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Archbishop Cordileone bars Nancy Pelosi from Communion until she ends abortion support

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the U.S. Capitol on May 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (l), and Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone at St. Peter's Basilica on June 29, 2013, in Vatican City, Vatican (r). / Kevin Dietsch, Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 20, 2022 / 14:03 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced on Friday that House Speaker Nancy 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.

Cordileone said on May 20 that the step was “purely pastoral, not political” and came after Pelosi, D-Calif., who has described herself as a “devout Catholic,” repeatedly rebuffed his efforts to reach out to her to discuss her abortion advocacy. 

Cordileone said that he sent the notification to Pelosi, “a member of our archdiocese,” on May 19. The Democratic leader did not immediately respond publicly to Cordileone’s announcement after it was released to the media Friday afternoon. In a 2008 interview with C-SPAN, Pelosi said being denied Communion would be “a severe blow,” describing herself at the time as a “regular communicant.”

Cordileone's instructions apply only within the San Francisco Archdiocese. Other bishops have jurisdiction over such matters when Pelosi is Washington, D.C., and other dioceses around the U.S. and abroad.

In a May 20 letter addressed to lay Catholics, Cordileone explained that he issued the instruction in accordance with canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that “Those … obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone wrote in the letter.

Separate letter sent to priests

In a separate letter to priests of the San Francisco Archdiocese also released Friday, Cordileone responded preemptively to criticism that he was “weaponizing the Eucharist.”

He insisted that his decision was “simply application of Church teaching.”

“I have been very clear all along, in both my words and my actions, that my motive is pastoral, not political,” he said in the letter.

In the same letter, the archbishop described his repeated attempts to meet with Pelosi — who represents San Francisco, California’s 12th District, in Congress — since she announced in September 2021 that she would seek to codify Roe. v. Wade into U.S. law. 

He said that he wrote to the Speaker in April this year, “detailing the extreme position to which she has moved on the abortion question and explaining the scandal that it is causing and the danger to her own soul.”  

“I asked her to repudiate this position, or else refrain from referring to her Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion,” he wrote.

“I also advised her that if she refused to do this, I would be forced to make a public announcement that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

He said that he received no response, but contacted Pelosi again a month later when she described herself as a “devout Catholic” while explaining why she supported abortion, in the wake of the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court could strike down Roe v. Wade.

“In consequence of all this and all that has led up to it,” Cordileone told priests, “it is my determined judgment that this resistance to pastoral counsel has gone on for too long, and there is nothing more that can be done at this point to help the Speaker understand the seriousness of the evil her advocacy for abortion is perpetrating and the scandal she is causing.

"I therefore issued her the aforementioned Notification that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion," he wrote.

A long-running impasse

Cordileone and Pelosi have clashed repeatedly over abortion since Benedict XVI appointed Cordileone to lead the San Francisco Archdiocese in 2012.

Tensions rose notably in 2021 as the push to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision reached the Supreme Court and the U.S. bishops engaged in a heated discussion over whether pro-abortion politicians should be denied Communion.

In May 2021, Pelosi said that she was “pleased” with a Vatican letter to the U.S. bishops addressing the debate. She claimed that the Vatican had instructed the bishops not to be “divisive” on the issue.

In response, Cordileone said the Vatican was in fact promoting “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion politicians, “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart.”

In July 2021, Cordileone sharply criticized Pelosi after she cited her Catholic faith while defending efforts to permit federal funding of elective abortions.

The archbishop launched a prayer campaign in September 2021 aimed at inspiring “a conversion of heart” among politicians supporting abortion, “beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Cordileone urged Catholics to sign up for the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign, which delivered thousands of roses to the speaker as a symbol of prayer and fasting for the 82-year-old mother of five.

In October 2021, Pelosi met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Commenting on the audience, Cordileone said that “popes meet with everyone” and that the encounter didn’t signal a papal endorsement of the Speaker’s views on abortion.

Warning about reprisals

In his letter to priests, Cordileone acknowledged that his decision could lead to an increase in attacks on Catholic churches.

“Our churches are already being targeted for violence, and our worship services are being disrupted, which motivated me to send you the memo last week asking you to be more attentive to security measures on your property. These attacks may now likely increase. I realize this,” he said. 

“But for us, as faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is a cause for rejoicing, for the only reason this is happening is due to the Catholic Church’s consistent defense of the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, and especially at its beginning in the womb of the mother.”  

Cordileone continued, “I am convinced that this is a time that God is calling us to live the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven’ (Matthew 5:11-12).”

10 times Nancy Pelosi supported abortion while citing her Catholic faith

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks before a meeting with President of Finland Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson at the U.S. Capitol May 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. The leaders of Finland and Sweden are visiting Washington, DC and meeting with President Biden and Congressional leaders after the two nations submitted formal applications to become members of NATO. / Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 20, 2022 / 13:48 pm (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may no longer receive Holy Communion in her home archdiocese of San Francisco after publicly supporting abortion as a Catholic politician. The Catholic Church considers abortion — the destruction of a human person — a grave evil.

The archbishop of San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, announced his decision Friday after spending months trying to contact and meet with the California Democrat. His decision, he says, is a pastoral one and not a political one.

Over the years, Pelosi has defended abortion while citing her Catholic faith. Here are 10 examples.

1. May 15, 2022

Pelosi spoke about the likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Dana Bash.

“We'd rather have it resolved, rather than an issue for a campaign, because we're talking about a woman's decision-making, her family, her God, her doctor, her own decision-making,” she said. “So we have to fight the fight on the issue now. I think that it would have an impact on the elections. But right now, I want everyone to just focus, just focus on what this does and what this means to you.”

“And I say this as a practicing, devout Catholic: five children in six years and one week,” she added. “I don't disrespect people's views and how they want to live their lives. But I don't think that it's up to the Donald Trump appointees on the court or any politicians to make that decision for women. And I just do — I will just say what I have been saying for decades. Understand this. This is not just about terminating a pregnancy. This is about contraception, family planning.”

2. May 4, 2022

While speaking with The Seattle Times editorial board, Pelosi said, “The very idea that they would be telling women the size, timing or whatever of their family, the personal nature of this is so appalling, and I say that as a devout Catholic.” She added, “They say to me, ‘Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the pope.’ Yes I do. Are you stupid?”

