VAICAN CITY — Cardinals Blase Cupich and Joseph Tobin met with the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican just days before the congregation’s prefect sent a letter urging the U.S. bishops to fulfill a set of conditions before implementing a plan regarding pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion.
The Register has confirmed through Vatican sources that the two cardinals, both of whom oppose stricter rules on the issue, visited the Vatican mid-morning on April 30, during which they met with CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria.
Cardinal Cupich, of Chicago, and Cardinal Tobin, of Newark, New Jersey, returned to the United States on May 1, the sources said. Both are members of the Congregation for Bishops but they did not visit the dicastery, a congregation official told the Register.
The Holy See Press Office was contacted for confirmation of their Rome visit. It did not respond by publication time but the meeting was confirmed by two other Vatican sources.
Their trip took place a week before Cardinal Ladaria sent a letter dated May 7 to Archbishop Jose Gomez, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which he urged a number of steps be taken before the bishops rule on a national policy regarding Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
Cardinal Ladaria’s letter responded to the USCCB’s plans to vote on whether to draft a document clarifying the bishops’ position on the issue by formulating a national policy at their annual general assembly in June. U.S. bishops remain divided over such a policy, which has come to the fore with the election of Catholic President Joe Biden, who has driven through a raft of pro-abortion policies.
In his letter, the CDF prefect recommended several steps be taken before the bishops can move forward with their plan lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger Church in the United States.”
He first advised a two-stage process of dialogue “first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.” The CDF had recommended such a dialogue during the bishops’ 2019-2020 ad limina visit, he said.
But Cardinal Ladaria further cautioned that even once an agreement has been reached on a national policy, the bishops would then have to undertake the “difficult task of discerning the best way forward” in order to “witness to the grave moral responsibility of Catholic public officials to protect human life at all stages.”
He advised that a statement would then have to be drafted “to express a true consensus on the matter,” and added that any policy would have to “respect the rights of individual Ordinaries in their dioceses and the prerogatives of the Holy See.”
The CDF prefect also said any statement should be framed within the “broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholics, reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament.”
“It would be misleading,” he added, “if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics.
“Every effort should be made to dialogue with other episcopal conferences as this policy is formulated in order both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the Universal Church,” Cardinal Ladaria wrote.
The cardinal prefect also recommended the bishops consult a memo, which was meant to be private, that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent in 2004 to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then archbishop of Washington D.C., containing general principles on the worthiness to receive Holy Communion. But he stressed those guidelines should only be discussed within the context of an “authoritative” doctrinal note issued by the CDF in 2002 On Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life.
Cardinal Ratzinger’s memo, issued when pro-abortion Catholic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was running for president, clearly forbade such a politician from receiving Holy Communion “until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin.”
Cardinal McCarrick never presented it to the bishops who were eventually unable to reach a general agreement and left it in the hands of individual bishops to decide. The 2002 doctrinal note is broader in scope and although it urges Catholic politicians to defend the basic right to life, it offers clauses that can be read more loosely than Cardinal Ratzinger’s memo.
Cardinal Ladaria’s letter, which urges unanimity among U.S. bishops when internal divisions persist over the issue, comes after Cardinal Cupich wrote to Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila last month expressing “a number of concerns” about views Archbishop Aquila had expressed in an essay arguing that the Eucharist cannot be given to public officials “who persistently govern in violation of the natural law, particularly the pre-eminent issues of abortion and euthanasia.”
This is Cardinal Cupich’s second known visit to the Vatican this year. In January, Pope Francis received him in a private audience 10 days after he had publicly criticized a statement from Archbishop Gomez to mark President Biden’s inauguration that drew attention to the bishops’ opposition to the Biden administration’s pro-abortion policies.