Day 2 of US bishops’ meeting dominated by Eucharistic debate, parties form based on doctrine

The real division and debate in the conference was once again revealed when the assembled bishops turned to the proposal for drafting a document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.
Fri Jun 18, 2021 - 11:59 am EST
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WASHINGTON, June 18, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Clear division and opposing views on the Eucharist marked the second day of the Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), as the bishops revealed their unity on most things on the agenda, except the Eucharist.

Cupich, Cordileone, and Amoris Laetitia

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, like the day before, presented Called to the Joy of Love, and once again Cardinal Cupich intervened to input more explicit references to the Pope’s encyclical Amoris Laetitia. Cupich asked for an input of additional and wider-reaching references to some sections from the document’s controversial chapter 8.

Some of the passages Cupich wished to be referred to were previously described by a group of 45 theologians as “heretical.” Cordileone accepted the input of the reference to paragraphs 304 and 307 from AL, saying that such would be “acceptable.”

However, upon further pushing of the matter, Cupich demanded that a footnote be made in Cordileone’s text, that instead of merely citing paragraph 291 also cited at least the entirety of the controversial chapter 8 of the encyclical. This motion, which Cordileone was firmly opposed to, passed with 52% in favor, 42% opposed, and 6% abstained.

Eucharistic document debate

The real division and debate in the conference was once again revealed when the assembled bishops turned the discussion to Action Item #7, the proposal for drafting a document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Introducing the matter, Bishop Rhoades warned that the “truth about the Eucharist can get lost,” stating that there was a need for a “unified and strong revival of the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church,” which was “more critical now than ever.” Such a proposed document would provide the “rich, theological, and pastoral doctrine on the Eucharist,” according to the wish of USCCB president Archbishop José Gomez. The three pillars of the document would focus on the Eucharist as a mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived.

“It was never our thought to present national norms for denying Catholics Holy Communion,” stated Rhoades, who ruled out creating a “national policy.” Instead, he described the document’s purpose as seeking to “present a clear understanding of why the Church has these laws.”

Responding to the proposed document, particularly the third part dealing with “Eucharistic consistency,” Bishop Strickland noted that the “recent controversy about whether persisting in denial of basic Catholic teaching disqualifies a person from receiving Our Lord in Communion has devastated many faithful Catholics.”

He firmly supported drafting the Eucharistic document, noting that it must make the “clear connection between the sacrament of Confession and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”

“We must all strive to repent of our sins and grow in virtue in order to rightly receive Our Lord,” stated Strickland. “Prominent persons can’t be held to a different standard.”

His theme was strongly supported by a number of prelates, including Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the chair of the USCCB’s pro-life committee, and Archbishop Cordileone, who hoped that the bishops could “all agree on the substance of Church teaching,” warning that the credibility of the U.S. bishops was on the line.

Archbishops Joseph Kurtz of Louisville and Paul Coakley of Oaklahoma City, with Bishops Conley of Lincoln, and Donald DeGrood of Sioux Falls, were among others supporting the document.

However, Cardinal Cupich once again weighed in with objections, asking that the focus on how a “set category of Catholics” might be unworthy to receive the Eucharist, should be removed entirely and replaced with a more general outlook. Cupich revealed that he would not be supporting the proposed document, given its current draft outline, and that his support would only come if the section on Eucharistic consistency and named individuals were removed.

San Diego’s dissident Bishop Robert McElroy supported Cupich in opposing the document, arguing the current proposed draft presents “the groundwork for a fundamental shift in the conception of how bishops should present our faith in public discussion,” which would turn the Eucharist into a “tool” in the political divide. It would be impossible to prevent the “weaponization of the Eucharist in partisan battles,” warned McElroy.

Claiming that such a proposed document was motivated by a focus on abortion and euthanasia, McElroy declared that such a focus would “fatally undermine the ability of the Church in the U.S., to witness to Her ability to the integrity of Catholic social teaching, including the Church’s condemnation of racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.”

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Among others opposing the document, at least in its proposed format, were Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, pro-LGBT Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Bishop Medley of Owensboro, and Joseph Bambera of Scranton.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark weighed in with a strong condemnation of the document: “Any effort by this conference to move in support of the categorical exclusion of Catholic political leaders from the Eucharist, based on their public policy positions, will thrust the bishops of our nation into the very heart of the toxic partisan strife, which has distorted our own political culture and fruitful meaningful dialogue.”

Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque also opposed the document, although for different reasons than others who opposed it, saying that the Church already had suitable teaching on the matter, and that such documents “rarely bear any fruit.”

The question of the day, often more implicit than explicit, was of course whether pro-abortion President Joe Biden would be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Yet in a stunning remark in the press conference after the meeting, Bishop Rhoades stated to the New York Times that “I can’t answer that question.”

“We will be looking at that whole issue of Eucharistic consistency,” he said, adding that the question is for Biden’s own bishop, and that it was not the task of the committee to look at individuals.

While U.S. Catholics await the result of the votes, due to be announced later today, one thing remains absolutely clear regarding the second day of the meeting — for many U.S. bishops, the concept of “Eucharistic consistency” is proving too great an obstacle to their desired “unity.” The USCCB is hugely divided, with conservatives largely advocating for the document on the Eucharist as a means to re-iterate the Church’s teaching on the disposition necessary to receive the Eucharist, with liberal clerics largely opposing the move, describing it as divisive, politicizing, and a “weaponization” of the Eucharist.

  eucharistic coherence, usccb, usccb spring 2021

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