Here’s what to know about Archbishop Cordileone

Kevin J. Jones   By Kevin J. Jones for CNA


Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone attends the Mass and imposition of the pallium upon new metropolitan archbishops held by Pope Francis for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica, June 29, 2013. / Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, May 20, 2022 / 13:33 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco is in the news for saying that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat and professed Catholic, may not receive Holy Communion because of her staunch, obstinate political support for abortion.

The response of Catholic bishops to politicians who promote legal abortion has long been a topic of discussion. Cordileone’s action comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to overturn precedent that mandates legal abortion across the country.

Where is the archbishop coming from?

The 65-year-old archbishop has headed the San Francisco archdiocese since 2012, after four years as Bishop of Oakland across the San Francisco Bay. The San Diego native was an auxiliary bishop for the San Diego diocese for ten years.

It will be hard for Pelosi’s defenders to say he doesn’t know Catholicism. Cordileone’s educational background includes seminary studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, an undergraduate degree in sacred theology, and a doctoral degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Before he was named a bishop, he spent seven years in Rome as an assistant at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s “supreme court” on matters of canon law.

In Italian, Cordileone’s last name means “Heart of a Lion.”

While the archbishop is outspoken on pro-life concerns, he has also focused on San Francisco’s homeless population. He has offered a requiem Mass for homeless people who have died.

He has also focused on beauty and music in the Catholic liturgy, launching the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship in 2014. When vandals and protesters toppled statues of Catholic missionary St. Junipero Serra, he performed an exorcism at one vandalism site.

Is Cordileone’s move against Pelosi political?

The archbishop’s previous words on abortion politics declare a higher purpose:

“It is souls that are at stake, not elections. Lost sheep are to be lovingly called to return to the fold, not angrily denounced in the way that would imitate so much of the animosity of our political culture.”

As an authority, he cited Pope Francis, who reminds bishops “to think and speak as pastors, not as politicians.”

And in a letter to priests of his archdiocese explaining his action, he said, “I have been very clear all along, in both my words and my actions, that my motive is pastoral, not political.”

“This is simply application of Church teaching,” he added. “One would have to demonstrate that a person’s actions in following Church teaching is explicitly for a political purpose in order to justify the accusation of ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist.”

Cordileone previously gave Pelosi thousands of roses to try to sway her heart.

The archbishop led a pro-life campaign to collect thousands of roses for Pelosi. On the Dec. 12 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, campaign leaders placed 7,700 roses outside the U.S. Capitol.

“This is what equality means: Every human life is equally sacred,” Cordileone said at the time. “Speaker Pelosi, we love you. It is not too late: choose life.”

More than 10,000 roses were dedicated to Pelosi through the campaign, called “Rose and a Rosary for Nancy Pelosi.”

Why does the archbishop link the Eucharist to politicians’ actions on abortion?

Cordileone sees an “intimate connection” between reverence for the Eucharist and “reverence for human life where it is most vulnerable and defenseless,” as he explained in an October 2021 column.

“When politicians pontificate about abortion as a choice or even a human right, do we see beyond the rhetoric to the ugliness of what they propose: the deliberate snuffing out of innocent lives, each one of them unique, irreplaceable, and loved by God?” he asks.

People judge too much by appearances when they dismiss the humanity of other people, whether they are the unwanted unborn child or the homeless person.

“As political issues, homelessness and abortion are treated as separate things,” the archbishop has said. “But with the Catholic sacramental sense we can see that whether we are speaking of the unhoused or the unborn, the underlying issue is the same: Can we see beyond the merely material to the deeper spiritual reality?”

Has abortion has become a parallel religion? The archbishop thinks so.

At a January 2022 Mass for the Walk for Life West Coast, he said that abortion has become an inverted “blessed sacrament.” For some of its supporters, it has become “what they hold most sacred, the doctrine and practice upon which their whole belief system is built.”

This is why, he explained, “we see such visceral and violent reaction to any even minimal regulation of abortion in the law.”

Christians who back abortion rights, he said, have been “mindlessly co-opted by the new secular religion and its false blessed sacrament,” comparing them to the ancient Israelites who worshipped Moloch, an idol whose devotees engaged in human sacrifice.

“But there is only one Blessed Sacrament; to live as if there were two brings desecration of what is sacred on both fronts: the Bread of Life on the altar and human life in the womb.”