3. March 22, 2022

Pelosi spoke about her support of legalized abortion and argued that the Supreme Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

“It isn’t about what is your religious belief,” she said. “It’s what is the right of people to make their own decisions about the sizing and time, or if they’re going to have a family. This really gets me burned up, in case you didn’t notice, because, again, I’m very Catholic — devout, practicing, all of that. They would like to throw me out, but I’m not going, because I don’t want to make their day.”

4. Dec. 2, 2021

Speaking about the Supreme Court considering its former decision in Roe v. Wade during her press briefing, Pelosi said: “As I say to my colleagues, ‘When you have five children in six years and one week, we can discuss this issue.’ That was great for me; that's not necessarily great for other people. And it shouldn't be up to any of us to decide what a woman and her family, her husband and her partner decides is right for them and their family and their future child-bearing possibilities. So, it's scary. It's really scary.”

She added, “And I say that as a practicing Catholic. Again, this shouldn't even be a political issue. Look at Ireland. Is there a more Catholic country? Look at Ireland and how they pass legislation respecting, respecting women, respecting women.”  

5. Sept. 24, 2021

Pelosi brought her Catholic faith as she expressed support for a radical abortion bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act.

“For years, radical restrictions on women's reproductive health freedoms have been pushed across the nation, with 2021 on track to be the worst legislative year for women's health rights,” she told the House of Representatives. “I come to this as a Catholic mother of five in six years and one week and with the joy that all that meant to us. But with the recognition that it was my husband and I — our decision. It was our decision. And we should not, in this body or in that Court, be making decisions for the women in America.”

6. July 22, 2021

Pelosi cited her Catholic faith while defending taxpayer-funded abortion at her weekly press conference.

“As a devout Catholic and mother of five in six years, I feel that God blessed my husband and me with our beautiful family, five children in six years almost to the day,” she said, adding, “it’s not up to me to dictate that that’s what other people should do, and it [funding of abortion in Medicaid] is an issue of fairness and justice for poorer women in our country.”

7. April 24, 2018 

While speaking to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Pelosi addressed criticism of supporting abortion as a Catholic.

“I know this is touchy on this campus — on all Catholic campuses. … And it’s an issue in the diocese,” she said. “But the fact is, God gave us all the free will [and] our sense of responsibility to answer for that. So I am a rabid supporter of a woman’s right to choose and a similar issue of the LGBT community, because they are connected.”

8. Jan. 13, 2016

In a comment responding to her opposition of a 20-week abortion ban, Pelosi cited her faith.

“Let me say this; I’m a Catholic, a devout, practicing Catholic. I take great comfort in my faith, come from a very Catholic family, largely pro-life. I’ve had five children and the day my fifth child was born, my oldest turned 6, so I’m with the program in terms of the Catholic Church. However, if there’s one issue that really — I try to be dispassionate about how we find solutions — if there’s one issue that really is almost inflaming  to women, is when politicians say we will influence the size and timing of your family; we will  decide what is right for you.”

9. June 13, 2013

Pelosi opposed a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation and said, at a press conference, that the bill was an effort to ensure that "there will be no abortion in our country."

"As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this," she said. "I don't think it should have anything to do with politics."

10. Aug. 24, 2008

When she was ssked when life begins on "Meet the Press,” Pelosi brought up her Catholic faith.

“I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time,” she said. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition….  St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know.” 

“The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose,” she added. “This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and—too—that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god [sic]. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins.”

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Catholic Church’s pro-life position has remained consistent from the beginning.

“In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine,” who taught that “we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God," the USCCB states.

Here's what to know about Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone attends the Mass and imposition of the pallium upon new metropolitan archbishops held by Pope Francis for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica, June 29, 2013. / Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, May 20, 2022 / 13:33 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco is in the news for saying that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat and professed Catholic, may not receive Holy Communion because of her staunch, obstinate political support for abortion.

The response of Catholic bishops to politicians who promote legal abortion has long been a topic of discussion. Cordileone’s action comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to overturn precedent that mandates legal abortion across the country.

Where is the archbishop coming from?

The 65-year-old archbishop has headed the San Francisco archdiocese since 2012, after four years as Bishop of Oakland across the San Francisco Bay. The San Diego native was an auxiliary bishop for the San Diego diocese for ten years.

It will be hard for Pelosi’s defenders to say he doesn’t know Catholicism. Cordileone’s educational background includes seminary studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, an undergraduate degree in sacred theology, and a doctoral degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Before he was named a bishop, he spent seven years in Rome as an assistant at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s “supreme court” on matters of canon law.

In Italian, Cordileone’s last name means “Heart of a Lion.”

While the archbishop is outspoken on pro-life concerns, he has also focused on San Francisco’s homeless population. He has offered a requiem Mass for homeless people who have died.

He has also focused on beauty and music in the Catholic liturgy, launching the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship in 2014. When vandals and protesters toppled statues of Catholic missionary St. Junipero Serra, he performed an exorcism at one vandalism site.

Is Cordileone’s move against Pelosi political?

The archbishop’s previous words on abortion politics declare a higher purpose:

“It is souls that are at stake, not elections. Lost sheep are to be lovingly called to return to the fold, not angrily denounced in the way that would imitate so much of the animosity of our political culture.”

As an authority, he cited Pope Francis, who reminds bishops “to think and speak as pastors, not as politicians.”

And in a letter to priests of his archdiocese explaining his action, he said, “I have been very clear all along, in both my words and my actions, that my motive is pastoral, not political.”

“This is simply application of Church teaching,” he added. “One would have to demonstrate that a person’s actions in following Church teaching is explicitly for a political purpose in order to justify the accusation of ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist.”

Cordileone previously gave Pelosi thousands of roses to try to sway her heart.

The archbishop led a pro-life campaign to collect thousands of roses for Pelosi. On the Dec. 12 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, campaign leaders placed 7,700 roses outside the U.S. Capitol.

“This is what equality means: Every human life is equally sacred,” Cordileone said at the time. “Speaker Pelosi, we love you. It is not too late: choose life.”

More than 10,000 roses were dedicated to Pelosi through the campaign, called "Rose and a Rosary for Nancy Pelosi."

