A STATEMENT on the eucharist approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week urges communicants to “enter more deeply by faith and love” into the Real Presence of Christ. It warns that receiving holy communion while publicly rejecting “defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately repudiat[ing] her definitive teaching on moral issues” is “likely to cause scandal for others”.
Its publication follows debate in the US on whether President Biden, a Roman Catholic, should receive communion, given his public support for abortion rights; some bishops have stated that they would not allow it (News, 25 June).
The statement, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church”, was approved overwhelmingly by a gathering of the Conference on Wednesday of last week. It exhorts Roman Catholics to remember the importance of holy communion, quoting from John 6 (“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you”). An AP report quoted the Most Revd Andrew H. Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Paul & Minneapolis, who said that the statistic that “convinced the bishops there was a crisis . . . was the fact that 75 percent of Catholics don’t go to Mass on Sunday. If people believed in the Eucharist, how could they possibly miss Mass on Sunday?”
The document includes a reminder that Roman Catholics in a state of mortal sin must seek out the sacrament of reconciliation and absolution before receiving communion. “Lay people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody Church teaching”, it says; and bishops have a “special responsibility” to respond to situations “that involve public actions at variance with the visible communion of the church and the moral law”.
No specific reference is made to politicians, but the Archbishop of Kansas City, the Most Revd Joseph Naumann, was quoted by the Crux news website as saying last week that it was “good to reiterate in this document what we have said before about our responsibility to have dialogue and conversation with those who are Catholic but who act in a way contrary to our faith in this basic moral teaching. I’m not sure we’ve taken that seriously as bishops, our responsibility for the care of the souls of these politicians to really enter into a dialogue.”