You’ve probably read a story of two on this topic already. Here’s from NPR: “An archbishop bars Pelosi from Communion over her support for abortion rights.” First sentence: “The Catholic archbishop of San Francisco says that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer allowed to receive Communion because of her vocal support for abortion rights.” To put this into the context of Mormon policy (more on this below), this action was taken not because Speaker Pelosi did “submit to, perform, arrange for, pay for, consent to, or encourage an abortion” (quoting the official LDS abortion policy). What she did was publicly oppose the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court and reiterate her support for abortion rights. So it seems clear the Archbishop of the Diocese of California (which covers the Bay Area) took this action in response to public statements by Pelosi, not based on any particular actions she took.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s a story from the National Catholic Reporter: “Banned by Cordileone in San Francisco, Pelosi receives Eucharist in Washington.” First sentence: “Two days after San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced he would bar her from receiving the Eucharist in her home city due to her stance on abortion rights, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly received the sacrament at a Catholic church in the nation’s capital.”
I guess you could call this Archbishop roulette. Can Nancy Pelosi take the Eucharist (at a Catholic mass)? Yes, she can and just did. But she apparently cannot do so at a Catholic mass in San Francisco. Unless (and I’m a little unclear on this) the priest presiding at a performance of the mass in San Francisco nevertheless were to allow Pelosi to take the Eucharist despite the statement of the Archbishop for his diocese. It’s not clear to me how much latitude a priest has in this matter. In a sense, the story is more about the fragmented and somewhat arbitrary nature of Catholic church governance than about Nancy Pelosi.
And just to throw in a little interdenominational rivalry, here the first paragraph of a recent statement from Bishop Marc, the Episcopal Bishop of California:
As the Episcopal Bishop of California, I want to speak to the public announcement that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be denied communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and to say Speaker Pelosi is welcome to communion in all Episcopal churches in the Bay Area, as I am sure she is welcome to many faith communities everywhere. I support Speaker Pelosi in her clear commitment to women, children, and families, her evident deep, personal faith, and her embrace of a country founded on principles that include, importantly, separation of church and state.
What About the Mormon Sacrament?
So here is an interesting question: If Nancy Pelosi attended an LDS sacrament meeting, perhaps at the invitation of an LDS senator, could she partake of the LDS sacrament during that portion of the service? The simplest and most direct answer is yes, she could, since non-LDS visitors are not barred from partaking of the LDS sacrament. In theological parlance, the LDS Church has an open communion. Whether a particular person in attendance chooses to partake or not is largely up to the individual. In certain instances an LDS bishop may direct a member of his congregation to not partake of the sacrament for a certain period as part of formal or informal church discipline, but even this is largely self-policed.
A slightly different hypothetical question is whether Speaker Pelosi should partake of the LDS sacrament if she, as a visitor, attended an LDS sacrament meeting. Since it might be seen as a political rather than a religious act, perhaps she should (under this hypothetical) decline.
A more interesting hypothetical is whether an LDS representative or senator who publicly voiced the same views as Speaker Pelosi on abortion rights could or should partake of the LDS sacrament. I think the answer is, “Yes, he or she could and should,” given that the LDS policy states that an LDS person must not “submit to, perform, arrange for, pay for, consent to, or encourage an abortion.” The policy speaks to actions related to a particular abortion. It does not address public statements by elected officials, and the Church has wisely given elected officials who happen to be LDS a wide berth in the political positions they take and the public statements they make.
What About Mormon Communion?
LDS terminology can be confusing both to insiders (Mormons) and outsiders. In the Catholic church, the term “communion” is often used as a synonym for “the Eucharist,” what LDS call “the sacrament.” But “communion” also refers to what in LDS parlance is termed “full fellowship.” So to be in communion means both to be allowed to partake of the Eucharist and it also means being in full fellowship as a member of the Catholic church. You might say that being allowed to take or being barred from taking the Eucharist is, in the Catholic church, the primary marker of being in full fellowship.
In the LDS Church, the “full fellowship” status is regulated by bishop or branch presidents, sometimes in conjunction with stake presidents or mission presidents. Formally, that is a private matter between the bishop and the member, although in practice it is likely to be semi-public knowledge or even fully public knowledge. And there’s a whole spectrum of informal and formal discipline a bishop can impose, from mandated repentance to abstaining from the sacrament to disfellowship to excommunication.
