Eucharistic Consistency

Michael Warsaw

Michael Warsaw is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, and the Publisher of the National Catholic Register.

A NOTE FROM OUR PUBLISHER: A revival of belief among Catholics in the Real Presence is necessary for there to be any understanding of why the conduct of some Catholic political leaders like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi is so egregious.

The Eucharist during a procession at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
The Eucharist during a procession at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. (photo: Eric Mok / Courtesy photo)

Ahead of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ June 16-18 general assembly, much attention has been given to the apparent divide among the U.S. bishops over how to handle public officials like President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi who continue to receive Holy Communion while also pushing abortion and transgenderism in law. 

The U.S. bishops are sticking to their scheduled discussion about whether to commission the drafting of a formal statement on Eucharistic coherence despite pressures from a faction of bishops who sought to change the agenda. The reason to move forward in this way seems obvious: It’s all about consistency. 

First, there’s procedural consistency. The USCCB leadership planned the spring meeting following the procedures set by the assembly of bishops themselves. They are the same procedures followed every meeting, and to interrupt them is to undermine the proper form of synodality that bishops’ conferences are intended to provide. 

Such synodality, or “the constant search for fraternal communion,” has been reinforced by Pope Francis. And the bishops are adhering to the recent request of Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the bishops to come to a consensus as they grapple with the major issue of Eucharistic coherence.

Secondly, and more importantly, continuing with the discussion on a formal statement about the Eucharist in the life of the Church is not primarily about politicians and Holy Communion, as I recently pointed out, but about Eucharistic consistency for all of us who profess the Catholic faith. 

Eucharistic consistency, or coherence, means that every time we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion we acknowledge his Real Presence with our Amen. And we recognize our own disposition, asking ourselves if we are indeed in communion with the Church in faith and morals.

Even as the bishops are voting on whether to draft a formal statement about the Eucharist, including a section on worthy reception, they are also planning a more fundamental initiative that is on the assembly’s schedule — a review of the plans for an upcoming National Eucharistic Revival in the United States.

The goal of this three-year revival from 2022 to 2024, according to a planning document prepared by the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, is “to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” The expectation is that from a greater understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus truly with us in Holy Communion will flow a greater love for the Eucharist and more unity within the Church. 

It is heartening to see our shepherds’ commitment to communicating to the faithful that a revival of Eucharistic belief and worship is the only true antidote to the toxicity of secularism and relativism that has afflicted so much of the Church in recent decades, both here in the U.S. and abroad. The symptoms of this malaise are broadly evident. 

Half of all Catholics in the U.S., according to an October 2020 EWTN News RealClear Opinion Research poll, don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Even among those who attend Mass weekly or more, more than 30% think the Eucharist is merely a symbol of the Body and Blood of Jesus. 

Such widespread ignorance and misunderstanding regarding the Eucharist represents a massive catechetical failure over the last 50 years — and one that warrants an ambitious response. That’s clearly what the bishops have in mind. 

The timing of this National Eucharistic Revival appears providential, as many of the bishops noted in their preliminary discussions of the initiative last November. 

Following the pandemic worship restrictions, which blocked Catholics from attending Mass for extended periods, it is more urgent than ever to catechize about the transcendent gift of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist and to utilize its transformative power to form Catholics for evangelization and service. 

Even before COVID-19 worship restrictions first came into effect last year, polls indicated that fewer than 40% of Catholics in the U.S. were attending Mass every Sunday, even though this is a basic obligation of our faith. And, unfortunately, many of the Catholics who have been unable to attend Mass over the last year are ambivalent about returning to Sunday worship. There is no better way to overcome this situation than by addressing the disbelief head on. The National Eucharistic Revival’s catechetical efforts are an important step in the direction of illuminating the unique and immeasurable gift of receiving the Eucharist and addressing the institutional Church’s decades of failed or nonexistent Eucharistic catechesis.

Of course, the Eucharistic Revival is deeply connected to Eucharistic consistency. The planning for the revival program started well ahead of Biden’s election as president and is responding to a much broader catechetical issue than the problem of Catholic politicians receiving Communion, when they are in fact out of communion with Church teaching on abortion and other non-negotiable issues. It is a movement that aims to treat the underlying causes of Eucharistic inconsistency. 

Building up Catholics with a greater belief in the Real Presence and with personal appreciation of how the Eucharist can inform our every action has to happen for there to be any understanding of why the conduct of some Catholic political leaders like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi is so egregious. We should also pray that it might even prompt the president and the speaker to realize the error of their ways; but such conduct cannot be addressed in isolation, since it is a symptom of the collective decline in Catholic belief and practice. Eucharistic revival and Eucharistic consistency must go hand in hand to renew the Church.

In other words, we urgently need the National Eucharistic Revival that our bishops are proposing. And it needs to be more than a program; it needs to become a movement that influences every aspect of Catholic life in our nation.

God bless you!