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.
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“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.”