So here is another hypothetical that addresses the full fellowship aspect of “communion” as opposed to the sacrament aspect: Could, would, or should an LDS senator or representative who voiced the same views on abortion rights as Speaker Pelosi have their “full fellowship” status called into question by their local bishop? I’m going to say no, using the same logic as in the earlier discussion: The LDS abortion policy (it’s official; it’s printed in the Handbook) speaks to actions related to a particular abortion. It does not address public statements by elected officials, so no bishop should presume to police public statements by LDS elected officials, at any level of government. Also as noted earlier, in the past the Church has wisely given elected officials who happen to be LDS a wide berth in the political positions they take and the public statements they make, about abortion or any other issue.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion becomes a very active political topic, there are two scenarios where this hands-off LDS approach could change. First and most obvious, there is nothing to prevent an activist and conservative LDS bishop from taking disciplinary action against an LDS elected official who is a member of the bishop’s congregation based on public statements about abortion, despite the limited scope of the LDS abortion policy and the previous tacit hands-off policy of the Church. For that matter, there is nothing to prevent a Trumpist LDS bishop (which describes at least half of the bishops in the United States) from taking disciplinary action against an LDS elected official who, for example, claims President Biden was lawfully and properly elected and that the 2020 presidential election was fairly conducted and free of any material fraud. There might very well be a lot of negative publicity if the action was made public and the action, whatever it is, might get rescinded. But with the Church half full of Trumpist bishops who embrace, to some degree, the Trumpist view that no laws or regulations or moral norms are valid (at least on Trump and his followers), who knows what LDS bishops will do in the future? Sitting US Senator Mitt Romney got booed and heckled by LDS Republicans at the Utah State GOP Convention last year. Maybe it won’t be long before Romney and other LDS officials get booed and heckled by their LDS Republican bishops.
Second and less remarked is the steady drift, under the leadership of President Nelson, away from moderate and reasonable policies and practices toward more extreme and fundamentalist positions. Who knows what counsel and direction is being given behind closed doors to General Authorities by the senior leadership, which is then passed down to local leadership in closed-door leadership meetings at the regional level? Whatever moderating influence was exercised by senior LDS leadership in the past may not be carried on by the Nelson-Oaks presidency. However one may describe the Nelson-Oaks philosophy of LDS leadership, the terms “moderate” and “reasonable” do not leap to mind. Who knows what the future LDS course will be, but the prevailing winds are definitely pushing the Good Ship Zion to starboard.
So here are some questions from this post worth discussing:
- What do you think of a Catholic archbishop formally and publicly declaring Speaker Pelosi to be out of communion?
- Would an LDS stake president or General Authority, like Episcopal bishop Marc, ever issue a public invitation to Speaker Pelosi to come attend an LDS service and partake of the LDS sacrament?
- Would or should an LDS elected official who publicly voiced a position on abortion similar to that recently stated by Speaker Pelosi be barred from taking the LDS sacrament or subject to other informal or formal discipline by his or her LDS bishop?
I remember back in the day when many of us (maybe not many of you) used to question Senator Harry Reid’s worthiness given his nuanced position on abortion. It turns out that many of us didn’t bother to really examine the Church’s actual position, which is also nuanced. But the real lesson here is that it isn’t our place to judge these kinds of things. If a far left or far right politician takes a position that seems at odds with the “Church” or “Brethren”, so be it. LDS politicians don’t need purity tests any more than YW.
That paragraph about Trumpist bishops must have been fun to write. Trying my hand at it, what if bishops brought powerful rifles with large magazines to sacrament meeting (half of the bishops probably own one), and from the pulpit they each killed a dozen members of their congregations? The church is half full of people who feel unconstrained by law or morality, so who knows what LDS bishops will do in the future?
Support for Roe v Wade does not mean someone supports abortion. The case is also about privacy and choice so a person could support Roe v Wade and be against abortion but be for privacy and choice. In other words just like the Mormon teachings about the great war in heaven, people could support Christ and free agency even though people would break commandments.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
This just in: “Pelosi pushes back on archbishop who denies her Communion.”
