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Archbishop Cordileone: Catholics supporting abortion should not present themselves for Holy Communion

“It is fundamentally a question of integrity: to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly,” wrote Cordileone. “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.”

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone celebrates Mass during a "Free the Mass" demonstration Sept. 20, 2020. (CNS photo/Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco)

San Francisco, Calif., May 1, 2021 / 10:05 am (CNA).

The Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore J. Cordileone, released on May 1, 2021 a pastoral letter about the worthiness required for the reception of Holy Communion in which he insisted that any Catholic cooperating with the evil of abortion should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

“It is fundamentally a question of integrity: to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly,” wrote Cordileone. “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.”

The letter, issued on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and at the beginning of the month honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, comes on the heels of growing media coverage regarding whether President Biden should be admitted to Holy Communion within the Catholic Church.

Contained within his letter was a section specifically for Catholic public officials who advocate for abortion. “You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing,” he said. “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.”

Both the Washington Post and the AP published articles earlier this week which highlighted debate about whether Biden, a staunch promoter of abortion and funding for abortion but also a Catholic, would be asked to refrain from reception of the Eucharist.

According to the longstanding teaching of the Church outlined by the archbishop, formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation with evil, such as cooperation in the evil of abortion, precludes one from receiving Holy Communion. “The Church’s teaching and discipline on worthiness to receive Holy Communion has been consistent throughout her history, going back to the very beginning,” the archbishop noted.

“[T]he 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,” stated archbishop Cordileone. “Formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation in evil is never morally justified.”

The Archbishop quoted St. Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians to explain the danger of receiving Holy Communion while cooperating with grave evil, an act long hailed in the Church as unworthy: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).”

He also included the testimony of early Church Father St. Justin Martyr who taught that, “No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes what we teach is true; unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.”

The debate about President Biden and communion hit a new high when the Washington Post published a story and tweet that described President Biden as “very Catholic,” sparking an impassioned response from Catholic leaders.

The archbishop’s own response addressed the importance of witnessing to the truth about the grave evil of abortion. “For decades now western culture has been in denial about the harsh reality of abortion. The topic is swathed in sophistries by its advocates and discussion about it is forbidden in many venues.

“In the case of public figures who identify as 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,” he penned. “This adds an even greater responsibility to the role of the Church’s pastors in caring for the salvation of souls.

“It is my conviction that this conspiracy of disinformation and silence is fueled by fear of what it would mean to recognize the reality with which we are dealing.

“The right to life itself is the foundation of all other rights. Without protection of the right to life, no other talk of rights makes sense,” he said, noting that the science is “clear” on when this life begins. “[A] new, genetically-distinct human life begins at conception.”

Archbishop Cordileone was careful to emphasize that “abortion is never solely the mother’s act. Others, to a greater or lesser degree, share culpability whenever this evil is perpetrated.”

He noted that his responsibility as pastor and shepherd of souls required him to be clear on the both the gravity of abortion’s evil and the reasons why a person who procures, assists, or promotes abortion in any way cannot receive Holy Communion unless they first repent and are absolved in confession.

“Speaking for myself,” he said, “I always keep before me the words from the prophet Ezekiel…I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood.”

At the end of his letter, the archbishop thanked those in public life who stand firm for the cause of the unborn. “Your bold and steadfast stand in the face of what is often fierce opposition gives courage to others who know what is right but might otherwise feel too timid to proclaim it in word and deed,” he opined.

Archbishop Cordileone also reached out to women who have had an abortion and others affected by it. “God loves you. We love you. God wants you to heal, and so do we, and we have the resources to help you. Please turn to us, because we love you and want to help you and want you to heal,” he posited, adding that those who have healed from abortion can become tremendous witnesses to the Gospel of Mercy. “Because of what you have endured, you more than anyone can become a powerful voice for the sanctity of life.”

The archbishop of San Francisco concluded the letter by inviting all those of good will to “work for a society in which every new baby is received as a precious gift from God and given a welcome to the human community” and by invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, as well as St. Joseph and St. Francis, patron of the archdiocese.

