U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Debate Document on the Meaning of the Eucharist

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By Jessica Easthope and Currents News Staff

On Thursday, the big question was finally discussed at the U.S. Bishop’s spring assembly: whether or not to draft an official document about the Eucharist.

“We are all concerned that the faithful’s absence from parish life may have resulted in a loss of what it means to be a Eucharistic people. We worry that many of our faithful may not return to the Eucharistic celebration,” said Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who presented the issue before the conference.

The issue took center stage and hours of conversation. It arose in the wake of recent polling that showed many Catholics don’t understand and or don’t believe that the consecrated bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Opinions among the bishops varied drastically. Those in favor of drafting the document said it would serve as a unifying document meant to teach about enhancing the love and centrality of the Eucharist – they underscored that it’s not meant to be political.

“A document like this, a pastoral teaching document would be something we would want to come together and issue,” said Archbishop William Lori who was in favor of the document.

But those not in favor of drafting a document argued the debate surrounding the issue was vague. They also worry it could potentially exclude Catholics at a time when the Church is working to bring people back to Mass after the pandemic.

“The bishops now want to talk about excluding people at a time when the real challenge before them is welcoming people back to the regular practice of the faith and rebuilding their communities,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich, who spoke out against the document.

The tally on whether or not to draft the document is expected Friday, June 18. The document will not ban anyone from receiving the sacrament, ultimately that decision will be up to an individual bishop and not the conference. If the document is developed it will most likely take several months to be published.