I’ve never been to San Francisco, but word on the street is that it stinks. And I mean literally — apparently the city just smells bad. But this past Friday, a strong, pure breath of fresh air came streaming across the country from the Golden Gate City, as San Francisco Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone notified U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that she would no longer be able to take “Holy Communion” in her home archdiocese due to her continued, public support for abortion.
As a Baptist, I just have to say: Cordileone is one based bishop.
While I disagree with my Catholic friends on many things, including the very nature and practice of the Lord’s Supper itself, my point in this article isn’t to focus on our theological differences. Rather, I want to praise a man for his courage and call on my Protestant brethren to take similar actions wherever and whenever they can.
In the letter that he sent to Speaker Pelosi, Archbishop Cordileone let her know, in no uncertain terms, that she was no longer welcome to participate in what Catholics call the sacrament of “Holy Communion” until she repents of her support for abortion. He wrote:
“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.”
While Protestants disagree with Catholics on some very significant points of theology (such as salvation by grace alone) and ecclesiology (church structure), we have long shared a recognition of the humanity of the unborn and have worked together against the evils of abortion. The Bible’s teaching on the full humanity of the unborn (Psalm 139:15-16, Luke 1:41-44), the evils of murder (Exodus 20:13), and the horrors of child sacrifice (Leviticus 20:1-5) are clear. No faithful evangelical Christian can support abortion. The Didache, one of the earliest non-canonical Christian documents, clearly states, “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.”
There’s no nuance here. No shades of gray. As with orthodox Christianity, support for abortion is outside of the boundaries of faithful Catholic practice and discipleship — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Archbishop Cordileone drew on this historical continuity in his letter, citing longstanding Catholic doctrinal statements, such as the Second Vatican Council, and reminding Pelosi that the “Church’s ancient and consistent teaching [is] that ‘from the first moment of conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.’”
It makes no difference if you are a postman or one of the most powerful politicians in the nation — to publicly defend abortion puts one at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church. So, after various efforts to engage her and warn her, Archbishop Cordileone did what needed to be done: He let Speaker Pelosi know that she is in serious sin and he can no longer act otherwise.
Part of the issue here is that Speaker Pelosi has been very outspoken about her “Catholic faith.” In fact, she regularly references her supposed faith even as she defends the invented right of women to kill their children in the womb. Speaking recently at a Women’s History Month event, Speaker Pelosi argued about the importance of Roe v. Wade remaining the “law of the land.” In her comments, perhaps with some of Archbishop Cordileone’s admonitions ringing in her ears or weighing on her conscience, she said:
“It isn’t about ‘What is your religious belief?’ It’s [about] what is the right of people to make their own decisions about the sizing and time — or if — they’re going to have a family. This really gets me burned up — in case you didn’t notice — because, again, I’m very Catholic. Devout, practicing, all of that. They would like to throw me out, but I’m not going, because I don’t want to make their day.”
Well, Speaker Pelosi, you might not have made their day by proactively leaving the faith you claim to believe but clearly don’t practice. Nonetheless, we thank you for allowing Archbishop Cordileone to make our day instead, as he displayed conviction and courage in calling you out for your hypocritical, barbaric support for abortion up until nine months, no questions asked.
Which is part of what factored into the decision to ban Speaker Pelosi from communion at this point in time — her ever-increasing, rabid, almost unhinged support for any and all abortions. If it wasn’t clear already (it was), it has been made unmistakably manifest in her reaction to the leaked draft decision in the Dobbs case, after which she said, “Democrats will never relent until reproductive rights are enshrined into law.”
She has made good on her word to try and do just that, leading the effort to pass the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” into law. Writing about this legislation, Dr. Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary warned, “No language can give an adequate description of the moral hideousness of the abortion bill recently passed with a party-line vote in the House of Representatives. The bill is titled the ‘Women’s Health Protection Act.’ In truth, it is about destroying the health of the unborn.”
Thus, we find ourselves, as Baptists and Catholics, enjoying an ecumenical moment in support of the unborn and in opposition to politicians who gut a faith and try to wear it as a skin suit — using it as some political shield or prop all while denying some of the most basic implications of said faith. Here, those implications are as basic, and important, as they come: The belief that every human life, born or unborn, is made in the image of God and is worthy of equal justice and protection under the law.
In this day and age, many misunderstand the nature of the relationship between the Church and the state. Various reactions to the archbishop’s announcement have thrown such confusions up into the air of our public discourse like neon signs on the Vegas strip, buzzing in all their misguided glory for everyone to see. But despite whatever Whoopi Goldberg has to say — which was, and I quote: “This is not your job, dude” — it very much is his job. And he has done it well.
Protestant — Baptist — pastors would do well to take note. Shaming, correcting, and even excommunicating politicians who claim to be Christians yet contradict such claims with their open support of sinful policies is a tool in our ecclesial toolbox that we need to dust off and put back to work. Doing so would benefit the Church, the deceived politician, and the quality of our public square.
John Calvin, one of the leading lights of the Protestant Reformation and a pastor in Geneva, denied communion to prominent false professors of his day known as the Libertines. When pressed to permit them to take the Lord’s Supper, Calvin said “I will die sooner than this hand shall stretch forth the sacred things of the Lord to those who have been judged despisers” (Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame, 111).
In her unapologetic efforts to permit the legal murder of our nation’s children, Speaker Pelosi has indeed been judged a “despiser” of the faith.
While he might not look to someone like John Calvin as an example, Archbishop Cordileone, aka the “Based Bishop of San Francisco,” made the right call this past Friday by making it clear that Speaker Pelosi is no longer welcome to partake in their version of communion.
Ultimately, this act of discipline is an act of love. It is undertaken in the hopes that it will lead the sinner to repentance. The Archbishop has called on local Catholics to “pray for all of our legislators, especially Catholic legislators who promote procured abortion, that with the help and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they may undergo a conversion of heart in this gravest matter, and human life may be protected and fostered in every stage and condition of life.”
We can join in those prayers, both for the unborn and for the conversion of Speaker Pelosi — that as she considers her momentary rejection by the Catholic Church, it will lead her to consider the far worse, final rejection of a Holy God. In that consideration, we pray that she would find repentance and faith through the power of the gospel of grace, which Paul reminds us, “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17, NIV).
We should all pray that Pelosi repents. But whether she does or not, make no mistake about it: Archbishop Cordileone did do his job. Let’s hope that other pastors, from all denominations, follow in his courageous footsteps and do theirs. They should discipline or excommunicate any politicians under their power who are failing to live up to the most basic teachings and commitments of their publicly professed faith. Politicians aren’t above the laws of men — they certainly shouldn’t be above the laws of God.
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