The Eucharistic coherence debate: An overview and timeline

Despite the 60 or so bishops who want to delay the conversation about pro-abortion politicians and Holy Communion, many clergy and laity are saying it needs to be had sooner than later.

(Image: Jacob Bentzinger/

Eucharistic coherence, President Joe Biden’s abortion stance, and pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Communion have been hot issues for quite a while, especially since Biden’s election. But the tensions and debates have increased in recent weeks, in part because of stories and rumors about whether or not a discussion on Eucharistic coherence would take place among the US bishops at their Spring Assembly, which meets June 16-18.

Here is a rundown of how the discussion has progressed over the past few weeks.

At their meeting this month, members of the U.S. bishops’ conference are expected to discuss a proposed document on “Eucharistic coherence,” on the worthy reception of Holy Communion by Catholics. But a group of more than 60 bishops has written to Archbishop Jose Gomez this month, pressing for the U.S. bishops’ conference leadership to suspend discussion “Eucharistic coherence” at the USCCB’s June meeting. 

The Pillar, which broke the story, reported: 

The letter was signed by several U.S. cardinals, including Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan was originally a signatory to the letter, but he withdrew his name from the text after it was sent.

In late April, the Associated Press and Washington Post reported that US bishops may press Biden to stop taking Communion, and that a debate on the issue was imminent.

However, a source close to the USCCB stated that they believe reports on Biden and Communion from the AP and the Washington Post are either “just totally ignorant of the Church’s structure,” or meant “to pressure the bishops into silence” regarding the Equality Act. 

Whatever the case, discussion about Eucharistic coherence and possible ecclesiastical discipline has increased, not lessened. Despite the 60 or so bishops who want to delay the conversation, many clergy and laity are saying it needs to be had sooner than later.

In an April 18th CWR essay titled “Eucharistic Coherence,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila wrote:

When one partakes of the Eucharist, one is stating by one’s very action that one is in communion with Christ and his Church. However, if one is in mortal sin when receiving Communion, one is telling a lie, for, in being in a state of mortal sin, one is neither in communion with Christ nor his Church.

The noted Capuchin Franciscan theologian Fr. Thomas Weinandy said in a May 1 essay for The Catholic Thing, entitled “Politicizing the Eucharist”, that dissenting Catholic politicians abuse and politicize the Eucharist when they receive the sacrament while promoting policies and actions contrary to the faith, such as legal abortion. Fr. Weinandy insists that the real culprits when it comes to politicizing the sacrament are pro-abortion politicians, concluding:

In the end, what cannot be denied in all this deception, is the work of the devil.  He, above all, wishes to politicize the Eucharist – to reduce it to political marketing. Nothing could be more deceptive than “devout” Catholic politicians wreaking havoc on the Catholic Church and Catholic bishops approving such devilish behavior.

Regarding the charge of “politicizing the Eucharist,” Ignatius Press president Mark Brumley stated, in an essay published at America:

Catholics can and do act in the political sphere in ways either consistent with eucharistic communion or contrary to it. They can and sometimes do commit grave sins in their policy stances. When Catholic politicians act contrary to eucharistic communion (i.e., commit a grave sin in the political sphere), they should either refrain from the Eucharist until after receiving sacramental reconciliation (Code of Canon Law, No. 916); or, if they obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin, they should not be given Communion (No. 915).

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said in a May 6 statement, “Woe to us bishops if we do not speak clearly about the grave evil of abortion, and the consequences of any Catholic who participates in the act or publicly supports it by word or action.”

When the Vatican stepped into the discussion in early May, it seemed to only cause more confusion. Luis Cardinal Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote May 7 to the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding admission to Communion, affirming the centrality of the congregation’s 2002 note on Catholic’s participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) subsequently said she was “pleased” with this letter from the Vatican to U.S. bishops on Communion for pro-abortion politicians. She claimed that the Vatican’s statement “basically said ‘don’t be divisive on the subject’.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco – Pelosi’s home archdiocese – responded that the Vatican actually supported “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion Catholic politicians “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart.” 

Bishop Olmsted spoke out again, reaffirming his position, saying “The care of souls is our first concern.” He stated that he is protecting the Eucharist, not “politicizing” it, by teaching that Catholic politicians cannot support abortion and receive Communion.

“I’m deeply grieved by the rising public acrimony among bishops and the adoption of behind-closed-doors maneuvers to interfere with the accepted, normal, agreed-upon procedures of the USCCB,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a statement provided to Catholic News Agency.

