Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 02, 2021
A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A draft document about the Eucharist being prepared by a group of U.S. bishops ahead of the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops makes only oblique references to Catholic politicians who disagree with church teaching, perhaps tamping down expectations among some Catholics who had been seeking strong language that could lay the foundation for denying Communion to Catholic political leaders who deviate from church teaching, including President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The draft, obtained by America, was first published by the Catholic newsletter The Pillar on Tuesday.

A draft document about the Eucharist being prepared by a group of U.S. bishops makes only oblique references to Catholic politicians who disagree with church teaching.

In June, a memo from the Committee on Doctrine to U.S. bishops stated that a draft document on the Eucharist would include catechesis about the Eucharist as well as “a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness to the faith.” In a tense two-hour debate at the June U.S.C.C.B. about whether to proceed with drafting a document, a number of bishops specifically named either President Biden or Speaker Pelosi, both Catholic political figures who support abortion rights. Some bishops suggested that a document on the Eucharist should include language about who is eligible to receive Communion. Bishops voted to move ahead with writing the document, a draft of which was distributed to bishops in September.

Running nearly 30 pages, much of the draft document is a theological journey covering Catholic belief about the Eucharist, which the church teaches to be the body and blood of Christ. The document quotes several recent popes and cites the importance of the Eucharist to a number of saints. It recognizes the challenges facing Catholics during the pandemic, when many churches moved worship to online spaces, and it urges Catholics who have drifted away from the church to consider returning.

The document includes a few paragraphs about how individual Catholics—including public figures—should assess their worthiness to receive Communion.

On the political question, the document includes a few paragraphs about how individual Catholics—including public figures—should assess their worthiness to receive Communion but stops well short of offering a checklist of who is or is not eligible for the sacrament.

“Lay people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody Church teaching in their service of the common good,” the document reads.

In another section, the document appears to target a once-common formulation among Catholic politicians who support abortion rights—personal opposition to abortion but a reluctance to impose religious views on society—by articulating that privately held religious beliefs must inform public actions.

“We all need to be consistent in bringing the love of Christ not only to our personal lives, but also to every dimension of our public lives,” the document states.

“We all need to be consistent in bringing the love of Christ not only to our personal lives, but also to every dimension of our public lives,” the document states.

Bishops will gather in Baltimore Nov. 15 to Nov. 18 for their fall meeting, during which they are expected to debate and eventually vote on the draft document. 

Invoking the Second Vatican Council, the draft document states that Catholics are called “to combat everything in human society that is in conflict with the life and dignity of the human person.” Among the examples cited are murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, torture, deportation, human trafficking, poor working conditions and inadequate housing.

In a section about mortal versus venial sin, the document reiterates church teaching that Catholics in a state of mortal sin should not receive Communion without first going to confession.

The draft cites a 2006 document adopted by the U.S.C.C.B. about Communion, in which bishops said Catholics who “obstinately” reject church teaching in their personal or professional lives should refrain from taking Communion.

The document reiterates church teaching that Catholics in a state of mortal sin should not receive Communion without first going to confession.

If they do not, the draft document adds, the situation would “likely cause scandal for others.”

The 2006 document came just two years after then-Senator John Kerry secured the Democratic nomination for president. Mr. Kerry faced calls from some bishops to stop receiving Communion because of his support for abortion rights.

Last week, President Biden met with Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican. Speaking to reporters following their nearly 90-minute meeting, Mr. Biden said that the pope urged him to continue receiving Communion. Sticking to protocol, the Vatican declined to comment on specifics from the meeting, instead pointing to a statement about the topics the two leaders covered.

When asked by a reporter if he planned to discuss the Communion question with U.S. bishops, Mr. Biden said, “That’s a private conversation.”

The next day, Mr. Biden attended Mass at a church in Rome and received Communion.

Pope Francis told a reporter in September that he had never denied Communion to anyone, though stopped short of commenting directly on U.S. politicians. In October, Cardinal Peter Turkson, who heads the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said in an interview that the Eucharist should not be made into a “weapon,” and when asked if he thought Mr. Biden should be denied Communion, stated, “No.”

The latest from america

“There’s a logic that is embedded in the melodies of these tunes that helps the congregation remember them,” Maestro Colin Britt explains on the latest episode of “Hark!”
Jim McDermottDecember 07, 2021
Photo: iStock
The carnivorous cravings of a world of almost eight billion people have radically changed the definition of life on this planet.
John W. MillerDecember 07, 2021
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who has advised Catholics to get the vaccine against Covid-19, revealed this week that he has not yet been vaccinated himself and offered explanations that may confuse the issue for some of his flock.
A Reflection for the Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Simcha FisherDecember 07, 2021