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An archbishop bars Pelosi from Communion over her support for abortion rights

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The conservative Catholic archbishop of San Francisco said Friday that he would no longer allow Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
Jacquelyn Martin
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AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The conservative Catholic archbishop of San Francisco said Friday that he would no longer allow Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

Updated May 21, 2022 at 2:53 PM ET

The Catholic archbishop of San Francisco says that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer allowed to receive Communion because of her vocal support for abortion rights.

Salvatore Cordileone, the conservative archbishop, said he'd previously made his concerns known to Pelosi, D-Calif., in an April 7 letter after she promised to codify into federal law the right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Cordileone said he never received a response from Pelosi.

Cordileone notified members of the archdiocese in a letter on Friday that Pelosi must publicly repudiate her support for abortion rights in order to take Holy Communion — a ritual meal of bread and wine that celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

"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 public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion," Cordileone wrote.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone celebrates Easter Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco on April 12, 2020.
Jeff Chiu / AP
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AP
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone celebrates Easter Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco on April 12, 2020.

Cordileone said he'd addressed Pelosi the day prior in a separate letter about the consequences of citing her faith in justifying abortion and refusing to retract her stance on the issue.

"I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you [publicly] repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance," he wrote in the letter to Pelosi.

Pelosi's office did not immediately respond to NPR's email and phone call seeking comment.

After Texas passed a law banning abortions after six weeks last year, Pelosi vowed to codify the right to abortion. A Democrat-led bill seeking to follow through on that promise recently failed in the Senate.

Following the leak of the Supreme Court's draft opinion, which revealed a preliminary ruling to strike down constitutional protections for abortion, Pelosi invoked her Catholic faith to bolster her support for abortion rights.

"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 earlier this month. "They say to me, 'Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope.' Yes I do. Are you stupid?"

Cordileone said he again attempted to reach out to Pelosi at that point, one of his six attempts to contact her since September.

Cordileone, among the most outspoken of U.S. bishops, has also called to withhold Communion privileges from President Biden and other politicians who support the right to abortion.

After debate last year about whether Communion should be denied to Catholics who support abortion rights, including politicians, U.S. bishops decided not to implement such a policy and instead urged Catholics veering from church teachings to refrain from taking Communion.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: May 21, 2022 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Catholic sacrament of communion as a symbolic meal of bread and wine. Catholics believe the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.