Why does the archbishop link the Eucharist to politicians’ actions on abortion?

Cordileone sees an “intimate connection” between reverence for the Eucharist and “reverence for human life where it is most vulnerable and defenseless,” as he explained in an October 2021 column.

“When politicians pontificate about abortion as a choice or even a human right, do we see beyond the rhetoric to the ugliness of what they propose: the deliberate snuffing out of innocent lives, each one of them unique, irreplaceable, and loved by God?” he asks.

People judge too much by appearances when they dismiss the humanity of other people, whether they are the unwanted unborn child or the homeless person.

“As political issues, homelessness and abortion are treated as separate things,” the archbishop has said. “But with the Catholic sacramental sense we can see that whether we are speaking of the unhoused or the unborn, the underlying issue is the same: Can we see beyond the merely material to the deeper spiritual reality?”

Has abortion has become a parallel religion? The archbishop thinks so.

At a January 2022 Mass for the Walk for Life West Coast, he said that abortion has become an inverted “blessed sacrament.” For some of its supporters, it has become “what they hold most sacred, the doctrine and practice upon which their whole belief system is built.”

This is why, he explained, “we see such visceral and violent reaction to any even minimal regulation of abortion in the law.”

Christians who back abortion rights, he said, have been “mindlessly co-opted by the new secular religion and its false blessed sacrament,” comparing them to the ancient Israelites who worshipped Moloch, an idol whose devotees engaged in human sacrifice.

“But there is only one Blessed Sacrament; to live as if there were two brings desecration of what is sacred on both fronts: the Bread of Life on the altar and human life in the womb.”

Cordileone and Pelosi have clashed on pro-abortion rights legislation

In September 2021 he had warned that proposed pro-abortion rights federal legislation called the Women’s Health Protection Act was “nothing short of child sacrifice.”

The bill aims to override prohibitions on “pre-viability” abortions and would also allow for late-term abortions without “meaningful” limits, the U.S. bishops’ conference has warned, calling it “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”

“A child is not an object to be thrown away, and neither is a mother’s heart,” Cordileone said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the answer to a woman in a crisis pregnancy is not violence but love. This is America.  We can do better.”

Pelosi sought to bring the bill up for a vote.

She was dismissive of her archbishop’s comments, saying, “it’s none of our business how other people choose the size and timing of their families.”

“The archbishop of the city of that area, of San Francisco, and I had a disagreement about who should decide this (family size and timing). I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities,” she said Sept. 23 in response to a question from Erik Rosales, Capitol Hill correspondent for EWTN News Nightly.

The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 218 to 211, largely along party lines. The same act faced a recent procedural vote in the U.S. Senate, where it failed to advance.

It is clear some influential Catholics don’t like Cordileone

Before he was named Archbishop of San Francisco, a longtime center for LGBT politics, Cordileone had served as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ point man on efforts to preserve legal marriage as a union of one man and one woman. In 2008, California voters had passed Prop. 8, which legally defined marriage as only a union of one man and one woman, though the U.S. Supreme Court later mandated that all states recognize same-sex unions as marriages.

In early 2015 he announced changes to archdiocesan high school teachers’ handbooks intended to clarify Catholic religious and moral teachings on several controversial topics, including religious teaching, sexual morality, and the ethics of assisted reproductive technologies. also proposed a clause to Catholic high schools’ teacher contracts outlining a ministerial understanding of their role – a proposal he later withdrew.

Some high school students, teachers, and parents publicly protested the archbishop’s proposals.

In 2015 a group of prominent Catholics paid for a full-page newspaper advertisement asking Pope Francis to remove Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, claiming that he had fostered “division and intolerance.” The archdiocese responded that the ad does not represent San Francisco Catholics and misrepresents the facts.

Among the signers was Clint Reilly, a businessman and former political consultant who is a past president of Catholic Charities CYO's board of directors and has been a major donor to Catholic Charities.

Another signer, Brian Cahill, is a former executive director of the local Catholic Charities affiliate. He has been an outspoken critic of Catholic teaching on homosexual relationships.

Their ad also objected to Archbishop Cordileone's selection of a pastor at Star of the Sea Parish who decided only to have altar boys and not female altar servers.

Some foes of Cordileone had hired Sam Singer of the public relations firm Singer and Associates to back their cause. On Twitter, Singer published or re-tweeted over 40 tweets highlighting the anti-Cordileone ad. In one of his own social media posts he contended that “everyone is praying that the Pope will remove the San Francisco Archbishop.”

Singer told the National Catholic Reporter he had been hired by alumni, parents, and their supporters involved in a dispute over Star of the Sea Catholic School, a K-8 institution connected to the parish of the same name. Cordileone had allowed the priests of the parish and school to set their own policy on various topics, including limiting altar servers to boys.

The campaign against the archbishop intimidated some Catholics who supported him.

Some did speak out, like Eva Muntean, an organizer of the group SFCatholics.org.

“It's truly astonishing that a group of self-proclaimed 'prominent Catholics' has become so self-absorbed that they believe they can demand that the Holy Father remove an Archbishop because he refuses to sacrifice teaching Catholic values to children in our Catholic schools,” she said at the time.

What have popes and the Vatican said about Catholic politicians, abortion, and Holy Communion?

Nancy Pelosi. / Brian Birzer via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 20, 2022 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has instructed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not to be admitted to Holy Communion, should she present herself. In letters to priests and laypeople issued on May 20 explaining his decision, he cited papal teaching. 

Here’s what popes and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have said about Catholic politicians, abortion, and Holy Communion.

John Paul II

In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae, Pope John Paul II wrote: “In a democratic system, where laws and decisions are made on the basis of the consensus of many, the sense of personal responsibility in the consciences of individuals invested with authority may be weakened. But no one can ever renounce this responsibility, especially when he or she has a legislative or decision-making mandate, which calls that person to answer to God, to his or her own conscience, and to the whole of society for choices which may be contrary to the common good.” 

“Although laws are not the only means of protecting human life, nevertheless they do play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior. I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent person’s natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law.” 

“For this reason, I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.”

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

In its 2002 Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and approved by John Paul II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recalled “some principles proper to the Christian conscience, which inspire the social and political involvement of Catholics in democratic societies.”

