What the bishops really said at Baltimore

Catholics dubious about what they read in the press on virtually every other matter ought not take the bait cast by media outlets and think that the bishops ducked the “abortion issue” when crunch-time came.

A bishop looks over paperwork during a Nov. 17, 2021, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

After the bishops of the United States adopted “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” on November 17, it took the Washington Post less than an hour to misrepresent what the document taught, as Post’s online story was headlined, “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approves Communion document without singling out politicians who support abortion rights.”

The Wall Street Journal, having had all day to ponder the bishops’ statement, got things completely wrong, too, when its day-after headline read, “Bishops Avoid Abortion Issue in Guidelines on Communion.”

If I may borrow from a heathen, Jeremy Bentham, that is all nonsense on stilts.

For those interested in this particular facet of a finely-crafted statement intended to reignite Eucharistic amazement and vigor in the Church, here are the key paragraphs with their footnotes:

38. Pope Francis has warned us that in our “throwaway culture” we need to fight the tendency to view people as “disposable”: “Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, “persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’ – like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed’ – like the elderly.”1 As Christians, we bear the responsibility to promote the life and dignity of the human person, and to love and to protect the most vulnerable in our midst: the unborn, migrants and refugees, victims of racial injustice, the sick and the elderly.

39. The Second Vatican Council stresses the importance of reverence toward the human person. “Everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all his life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.”2 The Council goes on to say that

“whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury.”3

48. We also need to keep in mind that “the celebration of the Eucharist presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.”4 The Eucharist is the sacrament of ecclesial communion, as it both signifies and effects most fully the communion with Christ that began in Baptism. This includes communion in its “visible dimension, which entails communion in the teaching of the Apostles, in the sacraments and in the Church’s hierarchical order.”5 Likewise, the reception of Holy Communion entails one’s communion with the Church in this visible dimension. We repeat what the U.S. Bishops stated in 2006:

“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. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”6

Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation is also likely to cause scandal for others, weakening their resolve to be faithful to the demands of the Gospel.7

49. One’s communion with Christ and His Church, therefore, involves both one’s “invisible communion” (being in the state of grace) and one’s “visible communion.” St. John Paul II explained:

“The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.”8

It is the special responsibility of the diocesan bishop to work to remedy situations that involve public actions at variance with the visible communion of the Church and the moral law. Indeed, he must guard the integrity of the sacrament, the visible communion of the Church, and the salvation of souls.

Which is to say:

1) Facilitating the grave moral evil of abortion is a public act that estranges one (to use Pope Francis’s term in a recent press conference) from full communion with the Church.

2) Those who are not in full communion with the Church because of their public actions should not present themselves for holy communion. To present oneself for holy communion is to state, publicly, that one is in full communion with the Church. If that is not the case, then the lie of presenting oneself for holy communion compounds the evil of the public acts that estrange one from the Church.

3) The bishops have a solemn obligation to inform estranged Catholics of their situation and work to catechize them in the truth. If that catechesis fails and the estranged Catholic obstinately continues to facilitate grave evil, then he or she must be told not to present himself or herself for holy communion.

These are settled truths of Catholic faith, and what “The Mystery of the Eucharist” proposes ought to have been long-settled Catholic pastoral practice. The bishops have now recommitted themselves to the hard work of bringing wayward Catholic public officials to the truth and they should be supported in those efforts by the people of the Church – who have their own responsibility to correct, in charity and candor, fellow-Catholics whose work in government facilitates the wickedness of killing innocent human beings in the name of “reproductive health care” (an Orwellian formulation if ever there was one). Bishops who work to bring public officials to the truth, and who then apply the appropriate disciplinary measures if those efforts fail, should be supported by their brother bishops. Bishops who decline to carry out that pastoral duty should be fraternally corrected by their brother bishops. And Catholics dubious about what they read in the press on virtually every other matter ought not take the bait cast by media outlets like the Post and the Journal and think that the bishops ducked the “abortion issue” when crunch-time came.

Why did so much of the media botch this story? An aide to a prominent American bishop got part of the answer when he wrote me that “the secular media came to write an abortion story and would not be deterred.” True enough, I suppose. But a competent, alert communications operation at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would have anticipated such spin – and immediately after “The Mystery of the Eucharist” was adopted, would have arranged a press briefing to explain what was just explained above.

And so, not for the first time, important work by the bishops over many months was undercut by what can only be described as inept staff work; charity forbids suggesting any other explanation.

So now what? More media nonsense notwithstanding, it was never within the competence of the USCCB to “ban” pro-abortion Catholic politicians from the reception of holy communion. Dealing with estranged Catholic public officials is the responsibility of local bishops. That responsibility has now been made unmistakably clear. So it is imperative that each diocesan Ordinary, on return from their annual meeting in Baltimore, see to the widespread dissemination of “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” explain its implications for all Catholics, and then get about the hard pastoral work of making clear to the Catholic public officials in their pastoral care the truth of those officials’ situation and its implications, if those officials are objectively estranged from the Church. Doing so has now been re-affirmed as the policy of the U.S., bishops conference. It behooves all bishops, but perhaps especially those most vocally supportive of collegiality and synodality, to implement that policy.

