What are the future news hooks as U.S. bishops wrestle with Holy Communion? — GetReligion
Rep. Ted W. Lieu represents California’s 33rd Congressional District, which is located in north and west Los Angeles County. He has a law degree from Georgetown University and, this is crucial, a 100% positive legislator rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
So, who is the bishop with whom Lieu is playing a high-stakes (in terms of doctrine, not politics) game of chicken? That would be Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the point man for efforts to find clarity on issues of “Eucharistic coherence.”
But here is the key: Think back to that “father confessor” language I discussed earlier. Lieu has jumped right over that option and called out his own bishop.
Read the key line again: “Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion.”
As you would expect, the canon lawyers at The Pillar have parsed this language, as well, and plugged it into Canon 915. In this case, it also helps to note Canon 916, as well:
Can. 915 — Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
Can. 916 — A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
Now, think about this in terms of public actions, headlines and television camera crews. Here’s The Pillar:
Does Gomez have to prohibit the Congressman from receiving the Eucharist? Certainly, Catholics who have heard tough talk from bishops on that subject over the past few months will expect that he will. And Lieu himself seems to have “politicized” the Eucharist by framing reception of Holy Communion into an act of implicit challenge of his own archbishop.
Few canon lawyers would have difficulty classifying Lieu’s tweet as evidence of “obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin,” the criteria by which a Catholic can be denied the Eucharist.
But if Gomez does prohibit him, Lieu will surely wear the prohibition like a badge of honor, to borrow a phrase from Cardinal Timothy Dolan. And, more important, other pro-choice Catholic politicians will probably try to provoke their bishops as well. The whole thing could become an escalating movement, fueled by a social media backlash against the bishops and support from the nation’s leading newspapers.
Ah, the “nation’s leading newspapers” would play a crucial role in this doctrinal discussion. This would be a major consideration for several shepherds who, once again, wear red hats. However, it should be noted that Gomez — a man of color who leads America’s largest diocese — does not wear a red hat. Coincidence?
In conclusion, let me suggest two other newsworthy topics that are much more likely to be mentioned in the USCCB document on “Eucharistic coherence” than the name of the president of the United States.
Remember these 2019 numbers from the Pew Research Center?
Transubstantiation — the idea that during Mass, the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ — is central to the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Catholic Church teaches that “the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’”
But a new Pew Research Center survey finds that most self-described Catholics don’t believe this core teaching. In fact, nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.”
In other words, the vast majority of Americans who consider themselves Catholics are, on this defining document, low-church Protestants.
Then there is the declining number of American Catholics who go to Confession. Maybe, just maybe, the U.S. bishops need to consider a pastoral letter addressing whether or not Catholics still believe that “sin” is real and that “manifest grave sin” has something to do with eternity and the state of their souls?
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FIRST IMAGE: Image drawn from the Reason and Theology website.