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 Archdiocese of Boston / Flickr

September 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Last Wednesday I published an exchange of letters that passed between me and the office of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC in the year 2009. Drawing on theology, canon law, and Church history, I had explained why politicians who publicly support abortion must be denied Holy Communion when they present themselves for it—it is not a matter of prudential hemming and hawing, as if there can be multiple legitimate opinions on the matter. 

Of course, that was not how then-Archbishop Wuerl’s office viewed it. 

For this office, it was time to make excuses for the shepherd’s inaction, even about the notorious public sin of support for murdering the unborn.

Not one to be easily deterred, I tried again in February 2012. This time the reply threw up a smokescreen of generalities, slogans to cover up a failure of fortitude and governance.

I was particularly struck by the implied position that this is only an issue of catechesis and faith formation, and that dedication to the “New Evangelization” (remember that failed concept?) was sufficient.

No, it’s not, and we can see that more clearly as each day passes.

Below is my letter, followed by the letter received from the chancery.


February 10, 2012

His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archdiocese of Washington
P. O. Box 29260
Washington, DC  20017

Your Eminence:

In May 2009 I wrote a letter to you concerning the scandalous behavior of Nancy Pelosi, who continues to get away with murder.  Her dismissive remarks last November on the effort to introduce clauses allowing providers to refuse to perform abortions have been widely reported:

When the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health-care providers do not have to intervene, if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling. … I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it, but they have this conscience thing…

We have “this conscience thing.”  Yes, we do, because we strive to adhere to the natural moral law and to the divine law as interpreted by the Catholic Church.

In the immense assault against human life and conscience rights represented by the HHS decision (and the fake “accommodation” that has emerged today), Pelosi has shown her true colors again.  At a recent press conference, when asked by a reporter, citing a letter from the U.S. bishops, “Will you stand with your fellow Catholics in resisting this law or will you stick by the Administration?,” Pelosi replied:

First of all, I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics [?] in supporting the Administration on this.  I think it was a very courageous decision that they made, and I support it.

The former speaker has also said she has ”some areas of disagreement” with the country’s bishops, and has claimed that Catholicism does not necessarily condemn abortion.  This cannot be mere ignorance; what we are seeing is manifest, persistent, stubborn, arrogant defection from fundamental moral teachings of the Faith.  Blessed John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae that the right to life of the human person is absolutely sacred among men and cannot be compromised for any reason.  A Catholic in public life could never be tolerated who did not consistently and stalwartly defend this fundamental right, without which no other right has any meaning or value or even possibility of application.

Commenting on Pelosi’s consistent words and track record, a prominent voice in the Catholic world had this to say last week:

Nancy Pelosi considers it consistent with what Catholics do to take a stand against the bishops in favor of a policy that would force Catholic institutions to violate the teachings of her Church.  Pelosi is a highly public figure; there are few more visible.  She is committing the mortal sin of scandalizing the faithful in a matter which unquestionably grave matter.  There has been all manner of discussion concerning her and the issues of abortion, contraception, when life begins, etc.—she can’t plead ignorance of the Church’s teachings.  She continues to be openly, publicly scandalous in these matters.  Now she is taking an open stand against the American bishops – precisely claiming her catholic identity – in favor of a manifest attack on the Catholic Church by the most aggressively pro-abortion President we have ever seen.  

How much longer does this have to go on?  What else does she have to do?  … Please, somebody, explain to me how we square doing nothing about her scandal with can. 915 and the sacred duty bishops have to protect the flock?  Can. 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law authorized that ministers should withhold holy Communion from those  who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.”  Can. 915 actually requires ministers to withhold Holy Communion in such cases on pain of dereliction of their sacred office (can. 128 and 1389).  This isn’t a matter of the private conversation of an unknown woman in her living room.  I cannot imagine how anyone can question that Pelosi’s actions, which are public and clear and defiant and wicked and scandalous when it comes to serious matters of life, qualify her as “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.”  For the good of souls, Nancy Pelosi must be denied Holy Communion and the Catholic people should be informed that she is being denied Holy Communion. …

Pres. Obama and his administration have openly and aggressively attacked the Catholic Church by trying to force Catholic institutions to perform [or pay for] actions which are evil even by reason alone and natural law, and not just by Catholic doctrine.  Nancy Pelosi has publicly chosen sides against the Catholic Church’s teachings and against the bishops.  Let her choice be publicly confirmed by those same bishops.  Nancy Pelosi must not admitted to Holy Communion until she publicly changes her defiant stance and positions.

These forceful words are truthful and reasonable.  In their social encyclicals the Popes call upon Catholics to proclaim and defend their Faith in the public square—even when doing so may bring persecution upon their heads.  For a shepherd of the Church to lead his flock in these troubled times, it is not enough to be pro-life; it is not enough to support pro-life organizations and initiatives; it is not even enough to preach and teach the right to life.  It is also necessary to protect the flock from the wolves of error, deception, hypocrisy, and opportunism; it is necessary to have the courage to call a spade a spade, to warn people against losing their souls for the sake of Caesar’s favor.  Nothing less is demanded as we suffer under the regime of Obama and the culture of death.

It seems hardly necessary to point out that even if Pelosi comes from another diocese, that of San Francisco, she has at least a quasi-domicile in Washington, DC, and therefore cannot be said to not be a member of the flock over which you have been given pastoral authority by Jesus Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Peter A. Kwasniewski,  Ph.D.
Professor of Theology


And the reply I received:


February 21, 2012

Archdiocese of Washington
Archdiocesan Pastoral Center
5001 Eastern Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20782-3447

Dear Dr. Kwasniewski,

Grace and peace to you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although Cardinal Wuerl’s schedule precludes him from personally responding to every letter he receives, thank you for sharing your concerns regarding challenges facing the Church in the public square.

As Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl understands his episcopal vocation to be one of teaching, sanctifying, and governing his particular Church, and I thank you for taking the time to respectfully express your views related to the subject of governance.

The number of public officials who profess the Catholic faith, but yet who stand in opposition to the Church’s highest moral priorities in the legislative arena, is indeed troubling. Cardinal Wuerl recognizes that this phenomenon is a result of failures within the Church over recent decades in the areas of catechesis and faith formation. As such, he has led the Archdiocese of Washington to understand its mission in light of the New Evangelization to which Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called the Church.

Enclosed is a card commemorating the visit of our Holy Father to the United States. Please remember him and Cardinal Wuerl in your prayers, and thank you for all you do to help others grow in their knowledge of our Catholic faith. 

Sincerely in Christ,

William W. Gorman
Associate Moderator for the Curia

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website,