For Immediate Release
June 28, 2021
We Would Like to Know Why
An Open Letter to the Fifty-Five Catholic Bishops who Voted Against Drafting a Teaching Document on the Most Holy Eucharist
Catholic Action for Faith and Family
Faithful Catholics know that we owe respect and obedience to our shepherds in matters of faith and morals. We recognize that spiritual institutions such as churches run on these bonds of trust.
But bishops themselves owe a measure of accountability to Christ and His flock for those same matters.
This issue came to the fore this past week when the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted overwhelmingly to issue a teaching document on the beauty and power of the Holy Eucharist.
In a wonderful follow-up statement on the pastoral purpose for writing this document, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “as bishops, our desire is to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith, and to awaken their amazement at this divine gift, in which we have communion with the living God.”
That pastoral purpose should be more than sufficient; but it’s a no-brainer when you consider the justification for forming a national eucharistic congress detailed on page 7 in the 2021-2024 USCCB’s Strategic Plan. The bishop’s conference plan cites (a) declining Mass attendance, (b) the lack of understanding of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and (c) increasing religious disaffiliation as major challenges facing the Church today.
In short, the writers demonstrated a sense of urgency to mobilize an effort to return the faithful back to the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of our faith. Their strategy is multi-phased. If executed properly over the next few years, it will reach a positive tipping point in 2024. They note there is much work required, but the plan is well-conceived, and now 75% of the bishops voted to draft this document as integral to the overall initiative.
Following the meeting, Bishop Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia reinforced the purpose of the document saying, “there isn’t anything brand new, it’s what the Church has always taught in the Eucharist.” A week later, June 23, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois stressed that other members of the hierarchy in Latin American have already united in the teaching on “Eucharistic coherence.” It would seem that the entire conference of US bishops will unite and organize their energies around this objective.
Exciting and welcome news? But wait!
After all of the discernment and planning designed to unify the bishops on a well-established mission critical initiative for the Church, there were fifty-five bishops who banded together during the semi-annual meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to foment division by working to destabilize if not derail altogether the multi-year plan by voting against the other 168 bishops on an issue as fundamental as drafting a clarifying document on Eucharistic practice. Six other bishops abstained from taking any stance whatsoever on this matter.
We – indeed all faithful Catholics – would like to know why sixty-one bishops are not in union with the perennial practice of the Church, as seen in the votes of the two-thirds majority of the national conference on what the USCCB’s doctrinal committee calls “Eucharistic coherence.”
This is not an idle question. The Eucharist is not the bishops’ purview alone. To reiterate the statement from Archbishop Gomez, it is the gift of every Catholic and our responsibility from Christ as well.
As such, we the faithful approach Your Excellencies without acrimony, pressure tactics, or name-calling, asking for a response clarifying why you have refused to clarify the truth about the central mystery of our faith in a time of serious spiritual crisis.
Among the many questions we would like answered are the following:
- If your main concern is about Church unity, how is the unity of the Church harmed by reinforcing the discipline concerning the Blessed Sacrament, which countless teachings have called the “source and summit” of our faith?
- What part of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 2004 memo, entitled, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles,” is disagreeable to you and on what theological basis is your disagreement founded?
- Will delays in defining Eucharistic coherence increase the vacuum inviting further unauthorized voices and groups to chime in on its meaning and definition such as the sixty so-called “Catholic Democrats in Congress” who signed a recent statement politicizing the issue of Communion?
- Finally, we would like to know if you are aware that Pope Francis himself recently refused President Biden participation in a papal Mass during Mr. Biden’s recent trip to Europe?
As you can see by these questions, Catholics are bewildered.
In a spirit of rigorous inquiry, we would ask Your Excellencies to do an examination of conscience concerning the basic realities surrounding the Eucharist.
First of all, please recall that the reception of Holy Communion is not an issue limited to political leaders and public figures; neither is disobedience and division among the brethren. It deeply affects the lay faithful at the very grassroots level of Church and society – us and our families.
If we are accountable to the Church’s teaching on Eucharistic worthiness (1 Cor 11:28-32), why must we bear the burden of responsibility for Church teaching when public figures who call themselves Catholic do not?
Secondly, if we must hand on the teaching and discipline of the Sacraments to our children, with the expectation that they will remain faithful to the same teaching, why must we do this in an environment where public scandal to the faith goes unaddressed by our bishops?
Please know that when our shepherds fail to clarify and uphold the basic discipline of the Sacraments, you directly undermine our authority as parents to hand on the faith to succeeding generations whose precious souls we wish to be saved. Don’t the lay faithful deserve better spiritual leadership than that?
When bishops refuse to implement core teachings and disciplines of our faith, our families suffer. Your Excellencies need to hear that directly from the faithful. We ask that you make that a part of your evaluation of what Eucharistic practice and Church unity really means.
We therefore urge Your Excellencies to provide unambiguous answers to these questions regarding your vote. We the faithful have a right to know why you did not support the drafting of the document addressing the clear path of Eucharistic integrity.