Pelosi says she attended Mass in San Francisco church, despite city health order

shutterstock 557053642 1 Rep. Nancy Pelosi addresses constituents in San Francisco, 2017. | Kim Wilson / Shutterstock

After San Francisco's archbishop called on the city to reopen churches for indoor Masses, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he should listen to the "science," but admitted she had recently attended a church service in the city, possibly in violation of public health orders.

"With all due respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this," Pelosi told reporters at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

"I don't know if [San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone] was speaking as our pastor or as a lobbyist-advocate. But whatever it is, I am sure that he must have meant [reopen churches] if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people's health if they want to go to Church," she added.

Citing a recent Washington Post op-ed by Cordileone, in which the archbishop criticized the "unfairness" of a city health order that currently bars indoor religious services except for funerals, while allowing businesses such as gyms and nail salons to serve customers indoors, Erik Rosales of EWTN News Nightly asked Pelosi, a Catholic elected from a San Francisco district, for comment.

Rosales asked Pelosi on Friday, "Should churches in San Francisco be allowed to reopen with precautions?"

Pelosi's answer suggested she may have violated standing health regulations herself. The congresswoman said that she had attended church in San Francisco "recently, and I did receive Communion." She noted that she had to sign up in advance to do so, and "there were probably 12 people" in attendance, observing social distance, in a church that fit around 250 people.

San Francisco's guidance for gatherings currently says that only one person at a time is allowed inside a church "for prayer, individual counseling, to pick up, or drop off items."

The city's mayor London Breed announced this week that outdoor religious services with up to 50 people would be permitted beginning Sept. 14, but indoor religious services were still prohibited until Oct. 1, where they would be permitted with a cap at 25 people.

A June 29 cease-and-desist letter from the San Francisco city attorney to the archdiocese said that indoor religious services were not allowed, with exceptions for funeral services with up to 12 people or live-streamed Masses with necessary personnel present for the streaming. 

Speaker Pelosi's office did not respond to an inquiry from CNA as to the Mass she attended, whether it was a funeral Mass or whether it occurred before the city's health order.

Pelosi also claimed that "faith and science are sometimes counter to each other. Around here people say to me, 'you're a person of faith, why do you believe in science?'"

Science, she said, is "an answer to our prayers."

Pelosi, a Catholic whose district comprises much of San Francisco, has been an outspoken supporter of abortion and the redefinition of marriage. She has been endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League in 2020, and promised that "with the support of NARAL, we will defend Roe v. Wade" and support "a woman's right to choose."

Recently, Pelosi promised to withhold the Hyde Amendment from relevant spending bills next year-threatening to end a decades-old policy that has barred taxpayer dollars in the form of Medicaid reimbursements from funding elective abortions.

In June of 2014, Pelosi asked Archbishop Cordileone to cancel his participation in the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., saying that some supporting groups had pushed "disdain and hate towards LGBT persons." While noting that "[w]e share our love of the Catholic faith and our city of San Francisco," she said she respected the archbishop's "view" of same-sex marriage.

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In 2009, Pelosi told Newsweek magazine that she had "some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose," as well as "about the church's position on gay rights."

"I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith," she said, adding that "women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will."

In response, then-San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer wrote in a column that her statement included "some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom."

He wrote that it is "entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching to conclude that our freedom of will justifies choices that are radically contrary to the Gospel-racism, infidelity, abortion, theft. Freedom of will is the capacity to act with moral responsibility; it is not the ability to determine arbitrarily what constitutes moral right."

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