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What’s in (and isn’t in) the bishops’ draft document on the Eucharist?

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City (Left) and Bishop James Wall of Gallup (Right) pray before the afternoon session of the 2019 USCCB General Assembly, June 12, 2019. (Image: Kate Veik/CNA)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 2, 2021 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

A draft text of the U.S. bishops’ forthcoming document on Eucharistic coherence does not make explicit mention of denying the sacrament from certain high-profile Catholics and instead focuses on the importance of teaching the Real Presence of the Eucharist and the Eucharist as a tool for evangelization.

The draft, titled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” was obtained by CNA on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The document is dated Sept. 24, 2021.

The two sections of the draft are “The Gift,” which centers on the Eucharist as a gift from Christ through his incarnation, death, and resurrection, and  “Our Response,” which focuses on gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist, the role the laity play in regards to reception of the Eucharist, and the importance of the Eucharist in conversion.

“When we receive Holy Communion, Christ is giving himself to us. He comes to us all in humility, as he came to us in the Incarnation, so that we may receive him and be one with him,” says the text.

“Christ gives himself to us so that we may continue the pilgrim path toward life with him in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.”

What was notably absent from the 26-page draft was any sort of criteria for when to deny a Catholic from receiving the Eucharist.

During the Spring 2021 General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, there was a spirited and contentious debate among the bishops concerning whether or not this document should even be drafted. Eventually, following several hours of back-and-forth discussions, the bishops voted 168 to 55 in favor of proceeding with the document.

At the time, it was widely speculated by the mainstream media that this document was going to serve as a “rebuke” to President Joe Biden.

Biden, a Catholic, is publicly in favor of abortion and has stated that he believes abortion should be available throughout the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy. During his 2020 campaign for president, Biden abandoned his decades of support for the Hyde Amendment — a rider which bans the use of public funds to pay for abortion — over a 24-hour period.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”

The Eucharist document does explain the differences between venial and mortal sins, and says that a Catholic in a state of mortal sin should not receive the Eucharist until they have gone to Confession and received absolution.

“While all our failures to do what is right damage our communion with God and each other, they fall into different categories, reflecting different degrees of severity,” the document states.

“There are some sins, however, that do rupture the communion we share with God and the Church,” the document states.

“As the Church has consistently taught, a person who receives Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin not only does not receive the grace of the sacrament, he or she commits the sin of sacrilege by failing to show the reverence due to the Body and Blood of Christ.,” the document explains.

The document states “the reception of Holy Communion entails one’s communion with the Church in this visible dimension,” and restates the text of the 2006 document from the bishops concerning Catholics in public life.

“If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church,” the new document states, repeating the bishops’ 2006 guidance.

“Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation,” the guidance states, “would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”

The bishops will vote whether to accept this draft at the upcoming Fall General Assembly of the USCCB, scheduled for Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore. This is the first in-person meeting of the bishops since the Fall 2019 meeting.


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13 Comments

  1. This calls into question just how serious the US Bishops take both the sacredness of the Eucharist, and the sin of using political position and government authority to endorse, authorize, and enforce the slaughter of babies alive in the womb. Simply no other way to view this.

  2. “What was noticeably absent from the 26-page draft was any sort of criteria for when to deny a Catholic from receiving the Eucharist.”

    IOW – Yada yada yada, probably an urgent call for ‘dialogue’, etc.

    Reminder – life begins at conception, and – If it’s growing it’s alive.

  3. For Chairman Joe, Pelosi and others, it matters little what the bishops approve. They won’t take it to heart, because they’ve already written their own catechism, which apparently allows them to do whatever they want AND not be admonished by the USCCB. That’s okay, though, the Supreme admonishment is coming. They won’t be prepared to answer for their actions against God’s laws. But the bishops are leaving faithful Catholics hanging in the lurch. The scandal caused by public figures led to at least half of Catholics voting for Biden in 2020. The oxymoronic “pro-choice Catholics” will take this document as an approval for the pro-choice movement, because it doesn’t single out Catholics who publicly promote and fund abortions. The bishops are letting the faithful down big time.

