After SF archbishop’s denial of Communion to Nancy Pelosi, Pope Francis elevates ‘progressive’ San Diego bishop

After SF archbishop's denial of Communion to Nancy Pelosi, Pope Francis elevates 'progressive' San Diego bishop

Pope Francis named Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego as one of the 21 new cardinals on Sunday, passing over the higher-ranking archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone.

Francis made his announcement after delivering traditional Sunday remarks from the Apostolic Palace to the public in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, according to the Associated Press.

It was unclear whether Francis’ decision to pass over Cordileone was tied to Cordileone’s announcement that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not be allowed to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

Francis has previously denounced politically weaponizing Communion, the Associated Press reported.

Cordileone, in a statement, congratulated McElroy for his appointment and touted his San Francisco ties.

“Cardinal-elect McElroy is a native San Franciscan who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1980. He served at several parishes, including St. Cecilia, St. Pius X and St. Gregory,” he wrote.

Cordileone announced in a public notification on May 20 that he would not allow Pelosi to receive Communion after warning her in April that she must either repudiate her position on abortion or refrain from referring to her Catholicism in justifying abortion rights.

“As you have not publicly repudiated your position on abortion, and continue to refer to your Catholic faith in justifying your position and to receive Holy Communion, that time has now come,” Cordileone wrote. “Therefore, in light of my responsibility as the Archbishop of San Francisco to be ‘concerned for all the Christian faithful entrusted to (my) care’ … I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.”

It was just the latest escalation in Cordileone’s very public campaign against Pelosi and abortion rights as a whole — in October, he started digital and radio ads urging Catholics to pray to change the minds of Pelosi and other politicians who support abortion rights.

Pelosi responded to the bishop’s decision four days later and called out his inaction against political officials over other issues that are against Catholic teachings, such as supporting the death penalty. In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Pelosi also said Cordileone has opposed LGBTQ rights, something she said was “not consistent with the Gospel of Matthew.”

Cordileone told The Chronicle in November that he had declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The next month, a local parish canceled a visit by Cordileone over the health concerns his presence posed.

“These same people are against contraception, family planning, in vitro fertilization,” Pelosi said. “It’s a blanket thing. And they use abortion as the front man for it while they try to undo so much.”

McElroy, 68, of San Diego, is seen as a progressive who has criticized the campaign to exclude Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, who support abortion rights from Communion, the Associated Press reported.

“It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” McElroy, a San Francisco native, wrote in a letter published by the Jesuit magazine America on May 5.

“The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen,” he wrote.

McElroy received his bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard in 1975 and a master’s degree in history from Stanford in 1976. He then studied at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park and graduated from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley in 1985.

In 1980 he was ordained a priest and was assigned to the San Francisco diocese. He then became an auxiliary bishop in 2010 before becoming bishop of San Diego five years later.

Jessica Flores (she/her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jessica.flores@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jesssmflores

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