November 26, 2022
Sen. Dick Durbin criticized Catholic bishops after San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone barred House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion due to her abortion stance.

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., spoke out Tuesday on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi being denied Holy Communion by her hometown bishop in San Francisco over her support of abortion.

“It’s very personal to Speaker Pelosi as it is to me,” Durbin said during a news conference Tuesday in response to a question from Fox News’ Chad Pergram. 

Durbin, who has not been permitted to take Communion in the Catholic Archdiocese of Springfield, Illinois, since 2004 due to his own abortion record, criticized Catholic bishops for weighing in on matters that he believes should be left up to individual conscience. 

“The decision of the Catholic bishops and the treatment of pro-choice Catholics is different in dioceses by dioceses,” he said.

“As a policy, they were poised to act for the entire nation, but then withdrew that decision,” Durbin said, referring to a debate last year over whether Catholic politicians who support abortion should be denied Communion. 

“I still believe that the authorities in the church believe we have issues that can only be decided by our own conscience, and not by some bishop’s conscience,” Durbin said.

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In April 2004, then-Monsignor Kevin Vann, who was pastor of Durbin’s Springfield church and is now the bishop of the diocese of Orange, California, announced that he was “reticent” to give Communion to Durbin due to his support for abortion. Multiple bishops in Springfield upheld this decision over the past 18 years.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads an event with House Democrats after the Senate failed to pass the Women's Health Protection Act to ensure a federally protected right to abortion access, on the Capitol steps in Washington, Friday, May 13, 2022.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads an event with House Democrats after the Senate failed to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to ensure a federally protected right to abortion access, on the Capitol steps in Washington, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Durbin opened up about his experience being denied Communion in Springfield last year in an interview with the Jesuit magazine America. The 77-year-old senator criticized “the individual decision of these specific bishops” who deny Communion to politicians over their support for abortion. 

“And I think that is fundamentally unfair. I don’t think anyone should be judged in that matter,” Durbin said. 

Durbin said he found a “new faith home” in the diocese of Chicago, “where they were willing to let me in and allowed my wife to join me.”

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San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced Friday that he would bar Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion due to her stance on abortion. “You are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” Cordileone wrote to Pelosi.

In a public “letter to the faithful,” Cordileone said he took the action “After numerous attempts to speak with her [Pelosi] to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking.”

The Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who have been excommunicated or who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Since President Biden’s election, Catholic bishops have debated how to approach Catholic politicians who promote abortion laws that appear to go against the church’s teaching that abortion is a grave evil

The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops in June 2021 voted to draft a document expressing the nature of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian, and released a statement in November. Though many speculated that the group would impose a policy restricting pro-choice politicians from Holy Communion, the final document on the Eucharist did not state outright that pro-choice Catholic politicians like Pelosi and President Biden should be denied Communion. 

However, the document did quote the authoritative Second Vatican Council in describing abortion, euthanasia, murder and genocide as “infamies indeed,” stating that “they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury.” 

The USCCB also reiterated that those involved in manifest sin are not to receive communion, and stated that “It is the special responsibility of the diocesan bishop to work to remedy situations that involve public actions at variance with the visible communion of the Church and the moral law.”

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Pelosi responded to Cordileone’s action on MSNBC Tuesday, saying that the pro-life movement is a front to undo other freedoms like contraception, gay marriage and more.

“I respect peoples’ views about that, but I don’t respect us foisting it upon others,” Pelosi said.