SCRANTON – Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has announced the appointment of Ms. Erin McGrady as Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese of Scranton.

Ms. McGrady’s responsibilities will include making sure all diocesan employees in parishes and schools, including coaches and volunteers who have direct contact and routine interaction with children, have up-to-date criminal background and child abuse clearances. The position of Safe Environment Coordinator is also responsible for implementing educational and training programs that help people recognize and effectively respond to the problem of child sexual abuse.

“After being in the direct care field for many years, I wanted to take more of a preventative approach to child abuse and protecting our youth,” McGrady said regarding her new position.

McGrady has a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Long Island University and is licensed as a Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Prior to accepting her new position in the Diocese of Scranton, she worked as a Mental Health Professional at the Friendship House in Forest City and an Outpatient Psychotherapist at Northeast Counseling Services in Hazleton. McGrady believes her background and experience working directly in schools will be an asset to her new position.

“Being in the school districts was a big help, working with children every day,” she explained.

McGrady succeeds Kathy Bolinski, who recently retired, in holding the position as Safe Environment Coordinator. She was able to shadow Ms. Bolinski to learn the roles and responsibilities of her new position.

McGrady is looking forward to working with all parishes and schools in the Diocese.

“Having safe environment managers at each parish and school is a big help. I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting everyone and seeing all the parishes because the diocese covers a large area.”

McGrady also wants parents and members of the public to know she is a resource available to them.

“My door is always open. Please call or email if you need assistance. I have spoken to a number of different parishes already. The welcome has been wonderful,” she added.

McGrady is a parishioner of Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale, where she serves as a catechist, Eucharistic Minister and Pastoral Council member.

CARBONDALE – With champagne in hand, parishioners gathered outside Saint Rose of Lima Church on Aug. 23, 2021, to celebrate the relighting of its steeple after the completion of a major renovation project.

The outdoor event followed a 7:30 p.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Saint Rose, in which the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant.

“It is a real pleasure for me to join with this parish community,” the bishop said in welcoming the large crowd that gathered. “We give thanks for the incredible work that has been done to restore this beautiful church and particularly its tower, which really shines as a beacon of faith and hope to this entire community.”

After several years of planning and fundraising, Saint Rose of Lima Parish recently completed a large-scale church renovation project in which its granite steps, steeple and façade were all restored. Knowing the church’s importance, both parishioners and the Carbondale business community embraced the renovation work, raising more than $850,000 for the project.

Reverend Jeffrey J. Walsh, pastor, delivered the homily during the Mass.

“We’re so happy with the conclusion of this project. It was long overdue,” Father Walsh said. “Everyone who made a contribution to this project did what our ancestors did… They knew that faith needed to be a priority for them and their families and so they invested in a beautiful house of worship that just continued to grow and grow.”

Father Walsh spent much of his homily focusing on “little details.”

Quoting Pope Francis, the Carbondale pastor emphasized that “little details” are important saying, “Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details, the little detail that wine was running out at a party, the little details that one sheep was missing.”

Father Walsh then explained all the “little details” that went into making the restoration project at Saint Rose of Lima Church a success. The details ranged from the hard work it took to replace the steps outside the church, to the meticulous effort to make sure the scaffolding outside the church was put up properly so that workers could reach the steeple, to the masonry work involved with the bluestone over the church’s archways.

“It was an awful lot of work,” Father Walsh said.

Even as the steeple was re-lit to great joy in the community, Father Walsh ended his homily by emphasizing that while a church building is a great treasure, it is the faith of each person that needs to shine the brightest.

“What God manifests in the external, he also wants to manifest in the internal,” Father Walsh said. “All of the detail work that goes into restoring the outside of this church applies equally to the detail that each one of us is responsible for in maintaining our spiritual lives.”

RILEYVILLE – With a banner hanging outside Saint Joseph Church announcing its 150th anniversary, parishioners in northern Wayne County gathered on Aug. 22 to celebrate the special milestone of their house of worship.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant for a Pontifical Concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving marking the sesquicentennial anniversary of the church.

“For all of the memories that are likely flooding the minds and hearts of all of us who gather this morning, I suspect that when we recall events that have taken place in our lives in relationship to Saint Joseph Church, we are more likely to recall certain people than merely a place,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily.

