It is the right, privilege, and moral obligation for political leaders of this nation to serve the citizens of the United States above their desire to serve any other organization, including their religious affiliation. And so, respect should be given to any leader who acts upon that service when it is in opposition to their personal religious beliefs. Many politicians claim to do this, usually without any personal ramifications from their clergy.
But it is the responsibility of clergy to defend our faith traditions and hold standards, even up to and including excommunication when anyone, especially a public leader, goes against the tenets of the religion. Often this is extremely difficult for clergy as they run a risk of governmental retaliation for public chastisement of a politician. For this reason, our prayers and accolades need to be given to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for denying the Catholic rite of communion to Nancy Pelosi “unless and until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion rights…”
Whatever our individual position on abortion, it is clearly forbidden by the Catholic Church. Going back to 1398, any Catholic who procures an abortion is subject to latae sententiae, or excommunication; and Pope Francis has declared that “abortion is murder.” Whether we agree or disagree with that theology, it is an integral part of the Catholic religion. It can be debated within the Church by its leadership, but at least for now, it is Catholic practice. If Nancy Pelosi chooses to violate this fundamental teaching, then she should be honest enough to admit that she is not a Catholic and be involved in a different church that accepts this practice rather than be a hypocrite. And the Archbishop’s response to her stepping outside the boundaries of her religion is both courageous and appropriate.
Cordileone is not the first Catholic clergy to stand for his religion in the face of politicians. Over two years ago, Father Robert Morey similarly refused communion for presidential candidate Joe Biden for the same reason. And other clergy have stood up to government words or actions that have gone against their respective religion, especially in the last two years of COVID-19 mandates. It is the responsibility of clergy to clearly stand in their faith and to serve their congregants through giving comfort when needed as well as by holding boundaries based on their religious dictates.
We desperately need more clergy of courage like the Archbishop in these chaotic times. As society loses values, it is more important than ever that clergy embody strong examples of their faith tradition. Dr. Martin Luther King once famously preached that the church “is not the master or the servant of the state; it is the conscience of the state.” Without leaders like Cordileone who stand courageously as stewards of their faith, the state will lose all sense of ethics and conscience.
Ethics are the foundation of compassion, and this act by Archbishop Cordileone is actually an act of compassion towards Pelosi. It forces her to be more self-honest: either she continues to support abortion and becomes honest about her Catholicism being a result of her birth and not her beliefs, or she embraces Catholic theology and desists from her longstanding unconditional support of even late term abortion. Either way, the Archbishop has done her a compassionate service in attempting to help her to be more honest.
I do not know the Archbishop, and we have very different personal theologies, but I pray for his continued strength and success in courageously defending his religion’s faith tenets. Even more so, I pray that clergy will once again vocally stand for the values of their religion. If more clergy had been vocal over the past two years, perhaps the Establishment Clause of the Constitution would have been honored and religious institutions would have served many more thousands of people in their time of stress and need.
Mazal tov does not actually mean “good luck”; it is a wish that the person should have “good constellations.” In other words, that all of life should support them in their journey.
Mazal tov, Archbishop Cordileone!
May all clergy remember their values and teach them authentically to their communities. And may we all demand courage and strength of our clergy so that religion can once again become the conscience of the state.
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