Canon 915, Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion, Applies in Every Diocese


Last week, Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, declared that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a member of his Archdiocese, cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. This declaration came after several attempts to warn her. The Archbishop justified his decision by invoking Canon 915.
This declaration raises the important question: Does it apply outside of the Archdiocese of San Francisco? The answer to this question is “yes.” Granted, not every declaration of a bishop applies to another diocese. For example, a bishop may declare a particular law forbidding a visiting priest from celebrating Mass in his own diocese. Particular laws do not necessarily apply to other dioceses. Likewise, a bishop may declare a penalty that applies to the person only in his diocese, but not in another. For example, a bishop may issue an expiatory penalty depriving a person some office. That penalty does not affect offices outside the control of the bishop. Finally, not every penalty of the Church involves the denial of the reception of Holy Communion. For example, a person may be placed under suspension, but still allowed to receive Holy Communion.
The declaration to deny Holy Communion cited by Archbishop Cordileone concerns neither a particular law, a territorially based penalty, nor a penalty that may allow for the reception of Holy Communion. Instead, he bases his declaration on this particular section of Canon 915: “[Those] others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
What the Archbishop says really isn’t that complicated. Those who unrepentantly promote the destruction of innocent human life do not stand to benefit from the reception of Holy Communion. This applies everywhere.