 “The issue of Eucharistic coherence is primarily ‘a question of love, a question of charity toward our neighbor,” Archbishop Aquila said in a statement to the USCCB. 

Archbishop Cordileone called an effort to push Eucharistic coherence from the USCCB’s June agenda “unacceptable,” and called for U.S. bishops to engage in more mutual prayer, and a free and honest debate on the issue.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas voiced support for Archbishop Cordileone on Twitter, saying May 26: “Thank you Archbishop Cordileone… I am with you… let us be pastors.”

On May 25 Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon voiced his “full support” for Archbishop Gomez and for “the direction he has provided to the body of bishops regarding the question of Eucharistic coherence.”

“He has laid out a process which includes wide consultation on a particular timeline,” Archbishop Sample added. “Some of my brother bishops have asked to delay the process, but this would be a failure of our pastoral responsibility and a failure of collegiality.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois also believes the bishops must discuss worthiness to receive the Eucharist. “Sadly, there are some bishops and cardinals of the Church who not only are willing to give holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, but who seek to block the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from addressing the question of Eucharistic coherence,” he said on Wednesday, May 26.

In a May 15th homily given at Thomas Aquinas College, Bishop Paprocki said, “In seeking Eucharistic coherence in an incoherent era, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal is conversion and readmission to communion, not exclusion and permanent expulsion from the community of faith.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln counts himself among those who believe discussions on Eucharistic coherence should happen soon. “If the polls are correct, some 70% of Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” he said. “Now is not the time to suspend discussion among the US bishops on the question of Eucharistic coherence at our upcoming June meeting.”

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego opined that in discussions about whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be admitted to Communion, the sacrament is being “weaponized for political ends.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, responded to Bishop McElroy, saying that “our concern is not political but pastoral.” “Speaking the truth at times appears to create division,” he wrote, “but often it simply exposes the division that already exists. If Catholics cannot agree on protecting the helpless unborn, then our unity is superficial at best and illusory at worst.”

Just how real or illusory is that unity will likely be demonstrated to some significant degree at the USCCB Spring Assembly. Whether or not clarity and substantial action will result remains to be seen.

(Note: Bishop Wall was incorrectly identified as a bishop in Texas; that error has been corrected.)

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About David Kilby 3 Articles
David Kilby is the Managing Editor of Catholic World Report.


  1. I do not believe a person can be pro-life unless he or she protects our environment so our children will have a healthy place to live. A pro-life candidate provides a safety net for those who need it by ensuring decent, living-wage jobs; affordable and safe housing; health care; affordable education and freedom from discrimination based on prejudice and ignorance. A pro-life candidate opposes the death penalty. The Beatitudes, in other words. I hate abortion. But I also hate an economy that allows the super rich to sail on by without paying their fair share.

    • Oh, please. Come on, Maureen.

      So the issue isn’t the killing of many, many millions of innocent children?

      It’s tax rates?

      I don’t even know what to say to that.

    • And if the government does not take care of children, then abortion is acceptable. Is that what you are saying?

      As a matter of fact, the government does provide free education, a safety net for the poor, free housing for those who are in poverty, free health care for the poor. Could it do better? Maybe. But when diabetes and obesity are the biggest health problems among the poor, something is amiss. When the poorest urban school districts in the nation receive the most funding, something is not right. And when employers cannot find employees at $15+ per hour, maybe something else is wrong. And when the richest people in the nation are white liberals, maybe we need to look critically at them rather than follow their hypocritical lead. To wit, the “pro-life” litany you recite sounds all too familiar, like a defense of abortion we hear from progressive elites.

    • Who’s to say a prolife person isn’t all that…. we love the earth, my gosh how could all of those beautiful children that are murdered by abortion live well if not for clean running water etc. I get the feeling that you think it has to be one way or the other? We love life in all forms, so how about you get on board and help save those precious children instead of lecturing us prolifers on what we need to do…. we are doing it!!!!!

    • Maureen Donnelly,

      That is nonsense.

      Life is not equal. All forms of life are not equal. Killing a termite and killing a human being are not equal.

      Your post is the kind of ridiculous equivalence that people have been duped into believing.

      We are meant to be caretakers of the environment but above all we are told not to commit murder. It is at heart the one who kills the unborn who damages the environment for in that heart resides the height of selfishness. As Mother Teresa said it: to kill another human being that we may live as we please.

