Echoes. Bishops, officials and Holy Communion: once again. Posted on 10/11/2021

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Bishops, officials and holy communion: once again


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Revitalizing a Eucharistic Church, however, requires new clarity among the people of the Church about the nature of the Eucharistic community – and what actions take Catholics away from it.

George
Weigel

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepares to meet in Baltimore, misconceptions about a proposed conference statement on the Eucharistic vitality and integrity of the Church in America abound. Confusions from Catholic sources online and social media have been exacerbated by a mainstream press that has consistently misrepresented what bishops do. I hope the following clarifications will be helpful.

The proposed declaration is not primarily about politicians. The Catholic Church is a Eucharistic Church; as Saint John Paul II wrote in his last encyclical: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist”. When the Catholic faith in the mystery of the Eucharist – the real presence of Christ among us – withers, the Church withers. When Eucharistic practice declines, the Church suffers from a debilitating illness. The erosion of the Eucharistic faith and lax Eucharistic practice have been hallmarks of American Catholic life for decades. Bishops were determined to close this ‘Eucharistic deficit’ before COVID-19 accelerates a drop in mass attendance, before Mr Biden is a declared presidential candidate and before Ms Pelosi redefines murder unborn children as “reproductive health care”.

Everything the bishops say about the ecclesiastical and personal situation of Catholic officials whose actions deny the essential and definitively taught truths of the Catholic faith will be said in the larger context of the bishops’ eagerness to rekindle Eucharistic vitality and respect. throughout the Church. Revitalizing a Eucharistic Church, however, requires new clarity among the people of the Church about the nature of the Eucharistic community – and what actions take Catholics away from it.

The bishops never intended to issue a statement “denying” Holy Communion to President Biden. The media mantra that “some conservative bishops” want to “deny” President Biden Holy Communion has been repeated so often that it may seem true. It is not, and it never has been. The crude fact of the matter is that canon 1405 of the Code of Canon Law reserves the right to impose ecclesiastical sanctions on heads of state to the Pope. But it does not end: not at all.

The question of the dignity of receiving Holy Communion is not limited to the question of whether or not someone is in a state of mortal sin. It is hardly new that the notion of grave sin is seriously softened in 21st century Catholicism. And it is quite true that, if one is aware of being in a state of grave sin, one must seek reconciliation with God and the Church through the sacrament of penance before receiving Holy Communion; it is basic Catholicism, rooted in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29: “Whoever … [and] eat and drink judgment on itself. But ignorance or inabilities in intellectual and moral judgment can make it difficult for these disabled people to commit mortal sin. Thus, the question of the dignity of receiving Holy Communion should not be framed only in terms of mortal sin.

Moreover, this is not the problem with Catholic officials whose actions willfully advance the culture of death. No one knows if these men and women are in a state of mortal sin. What we know, and what we cannot avoid knowing, is that these men and women have declared, through their public actions, that they are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Therefore, for their own integrity, they should not come forward to receive Holy Communion. If they stubbornly persist in doing so, even after proper instruction and guidance, then Church pastors should ask them not to act at Mass as if they are in full fellowship with the Church.

Recent events in Rome do not change anything. Regardless of what Pope Francis said or did not say on October 29 to President Biden – who has already made mistakes, uh, the fundamental question before the bishops remains the Eucharistic vitality of the Church in the United States. It will take years of effective catechesis and preaching to rekindle a vibrant Eucharistically Catholicism, and these efforts cannot begin soon enough. However, Eucharistic revitalization will be seriously hampered if bishops do not openly approach the reception of Holy Communion by those who are not in full communion with the Church – and do not call these distant Catholics to repentance and a deeper conversion to the Lord, which will enable them to receive Holy Communion in integrity as reconciled members of the Body of Christ.

– George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC

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