The U.S. bishops’ conference could be given a vote this June on whether to draft and publish a document addressing the question of administering the Eucharist to pro-choice Catholic politicians. The document could be finalized and approved as early as November, sources tell The Pillar.
The USCCB’s administrative committee discussed on Tuesday a path forward for a proposed document on “Eucharistic coherence,” several sources within the bishops’ conference told The Pillar. A plan to develop the statement had the approval of a majority of the committee’s members, sources confirmed.
According to sources present at the meeting, the document would address the Code of Canon Law’s canon 915, which prohibits those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin” from admittance to Holy Communion. The canon’s relevance to Catholics politicians supportive of legal protection or public funding for abortion has been a matter of disagreement among U.S. bishops.
One source told The Pillar the intended statement would be “much broader” than canon 915, but would address the question.
Such a document was first proposed by a short-term working group on the Biden administration, launched in November by conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez. The idea has since been passed on to the conference committee on doctrine.
On March 1, Gomez sent a memo to U.S. bishops, which said the doctrine committee had been asked to develop a proposal for a statement on “Eucharistic coherence.” Such a statement would aim to “strengthen an understanding and deepen a common faith in the gift that has been given to us in the Sacrament of the Altar.”
The proposal would be considered by the USCCB’s administrative committee, as happened this week, and then the full body of bishops, Gomez said.
A source at the meeting Tuesday told The Pillar that there was debate among the administrative committee about the issue, but that the majority of bishops at the meeting wanted to “take the bull by the horns” on critical and controversial issues.
There was emphasis on “speaking to Catholics about what the bishops believe,” the source said.
The administrative committee consists of the conference’s elected officers, the heads of its committees, and regional representatives.
The proposal is now expected to be voted on by the membership of the bishops’ conference. If the bishops approve the development of a statement, it would be primarily drafted by the members of the doctrine committee.
Sources told The Pillar the document would be evaluated by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but, if it garnered Vatican approval, it could come up for a vote on publication as early as November.
It is not clear whether the bishops would discuss the statement proposal during the public session of their virtual June meeting, or whether it would be scheduled for executive session, which is not open to the public.
The proposal is likely to trigger intense debate among the bishops. On previous occasions, USCCB members have appeared at odds over political advocacy on abortion, which the conference describes as the “preeminent priority” for Catholics in political life.
A spokesperson for the USCCB declined comment on discussions of the administrative committee and the possibility of a statement.
The issue of abortion and Catholic politicians was at the center of a public dispute between senior U.S. bishops at the time of President Biden’s inauguration. On the day of the inauguration, Gomez issued a statement which criticized the policy agenda of incoming Biden administration, especially the issue of abortion.
Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, a member of the USCCB administrative committee, later issued a statement via Twitter criticizing Gomez’s statement. The cardinal said the statement was it “ill-considered,” and charged that the release was “crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops.”
The cardinal blamed unspecified “internal institutional failures” at the conference for the release of a statement.
Despite the criticism from Cupich, it is not clear that any conference procedures were bypassed in the statement’s drafting or release, given that the conference president is permitted by policy to issue statements without the administrative committee’s input.
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