Vatican releases uncompromising working document on Eucharist

In a preparatory document released yesterday for October's Synod on the Eucharist, the Vatican singled out divorcees who remarry and Catholic politicians who support abortion, in criticising the faithful who continue to receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin.

Associated Press reports that the positions were set out in a new document on the Eucharist that details abuses of the sacrament and the need for better instruction to ensure it remains sacred. The 85-page text is the working draft of a final document that will be developed during the October global synod of bishops in Rome.

The paper covers a range of issues related to the Eucharist: It suggests, for example, that Latin be used during international liturgical gatherings so all priests involved can understand the proceedings, and it suggests that parishes consider using more Gregorian chants to prevent more "profane" types of music from being played.

It calls for priests not to be "showmen" who draw attention to themselves and says lay people can have an important but "minimal" presence in Masses. It says the tabernacle - which holds the bread and wine held by Catholics to be the body and blood of Christ - should have a prominent place in the church and not be shunted off to a corner.

Most significantly, though, the document laments the fact that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to Mass on Sundays - in some countries, only 5 percent of the faithful attend - and that fewer Catholics are going to confession.

As a result, many Catholics are living in a state of mortal sin when they receive Communion, it said. The Church defines sin as a free and deliberate violation of God's law; a mortal sin is one that involves a "grave violation of God's law" and "deliberate consent." Catholics can repent their sins by confessing them to a priest.

"The faithful frequently receive Holy Communion without even thinking that they might be in a state of mortal sin," the document said. "As a result, the receiving of Holy Communion by those who are divorced and civilly remarried is a common occurrence in various countries."

It noted that confession isn't always available to the faithful because of the acute shortage of priests in parts of the globe, but said the sacrament nevertheless was necessary. It cited statistics showing there was one priest for every 1797 Catholics in 1978 compared to one priest for every 2,677 Catholics in 2003.

The document, "The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the church," was writteops from around the world reporting on their own experiences. It stresses that it is not a theological treatise on the Eucharist and in fact it restates church teaching on most key issues.

In one section, for example, the document criticized the faithful who support Catholic politicians who themselves back abortion and other policies contrary to church teaching.

"Some receive Communion while denying the teachings of the church or publicly supporting immoral choices in life, such as abortion, without thinking that they are committing an act of grave personal dishonesty and causing scandal," it said.

Meanwhile Catholic World News reports that the Synod will include a much larger representation of representatives from other Christian communities, and the plans for the bishops' discussions have been modified to encourage broader discussion.

At a press conference in Rome yesterday, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic and Msgr. Fortunato Frezza-- the secretary general and under-secretary, respectively, of the Synod of Bishops-- briefed reporters on the plans for the Synod.

Although he did not identify which non-Catholic communities will be represented, Archbishop Eterovic said that they would include the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox as well as Reformation bodies, and particularly those religious groups with which the Vatican has had strong ecumenical contacts. As observers, the non-Catholic delegates will not speak in plenary sessions, but can join in the discussions of the smaller working groups.

During general sessions, prelates will be limited to 6-minute presentations, rather than the 8-minute talks allowed in previous Synod meetings. This change, the secretary-general explained, is intended to speed discussion, and to allow for another innovation: the introduction of open-discussion periods at the close of each day. The Synod will meet for 3 weeks of discussion, rather than 4 as in the past. But these discussions will follow the usually pattern, being divided between plenary sessions and smaller working groups. There will be 12 such working groups, split by linguistic groups.

The October session will be the 11th regular general assembly of the Synod of Bishops. There have also been 2 extraordinary general assemblies and 8 special Synods for the bishops of particular regions.

Vatican Criticizes Catholics on Communion (The Guardian/Associated Press 7/7/05)
Synod changes to broaden, streamline debate (Catholic World News 7/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Synod of Bishops
Year of the Eucharist

Pope fine-tuning October Synod (CathNews 18/5/05)
Australian resources for Year of Eucharist released (CathNews 21/1/05)

The Eucharist, font of Christian morality (Vatican Information Service 7/7/05)
Christ in our neighbourhood (Catholic Weekly 10/7/05)
Working document of Eucharistic Synod presented (Vatican Information Service 7/7/05)
Analysis: Main themes for October Synod (Catholic World News 7/7/05)
Christ in our neighbourhood (Catholic Weekly 10/7/05)

8 Jul 2005