Bishop Zinkula on the Eucharist: ‘I want to bring people together’

Bishop Zinkula looks up from his computer at the chancery during an interview about the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting. Discussion about the Eucharist dominated the meeting.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Bishop Thomas Zinkula prayed and reflected before voting on whether a committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops should draft a document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Catholic Church.

Many Catholics mistakenly believe the bishops voted last week to ban President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians who support pro-choice positions from receiving the Eucharist. That is not what happened during the bishops’ virtual spring meeting June 16-18, Bishop Zinkula said. The bishops have yet to create the document. The Committee on Doctrine was seeking the go-ahead from its brother bishops to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist.

“Eucharistic coherence (the idea that Catholics receiving Communion should live and act in a manner consistent with church teaching) would be one, small part of the document,” Bishop Zinkula said. The first part of the document, “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Believed,” will focus on the real presence, sacrifice and healing. The second part, “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated,” will focus on unity, beauty and identity. The third part, The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Lived,” will focus on moral transformation, Eucharistic consistency and missionary discipleship.

Debate about the merits of drafting a document included references to President Biden and other pro-choice politicians, which fueled opposing media outlets’ take on the issue and caused outrage across the political spectrum, Bishop Zinkula believes. The USCCB felt compelled to respond, posting a Q&A statement on its website (www.usccb.org).

In part, the June 21 statement said, “Since the conclusion of the Spring Plenary Assembly of the U.S. bishops last week, there has been much attention on the vote taken to draft a document on the Eucharist. The question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

The statement noted, “The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Catholics wonder why the bishops felt compelled to draft a document now, given that President Biden is Catholic and supports abortion rights. The statement explains that the bishops have been concerned about “the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful…. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country.”

The vote to proceed with drafting a document succeeded by a wide margin, 168 to 55 with six abstentions. Bishop Zinkula declined to share how he voted because the topic has become a polarizing issue; there are very strong views on both sides. He said he has received emails, text messages and letters regarding his position on the issue. “I want to bring people together.” The fact that this one issue dominated the bishops’ spring meeting “shows how important both the Eucharist and pro-life issues are for us,” he said.

During extended discussion at the virtual meeting, “I think the bishops were respectful when listening to one another. I think that discussion and willingness to listen to one another will affect what ends up in the document.” He and his fellow bishops hope to get together in smaller groups prior to discussion of the draft document at their November meeting. “It will be much better to talk in small groups and then to have those discussions with the committee that is writing the document.”

Continued dialogue among bishops in smaller groups would address the Vatican’s concerns about drafting such a document. “The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad conversation,” the USCCB said in its June 21 Q&A statement. “It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.”

“We need to start talking about it soon,” Bishop Zinkula said. “It’s important for us to find unity amongst the bishops. We’re not unified now. I’d like to think we can come to an approach on this topic that we can all accept. I’m hopeful.”


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1 thought on “Bishop Zinkula on the Eucharist: ‘I want to bring people together’

  1. Listening to the Faithful, is that on the agenda? How? Where? When?

    Will women be asked to speak, who will want to hear them?

    How long has this “potential document” been under consideration? Post Biden election?

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