San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Sunday shared a message to Catholics like President Joe Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi who have condemned Texas’s new abortion law: “You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings.”
Cordileone’s comment came in an essay for the Washington Post days after a new law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected went into effect in Texas. After the Supreme Court issued a 5–4 decision refusing to take up a challenge to the law last week, Biden and Pelosi both issued statements criticizing the ruling and the law.
Both Democrats are Catholics; Pelosi is one of the San Francisco archdiocese’s most famous parishioners.
On Sunday, Cordileone wrote of Catholics’ duty to challenge Catholic politicians who support abortion.
“This summer, we provoked an uproar by discussing whether public officials who support abortion should receive the sacrament of the Eucharist,” Cordileone wrote. “We were accused of inappropriately injecting religion into politics, of butting in where we didn’t belong.”
“I see matters differently,” he said. “When considering what duties Catholic bishops have with respect to prominent laymen in public life who openly oppose church teachings on abortion, I look to this country’s last great human rights movement — still within my living memory — for inspiration on how we should respond.”
Cordileone recounted how former New Orleans archbishop Joseph Rummel admitted black students to seminary, ordered an end to segregation throughout the archdiocese of New Orleans and the removal of “colored” signs from churches. Rummel also shut down a church over its refusal to accept a black priest and excommunicated several people who supported segregation.
“Rummel did not ‘stay in his lane,’” Cordileone said. “Unlike several other bishops throughout this country’s history, he did not prioritize keeping parishioners and the public happy above advancing racial justice. Instead, he began a long, patient campaign of moral suasion to change the opinions of pro-segregation White Catholics.”
He notes that Rummel’s excommunication of segregationists was not wrong or an example of “weaponizing the Eucharist” because Rummel “recognized that prominent, high-profile public advocacy for racism was scandalous: It violated core Catholic teachings and basic principles of justice, and also led others to sin.”
Cordileone said that abortion “kills a unique, irreplaceable human being” and that anyone who advocates, funds, or presents abortion as a legitimate choice “participates in a great moral evil.”
“The answer to crisis pregnancies is not violence but love, for both mother and child,” he said. “This is hardly inappropriate for a pastor to say. If anything, Catholic political leaders’ response to the situation in Texas highlights the need for us to say it all the louder.”
Cordileone’s essay comes months after the archbishop said that priests should deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic public figures who “are unwilling or unable to abandon” their “advocacy for abortion.”
“If you find that you are unwilling or unable to abandon your advocacy for abortion, you should not come forward to receive Holy Communion,” the archbishop told Catholic public figures then. “To publicly affirm the Catholic faith while at the same time publicly rejecting one of its most fundamental teachings is simply dishonest.”
“If their participation in the evil of abortion is not addressed forthrightly by their pastors, this can lead Catholics (and others) to assume that the moral teaching of the Catholic Church on the inviolate sanctity of human life is not seriously held,” Cordileone said. “The constant teaching of the Catholic Church from her very beginning, the repeated exhortations of every Pope in recent times up to and including Pope Francis, the frequent statements by the bishops of the United States, all make it clear what the teaching of the Catholic Church is in regard to abortion.”
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