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

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  1. Were that more bishops spoke so clearly to the Church at large on worthily receiving Christ in the Eucharist. Our loss of awareness of God’s infinite goodness diminishes realization of our sins. Belief in an all merciful God who desires we all love each other just as we are has a deceptive warmth to it, that is, absent of his desire that we repent. Love isn’t realized in pleasant feelings as much as in the willingness to experience discomfort for some act of justice. Plainly said to suffer, as is almost always the case in this life for attaining spiritual good. Divine love imparted by grace moves us to love others selflessly, meaning not for our satisfaction rather the good of another. Sin thwarts that purity of intention and likewise diminishes awareness of God’s goodness, an awareness that draws us to him free of what is entirely contrary to him. Mercy, God’s mercy consequently isn’t accommodation of evil rather the intensity of his desire to purify us of that which kills interiorly. The myth of accommodating mercy preached today from too many pulpits is a deadly lie. Evidence of God’s work within us is the persistent, conscientious desire to seek the eternal good of the other. Especially when that other is offensive to us, since in that we emulate Christ. We need not feel the sentiment of love for that other, rather will it [there is a sweetness, spiritual in kind in that], by being willing to pay the price when it seems futile to expect a response. Love then needs no justification because it is its own justification. That’s precisely how Christ loved us from the Cross.

    • FR. morello,I liked what you said about love isn’t realized in pleasant feelings as much in the willingness to experience discomfort for some act of justice,! I want to tell truth always,but sometimes I lied by omission in not telling ALL truth to save them heartaches. 🙏

      • Lupe, withholding facts, the full truth is not necessarily a sin [lie]. If it’s withheld for good intent [to avoid heartache, unnecessary worry] it’s fine. And there are instances when the facts are withheld [omitted] since the persons making the request for them don’t deserve full knowledge because of their malicious intent, for example when Gestapo searched for Jews in occupied Holland. We may say that love for the good of others is always the rule in decision making.

  2. And what about bishops and cardinals who promote the careers of politicians who materially cooperate with this heinous crime? Until those bishops are brought to account for their own cooperation, the admonitions to the laity fall flat. Sorry, Archbishop Cordileone, it’s not enough. Those bishops are saying loudly and clearly that they really do not believe the tragedy that is abortion. All these hirelings care about are the USCCB pro-life collection, their own careers, public/media approval and, most important of all, their allegiance to the democrat party.

    • Absolutely, Mr. Pfannenstiel! Not nearly enough!

      It’s been fifty years since this Holocaust began!

      The left gets more excited about their disgusting global warming veggie burgers and their inane pigtail lightbulbs than we do about the killing of a million innocent children a year!

      Look at what they did in Minneapolis, in Portland, in New York, in Seattle, about the taking of one life!

      I’m seeing what poor Jesus meant about our faith being smaller even than a mustard seed.

  3. “It is fundamentally a question of integrity; to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly”, wrote Cordileone. “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 (em) those teachings.”

    There will undoubtedly be a few who stumble and fall on that nasty word integrity, but seriously – Is there ANY way to make it ANY clearer?

  4. I would like to see the U.S. bishops come up with an extensive list of all the politicians in this country who, on the bases of their public comments and their voting records, have regularly supported abortion. Then, I would like to see the bishops formally and publicly excommunicate the whole lot of them: Biden, Pelosi, and Cuomo and all senators and representatives. The bishops should encourage them all to stop all their pro-death activities, to go to confession, and then to publicly undo the damage they have done with their anti-life laws and executive orders. This should be done in a spirit of charity, but with the clear message that these people are in grave error and sin. It would also be a huge wake-up call to the laity in the pews. If it brings only a few of them back, it will be worth it. At least it would put an end to all the self-delusion. It probably won’t happen, but that is what I would like to see.

    • Yes, well put, Erik.

      At a minimum, that’s what they should do. (Emphasis on *do* rather than simply ‘say.’)

  5. Archbishop Cordileone upholds the faith. Would that the entire USCCB thought the same and never wavered in their support for the unborn. The agreement of the total membership of the USCCB (Cardinals Cupich and Gregory and possibly other bishops and archbishops) would send a powerful message to Catholics and non-Catholics alike across the nation and around the world: babies are people, too. Thank you, Archbishop Cordileone, for standing firm with many of your brother bishops in support of those who cannot speak for themselves!

  6. All of these generalized statements are going to accomplish nothing. At the risk of repeating myself, I will say again that Canon 915 does not say that someone who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin should not present themselves for Holy Communion. It says that Holy Communion should not be administered. The requirement is on the bishop and his priests.
    Archbishop Cordileone has been bishop of San Francisco for a number of years. Congresswoman Pelosi has been a member of his diocese for number of years. What action has the Archbishop taken? These position papers without any action will accomplish nothing, whether from individual bishops or from the USCCB.
    The bishops cannot even police themselves. Will any bishop call out Cardinal Cupich or Cardinal Gregory for saying they will continue distributing communion to any pro-abortion politician. Will they call them out for their phony “We don’t want to politicize the Eucharist argument.” I will not hold my breath.