The bishop explained a personal connection to Saint Joseph Church. When he was a young, he would often attend Mass at the church while staying with his father at a nearby hunting lodge on weekends. Even as a young boy, the bishop noted the welcoming atmosphere the parish offered.

In encouraging people to reflect on the fact that a parish is much more than just a building, Bishop Bambera used the words of Saint John Paul II. As the late Holy Father indicated, a parish is “the family of God, a fellowship afire with a unifying spirit.”

On the milestone anniversary for Saint Joseph Church, the bishop said the celebration should remind parishioners of who they are as Catholic Christians, remind them of the need to engage a power in life bigger than themselves and reinforce that we receive the Holy Eucharist for mission.

“Right here in Rileyville, look at the mission that you’ve embraced for the past 150 years. You have celebrated life and called one another to a profound respect for that sublime gift. You have taught people about our faith. You have fed families and clothed the poor. You have healed bodies and spirits, consoled, buried and converted hearts to the Lord. You have done Christ’s work!” the bishop noted.

The anniversary Mass took place on the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, when the Gospel message indicated that many of Jesus’ followers were having a difficult time understanding his teaching about the Eucharist and many walked away.

The bishop noted that parishioners at Saint Joseph Church have stayed through the power of God at work in their lives.

“It is pretty obvious that you stay a part of this church because of your faith – a faith that enables you to see and experience signs of hope and signs of God’s life, his mercy and his love!” the bishop noted.

Saint Joseph Church was established in 1871 as a mission worship site of Saint Juliana Parish at Rock Lake. In 1944, the care of Saint Joseph’s was assumed by Saint Mary Magdalen Parish, Honesdale, with Saint John the Evangelist taking over the guardianship of the small mission church three years later.

SCRANTON – Seminarian Michael J. Boris stood before the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on Aug. 19 and affirmed his desire to advance along the path toward the priesthood.

Bishop Bambera served as presider, principal celebrant and homilist for Solemn Vespers with the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders as well as the Celebration of the Eucharist with the Institution of Acolyte for Michael J. Boris at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

In the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders, a man who aspires to ordination publicly declares his will to offer himself to God and to the Church for sacred ministry. During the rite, the bishop asks the candidate two questions about his resolve to complete preparations for the priesthood. If the candidate answers these questions affirmatively, he is accepted as a candidate for holy orders.

Acolyte is the last step before ordination. Acolytes serve at the altar, assisting priests and deacons during liturgical celebrations. They may also purify the sacred vessels after Holy Communion.

In his homily, Bishop Bambera reflected on a Gospel passage of Saint Luke (Luke 5:1-11) which finds Jesus beginning his ministry by calling a simple fisherman, Simon Peter, to be one of his most trusted friends.

“Today, he calls you to walk with him in a very special way,” Bishop Bambera said to Michael J. Boris.

The bishop said that Jesus accepted Simon Peter as he was, taking him as he found him with a heart that was open.

“Michael, remember that Jesus accepts and calls us as we all are also,” the bishop noted.

Bishop Bambera emphasized that Jesus is able to see beyond the brokenness of our lives and invites all of us to trust at a deeper level.

“Jesus responds to you Michael, in the very same way that he responded to his first followers. He calls you to cast the net of God’s love and mercy upon the waters of this time and place. He calls you to extend your hands and grasp the lives of those who struggle to find a way forward. He calls you to embrace them with compassion, mercy and forgiveness.”

SCRANTON – Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate their faith – and their Italian heritage – at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Sept. 5 at the 45th annual La Festa Italiana Mass.

The Mass, which was celebrated in Italian, was held in conjunction with La Festa Italiana. The annual four-day food festival takes place on Courthouse Square over the long Labor Day weekend.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, attended the Mass. Reverend Paul A. McDonnell, OSJ, served as principal celebrant and homilist. McDonnell is the current rector of the Oblates of Saint Joseph in Laflin.

“Today we celebrate the Italian heritage, this wonderful gift given first of all to our country that came from Italy,” Father McDonnell said.

Reflecting on the hallmarks of the Italian culture, which he defined as “faith, family, friends and hospitality,” McDonnell said gratefully each has made its way into the Diocese of Scranton.

During his homily, Father McDonnell joked that his last name is Irish – but he is half-Italian because of his mother. He emphasized that Italians love being in the company of others.

“Being able to share our lives, share our joys, our blessings and our accomplishments and to share also our sorrows, crosses and burdens. We do it together,” he explained.

