House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rejects the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion, marriage, and sexuality, received Holy Communion on June 29 at a papal Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. The pope was in attendance, but did not give out Communion.
Pelosi's stunt was done to undercut her bishop, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone: he has told her not to present herself for Communion, citing her lust for abortion rights.
Some will blame the Vatican for what happened; others will blame Pelosi; still others will blame Cordileone. There is only one person to blame — Pelosi.
Archbishop Cordileone invoked canon law to deny Pelosi Communion, so there is no issue there: He is in total compliance with Catholic teachings. But given the autonomy that bishops have, those who oversee other dioceses are not bound by what Cordileone decreed.
Pelosi received Communion from one of the many priests who were distributing it; he obviously did not know anymore about her than he does the man on the moon. And unlike Cordileone, he never reached out to her, seeking to counsel her on this subject. So the two are not comparable.
The priest did what was expected of him — he gave Communion to everyone waiting in line to receive it. For all we know, non-Catholics may have received Communion at the same Mass. That doesn't excuse those who willfully exploited the sacrament.
So where does this leave us?
Pelosi waiting in line to receive Communion is akin to a murderer waiting in line to pay his respects to his victim at a Catholic wake. The analogy is poignant in more ways than one.
Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of nine books and many articles.