U.S. Bishops to Revisit Communion Issue

In Wake of Elections, Cardinal McCarrick Outlines Priorities

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WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A U.S. bishops’ committee has agreed to take up the matter of Church teaching on the proper disposition to receive Communion, including cases involving politicians.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is overseeing the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, made that announcement in a statement today as the U.S. prelates continued their semiannual meeting.

Referring to the recent U.S. elections, the cardinal said: «More than any time I can remember, over the past few months bishops, pastors, and parishioners across the country have been wrestling with how our faith should shape our decisions in public life. This has been a very good thing.»

«But it has not always been easy,» the archbishop of Washington, D.C. said. «The media or partisan forces sometimes tried to pit one bishop against another. I look around the room and see bishops who have been unfairly attacked as partisan, others who have been called cowards.

«Some have been accused of being ‘single issue,’ indifferent to the poor or unconcerned about war. Others have been called unconcerned about the destruction of unborn human life, but pre-occupied by poverty or war. That is not who we are.»

Cardinal McCarrick continued: «We are united in our defense of life and the dignity of the human person — the two great causes of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II — and we have continued to work together to preach the ‘Gospel of Life’ in all its dimensions.»

«Now that the election is over,» the cardinal said, «we have an important opportunity to come together around our common commitment to protect human life and dignity and advance the common good. As Catholics, we all have a preeminent obligation to protect the lives of unborn children, to oppose euthanasia, and to defend marriage. Our tradition also clearly calls us to stand up for those who are poor and to promote justice and peace. These are not options for us, but obligations of our faith.

«In the coming months, we must all work together to advance all these values. We do not believe that our commitment to human life and dignity and our pursuit of justice and peace are competing causes.»

The cardinal added: «So now, on behalf of the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, I would like to outline several steps that will be taken in our conference during the coming months to fulfill the commitments we made in Denver.»

He proceeded to list the following steps:

«The Committee on Doctrine, with assistance from the Committee on Pastoral Practices, has agreed to take up the matter of Church teaching on the proper disposition to receive holy Communion, not only for politicians, but for all of us.

«There will be continuing consultation on the complex theological and canonical aspects of these matters within our conference and with the Holy See.

«The Task Force is developing resources and tools to help the bishops follow through on the commitments we made, namely:

«We must keep our pledge to ‘teach more clearly.’ The Task Force is developing a ‘Reader on Catholics in Public Life’ with excerpts from papal, conciliar and USCCB statements on the responsibilities of Catholics in public life. This ‘reader’ would be made available to bishops to be used as the basis for teaching, dialogue and persuasion.

«We pledged to do more ‘to persuade’ all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended, and to help Catholics act on our principles in public life. To help us do this, we will share with each other examples of how bishops have undertaken efforts to engage, persuade, and mobilize the Catholic community.

«We made a commitment to maintain communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity. We will continue to reach out to leaders in public life to explain our principles and to dialogue with them.

«We affirmed that the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should ‘not honor’ those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. The Task Force plans to consult with leaders in Catholic education, Catholic health care, and Catholic social services to discuss how we can together best carry out this guidance.»

Cardinal McCarrick’s complete text is posted on the U.S. bishops’ Web site.

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