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July 28, 2021

Communion, Catholics, and Public Life: Where Do We Go From Here?

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In June 2021, U.S. Catholic bishops vigorously debated and then voted to proceed with a document on “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” This discussion and decision have generated considerable conflict, confusion, and controversy, especially related to the question of communion for public officials.

This Initiative online dialogue with key bishops and lay leaders briefly reviewed what happened and what did not, and then looked ahead to the challenges U.S. bishops and U.S. Catholics face in the months to come. This conversation examined why this matter has affected so many Catholics so strongly, and it explored the choices facing the bishops, public officials, and the U.S. Catholic community as a whole.

Kim Daniels, co-director of the Initiative and member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, moderated the opening conversation and dialogue.

These bishops and lay leaders with differing roles and perspectives discussed a range of questions including:

  • What is the current proposal regarding communion for public officials? What is the process for its development, and what actions will follow?
  • What are its origins and current elements?
  • What are the USCCB statement’s purposes, limitations, and potential opportunities and dangers?
  • Why has this process generated ecclesial divisions, pastoral fears, and public controversy?
  • What are constructive ways forward in the current ecclesial, political, and public context?

Resources

View a list of articles, books, podcasts, and other resources for this dialogue.

Photo credit: (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Participants

Archbishop Christophe Pierre

Archbishop Christophe Pierre

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, opened the dialogue​ with a conversation on themes drawn from his June presentation to the U.S.​bishops. Archbishop Pierre has served as the representative of the Vatican and Pope Francis to the U.S. since 2016 and previously served as the papal nuncio in Mexico, Haiti, and Uganda.

John Carr

John Carr

John Carr is the co-director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and served as director of the Office of Justice, Peace, and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for two decades.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades

Bishop Kevin Rhoades

Bishop Kevin Rhoades is the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, and chair of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine. Bishop Rhoades had a leading role at the June 2021 meeting and will have a leading role in developing and presenting the document on the Eucharist at the November 2021 meeting.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin

Cardinal Joseph Tobin

Cardinal Joseph Tobin is the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and has been appointed by Pope Francis to the Congregation for Bishops as well as the Vatican’s highest court. At the June meeting, he urged the bishops not to proceed with their proposed document in this way and at this time.