I suppose new headlines are like inkblot tests these days in that we see what we choose to see. What I see is just how ridiculous this makes religion look. What I see are that institutions are so desperate to stay alive that they are literally trying to somehow convey that we can only get to Christ through them. It’s wrong, it’s gross, and it’s just stupid. But survivors gotta survive.
Firstly, shouldn’t one’s ability to take communion be a private, personal affair? I realize that similar to the sacrament it’s taken in a semi-public setting, but still. The fact that this archbishop went out of his way with a public statement targeted at a specific member of his faith community is just gross. It’s like a kid who realizes they are not going to get their way and takes it out on an innocent pillow. Get over yourself.
I would love for an LDS GA to invite Nancy Pelosi to come take the sacrament with us. Won’t happen. Also, I’m wondering if things have changed. I remember on my mission in 99-01 that the missionaries and members discouraged investigators from taking the sacrament until they were baptized. I never agreed but never pushed back on this. Did something change? Was my mish the exception here?
To answer your last question, I’m sure the answer is it depends. As you mentioned, and as we have all experienced, bishop roulette is alive and real.
Sen. Mike Lee and others of his ilk have said and done abhorrent, un-Christlike things that would normally result in Church discipline and loss of temple recommend privileges for any of us, but he continues to get a free pass as far as I can tell. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) is a former bishop with a once-secret drinking problem, yet no discipline for him either. There is definitely a sense that certain Mormon political figures get to play by a different set of rules , well beyond the mere chance of bishop roulette, but only favoring certain party affiliations and political leanings. If the Church started pursuing discipline against pro-choice LDS politicians and public figures, they had better do likewise for the ones on the other side first.
That being said, I’m very much opposed to the idea of restricting the emblems of the sacrament/eucharist from anyone, especially penitent sinners. I think its crazy that LDS bishops still do this sometimes to people who voluntarily confess certain serious sins, while those who keep quiet get to partake with no restriction or public shame. Let everyone partake, while the efficacy of the ordinance should be between the individual and God.
“What she did was publicly oppose the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court and reiterate her support for abortion rights.”
As I understand, this was not the reason — I understand the reason to be her active support of a bill in the House to legalize abortion.
Regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church has no position on abortion legislation or public demonstration. The church limits its teachings and counsels to its members. See the official statement in the LDS Newsroom.
Thanks for the comments, folks. Touchy issue for some people, so I tread carefully.
John Mansfield, your view is welcome. I think my comment, while exaggerated just a bit, is still quite plausible. Bishops and SPs do sometimes interject their personal views into the righteousness standard they apply to members in their ward or stake. Local leaders do sometimes conflate their political and religious views. And the Church has certainly become more politicized the last few years. So the scenario of a bishop who questions a ward member’s status because they don’t share the bishop’s view of the Constitution hanging by a thread (because of Biden) is quite plausible. But your hypothetical of a bishop bringing a gun to church and shooting a few ward members — there is really nothing to suggest that’s a plausible scenario or something that some percentage of LDS bishops are inclined to do in the same way that some percentage of LDS bishops do, in fact, share Mike Lee’s view that Trump is a Latter-day Captain Moroni whose views deserve as much or more credence as President Nelson’s views.
ji, since legalized abortion is already the law of the land (under Roe) your distinction doesn’t make sense to me. Pelosi is not arguing for a change in the law that makes abortion legal — she is simply proposing (as many others have now considered) keeping the status quo in place through legislation if Roe no longer constrains courts and legislatures. If Catholic archbishops don’t discipline Catholic judges who follow Roe as the law of the land, I can’t see why there is a principled reason to single out Pelosi for using legislative as opposed to judicial means for retaining the status quo. If the US Supreme Court in fact trims back Roe again without overturning it, is the good archbishop in California going to bar the Catholic justices on the Supreme Court from taking communion in San Francisco because they support abortion when they could have outlawed it? Probably not. It’s not a principled action he is taking, it’s politics mingled with self-promotion.
