Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of Fresno, California. / Screenshot of Diocese of Fresno YouTube video
Denver Newsroom, Jun 8, 2022 / 18:01 pm (CNA).
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco was right to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to receive Holy Communion because of her abortion stand, Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of Fresno, California, has said.
In a June 6 letter addressed to clergy, seminarians, and Catholic faithful of his central California diocese, Brennan cited the need to show true concern for Pelosi’s soul and for unborn children and the need to protect Holy Communion.
At the same time, the bishop criticized what he suggested was “virtue signaling” on the part of some Catholic politicians who approach the Eucharist as an opportunity to demonstrate their “Catholic credentials” for “a kind of spiritual photo op.”
“There is more than enough hypocrisy to go around these days — in my own life too — but it takes some kind of immense spiritual hubris and hypocrisy to waltz up for Communion while at the same time publicly ignoring and positively working against essential Church teaching and practice, much less promoting something that is intrinsically evil,” Brennan said in the letter.
Saying that Cordileone “has taken a lot of heat, in and out of the Church, for standing up for what’s right,” Brennan said he wanted to write in support of the San Francisco archbishop for several weeks.
“He chose this course of action for her persistent stand in support of abortion and for her recent participation in an effort to codify into Federal law the right to take the life of an innocent, unborn child so as to enshrine that right in the law of the land,” Brennan said.
Pelosi, a prominent San Francisco Democrat, has persistently invoked her Catholic faith as a motivation for her abortion stand. She had pushed for major pro-abortion rights legislation to maintain nationwide legal abortion as a matter of federal law if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns current precedent established in decisions like Roe v. Wade.
On May 20 Cordileone said Pelosi should not be admitted to Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, nor should she present herself to receive the Eucharist, until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion. He said the step was “purely pastoral, not political” and said Pelosi had repeatedly rebuffed his efforts to reach out to her to discuss her abortion advocacy.
“The archbishop has done his due diligence and has made consistent attempts for a number of years to communicate with the Speaker about authentic Church teaching in this regard,” Brennan said. “In other words, like a good pastor, he is trying to lead her away from a very sinful situation. He is caring for her soul.”
Cordileone’s announcement prompted strong reaction from many political and religious commentators. On Saturday two groups of pro-abortion rights protesters with a history of targeting Catholic churches for demonstrations and even disruption protested outside of San Francisco’s Catholic cathedral and blocked parking spaces just before Cordileone was about to ordain two men as Catholic priests. You can read Brennan’s full letter below.
‘It is his job’
Brennan, without mentioning her by name, quoted Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of the television daytime talk show “The View,” who defended Pelosi and criticized Cordileone.
“This is not your job, dude! That is not up to you to make that decision … What is the point of Communion, right? It’s for sinners. It’s the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners,” Goldberg said in late May. “How dare you!”
Brennan said it is indeed the archbishop’s job “to teach, to correct, to admonish and, if necessary, to impose sanctions.”
“It is his job (everyone’s job in fact) to point things out to and charitably correct anyone who is in a sinful situation,” he said. “That is even more important to do when the person and the situation are so public, persistent, and brazen.”
Cordileone even has a role in helping guide Catholic politicians like Pelosi, the Fresno bishop said.
“Although it is not the archbishop’s job to make the decision for her to receive Communion or not — it is his job to make every effort to properly form her conscience. It is Nancy’s job to decide to refrain from taking Holy Communion until such time as she is reconciled to church teaching about the unborn and until such time as she desists in publicly promoting and advocating the protection and expansion of abortion and abortion rights.”
Brennan said he did agree with Goldberg’s commentary when she said “What’s the point of Communion, right? It’s for sinners.”
“Precisely!” Brennan answered. “Yes, Communion is not a reward for good behavior. It is not anything that we are entitled to in any way, shape, or form. Nobody is entitled to receive!”
This is why everyone, including the priest or bishop at Mass, prays, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
“Yes, the Eucharist is medicine for the sin-sick soul,” Brennan said.
“Something essential is missing in all this,” the bishop continued. “The problem I have with most abortion-promoting Catholic politicians is that they do not seem to be acknowledging the sin in any of this. Even if they somehow acknowledge the sin in the depth of their soul and their conscience as they approach the Eucharist, something which only they and God can know, they cannot publicly persist in the sin.”
The bishop explained that in the Sacrament of Penance, which is commonly known as confession, the penitent person must have “firm purpose of amendment.” The Act of Contrition, often memorized by grade school students, reads, “I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”
“If you are going up to receive Communion and have no intention of changing your heart, mind, and actions regarding these teachings, then you should make the decision not to receive Communion,” Brennan said. “Otherwise, someone may have to impose the sanction on you.”
Brennan said Cordileone’s action will have effects in other parts of the country.
“It is personally challenging, as it should be to every bishop in this beautiful country of ours, as this encourages all of us to engage in the same kind of dialogue with Catholic politicians in our own jurisdictions about these very same issues,” the bishop said. “That takes time, effort, and courage.”
He asked for prayers that the Holy Spirit will bless his own service in the Fresno Diocese and help him “be a better shepherd of souls for you and with you.”