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America loses its only Trappist brewery, amid competitive beer market 

null / Courtesy of Spencer Brewery

Denver Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 17:27 pm (CNA).

The first and only certified Trappist brewery in the U.S. has said that it will close, citing a lack of financial viability. The monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts say they will find other ways to support their life of contemplative prayer.

“After more than a year of consultation and reflection, the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey have come to the sad conclusion that brewing is not a viable industry for us and that it is time to close the Spencer Brewery,” Spencer Brewery said on its Facebook page May 14.

“We want to thank all our customers for their support and encouragement over the years,” the brewery added. “Our beer will be available in our regular retail outlets while supplies last. Please keep us in your prayers.”

The brewery was launched in 2014 to help provide a new source of revenue for the monks. It is just one of St. Joseph’s Abbey's endeavors. 

The Trappist monks are formally known as the monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, an order more than 900 years old. They follow St. Benedict’s counsel that stresses the importance of both prayer and work.

“All our activities that we do are to support our lives of prayer. Beer was a particularly interesting and engaging activity, but we’re not here for the beer,” Spencer Brewery’s director, Father William Dingwall, told The Boston Globe.

The brewery launched in 2014. Its peak production was 4,500 barrels of beer, about 60,000 beer cases, its website reports. The brewery had hoped to expand to produce 10,000 barrels of beer annually.

Its beers were distributed domestically in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. Foreign distribution reached eight countries. 

Dingwall said that it’s understandable the brewery’s closure announcement has surprised those outside the community, but “it’s something we’ve been mulling over for the past couple of years.” 

While the brewery generated “a great deal of interest,” Dingwall said, he thought the beer market “started to change radically” and the abbey’s brewery faced more competition from craft breweries.

The monks were not willing to open a tap room, a profitable effort for many brewers. Dingwall said the brewery was located in the middle of their abbey property just a few hundred yards from the monastery and the church.

“The brothers were not in favor of adding that kind of business at the entrance to the monastery,” Dingwall told the Boston Globe.

Brewery production has ceased and Spencer Brewery will sell its equipment and any raw materials at auction. Its beers could remain on store shelves for a few months.

The Spencer Brewery website explains the monks’ approach to prayer and to work: “As Trappists, we seek to live somewhat separate from the world so that we may engage fully with our monastic community life of work and prayer. This prayer encompasses liturgies open to the public, as well as our individual prayer time, spiritual reading, study and meditation.”

St. Joseph’s Abbey hosts guests at its small retreat house and has a gift shop. It produces other products to support its 44 community members. These products include fruit and wine jellies, jams, and preserves. Its Holy Rood Guild makes and sells liturgical vestments.

The community has six brothers in initial formation, according to the abbey website.

The Cistercian order was founded in France in 1098. The Trappist community at St. Joseph’s Abbey has roots in a group of monks that arrived in North America in 1803, in the wake of the French Revolution. Its monks founded a monastery in Nova Scotia. After suffering two major fires in the late 1800s, the community moved to Rhode Island.  Another major fire in 1950 made 140 Trappist monks homeless, at which point they moved to Spencer.

The International Trappist Association has about 20 abbey members and seeks to help members produce goods and ensure high-quality products. Its website lists 13 abbeys that sell their own beer. However, the list includes both Spencer Brewery and Achel, which ceased to be a Trappist beer in 2021. 

The Trappist association website also lists three abbeys that produce their own liqueurs and two that produce their own wine. Other Trappist products include bread, cheeses, olive oil, chocolate, cookies, honey, liturgical vestments, skin care products, and household cleaning products. 

“Any economic enterprise undertaken by member communities is marked by prayer, an attitude of responsibility, and silence,” International Trappist Association said. “The Trappists, both monks and nuns, participate in management as well as production.” 

In Belgium, the beers produced at Achel Brewery no longer bear the Trappist label after the monks of Achel Abbey left in early 2021. Its last monks left for Westmalle Abbey, which also runs a brewery. At the same time, the Achel beers are still brewed under Trappist supervision and the monks have invested in a larger brewhouse.

The International Trappist Association says it will certify beer with its brand if it is brewed within the abbey grounds by the monks or under their supervision, “with business practices proper to the monastic way of life.” The brewery must not take priority over the monastery's primary work and way of life, and should be non-profit. Any funds gained through the beer will be used for the monk's living expenses, charitable causes, or for upkeep of the monastery itself.

