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What the USCCB already teaches about 'Eucharistic coherence'

As the U.S. bishops’ conference prepares to discuss “Eucharistic coherence” at their annual spring assembly, very little attention has been given to what the conference has already said on the subject.

In Novermber 2006, two years after a USCCB discussion on the Eucharist and pro-choice politicians, the conference approved “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper,” a 23-page document “On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.”

The document was approved in a 201-24 vote, with two bishops abstaining.

“Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper” is a catechetical document, which outlines Catholic doctrine on the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the significance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church, and the importance of preparing to receive the Eucharist worthily.

The document identifies that those “no longer in the state of grace because of mortal sin” should abstain from receiving the Euchrist until they are “reconciled with God and the Church.”

Citing Pope St. John Paul II, the text adds that “When a person is publicly known to have committed serious sin or to have rejected definitive Church teaching and is not yet reconciled with the Church, reception of Holy Communion by that person is likely to cause scandal for others. This is a further reason for refraining from receiving Holy Communion.”

Finally, the text adds that:

“If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church.

Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”

The document’s instructions would seem relevant to a vote at the June 16-18 USCCB spring virtual assembly, which will vote on whether the conference’s doctrine committee, which authored the 2006 document, should “proceed with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church,” according to the meeting’s documentation.

A proposed outline for a new statement would address the Church’s doctrine on the Eucharist, its place in the life of the Church, and appropriate reception of the Eucharist.

A group of bishops last month sent a letter urging Archbishop Jose Gomez, the USCCB president, to strike the topic from the June meeting’s agenda, saying that because the topic is contentious, it should not be taken up until the bishops meet in person, most likely in November. Some bishops listed as signatories to that letter have since said they did not agree to sign it or have asked their names be removed from it.

While the doctrine committee’s proposal to draft a new statement cites “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper,” that document has not been frequently mentioned in ongoing discussion of the proposal among bishops.

Several bishops have traded public essays and private letters on the subject of Catholic pro-abortion politicians and Communion in recent months.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Luis Ladaria of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to Gomez encouraging “extensive and serene” discussion of the topic by the USCCB.

“The bishops should affirm as a Conference,” wrote Ladaria, “that ‘those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.’”

“When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility,” Ladaria wrote.