Am I worthy? Are the bishops?

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. … The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone with all their problems.” — Pope Francis

I have a Catholic friend who can’t receive communion. This isn’t because she’s a sinner; far from it. Rather it is because ever since the decades-long, thought-it-was-over clergy sex abuse crisis reappeared in a horrific August 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, she fears no priest is worthy of handling Jesus in Communion.

Her stance came to mind after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ decision June 18 to draft a “teaching document” on the Eucharist. I’m sure you’ve heard about it because the media never misses an opportunity to report on the Church – and in this case, report incorrectly that this not-yet-written document could keep President Joe Biden from receiving communion.

The controversial part of the proposed document is a subset of a paragraph on conversion that addresses one’s worthiness to receive communion. Basically it is theological language for “Don’t be in a state of mortal sin when receiving Communion.”

There’s no doubt many Catholics need Eucharistic education. There’s also no doubt this document is aimed at Catholic politicians, which irritates me because it looks to me like the divided bishops have elevated abortion to the source and summit of Catholic life, not the Eucharist.

There are times I am not worthy to receive Communion and, believe you me, I know it when it happens because the Holy Spirit lets me know. This happens to just about any Catholic who pays attention, including, I’m sure, Biden. Because if anyone should have given up on his faith, it would have been Biden after losing his wife and young child when he was a young man and then losing his son Beau just a few years ago. The man knows suffering, and if he was of weak faith, he would have long ago given up on the Church. I sure as heck know I would have.

I get the bishops are in a hard position, but I believe they’ve basically caved into fear. I also get that Catholic (including me) were exceedingly disappointed that Biden caved into political calculus by publicly affirming – as a politician – the legal right to abortion despite his personal stance against it.

But the main thing I get is that the U.S. bishops still don’t understand that a vast swath of Catholics – many of whom have left the faith – do not respect the bishops to teach on faith and morals anymore. I wrote about all of this in my Sunday column for the Arizona Daily Star right here. I hope you’ll read it and, if so inclined to help out this freelance writer, pass it on to your friends and encourage them to subscribe to my blog at the button over to your right. Thank you!

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