It said that when legislative proposals are put forward which “attack the very inviolability of human life,” Catholics have “the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard.”

The note referred to John Paul II's reiteration in Evangelium vitae of the Church's constant teaching that legislators have a grave and clear obligation to oppose laws attacking human life, and added: “For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”

The congregation went on to say that “When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility. In the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands, Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person. This is the case with laws concerning abortion and euthanasia … Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death.”

Benedict XVI

Before he was elected pope in 2005, taking the name Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote a letter to the U.S. bishops.

In the 2004 letter, the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”  

“When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect …,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.’”

Benedict XVI was asked during a flight to Brazil in 2007 whether he agreed with the excommunication of deputies in Mexico City for supporting abortion.

He replied: “Excommunication is not something arbitrary but a measure prescribed by the Code [of Canon Law]. Thus, it simply states in canon law that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with going to Communion, where one receives the Body of Christ.” 


“Consequently, nothing new, surprising or arbitrary, has been invented. Only what is prescribed by Church law has been recalled publicly, a law that is based on the doctrine and faith of the Church, on our appreciation of life and of the human individual from the very first instant.”

Pope Francis

Months after his election in 2013, Pope Francis said: “In a frail human being, each one of us is invited to recognize the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced the indifference and solitude to which we so often condemn the poorest of the poor, whether in developing countries or in wealthy societies.”  

“Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection.”

In his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, he wrote: “When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities — to offer just a few examples — it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”  

“Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for ‘instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.’”

Speaking to reporters on a flight from Slovakia in 2021, Pope Francis said that “abortion is murder,” while urging priests to be pastoral rather than political when faced with the question of who can receive Communion.

“What should the pastor do?” he asked. “Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning, not condemning, but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor and he has to shepherd them, and he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness. The whole Bible says that. Closeness. Already in Deuteronomy, He says to Israel: What people have gods as close as you have me? Closeness. Compassion: the Lord has compassion on us. We read Ezekiel, we read Hosea, right from the beginning. And tenderness — just look at the Gospel and the works of Jesus.”

“A pastor who does not know how to manage with God’s style slips and he adds many things which are not pastoral. For me, I do not want to particularize [...] the United States because I do not know the details well, I give the principle.”

“You can tell me: but if you are close, and tender, and compassionate with a person, you have to give Communion — but that’s a hypothetical. Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he stops this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician. And you will see this in all the denunciations, in all the non-pastoral condemnations that the Church makes.” 

“With this principle, I believe a pastor can act well. The principles are from theology, the pastoral care is theology and the Holy Spirit, who leads you to do it with the style of God.”

Archbishop Cordileone tells priests that Nancy Pelosi Communion denial is ‘pastoral, not political’

"Those who live among us without a permanent home, then, provide us a powerful reminder that we are people on pilgrimage, that this is not our true home," said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone during a homily in a Requiem Mass for the homeless on November 6, 2021. / Dennis Callahan

Denver Newsroom, May 20, 2022 / 13:04 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone took extra pains Friday to explain to priests of the Archdiocese of San Francisco his decision barring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion because of her advocacy of abortion.

In a May 20 letter addressed priests of the archdiocese, Cordileone explained that his instruction is nothing but the application of the Church’s teaching. The archbishop addressed a separate letter to the laity.

“There are those who speak of such actions as I am taking as ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist.  However, this is simply application of Church teaching.  One would have to demonstrate that a person’s actions in following Church teaching is explicitly for a political purpose in order to justify the accusation of ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist,” the archbishop wrote. “I have been very clear all along, in both my words and my actions, that my motive is pastoral, not political.”

He added “that one can also violate Church teaching and take Holy Communion for a political purpose as well, thus ‘weaponizing’ the Eucharist for one’s own ulterior motives.”

Cordileone had notified Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a resident of the archdiocese, May 19 that because of her obstinate support for legal abortion she is not to present herself for Communion, and that should she do so, she is not to be admitted.

Cordileone’s instruction applies only within the San Francisco archdiocese.

The archbishop explained to his priests that since September 2021, he has made several attempts to have a dialogue with Pelosi about her support for legal abortion. His efforts, he said, were met either with no response or “that the Speaker was unavailable due to her schedule.”

“In consequence of all this and all that has led up to it, it is my determined judgment that this resistance to pastoral counsel has gone on for too long, and there is nothing more that can be done at this point to help the Speaker understand the seriousness of the evil her advocacy for abortion is perpetrating and the scandal she is causing. I therefore issued her the aforementioned Notification that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

His notification added that she may be admitted to Communion after having publicly repudiated her advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and having received absolution.

Cordileone pointed out that the law he is applying in this situation, Canon 915, is found in the book of canon law that deals with the Church’s sanctifying office, rather than in “Book VI, which is the Church’s legislation on penal law.”

“Thus, this is not a sanction, or a penalty, but rather a declaration of fact: the Speaker is ‘obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin’ (canon 915). A sanction, on the other hand, such as excommunication, has its own particular process and reasons for being applied. This is quite distinct from the application of canon 915,” he explained.

The archbishop went on to note that the promulgation of Pope Francis’ recent revision of penal law described “three pastoral motives that have also guided my discernment here: responding to the demands of justice, moving the offending party to conversion, and repairing the scandal caused.”

He observed that “Pope Francis’ purpose in issuing this revision of the Church’s canonical legislation on penal sanctions is clearly motivated in large part by the commitment to insuring the integrity of the Church’s sacramental life.”

“It is for this reason,” he added, “that there is now a canon which punishes by suspension, to which other penalties can be added, one who ‘administers a sacrament to those who are prohibited from receiving it.’”

Cordileone added that his decision had not been made lightly, but is “the fruit of years of prayer, fasting and consultation with a broad spectrum of Church leaders whom I respect for their intelligence, wisdom and pastoral sensitivity, and it continues my efforts to invite the Speaker down the path of conversion.”

With regard to the sanctity of life the Church is in a spiritual battle, he maintained: “It is not poetic rhetoric to call the proliferation of abortion demonic.”

Because of this, he asked of his priests three things: to preach about the topic; to promote living the consecration of the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to pray the St. Michael prayer after Mass.