Cistercian monks at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire became the first Trappist brewery in U.K. history when they first started beer sales in 2018. 

Trappists aren’t the only monks to try their hand at brewing.

A community of mostly U.S.-born Benedictine monks at the Monastery of Saint Benedict at Norcia, Italy began brewing in 2012. They launched their own Belgian-style beers under the name Birra Nursia and expanded sales to the U.S. in 2016. In 2017 a major earthquake killed hundreds of people and was soon followed by a major tremor that destroyed the Benedictines’ historic home, the Basilica of St. Benedict. However, their brewery was left mostly intact. They have continued to sell beer to fund the building of their new monastery.

Tiananmen memorial Masses won’t be held in Hong Kong this year amid security law concerns

Protesters in Hong Kong march against the extradition bill in July 2019. / Jimmy Siu/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 16:58 pm (CNA).

A Catholic group in Hong Kong will not be holding Masses this year to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, citing concerns that doing so could run afoul of the Beijing-imposed national security laws under which several Catholic leaders have been arrested. 

The Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office told the Hong Kong Free Press May 24 that some staff and members of the Justice and Peace Commission of The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese had expressed concern about this year’s remembrance services, and thus the decision was made not to hold a remembrance Mass on June 4. 

“Because frontline staff and some of the members of the Justice and Peace Commission of The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese are concerned about whether holding this even [sic] will be in breach of the implemented national security law, therefore [we] won’t hold a June 4th commemoration mass,” the office said.

“According to the Catholic faith, there can be different ways to commemorate those who died. Holding masses are of course one of the means, but praying for those who died in private or in small groups is very meaningful as well.”

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kongers have, historically, largely enjoyed freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, there is a history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government. In mainland China, people have not been allowed to hold official commemorations of the “June 4th incident” in Tiananmen, but Hong Kong has long held annual vigils to commemorate its victims.

During the 1989 clash between protestors and Chinese troops, tanks rolled into Beijing’s main city square and military forces opened fire on university students and other citizens calling for democratic reforms. The exact number of people who died in the massacre is not certain, but could be hundreds or even thousands. A diplomatic cable from the British ambassador to China at the time said that at least 10,000 people were killed, while the regime claimed that 241 people died and 7,000 were wounded.

In 2020, Hong Kong police curtailed a vigil for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing public health concerns related to COVID-19 — which would have marked the first time in 30 years that a vigil for Tiananmen had not taken place in Hong Kong. 

Still, thousands of people reportedly climbed over police barriers into a park, lighting candles and observing a moment of silence for the Tiananmen victims. Elsewhere in Hong Kong, some protesters blocked streets and clashed with police, while others gathered in other parts of the city, chanting in favor of democracy. 

Last year, at least seven churches in Hong Kong offered candlelight vigil Masses on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Diocese of Hong Kong’s Justice and Peace Commission announced that the churches will each offer a Mass for the Dead on the night of June 4.

However, 2021 marked the second year in a row that authorities forbade a public commemoration of Tiananmen in Hong Kong, ostensibly because of COVID-19 restrictions. Hong Kong police declined to tell the Free Press whether they would allow public commemorations this year. 

The typical organizer of the city’s annual Tiananmen vigils, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, disbanded last September following a members’ vote, the Free Press reported. The Chinese government has not specifically said whether commemorating Tiananmen would be a violation of the security laws. 

Millions of citizens of Hong Kong, including many Catholics, have in recent years participated in large-scale pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which came to a head during summer 2019. 

Beijing has in recent years tightened control over the island territory and cracked down on dissent. With the July 2020 passage of “national security laws,” the Chinese government seized more power to suppress pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.

Several prominent Catholic figures have been arrested for apparent violations of the new security laws, which criminalize new categories of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. Anyone convicted under the law will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.

Those arrested include media mogul Jimmy Lai, a Catholic and billionaire who was detained last August and was sentenced in December 2021 to 13 months in prison on a charge of unlawful assembly, stemming from his participation in the annual Tiananmen Square vigil.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, was charged in court on May 24 with four other prominent democracy advocates who were trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees. The nonagenarian Zen was arrested by the authorities in Hong Kong on May 11 and was released on bail later on the same day. His trial is set to begin Sept. 19.