For me, taking the sacrament/eucharist is a personal decision, and shouldn’t involve the clergy, except in outrageous cases (mass murder, child molestation, voting for Trump, etc.). The fact that Lavina is denied the sacrament is wrong.
Roger: you classify voting for Trump as in the same group as mass murder and child molestation? I’m no Trump fan…never voted for him…but your comments say more about you than they do Trump.
My daughter was a student at BYU when a friend was violently raped. The friend ended up pregnant.. My daughter and another friend accompanied her to a facility out of state where an abortion was performed. That abortion was paid for by an official LDS check written out to Planned Parenthood. Her home ward bishop wrote it out and signed it.
Because of the work I do, on occasion I have been involved in the care of pregnant women who were having an extremely early induction of labor. Each carried a baby that had a condition that was absolutely incompatible with life. Each made the decision to birth that child early — before they were obviously showing. Their goal was to do the best thing for their own health, avoid the usual pregnancy questions and to have the opportunity to grieve in a more private way. Such situations deserve compassion, care and concern. Adding more stringent laws is not the answer.
FWIW, I have never been sanctioned by the LDS church for assisting in such circumstances.
Pelosi would be more likely told to not take the sacrament if she was a teen and admitted she masturbated.
Never forget that many in the Catholic Church hierarchy have actively supported repressive, authoritarian , and even Fascistic regimes. Pius XII signed a concordat with Hitler, and following popes actively supported such regimes in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. Cordileone fits in well with that crowd. He has been so busy supporting prop 8, dismantling ministries that reached out to Gay members, and worrying about zygotes, embryos, and fetuses , he hasn’t noticed that the membership numbers in his diocese are crashing.
I am certainly not saying that all or even a majority of Catholics or clergy then or now favor(ed) repression. However, there is a strong authoritarian/misogynist strain that seems to be always present.
Humor, Josh H, even I got it.
(Notice how I tossed in a bit of jovial self-deprecation at the end there.)
“ji, since legalized abortion is already the law of the land (under Roe) your distinction doesn’t make sense to me.”
But it makes sense to the archbishop, and it drove his action.
While I agree with the majority here that taking the sacrament should be a private decision, not at the whim of leadership or public shaming like this was (Pelosi is very publicly a devout Catholic, so this bishop is being political in his naming & shaming), as to what is possible in the Church, at this point, who knows? If you told me that within 5 years, only Republicans would be allowed to take the sacrament in some wards, or that members would be hounded out of their wards for refusing to support Trump’s big lie, I would not be shocked. We seem to be heading into a much more politically overt (and extremely conservative) time with Oaks at the helm, to our detriment. I remember the halcyon days of my youth when Democrats and Republicans all sat together in Church, and it was seen as totally normal because nobody cared, even if they did see things differently. Those days are gone.
As to whether investigators should take the sacrament, this was something that we got into a big argument about on my mission. The senior missionary who was assigned to be district president stood up on the stand and ordered two late-arriving investigators sitting by themselves to “Sueltalo!” when they attempted to take the sacrament in confusion. They were mortified, slipped out the back, and were never seen again. My companion and I got into a big disagreement with him after the meeting, pointing out that it was unnecessary, uncalled for, irreverent and uncharitable. He defended his actions with the claim that they were unworthy since they weren’t members, and his opinion that the Book of Mormon made it his responsibility to prevent them. I told him he was dead wrong in how he was interpreting it, and how dare he. It was a real showdown, with both sides leaving in anger.
It is so odd to me that the LDS church allows non-members to take the sacrament but tells excommunicated and disfellowshipped members that they are not worthy of it.
If we truly believe in the atonement and see the sacrament as a weekly reminder of the repentance process, it is truly odd that those with significant sins are told that they are not worthy of the sacrament.
Seems like we should be asking them to take handfuls of bread and a full jug of water. Why would the church symbolically deny them forgiveness?
@ Angela – The congregation is filled with a high percentage of people under 7 years of age – therefore unbaptized. So why can’t someone coming off the street partake? I looked in the index of Hermana Plunge for the topic “Examples of Stupid Patriarchy”, but I couldn’t seem to find it.