“This is no time to be intimidated into silence,” he urged. “Do not dodge addressing the grave evil of abortion, but do so, obviously, with great pastoral sensitivity, recognizing that many of your people in the pews listening to you have been personally affected by this terrible scourge.”

Cordileone added that the archdiocese is “fully committed to assisting women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies, both during the pregnancy and for years after the birth of the child.”

“Ask your parishioners to help in our efforts as a Catholic people to be truly pro-life: both pro-child and pro-woman,” he exhorted the priests.

The archbishop recommended the following ways to live out the consecration to the Immaculate Heart: pray the rosary daily; fast on Fridays and perform other acts of penance; go to confession more frequently; and regularly adore the Blessed Sacrament.

“In closing, allow me to observe that what we are facing in this particular moment of history is a powerful reminder to us that the Priesthood is not for the faint-hearted. Of course, it never was.  But for a long time, up until recently, we lived in a society that allowed us to imagine that it was.  Let us not fool ourselves any longer,” he said.

“And know how deeply grateful I am to you,” he concluded, “for being with your people, shepherding them, challenging them, and leading them to the green pastures that are deeper life in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Oklahoma Catholic high school sued for $75M over alleged sex abuse 

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 19:28 pm (CNA).

Ten current and former students, along with six parents or guardians, are suing a Catholic high school in Oklahoma — a school that they allege “fostered and allowed a rape culture” and “tolerated sexual harrassment and assault” by male students, teachers, and coaches for more than 10 years, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, filed May 16 in Oklahoma County District Court, lists Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City as a defendant. It also lists those who have authority over the school: the board of trustees, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and the Sisters of Mercy.

The suit accuses three school leaders, who have since resigned, of playing a central role in the “commission of the assault and harassment” and covering it up: former principal Talita DeNegri, assistant principal Wendy Faires, and guidance counselor Mallory Tecmire.

“Despite being on actual and constructive notice of hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and harrassment … MSM [Mount St. Mary’s] did not take reasonable steps to report or stop the rampant rape culture and ongoing sexual abuse that lay just beneath the surface,” the lawsuit reads. “Rather, MSM shamed women and girls who reported, including the Student Plaintiffs and other victims, and allowed men and boys to continue harassing and assaulting women and girls, including the Student Plaintiffs.”

The lawsuit alleges a breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, discrimination on the basis of sex and hostile educational environment harassment, public nuisance, and slander. Plaintiffs are seeking more than $75 million in damages.

One male student who attended the high school from 2017 to 2022 — identified as “X.R.” — is accused in the complaint of raping or assaulting numerous women, including three of the plaintiffs. One woman accused him of groping and kissing her while she was driving, the complaint states, while another said he assaulted her in a dark classroom.

Mount St. Mary leaders learned of these incidents, the lawsuit alleges, but did nothing about X.R. until news media reported on sexual abuse allegations at the school. X.R. has been or will be criminally charged, the lawsuit claims.

In response to the lawsuit, Mount St. Mary’s shared a statement with CNA from the school’s incoming principal, Laura Cain. 

“I have been made aware of the lawsuit but am unable to comment on pending legal situations,” Cain, who will serve as principal beginning on July 1, said. “What I can speak to is the confidence I have in the direction of Mount St. Mary Catholic High School. As an alumna and former parent, I know the pain our school's community has faced over the last six months. We must ensure that we maintain a compassionate environment where students can grow and excel. Our future provides an opportunity to not only educate, but to improve.”

In a statement, the Sisters of Mercy responded that they “have not received a complaint at this time and so we cannot comment on the lawsuit.”

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City did not respond with comment by time of publication.

When the archdiocese learned of the allegations last year, the staff contacted police, said Page Hauser, the archdiocese’s safe environment coordinator, the Associated Press reported. 

“They also worked with the governing board at the school to hire an independent investigator to look into the allegations, resulting in the resignation of three staff members,” Hauser said in a statement Wednesday.

'Br. Martin,' self-described monk with large Twitter following, says he won't heed bishop's warning

Martin Navarro, a layman and founder of the group the Oblates of St. Augustine, is refusing to obey his bishop's demands that he no longer fundraise, identify himself as "brother," dress in a habit, and construct a chapel in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. / Screenshot from YouTube video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

A social media-savvy layman, who uses the title “Brother” and wears a habit, will not obey his bishop’s orders to cease presenting himself as a religious brother or member of a religious community. 

Nor will Martin Navarro  — whose “Br. Martin” Twitter account has more than 11,000 followers — acquiesce to Bishop James Johnston’s demands to stop fundraising in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and cease building an unauthorized chapel. 

“We're following the rules, we're following the guidelines, as well as being honest as who we are and what our intentions are,” Navarro said in a YouTube video posted May 17.

As to his practice of wearing a habit, he said, “it’s a free country, so to speak; you can wear whatever you want.”

Navarro, 31, has asked Johnston to formally recognize a Traditional Latin Mass religious group Navarro started called the Oblates of St. Augustine. 

Johnston denied the request. He also ordered the group to cease operating in the diocese.

The bishop issued the demands in a letter dated May 6 addressed to Navarro. Navarro made the letter public in the same YouTube video from May 17.

“I have not given nor will give approval or permission to explore, found, or establish the community about which you have previously inquired,” Johnston stated in the letter.

“I further direct that you do not use the religious title of ‘Brother Martin’ at any time nor dress in a religious habit, since in justice and truth, your canonical status is not one of membership within a religious community, such continued usage is both disingenuous and dishonest,” he added.

Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph. CNA
Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph. CNA

Johnston reiterated his demands “in order to emphasize the seriousness of my warning and prohibitions” at the end of the letter.

“I reiterate what I have made eminently clear above: do not call yourself ‘Brother,’ do not continue to present yourself within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in any manner or means, including by wearing a religious habit, as a Brother or as a member of a religious community, do not ask for any funds or alms within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph whether in person or on the Internet or other social media formats, and do not utilize an unapproved chapel within the Diocese of Kansas City St. Joseph,” he stated.

“Your request of me regarding your proposed formation of Oblates of Saint Augustine is, therefore, denied.”

Church law at issue

Navarro told CNA on May 18 that he will not comply with Johnston's orders.