Father Vincent Woo, a priest of the Diocese of Hong Kong and a canon lawyer, recently said that he has observed that many Christian leaders are reluctant to speak out against the CCP’s actions, for fear of being detained, or worse, by civil authorities.

19 children and 2 adults killed in Texas shooting at elementary school

State troopers stand outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. - An 18-year-old gunman killed 14 children and a teacher at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, according to the state's governor, in the nation's deadliest school shooting in years. / Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 15:29 pm (CNA).

A gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 90 miles west of San Antonio, on Tuesday.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said May 24 the shooter, a local 18-year-old, has died, believed to have been killed by responding law enforcement. He identified the attacker as Salvador Ramos, saying he was armed with a handgun, and possibly a rifle.

The governor added, “It is believed that two responding offers were struck by rounds, but have no serious injuries.”

Some students and staff are being treated in nearby hospitals.

The incident is believed to be the worst school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in which in the attacker killed 26.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio tweeted, "God have mercy on our children, their families, their communities. Darkness is dense with one more shooting in our country. Let us help one another to spark light and warmth. May we keep each other in company. Prayers are needed."

And Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth has tweeted, "Let us pray for the families of these children killed or traumatized by this evil action and let us take serious steps forward in protecting vulnerable life and promoting justices for the safety of our children."

This story was updated at 11:25 p.m. MDT.

Central American bishops support Nicaraguan clergy in face of persecution

Daniel Ortega celebrates his re-inauguration as president of Nicaragua, Jan. 10, 2012. / Cancilleria del Ecuador via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Lima, Peru, May 24, 2022 / 15:03 pm (CNA).

The bishops’ conferences of Costa Rica and Panama expressed their solidarity with the people and Catholic clergy of Nicaragua, who have been suffering persecution from the government of President Daniel Ortega.

On May 20, the state-owned Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Mail eliminated the television channel of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference from its programming.

In addition, Bishop Rolando Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa and Father Harvy Padilla, pastor of the Saint John the Baptist church in Masaya, have been followed and harassed by the government’s police.

Álvarez, who is in charge of communications for the bishops’ conference and the Catholic channel, said that what the government wants "is a mute Church, that doesn’t announce the hope of the people" and doesn’t denounce "personal sin and structures of injustice.”

"The Word of God is not chained," the bishop said during a May 21 impromptu press conference at Holy Christ of Esquipulas parish on the outskirts of Managua.

In a May 21 statement, the bishops of Costa Rica  prayed that "the Risen Lord would grant the Nicaraguan people the gift of peace, so they can have a climate of calm and brotherhood."

The Costa Rican bishops also assured their Nicaraguan counterparts of their "prayer, especially in times of trial." 

"We pray to God to allow them to remain faithful to their mission and grant them a spirit of wisdom," they said.

They also called on the Catholic people of Costa Rica "to lift up in prayer the people of Nicaragua and the bishops of that nation.”

"We reiterate the need for our Central American peoples in general to work together in the search for the common good, peace and social justice," the bishops wrote.

The Panamanian bishops also expressed  their solidarity with Bishop Álvarez "at this time when he is experiencing persecution for being a prophet in the face of the difficult situation due to the sociopolitical crisis that the Nicaraguan people are experiencing.”

“We join in prayer so that the persecution of Bishop Rolando and Father Harvy Padilla, pastor of the Saint John the Baptist Parish in the city of Masaya, who has also been restricted from living and celebrating the faith in an environment of freedom and peace, will end,” the bishops said May 21.

The Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference also issued a statement stating that they are “going through difficult times as a nation" and that their duty "is to announce the truth of the Gospel."

“We accompany each brother who is associated with the sufferings of Christ through prayer and we invoke the Holy Spirit to be the one who illuminates the minds and hearts of all Nicaraguans,” the bishops said May 22.

There have been tensions in recent years between some Catholics and supporters of Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas' 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship. Ortega has again been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

Ortega's government has accused many bishops and priests of siding with his opposition.

A crisis began in April 2018 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protesters were killed by security forces.

Security forces have killed at least 320 protesters, with hundreds more arrested.

Since the protests began, there has been a series of attacks against clergy, churches and church facilities targeted by pro-government bands.

The apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua was expelled in March.

Pope Francis prays for victims of Gaylord tornado

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed his closeness on Tuesday to the victims of a tornado that struck Gaylord last week, killing two people.

“Saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the tornado which struck the Gaylord community in recent days, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all affected by this natural disaster,” a telegram sent May 24 on behalf of the pope stated.

“He also offers the assurance of prayers for the dead, the injured and displaced and those engaged in relief efforts,” the cable continued.

A tornado with winds of 150 mph struck the Michigan town May 20. More than 44 people were hospitalized as a result of the disaster.

Bishop Jeffrey Walsh of Gaylord said May 20, “Our prayerful solidarity is extended to all who have been affected by the afternoon storm. We are grateful to God that our diocesan and Cathedral staff came through the storm safely. Staff was sheltering in the basement as a tornado hit a few hundred yards away.”

He noted the chancery, cathedral, and St. Mary Cathedral school were spared damage.

“There will be much work to rebuild our community in the days, weeks and months ahead. Your prayers are appreciated,” Walsh added.

Parishes of the Diocese of Gaylord will take up a special collection May 28-29 to aid those affected by the tornado.

“As we work to restore and rebuild, the community response has been truly inspirational. Countless volunteers, utility workers, first responders and people from both Gaylord and outside the area have accomplished much already, and it is our hope to do our part as a Catholic community in providing spiritual and material assistance in the ongoing recovery efforts,” Walsh said May 23.

Baby formula shortage: Pro-life pregnancy centers offer aid to moms

Leon is a baby boy cared for and loved at Mary's Shelter, a pro-life maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. / Courtesy of Mary's Shelter

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

Amid a shortage of baby formula in the U.S., experts recommend parents scour smaller drug stores, check online, and join social media groups sharing information.

But here’s another, perhaps lesser-known, option they can also turn to for help: pregnancy resource centers.

Nearly 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers serve millions of people each year in the United States. They offer women and parents in need everything from health care and material assistance to educational classes and job support — at little to no cost. Right now, for many of these centers, their work also includes connecting struggling families to baby formula. 

One center in Michigan, an affiliate of Heartbeat International, a pro-life pregnancy resource center network, revealed to CNA that it has a surplus of formula. 

“At this time, we haven’t heard of formula shortages at the pregnancy centers,” Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing at Heartbeat International, told CNA. “Quite the contrary, actually!”

Trudden recommended families turn to their local pregnancy help organizations for assistance and use OptionLine.org as a tool to find the center closest to them. 

“Since pregnancy centers are equipped to help pregnant women and new families with practical resources such as diapers and formula,” Trudden said, “they have been able to step into that gap during this time.” 

Some pro-life maternity homes in states such as Virginia and North Carolina said mothers are in desperate need and exploring all of their options, including feeding their babies with formula samples. But, these homes tell CNA, they are walking with mothers in their search, every step of the way.

What is this shortage about?

The nationwide baby formula shortage was caused, and then exacerbated, by a series of factors: supply-chain issues, recalls, the closure of a major production plant in February, and even U.S. trade policy. The result, data-firm company Datasembly found, is that more than 40 percent of baby formulas were out of stock in early May.

Babies with special needs and allergies rely on formula, along with babies in general. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 63.3% of infants were exclusively breastfeeding seven days after birth in 2018. Three months after birth, only 46.3% of infants exclusively breastfed. Six months after birth, that percentage changed to 25.8%

The trouble with formula began partially with the Covid-19 pandemic. Parents stockpiled baby formula at the beginning, which increased production, only to later discover that they had a surplus to use up, which decreased production. 

After consuming formula from an Abbott plant in Sturgis, Michigan, four babies became sick, including two who died, from bacterial infections. This led to a recall and the plant shutting down in February.

These incidents exposed the formula market as one not structurally prepared for emergencies, with just four companies largely in control of supply in the United States. U.S. and regulatory trade policy only added to the problem, restricting the exchange of formula internationally, The Atlantic reported. 

Months into the shortage, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reached an agreement with Abbott, one of the largest U.S. baby formula manufacturers, to reopen its Sturgis plant in the coming weeks. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to prioritize the production of formula. And, in the meantime, the U.S. military has begun importing formula from Europe.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called for action. Senate Democrats are pushing a bill that would send $28 million in emergency funding to the FDA. Congress passed, and Biden signed into law, a bill to expand access to formula for lower-income families during emergencies.

