Pope Francis sends ‘powerful message’ by elevating liberal Bishop over Archbishop who banned Pelosi from communion
Pope Francis (AFP Photo/Gabriel Bouys)

Pope Francis on Sunday sent the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) a clear and strong rebuke by elevating the Bishop of San Diego to Cardinal, just days after the Archbishop of San Francisco's repeated and very public attack against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone ten days ago banned Speaker Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion, one of the most sacred elements of Catholic worship, despite the Vatican's and the Pope's insistence the Eucharist not be politicized. Cordileone says he did so because of her pro-choice stance on abortion. But as Pelosi remarked, the Catholic Church has never banned anyone from communion for supporting the death penalty.

Not only did Cordileone, a right-wing activist who has refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, ban Speaker Pelosi from taking communion, he did so extremely publicly. Cordileone went as far as to post his letter to Pelosi on Twitter, calling her stance on abortion a “most serious scandal,” and a “grave evil.” He then appeared on EWTN, a Catholic news cable network to defend his decision, and even posted that interview on social media. Seven days after his very public rebuke of Pelosi, he again chastised her on Twitter, writing that she "has strong opinions on what the Church teaches but she is wrong. And that is part of why I had to act."

Pope Francis has made clear no one should be banned from communion, certainly not for political reasons.

“What must the pastor do?” Pope Francis said last year, The New York Times noted when a reporter asked him about another Catholic, President Joe Biden and his stance on abortion. “Be a pastor, don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.”

“I have never refused the eucharist to anyone,” Pope Francis also told reporters.

On Sunday, in that apparent strong rebuke against Cordileone, Pope Francis announced he is elevating a lower-ranking Bishop, progressive Robert McElroy of San Diego, to Cardinal, a position over Cordileone's.

"The choice of Bishop McElroy is the biggest surprise of this consistory [the council of cardinals] for the church in the United States," reports the Jesuit publication America. "A graduate of Harvard, Stanford and the Pontifical Gregorian University, Bishop McElroy has demonstrated that he is one of the strongest supporters of the pope’s vision of church among the American bishops since Francis appointed him to be bishop of San Diego in March 2015. By choosing him to be a cardinal, instead of others, Pope Francis is sending a powerful message to the American bishops and church."

In reporting McElroy's elevation, The San Francisco Chronicle adds that Cordileone has engaged in a "very public campaign against Pelosi and abortion rights as a whole — in October, he started digital and radio ads urging Catholics to pray to change the minds of Pelosi and other politicians who support abortion rights."

One year ago this month Bishop McElroy wrote in America, "The Eucharist is being weaponized for political ends. This must not happen."

He added: "The proposal to exclude pro-choice Catholic political leaders from the Eucharist will bring tremendously destructive consequences."