Archbishop Cordileone: Major Effort needed to Re-Catechize Catholics on the Eucharist

U.S. bishops will deliberate and vote on whether to begin drafting a document on Eucharistic coherence at their upcoming virtual spring meeting

Newsdesk (June 8, 2021, 10:16 am, Gaudiumpress) – Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, during an interview aired on Thursday (3rd June 2021) on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, said that “Eucharistic coherence” applies to all Catholics, not just Catholic public officials. U.S bishops are scheduled to discuss the topic from June 16-18 and vote on whether or not to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

The Archbishop affirms that “we’ve been debating this and discussing it for a very long time, at least 20 years now,” regarding the worthiness of Catholics to receive Communion – including politicians who publicly support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion.

“The problem is our people don’t understand what the act of Communion really means, in the sense of worthiness to receive Holy Communion,” he continued, “Eucharistic coherence applies to every single Catholic. Catholics prominent in public life have an additional responsibility, in terms of the public witness that they give,” he noted, “but it applies to all Catholics. So, we do need to have a very major effort in re-catechizing our people about this.”

Eucharistic coherence defined by the Aparecida document and Cardinal Ratzinger

The term “Eucharistic coherence,” used in the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops, refers to the “consistency between the way we receive the Holy Eucharist, and the way that we live our life, that we need to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist.”

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Then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -later Pope Francis-, contributed to the development of the document and noted the role of public officials in defending the sanctity of life on issues such as abortion and euthanasia. The bishops said in the Aparecida document that ‘When Catholic officials support these and other grave crimes against life and the family, they are not to present themselves for Communion.’

In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, “a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” was engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.

In such a case, the politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.” 

Ratzinger added that if the official were to persist in such actions and approach to receive Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

The 2004 memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops timeline

In March 2021, the president of the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, wrote the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, informing the congregation that the bishops would be discussing a document on Eucharistic coherence at their spring meeting.

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On May 7, 2021, the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, instructed the U.S. bishops on what to do if they were to issue any national policy on Communion for Catholic officials who support permissive legislation on grave evils. He said that Ratzinger’s 2004 memo on Communion could be used only in light of the Vatican’s 2002 note on Catholic participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.

Cardinal Ladaria said the bishops must first have “serene” dialogue to ensure unity on the Church’s teachings before dialoguing with Catholic public officials.

Archbishop Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that “Cardinal Ladaria gave some very reasonable advice to the bishops about we do need to have some serene conversations, dialogue about this.” And he added, “He speaks about a second stage of dialogue of bishops with Catholic politicians. That has been going on, too, in the case of individual bishops and individual politicians.”

“There will be a debate; I’m anticipating a vote to go forward with this. I sense among many bishops the even greater sense of urgency on this matter”

Some bishops, led by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, wrote Archbishop Gomez stating that the gravity of the topic required an in-person deliberation.

Archbishop Gomez replied via a memo on May 22 that the document on the Eucharist was approved by the conference’s administrative committee and would advance as planned at the upcoming meeting.

“There will be a debate; I’m anticipating a vote to go forward with this. I sense among many bishops the even greater sense of urgency on this matter,” Cordileone confirmed. If the bishops move forward with drafting a document, the Doctrine Committee will write the document, the full text of which would be debated and voted on at the bishops’ fall meeting in November 2021.

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Archbishop Cordileone stated that “a teaching document by the conference on the Eucharist ‘is not enough’ by itself to ensure Catholics are well-catechized.” But precisely because of the confusion, a document will help to spell out the Church’s teachings and positions on these issues, and it will be inclusive,” he said. “It’s not focusing only on abortion, it’s not focusing only on politicians.” 

Backgrounder for the need for a Eucharistic Coherence document for U.S. Catholics

After the election of Joe Biden, the U.S. bishops’ conference convened a particular working group with recommendations regarding a teaching document on the Eucharist that would cover both the Church’s teaching on general worthiness to receive Communion. In addition, the document would clarify that Catholics in public life have a special responsibility to uphold the Church’s teachings in public.

U.S. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are Catholics and have promoted policies contrary to Church teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality, including supporting taxpayer-funded abortion.

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