The bishops have called Catholics in all states of life to be more eucharistically centered, more eucharistically committed, and more eucharistically coherent. That was the intent of this document from the beginning. “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” thus deserves a careful reading by everyone. And all of us should examine conscience about our relationship to the sacrament from which, as John Paul II taught, the Church draws its life.

A few further thoughts on the events of the past few days in Baltimore are in order.

The apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, likely did not realize it, but he did not do good service to the pro-life movement when in his address to the bishops he said that it was important for Catholics to grasp and do something about the social problems that lead women to seek abortions – as if that had not been the case in the past and wasn’t the case now. But that is precisely what those Catholics who have given time, treasure, and countless acts of compassion and love to the women who have come to crisis pregnancy centers in the half-century after Roe v. Wade do. As Kevin D. Williamson recently put it, “We know what is [happening with] the women going into [the] human slaughterhouses” of Planned Parenthood “clinics:” “They are terrified, they are poor, they are alone, they have been discarded, they have had an overwhelming new variable thrown into their lives, which did not include very much comfort or certainty to begin with…” Pro-life people working with women in crisis pregnancies have long known all that; they respond to those horrible circumstances as Christ would have responded; and they don’t require instruction as to the putative necessity of broadening their horizons.

Archbishop Pierre’s counsel to the bishops to value “unity” above virtually all else was also unhelpful. Unity understood as virtual unanimity means that the lowest common denominator determines the course of a bishops’ conference’s teaching. That was not how collegiality and synodality were lived at the great councils of the patristic era. That was not how St. Charles Borromeo implemented the reforms of the Council of Trent in Milan. And while Pope St. Paul VI took great care that the documents of the Second Vatican Council were adopted by the greatest possible consensus, he refused to sacrifice truth to a false concept of unity as unanimity on such sharply contested issues as episcopal collegiality or religious freedom.

And finally, it would be instructive to know just who Archbishop Pierre was thinking of when he cautioned those tempted “to treat the Eucharist as something to be offered to the privileged few….”. I cannot think of a single bishop or priest who suffers from that temptation, and I would be surprised if the archbishop can name one, either. So why reiterate the cartoon view of American Catholicism too often found in La Civiltà Cattolica and other Roman circles in recent years? No good purpose is served by underwriting fantasies of a U.S. Catholicism stewed in the juices of Donatist self-righteousness.

The pastoral crisis of an American Church in which prominent lay Catholics act publicly in defiance of moral truths that can be known by both reason and revelation, yet imagine themselves worthy to receive holy communion, will continue. The bishops have now re-affirmed their responsibility to address that crisis, and “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” explains yet again the appropriate pastoral practices to be deployed to meet one important facet of the challenge of Eucharistic coherence. Lay Catholics should support the bishops in their efforts.

But lay Catholics must also get about our own work of fraternally correcting fellow-Catholics who facilitate the work of the “human slaughterhouses” to which Kevin Williamson refers – and must hold public officials accountable at the ballot box if they do not change their ways. It’s not the bishops who put President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Durbin, Representative DeLauro, and the rest of Planned Parenthood’s Amen Corner of Catholic Miscreants in office. It’s their fellow lay Catholics. And that must change.


1 Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, no. 18.

2 Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, no. 27

3 Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, no. 27.

4 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 35.

5 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 35; see also Code of Canon Law, c. 205 and Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 8.

6 USCCB, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper”: On Preparing To Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist, p. 11; see Code of Canon Law, can. 916: “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.”

7 See Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2284.

8 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 37; see Code of Canon Law, can. 915: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” Likewise, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches states that “those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist” (c. 712).

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About George Weigel 478 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).


  1. The papal nuncio seems to be concerned about one thing: F1… God knows the heart, if only some of these ‘men’ would embrace the courage & passion of 2days mass reading: 1 macabees, instead I fear many of them are the ones leading the way to the sacrifice at the “altar in modein”…
    How sad

  2. Notwithstanding Weigel’s protests, the Post and Journal citations are clearly accurate. What began as an effort to publicly and specifically correct and admonish Catholic public officials who publicly defy the Church’s moral teaching, has morphed into nothing more than a xerox copy of the Catechism. The likes of Cupich and Tobin and Gregory know they have been victorious and likely were background sources for the news reports. As for the communications staff at USCCB headquarters, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are smiles from to ear. Nothing inept about it at all. It worked out just the way the bosses had planned.

