Recently, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco made the pronouncement that the Catholic Speaker of the House was to be denied reception of the Holy Eucharist because of her support of abortion. Cordileone stated that the Speaker was not to be administered communion in his diocese “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.”
We should take a moment to examine this turn of events and what our proper reaction to it should be.
Does Archbishop Cordileone have this power? Yes he does.
It is the calling of the bishop to look after the moral and spiritual welfare of his flock. Sometimes this requires harsh measures at the discretion of the bishop. One of the most famous stories was involves St. Ambrose. Emperor Theodosius had ordered the massacre of several people at Thessalonica. Because of his role in the slaughter of these innocents, St. Ambrose decided to take action. When the Emperor approached the Cathedral at Milan to go to Mass, St. Ambrose stood in his way and informed him that he would not be allowed to receive the Eucharist until he had publicly repented of his role in the slaughter.
There is a parallel to the modern situation
While I avoid getting specifically political, it is clear that abortion is the murder of innocent life. Someone who is actively seeking to expand the legal right to kill the unborn is someone who is working to promote great evil. A politician who promotes the murder of innocent life stands in grave sin. Therefore there is scandal in such a politician receiving the Eucharist. This could lead to a great deal of confusion among Catholics as to the morality of abortion. And if you read most modern polls, there is a significant percentage of Catholics who support the killing of unborn human life.
So Archbishop Cordileone does have this power. But it must be indulged with great caution.
Denying someone the Eucharist is something that cannot be done lightly. It must be for the most serious of reasons. To be sure supporting the mass murder of innocent children is clearly evil. So on this count, the ban makes sense.
The second question should be what the purpose is of the ban. In other words, what is the end goal? The purpose, ideally, is that the seriousness of the situation will be felt by the offender and that this action will bring them to repentance. The ban should be reformative, to help the offender see the error of his or her ways. Above all, the purpose of the bishop should be the salvation of his lost sheep’s soul.
And yet, even if everything is right and just about the ban, the question becomes: what is my reaction to this?
Am I excited that a sinner is receiving discipline?
As someone who has been working hard and praying hard for the end of abortion, I have a strong frustration with Catholic politicians who promotes the murder of the unborn. I am ashamed to say that when I heard about a Catholic pro-abortion politician being held to account like this, my reaction was a feeling of vindication: finally the enemies of unborn life are being held to account.
However, I had to remind myself that there is great spiritual danger in taking delight in this. Perhaps someone holier than I would not have to guard against this, but self-righteousness must always be guarded against. The pharisees stood in judgment of the prostitutes and the tax collectors. And to be sure selling your body or cheating your neighbor is a sin. But the deeper sin lay with the pharisees who saw themselves as above the other “sinners.” They looked for sinners to be punished, not redeemed, as we saw when they brought Jesus the woman caught in adultery.
This does not mean the the Eucharistic ban is unjust. But even a good action should not be done from a bad motive. If I desire that those Catholic who promote the murder of innocent unborn children should be banned from Communion, then even more-so is my obligation to seek after their salvation.
Out of Christian charity, I too must look out for their souls. Am I praying for the soul of the Speaker? Do I desire for her good and her conversion and salvation? Or do I simply desire to see her punished for her cooperation with evil?
Abortion is one of the greatest evils perpetrated on this world. If cooperation with this evil becomes the dividing line in the sand for our bishops, then so be it. But we should do everything within our power to bring those cut off from the Eucharist into the full embrace of God’s mercy.
Copyright 2022, WL Grayson