A year in review: The biggest stories from the Church in the US in 2021

Kapaun funeral 3 Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita performs the absolution over the coffin of Father Emil Kapaun after his funeral Mass at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kan., Sept. 29, 2021. | Chris Riggs/Catholic Advance

It can be hard to believe any year could top 2020 in terms of news, but 2021 was a momentous year for the Church in the United States. From the advancements in the causes for sainthood of several Americans to the U.S. bishops’ sometimes heated debate of a document on the Eucharist, here is a look back on some of the biggest stories out of the Church in the U.S. this year.

Remains of Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun identified 

Relatives and devotees of Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun rejoiced when investigators identified his remains in a Hawaiian cemetery. The Kansas native is remembered for his heroic service as a chaplain during the Second World War and the Korean War. He died in a prison camp in 1951 and was posthumously bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2013. His remains were subsequently returned to Kansas, and were interred at Wichita's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in September.

Wisconsin priest with large social media following is removed from ministry 

Fr. James Altman became well known— and celebrated in some circles— in 2020 and 2021 for his inflammatory commentary on topics ranging from racism to the coronavirus pandemic. In one viral video, Fr. Altman said no Catholic can be a Democrat because of the party leadership’s support for abortion. Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse removed Fr. Altman from ministry after seeking privately to correct the priest for his behavior. 

Theodore McCarrick appears in court, faces new lawsuits 

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick appeared for the first time in a Massachusetts court in September. The 91-year-old pleaded ‘not guilty’ to three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. In the weeks that followed, two new sex abuse lawsuits were filed against McCarrick

U.S. bishops vote to approve document on the Eucharist 

All eyes turned to Baltimore in November, for the annual fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In near unanimity, the bishops approved a document on the Eucharist that was the product of months of revisions and sometimes heated debate. The final text of the document avoids overt references to whether bishops and priests ought to deny Communion to public figures who are at odds with Catholic teaching on abortion and other moral issues. 

U.S. bishops meet in Baltimore 

The bishops’ vote on a document on the Eucharist dominated headlines, but there were many reasons why this year’s annual fall meeting was newsworthy, including the election of committee chairs.

Evidence for Dorothy Day’s sainthood cause sent to Rome

The Archdiocese of New York shipped to the Vatican more than a dozen boxes containing evidence of Servant of God Dorothy Day’s reputation for holiness. The move marked the end of two decades of diocesan work on Day’s sainthood cause.

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