As the nation’s bishops convene this week for their first in-person general assembly in two years, the in-person conversations on a controversial document on the Eucharist have taken a different tone, according to one committee chairman.
U.S. bishops met in private session on Monday; the first day of their fall general assembly from Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore. The public sessions open to the media are Tuesday and Wednesday. The general assembly concludes with another private session on Thursday.
“The nature of the conversations about the document have been very different from what people saw in June,” Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the bishop-designate of Crookston, told Crux. “Especially because what has come to be understood is that what we need to do is restate and strengthen our teaching on this and as far as I can tell the bishops are in agreement on that.”
The document’s controversy – dating back to about the start of the year – was born out of the possibility that it would have implications for pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving the Eucharist, mainly President Joe Biden, the nation’s second Catholic commander-in-chief.
Disagreements on the drafting of the document among the nation’s prelates came to a head at their annual spring meeting this past June. Through Zoom, more than 40 bishops gave their opinions on the proposal to draft the document in a spirited two-hour debate.
Ultimately, the U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposal from the doctrinal committee to draft the document on the Eucharist. The draft, titled The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, will be presented, discussed, and voted on today and tomorrow.
“[The discussion] is definitely going to be in a different tone,” Cozzens said. “There probably will be discussions about particular wordings or disagreements in the tone of the document, but I’d be very surprised if the document didn’t pass because my sense is the bishops see that teaching on the Eucharist right now is a real gift.”
Cozzens, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops Conference Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, called the document on the Eucharist “a foundational catechesis” for the National Eucharistic Revival his committee is putting together.
“It became clear as we were doing the Eucharistic Revival that this document could be a key piece that could really help and that the document itself could focus on the broad teaching of the Eucharist,” Cozzens said.
The National Eucharistic Revival will kick off in June. This week, the bishops will vote to hold a national Eucharistic Congress in 2024, which Cozzens envisions as a “crowning moment of the movement when a large portion of the church – 80,000-100,000 people – might come together to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist.”
Cozzens noted that the emphasis on the Eucharist from the bishops is because it’s the focus of their three-year strategic plan put into action last year. It was chosen as the theme, he said, because bishops recognized a crisis of the Eucharist nationwide, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that kept people out of the pews for an extended period.
“It’s what the church needs right now, and the bishops have been led to that, I think, by the Holy Spirit and they sense it and they sense that the church needs to focus on the gift of the Eucharist,” Cozzens said.
Beyond Eucharist-related agenda items, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the USCCB, and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, will lead an update on the synodal process leading to the Synod of Bishops meeting in 2023.
The bishops will also vote to authorize the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People to begin a review of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ahead of the June 2025 mandatory review, and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration will present on immigration reform.
Cozzens called it a “gift” for the bishops to be back together in person this week, both from the standpoints of productivity and fraternity.
“It’s a gift to be together because you get to see each other and you get to experience some of the fraternal aspects of being together that you can’t really capture otherwise,” Cozzens said.