Connecting that to the Church, the “family of God,” Father McDonnell reminded the crowd that we are also supposed to “walk” with our brothers and sisters in faith.

“We don’t worship in isolation. We don’t serve in isolation. Jesus reminds us over and over again, if you want to love me, then love each other,” he said.

While the La Festa Italiana Mass emphasizes the Italian culture, Father McDonnell reminded those in attendance that many cultures have influenced the Diocese of Scranton.

“We are reminded of all the cultures that have influenced this diocese and have a very important role to play. It reminds us of our rich and diverse history as we acknowledge all ethnic groups that immigrated here: Slovaks, Polish, Lithuanians, Irish, German and today our most recent immigrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Cape Verde, Vietnam, India, the Philippines and the continent of Africa,” he said.

Just as the day’s Gospel message stressed – the homilist added we must all be more accepting and loving of others.

“If we are truly rooted in Christ, then we don’t see our brothers and sisters from other races, creeds or colors as a burden, but as an asset to enrich our society and personal lives,” he explained.

This year’s Italian Mass was offered in memory of all those members and friends of La Festa Italiana who passed away since the last Mass was celebrated, including Ray Alberigi, John “Jack” Brunetti, Christina Caprio, Father Andrew Gallia, Patrick A. Luongo, Joseph “Chef” Schiavone, Kevin Shaughnessy and Father Joseph Sica.

Before the concluding prayer, Bishop Bambera thanked the La Festa Committee for helping to organize and participate in the Mass – as well as for their hard work to put on one of the community’s most popular events.

Seizing on the homily message that Father McDonnell shared, the bishop drew connections to the pandemic that we continue to battle.

“We are in this together,” the bishop said. “We are all connected through faith, through life and the fact that we are all a part of this family that God has given to each one of us!”

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, released the following greeting on Sept. 15, 2021, to those observing Yom Kippur:

“On behalf of all the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, I offer my heartfelt best wishes to our Jewish brothers and sisters who will celebrate Yom Kippur beginning this evening at sunset.

“As Christians, we must always continue to deepen the bonds of friendship between our two faith traditions and break down any walls that may separate us.

“On this Day of Atonement, may we all ask God for forgiveness from our sins and join together in praying for peace and stability in our world.

“To all our Jewish neighbors, I wish all an easy and meaningful fast this Yom Kippur.”


Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a Mass in Rome in this April 13, 2018, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BOSTON (CNS) – The Boston Globe reported July 29 that police in the Boston suburb of Wellesley have charged former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 in a criminal complaint filed by Wellesley Police in a district court in nearby Dedham, Massachusetts.

A summons has been issued ordering McCarrick, now 91, to appear at the court for arraignment Aug. 26.

The Globe reported that McCarrick is now living in Missouri. The address listed for McCarrick in the court filings is the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri, located in Jefferson County, a suburban county of St. Louis on the eastern side of the state.

The Vianney Renewal Center is a treatment center for Catholic clergy with sexual or other disorders.

According to its website, it’s a ministry coordinated by the Servants of the Paraclete, which collaborates with sponsoring diocesan and religious communities “to provide a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers.”

Last year, the Jefferson County Leader, a weekly newspaper, reported the Dallas police arrested an ex-priest at the center on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child in North Texas that took place in 1989. The ex-priest had been laicized in 2002.

The crimes for which McCarrick is charged allegedly took place in 1974, when he was a New York archdiocesan priest and secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York.

According to the Globe, the man told investigators that McCarrick was a family friend who began molesting him when he was a boy.

According to a report by Wellesley Police Detective Christopher Connelly that was filed in court with the complaint, he said McCarrick often went on trips with the then-teenager’s family and had sexually abused him in New Jersey, New York, California and Massachusetts.

On June 8, 1974, the alleged victim, then 16, said he was at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College when McCarrick told him his father wanted the two of them to “have a talk” because the teenager was being mischievous at home and not attending church, according to the report. He said McCarrick groped his genitals when they were walking around the campus, and continued his assault after the walk was over.

The Globe said that during interviews with police, the man recounted later incidents where McCarrick sexually abused him in the Boston suburbs of Arlington and Newton. He also provided four photographs of postcards he had received from McCarrick when he was younger, and a photograph of McCarrick that predated the wedding reception in Wellesley.

