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Two more US bishops emphasize the need for Eucharistic document

By CNA Staff

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio gives the homily during Mass with members of the USCCB Region VI at the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Dec. 10, 2019, during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit. (Image: Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

Washington D.C., Jul 7, 2021 / 11:21 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops are drafting a Eucharistic document to catechize Catholics, not to score political points, two bishops emphasized this week.

In comments to the Wheeling News-Register that were published on Tuesday, Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston and Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville said the bishops are responding to an apparent lack of belief in the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“We face a great challenge to reverse (the) weakened faith of many Catholics in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Bishop Brennan told the News-Register. “Without that faith, it is questionable whether a Catholic receives the spiritual benefit of the Sacrament.”

At their recent virtual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

A proposed outline of the document included various Church teachings on the Eucharist, such as “the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist,” “the recovery of understanding the Eucharist as sacrifice,” and “the need for beautiful and dignified liturgies.”

The outline also included a sub-section on worthiness to receive Communion, or “Eucharistic consistency.” The doctrine committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), which advanced the proposal, explained that the document would include a special call for Catholic public figures to uphold Church teaching.

Some bishops argued against moving forward with drafting the Eucharistic document, saying that the sub-section on Eucharistic consistency would be seen as too political, as a warning for pro-abortion Catholic politicians not to receive Communion. One bishop warned that the document would invite a “weaponization” of the Eucharist.

Nevertheless, the conference voted to begin drafting the teaching document, with 168 bishops supporting the motion, 55 opposing, and six abstaining. Subsequent news reports cast the vote as part of a process to deny Communion to President Joe Biden.

“I think there were two bishops’ conferences that happened a week ago — one that I attended, and one that a lot of the Catholic press reported on,” Bishop Monforton said.

Bishops Brennan and Monforton this week argued that a teaching document on the Eucharist is necessary, and is not meant to be political. The document, which will be drafted and then voted on by the conference in November, will be needed in advance of the bishops’ three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative that begins in 2022, Brennan said.

Worthiness to receive Communion is part of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, Bishop Monforton said. “There are grave sins out there, and they constitute a lack of charity, a break of friendship with God,” he said

Monforton noted that while other bishops mentioned support for abortion and euthanasia as grave sins that could prevent worthy reception of Communion, the Church does not focus on simply one or two issues; he said that “racism, and human trafficking” are other grave evils that cannot be supported.

Both Brennan and Monforton said a teaching document on the Eucharist is necessary in the current environment.

“Back in 2019, there was a Pew (Research Center) report that surveyed Catholics; nearly 70 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Eucharist as a symbol, rather than the real body of Christ,” Bishop Brennan said. “It shows that there’s a need for a catechetical moment.”

“On the lighter side of things, the second-graders at the Catholic schools in Steubenville know more about the Eucharist than 70 percent of Catholics,” Bishop Monforton said. “If the children’s parents don’t go to church, sometimes you need to evangelize the parents through the children.”

Other U.S. bishops have recently made statements on “Eucharistic coherence” following the conference’s spring meeting.

On the final day of the meeting, 60 Catholic House Democrats had released a statement of principles, urging that politicians not be denied Communion because of a pro-abortion stance.

In response, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated in a June 23 essay published by the journal First Things, “The bishops’ motivation is pastoral: the salvation of souls and reparation of scandal. There is nothing punitive in stating and restating the truth of Catholic belief, and its implications for an authentically Catholic life.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver stated in his July 2 column for Denver Catholic that, “instead of accepting their own responsibility to understand and follow Church teaching,” the 60 Catholic members “are the ones who are ‘weaponizing the Eucharist’ by insisting that they remain in good standing despite publicly committing grave sins and continuing to receive Communion.”

“One cannot say one believes something, do the complete opposite and then credibly say that they are in communion with a Church that believes what they did is evil,” he added.

In a June 28 article in the New York Post, Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, wrote that dialogue with Democratic politicians could not come about if they did not even support legislation to protect babies surviving botched abortion attempts.

“We’re willing to reach out. But if protecting the life of a baby struggling to breathe, after surviving a brutal attack on his life, is a bridge too far for pro-abortion-rights politicians, then I ask again, what are we dialoguing about?”  he wrote.

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  1. “‘For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.’ These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum” (John 6:55-59).

    “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’” (John 6:60). “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66).

    BUT, 70 percent of the surveyed disciples hung around, although even the idea of “coherence”—sacramental or otherwise—seemed incoherent to them, since (with His Majesty) their pious faith was a “private” thingy!

    BUT NOT recorded is any response from Christ such as this: “Wait, wait, I didn’t really mean it; I’m okay, you’re okay; and it’s okay on weekdays to even serve the Aztec Hummingbird Wizard (Huitzilopochtli), or whatever! Here, have a doughnut and a banner, and an abortion culture! Kumbaya!”