  3. Having read through this article carefully I cannot find where there’s a difference between what George Weigel says here, and what’s said in the letter of the pro abortion Catholic politicians who appealed for their right to receive the Eucharist. “So now what? More media nonsense notwithstanding, it was never within the competence of the USCCB to ban pro-abortion Catholic politicians from the reception of holy communion” (Weigel). True. That is not the issue. Neither is the issue resolved by Mr Weigel’s belief that the issue is resolved by the local ordinary. That would be true if the local ordinaries followed Church doctrine on receiving the Eucharist. And if Pope Francis assured the Church of that doctrine rather than leave it to consensus and the opinion of a local ordinary. The USCCB had that obligation to uphold our Church’s long standing doctrine on Eucharistic coherence and cite canon 915. As did John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Exposing Archbishop Pierre’s errant counsel is a canard that doesn’t respond directly to the issue. We can talk all day about the efficacy of Catholic moral theology and similarly avoid putting that moral theology into practice. Unless George Weigel has discovered the means to have it both ways.

    • Excellent insights once again, Fr. Morello. Weigel’s article and of course the document itself remind me of Bishop Barron’s unfortunate cop-out not too long ago claiming that he had no real obligation to publicly criticize/protest the destruction of statues and so on because such was the “responsibility” of the laity. It was also, sadly, Bishop Barron who provided some bogus cover for Catholics to vote for Joe Biden, which was simply unjustifiable.

      As you rightly point out, Father, not nearly enough local ordinaries enforce Church teaching on the proper reception of the Holy Eucharist that includes withholding the distribution of the Eucharist from anyone who publicly supports abortion. And because of the ongoing scandal involving politicians presenting themselves for Communion despite openly defying Church teaching, one thing that could and should have been set forth in the document is an insistence that all brother bishops serving as local ordinaries immediately mandate (and enforce) throughout their dioceses the withholding of Holy Communion from such defiant ones unless and until they reconcile with the Church. The document could have also included a proclamation by the USCCB that such enforcement actions by the local ordinaries will be fully supported by the USCCB.

      Alas, the USCCB doesn’t seem to have any problem or hesitancy in reminding the lay faithful in writing of what they must or need to do, but they do have a problem with setting forth in writing what they as bishops should do when confronted with various public problems that demand proper espiscopal actions, and where also including such directives in “The Mystery of the Eucharist…” document would be warranted because of the ongoing public problems involving the improper distribution and reception of the Holy Eucharist. Of course they know that if they spell out in writing for all to see the proper actions that should be taken by any bishop confronted with an openly hostile/scandalous person that they will not be able to wimp out as easily as many have done in actually protecting the Holy Eucharist while also helping those from eating and drinking judgment unto themselves.

    • I wish to correct my words, “if Pope Francis assured the Church of that doctrine rather than leave it to consensus” is incorrectly stated. Actually Pope Francis and CDF prefect Cardinal Ladaria insisted [knowing there would not be unanimity] that there be “unanimity” on any directive regarding worthiness to receive communion, which is why the bishops presumably did not cite canon 915. Although, I cannot conceive how a pontiff [CDF prefect or anyone] can lawfully prevent the bishops from witness to the faith on Eucharistic Coherence. The bishops actually had a majority or consensus in favor of such a citation but unfortunately withheld [which could have been published in a separate document regardless of opposition from a minority of bishops]. Agreement to affirm a document that neglected to confirm 915 and the cleric’s responsibility to withhold communion from the dissenter of the faith was a mistake.

  4. Good grief, George Weigel. Your quotes from the bishops’ document amount to, “do good and avoid evil.” What they did not say was that all bishops should enforce Canon 915.
    Your statement that it was not the bishops who put Biden, Pelosi, and all the other democrat pro-abortion politicians in office is (I am searching for an appropriate word) pathetic. Biden, Pelosi, etc. are doing precisely what they said they would do before the election. What firm statements did the bishops make then? Their voter guide was all over the place, giving cover for anyone who wanted to vote for a pro-abortion candidate.
    The bishops are responsible to a great degree for the pro-abortion politicians we have. They are also responsible to a great degree for the scandal that is caused by giving communion to these militantly pro-abortion politicians.
    In the fourth century it was the laity who held firm to the faith in the face of a majority of Arian bishops. I am afraid that we are in the same situation today.

  5. Excommunication or semi-excommunication (which is what I’d call being banned from reception of the Eucharist) for the political positions that Catholics take seems like a tricky matter fraught with dangers.

    Being a member of any Communist Party or any Freemasonic organization was previously grounds for automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.

    But being a member of Hitler’s Nazi Party never was grounds for excommunication. And this was so even after the Nazi-Party controlled German government revoked the citizenship of every Jewish person in Germany, and even after the pope and other Vatican officials had definite knowledge of the Nazi mass murder in concentration camps in Poland.

    Pope John Paul II declared that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an immoral “unjust war,” but he never proposed denying the Eucharist to politicians who supported that war. That war led to the deaths of hundred of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens.

    The Church needs to get back its pre-Vatican II unity in doctrine and morals.

    The Church needs to take seriously the grave, grievous wrong of killing unborn children.

    But how?

    Denying the Eucharist to people who take public political positions?

    What if a local bishop decides to deny the Eucharist to a U.S. senator in his diocese who opposes the Minimum Wage Laws and who wants to repeal Obamacare, and in so doing the bishop cites the passage from the Vatican II document that is quoted in this article. That Vatican II document condemns these: “subhuman living conditions,…disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit.” (Yikes! Sounds like nearly every business I’ve ever worked for!)

