Archbishop Cordileone rebukes legislators' take on Communion debate

The annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021 Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

On June 23, 2021, First Things published San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s paragraph-by-paragraph response to the “Statement of Principles,” a document developed by 60 Democratic legislators in response to the U.S. bishops' vote to create their own Eucharistic document. 

Each of the Democratic signers of the statement is pro-abortion, and asked not to be denied the Eucharist because of their support.

Archbishop Cordileone’s rejoinder mentioned logical inconsistencies and practical contradictions in the statement, as well as theological errors contained within the “Statement of Principles.”  

To the point that Democratic members are “committed to making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor, disadvantaged, and the oppressed, protecting the least among us and ensuring that all Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country,” Archbishop Cordileone offered the rebuttal that “One of the ‘basic principles’ of Catholic belief is…[d]on’t intentionally kill, or collude in enabling others to kill, innocent human life."

“Catholic principles build systematically on one another. The protection of innocent, defenseless life is first and foundational,” he argued, pointing out the illogical nature of pursuing goods without securing the greater and more fundamental good that undergirds them. 

The Archbishop of San Francisco also pointed out practical contradictions in the statement. He noted that although the legislators profess “admirable words” on issues like reduction of child poverty and recognition of human dignity, these “Catholic members of Congress support laws that have the effect of destroying the natural family through marriage redefinition, no-fault divorce, and other similar policies" which exacerbate child poverty.

He further argued that “the broken family is a leading cause of poverty but it also results in a host of other social ills, such as youth violence, incarceration, and substance abuse.”

The archbishop also found practical contradictions in claims that Democratic legislators promote alternatives to abortion, such as adoption. 

Regarding the members’ professed desire for every child to be with a “loving family,” he said, “What does a ‘loving family’ mean when lawmakers redefine ‘family’ to be whatever consenting adults want it to be, reimagining the natural family out of existence?”

He also rebuked policies have the effect of “punishing adoption agencies that will only place children for adoption in homes with these kinds of parents”.

Additionally, he addressed theological errors in the document, including the need to consider the difference in kind and degree of various sins, and corrected a misrepresentation of the role of conscience.

“It’s hard to see this passage as anything less than evasion,” commented Archbishop Cordileone on the claim that the primacy of conscience can give a moral right to hold abortion as a good. “Conscience is not deciding what’s right or wrong for oneself. We don’t invent truth; we search it out with ‘the Church’s guidance,’ and then submit ourselves to it.

“Conscience is the faculty to know and do what’s right in concrete situations, whether we find it politically convenient or not.”

Finally, he refuted the accusation that bishops were beginning a “weaponization of the Eucharist”—a charge Cordileone vehemently denies.

“The bishops’ motivation is pastoral: the salvation of souls and reparation of scandal. There is nothing punitive in stating and restating the truth of Catholic belief, and its implications for an authentically Catholic life,” he stated.

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