The Aparecida document likewise references the duties of legislators and heads of governments with regard to life issues, namely, to oppose the “abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia” or recognize that they cannot receive holy communion.
Why do medical professionals have special responsibility to live eucharistic coherence?
The Aparecida document makes clear that defense of human life and eucharistic coherence is not limited to government officials; rather, it is the special duty of every baptized doctor, nurse, and healthcare worker to uphold the dignity of life or refrain from receiving the eucharist.
“’Causing death’ can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patient's request,” wrote John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. “Rather, it runs completely counter to the health-care profession, which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life.” John Paul II called on health care professionals to exercise conscientious objection rather than participate in the evils of abortion and euthanasia.
In a speech to the Pontifical Academy for Life Benedict XVI reaffirmed that “every human community and the political community itself are founded” on the right to life. Accordingly, professionals, doctors, and lawyers must engage in “courageous objection of conscience” to the evils threatening the right to life.
Why is eucharistic coherence connected to the USCCB spring 2021 meeting next week?
In 2004, Joseph Ratzinger penned a memo to the USCCB while the U.S. bishops were embroiled in the Kerry communion debate. The discussion soon broadened to pro-choice politicians in general. In 2006, as a response to these questions and the implications for all Catholics, the USCCB published a document on preparation to receive the Eucharist worthily.
A crisis of faith in the belief in the Eucharist among Catholics writ large revealed itself in intervening years. In 2019, a Pew Research report confirmed that only 31% of Catholics believed in the doctrine of the real presence of the Eucharist. The urgency of the question about worthy reception of the Eucharist resurfaced as prominent Catholic and abortion supporter Joe Biden, a Democrat, began his own presidential run.
A working group on eucharistic coherence formed in November 2020 to deal with the question of scandal posed by such a prominent public figure receiving holy communion. The group, headed by USCCB vice president Archbishop Allen Vigneron, proposed the creation of a document on the Eucharist--a document aimed at all Catholics and not specifically at one politician.
In recent months the use of the term eucharistic coherence exploded, and bishops across the country are defending the long-standing church teaching behind the term and its implications for politicians and medical professionals, as well as the general Catholic population, based on an understanding of the fundamental nature of the right to life.
The current head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, also affirmed the need for eucharistic coherence in a letter to U.S. Bishops, widely mischaracterized as asking for a pause in the normal USCCB procedures.
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The bishops will discuss an outline of a draft document on the eucharist elaborated by the Committee of Doctrine during their June 2021 spring meeting next week. The meeting will be held virtually June 16-18, 2021.
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