Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Archbishop Cordileone & Speaker Pelosi in Perspective

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | May 23, 2022

The last several decades have been frustrating for traditional-minded pro-life Catholics. Whenever legislators and legislation threatened the moral law, the American bishops were inclined to sponsor various prayer initiatives. Prayer became like a government program as bishops disguised their dereliction of duty in disciplining pro-abortion Catholic politicians by calling for more public devotion and more dialogue. The bishops were sending the sheep to protect the shepherds. Starved for faithful leadership, some greeted the USCCB initiatives with sarcasm: “Bartender, another round of dialogue!”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco may have changed all of that. In a personal letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the archbishop announced his decision to deny her Communion until she repents her public support for abortion. Pelosi had refused to speak with the archbishop on the issue for many months. Archbishop Cordileone concluded his letter with an assurance of prayer and fasting for her.

Example of kindness

Anyone who reads Archbishop Cordileone’s statement cannot but be impressed with his kindness, pastoral solicitude, precision, and evident hope for Pelosi’s conversion and eternal salvation.

Church teaching is unambiguous and provides the clarity we all need. Chesterton said, “I don’t need a church to tell me I’m wrong where I already know I’m wrong; I need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I’m right.” Jesus forgives our sins and offers peace of soul to all those who accept His yoke.

Reducing scandal

Moral scandal is not an emotional response. “The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.” (CCC 2284)

Many Catholics believe they can support so-called abortion rights, vote for virulently pro-abortion political candidates, and remain in good standing in the Church. They cannot. Archbishop Cordileone’s action reminds us that dissent from Church teaching has eternal consequences.

A profile in courage

Preaching the hard-to-accept teachings of the Church is not necessarily courageous—even when people walk out of homilies in anger. (Alas, a parish pays a priest his salary before the electricity bill.) St. Paul has a better understanding of courage: “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Heb. 12:4)

The Department of Homeland Security warns that radical abortion activists threaten to burn down or storm the Supreme Court building and murder justices and their law clerks once the decision overturning Roe v. Wade is released. The report also indicates these pro-abortion extremists will also target churches and other places of worship with violence and vandalism.

Amidst these threats and considering leftist rage, Archbishop Cordileone’s disciplinary action has come at the worst possible time—for him. Courage.

Ratifying the unpopular actions of lesser-known bishops

In 2018, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield (IL) barred pro-abortion Catholic Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) from receiving Communion. In 1996, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, warned Catholics of automatic excommunication for maintaining membership in several anti-Catholic and pro-abortion organizations.

These and other bishops did not risk life or limb. They suffered isolation and disdain from their brother bishops and the culture. Archbishop Cordileone’s recent action vindicates the prophetic voices of these lesser-known bishops from smaller dioceses and raises the bar in measuring episcopal leadership.

Restoring the dignity of celibacy

Most people reduce clerical celibacy to one phrase: “Priests don’t marry.” More than that, celibacy in itself derives from the virtue of chastity. Celibacy is a gift. The celibacy of the clergy allows priests and bishops to proclaim the Gospel in imitation of Jesus, with courage. The holy encumbrances of marriage and family do not bind (most) priests and bishops. A courageous celibate provides doctrinal air cover for Catholic troops on the ground. Clergy who fail to use their celibacy for the fearless proclamation of the Gospel become selfish comfortable bachelors.

Celibacy allows us to take risks for Jesus. Archbishop Cordileone has helped restore a healthy vision of celibate chastity to priests and bishops.

Reclaiming collegiality

Collegiality refers to the Pope governing the Church in collaboration with the bishops of the local Churches, respecting their proper autonomy. However, the “Synod on Synodality” gives collegiality a bad name. The cardinal archbishop of Luxembourg—the relator general of the 2023 Synod—is calling for the Church to change her teaching on homosexuality. The chairman of the German bishops’ conference and most of the German bishops also promote Church acceptance of homosexual behavior.

Archbishop Cordileone’s action has sparked spontaneous orthodox collegiality, restoring confidence in episcopal integrity. Bishops voicing their support include a growing list:

  • Bishop Donald Hying, Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin
  • Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Archdiocese of Denver
  • Bishop Joseph Strickland, Diocese of Tyler, Texas
  • Bishop James Conley, Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Bishop Robert Vasa, Diocese of Santa Rosa, California
  • Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, Diocese of Oakland, California
  • Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
  • Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield, Illinois
  • Bishop David Ricken, Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin

Restoring confidence in prayer

Perhaps the most significant consequence of Archbishop Cordileone’s action is restoring the proper perspective of prayers to the laity. Moses prayed for victory over the enemies of the Israelites with arms extended. As long as his arms remained outstretched, the battle went well. But as he weakened, his arms grew tired, and the fighting faltered. So Aaron and Hur stood beside Moses and held up his arms until Joshua defeated the Amalekites. Archbishop Cordileone gives us confidence that the prayers of the faithful do not diminish the duties of our shepherds. Our prayers sustain them.

Archbishop Cordileone and many of his brother bishops may have energized the beginning of the restoration of the Church in America—providing relief to world-weary traditional-minded Catholics searching for courageous leadership. With God’s grace, he refreshes our spirits in our struggle for our renewal and the transformation of the culture.

So prayers and a round of good cheer in honor of Archbishop Cordileone. “Bartender! Another round!”

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rosebch6919 - May. 25, 2022 9:17 AM ET USA

    Excellent article. Pertains to all of us in our daily lives How often do we as St Paul says “resist sin to the point of shedding blood” in our actions of ommision. Fear of speaking up kindly and truthfully in all matters of morals this is a call to all of us Thats what I get from reading this great article Thank You Father Pokorsky

  • Posted by: ewaughok - May. 24, 2022 7:15 PM ET USA

    So 10 bishops are publicly down with the denial of Communion to the scandalous, public defender of child murder, Nancy Pelosi… This raises the question of where are the other 262 bishops? Do they disagree or agree to deny Pelosi the body and blood of Christ? 262 other bishops!

  • Posted by: grateful1 - May. 24, 2022 6:46 PM ET USA

    It saddens me that Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, VA (my diocese) is missing from the list of bishops and archbishops who have joined Abp. Cordileone in speaking truth to power.

  • Posted by: CorneliusG - May. 23, 2022 3:38 PM ET USA

    The Archbishop's action is an oasis in a desert of cravenness and confusion.