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The New York Times Fails to Understand the Bishops’ Debate on Abortion and the Eucharist

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“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.” These are probably the best-known words of the Second Vatican Council, and with good reason. 

The Eucharist is what makes us Catholics because it is in itself an image of the Church. When we take communion, the priest says “the Body of Christ,” and we answer “Amen.” Our “Amen” has a double meaning: First, we proclaim we believe the Eucharist is Christ himself in his body, blood, soul, and divinity; truly and substantially contained, to paraphrase the Council of Trent. But we also proclaim our Amen to the Mystical Body of Christ: His Bride, the Church. When we say Amen to the Eucharist, we say Amen to the Church and what it faithfully teaches in the name of the Lord.

This means that we are not to receive the Eucharist if we are in grave sin or hold beliefs contrary to what the Church teaches. Yet, of course, priests are not mind-readers (not that I know, at least); thus, generally, we are the ones who should refrain from receiving communion. However, when our sin or beliefs are public, obstinate, and manifest, the Church as our Mother, through her Bishops, is in the duty to tell us publicly we must not receive communion.

Of course, one cannot expect that individuals who use the word “Latinx “without noticing its intrinsic linguistic colonialism will understand the centrality to Catholicism of what seems to be theological nuances for them.

And that brings us to the topic of this article: the reasons behind the liberal media’s laughable-if-not-so-tragic coverage of Eucharistic coherence debate within the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

What is Eucharistic coherence?

But first, what is this Eucharistic coherence thing? Basically, it is a discussion about what should bishops and priests do with Catholic politicians and public figures that openly support doctrines contrary to the Church. Should they be denied communion or not? As I just explained, it seems clear that politicians who support abortion, among other policies, should not receive communion. Thus, about 75% of the American bishops voted to draft a document that would deal with this issue.

Yes, the Bishops did not vote to deny Biden communion, nor have they written the document, they just voted to approve a motion to draft a document that will then be voted in a few months. And, of course, as anyone with a relatively basic understanding of canon law knows, the Bishops’ Conferences do not have the authority to deny anyone communion; only individual bishops within their dioceses can do so. The document will likely merely be a guideline about this topic as the one within the Aparecida Document, of which then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now-Pope Francis, was one of the drafters, and which clearly states that: 

“In response to government laws and provisions that are unjust in the light of faith and reason, conscientious objection should be encouraged. We must adhere to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, be conscious that they cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged.” 

The New York Times blatant ignorance of Catholicism and Church politics

And how has the liberal media responded? Going absolutely crazy for what they believe to be a piece of cracker: “Pope’s Silence Speaks Volumes on Controversial Communion Vote by U.S. Bishops,” “Targeting Biden, Catholic Bishops Advance Controversial Communion Plan,” “Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops: Don’t Deny Biden Communion Over Abortion,” “In Rift With Biden, a Dramatic Show of Force by a Conservative Catholic Movement,” were just some of the few headlines one could see in the last couple of weeks in The New York Times and the Washington Post. All of them are full-front lies or serious mischaracterizations.

The Vatican has never told American Bishops not to discuss the issue or not to draft the document. Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter responding to USCCB president Archbishop José Gómez about their plans to draft a document about Eucharistic Coherence, and, of course, the New York Times portrayed it as a wet blanket over the Bishops’ plans. This is, to be charitable, misinformation. 

First, the letter was a response to a request by Archbishop Gómez. He was not trying to put a stop on the Bishops but merely responding to a request. Second, by reading the letter, one can notice its intention: try to stay united, you solve your issue, involve us as little as possible:

“This Congregation advised that dialogue among the bishops be undertaken to preserve the unity of the episcopal conference in the face of disagreements over this controversial topic (…) The effective development of a policy in this area requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

The theologization of politics

This, and the dishonesty in which The New York Times covered the debate between the bishops is just another proof of how much we should distrust the mainstream media. However, I believe that beyond the typical dishonesty they usually portray lies an even deeper issue: we have theologized politics.

The deeply secular progressive media is as ignorant as ever of religion, and particularly of the Catholic Church. And without any transcendent reference or meaning, politics becomes our weltanschauung, our worldview. Thus, as we lack religion, our whole worldview is conformed by politics, and we can only understand through these lenses.

Knowing this, then it is not odd to see how The New York Times could have tweeted that “Pope Francis and President Biden, both liberals, are the two most high-profile Roman Catholics in the world.” But trying to understand the world through the lenses of the political zeitgeist is awfully blinding and it especially tells when they try to cover the oldest institution in the West.

And, of course, this lack of understanding of the internal dynamics of the Church and the failure to see it is not just another political institution among many as it is not in the business of the salvation of polls, but the salvation of souls is what leads many to misunderstand the Church. For the Right, the Church is socialist; for the Left it is conservative; for progressives, it is a relic of the past that must be ended; for conservatives, it is the painful reminder that it is a Tradition bigger than theirs, but then, what is the Church? It is all things to all, as Saint Paul would say (1 Co, 19-22):

“Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.”

This is precisely why the secularists and revolutionaries of the day hate the Church: because she escapes qualification; her allegiance and loyalty is a Mystery to them, “how’s the Church still a thing?” they ask, and if we studied a bit of Church history, we must answer that we do not know. 

Yet this mystery is contained in the Eucharist, as our Lord decided to stay for all of us until the end of times within his Bride, the Church. But The New York Times cannot understand that.

But the Church remains. And it will remain way beyond The New York Times.

Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_

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