Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone: “If we fail now and do not act courageously in presenting Church teaching … how can we expect to be taken seriously when speaking on any other topic?”
Biden was questioned about the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ decision to condemn Catholic politicians who take communion while supporting abortion rights. “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” the president replied when asked about the possibility of politicians being barred from taking communion. However, before leaving the briefing on Friday, June 18, he added, ‘That’s a private matter.’
Following a tumultuous debate, Catholic bishops overwhelmingly voted to draft a statement on the Eucharist, which some bishops said was urgently needed. Two of the highest-ranking U.S. political leaders are Catholics who support abortion rights. Other Bishops warned that doing so would politicize the Eucharist.
The vote, which took place on Thursday, June 17, was 168 in favor, 55 against, and six abstentions.
Following the desire of many bishops to meet in person before the statement is prepared, they will meet in regional groups to debate the proposed statement before a drafting committee offers a proposal to the whole body of bishops.
Before the bishops vote on the text at their plenary session in November, individual bishops will be permitted to propose modifications. For a statement to be accepted, two-thirds of American bishops must vote in favor of it.
The statement will almost certainly necessitate a review by Vatican authorities before a vote.
The proposal for a document “On the Meaning of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” was requested by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. Bishop Liam Cary described the “unprecedented situation in the country,” namely, the presence of a self-declared Catholic president “who is opposed to the teaching of the Church,” particularly the teaching on the Eucharist.
In a pre-recorded message to his brother bishops, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, head of the USCCB doctrinal committee, said that the paper would “address the fundamental truths we believe” about the Eucharist, including “the Real Presence” and its sacrificial nature. It would also “focus on the need to celebrate the sacrament with reverence and beauty,” and a third section would explain “how Eucharistic participation compels us to conversion.”
According to Rhoades, a portion of the document’s third section would address “Eucharistic consistency,” which refers to the requirement that Catholics receive our Lord in Holy Communion only when they are in a condition of grace.
The document’s outline has prompted debate among Catholic clergy and laypeople, who fear that, in Cardinal Cupich’s words, “there is an expectation” that “we deny communion to the president, Speaker Pelosi, and other people who are being named.”
Despite significant criticism of the document’s drafting, notably its planned reference to Church doctrine on the worthiness of receiving Holy Communion, the bishops’ discussion indicated that the idea had widespread support.
“There was a consensus among the members of the committee on doctrine, that one cannot discuss the centrality of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life without addressing those actions that inflict damage to the honor due to the sacrament, or cause scandal to the faithful,” Rhoades said.
“It was never our thought to propose national norms for denying Catholics Holy Communion, but to provide a clear understanding of why our Church has these laws; outlining the rich tradition and profound teaching that is the basis for these canons,” Rhoades added.
“In addition, the statement was never considered by the committee on doctrine to be a statement about any one individual, or about any one category of sinful behavior. Rather, it would bring heightened awareness among the faithful of the need to be conformed to the Eucharist and to bear public witness to the faith through a call to conversion and the abandonment of sinful behavior,” Rhoades said.
During the bishops’ meeting, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco made an impassioned plea for acceptance of the plan, saying, “The eyes of the whole country are on us now if we fail now and do not act courageously in presenting Church teaching … clearly and convincingly, on this core Catholic value. How can we expect to be taken seriously when speaking on any other topic?”
“I would remind all of us of the biblical injunction that Saint John Paul II repeated throughout his pontificate … ‘Be not afraid,’” Cordileone concluded.
In the face of a pro-abortion president who claims to be Catholic, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, leader of the USCCB pro-life committee, boldly advocated for the urgent necessity of the proposed statement.
“Those who advocate for abortion no longer talk in the language of choice. They talk about it as a right … our president talks about it as a right,” Naumann added. “This is a Catholic president that’s doing this, the most aggressive thing we’ve ever seen in terms of this attack on life when it’s most innocent.”