MADISON, Wisconsin — The planned discussions on Eucharistic coherence at the June meetings of U.S. bishops should proceed as originally planned and not be suspended or delayed as proposed by several cardinals and dozens of other prelates, Bishop Donald J. Hying of the Diocese of Madison said Friday.
In November 2020, U.S. bishops voted to prepare a document that teaches about the centrality of the Eucharist and addresses problems that arise with Catholics whose lives make them improperly disposed to receive Holy Communion due to unforgiven sin. The process was begun by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). A group of bishops led by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington D.C. wrote to Gomez asking that the discussion be postponed.
Given all of this preparation, many of us bishops were surprised and dismayed to discover that a group of fellow bishops recently wrote a letter to Archbishop Gomez, asking him to delay this important and necessary process,” Hying said in a statement Friday. “I express my full support of the original plan and vision to address these significant themes.”
Signed by nearly 70 bishops, the letter to Gomez asked to delay discussions of Eucharistic coherence until the bishops’ conference can discuss the issue in person. The USCCB has held its semi-annual bishops meetings virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Spring General Assembly will take place virtually June 16-18. In a May 7 letter to Gomez, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged that “dialogue among the bishops be undertaken to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of the disagreements over this controversial topic.”
In an interview with Catholic World Report, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone indicated the bishops understand the need to move. “I see Cardinal Ladaria’s letter as affirming what we’ve been doing all along. We’ve been discussing this, dialoguing about it, for at least 20 years,” Cordileone said. “And now I sense a growing sense of urgency among the bishops to do something very clear and strong, that is pastoral and clear teaching about this. So, I think the letter is affirming what our plan is.”
Bishop Hying indicated discussion of the Holy Eucharist is timely, given an often poor understanding of the sacrament among Catholics. “The Holy Eucharist is the very center and life of the Church—the Sunday and daily celebration of the Mass and the gift of Holy Communion nourish all of us with the sacramental gift of Christ Himself on our way to heaven,” Hying said. “The Eucharist is the love and truth of Jesus. Many of our people do not believe or understand these central teachings. Others are confused when they observe some of our political leaders who profess Catholicism, participate in Mass and receive Communion, yet advance policies inimical to Church teaching.”
Debate has sharpened on the issue since President Joe Biden was sworn into office in January. Biden, who describes himself as a devout Catholic, nevertheless advances an agenda with support and funding for abortion. He is one of the most pro-abortion chief executives ever to occupy the West Wing of the White House. Many Catholics have called on U.S. bishops to directly address the topic of such a high-profile Catholic receiving Holy Communion while pushing policies that oppose clear teachings of the Catholic Church on the dignity of human life.
More bishops have been speaking out, with some acknowledging an urgency for action by the bishops’ conference. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said Biden “should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic, and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.” The U.S. bishops, Naumann said, “have the responsibility to correct him. Although people have given this president power and authority, he cannot define what it is to be a Catholic and what Catholic moral teaching is.”
Archbishop Cordileone in May issued a 17-page pastoral letter that called for “a frank and honest reassessment” of the abortion issue, given the more than 60 million innocent lives taken since the 1973 Roe v. Wade court case. “Jesus Christ cannot be separated from His Body; to receive His Eucharistic Body and Blood while repudiating essential doctrines of His Mystical Body is to eat and drink judgment on oneself,” Archbishop Cordileone wrote.
Cordileone cited the writings of St. Justin Martyr on the Eucharist: “No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes what we teach is true; unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.” Applied to modern times, Cordileone wrote, “those who reject the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of human life and those who do not seek to live in accordance with that teaching should not receive the Eucharist.”
In a 2020 interview with Catholic World Report, Hying said there is a “crisis of understanding and faith regarding the Eucharist” that has the highest stakes. “My mantra is always if you understand the Eucharist and believe the Eucharist, there’s no way you would not be at Mass every week, if not every day,” Bishop Hying said. “If you truly understood and believe what the Eucharist is, Who the Eucharist is, you would be there.”
If Catholics properly understood the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they would know Christ’s love demands a reply. “Jesus’ death on the Cross and His Resurrection demands a response from us,” Bishop Hying said. “So that going to Mass, receiving the Eucharist, going to confession, embracing a life of prayer, doing acts of charity; all that in a sense is our response to the graciousness of God’s invitation to us.”
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!