      What you have written is the lie that the devil will have us believe.

      And no, you are not saving any life because the fact remains that you do not know how long the Lord will allow this world to exist. You do not know that the what you say will happen will happen. You do not know that people will die in year XXXX because of the rising sea levels or the bad environment.

      But we do know that you pro-murderers of the unborn have killed human beings. THAT is fact.

      It is completely absurd to say that a pro-life candidate should oppose the death penalty. The death penalty are for those convicted heinous criminals! Abortion is the killing of INNOCENT CHILDREN.

      So enough of these lies.

    • What a cliché-ridden exercise in human pretentiousness you invoke to accommodate what may be an attempt to excuse your own potential culpability, through potential indifference, in the mass killing of the unborn. Why not throw in a billion dollars for everyone so no one would have to work anymore, and we could all have whatever we wanted?

      When Jesus said the poor would always be with us, He was not being callous. It is impossible to reengineer human nature to eliminate personal sin from human existence, and it is a sin in itself to sit back and pretend that it can. It is a sin to essentially say I am not going to address evil until there is a system in place whereby there could not be any more evil in the world. Social organization can not create utopia because even politicians and bureaucrats share the same evil attitudes as you are suggesting, and they are willing to accept the evil notion that only certain categories of humanity are responsible for evil in the world. Once they’re eliminated, everything will be fine. Warmakers and tyrants never give up trying. Giving up the popular sin of an unjust hatred for the rich will not rectify the sins of socialism that contribute to poverty or the sins of the poor that also contribute to their poverty, not to mention the ways in which the poor abuse the rich. Life is always more complicated than utopians would have it. The paradoxes of Our Lord illustrate this. Incidentally, opposing capital punishment in all circumstances is not in and of itself, in any way, “pro-life.”

  2. Hey, bishops —

    Get a clue.

    You were not given that job to serve as yes men and lackeys for politicians who have enabled the deaths of scores of millions of children for decades upon decades.

    Need you be reminded what Jesus said? “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mt. 10:34)

    It’s time, bishops. Use it.

  3. With 60 (SIXTY) bishops signing the Cupich letter:

    No more USCCB Pro-Life collection.
    No more USCCB sponsorship of the March for Life.
    No more USCCB Guide for Voting.

    The hypocrisy is over. Catholics need to march on the USCCB!

    • Finally, someone who what’s action! thank you Jpfhays! The USCCB needs to take action regardless of what Cupich and others say and take action now! And here is their chance! If they do NOT, good, practicing Catholics should march on the USCCB! I would gladly be part of that group! Let’s get together good, practicing Catholics. The USCCB is a joke and an embarrassment to the Church!

    • An old legal axiom, “Qui tacet consentire,” translates “Silence gives consent.”
      Those of our leaders who are consecrated and ordained to “teach, sanctify and
      govern” do a grave disservice to the faithful in their silence in the case of
      publicly pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians.

  4. The bishops who are calling for an understanding of Eucharistic coherence are fulfilling their vocations as shepherds. Those who want, for whatever reason, to ignore the problem of politicians making a mockery of the Eucharist by receiving and promoting immoral policies simultaneously, are simply spineless — the “lukewarm” described in the Book of Revelation. Lukewarm isn’t a good position for any Catholic. If the bishops fail in their duty to lead the flock, they will face God and have to answer for being lukewarm or worse.

  5. The article names those opposed to the Eucharistic Coherence statement, and they are the usual suspects who ignore the truth.

  6. If I counted correctly there are about eight bishops mentioned in the article that have spoken out in favor of Eucharistic Coherence. Over sixty bishops signed a letter opposing promoting Eucharistic Coherence. That leaves a couple of hundred bishops who have not gone on record either pro or con. Bishops are the primary teachers of the faith?
    I may be a little hopeful, but I am not confident.

  7. It’s perfectly fair of us – the laity – to demand that the names of those ‘bishops’ who want to FURTHER delay the ‘conversation’ be published. If the name of MY Bishop is on that list I will write him and tell him why I am not making a contribution to the Bishop’s appeal this year.

    This issue is an ongoing scandal of more than 20 years and it MUST be addressed.

  8. This issue has been an ongoing scandal in the Church for more than 20 years, and there are at least 60 Bishops who won’t even TALK about it?

    Got it.