Cordileone and Pelosi have clashed on pro-abortion rights legislation

In September 2021 he had warned that proposed pro-abortion rights federal legislation called the Women’s Health Protection Act was “nothing short of child sacrifice.”

The bill aims to override prohibitions on “pre-viability” abortions and would also allow for late-term abortions without “meaningful” limits, the U.S. bishops’ conference has warned, calling it “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”

“A child is not an object to be thrown away, and neither is a mother’s heart,” Cordileone said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the answer to a woman in a crisis pregnancy is not violence but love. This is America.  We can do better.”

Pelosi sought to bring the bill up for a vote.

She was dismissive of her archbishop’s comments, saying, “it’s none of our business how other people choose the size and timing of their families.”

“The archbishop of the city of that area, of San Francisco, and I had a disagreement about who should decide this (family size and timing). I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities,” she said Sept. 23 in response to a question from Erik Rosales, Capitol Hill correspondent for EWTN News Nightly.

The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 218 to 211, largely along party lines. The same act faced a recent procedural vote in the U.S. Senate, where it failed to advance.

It is clear some influential Catholics don’t like Cordileone

Before he was named Archbishop of San Francisco, a longtime center for LGBT politics, Cordileone had served as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ point man on efforts to preserve legal marriage as a union of one man and one woman. In 2008, California voters had passed Prop. 8, which legally defined marriage as only a union of one man and one woman, though the U.S. Supreme Court later mandated that all states recognize same-sex unions as marriages.

In early 2015 he announced changes to archdiocesan high school teachers’ handbooks intended to clarify Catholic religious and moral teachings on several controversial topics, including religious teaching, sexual morality, and the ethics of assisted reproductive technologies. also proposed a clause to Catholic high schools’ teacher contracts outlining a ministerial understanding of their role – a proposal he later withdrew.

Some high school students, teachers, and parents publicly protested the archbishop’s proposals.

In 2015 a group of prominent Catholics paid for a full-page newspaper advertisement asking Pope Francis to remove Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, claiming that he had fostered “division and intolerance.” The archdiocese responded that the ad does not represent San Francisco Catholics and misrepresents the facts.

Among the signers was Clint Reilly, a businessman and former political consultant who is a past president of Catholic Charities CYO’s board of directors and has been a major donor to Catholic Charities.

Another signer, Brian Cahill, is a former executive director of the local Catholic Charities affiliate. He has been an outspoken critic of Catholic teaching on homosexual relationships.

Their ad also objected to Archbishop Cordileone’s selection of a pastor at Star of the Sea Parish who decided only to have altar boys and not female altar servers.

Some foes of Cordileone had hired Sam Singer of the public relations firm Singer and Associates to back their cause. On Twitter, Singer published or re-tweeted over 40 tweets highlighting the anti-Cordileone ad. In one of his own social media posts he contended that “everyone is praying that the Pope will remove the San Francisco Archbishop.”

Singer told the National Catholic Reporter he had been hired by alumni, parents, and their supporters involved in a dispute over Star of the Sea Catholic School, a K-8 institution connected to the parish of the same name. Cordileone had allowed the priests of the parish and school to set their own policy on various topics, including limiting altar servers to boys.

The campaign against the archbishop intimidated some Catholics who supported him.

Some did speak out, like Eva Muntean, an organizer of the group

“It’s truly astonishing that a group of self-proclaimed ‘prominent Catholics’ has become so self-absorbed that they believe they can demand that the Holy Father remove an Archbishop because he refuses to sacrifice teaching Catholic values to children in our Catholic schools,” she said at the time.

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  1. “Speaker Pelosi, we love you. It’s not too late. Choose life” (Archbishop Cordileone Kevin Jones CNA reminding us Cordileone means Heart of a Lion).
    Admittedly, I thought he carried on the roses appeal too long and should act, then retracted my criticism.
    He is every bit of a good, loving shepherd, seeking to coax the lost back into the fold. Now he’s made it official, she cannot receive the Eucharist.
    Cordileone, like many faithful priests has endured the ire, demands to Rome for his removal by the very sheep he loves. Like Christ he perdures. Now we wait to see what his Holiness will do. Will he dare abuse, attempt to shame Cordileone as he did DiNardo? Certainly, Archbishop Cordileone now has a host of iron mailed supporters.

