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Archbishop Cordileone: Look deeper to see the ‘spiritual reality’ of the Eucharist, the unborn, and unhoused

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone celebrates Mass during a "Free the Mass" demonstration Sept. 20, 2020. (CNS photo/Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco)

San Francisco, Calif., Oct 30, 2021 / 10:50 am (CNA).

In just two weeks, the bishops of the United States will come together to debate and vote on a teaching document about “Eucharistic coherence.”

The term comes from the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American bishops, which used it to explain why public servants such as government officials and health care workers who act to encourage “abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and the family” cannot receive Holy Communion.

A chief architect of Aparecida was the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now as Pope Francis rightly reminds us bishops to think and speak as pastors, not as politicians: It is souls that are at stake, not elections.  Lost sheep are to be lovingly called to return to the fold, not angrily denounced in the way that would imitate so much of the animosity of our political culture.

As I approach these next few weeks, I am struck less with the conflicts the media likes to project than with the deeply reinforcing unity of Church teaching, grounded in the Catholic sacramental sense.

Some in the popular culture, who view life through a lens more political than sacramental, may think it is incongruous that on Nov. 6, for example, just days before the USCCB meeting begins, I will be celebrating a newly commissioned Requiem Mass for the Homeless. (To register or learn more visit

Frank La Rocca is the composer. Richard Sparks will lead the Benedict Sixteen Choir and Orchestra. It will be beautiful and it will be holy. We will gather together to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the eternal repose of those who died on the streets and to demonstrate our profound respect for the equal dignity of every human life.

As political issues, homelessness and abortion are treated as separate things. But with the Catholic sacramental sense we can see that whether we are speaking of the unhoused or the unborn, the underlying issue is the same: Can we see beyond the merely material to the deeper spiritual reality?

. Rui Duarte via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0). filter added.
. Rui Duarte via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0). filter added.

What we Catholic bishops and other leaders must seek is not just words on a page, but a profound Eucharistic revival, which requires a renaissance in the Catholic sacramental imagination.

Every Mass is a miracle: Do we see it?  When we receive the Eucharist, do we see beyond the appearances of bread and wine to the reality of Jesus Christ offering Himself for us? Do we priests celebrate the sacred mysteries in a way that makes this supernatural reality visible to the flock we shepherd?

The child in the womb in the early stages doesn’t look exactly like the newborn baby, any more than the toddler exactly resembles the grown man or woman he or she will become. Can we see beyond the physical appearance to the reality that science now shows us: That each child in its mother’s womb is a unique, living human being? That each abortion kills a human life?

When politicians pontificate about abortion as a choice or even a human right, do we see beyond the rhetoric to the ugliness of what they propose: the deliberate snuffing out of innocent lives, each one of them unique, irreplaceable, and loved by God?

The two things are intimately connected: reverence for the sacred Eucharist and reverence for human life where it is most vulnerable and defenseless.

As the Apostle John tells us, God so loved the world – each one of us – that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for us.

Pope Francis underscored the importance of this gift of solidarity after a Nigerian immigrant named Edwin froze to death on the streets last January not far from St. Peter’s Basilica: “Let us think about Edwin,” the pope asked. “Let us think of what this man, 46-years-old, felt in the cold, ignored by all, abandoned, even by us. Let us pray for him.”

Yes, let us remember to pray for Edwin, and for all of those who suffer as he suffered. Policy solutions to homelessness may not be simple, but one thing is clear: Merely warehousing the homeless in dysfunction is not respecting their human dignity.

Let us remember that their dignity, like our own, is not ultimately rooted in abilities, intelligence, usefulness, wealth, power, or physical attractiveness.  Let us see beyond the accidents of birth, ability, position and the like to the reality of who we are, including the unhoused and the unborn: beloved children of the living God.

May the Eucharist set us on fire for Jesus Christ and unleash the rebuilding of a civilization of truth and love.

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  1. Why, it’s almost as if the “endless journey” of a Synod on Synodality might become a distraction from the Eucharistic Church! A bit like Mary and Joseph going native as wandering nomads instead of returning to the temple to find Christ as He truly is, at the center of human history and the Mystical Body.

    But wait, what? The synodal workbook (the vademecum: “walking together”) does pose the question: ““How do prayer and liturgical celebrations actually inspire and guide our common life and mission in our community?”

    There’s truth to that, but we rigid bigots also have thought all along that the Church is more than a Lutheran-type “community,” that it is first an “assembly,” a reality found in the Old Testament under the Holy Spirit and the prophets, and now drawn together sacramentally by the Incarnation (the once-only Incarnation!) and the Eucharistic presence.

  2. Masses for the unborn and the homeless don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. In fact, God hears the prayers of everyone who sincerely prays. Prayer and simple Masses prayed by the faithful, coupled with practical help for pregnant women and the homeless can be as or more effective. Jesus never had a cathedral, or a home for that matter, yet his teachings continue to resonate in His followers.

    • Yes, he was born in a stable and preached in the dust and while on the rough water. Made mud to cure the blind man. Died with no dignity and not a coin to his name.

  3. “Eucharistic Coherence” means NOTHING, considering the obvious fact that:
    A. If they all gave Communion to abortion-promoters they would have “coherence;” or…
    B. If they all merely agreed that none of them should enforce Canon 915, they would have “coherence.”

    And since the vast majority of them already obviously support B, which is what candid observers have rightly named “The McCarrick Doctrine,” (since the abusive fraud McCarrick confected the deceitful policy in the summer of 2004 at the USCCB conference, thus on behalf of the treacherous USCCB, they already have “coherence,” in betrayal.

    Which reveals the fraudulent nature of what then-Eminence Bergoglio confected in Argentina in 2007, a gesture signifying…NOTHING.

    One source:

  4. Cordileone’s column is rife with blatant political maneuvering, hardly the stuff of convictions; all about the November bishops’ meeting. There is a massive elephant in the room that Cordileone has consistently ignored:. Bergoglio and his henchmen are more interested in mugging for cameras and winning the approval of the elite than they are of upholding the teachings of the Church and supporting the faithful. Eucharistic coherence is a non-issue. Bergoglio made that clear in the past several days. That’s what Cordileone should be dealing with. Faithful Catholics are very disturbed by this pope, and they should be. That is the #1 issue the bishops should focus on when they meet for their annual “say nothing, do less” meeting.” They won’t. And sadly, Cordileone will not either. Careers are very precious to hirelings.

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