Why a document on the Eucharist?

You may have seen some of the coverage in the media of the U.S. bishops’ plans to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist. Unfortunately, the secular media and some Catholic media sources presented this as being about denying Holy Communion to politicians who promote immoral practices like abortion and euthanasia.

The real reason for drafting a document on the Eucharist was to help our Catholic people better understand the awesome mystery of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Recent polls have shown that awareness of Jesus Christ’s Real Presence has declined significantly. Since the Eucharist is the source and summit of the church’s life, we should all be concerned about the results of these recent polls.

The document we are preparing as bishops will be a teaching document which will have three parts: “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Believed”; “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated”; and “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Lived.” The intended audience for this document is every Catholic.

In the third section, “A Mystery to be Lived,” we will take up the need for all who receive the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist to do so with deep reverence. An important part of that reverence always includes refraining from receiving Holy

Communion if we have not been faithful to the Lord and his teachings in significant ways. There is nothing new in this.

To be clear, the teaching document will not include a national policy on withholding Holy Communion from politicians. Only a local diocesan bishop can make that decision on a case-by-case basis after dialogue and discernment.

After much discussion at our June meeting the U.S. bishops voted 168 to 55 to go forward with this document. We will continue to pray and reflect and discuss how best to write a document that will help us effectively teach our people about the awesome mystery of the Eucharist. Please pray for wisdom and insight for me and for the whole body of U.S. bishops as we work on this important task.

May we all experience a renewed appreciation for and devotion to the Lord as he gives himself to us in the Eucharist.

+Bishop Peter