The Oblates of St. Augustine community he leads is based in Weston, Missouri, a small town about a 40-minute drive north of Kansas City. It’s unclear how many men are in the group. Speaking to CNA, Navarro would only say that since founding the Oblates in 2020, “I’ve never been alone.”

The Oblates’ website describes the group as a “community of Traditional Roman Catholic men, faithful to the Traditional Roman Rite, the Holy Rule of St. Augustine, and the traditional formulations of the Catholic religion.” The group says it is devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass and breviary.

Navarro said the group is currently living on property leased to them by Mike Parrott, the host of a YouTube channel called Restoring the Faith Media. The group’s chapel in a converted garage already is under construction on the property, and nearing completion. Navarro told CNA the group has raised more than $161,000 for the monastery project. A separate funding drive accepts donations for the group members' living expenses.

Navarro’s “Br. Martin” Twitter account often tweets comments concerning an ongoing dispute between Parrott and the Church Militant media outlet which began over Parrott’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Father James Jackson, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who is facing federal child pornography charges in Rhode Island.

In his letter, Johnston cited several canons, as well as Pope Francis’ 2020 motu proprio Authenticum charismatis, to support his authority over the group’s activities in his diocese.

Johnston warned that “failure to observe these provisions … could result in further disciplinary actions. Accordingly, this letter itself stands as due canonical warning of the same.”

Navarro, for his part, says Johnston is misinterpreting church law, and using it “to intimidate us from praying.”

Asked to respond to Navarro’s intention to defy Johnston, Ashlie Hand, communications director for the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, issued a statement to CNA Thursday night.

“Bishop Johnston has communicated appropriate guidance and next steps with Mr. Navarro regarding his request to establish the Oblates of St. Augustine in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph," Hand said. "Bishop Johnston intends any further communication to be private."

US bishops welcome Biden administration's easing of Cuba sanctions

Demonstrations in Havana against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, July 11, 2021. / Domitille P/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ chairman on international justice and peace on Thursday lauded the government’s decision to ease sanctions on Cuba. 

“We commend the Administration’s renewed interest in restarting U.S. engagement with Cuba. Recognizing that points of contention remain between our two countries, Cuba’s punitive isolation has not produced the economic and social change that the United States has sought to effect,” Bishop David Malloy of Rockford said May 19.

The Biden administration announced earlier this week that caps on family remittances sent to Cuba will be lifted, gifts to non-family members will be allowed, family reunification programs will be restarted, and travel to the island will be be more readily available.               

“The expansion of travel opportunities for U.S. citizens, as well as the lifting of onerous remittance limitations, will strengthen familial, economic, and social ties between our countries. Cuba’s developing civil society and private sector depend on the leadership provided by active U.S. civil society engagement in Cuba,” Malloy commented.

“The U.S. bishops, including the Cuban-American bishops, in conjunction with the Holy See and the bishops of Cuba, continue to stress the vital importance of bilateral engagement and mutually beneficial trade relations between the United States and Cuba as the key to transformative change on the island,” he said.

Official relations between the U.S. and Cuba were severed shortly after communist rule on the island was established in 1959, and the U.S. imposed an an embargo on travel and trade.

The Obama administration began making small changes to these policies in 2009, and restored diplomatic relations, but many of the changes were reversed under the administration of Donald Trump.

Protests took place across Cuba in July 2021 over concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and thousands were arrested. Many demonstrators remain imprisoned.

Several U.S. lawmakers have opposed the easing of sanctions announced by the Biden administration.

“The Biden White House is rewarding the Western Hemisphere’s longest ruling communist dictatorship with high level talks, easing sanctions, increased travel, and access to U.S. financial institutions,” read a May 16 joint statement from Senator Marco Rubio and four other senators, who were joined by five House members. “Appeasing Cuba’s murderous regime … undercuts America’s support for Cuba’s democratic opposition.”

For sexual abuse victims in Santa Fe archdiocese, $122 million settlement a 'next step'

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, N.M. / Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 18, 2022 / 16:42 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has agreed on a $121.5 million bankruptcy settlement to provide compensation for hundreds of sexual abuse victims, the archdiocese announced Tuesday.

“The Church takes very seriously its responsibility to see the survivors of sexual abuse are justly compensated for the suffering they have endured,” Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said May 17. “It is our hope that this settlement is the next step in the healing process of those who have been harmed.”

The alleged sexual abuse victims involved in the settlement number more than 370, and some incidents of abuse date back more than 60 years, KOB 4 News reports. When the archdiocese first filed for bankruptcy in November 2018, it faced only 35 to 40 active claims.

“We in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe never cease to keep those who have been harmed by sexual abuse our first priority. We must keep our children safe; it is a responsibility we all share,” Wester said.

“It is our sincere hope that all parties will see the wisdom of the settlement and help bring the bankruptcy case to a conclusion for the good of the survivors of sexual abuse, the good of the Church, and Catholics throughout the archdiocese,” he said.

There were a total of six mediation efforts before the settlement was reached. The bankruptcy plan of the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 reorganization will be filed with the bankruptcy court.

Settlement funds will not pay for the archdiocese’s attorney fees and other expenses, which will be paid from separate funds.

The settlement will be funded by the archdiocese, its parishes, other Catholic entities, and the insurance carriers of the archdiocese. Parishes have collectively agreed to contribute “significant amounts” to help fund the settlement plan.

“These contributions will also help relieve them of potential individual financial burdens from any current or future lawsuits,” the archdiocese said. “Other parties have also agreed to contribute in return for the same protections.”

According to the archdiocese, the settlement includes “many critical non-monetary actions,” including the creation of an archive documenting sex abuse, prayer services, and meetings with victims of sexual abuse.

“The archdiocese hopes that these and other positive steps will help to bring healing to survivors of sexual abuse and the larger community,” its statement said.

One alleged abuse victim, identified only as Ana, told KOB 4 News she was sexually abused for all of seventh grade and part of eighth grade.

“It’s just all very traumatic,” she said of her abuse. “I don’t know that there would ever be an amount that would make that better or worth it because I can’t speak for anybody but myself. I would have done anything to not have survived that, and just have had a regular middle school experience.”