The man, whose name was not released, is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, long known as an attorney for those who have made abuse accusations against Catholic clergy. Garabedian was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” which chronicled the Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston 20 and more years ago.

Because McCarrick was not a Massachusetts resident and “the statute of limitations stopped running when he left the state,” the Globe said, “he can be charged with alleged assault dating to the 1970s.”

McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn of Washington, told the Globe: “We will look forward to addressing this issue in the courtroom.”

In 2018, the prelate resigned from the College of Cardinals after The New York Times published a series of stories detailing abuse episodes by the then-priest and bishop during assignments in New York and New Jersey, principally in the 1970s and ’80s.

A year later, Pope Francis laicized him after a canonical process found him guilty.

Last year, the Vatican released its own report detailing the McCarrick case. It said the now-disgraced former prelate was able to rise up the Catholic hierarchical structure based on personal contacts, protestations of his innocence and a lack of church officials reporting and investigating accusations made against him, according to the Vatican report on the matter.

The report said St. John Paul II “personally made the decision” to name McCarrick archbishop of Washington in 2000 and make him a cardinal.

Many commentators dispute critics that say the pope and his associates knew about McCarrick’s misdeeds and proceeded with his promotion anyway, because McCarrick was a “master at gaining the trust of others, including Pope John Paul II, and then betraying that trust.”

Prior to the Dittmer facility, McCarrick had lived at Kansas friary at the Washington Archdiocese’s request. He left there of his own accord after he was laicized.

CARBONDALE – After walking up 15 flights of scaffolding steps, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, reached the steeple atop of Saint Rose of Lima Church and took in the view.

“I’m actually really proud to be on top here,” Bishop Bambera said – standing 93 feet over the city sidewalk.

On Thursday, July 29, 2021, Bishop Bambera joined St. Rose’s pastor, Father Jeff Walsh, to offer a blessing on the church’s renovation project that nears completion. Several other parishioners who were instrumental in getting the work – literally – off the ground joined the bishop.

After raising $850,000 over the last year and a half, the church’s granite steps, steeple and façade have all been restored.

“It’s the oldest church in Lackawanna County and one of the earliest churches in the Diocese of Scranton,” Father Walsh said. “We know it was built on the backs of the coal miners and the immigrants who came to this area who took their faith seriously and it’s good to know that new generations are still doing that.”

The parish itself was founded in 1832 and the current church building dates back to 1873.

“This is probably the tallest building in Carbondale. The tower itself was put on in 1899 so it has been on over 100 years before now and it had some needed repair both inside and outside, spalling along the bluestone in the front, and all around the tower itself, so it was ready, it’s been in the works for two years,” project manager John Devine explained. “It was very urgent because some of it was peeling off the front of the building and we even had one of the pieces of metal up there flapping in the wind. Had it fallen, it was really a safety issue.”

The Saint Rose of Lima steeple is a focal point in the Pioneer City. Knowing its importance, both parishioners and the Carbondale business community embraced the renovation work.

“A lot of the people who are natives of Carbondale said this has always been a community that has stepped up when they needed to do what they were called to do. That has proven to be a true statement. We reached the $850,000 goal. We got the work on the steps done and the façade is going to be completed and the steeple is going to be restored to its original glory,” Father Walsh said.

While the project has taken a little longer than expected, the scaffolding around the church is expected to come down around Aug. 9. The total price tag of the restoration project has been a little more than expected as well – estimated to be $975,000 now – so anyone in the community is still encouraged to help.

Father Walsh also gave credit to the work of his predecessors, Father James Price and Father Seth Wasnock, who began the renovation project.

“It’s certainly a sign to the community that we’re here to stay and we’re going to be around another 100 years at least and it’s a sense of stability and pride that we do take in this building,” Father Walsh said. “But it’s always more than the building. The outside is meant to represent what’s on the inside.”

“It’s going to be stunning. People are going to look up and say ‘wow.’ You’re not even going to remember what it looked like before because it’s going to be new and clean and hopefully serve the community for another 100 years,” Devine added.

