Divided American Catholic Bishops to Debate Communion Policy

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to devote part of its national meeting next month to the sensitive issue that Catholics deserve to receive Communion, despite calls for postponement.

Dozens of bishops had asked USCCB president Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gomez to postpone the debate to a later meeting, where they could meet in person rather than virtually. But swift action is being sought by some conservative bishops who want to point out that President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion should not receive Communion.

Conservatives are now comforted, as Gomez confirmed in a note on Saturday that the topic is on the June meeting’s agenda. A vote is scheduled on whether the Conference Doctrine Committee should draft a document dealing with the issue of Communion and present it later.

An explanation of the agenda item makes it clear that one of the sub-themes will be the reception of communion by cultural and political leaders.

Archbishop of Denver Samuel Aquila, one of the Conservatives engaged in the talks, released a statement on Tuesday praising Gomez and saying he “had followed the correct procedures to facilitate this critical discussion as a body of bishops “.

Aquila referred to a May 7 letter to Gomez from the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, urging US bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before taking any action on the matter. of communion.

“It is clear from this that the USCCB’s plan to discuss and debate this important issue is justified and encouraged,” Aquila said. “On the other hand, the publication of the letter calling for an end to discussions at our June meeting on this vital issue risks creating an atmosphere of factionalism, rather than unity among the bishops.”

The bishops who asked for a delay have not published their letter publicly or made statements about it. According to The Pillar, an online outlet covering the Catholic Church, the signatories included Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Wilton Gregory of Washington, the latter having made it clear that Biden was welcome to receive Communion in churches in his archdiocese.

But in a recent essay, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego argued against the campaign to deny Biden and others communion.

“It will have extremely destructive consequences,” McElroy wrote. “The Eucharist is being militarized and deployed as a tool of political warfare. This must not happen.”

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone, one of the conservatives, criticized the request to delay the debate.

“I am deeply saddened by the growing public acrimony among bishops and the adoption of closed-door maneuvers to interfere with accepted, normal and agreed-upon procedures of the USCCB,” Cordileone said in a statement. “Those who do not want to publish a document on Eucharistic coherence should be open to discussing the issue objectively and fairly with their brother bishops, rather than trying to derail the process.”

Cordileone thanked Gomez “for his integrity in ensuring that our bishop’s conference procedures are followed” and said he looked forward to a “calm dialogue” on communion policies at the June meeting.

Aquila, in his statement, suggested that Catholics put their souls in danger if they receive Communion “in an unworthy manner.”

“As bishops, we are failing in our duty as shepherds if we ignore this truth and how it manifests itself in today’s society, especially with regard to those in important positions who reject fundamental teachings. of the Church and insist that they be allowed to receive Communion, ”says Aquila.

Cardinal Ladaria’s letter to Gomez in May made several points that could affect the way the USCCB deals with the problem:

– He said that any new declaration should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to include all practicing Catholics regarding their dignity to receive Communion.

– He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the main” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if a new document “made it seem like abortion and euthanasia were theirs only the only serious questions of Catholic moral and social teaching which demand the fullest responsibility on the part of Catholics. “

– He said that if American bishops pursue a new policy, they should engage with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal Church.”

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