After Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s archbishop said Friday she is barred from receiving the Eucharist, the bishop of the California diocese where Pelosi has a vacation home says he will uphold the prohibition when Pelosi attends Mass in his diocese.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington has not commented on whether Pelosi can receive the Eucharist when she is in the nation’s capital.
Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa told The Pillar May 20 he has instructed priests to observe the decision of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone when Pelosi attends Mass at the parish nearby her Napa Valley vacation home and vineyard.
“I have visited with the pastor at [Pelosi’s parish] and informed him that if the Archbishop prohibited someone from receiving Holy Communion then that restriction followed the person and that the pastor was not free to ignore it,” Vasa said in a statement provided to The Pillar by the Santa Rosa diocese.
Washington’s Cardinal Wilton Gregory has not responded to questions from The Pillar about whether Pelosi can continue to receive the Eucharist when she attends Mass in Washington D.C., where Pelosi and her husband Paul live while Congress is in session.
In the past, Gregory has expressed opposition to prohibiting Catholic politicians from the Eucharist because of the political positions, even on abortion.
In 2020, Gregory told journalists that he had no plans to prohibit Catholic President Joe Biden from receiving the Eucharist. The cardinal told Catholic News Service he wanted to develop a “a conversational relationship where we can discover areas where we can cooperate that reflect the social teachings of the church, knowing full well that there are some areas where we won’t agree.”
Gregory later told Religion News Service that he would not deny Biden the Eucharist over his position on abortion because “I don’t want to go to the table with a gun on the table first.”
During 2021 bishops’ debate over “Eucharistic coherence,” Gregory helped to organize a letter signed by more than 60 bishops, which urged the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference to drop the issue from a conference meeting agenda.
Several priests in the Washington archdiocese told The Pillar that when she is in Washington, Pelosi regularly attends Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, which is administered by the Society of Jesus.
The parish council of that parish released a statement in June last year, which said that the parish “will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it.”
The statement came amid a fracas over calls to see Biden, who also attends Holy Trinity, barred from the Eucharist.
In a highly unusual move, the parish council said that “communion should be viewed 'not as a prize for the perfect, but as a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,'" and added that “the great gift of the Holy Eucharist is too sacred to be made a political issue.”
The Church’s canon law says that Catholics who “obstinately persevere” in “manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. Bishops in the U.S. and elsewhere have argued the canon should be applied to Catholic in public office who advocate for legal protection for abortion.
Cordileone’s decision is not an excommunication, a formal penalty applied to Catholics who have been found to commit some specific canonical crime. Instead, the prohibition is regarded as a matter of sacramental discipline.
The Catholic Church formally teaches that abortion is an evil, “gravely contrary to the moral law,” and that any law “which would admit in principle the liceity of abortion…is in itself immoral.”