If I recall correctly, soon after Harry Reid became senate majority leader he appeared on Meet the Press. He was asked some questions about his being Mormon, and one of the questions asked him about his positive support of reproductive healthcare legislation (mostly), including his support of planned parenthood. Reid wasn’t an outspoken pro choice advocate, but he supported laws that protected abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood–at least PP gave Reid mostly positive grades. Anyway, the host asked Reid about his position on those subjects and when he voiced support, the host said, “And what does your church think about that?” Reid just smiled and said, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.”
I think Reid may have been signaling the church had been silent to him on the matter, and that he does his job according to his own conscience and political agenda, whether the church has a problem with that or not. I always thought that exchange was enlightening and spoke both to Harry’s ability to walk carefully around the issue of abortion as a member of the church and still uphold his party’s platform, and it possibly spoke to the church’s political pragmaticism around this divisive national issue.
The handbook says that one cannot “encourage an abortion,” but what if they tweak it to say “encourage abortion.” Where does that leave members who have reasons and occasion to speak out on the issue?
We had a federal election in Australia last Saturday. The result is not being contested. The conservatives lost power. Labor are now the government.
There was no mention of abortion during the election. It is accepted as between a woman and her doctor, by all sides of politics. We do not have to encourage abortion.
There was no discussion of gun control either.
In safe conservative wealthy city seats 6 established male MPs, including the treasurer lost their seats to capable independent ( not in a party) females, who stood on wanting climate change addressed, equality for females, and introducing an integrity commision, and claiming the conservative party no longer represented them.
Religion News Service is carrying an opinion piece by John Gehring titled “If Nancy Pelosi is denied Communion, why not William Barr?
Punishing one and celebrating the other, some Catholic leaders act like mere partisans.”
Gehring points out that “Playing Communion politics, furthermore, reveals the hypocritical partisanship among some vocal segments of the Catholic right.”
He goes on to note that “When former Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic who served in the Trump administration, played a key role in reviving the federal death penalty in 2019, there were no calls to deny him Communion. The Catholic Church teaches that executions are always morally unacceptable, with the Catechism referring to the death penalty as ‘an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.'”
(Not to threadjack, but it’s related and worth pointing out that the hypocrisy of the far right and the religious groups that align with the far right regarding the sanctity of life is again on display as GOP senators continue to refuse to vote for passage of HR8 requiring background checks for gun purchases even in light of a school shooting at an elementary school in Texas. Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, who has experienced the death of his own father due to gun violence, refused to answer basketball questions and made a statement about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that occurred before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. You can watch it at https://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=33978954. Please please please watch the 2-minute clip and listen to what he says.)
The Mormon sacrament is an interesting ordinance. It has set prayers that must be read verbatim. The symbolism makes some uncomfortable. While an important ordinance, it is non-salvific.
During the pandemic, several issues arose. There was an attempt by top and local church management to curb home sacrament. The reasons for this are unclear. And what if someone performed it against their bishop’s wishes? Also, if the ordinance is to remember Christ and your bishop says no home sacrament, what is the downside to developing your own ritual for remembering Christ?
Church leadership seems to be injecting itself more and more into the private exercise of religion. It is not clear that this is a good thing. For example, when I was young, confession was between you and God. Now the bishop has been injected in the middle. Abortion has similar issues. Why should a woman need the permission of her male bishop? Now the bishop has the right to determine who can take the sacrament.
The extreme liberal bias in this article and the subsequent comment thread is very telling. Some of you appear to be on a fine line of being one foot in and one foot out. I hope most of you will step back in the door, metaphorically speaking.
I suspect two changes are coming very soon in the coming years to help sift the wheat from the tares.
1) The handbook and official church position will be updated to state that the church (and its members) do not support abortion. As someone stated above, the term “support an abortion” will be changed with the word “an” removed. Any support of abortion or related laws will be viewed poorly. (Other than cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother).
2) The temple recommend questions will be updated. Currently question #7 states, “ Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?“ I suspect this question will be changed to be more direct and specific. Many people with temple recommends answer yes to this question when they know in their heart, and the interviewer knows, that they should have answered no. There are certain movements and organizations which have core beliefs and practices that are far in contrast to the teachings of the church. Not to mention many of these new modern movements and organizations despise the church and the principles and doctrine we hold dear.
That’s just my guess.