In just two weeks, the bishops of the United States will come together to debate and vote on a teaching document about “Eucharistic coherence.”
The term comes from the 2007 Aparecida document of the Latin American bishops, which used it to explain why public servants such as government officials and health care workers who act to encourage “abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and the family” cannot receive Holy Communion.
A chief architect of Aparecida was the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now as Pope Francis rightly reminds us bishops to think and speak as pastors, not as politicians: It is souls that are at stake, not elections. Lost sheep are to be lovingly called to return to the fold, not angrily denounced in the way that would imitate so much of the animosity of our political culture.
As I approach these next few weeks, I am struck less with the conflicts the media likes to project than with the deeply reinforcing unity of Church teaching, grounded in the Catholic sacramental sense.
Some in the popular culture, who view life through a lens more political than sacramental, may think it is incongruous that on Nov. 6, for example, just days before the USCCB meeting begins, I will be celebrating a newly commissioned Requiem Mass for the Homeless.
….As political issues, homelessness and abortion are treated as separate things. But with the Catholic sacramental sense we can see that whether we are speaking of the unhoused or the unborn, the underlying issue is the same: Can we see beyond the merely material to the deeper spiritual reality?
What we Catholic bishops and other leaders must seek is not just words on a page, but a profound Eucharistic revival, which requires a renaissance in the Catholic sacramental imagination.
Every Mass is a miracle: Do we see it? When we receive the Eucharist, do we see beyond the appearances of bread and wine to the reality of Jesus Christ offering Himself for us? Do we priests celebrate the sacred mysteries in a way that makes this supernatural reality visible to the flock we shepherd?
The child in the womb in the early stages doesn’t look exactly like the newborn baby, any more than the toddler exactly resembles the grown man or woman he or she will become. Can we see beyond the physical appearance to the reality that science now shows us: That each child in its mother’s womb is a unique, living human being? That each abortion kills a human life?
When politicians pontificate about abortion as a choice or even a human right, do we see beyond the rhetoric to the ugliness of what they propose: the deliberate snuffing out of innocent lives, each one of them unique, irreplaceable, and loved by God?
The two things are intimately connected: reverence for the sacred Eucharist and reverence for human life where it is most vulnerable and defenseless….
The above comes from an Oct. 30 story in Catholic World Report.