San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Saturday that politicians who advance pro-abortion legislation cooperate in the “grave moral evil” of killing an unborn child and should not receive Holy Communion.
In his pastoral letter titled “Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You,” Archbishop Cordileone writes that “abortion is not a ‘Christian’ or ‘Catholic’ issue: the dignity of the human person is a value that is, or should be, affirmed by us all.”
“Abortion is the axe laid to the roots of the tree of human rights,” he states, “when our culture encourages the violation of life at its youngest and most vulnerable condition, other ethical norms cannot stand for long.”
In his four-part letter, the archbishop declares that as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which has brought about “over 60,000,000 deaths, and many more millions of scarred lives,” it is time for “a frank and honest reassessment.”
The publication of the letter follows news this past week of a forthcoming document from the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) on the reception of Holy Communion by pro-abortion Catholics in public office, occasioned by the election of President Joe Biden, a Catholic who has actively worked to expand abortion rights.
The archbishop highlights the importance of formal cooperation in evil, when a person wills the evil that is being done by another person and cooperates to help bring it about, something that is never morally justified.
“This applies clearly to those who willingly kill or assist in killing the child, but also to others who pressure or encourage the mother to have an abortion, pay for it, provide financial assistance to organizations to provide abortions, or support candidates or legislation to make abortion more readily available,” Cordileone writes.
With regard to the reception of Holy Communion, the archbishop notes that there are circumstances where this is morally impermissible, since receiving the Eucharist “is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly.”
While according to Catholic teaching any serious sin, even a private one, is enough to deter a person from receiving Communion, sometimes there is ongoing sin that is not private but public.
There are occasions when those in public life violate the boundaries of justifiable cooperation, the archbishop observes, which adds “an even greater responsibility to the role of the Church’s pastors in caring for the salvation of souls.”
“In the case of public figures who profess to be Catholic and promote abortion, we are not dealing with a sin committed in human weakness or a moral lapse: this is a matter of persistent, obdurate, and public rejection of Catholic teaching,” he writes.
Moreover, Catholics in public life “who participate in abortion or seek to advance it through legislation or advocacy” cause scandal, he adds, “precisely because these are actions of which many people are aware.”
For Catholics, scandal has a precise meaning, he states: “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.”
Prominent public figures help shape the culture and their advocacy of abortion definitely leads others to do evil, the archbishop declares.
“This must be stated with clarity: anyone who actively works to promote abortion shares some of the guilt for the abortions performed because of their actions,” he adds.
Such a state of affairs has two consequences, he notes, first that a Catholic in this situation should voluntarily not present himself to receive Communion, and second, that if this is not the case, the Church’s pastors should make sure he does not receive Communion.
“Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion,” he writes.
In the end, people have become to accustomed to the horrific evil of abortion, Cordileone writes, and no longer feel the outrage that such a tragedy should provoke.
“Indeed, when one looks directly at what actually happens in an abortion, it is hard to imagine anything more heinously evil,” he states.
And with “almost one out of five pregnancies in the United States ending in abortion, what we are witnessing before our very eyes is, effectively, a genocide against the unborn,” he writes.
In his letter, Cordileone also makes a direct appeal to prominent Catholics who promote abortion, among whom is the current U.S. president.
“To Catholics in public life who practice abortion or advocate for it: the killing must stop,” the archbishop writes. “Please, please, please: the killing must stop.”
“God has entrusted you with a prestigious position in society,” he continues. “You have the power to affect societal practices and attitudes. Always remember that you will one day have to render an account to God for your stewardship of this trust.”
“Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil — one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right — is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith,” he adds. “It is not.”
“Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith. We await you with open arms to welcome you back,” he writes.