    Pope Clement VII excommunicated King Henry VIII of England, for violating the Church’s laws against divorce and remarriage.

    But, looking back, maybe it history would have turned out for the better if the pope had just given King Henry the annulment he wanted, or if the pope had simply restated the moral principle regarding marriage, thereby giving the king a reprimand, but had not excommunicated the king.

    That excommunication of King Henry VIII led to the king pulling virtually all the Catholics in England out of the Catholic Church, which in turn led to the English colonies in North American being mainly settled by Protestants.

    Don’t you think?

    • Gus, your post does not witness the Beloved, but the adversary. The Beloved and His Canon Law are clear, there is nothing tricky or dangerous, about doing what is divinely Revealed and Self-Evident, except this errant statement itself and the post’s substance. Please do not so easily be led into temptation, though not trickery, they are beyond dangerous, they are deadly.

    • “ But, looking back, maybe it history would have turned out for the better if the pope had just given King Henry the annulment he wanted… .” How many annulments? When subsequent wives failed to produce the heir Henry wanted, successive annulments should have been approved? Or, the Pope should have been tolerant about the beheading of wives? Merely issue a reminder that beheading is contrary to Church teaching?

      Is it likely that such a position would have saved Catholic England? Or that English colonies in America would have been “Catholic” instead of Protestant? What would have been saved -perhaps- was a Catholic shell that within a generation divorced liberally, a Protestantized church in practice, if not name. If divorce is accepted what Catholic truth falls next? If the King can annul / divorce the people will as well. Isn’t that the precise reason politicians who aggressively support abortion are a scandal that cries out for Church discipline.

      It is not within the authority of the USCCB to penalize any Catholic, but as a fraternal/advisory body, the Conference could have plainly said it is the obligation of each bishop to discipline any Catholic in his flock who endorses or votes for laws and funds that enable abortions. Private counsel first, but should a Catholic remain obstinate, the bishop, of necessity for the sake of the entire flock, ought to make discipline public.

      Evil grows when it is not opposed.

      • The comment above by Mary Jo Anderson is very good.

        In my comment, regarding contemplation of the “what if” King Henry VIII had never been excommunicated, I certainly was not envisioning a scenario in which divorce and remarriage would have become commonplace in the time of King Henry VIII or subsequently. I was simply imagining that the pope could have made an exception in the case of this one king in this one situation. I envisioned that everyone else would still go one living according to the moral laws of marriage.

        “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” is a Latin phrase that means “What is permissible for Jupiter may not be permissible for a bull.”

        The very rich and powerful have often been able to get away with things that common people are not allowed to do. It’s not fair, but it’s life.

        And sometimes, I think it is for the best for everyone that these exceptions be permitted.

        The success of the Protestant rebellions in many nations in Europe, and the breakup of Catholic Europe, set the stage for all the evils that followed and which still bedevil us: profound secularization of culture, legalized abortion, 2 world wars in Europe in the last century, the Holocaust that was carried out by the Nazis, the sexual revolution of the 1960s, rise of atheism and agnosticism, and on and on.

        As things stand, to my knowledge, there isn’t one nation on the earth in the present time that can be regarded as an authentically Catholic nation (in its laws, its culture, etc.).

        For a long, long time ALL the nations of Europe and all the nations of South America and Central America were authentic Catholic nations.

        By contrast, the Muslims have many nations that remain authentic Muslim nations, without the pervasive secularization and moral anarchy that prevails in the nations that formerly made up Christendom.

        Well, what is the solution?

        I don’t know. I hope wise and good Catholic people will pave the way.

        But I worry what will happen is local Catholic bishops start using the Eucharist as a political tool to help one party win elections. To me, that will result in more disrespect for the Catholic Church, will be seen as a cheapening of the what is most sacred, and will lead to a further flight from the Catholic Church.

        And so, just as the excommunication of King Henry VIII led to the departure of millions of Catholics from the Church, so will the perceived politicization of the Eucharist–at least that’s my theory and speculation. I’m not holy prophet, so I don’t really claim to know what would happen.

        So many people just want Church authorities to DO SOMETHING, and do something brave, bold, and strong, to begin correcting the moral anarchy in the Church and in the general American society. I agree. This is long overdue.

        Thank God, we have the smart and good people at CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT who are active in leading Catholics to a better place.

        • Your bad reasoning provides a perfect illustration of why the moral theology of Catholicism unambiguously condemns consequentialism.

    • And, in declaring the immorality of killing the unborn, the bishops should not put a time limit on the murders. The babies who were murdered 40 or 50 years ago provided the fetal cells to research, develop, produce and/or test the currently available Covid-19 vaccines that the bishops approved for Catholics by stating their “remoteness” to abortion. There is nothing about the passage of time that makes murder remote. These bishops AND the pope should have insisted on a morally acceptable vaccine for those who oppose the murders of babies in the womb, even those that took place decades ago. Acceptance of the currently available vaccines implicitly approves fetal cell research going forward.