  9. Where can one find a list of the 60 Bishops that have suggested the Church should defer discussion on this issue? I am trying to find out if ours (Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) is on that list or not. Please advise. Thanks. Your in Christ. — Mark Kamoski

  10. Bishop James Wall is bishop Of Gallup, New Mexico not Texas. That aside, you’re correct in quoting Bishop Wall that the matter is pastoral not political. Furthermore, Church teaching documented during John Paul II’s pontificate and Benedict XVI make the issue clear. No Catholic president, politician or otherwise may promote abortion, support it by vote sans penalty of grave sin. It’s not an issue for deliberation and compromise because this preeminent moral truth cannot be subject to consensus and compromise [which is what author Kilby suggests]. “Cardinal Ladaria affirmed the centrality of the congregation’s 2002 note on Catholic’s participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches”. That’s a deliberate misinterpretation because the 2004 Instruction issued by the same Cardinal Ratzinger made it abundantly clear on how the local ordinary must form his prudential judgment in favor of Church doctrine. No local ordinary has the canonical privilege to defy that doctrine. No local ordinary can declare serious sin a virtue. It’s a monumental ruse that must be exposed for the chicanery that it is.

    • I agree! I, too, would like to see a published list of the 60 bishops! I cannot these “leaders of the flock” say and do the things they do! PUBLISH THE LIST. WE WANT TO SEE IT!

  11. All the bishops need to once again read St. Paul.

    1 Corinthians 10:16-21. Paul makes it clear that when we partake of the Eucharist we partake of the body and blood of Jesus;

    three times in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 Paul uses language that shows he believes the Eucharist is literally Jesus and not a mere symbol.
    The “guilt of blood”
    The first example is Paul’s use of homicidal language in his instruction on receiving the Eucharist worthily:
    Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord (v.27).

    Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). So when we receive Communion, we actually participate in the body and blood of Christ, not just eat symbols of them. Paul also said, “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29). “To answer for the body and blood” of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide.

    St. Paul’s description of the institution of the Holy Eucharist is said to be the earliest account written. In that account he speaks of the dispositions that we should have when we come to the Lord’s Supper:
    “Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes! This means that whoever eats or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:23-29).

    • I agree/understand that anyone receiving Communion should be worthy of doing so. But: At my son’s funeral mass, the priest said that if you were not Catholic or if you missed Mass(es) on Sunday, you could not receive Communion. Why he could not take one more minute or two to explain why would have helped. Instead of assuming that the non Catholics in the church were “in grave sin”, shouldn’t he have left them to make the decision to receive or not? I keep thinking that maybe someone could have benefited from receiving Communion. By not explaining the why, that decision was not available.

  12. So, we want to excommunicate politicians who are pro-choice. Trouble is, politicians don’t make the decision for a pregnant woman to have an abortion—-the pregnant woman makes that decision. Can’t legislate morality—but religion can change a person’s morals. Maybe we should spend our time and resources convincing our neighbors to join us in church on Sunday. But we could excommunicate politicians and the women that have abortions and the people that drive the women to the abortion clinic and the people in the abortion clinic. Getting people into church is the answer to our problems. Everyone agrees people should stop shooting other people, but man-made laws don’t stop the shootings. God created a church on earth to change the world—-God did not create a government.

    • We don’t know if President Biden is pro choice. I sure don’t want to be in his shoes. Today it seems “everything” is legal. Hard to believe our government has actually allowed abortions period. Sickening when the child can no longer be called an embryo and an ultrasound can show a real human. As president doesn’t he have to “OK” what is called/demanded, etc. as “equality”?

  13. The bishop of Rome aligns with Biden/Pelosi much more so than he agrees with Abps Cordileone/Strickland, et al.
    Cupich, Tobin, McElroy and Gregory all love the DNC and are addicted to Federal money. Protect the Holy Eucharist? Well, only so-so. Not P/C. That is clear by their actions.

  14. Our bishops periodically get together to promise to get together to appoint a committee to study a time when they can appropriately get together at some future time to set up another committee to plan another meeting to plan a way to organize their next meeting to discuss whether the time is appropriate to reformulate their plans to have another meeting to discuss whether to appoint another committee to explore the idea of having another meeting of trying to remember what the first meeting about in the first place. It usually has to do with something requiring testicular fortitude that they could have resolved within the first five minutes of the first meeting. And they travel to all these events on first class airline tickets paid for by the su_ _ _ _ _ in the pews from the pennies they saved.

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  1. Who’s really “politicizing” the Body of Christ?

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