On July 8, the Vatican issued the working document (Instrumentum
Laboris) which is a summary of responses from the
world's Bishops meant to aid in the work of the Synod on theEucharist
. It is not “the final word” on issues to be dealt with by the Synod as some recent media stories have implied.
Here is a link so you can read
There are both discouraging and encouraging notes sounded by the working document.
1. It doesn’t address strategies for dealing with the worldwide priest
shortage. Even though for the first time, the Vatican acknowledges a “fluctuation” (aka
shortage) of priests, there is no mention of solutions such as ending mandatory
celibacy or ordaining women deacons.
2. It laments the decline in Mass attendance
at great length but makes no attempt to analyze why this might
be. Some examples
are too few priests, poorly prepared
priests or (often) preaching and celebrations that do not touch people's lives.
3. It gives little attention to the reality of “God with us” ie:
Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist as our loving brother and friend. Instead
God’s awe-inducing sacredness, the transcendence of Eucharistic worship, “the
inseparability of the Eucharist and morality,” and Christ's presence in
the sacred species is elaborated upon at length. The end result is a document
that appears to value cultic and moral purity over human presence, mercy and
4. It spends a lot of time dwelling on the perceived
link between the sacrament
of Penance and the Eucharist: “Certainly thought needs to be given to the
great disproportion between the many who receive Holy Communion and the few who
go to confession.” (p. 13) While acknowledging that only those in mortal
sin must confess before receiving communion some Bishops seem to regard the divorced
and remarried “who don’t know they’re in mortal sin” as
mortal sinners. As any Catholic grade school student knows, if you don’t
know it’s a mortal sin, it isn’t.
5. It gives little attention to the wide disparities
between rich and poor Catholics in our world. When poverty is touched upon,
only charity is recommended as a
response, rather than social analysis and empowerment. The word justice appears
very rarely and only at the very end of the document.
6. It would have benefited by inviting reflection
from the lay faithful. It is also very hampered by language that excludes
women. Unfortunately laity were
not consulted and if any women religious raised questions about the language,
these were not addressed.
1. It finally acknowledges the worldwide priest
shortage. For the
first time, statistics about declining priests compared to increasing
numbers of Catholics
are included. We should consider this a small victory because so many CTA and
FutureChurch activists publicized the worldwide priest shortage that there is
no longer any point in
trying to hide it. The document also acknowledges Communion services conducted
by lay people in communities “awaiting a priest.”
2. The theological language is better than the
original Lineamenta (outline). Specifically, there is frequent use of Vatican II
phrases such as “People
of God,” “Bishop of Rome” (for the Pope) etc.
3. The “celebratory banquet” aspects of Eucharist and the Eucharist
as a memorial have been included, albeit minimally. The original Lineamenta made
no mention of either. However, nearly all of the theological reflection is focused
on the Eucharist as sacrifice/sacrificial meal.
4. Social justice issues are included, though
more minimally than one would expect and for the first time ecologic
included. The original Lineamenta
did not address ecologic issues at all and paid very little attention to work
for social justice.
5. The document nuances moral decisions about politicians and
Eucharist. A direct quote: “Some Catholics do not understand
why it might be a sin to support
a political candidate who is openly in favor of abortion or other serious
acts against life, justice and peace” (emphasis ours).
A final encouraging note is that Benedict XVI has built in more
discussion time in response to complaints from Bishops that
their was little time for exchange
among them in previous synods. Individual speeches will be limited to six
minutes each allowing more time for more wide ranging discussion
and exchange at the
end of each session.
How You Can Help
In September Catholic leaders in Spokane, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia,
Atlanta and Erie, Pa will seek meetings with U.S. Bishop delegates
to deliver nearly 30,000 petition signatures asking them to
make sure the priest shortage gets on the agenda. Please support
Write or email our synod delegates. Assure them of your prayerful
accompaniment during the time of the synod and ask
their support of petition requests
- that we model our Eucharistic practice according to Jesus’ inclusive
table- sharing as described in the Gospels, especially
Jesus concern and welcome for the poor and marginalized.
- that we emphasize all the ways Christ's Real Presence is with
us in addition to the sacred elements.
Bishop William S.
Skylstad, President of the USCCB, Diocese of
Spokane, P.O. Box 1453 Spokane, WA 99210
Wilton D. Gregory, Archdiocese of Atlanta, 680
W. Peachtree Street N.W., Atlanta, GA 30308
F. Rigali, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 222 North
17th Street, Philaelphia, PA 19103-1299
Donald W. Wuerl, Diocese of Pittsburgh, 111 Boulevard
of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222; Secretariat for Ministerial
Bishop Donald W. Trautman, Diocese
of Erie, P.O. Box 10397, Erie, PA 16514-0397