She said she has gone through years of legal mediation and has had to revisit her trauma in legal proceedings. In her view, this needed to happen so that she and other abuse survivors could move on.

“I need peace,” she told KOB 4 News. “I need closure, and I need to know that in some way, that it’s been settled.”

The archdiocese said it “remains vigilant” and has maintained a “zero tolerance” policy towards sex abuse for over 25 years. It follows the child protection procedures of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including background checks for prospective employees and “regular and frequent” safe environment training for every employee and volunteer.

“This is to provide a safe environment for the young people in the Catholic community,” the archdiocese said.

In 2021, the archdiocese aimed to sell off over 700 properties to help pay off settlements. Most properties were small vacant lots, fields, or grazing land donated to the archdiocese by families.

In August 2020, the archdiocese listed the vacant St. Francis Cathedral School in downtown Santa Fe for $3.6 million. It sold for $4.75 million in June 2021 to former golf pro Racquel Huslig, who is now a real estate developer, The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported last year.

Last year’s annual report by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, covering the time period from July 2019 through June 2020, found that there were under two dozen recent cases of abuse reported, only about 25% of which had been substantiated so far. At the same time, over 4,200 new allegations of historic abuse were reported, concerning victims who are now legal adults and incidents years or decades ago.

Statistical graphs of the dates of reported abuse incidents continued to show a bell curve that peaks in the 1970s. The report said that since 2014, total costs to U.S. dioceses related to responding to sexual abuse claims, including settlements and attorneys’ fees, were close to $312 million.

TikTok lifts ban on Ruth Sent Us. Here's what we know about this anti-Catholic group

Pamela Smith dressed as characters of "The Handmaids Tale" walks with a noose around her neck as she joins pro-choice protesters gather in large numbers in front of the federal building to defend abortion rights in San Francisco on May 3, 2022. / Nick Otto/AFP via Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, May 18, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

TikTok's "permanent" ban on the anti-Catholic, pro-abortion group Ruth Sent Us didn't last very long.

The activist group in recent weeks has made headlines for coordinating protests outside the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices, rallying demonstrators to disrupt Catholic Masses on Mother’s Day, and threatening to burn the Eucharist.

On May 14 the group’s main account was “permanently banned" from TikTok "due to multiple violations of terms of service,” according to a message on the social media platform.

But two days later, Ruth Sent Us announced that the ban was lifted.

“GREAT NEWS: our TikTok @ruthsent which was ‘permanently banned’ due to mass reporting is back up due to mass appeals! There’s more of us than them. Take that, haters!” the group tweeted. TikTok has yet to explain the ban, or its rapid reversal.

Unlike NARAL Pro-Choice America, Women’s March, and other better-known, well-funded abortion rights groups, Ruth Sent Us has no publicly known leaders, spokespersons, or financial backers. Its low-budget website, RuthSent.Us, is little more than a bare-bones homepage with a handful of links.

Yet the group’s inflammatory rhetoric and provocative, theatrical tactics have thrust it into the forefront of the media’s coverage of the furor surrounding a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the U.S.

And the Catholic Church is one of its prime targets.

On Feb. 27 — months before the May 2 leak of a draft opinion that suggested Supreme Court justices were poised to overturn Roe — Ruth Sent Us took responsibility for disrupting Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. Demonstrators wore hooded red gowns inspired by the television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Similarly dressed demonstrators disrupted Mass on Mother's Day, May 8, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, but Ruth Sent Us has not taken responsibility for that incident. 

The group contends that the Supreme Court is “extremist” and should be held accountable “using a diversity of tactics.” It demands that pro-abortion rights Catholics, including President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, engage in further activism or legislation to preserve legal abortion. On its social media, the group frequently rails against Catholicism and “Christian Fascism.” Some of its coalition partners also embrace “anti-fascism” and protests outside of churches.

Here’s a closer look behind the group.

Who is Ruth Sent Us?

“Ruth Sent Us” has a social media presence on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. The group promotes protests of political figures, judges and organizations, including churches, which oppose legal abortion or the Roe v. Wade decision.

The group is part of a coalition of like-minded pro-abortion rights groups that aims to rally protests in support of Roe and other pro-abortion rights precedents which mandate legal abortion nationwide.

Its webpage RuthSent.Us lists no identifying information about its leadership. While it lists an email address, the group has no mailing address. Instead, it refers visitors to a pro-abortion rights action called “Strike for Choice,” set for May 8-15. Ruth Sent Us is one of 12 groups backing this action.

There are no indications whether Ruth Sent Us is a registered business or a registered non-profit or whether it has an official fiscal sponsor.

What else do we know?

A WhoIs webpage registration shows that the Ruth Sent Us website was set up in November 2020 and has a Palo Alto, California-based post office box. The RuthSent.Us web domain name is registered to an individual named Sam Spiegel.

Spiegel’s Twitter profile mentions direct democracy mass mobilization strategy “to jam media with vigil and protest stories.” His Twitter page links to Vigil for Democracy, a self-described “mass mobilizing” group whose Twitter account shares Ruth Sent Us tweets to its 5,000 or so followers.

People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images
People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

The Vigil for Democracy is presently an LLC with a Phoenix, Arizona mailing address, but business records show it once had the same California post office box as Ruth Sent Us.

The web registration for the Ruth Sent Us protest group uses the same email as Vigil for Democracy.

The costumed protesters’ web page embedded a Google map of “extremist justices” created by the Vigil for Democracy group to list the streets on which several Supreme Court justices lived. The map was later removed by Google for possible terms of service violations.

What do we know about the Vigil for Democracy group?

Snowden Bishop, radio show host and editor-in-chief at a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based cannabis business magazine, identifies herself as the principal for the Vigil for Democracy and another group, Just Resisting, on her public LinkedIn page. In these roles, she said, “she promotes pro-democracy initiatives and continues to pursue projects aligned with her personal mission to create a better world, one word at a time.” She claims expertise in journalism, marketing, content creation, and political strategy/activism.

In a May 10 phone-call, Bishop told CNA that the Vigil for Democracy group supports “activism of all kinds” but it is not directly in charge of the Ruth Sent Us group.

Bishop did not respond to a follow-up email by deadline. CNA sought comment from Ruth Sent Us and from the email listed on the RuthSent.Us web domain registration but did not receive a response by deadline.