As he offered his blessing, Bishop Bambera marveled at the change that has taken place. His blessing was as follows:

“Lord, We thank you for the work that is being done on this incredible tower, this beacon of hope and promise and love and God’s mercy to this entire community. We pray that through the work that is done here, faith that has been given to so many people may grow and flourish. We thank you for the workers who have put this beautiful tower back in place and have restored it to its original beauty. We thank you for the good people – the parishioners and the friends of this parish – who have worked so hard to make this a reality, who have given of their time and their treasure to bring this church back to its beautiful state. Finally Lord, we just ask your blessing upon this community and this congregation – that it will always be a community filled with love, hope, working towards peace. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Children watch television at the Casa del Migrante shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sept. 24, 2019. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – With a surge in the first few months of 2021 of minors entering the United States without a parent or guardian, figures from fiscal year 2020 already have surpassed the total of unaccompanied minors who made border entries during the previous fiscal year.

Statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that over 76,000 minors entered the U.S. during fiscal year 2019, which for the government runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1.

By July 6 of this year, the latest figures available from CBP show that entries for fiscal year 2020 already have surpassed that number, with the agency logging over 93,500 unaccompanied minors and with a little less than three months left to go in the fiscal year.

In a July 23 opinion article for United Press International, Randi Mandelbaum, a distinguished clinical professor of law at Rutgers University, said that while the U.S. is legally obligated to care for the minors until they reach adulthood, defined as age 18, “the government often struggles to do so, especially when the immigration system is overwhelmed by high numbers of children.”

Unaccompanied children detained by CPB are supposed to be transferred to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours of being detained and sent to facilities such as a shelter or a detention center, where many wait until they are reunited with family living in the U.S. or go to foster homes. But with little bed space available because of the surge, the government has set up tent cities at military bases, such as one at Fort Bliss, Texas.

It was a practice widely criticized during the Trump administration but has continued under the presidency of Joe Biden.

Migrant advocates have raised concerns about some of the large-scale facilities and whether they are appropriate in caring for the needs of the minors.

Many Catholic nonprofits throughout the United States, via organizations such as Catholic Charities and the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services have been part of a network of faith groups active in caring for the minors in smaller, family-like settings and helping them until they eventually reach family.

But the ins and outs of caring for minors who are migrants and providing services they need, from legal to educational, are complex even as they leave the hands of the government.

“Once a child goes to live with a relative, the Office of Refugee Resettlement provides little, if any, oversight or assistance. Nor do they offer much support in such matters as enrolling the child in school, getting medical care or hiring an immigration attorney,” wrote Mandelbaum. “That burden falls on families and the states, cities or towns where the children land.”

Some localities, however, have shown reluctance in accepting the minors in their midst.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order in April to prevent foster care facilities and group care homes for immigrant children sent to South Carolina. He said that doing so would result in the “ultimate displacement of South Carolina’s most vulnerable children in an already-strained system.”

McMaster said that “allowing the federal government to place an unlimited number of unaccompanied migrant children into our state’s child welfare system for an unspecified length of time is an unacceptable proposition. We’ve been down this road with the federal government before and the state usually ends up ‘on the hook.'”

In early June, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, ordered child care regulators in Texas to take away licenses from facilities that provide shelter and other services to migrant children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Some facilities, such as Catholic Charities, have federal contracts with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to help care for them.

Two Catholic bishops in his state recently asked the governor to halt the order, which could result in shutting down, by the end of August, Catholic Charities facilities in Texas that care for these minors.

Whether the government or the system set up to care for them works, Mandelbaum said in the opinion piece, “the children are coming, whether the federal government and states are ready.”

A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

(CNS) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the middle of drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist, received words of advice from a panel convened July 28 to discuss the challenges facing the American church as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and seeks to overcome divisions that threaten church unity.

They heard about the importance of bishops being pastors rather than “chaplains to factions,” the need to communicate church teaching clearly and without fear, and hearing from as many voices as possible in the weeks remaining before they consider the document during their fall general assembly in November.

The 75-minute discussion left Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, with ideas to share with the document’s drafters working to strengthen the foundation of the Eucharist being the source and summit of Catholic life.

Bishop Rhoades is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, which is charged with drafting the document.

He acknowledged the path ahead poses challenges, but it is one the doctrine committee is prepared to address.

“The goal of the document is to contribute to the eucharistic revival,” he said, recapping the USCCB strategic plan for 2021-2024 that is focused on the Eucharist being the foundation of Christian life.

“We’re striving to write a document that will contribute to a real eucharistic revival in the church in our nation by highlighting the truth about the amazing gift that Jesus gave on the night before he died, the importance of beauty and reverence in our celebration of this great mystery, and the wonderful graces that we receive in the Eucharist to grow in our Christian lives,” he explained.

