Pelosi meets the pope, receives Communion at the Vatican despite abortion stance

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Pope Francis, greets Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi before celebrating a Mass on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Pelosi met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and received Communion during a papal Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, witnesses said, despite her position in support of abortion rights. (Vatican Media via AP)
Pope Francis greets Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her husband, Paul Pelosi, before celebrating Mass on Wednesday. (Vatican Media)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and received Communion during a papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, witnesses said, despite her position in support of abortion rights.

Pelosi (D-San Francisco) attended the morning Mass marking the feasts of saints Peter and Paul, during which Francis bestowed the woolen pallium stole on newly consecrated archbishops. She was seated in a VIP diplomatic section and received Communion along with the rest of the congregants, according to two people who witnessed the moment.

The issue is significant given that Pelosi’s home archbishop, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has said he would no longer allow her to receive the sacrament in his archdiocese because of her support for abortion rights.

Cordileone, a conservative, has said that Pelosi must either repudiate her support for abortion or stop speaking publicly of her Roman Catholic faith.

Pelosi has done neither. She described the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade as an “outrageous and heart-wrenching” decision that fulfils the Republican Party’s “dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.”

And she has spoken openly of her faith, including at a diplomatic reception at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See on Tuesday evening to mark the upcoming Fourth of July.

Speaking to a crowd of ambassadors, Vatican officials and other Rome-based Americans, Pelosi spoke about the Catholic virtues of faith, hope and charity and the important role they play in the U.S. Embassy’s mission.

“Faith is an important gift. Not everyone has it, but it is the path to so many other things,” she told the crowd.

Pelosi met with Francis on Wednesday before the Mass and received a blessing, according to one of the Mass attendees. A photo released by the Vatican showed Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, greeting Francis off to the side of the basilica.

Francis has strongly upheld the church's opposition to abortion and said Wednesday that church leaders must “continue to care for human life.” But in his homily, Francis also instructed the new archbishops to welcome everyone into the church, including sinners, and to not “remain pinned to some of our fruitless debates.”

“So many times we become a church with open doors, but only to send people away, to condemn them,” he said.

After the Mass, Pelosi visited the Sant'Egidio Community, a Catholic charity close to Francis where she met with refugees helped by the group. At an event to award the charity $25,000 in State Department funding, Pelosi quoted St. Francis of Assisi about the need to preach the Gospel with actions, not just words.

“We had the pleasure of attending Mass this morning with His Holiness and many, many, many leaders of the church,” Pelosi said. “In the spirit of St. Francis, which is the name of His Holiness and my city of San Francisco, I thank you for preaching the Gospel, sometimes using words.”

While Francis presided over the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, he did not distribute Communion himself; Pelosi received the sacrament from one of the many priests who distributed it. From the time he was archbishop in Buenos Aires, Francis has rarely distributed Communion, precisely to prevent the sacrament from becoming politicized.

Last year, President Biden, another Catholic who also supports abortion rights, said after meeting with Francis that the pontiff told him to continue receiving the sacrament. Biden later received Communion during a Mass in a Rome church that is under the authority of Francis as bishop of Rome.

Pelosi’s partaking of the sacrament inside the Vatican during a papal Mass was even more significant, and a sign of Francis’ unwillingness to refuse the sacrament. Francis has described the eucharist as “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

Asked about some U.S. bishops who wanted to refuse Biden the sacrament, Francis told reporters in September that priests shouldn’t be politicians and condemn their flock but should be pastors who accompany the faithful with tenderness and compassion.

The Vatican has not ruled in a major teaching document on the specific matter of Communion and politicians supporting abortion, though the church’s in-house canon law says people in a situation of persistent sin shouldn’t be allowed to receive Communion. It has also issued guidelines for the behavior of Catholics in political life, exhorting them to uphold principles consistent with church doctrine.

In 2004, the then-head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — told U.S. bishops that priests “must” deny the sacrament if a politician goes to receive Communion despite an “obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,” including the sin of consistently campaigning for permissive abortion laws.

Ratzinger wrote a confidential letter outlining the principles to U.S. bishops in response to their question about whether to deny Communion to John F. Kerry, who was the Democratic nominee for president. In the end, the bishops ignored Ratzinger’s advice and voted instead for the policy currently in place, which allows bishops to decide themselves whether to withhold it.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.