That both the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House carry themselves to be devout Catholics while also not shying away from extreme pro-abortion stances has caused something of a stir. When it comes to whether or not President Joe Biden or Speaker Nancy Pelosi should receive communion, a matter Catholics bishops plan to discuss next month, bishops are split. Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware--where Biden called home--and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. have said they'd allow President Biden to receive communion. San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who presides over Speaker Pelosi's district, is singing a different tune.
The archbishop released a letter on Saturday, "A Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life."
This morning I released my first pastoral letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life. Read the letter at https://t.co/satYbxRjd0. Please read, RT, and follow. pic.twitter.com/q0X9HN8Zv4— Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone (@ArchCordileone) May 1, 2021
The letter does not mention Pelosi by name; such a direct calling out would surely only happen in private. Nevertheless, the multi-faceted letter, which discusses abortion, cooperating in the "moral evil" abortion is, receiving communion, and Catholics, has a clear message for Catholics like the speaker.
The section of "Catholics in Public Life" helpfully defines a scandal as "an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil." Following the definition is the note that "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."
The executive summary on this point reads "Catholics prominent in public life have a special responsibility to bear witness to the fullness of Church teaching. In addition to their own spiritual good there is also the danger of scandal: that is, by their false witness, other Catholics may come to doubt the Church’s teaching on abortion, the Holy Eucharist, or both. This is becoming increasingly challenging in our time."
Perhaps one of the most direct points of the entire letter reads " If you find that you are unwilling or unable to abandon your advocacy for abortion, you should not come forward to receive Holy Communion. 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."
Another point worth underscoring is the attention the letter pays to the mother who finds herself facing a pregnancy where she seeks an abortion, namely in how it emphasizes abortion "is never solely the mother’s act" and recognizes that a mother may not have truly wanted the abortion. "This lament exposes the lie of the “pro-choice” slogan," the archbishop writes.
In stressing that such cooperation cannot be morally justified, the letter includes when it comes to that cooperation, with original emphasis:
To summarize: it is never morally permissible to cooperate in a formal way in an evil act. It is never morally permissible to cooperate in an immediate material way in the act itself. There can be circumstances where it is permitted to cooperate in a mediately material way in an evil act, and this is determined by the seriousness of the evil and one’s proximity to or distance from it. However, given the reality that abortion violates the most fundamental moral principle, the right to life itself, the teaching of our faith is clear: those who kill or assist in killing the child (even if personally opposed to abortion), those who pressure or encourage the mother to have an abortion, who pay for it, who provide financial assistance to organizations to provide abortions, or who support candidates or legislation for the purpose of making abortion a more readily available “choice” are all cooperating with a very serious evil.? Formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation in evil is never morally justified.
Throughout the letter there are calls for repentance and conversion and the invitation to seek forgiveness, which is absolutely there.
The letter is a fitting example of Catholicism on display. Before many on the left, including in the mainstream media, opine so strongly, they could consider reading such a letter.