WASHINGTON, June 24, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — As the dust settles after the U.S. bishops gathered online for their Spring Assembly last week, the bishops’ conference has released a brief clarifying note on the proposed document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church, stating, “There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.”
The three-day conference, livestreamed online, was marked by debate and division on the matter of the Eucharistic document proposed by the Doctrine Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Proposing the document, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, head of the Doctrine Committee, stated 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.”
However, in the wake of strong protest from a number of cardinals and bishops, as well as from mainstream media reports and pro-abortion self-described Catholic politicians, Rhoades added that the purpose of the document was not to single out select groups of people, particularly pro-abortion politicians such as Joe Biden.
“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.”
The document, which was given the approval to be drafted, has piqued interest from Catholic and non-Catholic media alike, with the suspicion that despite avoiding singling out any particular group, it might nevertheless affirm teaching which would prohibit abortion supporters from receiving Holy Communion.
Such a thought was evidently on the minds of the virtually assembled clerics, as Cardinals Blaise Cupich, Joseph Tobin, and Wilton Gregory, as well as Bishop Robert McElroy, attacked the document, opposing any policy of denying the Eucharist to individuals, saying it would even be out of line with the Gospel.
Clarifying note rules out any national policy on Holy Communion
Now, however, the USCCB has issued a one-page note in an apparent attempt to regain control of the media narrative, a concern which was even raised by certain bishops during the meeting. The note addresses certain key questions on the Eucharistic document, namely why it is being drafted, whether the USCCB voted to ban pro-abortion politicians from Holy Communion, if there will be a policy on such a question, and whether the move is in line with the Vatican.
The document notes that there was no vote or even debate on banning pro-abortion politicians, or indeed anyone, from Holy Communion.
Instead, the bishops wrote in the note: “Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.”
Furthermore, the note clearly stipulates what Rhoades mentioned at the Spring Assembly: There will be no new national policy on the reception of the Eucharist in the Eucharistic document.
“There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.”
Taking the statement at face value, it leads to as yet unanswered questions about what the USCCB does in fact intend to do on the matter of giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians. If the much-anticipated section on “Eucharistic consistency” in the Eucharistic document does not address this question, then the clerical and media hype about a future rebuttal of Biden would appear to be groundless. The Eucharistic document would also be avoiding a significant element of the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church by sidestepping such statements.
Indeed, Rhoades himself already mentioned in comments to the press after the second day of the Spring Assembly that “I can’t answer” whether Biden would be allowed to receive Holy Communion. It would be a matter for Biden’s own bishop, Rhoades added.
Eucharistic document, much ado about nothing? Church’s law already binds
With regards to the upcoming Eucharistic document, it seems that in light of the June 21 note, the issue of giving Communion to supporters of abortion will not be covered, even though abortion is a grave sin, and one which instantly bars one from receiving Holy Communion — a significant issue in a discussion of the Eucharist and the Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is always wrong because it kills an innocent human being, thus violating the Church’s prohibition on murder, a teaching which “remains unchangeable.”
“Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense,” reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.”
Any state which deprives a certain category of persons of their inalienable rights, particularly the right to life from conception until death, is thus “denying the equality of all before the law,” and undermines its own foundations.
Furthermore, the Church’s Canon Law stipulates that under no circumstances are those who persist in manifest grave sin to receive the Holy Eucharist. “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
It was based on this very directive of Canon Law that Fr. Robert E. Morey of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina, refused to give Biden Holy Communion in 2019. In comments to media in the aftermath, Morey explained his reasons: “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that.”
“Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching,” he added.
Hence, as the USCCB looks set to studiously avoid the topic of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, most especially in the form of drafting a “national policy,” the Eucharistic document would appear to be already moot, since it will avoid one of the most pressing issues of the Church in the U.S., namely, having a “Catholic” president who supports and promotes the murder of the unborn, and still presents himself for Holy Communion.
In fact, while the USCCB attempt to avoid this topic by rejecting any national policy, the Church has already spoken for the bishops in a universal manner, through the official texts and laws which bind all Catholics, both clerical and lay.