    • Finally, someone who has read Canon 915 and understands it. The deflection by Cordileone and the rest of the USCCB must stop. The explicit responsibility is theirs, not that of the laity. These grand general pronouncements are absurd after 50 years of mass murder of the innocent/

  7. The Church needs more Bishops to take what the Archbishop Cordileone wrote and create a similar message to their dioceses. As members of the faith, it is imperative for us Catholics in the pews to pound heaven with our prayers for Our Lord to send the message and grace to Bishops to do the job they are supposed to do.

    When Bishops do this we should let them know we support them. Maybe now those reading and liking this message should send a writen note to Bishop Cordileone that we strongly support him. That would be a small thing, but it would let him know he has our support and would more directly put our skin in the game, so to speak.

  8. My priest spoke out in a recent homily that if the Bishops had spoken out against Biden’s advocating for Abortion and funding for facilities performing abortions that maybe Biden would not have won the election.He got a loud applause.

  9. Cherry picking mortal sins, and using the Eucharist therein, is how this translates.

    Pride, Wrath, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, Envy, and Lust have been TRADITIONALLY listed as the 7 fatal mortal most grievous sins for centuries. If we were honest and used these TRADITIONAL metrics, who of us would dare to approach the Eucharist? And yet here we are.


    1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

    1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

    New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

    According to St. Thomas (II-II:153:4) “a capital vice is that which has an exceedingly desirable end so that in his desire for it a man goes on to the commission of many sins all of which are said to originate in that vice as their chief source”. It is not then the gravity of the vice in itself that makes it capital but rather the fact that it gives rise to many other sins. These are enumerated by St. Thomas (I-II:84:4) as vainglory (pride), avarice, gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, anger. St. Bonaventure (Brevil., III, ix) gives the same enumeration. Earlier writers had distinguished eight capital sins: so St. Cyprian (De mort., iv); Cassian (Institutes 5, Conferences 5); Columbanus (“Instr. de octo vitiis princip.” in “Bibl. max. vet. patr.”, XII, 23); Alcuin (De virtut. et vitiis, xxvii sqq.). The number seven, however, had been given by St. Gregory the Great (Lib. mor. in Job. XXXI, xvii), and it was retained by the foremost theologians of the Middle Ages.

    • There’s no cherry-picking in Abp. Cordileone’s letter. The CCC (quoted in your comment) lists “do not kill” as the first item under “grave matter”, corresponding, of course, to the Ten Commandments.

      If a Catholic politician publicly promoted, say, adultery or theft or rape or pornography, and supported laws/policies in favor of such sins, nearly everyone would be in agreement that he should be, at the very least, strongly criticized and then confronted/excommunicated. But abortion, because of the relentless propaganda supporting it (“choice” and “reproductive health” and “privacy”) remains “controversial” and “political”. But it is not controversial with anyone with any sort of moral core and reasoning, and it is only political first to those who put politics first, above law (natural and supernatural), ethics, and morals.

      • Mr. Olson, thank you for calling out distortion and deception on your website.

        Such rhetoric is not meant to enlighten.

      • You have proven my point. Relativism was denounced by Cardinal Ratzinger in his speech to the Cardinals before they elected him, as you well know.

        We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

        Mortal sins are just that. Latin, mors death. You completely ignored that salient point. You cherry pick “thou shall not kill” because it is an easy one. It has been the constant teaching of the Church that those in mortal sin should not receive the Eucharist unless if they have gone to Confession. This isn’t that difficult.

        • No cherry picking involved. You ignored my salient point: the public, active promotion of grave evils. If Joe Biden were publicly and actively promoting, say, adultery or slavery, then that would be the focus. But we all know that abortion/murder (and related ills such as contraception, sex-ed, gender ideology, etc) is the issue with politicians such as Biden, Pelosi, Cuomo, et al.

  10. Some bishop needs to be first to actually excommunicate someone and not only that, announce that Biden is prohibited from receiving communion from any church within their diocese should he ever visit.

  11. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. May every sinner on this planet attend church every Sunday and listen to the teachings of Christ.

    • And may those who are in a state of mortal sin because they are supporting and promoting murder have at least the grace not to receive Holy Communion sacrilegiously.

    • Were anyone advocating the stoning to death of Biden due to his unwavering, absolute support of infanticide your comment might have merit. You’ve exercised extremely poor judgment by engaging in moral relativism and turning a blind eye to his obstinate, numerous, public sins.

