Bishops Brennan, Monforton: Doctrinal discussion is spiritually, not politically, driven | News, Sports, Jobs
WHEELING – A recent discussion within the Catholic Church in the United States has sparked debate over whether or not people can be denied Communion because of their beliefs. However, local bishops say interpreting their doctrinal discussion as a political position is missing the point.
Earlier in June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released an overview of pastoral theology of the sacrament of the Eucharist. By the time the document was released, questions arose in its wake as to whether individual bishops could choose to refuse Communion, especially pro-choice people. The discussion extended to President Joe Biden, the second Catholic to hold such a post.
Bishops voted 168-55 in favor of drafting the declaration, with six bishops abstaining from voting.
Bishop Mark Brennan, Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said the conference vote was not meant to be a punitive political action or, indeed, a political statement at all. Rather, the plan was drafted in response to a perceived weakening of the Catholic faith.
âWe are faced with the great challenge of overthrowing (the) weakened faith of many Catholics in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist – of rekindling their faith that in Holy Communion they actually receive, contrary to material appearance, the Body and Blood of the Lord. Without this faith, it is doubtful that a Catholic will receive the spiritual benefit of the sacrament â, Brennan said.
âFor this reason, the American bishops will launch a Eucharistic revival in 2022. The one-and-a-half-page outline of a pastoral theology of the Eucharist voted by the bishops last week, responding to the relatively new situation in our Church , will support our diocesan, parish and national effort in the Eucharistic Awakening project. The chair of the Doctrine Committee, who will develop the document, assured us that he will not target any particular Catholic for blame. “
Likewise, Most Reverend Jeffrey Monforton, Bishop of the Diocese of Steubenville, also said that he believed that the key to the Bishops’ Document was spiritual and not political. Monforton pointed to the decline in the spiritual emphasis of Catholics on communion, which goes hand in hand with the decline in church attendance.
âThis document must underline the weight, the treasure that the Eucharist is in the church. In the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is the source and the summit. â¦ In 2019, there was a Pew (Research Center) report that interviewed Catholics; nearly 70 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Eucharist as a symbol rather than the actual body of Christ. â¦ This shows that there is a need for a moment of catechesis. We are looking for just over 30% of Catholics who attend Sunday Mass – I’m sure there is a connection there â, He continued.
Brennan said the document will be discussed, amended and voted on by the bishops in November. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops represents all Catholic bishops in the country.
Brennan said he didn’t anticipate the recent discussion would impact church attendance among worshipers. However, he wanted to explain what the council’s action actually represented, rather than the conclusions people might have jumped to; primarily, that he calls for a renewed understanding and enthusiasm for fellowship, more than anything else.
âThese Catholics need to take a step back and see what our vote did not do. He did not condemn anyone. Also, Catholic teaching on doctrine and morality is supposed to play [a] constitutive role in the formation of a Catholic conscience. Personal beliefs must be changed if they conflict with the defined teaching â, he said.
ââ¦ People go to mass because of the Lord. They get along well in most cases with their parish priest. A vote by the bishops on a document will have little or no effect on them.
Monforton added that he hopes the document will provide guidance to Catholics and bring them back to their churches with a renewed focus for those who have stopped attending church.
“This document is, I think, a long time to come, and I hope it will provide, at the very least, a reversal for people who no longer attend church,” said Monforton. “Whether it was that the church was no longer considered important to them, or the scandals we had to face, but I hope and pray that it will have that effect.”
Monforton said that while “Life is full of politics, and you can’t avoid it somehow”, it was not the intention of the bishops to make the question of communion a political flashpoint. On the contrary, he hopes that the faithful will take the teaching of Saint Augustine to heart – âWhen you receive the Eucharist, become what you receive. “
In addition, he hopes that the renewed emphasis on fellowship will call people to reexamine their own beliefs and live their lives in a spiritual way, aligning with the church.
“This document should be a spiritual tool to allow all of us to deepen our own consciousness” he said. âIt doesn’t mean being a Republican, Democrat, Green Party, I don’t care. What matters to me is that we look within ourselves to realize that it is not so much: âDo we have a right to the Eucharist? but instead, ‘Is it right for us to receive the Eucharist?’
“We are all fallen individuals, we are all sinners – I confess like everyone else” Monforton added. âThe question is, are we united with the body of Christ and with the church? Receiving the Eucharist is a sign of unity. â¦ Do we behave in accordance with those we receive at Mass? “
Monforton was of the opinion that there were a number of transgressions that could prevent fellowship, but that they were not limited to the scope of being pro-choice.
âThere are serious sins there, and they constitute a lack of charity, a breaking of friendship with God. Obviously one of the words that came up more than once was abortion, also euthanasia, but there are also serious and serious sins, (like) racism and human trafficking.
Monforton lamented that the conference document consisted of three parts – the mystery and sacrifice of the Eucharist, its celebration and what it means for the faithful as people, especially outside the context of the church. . However, public discourse on the document, he said, was laser-focused on Part Three and its aftermath, which he said gives it disproportionate weight compared to the whole context.
“The third part occupied most of the discussion, as well as most of the Catholic media”, he said. “I think there were two bishops’ conferences a week ago – one that I attended and one that much of the Catholic press reported on.”
Looking to the future, Monforton said he had hope for the future faithful of the Catholic Church, recounting a recent visit he made to an elementary school, where many second-graders, preparing for their First Communion, knew the doctrine well.
“On the lighter side of things, second graders at Catholic schools in Steubenville know more about the Eucharist than 70 percent of Catholics,” he said. âIt shows the potential, it shows the future. If the parents of the children do not go to church, sometimes it is necessary to evangelize the parents through the children.
âI am grateful that with this document we voted on it and we are moving forward. There will be a lot of dialogue, and this was encouraged by Cardinal (Luis) Ladaria, in Rome, in a letter to the bishops â, he added. âIt’s extremely important; that’s how the councils worked. â¦ He focuses on this dialogue, not on coercion. People have seen this firsthand.