Archbishop Cordileone: We need ‘major effort’ to ‘re-catechize’ Catholics on the Eucharist

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone / Archdiocese of San Francisco

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2021 / 16:02 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of San Francisco said this week there must be a “major effort” to “re-catechize” Catholics on the Eucharist and worthiness to receive Communion.

In an interview which aired on Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said that the matter of “Eucharistic coherence” applies to all Catholics, not just Catholic public officials. The bishops are scheduled to discuss the topic at their upcoming spring meeting from June 16-18, and vote on whether or not to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Regarding the worthiness of Catholics to receive Communion – including politicians who publicly support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion – “we’ve been debating this and discussing it for a very long time, at least 20 years now,” Archbishop Cordileone said on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

“And I remember as a new bishop this issue coming up – and the realization that the problem is our people don’t understand what the act of Communion really means, in that sense of worthiness to receive Holy Communion,” he said.

“So, certainly, Eucharistic coherence applies to every single Catholic,” Cordileone said. “Catholics prominent in public life have an additional responsibility, in terms of the public witness that they give,” he added, “but it applies to all Catholics. So, we do need to have a very major effort in re-catechizing our people about this.”

At their upcoming virtual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops are scheduled to deliberate and vote on whether to begin drafting a document on Eucharistic coherence.

The term “Eucharistic coherence,” used in the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops, refers to the “consistency between the way we receive the Holy Eucharist, and the way that we live our life, that we need to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist,” Cordileone explained.

That document, which then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio contributed to the development of, also noted the role of public officials in defending the sanctity of life on issues such as abortion and euthanasia. When Catholic officials support these and “other grave crimes against life and the family,” they are not to present themselves for Communion, the bishops said in the Aparecida.

Some bishops, led by Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago, wrote Archbishop Gomez in an effort to delay the discussions on the Eucharist by the U.S. bishops. The gravity of the topic requires an in-person deliberation, he argued.

Gomez replied in a May 22 memo that that the agenda item to consider the document on the Eucharist was approved by the conference’s administrative committee, and will occur as planned at the upcoming meeting.

“There will be a debate,” Cordileone confirmed. If the bishops move forward with drafting a document, the Doctrine Committee would write the document, the full text of which would be debated and voted on at the bishops’ fall meeting in November.

“I’m anticipating a vote to go forward with this. I sense among many bishops the even greater sense of urgency on this matter,” Cordileone said.

A special working group was convened by the U.S. bishops’ conference after the election of Joe Biden to the presidency in November. One of the working group’s recommendations was a teaching document on the Eucharist, that would cover both the Church’s teaching on general worthiness to receive Communion, and that would clarify that Catholics in public life have a special responsibility to uphold the Church’s teachings in public.

The topic of Communion, especially for pro-abortion politicians, has been discussed by individual bishops for the last several months since the election of Joe Biden to the presidency.

Both Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Catholics, have promoted policies contrary to Church teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality, including supporting taxpayer-funded abortion.

In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, saying that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” was engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.

In such a case, the politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.

He added that if the official were to persist in such actions and approach to receive Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

That 2004 memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

In March, president of the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, wrote the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, informing the congregation that the bishops would be discussing a document on Eucharistic coherence at their spring meeting.

On May 7, Cardinal Luis Ladaria – prefect of the congregation – replied to Gomez in a letter, instructing the bishops what to do if they were to issue any national policy on Communion for Catholic officials who support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion. He said that Ratzinger’s 2004 memo on Communion could be used by bishops, but only in light of the Vatican’s 2002 note on Catholic participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.

Cardinal Ladaria said the bishops must first have “serene” dialogue among themselves to ensure unity on the Church’s teachings, before dialoguing with Catholic public officials.

The dialogue that the Vatican recently requested of the U.S. bishops on the matter of Eucharistic coherence has already been taking place, Archbishop Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

“Cardinal Ladaria gave some very reasonable advice to the bishops about we do need to have some serene conversations, dialogue about this,” he said, adding, “we’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

“He speaks about a second stage of dialogue of bishops with Catholic politicians. That has been going on, too, in the case of individual bishops and individual politicians,” Cordileone said. “So, we have been doing what he has asked us to do.”

A teaching document by the conference on the Eucharist “is not enough” by itself to ensure Catholics are well-catechized, he said.

“But precisely because of the confusion, a document will help to spell out the Church’s teachings and positions on these issues, and it will be inclusive,” he said. “It’s not focusing only on abortion, it’s not focusing only on politicians.”