  6. it was never within the competence of the USCCB to “ban” pro-abortion Catholic politicians from the reception of holy communion. Dealing with estranged Catholic public officials is the responsibility of local bishops.

    And what entity is going to deal with local bishops who allow the reception of the Holy Eucharist by politicians well known for advocating “legal” baby murder? And by politicians who brazenly facilitate this mass murder?

    This has been happening for nearly fifty years now. Is Bergoglio going to do something about such local bishops? The very suggestion that Bergoglio’s Vatican will do something about it is laughable and everybody knows it.

    The bishops have now recommitted themselves to the hard work of bringing wayward Catholic public officials to the truth …

    By “The bishops” you must not mean the USCCB because it is not “within the competence of the USCCB to ‘ban’ pro-abortion Catholic politicians from the reception of holy communion.” You must mean the local bishops. But wayward local bishops have been the source of the problem for decades, and there is no Catholic entity willing and able to deal with them. By the way, how much “hard work” is required to inform your priests that they cannot allow a given politician to receive communion until he/she publicly repents?

    It looks like the U.S. bishops are going to continue in their idolatrous practice of publicly declaring that their primary allegiance is to Caesar, not to Christ, by allowing flaming advocates and facilitators of the murder of God’s children by the millions to receive the Eucharist.

  7. Weigel inserts “Which is to say” and then repeats some of what Catholics are supposed to believe. But the Bishops did not really say what he proposes. When will the Bishops give us real, evidentiary, unambiguous, unified wording that matches the seriousness of this certain offense against the Eucharist? Is it any wonder that the so-called ‘Faithful’ exhibit such almost unbelievable ignorance about the Real Presence as the pols say?

  8. It is no longer possible to be disappointed by the writing of Mr. Weigel.

    I expect him to equivocate and evade and avoid the whole truth, and he now consistently demonstrates these traits.

    WHAT THE USCCB REALLY SAID is what many others have observed, the USCCB is collectively re-asserting the deceitful policy crafted originally crafted by McCarrick in 2004, and they are saying collectively that they have no intention to enforce Canon 915.

    2022 will be just like every year since 2004, year 28 of the McCarrick Doctrine of the Eucharist.

    • Bravo to you, Chris. You have realized that Weigel is in the religion business and as part of monetizing his Catholic franchise must always normalize whatever mess exists so that episcopal wholesalers and regional managers will keep his market share.

  9. Consider that the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore cost well over $1,000,000, and then consider what it produced. That is why the American Catholic Church is disintegrating.

    • Paul, You are so correct. Let’s also note the bishops’ grand plan for a 3-year-National Eucharistic ‘Revival’ and a National Eucharistic Congress, the cost of which is slated at 28,000,000. The 28 mil may cover only the Congress, sans Revival; the announcement was not clear.

      If the Eucharist needs revision, we are seraphic angels. The Bishops and CINOS need revising. The Eucharist is perfect as Is, but I suspect many bishops don’t know that.

  10. I would like to be reminded of a recent example of the Catholic bishops of the United States taking a courageous stance on a controversial issue.

    Americans are familiar with the concept of organized crime, and are apparently in the process of being familiar with organized cowardice.

  11. That’s a lot of words to say nothing.

    The Bishops continually fail in their vocation as defenders of the faith.

    The fact that they need a mouthpiece like you to defend them rather than them having the courage to speak with clarity says it all.

  12. Before the bishops’ November 17 statement, Bishop Paprocki made sure that Senator Durbin was consistently denied Holy Communion in his diocese (Springfield, IL), so Durbin, as he told America Magazine, migrated to a new “faith home” in Cardinal Cupich’s archdiocese (Chicago) where he happily receives Holy Communion and brings scandal. Now, after the bishops’ statement, are we to expect that Cardinal Cupich will do anything different with Durbin? It appears to me that nothing at all has changed with respect to this kind of situation.

  13. Once again, the media distorts though–personal opinion only–the gist of this document. The Eucharist could have been communicated in a more overt manner. By paragraph 39, where are most readers, especially the laity? Just the fact that it took a delay of days after its issuance for a Catholic writer to expound on Truth contained within it raises concerns about organizational intent. Certainly, once the mainstream news “got the gist wrong,” according to this observer, the Bishops should have issued clarification. Instead, such is found in commentary, where non Catholics and many Catholics do not venture. While no one person may have been called out, will the Catholic Biden’s and Pelosi’s of the world be saved by such obscurity. Will the Bishops be held accountable for not being boldly explicit? Save souls!

  14. Instead of covering every possible human condition that needs our attention, the bishops should have simply stated the essence of Canon 915: You cannot approve the killing of the unborn and present yourself to receive the Eucharist. Then, there would have been no room for irresponsible journalists (a label that’s becoming redundant) to misconstrue their intent. They didn’t have to name names, we all know the self-described “devout Catholics,” who support the murder of the unborn.