In the meantime, before the shelves are fully stocked once more, pregnancy centers and maternity homes around the country are helping parents in need.

Michigan

Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center, located in Hillsdale, Michigan, told CNA it has extra baby formula ready and waiting for parents in need.

“I have never seen this much formula. We have an overflow!” Lois Stoll, a volunteer who manages the formula supply at the center, said in a press release. The center, one of Heartbeat International’s 1,857 affiliate locations, accumulated its surplus over the last two years, during the pandemic. 

“It really is the result of an unexpected set of circumstances,” Bryce Asberg, the executive director, added in the release. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of clients fell but donations continued to come in.”

Baby formula is stored on shelves at Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center in Hillsdale, Michigan. Courtesy of Helping Hands
Baby formula is stored on shelves at Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center in Hillsdale, Michigan. Courtesy of Helping Hands

Asberg told CNA that the center has been running a material assistance program for several years where it provides mothers and families with baby clothes, diapers, wipes, and baby food or formula.

“We still offer all those items to clients who come in, but recently we have noticed a surge of interest in formula,” he said. “God has been building our supply of formula for many months, and we didn’t know why we had so much. Now we do!”

Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., Janet Durig, the executive director of Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, said that her center also has baby formula on hand.

“We’ve had some phone calls seeking help and we’ve had formula to give them,” she told CNA. But, she emphasized, the supply is limited because they rely on donations. 

“We have it to help people on a limited basis and are helping people on a limited basis,” she said, adding that the center welcomes donations of unopened bottles or cans of formula as long as they have not expired. 

Connecticut 

Leticia Velasquez, executive director and co-founder of Pathways Pregnancy in Norwich, Connecticut, encouraged moms and families to reach out if they need formula. 

She told CNA that the three-year-old center is there for any woman or mom in need. 

“We just say, ‘How can we fill the need? That’s what we’re here for,’” she said. “We definitely stand with them in any crisis, whether it be a formula shortage or an unplanned pregnancy.”

Parents in eastern Connecticut looking for baby formula can text the center at (860) 222-4505.

North Carolina 

Debbie Capen, the executive director of MiraVia, said that the baby formula shortage is affecting her group’s work in supporting and providing resources to new moms in need. The Catholic nonprofit runs an outreach center in Charlotte and a free college residence at nearby Belmont Abbey College where a pregnant student — from any university or college — can stay until her child turns two years old.

“Yes, the mothers we serve are very concerned about the baby formula shortage,” Capen told CNA. “We always encourage breastfeeding for our expectant mothers, but for those who cannot breastfeed, they usually rely on vouchers for baby formula through the USDA’s WIC program.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s WIC program, also known as the “Special Supplementation Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children,” offers federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, and young children at nutritional risk.

Capen highlighted that WIC only covers one specific brand of formula, which means that moms must pay full price for any other label. Formula is at a premium price right now, she added, which only puts more stress on their limited resources.

In each state, baby formula manufacturers bid for exclusive rights to provide formula to WIC participants in that state. In return, they offer the state discounts, or rebates. For those who rely on WIC, this means that they face limited options.

In response to the scarcity, the mothers at MiraVia are turning to alternatives: food pantries and the MiraVia community.

“They communicate with our staff and each other when they find formula at a certain location, as well as contact stores to find out when shipments are expected,” Capen said. “They substitute with generic brands when possible and reach out to their pediatricians for recommendations and even free samples.”

Capen listed some ways that people can help during this shortage, beginning with communication and the sharing of resources.   

“For example, you can help by searching posts on social media and community apps like NextDoor or OfferUp to find those with formula and suggest where it can be donated,” she said. “Remind friends and family not to stockpile so that the supply of formula can flow to those in most urgent need. If you are pregnant and have received free samples of formula, donate what you won’t use to food pantries or programs for new mothers.”

Virginia

Kathleen Wilson, the executive director of Mary's Shelter, a faith-centered maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, agreed that “our moms have had many difficulties.” 

