During his recent visit to Rome, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego gave a wide-ranging, exclusive interview to America’s Vatican correspondent.
….What would you hope for from the November meeting of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference in light of what the pope said?
I would hope for a couple of outcomes from the November meeting. One, there has been a lot of discussion pointing to the reality that the bishops are seeking to have a eucharistic revival. This would be a major initiative of the church to spiritually energize our understanding of, participation in and love for the Eucharist. That is the primary goal regarding the Eucharist for the conference at this moment, and the discussions in November about the particular form of statement that will emerge at this point from the conference are secondary to that revival. The proposed statement for November will inevitably get caught up in partisan debates that detract from the beauty, the dignity and the prayerfulness of the Eucharist. It’s the project of a eucharistic revival that’s important.
The proposed statement for November will inevitably get caught up in partisan debates that detract from the beauty, the dignity and the prayerfulness of the Eucharist.
….I think the pope is saying to us is that our primary role is to be pastors to all our people. We are witnesses to truth in the wider society, but prior to that, we are called to be pastors to our people. That involves witnessing to the truth in its fullness. But it also involves seeing the real-life situations that people have, seeing the political choices that they have in their lives and how they are very often constrained, and how the effort to read the Gospel into the political life of our country is complicated. In voting for candidates, we do not have pure choices, where it’s clear that all of the common good or most of the common good falls on one side or the other.
….Our overwhelming message at this point needs to be inviting people to the Eucharist, with the understanding that all of us have significant failures as we approach the altar, but those are not disqualifying. If we multiply the disqualifications [to Communion], then I think we are being less true to our identity as pastors, and we’re becoming just more abstract with reasoning that leads away from asking what Christ would do in this situation.
….I say this with some frequency: The bishops of our conference are fundamentally in agreement on the substance of the major political issues that face us in our country. It is on the prioritization that the friction comes, and that is where I think our dilemmas are. Very few of us disagree on the fundamental thrust of where we should go on immigration, abortion, euthanasia, religious liberty or poverty. There’s just no substantive disagreement on this.
But on the question of how citizens or believers should prioritize those issues, that is where frictions come in among us because it lets the partisan divide in. The prioritization that we engage in by using terms like “pre-eminent” actually invites partisanship into the heart of the church, even as it encroaches upon the legitimate realm of conscience for believers seeking to choose candidates who will advance the common good.
The above comes from the Oct. 7 issue of American magazine.