  15. Well, no surprise to find that the Nuncio sent to this American branch of the Roman Catholic Church, is one with them in not knowing, not understanding and ultimately not caring about the world we are living in. The Pro-Life movement needs no lectures from ANY prelate on the root causes of abortion and loving responses to it. The wonderful networks that have developed to provide real help to women in crisis pregnancies, did not spring from existing Catholic charities. It is, therefore, not surprising that from our local bishops, all the way through the nunciature, these men are unaware of the help that Pro-Lifers offer. In the early years of abortion, Pro-Lifers simply thought that the institutionalized Catholic charities would take up care of women in crisis pregnancies, since the bishops said the Church was against abortion. But that was merely the beginning of a long line of evidence that the bishops (and nuncios) say the right words but do not match with actions. But Catholic charities (and Catholic Charities) sought to avoid to help women in crisis pregnancies. I was around when Cardinal O’Connor pledged that his Archdiocese of New York would assist any woman with a crisis pregnancy who asked for help – his Social Services apparatus, within the Archdiocese of New York (one of the wealthiest dioceses) rebelled and slow-walked procedures to help these women. Perhaps, if the US government pays the bishops and their charities to help provide alternatives to abortion (as they do to re-settle illegal immigrants) we would see the bishops and their charities actually help mothers and their babies.

  16. Mr. Weigel writes that the bishops now have the task of “bringing wayward Catholic public officials to the truth” and the rest of ought to support the bishops. Please, these officials know the truth very well – they know what the church teaches. They are not interested in the truth, but in power which comes from winning the next election. Ambition, not truth, drives them. And they know that when they die, a lavish Catholic funeral awaits them. (Ted Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, etc.) We ought not to be naive.These politicians sure aren’t. Cynical, opportunistic, but not naive

  17. Based on published reports on the outcome of the bishops’ meeting we have a teaching. It is inevitable that Nancy Pelosi will, one fine day, take off from some run way within a diocese, which rules one way on her abortion leadership but land on another runway, within a different diocese, which rules exactly opposite. And we will get news reports from only one airport event, take off or landing. That report will go around the world in seconds. If her plane crashes somewhere, she will go to heaven from diocese A or go to hell from diocese B, both for going to Mass and Communion that day.

    This is nuts.

    That indeed is her problem but our church leadership has substituted lengthy treatises for decision making while ignoring modern transportation, communication and educated congregations.. The techniques worked in an age where few traveled outside their diocese and never learned of disagreements among the hierarchy until combat popped up. And as in any war, the blame is placed on the sergeants, they did not give clear direction.

    Dear Lord, we have a problem. We have killed more people than in WWII and do not know how to stop the killing.

    • Analogical narratives like yours of Nancy taking-off and landing (on a broomstick, I presume…since she is green, I understand) entertain as well as teach. Like a parable.

      I would take issue with our not knowing how to stop the killing. Catholics practicing virtues of chastity, purity, modesty, temperance, with the help of the other virtues and the grace of the Eucharist, =worthily received=, will do exactly that and much, much more. Would that our Bishops had taken that morality class or were willing to concede its truth.

  18. This observation by Weigel is a key to this entire issue: ” it was never within the competence of the USCCB to “ban” pro-abortion Catholic politicians from the reception of holy communion. Dealing with estranged Catholic public officials is the responsibility of local bishops. That responsibility has now been made unmistakably clear.”

    The bishops responsibiity becomes unmistakably clear with article 49 that states: “It is the special responsibility of the diocesan bishop to work to remedy situations that involve public actions at variance with the visible communion of the Church and the moral law. Indeed, he must guard the integrity of the sacrament, the visible communion of the Church, and the salvation of souls.”

    This appears to me to be an unmistakable call for individual bishops to take whatever steps necessary to protect the Holy Eucharist, including public denial of the sacrament. The fact that authority remains with individual bishops and not with the Bishop’s Conference is a major roadblock to the presentation of a unified approach to major issues, such as the reception of communion by politicians who openly oppose and undermine fundamental Catholic teaching. Perhaps the Bishop’s Conference should be abandoned, as it appears to create confusion, rather than solving specific issues.

  19. So they spent millions of dollars and 31 pages of verbosity simply to restate what is already much more lucidly stated in the Catechism of the Church. Without so much as a subordinate clause to address the corruption and frank repudiation of this doctrine in society today. Qui tacit consentire. Hopefully my bishop won’t excommunicate me for using Latin here.

  20. Think about this: Should the bishops issue the following statement?

    “Catholic couples who are using artificial birth control should not receive the Eucharistic until such time has they have ceased such use with a firm resolution to never use such again and have had this sin forgiven in sacramental confession.”

    Should the bishops issue a directive that every priest should read that statement immediately before congregants at Mass begin to come forward to the altar to receive the Eucharist?

    My concern is this: If abortion-rights promoting Catholics are going to be “semi-excommunicated” (what banning from the Eucharist is) until they repent and change their ways, does it make sense to allow other Catholics committing mortal sins on a regular basis to receive the Eucharist on a regular basis? As I understand the matter, about 98% of sexually active Catholics who attend Mass are regularly using artificial contraceptives and are regularly receiving the Eucharist.

