness to receive Communion, right? To be in the state of grace,” he said. “And before COVID, I often questioned how many people just nonchalantly go up to receive Communion when they’re really not supposed to be.”
The archbishop said that intentionally skipping even one Sunday Mass is an example of a serious sin that requires absolution in the confessional before a Catholic is worthy to receive Communion again.
EWTN Pro-Life Weekly asked Cordileone this week if Pelosi’s support for abortion as a Catholic in public office was scandalous.
Cordileone answered that Pelosi is not only opposing Church teaching, but also is scandalously contradicting “fundamental human rights.”
“But this is contradicting the Church on a matter that is not specifically Catholic doctrine. Again, this is a matter of fundamental human rights,” he said. “So, we have political leaders championing an injustice, and people thinking that’s okay for Catholics to do. But it’s not.”