  2. I wish that I could be enthusiastic about all this talk about a bishops’ document on the Eucharist – but I can’t. Since bishops are the primary teachers of the faith, who’s fault is it that 70 Percent of catholics don’t believe in the real presence? And, if you remove senior citizens from the survey, the percent of non believing catholics would be even higher.
    This all began when pro-abortion Biden was named presidential winner (I don’t say elected president). But now the bishops have backed off any inclusion in the document of politicians and abortion.
    The whole issue is political, in as much as when abortion comes before congress one party votes for abortion and one party votes against it. But the bishops do not want to touch this with a ten foot pole.
    Like other documents from the USCCB, they will be lucky if one percent of catholics read it, and those would mostly be catholics who already believe in the real presence.

  3. Bishop Montforton continues to state his endless stream of equivocations and false equivalencies. He simply lacks the courage to do or say anything in the face of the real scandal of pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians. “Racism” is an insignificant problem in America, and there are no politicians of any stripe who support “human trafficking.” But one supposes that as long as ANY other evils exist anywhere in the world, we are not to expect Catholics who promote child murder to be disciplined by our bishops.
    What is the point of having bishops in the first place? I cannot think of a single thing the American Catholic bishops do that is worth bothering with.

    • Perfectly stated. The more I think about this Eucharistic Coherence statement, the more convinced I am that the whole thing is a charade that the bishops have devised to avoid taking any real action against politicians supporting abortion. First of all, we have to wait until November before this document is even released. And then, what will we get? To achieve the necessary consensus among these well-fed, self-satisfied, apparatchiks, the thing will be so watered down and general that it will have little impact. I guess we also are not supposed to point out the inconvenient fact that Archbishop Cordileone has been bishop of San Francisco for nine years now and he has not taken any tangible steps against Pelosi! Talk is the most we ever get, and most of the time, it is weak talk at that.

    • I agree. With a very very few exception the bishops and especially the cardinals the pope surrounds himself with what they have to say is irrelevant

  4. Scoring political points is for politicians. Bishops are indebted to defend the faith. Bishop Monforton reveals the apparent submission of the bishops to fall in line with Vatican intransigence. Business as usual. Vaticanista Sandro Magister’s June 6 headline No war on communion for Biden continues, “It was enough for Pope Francis to meet the American Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the Vatican June 28 to rekindle the fiery controversy. In reality, things are not like that at all. On June 21, the official website of the conference of Catholic bishops of the United States said the future document will take no disciplinary sanction. It is true that the document will include a section on the responsibility of every Catholic to be consistent with the truth of the Eucharist. But even this section ensures it will not be disciplinary in nature, nor will it be aimed at any individual or class of people. Therefore, no common national policy to deny communion to some politicians will be dictated, nor has this option ever been put to a vote” (Magister in L’Espresso). This isn’t a true defense of doctrine since it merely repeats what the majority of bishops believe, what virtually everyone knows, but not what all bishops, cardinals agree upon, perhaps even believe. Forgive me, but it’s basically an unimpressive statement from the USCCB intended not to defend the faith, rather not to displease the Pontiff, perhaps avoid his veto. How simple it would be to assert the full truth, that defense or promotion of abortion disqualifies from receiving the Eucharist. That publicly holding to this may incur Latae sententiae sanction. Rather, what the prospective document ironically defends is the right to publicly support and promote abortion. At times as this silent contemplation with God for solace and spiritual fortitude is in order.

    • Another point on the effectiveness of this statement. What it says is incorporated in all the catechism editions going back to the Baltimore. There have been multiple papal documents including among others,the well known Mysterium Fidei Paul VI. It’s as if this current document is some unheard of ground breaking testament to the faith that will begin the process of informing the uninformed. That of a sudden Eucharistic doctrine is going to be preached Sundays and assiduously taught in other forums. What is actually required including instruction [Instruction to who? The faithful who already believe? The uninformed who won’t approach a church or submit to an instruction course?] is an action that will make the public attentive, and realize we really believe what we say, and that we will act manly and forthrightly in accord with our faith in the Holy Eucharist.

    • Gilberta, somehow, likely my error, my response to you was posted below. It’s not a matter of faith as you imply in your response. It’s a matter of knowing the truth as explained to Peter Beaulieu below. Remember our Lord’s words to the Apostles for those towns that hear the Gospel but do not believe. Knowledge and belief are different. Remarkably so with eternal consequences. Unless you’re referring to people living in abandoned mines or subway tunnels most of us have heard and read innumerable times what the Church teaches. We’re responsible for knowing and believing what we are bound to know and believe.

  5. It may be necessary to start with something about the ‘separation’ of church and state, to catechize Catholics, not to score political points…afterall the service (eucharist) is, since 2020, in the category of a non essential business/service. Or are we to pretend we didn’t see that?

  6. I am always dismayed to read of any of the bishops calling the drafting of a document on receiving the Eucharist “political.” The magisterium emphasizes Church teaching. Politicians who publicly reject Church teaching and promote immoral policies are the ones who politicize the teaching of the Church. They are schizophrenic in declaring themselves to be “devout” Catholics while rejecting the teaching of the Church in the public square. They endanger their own souls and scandalize other Catholics who may be led to believe that the schizophrenia is okay.