    My ultimate point is this: The Vatican II “renewal” has injured the Church. Since the Vatican II Council, the meaning, morals, doctrines, purpose, and mission of the Catholic Church have been disputed and contested. Doctrinal and moral anarchy reigns among the bishops, priests, and Catholic lay people.

    The fact that many Catholic politicians feel it is morally permissible for them to support abortion rights is VERY CONNECTED to the fact that most Catholic couples feel it is morally permissible to them to use artificial birth control.

    The Vatican II era Church has given great emphasis to the concept of the “primacy of conscience.” Before the Vatican II Council, most Catholic lay people never even heard of such a concept, and would have been shocked had they heard of it.

    But wait! Didn’t Pope John Paul II clarify the matter of the “primacy of conscience” in his 1993 encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”?

    But if he solved the problem in 1993, why then are most Catholic couples in the USA still using artificial contraception and receiving Eucharist, and why are many Catholic public figures promoting abortion rights?

    See? Nothing was solved or resolved in 1993.

    Something has gone wrong, something deeper. And amateur theological detective that I am, I have followed the trail of evidence back to the fiery disputes between the liberal bishops and the conservative bishops at the Vatican II Council.

    And I think the solution is for the Church to reaffirm and restore the fullness of its traditional doctrines and its traditional concept of itself and its mission.

    Or, if I am wrong about that (most theologians would say I’m wrong), then will the wise and good leaders of the Church (including the folks who run CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT) please DO SOMETHING!

    • Well there is plenty of moral and spiritual validity to Humanae Vitae but it has long been recognized by clergy everywhere that an informed conscience might validly decide non-abortive methods of artificial contraception are not mortal sins. No such concession has ever been made about abortion. The Catechism proclaims it to be intrinsically evil. And it most certainly is. Performing it, facilitating it, advocating for it, forcing other people to perform and pay for it are all about as despicable sins as humans are capable of. Your argument holds no water whatsoever.

  21. The bishops chose not to single out abortion. They included it in a list of all sorts of grave problems, from racism to immigration to refugees to access to healthcare. The bishops recognized what their faithful have been saying and doing and voting. There is no party in the USA that falls in line with catholic teaching. In either the Dems or the GOP, you must go against core catholic teachings to campaign and win. While Biden has a problem with abortion, but Marco Rubio has a problem with access to basic healthcare, immigration, and more. There isn’t an easy choice because the USA is not a catholic theocracy.

    Hard conservatives have tried to make being catholic a single issue. It never has been. The Bishops said this clearly.

    • “…the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” –Christifideles Laici, #38, Pope St. John Paul II

      • Conservatives try to make it so simple, into one issue. It’s just not.

        The rights to affordable medical care, rights of immigrants and refugees, right to be free of racism are also rights to life. Without them, the poor, the desperate, and the oppressed have no right to life. We’ve seen this repeated throughout history, and they are all still immediate problems today. Starting with Nixon but especially now after Trump, the GOP is actively working against the poor, the desperate, and actively looking to oppress minorities further with the deep embrace of white Christian nationalism. This is abhorrent, and not worth the devils bargain for abortion.

        Guess what is proven to reduce abortions? The number one reason women give is economic (70% say they can’t afford a child), and Northman half of abortions are women who already have at least one child – they know what another means. Medical care for the poor. Living wage for the poor. Job protection for pregnant women. Affordable housing for the poor. Affordable childcare. Affordable quality education for the poor. All of these are what the GOP fights against, effectively and demonstrably increasing the number of abortions.

        Catholics like Biden work to help the desperate. What if the choice a catholic politician faces is more complicated than a bumper sticker, or a couple sentences from a priest, who never had children and has no idea? What if the choice is between increasing abortions and making life worse or intolerable for the least among us, or working to help the poor, desperate, and oppressed thereby reducing abortions but having to keep abortion legal?

        For me, the choice is obvious. It’s the trolley problem. If I can help people that need it and reduce abortions, I’ll choose that path over making life miserable for the least of us and increasing the number of abortions.

        • “Catholics like Biden work to help the desperate.”

          Please. Two wrongs do not make a right. Or, in the words of Christ: “”Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.”

          • Did you read my post? You don’t actually have a clear choice, even on abortion. Both parties require a bad choice.

            The choice for catholic politicians now is:
            GOP: work towards making abortion illegal while simultaneously making abortions more common due to economic policies that hurt the poor. Create policies that make having children a devastating economic burden. After Trump, you also must embrace white nationalism, but this trend has been coming since at least Pat Buchanan in the 1990s.

            Dems: keep abortion legal while working on the economic policies that make abortion less common. Work towards polices where having children is not a devastating economic burden.

            Note that illegal will not equal eliminated. Removing the reasons women choose abortion is the only way to eliminate abortion.

