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Archbishop Cordileone: We need ‘major effort’ to ‘re-catechize’ Catholics on the Eucharist

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Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2021 / 16:02 pm

The Archbishop of San Francisco said this week there must be a “major effort” to “re-catechize” Catholics on the Eucharist and worthiness to receive Communion.

In an interview which aired on Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said that the matter of “Eucharistic coherence” applies to all Catholics, not just Catholic public officials. The bishops are scheduled to discuss the topic at their upcoming spring meeting from June 16-18, and vote on whether or not to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Regarding the worthiness of Catholics to receive Communion – including politicians who publicly support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion – “we’ve been debating this and discussing it for a very long time, at least 20 years now,” Archbishop Cordileone said on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

“And I remember as a new bishop this issue coming up – and the realization that the problem is our people don’t understand what the act of Communion really means, in that sense of worthiness to receive Holy Communion,” he said.

“So, certainly, Eucharistic coherence applies to every single Catholic,” Cordileone said. “Catholics prominent in public life have an additional responsibility, in terms of the public witness that they give,” he added, “but it applies to all Catholics. So, we do need to have a very major effort in re-catechizing our people about this.”

At their upcoming virtual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops are scheduled to deliberate and vote on whether to begin drafting a document on Eucharistic coherence.

The term “Eucharistic coherence,” used in the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops, refers to the “consistency between the way we receive the Holy Eucharist, and the way that we live our life, that we need to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist,” Cordileone explained.

That document, which then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio contributed to the development of, also noted the role of public officials in defending the sanctity of life on issues such as abortion and euthanasia. When Catholic officials support these and “other grave crimes against life and the family,” they are not to present themselves for Communion, the bishops said in the Aparecida.

Some bishops, led by Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago, wrote Archbishop Gomez in an effort to delay the discussions on the Eucharist by the U.S. bishops. The gravity of the topic requires an in-person deliberation, he argued.

Gomez replied in a May 22 memo that that the agenda item to consider the document on the Eucharist was approved by the conference’s administrative committee, and will occur as planned at the upcoming meeting.

“There will be a debate,” Cordileone confirmed. If the bishops move forward with drafting a document, the Doctrine Committee would write the document, the full text of which would be debated and voted on at the bishops’ fall meeting in November.

“I’m anticipating a vote to go forward with this. I sense among many bishops the even greater sense of urgency on this matter,” Cordileone said.

A special working group was convened by the U.S. bishops’ conference after the election of Joe Biden to the presidency in November. One of the working group’s recommendations was a teaching document on the Eucharist, that would cover both the Church’s teaching on general worthiness to receive Communion, and that would clarify that Catholics in public life have a special responsibility to uphold the Church’s teachings in public.

The topic of Communion, especially for pro-abortion politicians, has been discussed by individual bishops for the last several months since the election of Joe Biden to the presidency.

Both Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Catholics, have promoted policies contrary to Church teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality, including supporting taxpayer-funded abortion.

In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, saying that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” was engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.

In such a case, the politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.

He added that if the official were to persist in such actions and approach to receive Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

That 2004 memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

In March, president of the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, wrote the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, informing the congregation that the bishops would be discussing a document on Eucharistic coherence at their spring meeting.

On May 7, Cardinal Luis Ladaria – prefect of the congregation – replied to Gomez in a letter, instructing the bishops what to do if they were to issue any national policy on Communion for Catholic officials who support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion. He said that Ratzinger’s 2004 memo on Communion could be used by bishops, but only in light of the Vatican’s 2002 note on Catholic participation in politics and the importance of safeguarding the rights of ordinaries in their local Churches.

Cardinal Ladaria said the bishops must first have “serene” dialogue among themselves to ensure unity on the Church’s teachings, before dialoguing with Catholic public officials.

The dialogue that the Vatican recently requested of the U.S. bishops on the matter of Eucharistic coherence has already been taking place, Archbishop Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

“Cardinal Ladaria gave some very reasonable advice to the bishops about we do need to have some serene conversations, dialogue about this,” he said, adding, “we’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

“He speaks about a second stage of dialogue of bishops with Catholic politicians. That has been going on, too, in the case of individual bishops and individual politicians,” Cordileone said. “So, we have been doing what he has asked us to do.”

A teaching document by the conference on the Eucharist “is not enough” by itself to ensure Catholics are well-catechized, he said.

“But precisely because of the confusion, a document will help to spell out the Church’s teachings and positions on these issues, and it will be inclusive,” he said. “It’s not focusing only on abortion, it’s not focusing only on politicians.”

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