While the document will include a section focused on eucharistic coherence, the church’s teaching on the reception of Communion, there is no plan to adopt a national policy to prohibit anyone from receiving the Eucharist, the bishop said.

It’s a statement Bishop Rhoades has repeated several times since the bishops’ virtual spring general assembly in June during which the bishops approved drafting the document. In the vote, 75% of the bishops said “yes,” while 25% said “no.”

During long discussions on the document before the vote, several bishops specifically pointed to President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who are Catholic, for not actively seeking to end legal abortion and called for them to be denied Communion.

Work has begun on sections of the document that pertain to church teaching while the section on eucharistic coherence will not be drafted until after a series of regional meetings among the bishops concludes by the end of August, Bishop Rhoades said.

As the drafting process continues, the USCCB’s actions related to the Eucharist are being watched around the world, said panelist Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey. “The Eucharist is on everyone’s mind,” he said.

Cardinal Tobin was one of the minority of prelates who voted against drafting the document at the current time. “Having the bishops on a Zoom call is not an opportunity for discernment,” he said.

He called on the bishops to take up Pope Francis’ call to synodality to discuss and hear from many voices before reaching consensus on the issues and concerns facing the church.

The pandemic has left people separated from the Eucharist and Cardinal Tobin suggested that the bishops reach out and welcome people back to the church rather than restrict participation in church life.

The debate that showcased the wide disagreements among the bishops on drafting the document should not be one that causes the bishops to fear developing a document that stresses church teaching, explained panelist Gretchen Crowe, editorial director for periodicals at Our Sunday Visitor in Indiana.

The OSV Newsweekly published an editorial supporting the vote to draft the document. Explaining the reasoning behind the editorial, Crowe said it is vital for Catholics to better know church teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

“In my mind, a fear of division or a fear of anything else really, never should prevent the church from teaching what it professes about anything, much less what it teaches about the real presence (of) Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” Crowe said.

However, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, editor-at-large at Commonweal magazine, expressed concern that a document on the Eucharist would bolster an apparent connection the Catholic bishops have with the Republican Party.

She questioned why some bishops have been so outspoken against Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, when they failed to be as vocal about the transgressions of former President Donald Trump’s policies that also endangered lives.

Saying she agreed that Democratic politicians should be “pushed” for their support of abortion, Wilson O’Reilly said she believed that Catholics would flee in greater numbers because the document on the Eucharist will be perceived as political rather than genuine teaching.

Panelist John Carr, co-director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, which sponsored the panel, credited Bishop Rhoades for taking on a most difficult task in a time of divisiveness among the bishops and within the church.

“It’s important to be candid about the differences here,” said Carr, who formerly was executive director of the bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. “How did the Eucharist, which is the sign of unity at our parish and our lives and in our church, somehow become the thing we fight about in terms of politics? It seems to me like we’ve gotten ourselves in a terrible place.”

Carr said he disagrees with the bishops’ decision to move forward on the document.

“The pastoral dimensions are really serious,” he said. “This is terrible timing and, as people have said, in the midst of a pandemic, racial reckoning, let’s have a fight about whether the president ought to be ale to receive Communion. Publicly, this showcases our divisions and is a diversion.”

The program opened with a discussion between Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, and Kim Daniels, co-director of the Georgetown initiative. The archbishop recapped what he told the U.S. bishops during their spring general assembly in June.

The diplomat said in the discussion recorded July 27 that he had stressed that any work the conference undertakes must be rooted in synodality, as Pope Francis has invited the church to do. Synodality allows for discerning a path forward through thoughtful and respectful conversation that allows diverse voices to be heard and overcome misunderstanding, he said.

He also called on the bishops to remember that they are teachers and that the pope has invited them to teach about the sacraments “so we can receive the grace of God.” He also cautioned about the “instrumentalization” of the sacrament of the Eucharist lest it become a tool for ideologies to overtake.

“The sacraments of salvation are to be administered often to the people,” he said. “As such the church should remain united.”

Cardinal Tobin also called for synodality to be part of the bishops’ process as the document is drafted.

“What we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist, and not one, like or not, that is perceived as a political action,” Cardinal Tobin said. “We have a perfect invitation from the Holy Father to adopt a more synodal church, people who are talking together as we walk the same road.”