On Friday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted by a 168-55 margin to proceed with drafting a document on “Eucharistic coherence” to be debated and voted on at the November meeting of the USCCB. This document, as currently discussed, would encourage priests to refuse Communion to Catholics who they know to be in a state of mortal sin.
This is a battle that has been brewing for a couple of decades, and it is only the insertion of Joe Biden into the presidency that has brought it to a head.
The significance of 75% of US bishops agreeing to move forward on an issue vehemently opposed by the progressive caucus is hard to overstate. The hard work to develop such a statement remains ahead, but the fact that a body that is usually timorous at the mere mention of anything that is not consensus is little short of amazing. It is degrading that the USCCB is actually debating the enforcement of Catholicism 101, but, given the state of the Church in America, it is actually progress.
I’ve been struggling with how to approach this issue for a while because, on one level, it is Catholic inside baseball. It involves a Sacrament, Communion, or the Eucharist, that is viewed the same particular way by the Roman Catholic Church, the various Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Church. The rules on receiving that Sacrament, at least within the Catholic Church, are pretty unambiguous. Reception of Communion is only open to Catholics:
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with
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