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  1. Abortion is not the only topic which touches on this issue. The Bishops appear afraid to confront their congregants with their own possible sinfulness which should bar them from communion. This is especially true in sexual matters. An “anything goes” mentality appears to be the norm today. Gay activity seems to be a large popular subject, but so should be the issue of sex before marriage and living together.Where are the priests to explain church teaching on this issue? The topic is never approached from the pulpit. Distortions of the sexual norm is becoming more and more acceptable. This is why yesterdays news brought the video of a well known childrens TV show featuring a cartoon of all sorts of transgender dolphins and and other such sexual anomalies presented as a happy option. All this fare to be foisted on children while their parents are busy doing household chores.If the Bishops fail to speak out soon and instruct their priests to do the same, no matter the consequence, the church is lost.

  2. We read again that “[t]he bishops are scheduled…at their upcoming spring meeting from June 16-18, [to] vote on whether or not to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.”

    Given the de-catechization of past decades, and the many trip-wire confusions now in play, the challenge is twofold: WHAT to say, and HOW to say it. Might we propose that the obvious must be restated? Namely, that the Eucharist is inseparable from the Incarnation….

    “This fundamental truth of the reality of the Incarnation constitutes a general criterion through which all subjects, questions, themes regarding the whole economy of Redemption mut be seen and understood. Thus, the mystery of the Church, its origin and its constitutional reality are founded on the Incarnation. The question of the relations of the Church with the world, the question of the natural and the supernatural, the question of the essence and meaning of the SACRAMENTAL REALITY [caps added], the question of the vocation of man and his mission in history, the question of the rapport of the individual and humanity with history and eternity, all questions, as much in what concerns the knowledge of God, as in the means and ways of salvation, have a common denominator: the Incarnation of the Word of God by Mary and the Holy Spirit” (Cardinal Joseph Siri, “Gethsemane: Reflections on the Contemporary Theological Movement,” 1981, 290-1).

    EUCHARISTIC COHERENCE: How to “commit truth and get away with it,” when the above concepts are dismissed as figures of speech, and when even the vocabulary is long-cancelled and unfamiliar? How to get past hijack historicism, Aztec Pelosi’s “sacred ground” late-term dismemberments, and business-as-usual Biden’s graffiti Catholicism?

  3. “A teaching document . . . on the Eucharist ‘is not enough’ by itself to ensure Catholics are well-catechised”.
    Understatement of the year (50 years, actually).
    But it’s a start and badly needed.
    Prayers for Archbishop Cordileone and co.

  4. A trend that preceded 2013 and mitigation as a rationale for receiving communion while living in a manifest state of adultery, fornication is the popular belief that Christ is ‘in’ the bread, ‘in’ the wine. Carl OLson in today’s Sunday readings article Bible and Body and Blood quotes one of the great Fathers Cyril of Alexandria, that the figure of the bread ‘is’ Christ the figure of the wine ‘is’ Christ. Christ then is not in the species or under it as Luther would have it, rather what is lost in the former is, what we consume is Christ Cyril adding that his flesh may become our flesh, his blood our blood. For Christ understood to be contained in or present under lessens our understanding of the real presence into more a blessing. Experience of many years has shown this glaring misunderstanding to be a factor in unworthy reception. Real Presence is a lost reality for many. Some question Aquinas’ use of the medieval term transubstantiation as an ineffective, unnecessary concept citing Aristotle’s doctrine of categories as a definitive being. However, prior to Aristotle Greeks also used the term substance, ousia to mean a thing, anything that is identifiable as separate and distinct from other things. We may simply say Christ is really present as some suggest. What transubstantiation clearly conveys is that the substance of bread and wine become at the words of consecration the substance of Christ’s flesh and blood. There can be no in or under for what is actually Christ. What we see at the consecration is Christ. Real Presence in the Eucharist is central to Catholicism and must be acknowledged by other Christian bodies if there is to be true communion in faith and practice. What this is to this writer is a miracle of Christ’s love, affirmed by Aquinas. Although miracles can be seen, mysteries not, it’s Christ’s ineffable love that accomplishes this most intimate, greatest of mysteries.

  5. This is now and has been an ongoing scandal in the Church for about 35 years and – The Bishops (aka our leaders) are (ever so slowly) inching toward the point at which they will debate on whether or not to debate it.

    Got it.

  6. Since the vast majority of Catholics in the medical field and those of reproductive age are involved in contraception/sterilization in some fashion–quite unrepentant and quite uninterested in finding out even WHY the Church teaches as She does about the evils of contraception/sterilization–very few Catholics over the age of fourteen and younger than, oh, say 60, should probably be in the Communion line.

    • Kathryn, you are so, so right. For years at various Masses I’ve heard many pro-life sermons with no mention of the evils of contraception. Cynical judgmental me thinks that maybe pastors are afraid of scaring off the big donors. They are generally the ones with few or no children. These same folks question the Real Presence as well.

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