The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to approve a document on the sacrament of Holy Communion, the first doctrinal document on the Eucharist in 15 years, as controversies continue over Catholic politicians who support abortion and other positions that contradict Church teaching.
The document, entitled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” was approved by a vote 0f 222-8, with three abstentions. The passage of the document was met with lengthy applause, according to a report by the Washington Post. The final document, which is around 30 pages, asserts the Church’s position on Communion with references mostly to canon law and papal documents. It does not specifically call out any individual politicians by name, nor does it single out the issue of abortion, but it strongly indicates that people in positions of power must maintain adherence to Catholic doctrine.
“Laypeople who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to form their consciences in accord with the Church’s faith and the moral law, and to serve the human family by upholding human life and dignity,” the document reads, per the Washington Post. The document also cites previous statements by the USCCB, including one published in 2006 that says Catholics who “knowingly or obstinately” refuse to accept teachings authoritatively defined as doctrine are “not to be admitted” to receive the sacrament, and should not present themselves before the altar.
The final draft amends an earlier version of the document, originally obtained by the Washington Post, which took a broader and less forceful position, which said that Catholics in positions of secular authority had “special responsibility to embody church teaching in their service of the common good.” It also includes a statement affirming Christians’ “responsibility to promote the life and dignity” of “the most vulnerable: the unborn, migrants and refugees, victims of racial injustice, the sick and the elderly.”
The document underwent several failed attempts at amendments by individual bishops. Some wanted to emphasize the necessity of obedience in order for someone to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist, as well as the fact that politicians and public figures who oppose Church teaching are guilty of the grave sin of scandal. Others tried to add victims of human trafficking and the poor to the list of the vulnerable.
The document, according to one bishop is to “lay a foundation for the Eucharistic Revival” that will begin next year. US Bishops, according to the Washington Post, have been working for years to forge a stronger connection between Catholics and the Eucharist, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “‘the source and summit of the Christian life.'”
The election of President Joe Biden put the issue into sharper focus, as articles from liberal media outlets described Biden as the “most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century” and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “faith in the Constitution is second only to her Catholic faith.” The USCCB called for a working group to address the issue, and suggested a document addressing the proper handling of politicians who Communion. The drafting of the document was approved in June.
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