  7. Timothy Williams, Tony W, et al: We might consider another possibility. Four points:

    FIRST, recalling that when the Nazi concentration camps were liberated, and when the inmates were fed their first solid meal in years, many of them died. The needed intermediate step was to start with broth. What if the 70 percent of routinized “Catholics” have never really heard even the language or vocabulary of the sacramental life and, in the Eucharist, about real incorporation into Christ? What if they’ve been habituated to “know” that the only act left in the secular fun house is social groupings and symbols?

    SECOND, the hard part of education, then, is not only learning new stuff, but unlearning what we already know—and that aren’t so. (After all, Christ did NOT say: “This is the symbol of my Body, which symbol is for you. Whoever shall eat the bread and drink the chalice unworthily is guilty of the symbol of the body and of the symbol of the blood of the Lord.”)

    THIRD, following the Council of Trent, it took several decades to eradicate the problem of many, many priests living with wives or concubines. The decades between 1517 and the actual Council (1545-1563) had allowed confusion to fester for more than a generation. Like now and the social-gospel redefinition of morality, the Church and the Eucharist, ever since the Second Vatican Council—this is déjà vu all over again…

    FOURTH, there are two parts to the very historic moment now directly before EACH bishop, personally, and on the table of the very subordinate and secondary USCCB papermill. The double-lived and “pious” politicians are certainly one part (possibly to be saved only by amputations), but the other part is some 50 million de facto Calvinists or Zwinglians who still tell pollsters they’re Catholic (mostly not practicing—but why bother?).

    Guiding them to unthink absenteeism and symbolic wafer consumption—this, too, is the historic moment. Not helpful, I propose, for us to sniper-fire Archbishops Cardileone and Gomez and Bishops Brennan and Monforton, et al.

    • Sorry, but Monforton is my bishop. I have listened to his double-speak for a long time. There are absolutely NO moral issues that would lead him to declare anyone outside the Church (except perhaps those evil SSPX Catholics). His own parochial schools are a disaster of secularism. He is a showman when he celebrates Mass, and nobody could get the impression that he himself believes in the Real Presence. He is a sold representative of the worthless USCCB model prelate.

    • Mr. Beaulieu, I learn as much from your comments as I do from the many excellent writers at CWR. I hope you are right and that something significantly good results from the efforts of the Eucharistic Coherence majority at the USCCB. Many of them seem to want to do the right thing now in spite of their natural inclination toward liberalism and their aversion to conflict with the powerful. Given their track record, though, I think the burden is on them to prove my cynicism wrong. I pray that they do. Archbishop Cordileone is uniquely positioned to take the first bold step of exercising discipline against the Speaker of the House. May God give him the courage to rise to the occasion.

      • I will also add that while a general instruction on the Real Presence in the Eucharist and the worthiness of those who receive it is very much needed and long overdue, the scandal of Catholic politicians defying Church teaching on abortion and homosexuality has to be addressed separately and decisively. My suspicion is that many bishops will be hiding behind the forthcoming statement to claim that they have done all they can.

    • Yes, “if”; I do agree. But in our smartphone disconnectedness, what to do when no one REALLY listens or reads anymore?

      Ultimately, faith is a gift, but the willingness and receptivity to belief (faith) fades in a sensate culture. Now, real actions would speak louder than words–but the choice of words is surely a challenging assignment.

      Still, I do know of a priest or two, already, who have actually said it all about Eucharistic Coherence in less than ten minutes from the ambo. But this is in a parish well-formed within Perpetual Adoration (since 1986). Part of the long-term regeneration…

      • Responsibility for faith is not a matter of inattentiveness as was made clear by Christ to the Apostles of towns that refused to believe. Retribution surpassing that due to Sodom. Unfortunately for those who may appear to come under the umbrella of invincible ignorance Pius IX Singulari Quidem defines invincible ignorance as that which is beyond one’s someone’s control. If we hear and read we know what is being taught, not that we must appreciate what is being said in order to be responsible. We have serious responsibility to know what we are bound to know (Aquinas ST 76, 2 Ad 5).

  8. While a document is nice, it is just a piece of paper until it is put into effect. We don’t need another document, we need Bishops, Princes of the Church, with courage to act.
    Looking at this, I am reminded of a joke that a kindly priest told me. A dad took his young son to church to see a priest being elevated to Bishop. At one point, all the celebrating Bishops put their hands over the priest in prayer. The son turns to his dad and asks, “what are they doing now, Dad?” The dad turns to his son and says, “Son, they are removing his backbone!”

  9. Peter D. Beaulieu above – “What if the 70 percent of routinized ‘Catholics’ have never really heard even the language or vocabulary of the sacramental life . . .”
    Remove the “what if”.
    I’ll buy Timothy J. Williams’ assessment of Bishop Monforton. Not every bishop is going to be worth listening. I’ll stick to Cordileone and his ilk.

  10. I find it very discouraging that the Bishops keep tripping over this question. Simply put Canon Law and common sense state – ANY PERSON IN THE STATE OF SERIOUS SIN IS NOT ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY OF THE SACRAMENTS – Period. Supporting the murder of the unborn is a serious sin.

  11. Call me cynical, but I, and many of us here, would love to see less talk and mire action, from our bishops right on down through to our pastors. But I think many of them are just too well-fed anddon’t want to upset the apple cart known as the big donors.

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