        • “Starting with Nixon but especially now after Trump, the GOP is actively working against the poor, the desperate, and actively looking to oppress minorities further with the deep embrace of white Christian nationalism.”

          — Simple Horn, above

          Oh, Simple, what kind of a weird, tribalist, cartoon world do you inhabit?

          Affirming that there are two sexes — male and female — and upholding property rights and objecting to precious, irreplaceable, infinitely lovable children from being dismembered in their mothers’ wombs — this is “the deep embrace of white nationalism”?

          I’m afraid you’re working too hard to legalize hard drugs, my friend.

          It’s an incontrovertible fact: Leftism is *always* on the side of death/non-life:

          Abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, contraception, homosexual “marriage”, etc. These are non-negotiable planks in your party’s death-dealing platform.

          By the way, did you know that, in New York City, more black children are killed each year in abortions than are born? Thanks to your party’s policies.

          That’s the kind of support minorities get from you Democrats, Simple.

          In fact, thanks to Democrats, the most dangerous place for any black person in America is in his or her mother’s womb.

          Because the number of black lives ended by abortions exceeds all other causes of death *combined* in America!

          Yes, you read that correctly.

          So don’t tell me how Republicans embrace white nationalism. Your party has been working to enslave and/or liquidate black Americans for nearly 200 years now.

          And counting.


  22. I thank God that Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte NC banned Holy Communion to proabortion politicians in 2004. God bless him.

  23. As Harry said above “…stating the truth superbly is not sufficient. What the bishops do and fail to do speaks much louder than the most beautiful statement of the truths of the Catholic faith.”

    That sums it all up! Actions (or lack of actions) speak louder than all the fine words! So the actions of the pope in welcoming pro-abort politicians and the lack of actions by the bishops to enforce canon 915 speak loudly to “Catholic” politicians: “Don’t worry at all about what Church leaders say because they are not going to put their money where there mouth is.”

    So Catholic faithful and non-Catholics alike will continue to be scandalized by pro-abort “Catholic” politicians receiving Holy Communion. No wonder so many Catholics fail to comprehend the intrinsic evil of abortion and the sacredness and Real Presence of the Eucharist!

    Those “Catholic” politicians must be laughing their heads off at our dear bishops!

  24. If the “Mystery” footnote dealing with politicians who support abortion receiving Communion is merely a restatement and reaffirmation of the 2006 Statement, then why should we expect the results to be any different this time? The bishops have had this mandate at their disposal for fifteen years and done nothing with it. Also, denial of Communion is not enough. Formal declarations of excommunication are necessary.

  25. Mr. Weigel employs his skilled massaging of the clay into a fine figure – that is,
    “We (the bishops) really need to be careful not to carry out our paternal responsibility as teachers of Catholic Doctrine and enforcing Canon Law.” A fine image he presents, however, before the finely modeled clay is ready to be transferred to the kiln for firing, it begins to slump. Mr. Weigel worked in too much water. Not only has the image lost its appeal, if fired now, it will crack.

    Just the facts—–the bishops are protecting the governmental “cash cow” —therefore, as a body it is necessary to make a show of allegedly solving an issue which has been defined centuries past. Nothing to see here, people, the flight was uneventful, all attendants were warm, the beds were comfortable, the food was good, the conclusion was as expected. Bishops return to respective diocese.

    “Where’s the beef?”

  26. RE: Thomas Ryder. What you say about clergy everywhere having taught that those who’s conscience tells them that artificial contraception is not sinful may practice it is true. However, no priest can declare that something that is sinful is not sinful. You quote the catechism that abortion is intrinsically evil, but the catechism also says that artificial contraception is intrinsically evil (CCC 2370).
    If I am going to decide that I can violate a constant moral teaching of the Church, how can I logically say that someone else cannot violate a different constant moral teaching of the Church? It can’t be done. To a great extent, we are where we are today because so many clergy, either overtly, or through silence, have condoned artificial contraception. It is not the clergy’s job to confirm an erroneous conscience, but rather to correct it.
    HV was not a new and novel teaching of the Church. It was a re-presentation of a constant teaching of the Church.
    Those who tried to practice what the Church taught received little to no help from the clergy. A once a year sentence in the church bulletin announcing a nNFP class somewhere in the diocese hardly constitutes teaching.

  27. If the Pope tells individual bishops they have to act independently of each other what do we have a Pope for? It seems to me, when the commander fails to command he is no longer in charge. The consequent result is natural, inevitable disunity of the Roman Catholic Church.

    On the other hand, we have canon laws and the CCC for bishops to act authoritatively. Bishops who follow the books will be Catholic and those who do not are already self excommunicated. It is a clever way to clear up the mess we are in now if that is what is intended. What a time to be in charge of a diocese! A bishop may elect to help carry the cross or just stand aside and blame Pilate and his Roman soldiers.

  28. Mr Weigel, your response to the bishops is pretty much a non answer. Basically what your saying is killing babies is wrong but let’s not hurt the feelings of politicians by saying the can’t receive communion or better yet, excommunicating them!

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