Shortly before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the bishops had approved moving forward in drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist, a group of Catholic Democratic members of the House of Representatives asked the bishops not to deny holy Communion to anyone over the issue of abortion.
Saying they were guided by “the living Catholic tradition” that promotes the common good, ex-presses a consistent moral framework and calls for protecting vulnerable lives, 59 legislators said in a “Statement of Principles” released June 18 that they were concerned about the Eucharist being denied to Democratic members of Congress over a single issue: Abortion.
“We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents,” the statement said. “The sacrament of holy Communion is cent-ral to the life of practicing Catholics and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a women’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory.”
The bishops approved 168-55, with six abstentions, the drafting of a document to examine the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church” following a lengthy debate during their virtual spring general assembly June 16-18.
The bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, chaired by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoads of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, will draft the document. It is expected to be completed in time for the bishops’ fall general assembly in November, which will be in person.
Backers of such a document said they believe it is needed given the results of a 2019 survey that found declining belief among American Catholics about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. They also expressed concern that the long absences from regular Mass attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic may have led people to place less significance in receiving Communion, a central tenant of the faith.
One of the three parts proposed in the document would examine “eucharistic consistency” in eligibility to receive Communion. That section has drawn the most challenges from bishops opposed to the document’s drafting who said it would unnecessarily threaten church wide unity in the U.S. church as well as with the Vatican.