  2. Shame on Archbishop Cordileone for publicly stating that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cannot now receive the Eucharist. Our country has decided on the separation of church and state. Speaker Pelosi votes and works for the people in our country. It is not up to the Catholic church, the Archbishop, or politicians to dictate how other people choose the size and timing of their families. I am a Baptist, and was baptized 74 years ago. I am for Pro Choice. My Jesus loves me and Speaker Pelosi just as much as he loves the Archbishop.

    • Congratulations, Mary: you, as a Baptist, know as little about Catholic theology, Church discipline, and Christian morality as many Catholics. And you are all wrong.

      Let’s make it simple: if Nancy Pelosi was a raging anti-Semitic Hitler lover, or if she believed slavery should be allowed in the United States, would you be singing the same tune?

    • Well, Hess….

      If you believe in ‘the separation of Church and State’ you would have no problem with Cordileone’s action as it directly addresses a grave PUBLIC sin known as Scandal.

      Why bother with the comment without a working knowledge of the Catholic Church and its theology?

    • This has nothing to do with the separation of church and state. It has to do with the fact that Pelosi is trading on her supposed status as a “devout” catholic to push the abortion agenda in public (and gather votes).Sadly, many catholic legislators support the abortion agenda without raising their religious affiliation in public.They are still in the wrong, but their situation is not as egregious as Pelosi’s and Biden’s public flouting of church law. Pelosi ( and Biden) chose to USE their Catholicism to buy a fake cover of legitimacy for their heinous pandering to abortion supporters. Any so-called christian who supports the murder of babies will one day have to account for their position before God. Almost NO abortions are carried out for health reasons, or rape or incest. Almost ALL of them are done because the baby is an inconvenience to the mother. I fail to see how any christian can justify this, or imagine Jesus would be fine with that as a concept.

    • Actually, Mary, the country has not decided on the “separation of church and state” as many (and you?) seem to misunderstand it.

      Yes, there is a misleading and therefore exploited letter in 1802 sent by President Jefferson to a group of Baptists (!) in Connecticut, where he refers to (your?) wall of separation…In the United States this hardened and very ideological phrase “wall of separation between church and state” begins to appear in two Supreme Court decisions quoting from the letter, NOT from the Constitution (Everson v Board of Education (1947), and McCollum v Board of Education (1948). The First Amendment establishment clause simply prohibits Congress from establishing (!) a religion.

      On the table or gurney today, finally, is whether the Supreme Court even a president can establish (!) the religion of Secular Humanism (now including the ultimate child abuse) by judicial and executive fatwa and force financial support from national tax payers. Or, whether this sorta (sordid!) things remains at best a legislative matter—neither executive nor judicial—and confined constitutionally to the individual states.

      As an aside, Jefferson inherited and then owned slaves from his wife’s side of the family, but with the last-will condition that they be emancipated at a rate they could handle transitionally into society, and within no more than five years. The Dobbs case emancipates unborn children from Pelosi’s dismemberment from society. (And, in our radically secularist society, perhaps some of them will even be baptized, but this is not established, not even by Cardinal Cardileone.)

  3. I do think we would do well to follow Abp. Cordileone’s example of clarity and charity in dealing with critics of his action.

  4. Shame on him for mixing religious beliefs with politics!!! I have been Catholic all my life but definitely do NOT agree with many of the so call doctrines. When I got divorced (against my will) all I could have done is donate a vast amount of money and the CHURCH would dissolve my marriage. 20 years since then – I have not chosen to remarry because that is what I was taught to believe. I have two children and both were unwanted pregnancies. I chose to have the children but this was my PERSONAL CHOICE. This is my body and I do NOT believe that any government or church person should tell a woman what to do with HER BODY!!! The church instead should advocate counseling for unwanted pregnancies which that is what I chose to do. Church and politics should be separated!!!!

  5. I completely understand the Church’s moral stance on life, but this is not moral, it’s political. He could have denied her communion without releasing the statement publically. Furthermore, the hypocrisy is palpable, is every Catholic who supports abortion denied communion? How about those that want to imprison the homeless or cut food stamps?

    I used to call it bigotry when people would raise the question of whether Catholic politicians could be trusted to govern because of the way the Catholic Church could use its power of denying communion or excommunication against politicians to influence them. This act just makes that position untenable. The Church should follow the teachings of Jesus and stay out of affairs of the state and tend to the affairs of the soul.

    It was once said by James Madison the separation of church and state was the best way to ensure the purity of both (paraphrase). This action has further tainted the church, though not as bad as cutting a deal with Hitler to support his regime in exchange for the right to educate German children or protecting pedophile priests.

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