Why “Ruth Sent Us”? Why costumed protesters?

“Ruth Sent Us” was a slogan used in the wake of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong backer of abortion rights. A periodical search indicates that the phrase was first reported in a September 2020 protest outside then-Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home, when the Senate was proceeding with the confirmation of Justice Amy Comey Barrett.

Pro-abortion rights women’s marches used the phrase in October of that year. One year later, the Women’s March of South Florida used “Ruth Sent Us” as the theme for its October 2021 protests.

While costumed protests have taken place for years, the Ruth Sent Us group did not appear in mainstream news media reports until early May 2022. It made the news for two reasons: It posted a map of the streets where U.S. Supreme Court justices lived, and it linked its previous church disruption to other activists’ calls for pro-abortion rights protests on Mother’s Day.

The protesters’ costumes take inspiration from a television series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The pro-feminist dystopian novel portrays life under a bizarre and tyrannical variant of Christianity that forces young women to bear children for older couples. In the novel, the sect also proscribes Catholicism and executes Catholic priests.

What is this Strike for Choice? Why Mother’s Day protests?

The Ruth Sent Us group backs a May 8-15 protest called Strike for Choice. Its social media call for Mother’s Day protests at churches was not originally part of this action, since the relevant TikTok video was posted on April 27.

In a May 3 tweet, the group posted the video and sought to link their efforts to a call for a Mother’s Day Strike. That separate call to action was other pro-abortion rights activists’ response to the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that appears set to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Strike for Choice website calls for protests of Whole Foods and AT&T. This protest aims to pressure the Texas-based Whole Foods to speak out against the recent Texas abortion law and to pressure AT&T over its campaign contributions to legislators who passed the law.

A sign-up form for the strikes seeks participants in various ways of protest, including as both unpaid and paid protesters.

What do we know about Ruth Sent Us allies?

The Strike for Choice website lists 12 groups in its coalition. The best known of these is Code Pink, a women’s activist anti-war group that dates back to 2002. It had been founded to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Vigil for Democracy group is the fiscal host of a fundraiser for the Strike for Choice at the Open Collective fundraising site. As of May 10, the group had raised under $1,400. Some 15 individuals had contributed at least $58 each to support a “striker.” It is unclear whether the money for Strike for Choice participants includes Ruth Sent Us demonstrators.

Refuse Fascism and its project Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights are two more backers of the Strike for Choice.

On its Twitter page, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights said it protested outside St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City on Mother’s Day because “it’s a symbol for the enslavement of women.” It said “Christian fascist lunatics” on the Supreme Court aim to overturn Roe v. Wade, adding “only the people can stop this.”

The protest, which did not disrupt church services but did block a pro-life walk to an area abortion clinic, drew dozens of people to the historic Catholic church.

What does Ruth Sent Us think of Catholicism?

A TikTok video of the group’s Feb. 27 disruption at San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption gives us an idea.

“For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been an institution for the enslavement of women,” one costumed disruptor shouted at the front of the cathedral. This first disruption video, titled “take it to the oppressors,” drew about 234,000 views on TikTok.

On its social media Ruth Sent Us has polemicized against Catholicism and even threatened to burn the Eucharist.

It also objects to a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court.

“Seven of nine Justices on our Supreme Court are Catholic. That’s 78% of Justices, compared to 23% in the population. WHY?!” the group said in its Feb. 27 TikTok post.

Neil Gorsuch reportedly was raised Catholic. Sonia Sotomayor is expected to be a safe vote to preserve Roe v. Wade.

What does Ruth Sent Us say about itself?

On Twitter May 15, the group invoked anti-segregation sit-in protests of the civil rights movement, saying “Extremist Catholic and Evangelical Churches and Judges are 'lunch counters' of today,” using a hashtag to ask “What would Martin Luther King do”?

It contends that protests backed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL are “massive rallies” that are “easy with social media” but ineffective. Ruth Sent Us contended that “direct action” and intentional crossing of “societal red lines” is a more effective path. Its comments sometimes praise peaceful action but also declare the need to make its foes uncomfortable.

“To fight the theocracy, we believe we must take it to extremist judges and churches,” the group said.

Pro-life groups see double standard

Some pro-life advocates see a double standard in how a group like Ruth Sent Us is treated by TikTok and other social media platforms.

“The social media platform pro-abortion bias cannot be denied,” Caroline Wharton, a staff writer with the pro-life group Students for Life of America, told CNA. “It's very conspicuous that pro-abortion groups are allowed to exercise their freedom of speech, even up to and including violating the law, while pro-life groups like Students for Life of America get arrested for merely chalking public sidewalk.”

In August 2020, police arrested both an employee and a student member of Students for Life for writing the pro-life message “Pre-born Black Lives Matter” on the sidewalk outside a Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood clinic. 

Link: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/45384/pro-life-protestors-arrested-for-sidewalk-chalk

“There are double standards on these apps, and every effort is taken to drown out the voices for the vulnerable preborn,” Wharton said.

In late January 2020, the pro-life group LiveAction was banned from TikTok for allegedly violating “multiple community guidelines” and then reinstated quickly. TikTok said the ban was a result of human error by a moderator.

LiveAction was permanently banned from Pinterst in 2019 for alleged misinformation regarding vaccines and “medically inaccurate information and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence.”

The group rejected the allegations.

Before LiveAction was banned, former Pinterest employee Eric Cochran, a reputed whistleblower, said that the social media company had classified as a conspiracy theory the reports from investigative journalist and activist David Daleiden, who has explored connections between abortion providers and possible illegal sales of fetal tissue from abortions.

Link: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/41547/pinterest-suspends-pro-life-groups-account-citing-health-misinformation

TikTok’s terms of service bar any material which is “defamatory,” “hateful” or “inflammatory.” Its terms bar material that is discriminatory on the basis of religion, among other characteristics. The terms of service bar “any material that would constitute, encourage or provide instructions for a criminal offense,” as well as “any material that is deliberately designed to provoke or antagonise people, especially trolling and bullying, or is intended to harass, harm, hurt, scare, distress, embarrass or upset people.”

CNA contacted TikTok for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

CNA staff writer Katie Yoder contributed to this story.