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In what I can only assume is meant as a threat, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone just announced that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ineligible for communion because she supports abortion rights.

He explained in a letter that her actions (defending women’s right to control their own bodies) amounted to a “grave evil” and “scandal” and it’s really hard to keep typing when my eyes have permanently rolled to the back of my head.

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.  I have accordingly sent her a Notification to this effect, which I have now made public.

He added that his actions were “purely pastoral, not political.”

This is supposed to be a big deal. A Catholic leader denying Pelosi access to the Eucharist bars her from fully participating in Church life. She can no longer partake in one of the sacraments. But there are a number of problems with Cordileone’s position.

For starters, even Pope Francis didn’t go that far when he met with Joe Biden last year—despite a push from more conservative bishops. Biden said the pope told him he was a “good Catholic” and “should keep receiving Communion.” (The Vatican didn’t deny any of that.)

Cordileone must think Pope Francis is a weak Catholic.

It’s also a strange punishment because the Catholic Church has no moral legs to stand on. A leader of an organization facilitating child sex abuse has no business telling a politician she’s evil for defending women’s reproductive freedom. The idea that pro-choice Catholics need to be sanctioned in some way is almost laughable when you consider how many Catholics disagree with Church doctrine on this matter. 48% of Catholics in the U.S. support abortion rights. 68% of Catholics don’t want to see Roe overturned.

Are they all going to be denied communion in San Francisco? What about the Catholics who commit actual ethical sins? Why is abortion being treated as a crime worse than all the other things the Church routinely ignores? If Cordileone really wants to punish people who violate Church teachings, he should look in the other direction of the Vatican hierarchy.

Finally, even if Pelosi is a devout Catholic, it’s still a baseless threat. It’s like when evangelical Christians condemn atheists to Hell. It won’t hurt me, but it sure says a lot about you. This entire controversy revolves around whether priests can put what they believe is a literal piece of Jesus’ body in the mouth of a stranger via a tasteless wafer. We shouldn’t ignore the utter bizarreness of the ritual just because we’re used to hearing about it.

By punishing Pelosi for taking the morally correct position, the Catholic Church is only pushing more young people away from the institution. After all, why would anyone want to be a member of a club that condemns someone for doing the right thing?

It’s not like Cordileone is the right messenger here either. He previously denounced homosexuality, same-sex marriage and in-vitro fertilization as “gravely evil.” He regularly preaches a “message of exclusion and hate.” He opposed a California law that extended the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits.

No one should be taking lessons on ethics from a moral monster.

When you botch the simplest moral questions, even if those pronouncements are based on Catholic teachings, you should keep your damn mouth shut when it comes to complicated issues you don’t understand.

Not that she’ll do it, but I would love to see Pelosi wear this rejection like a badge of honor. Use it in political ads in order to win over more voters in swing districts: You’re damn right the Catholic Church denied me communion! That’s how strong my Party is on abortion rights! If you don’t want Ted Cruz or the pope between your legs, vote for Democrats.

All of this is happening while a different Catholic made news today for saying in an interview that, if she had the power, she would criminalize birth control for everyone in her state because that’s what the Church teaches. What Jacky Eubanks said is far worse than Pelosi defending abortion rights, but the Catholic Church will never condemn Eubanks for fantasizing about shoving her faith in everyone’s face. They only want to punish the politicians trying to help people.

This is what happens when a religion elevates fetuses over women.

This is what happens when a religious institution controlled entirely by men insists on controlling women’s bodies as a matter of faith.

This is what happens when an archbishop who’s never had sex uses his power to punish women who became pregnant against their will. (Or, in some cases, had something go terribly wrong during pregnancy.)

The problem isn’t Pelosi. The problem is the Catholic Church and anyone who takes its leaders seriously. But nothing will change unless more Catholics in positions of power condemn Cordileone’s move—and more Catholics in the pews leave the Church for good.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.