This past weekend it was announced that Pope Francis will create 21 new cardinals on August 27th. These princes of the Church come from France, Brazil, India, Mongolia, Paraguay, Nigeria, Timor Oriental, Ghana, USA, Singapore, Columbia, Belgium, and Italy. Pope Francis has been consistent in naming these “electors” of the Pope from the peripheries when adding to the college of cardinals. Sixteen of the new cardinals will be of age to participate in the next conclave (election of the Pope) while 5 are over the age of 80, making them ineligible to vote for the new Pope.
The only new cardinal from the USA is Bishop Robert Walter McElroy, of San Diego. What makes his appointment interesting in the church world is that he was one of the strongest voices among the American bishops in fighting against using the Eucharist as a political weapon.
Just recently Archbishop Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco banned House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving the Eucharist in his Archdiocese. In a letter to Mrs. Pelosi, Archbishop Cordileone was clear about his reasons: “As you have not publicly repudiated your position on abortion, and continue to refer to your Catholic faith in justifying your position … you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.”
Bishop McElroy’s position has been that there would be devasting effects. In an article in the America Magazine, May 5, 2021, bishop McElroy writes:
In the six months since the 2020 election, a growing movement has emerged in the church in the United States that calls upon the bishops of our nation to publicly exclude President Joseph R. Biden and other Catholic public officials from the Eucharist. Those who support this action make a concise, three-part argument: The president supports positions on abortion that clearly depart from the teaching of the church on an extremely grave moral issue; the long tradition of the church requires personal worthiness to receive the Eucharist; and the persistent rejection of clear Catholic teaching extinguishes that worthiness.
It is understandable how numerous Catholic leaders have come to this moment. It is almost 50 years since the Supreme Court decision in the case Roe v. Wade. While progress in reducing abortions has occurred in some jurisdictions and the number of abortions nationwide has fallen, the United States still rejects the legal structures and policies that can bring meaningful protection to the unborn. The election of President Biden and a Democratic Congress is a sign that, outside of the courts, federal progress on the pivotal moral issue of abortion will not occur in the immediate future. This is an immense sadness for every bishop in our country and for the church as a whole, and leaders of the church are ardently seeking a step that will advance the protection of the unborn.
But the proposal to exclude pro-choice Catholic political leaders from the Eucharist is the wrong step. It will bring tremendously destructive consequences—not because of what it says about abortion, but because of what it says about the Eucharist.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.” Because of this sacred nature and identity, the Eucharist must never be instrumentalized for a political end, no matter how important. But that is precisely what is being done in the effort to exclude Catholic political leaders who oppose the church’s teaching on abortion and civil law. The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen.
The substantial damage that will take place within the eucharistic community as a result of this instrumentalization will be broad and deep. The Catechism proclaims:
At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet.
A national policy of excluding pro-choice political leaders from the Eucharist will constitute an assault on that unity, on that charity. Fully half the Catholics in the United States will see this action as partisan in nature, and it will bring the terrible partisan divisions that have plagued our nation into the very act of worship that is intended by God to cause and signify our oneness.
There is much more to this article, and I would encourage you to find it and read it. Ultimately in the naming of bishop McElroy as a cardinal in the Church Pope Francis is giving clear guidance to the American bishops (and us) as to how we should approach our application of the reception of the Eucharist.