Confession must be part of talks on worthiness to receive Communion, US Nuncio says

The sacrament of confession must be part of the U.S. bishops’ discussions on worthiness to receive Communion, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States said on July 28, 2021.

Newsroom (July 29, 2021, 10:37 AM Gaudium Press)When teaching about the reception of Holy Communion, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, said at an online panel that the conversion of souls should be the bishops’ primary aim.

“The starting point cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One Who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. By the way, there is a link between the two [sacraments],” the Nuncio added.

Archbishop Pierre addressed a July 28 online panel discussion of “Communion, Catholics, and Public Life,” which focused mainly on a draft Eucharistic document of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

At their recent spring meeting, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The meeting featured extensive debate both for and against moving ahead with the document at the time.

Episcopal deliberations

Archbishop Pierre was asked about the episcopal deliberations. He admitted the difficulty the bishops faced in “discerning” what to do on the teaching document.

“The discernment is quite difficult, because there is always the danger to be overwhelmed by the tensions. And we know these tensions are quite often ideological tensions which may divide us,” Pierre said.

“This is why we have heard about the risk of instrumentalization of the sacraments, and indeed, of the Eucharist,” he continued, noting “how to remain firm, faithful to the message of the Gospel and avoid any kind of ideological war.”

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After the Nuncio spoke on Wednesday, two U.S. bishops participated in the online dialogue on Communion – Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

As the current chair of the USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Rhoades is currently in charge of drafting the teaching document on the Eucharist.

Admittance to Communion 

Bishop Rhoades on Wednesday said the Eucharistic document is meant to be “a teaching document,” one “that would focus more broadly on the Eucharist as the source and summit of our identity as Catholics.” It is addressed to all Catholics and is not a political statement.

The document, Rhoades emphasized, “will not be establishing national norms or a national policy” on admittance to Communion. Bishop Rhoades added that it is the teaching of the Church that, to be properly disposed to receive Communion, a Catholic must “assent to the deposit of faith that’s contained in Scripture and Tradition that the Apostles entrusted to the Church.”

Cardinal Tobin meanwhile expressed some criticism about the decision to draft the document at the current moment. “This document was born in some confusion,” he said, warning that many Catholics would receive it as a partisan gesture.

Cardinal Tobin noted that the USCCB established a working group and drafted a document on worthiness to receive Communion after the election of Joe Biden. They did not do so right after the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, he said, taking more than a year to set up any such working group during Trump’s presidency.

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Part of the USCCB’s reason for setting up the working group in 2020 was Biden’s professed Catholic faith and the added possibility of scandal with a Catholic in the White House contradicting Church teaching on grave moral issues.

Tobin also noted that Bishops should be consulting not only among themselves but with the lay faithful on the Eucharistic document. “I think what we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist.” And he added: “not one that, like it or not, is perceived as a political action.”

 

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