She told CNA about one of their mothers who gave birth to her fourth baby three months ago. At first, she used a formula brand called Enfamil Reguline. After it became unavailable, she began switching between brands and using whatever she can find, Wilson said. The mother has also tried ordering on Amazon and turned to her pediatrician for samples. 

Yaretzi is a baby girl cared for and loved at Mary's Shelter, a pro-life maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Courtesy of Mary's Shelter
Yaretzi is a baby girl cared for and loved at Mary's Shelter, a pro-life maternity home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Courtesy of Mary's Shelter

“This is a mom who is trying to hold down a job, with an infant and other children to tend to,” Wilson stressed the “very difficult” situation.

Wilson said that two of the other mothers spent days driving around at one point to try to find formula for their babies. When necessary, they are also turning to sample packets of baby formula.

"Our staff and volunteers have been assisting with this and picking up and delivering formula when they can get their hands on it,” Wilson said, adding that donors have also pitched in.

“We are blessed with wonderful donors,” she said. “A friend just stopped in this morning with two cans of formula that he was able to find.”

“If donors are willing and can find formula, we would be thrilled to take their donation,” she said, concluding that she is “praying this comes to an end soon.”

Nancy Pelosi doubles down on abortion support in response to Communion ban 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” on May 24, 2022. / Screenshot via MSNBC’s YouTube channel

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2022 / 12:13 pm (CNA).

Responding publicly for the first time to her archbishop barring her from Holy Communion in her home diocese, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained defiant Tuesday in her support of abortion.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced May 20 that the California Democrat may no longer receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco after publicly supporting abortion as a Catholic politician. His decision, Cordilenoe said, is a pastoral one and not political.

Over the years, Pelosi has defended abortion while citing her Catholic faith. The Catholic Church considers abortion — the destruction of a human person — a grave evil.

On Tuesday, Pelosi gave no indication that her position on abortion, and how she speaks about it as a Catholic, will change.

“I wonder about the death penalty, which I am opposed to. So is the Church. But they take no action against people who may not share their view,” she said during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.

Pelosi did not say whether she intends to continue to present herself for Communion. Cordileone’s order is only applicable within the San Francisco Archdiocese, and although Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington has not commented publicly about Cordileone’s action, he has not instructed priests to refuse Communion to anyone

Pelosi reportedly took Holy Communion at the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass on May 22 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, according to Politico Playbook, but the report did not identify the source of that information. A spokeswoman for the parish on Tuesday referred media questions about the report to the Archdiocese of Washington, which did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.  

In response to Cordileone’s actions, Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California — where Pelosi’s Napa vacation home is located — has said that he, too, will bar Pelosi from Holy Communion

During her appearance on “Morning Joe,” Pelosi directly mentioned Cordileone once, to criticize him for being “vehemently against LGBTQ rights.” 

Host Joe Scarborough praised the speaker for living out the Gospel of Matthew by serving the “truly disadvantaged.” 

Jesus does not mention abortion in the Gospels, Scarborough said. Instead, in Matthew 25, Jesus told his disciples “we would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven if we gave water to the thirsty, fed the hungry, clothed the poor, and brought hope to the hopeless,” he said. 

Pelosi claimed, without further explanation, that pro-life people largely reject this Gospel message. 

“Thank you for referencing the Gospel of Matthew, which is sort of the agenda of the Church that is rejected by many who side with them on terminating a pregnancy,” she said. You can watch the interview in the video below.

Pelosi also appeared to refer to the leaked Supreme Court draft in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which signals that justices are preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.

“This decision taking us to privacy and precedent is very dangerous in the lives of so many of the American people,” she said. “And, again, not consistent with the Gospel of Matthew.”

At another point, the speaker referenced her Catholic background.

“I come from a largely pro-life Italian-American Catholic family, so I respect people’s views about that,” she said, referring to abortion. “But I don’t respect us foisting it onto others.”

Pelosi also claimed that, as a Catholic, she has tried in vain to speak with Republicans in the past about supporting “what the Catholic Church was asking us to do for global family planning, natural family planning, which our law allows to happen.”

“I think it’s very insulting to women to have their ability to make their own decision hampered by politics,” Pelosi commented. “This should never have been politicized.”

Pelosi called abortion a “cover for a lot of other things that the far right wants to accomplish” and concluded that, now, a “woman’s decision” regarding abortion is a “kitchen table issue.”