  4. Division prevails in the United States and within the Catholic Church in our Nation. That the bishops decided not to abide by canon 915 and Apostolic Tradition reveals that. Their decision was political, not religious nor faithful. We must recognize where we’re at. That faith in Christ doesn’t succumb to deadly compromise that reinforces the status quo of a death sentence for the prenatal infant. If we can abolish the death sentence for murderers by what logic do we recognize even promote death for the innocent? A faithful Practice of Catholicism can be in just disagreement with unofficial magisterial policy and remain One Faith in Christ. And absolutely free of schism.

  5. The excerpts are good, but twenty-six pages of padding is too long. So, is it possible to pop the bubble-wrap such that the laity might actually read the paper?

    The Ten Commandments fit on two pages! Or, the Fathers of the USCCB might take a leaf from the Founding Fathers’ straightforward Declaration of Independence, at just 1,320 words. Or, maybe the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDC) 973-word response to the dubium on the German blessing of same sex marriages (https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2021/03/15/210315b.html).

    Not entirely irrelevant, the CDC response, since the Administrative State this side of the Atlantic—with the useful Jo Biden as its pseudo-Catholic hood ornament—is intent not only on codifying and federally funding abortion, but also normalizing gay marriage, and the mass education of gender theory etc. (clever, that: another form of “mass” education!).

    And, inform the reader that notorious politicians from the cult of Baal already excommunicate themselves, although the Church might choose to mercifully (?) refrain from pronouncing the sentence.

    In fewer words, uncluttered, remove the scandal and the comfort zone for sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist.

    • Christine Rousselle makes her point insofar as applicability, “What was notably absent from the 26-page draft was any sort of criteria for when to deny a Catholic from receiving the Eucharist”. That was my impression, the absence of a practical response, for example a directive [at least a recommended format] to priests by the bishops when the conditions are present for withholding communion. Otherwise the draft, while an orthodox instruction, speaks to nothing other than what is already known. Apostolos Suos, the 1998 apostolic letter of St. John Paul II is the catch 22, that said national conferences cannot teach authoritatively on the basis of a consensus; there has to be unanimity or approval from the Holy See. Although CDF prefect Cardinal Ladaria spoke of Apostolos’ preconditions, unanimity on content [sanction seemed illicit by Ladaria even with unanimity] I’m not convinced an effort can’t be made . What is to prevent a majority consensus that already exists from issuing a format for clergy to follow for possible sanction, and at the least withholding the Eucharist from the obstinate? And to present it to the pontiff? Apostolos Suos says there has to be unanimity. Or approval from the Holy See. A petition therefore can be made to the Holy See without unanimity making it known that responsibility for Eucharistic cohesion is not dependent on unanimity, rather on the proclivity of the Pontiff.

      • And to make it abundantly clear, that Eucharistic cohesion is not simply a matter of consensus, nor a papal opinion. It is absolutely a matter of divine law. Pope Francis with his focus on the inviolability of conscience rather than obedience to ‘rules’ prefers the issue be left to the individual’s conscience preferring canon 916 in which the person determines not to approach the Eucharist rather than the priest withholding [see Fr Raymond de Souza NCReg].

  6. I cannot help but notice in most replys to this article the omission of that ominous word so frequently tossed about in the press, “scandal”
    What happened to addressing one of the root causes of this entire kerfluffle? Biden, Pelosi and their public ilk have seriously scandalized themselves and by it’s inaction the church leadership has done the same to itself.
    Those of us in the pews are, well, just people not theologians or philosophers. When we see the rules dictated to us don’t apply to those at the top we lose faith in the system and eventually no longer feel the rules binding to ourselves.
    We are seeing this apply more and more everyday in our secular lives. This CEO cheats the shareholders, that politicians embezzles public funds. The social price; Today I run a stop sign without remorse, tomorrow I steal from my employer by next year I’ll be cheating on my taxes and my wife.
    This is going to be one more nail in the catholic coffin. More self inflicted wounds we could have avoided.

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