      “And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just?” Jesus Christ, Luke 12:57

    • Its the DUTY of the Bishops to speak out against clearly sinful behaviors.They are church leaders and that is their JOB. St. Paul had no problem “judging” and he had a history of persecuting the church, including complicity in the death of St. Stephen. After his conversion his past sinfulness did not keep him from speaking the truth. That secular society seems willing to give it’s “ok” to all manner of sexually related sins still does not make it right.Biden is not getting an abortion himself.He is trying to explain away the wrongness of it and he is no theologian.If someone robbed a bank would he be right in saying it’s ok as well?? Abortion is not a “private matter” when it involves the life of the baby who is being killed. Biden is giving public scandal from the largest platform in the world. Some Bishops with a spine need to call him out…REALLY call him out on the issue.

  12. These are the actions of a good shepherd not of a hireling. Is the bishop in our diocese a good shepherd or a hireling? Does our bishop speak the truth or does he remain silent? Does our bishop take a knee to the culture? This is a critical question for us Catholics in these sad times of confusion.

  13. It is my opinion that with EVERY word from defenders of the faith like Archbishop Cordileone, ‘clerics’ like Cupich and ‘catholic’ politicians like Biden and Pelosi lose just a little bit more ground – and they know they’ll never get it back.

    So they become more and more frantic.

    • Where’s the evidence for that? The only ground lost that I can see is the truth. Ten years ago we had a pope and bishops who were aligned … that’s gone. Ground lost. Ten years ago the pro-life message was gaining. No more. Ground lost. We finally got a president who understood the horror of abortion. Who did the bishops back? Yeah, ground lost. The only thing that might be left is an empty pro-life march (and with COVID that didn’t happen). No one missed it. Ground lost. Terence, I wish I shared your optimism, but reality is hard to shake off.

  14. I read this and Archbishop Cordileone’s full pastoral letter on this subject. Laying down concisely why “Catholics supporting abortion should not present themselves for Holy Communion” is a most important letter at this time, covering the following:

    SECTION 1: The Human Foundation Law and Science
    SECTION 2: Cooperation in Moral Evil
    SECTION 3: The Question of Reception of the Holy Eucharist
    SECTION 4: Catholics in Public Life

    particularly as a working group has been appointed at USCCB to discuss this matter, which if the normal pattern of “working groups” procedure is followed will result in an soggy sandwich. Not only will Archbishop Cordileone’s pastoral letter serve as Alka-Seltzer for a possible USCCB statement, it may help set a decent blueprint for the errant prelates, moreover, Catholics in general will have a proper guideline given by Archbishop Cordileone’s letter.

    I wish to acknowledge that Crusader pointed out “that Canon 915 does not say that someone who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin should not present themselves for Holy Communion. It says that Holy Communion should not be administered. The requirement is on the bishop and his priests.” So according to
    Canon 915 bishops and pastors need to exercise their responsibilities post haste.

    Also, as Archbishop Cordileone’s letter was happily presented on the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, Patron of Fathers and Families, neglecting the wound inflicted to fathers of aborted children could have been brought to light.

    In conclusion, thank you to Archbishop Cordileone for presenting this letter to Catholics at large and to CWR for including it here.

  15. Archbishop Cordileone has issued a very educative and meaningful pastoral letter. . Biden is playing mischief because in the heart of hearts he does not believe that the Consecrated Bread and Wine are the Holy Flesh and Precious Blood of Lord Jesus Christ.
    As the Church has the duty to teach, such pastoral letters are really good. The Church has no police power and so he cannot be physically handled. Reporting to the police is also not advisable as even some Cafeteria Catholics may join to create confusion and commotion in the church. Proper announcement should always be made about the worthiness required for the receiving of the a holy Communion. Even after that if Biden extends his tongue , let him receive and God will deal with him.

    • Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles

      Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
      Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

      4. Apart from an individual’s judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

      5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his 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.

      6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

      Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles | EWTN

  16. I agree Rene! Where are our church leaders? Why are we as Catholics not demanding answers from our bishops, archbishops and cardinals? The flock is weakened and losing hope. Our leaders are more concerned as to whether we’re wearing masks or getting the devils venom shot into our arms!! Throughout history saints have stood up to church leaders when they are sinfully wrong, where are our saints? The sheep need to be lions at this point. Thank you Archbishop Cordileone you have no idea how grateful I am to you, may God bless you abundantly.

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