Washington D.C., Jul 7, 2021 / 11:21 am (CNA).
The U.S. bishops are drafting a Eucharistic document to catechize Catholics, not to score political points, two bishops emphasized this week.
In comments to the Wheeling News-Register that were published on Tuesday, Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston and Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville said the bishops are responding to an apparent lack of belief in the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.
“We face a great challenge to reverse (the) weakened faith of many Catholics in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Bishop Brennan told the News-Register. “Without that faith, it is questionable whether a Catholic receives the spiritual benefit of the Sacrament.”
At their recent virtual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.
A proposed outline of the document included various Church teachings on the Eucharist, such as “the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist,” “the recovery of understanding the Eucharist as sacrifice,” and “the need for beautiful and dignified liturgies.”
The outline also included a sub-section on worthiness to receive Communion, or “Eucharistic consistency.” The doctrine committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), which advanced the proposal, explained that the document would include a special call for Catholic public figures to uphold Church teaching.
Some bishops argued against moving forward with drafting the Eucharistic document, saying that the sub-section on Eucharistic consistency would be seen as too political, as a warning for pro-abortion Catholic politicians not to receive Communion. One bishop warned that the document would invite a “weaponization” of the Eucharist.
Nevertheless, the conference voted to begin drafting the teaching document, with 168 bishops supporting the motion, 55 opposing, and six abstaining. Subsequent news reports cast the vote as part of a process to deny Communion to President Joe Biden.
“I think there were two bishops’ conferences that happened a week ago — one that I attended, and one that a lot of the Catholic press reported on,” Bishop Monforton said.
Bishops Brennan and Monforton this week argued that a teaching document on the Eucharist is necessary, and is not meant to be political. The document, which will be drafted and then voted on by the conference in November, will be needed in advance of the bishops’ three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative that begins in 2022, Brennan said.
Worthiness to receive Communion is part of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, Bishop Monforton said. “There are grave sins out there, and they constitute a lack of charity, a break of friendship with God,” he said
Monforton noted that while other bishops mentioned support for abortion and euthanasia as grave sins that could prevent worthy reception of Communion, the Church does not focus on simply one or two issues; he said that “racism, and human trafficking” are other grave evils that cannot be supported.
Both Brennan and Monforton said a teaching document on the Eucharist is necessary in the current environment.
“Back in 2019, there was a Pew (Research Center) report that surveyed Catholics; nearly 70 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Eucharist as a symbol, rather than the real body of Christ,” Bishop Brennan said. “It shows that there’s a need for a catechetical moment.”
“On the lighter side of things, the second-graders at the Catholic schools in Steubenville know more about the Eucharist than 70 percent of Catholics,” Bishop Monforton said. “If the children’s parents don’t go to church, sometimes you need to evangelize the parents through the children.”
Other U.S. bishops have recently made statements on “Eucharistic coherence” following the conference’s spring meeting.
On the final day of the meeting, 60 Catholic House Democrats had released a statement of principles, urging that politicians not be denied Communion because of a pro-abortion stance.
In response, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated in a June 23 essay published by the journal First Things, “The bishops’ motivation is pastoral: the salvation of souls and reparation of scandal. There is nothing punitive in stating and restating the truth of Catholic belief, and its implications for an authentically Catholic life.”
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver stated in his July 2 column for Denver Catholic that, “instead of accepting their own responsibility to understand and follow Church teaching,” the 60 Catholic members “are the ones who are ‘weaponizing the Eucharist’ by insisting that they remain in good standing despite publicly committing grave sins and continuing to receive Communion.”
“One cannot say one believes something, do the complete opposite and then credibly say that they are in communion with a Church that believes what they did is evil,” he added.
In a June 28 article in the New York Post, Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, wrote that dialogue with Democratic politicians could not come about if they did not even support legislation to protect babies surviving botched abortion attempts.
“We’re willing to reach out. But if protecting the life of a baby struggling to breathe, after surviving a brutal attack on his life, is a bridge too far for pro-abortion-rights politicians, then I ask again, what are we dialoguing about?” he wrote.