by Mary Margaret Olohan
The Vatican did not tell bishops not to move forward drafting a document on the Eucharist, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops clarified this week.
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox and multiple other outlets have claimed that the bishops were flouting a Vatican warning when they approved a measure June 18 to draft a statement on the Eucharist.
In a document issued June 21, the USCCB explicitly said that the Vatican did not tell the bishops not to move forward with the document.
“The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation,” the USCCB said. “Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.”
The allegation that the Vatican warned the bishops appears to stem from a May letter in which the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, warned the archbishops to approach public discussion of the matter with caution.
Any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions,” Ladaria wrote, according to the Catholic News Service.
Media reporting on Ladaria’s statement has framed the letter as an admonishment from the Vatican, though Ladaria wrote that the conference had an obligation to oppose pro-abortion laws: “The bishops should affirm as a Conference that ‘those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.”
The Times published a story June 14 claiming with little sourcing that the Vatican was warning bishops to “hit the brakes” on discussions to deny Biden communion. The publication repeatedly cited the story, “Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops: Don’t Deny Biden Communion Over Abortion,” as evidence that the Vatican warned the bishops not to reprimand Biden.
There is no public statement from Pope Francis telling the bishops to halt the discussions.
The Catholic News Agency also reported that “a reliable Vatican source” said the Biden team requested last week that the president attend Mass with the pope — a request the Vatican supposedly denied in light of current controversy over Biden’s reception of Holy Communion, the source told CNA.
The White House did not address to the Daily Caller News Foundation whether the report about requesting to attend Mass with the pope was true, though a White House spokesman denied a separate report to the DCNF that the Vatican had canceled a meeting between the Holy Father and the president.
The USCCB also said that the conference will not result in a “national policy on withholding Communion from politicians,” noting that “the intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.”
The document acknowledged that the bishops’ discussions drew much media attention but said that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”
“The vote by the bishops last week tasked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine to begin the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist,” the statement said. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. The importance of nurturing an ever deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops.”
“The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons,” the statement continued. “It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.