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U.S. Bishops Heading to Baltimore for First In-Person Assembly Since 2019…

5. Enough is enough? Not all the action for this assembly will be taking place inside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, where the bishops will gather. 

St. Michael’s Media, Inc., the parent company of the website Church Militant, has organized a prayer rally on Tuesday, Nov. 16, calling for the bishops to repentance for sexual abuse coverups and other offenses, at the nearby MECU Pavilion. Titled “Bishops: Enough is Enough,” the rally is scheduled to include speeches by former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon and political commentator Milo Yiannopolous, among others.

6. Standing up in defense of the unborn. In addition to the aforementioned prayer rally, “The Men’s March,” in opposition to abortion, will take place Monday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 330 N. Howard St. and ending outside the bishops’ hotel. The call to action on the event’s website captures the intended spirit of the march: “There is a man connected to every abortion. Men are a big part of the problem, IT’S TIME for all men to take responsibility and be a big part of the solution.” (Note to participants: Suits are required.)

7. The elephant (or is it a donkey?) in the room. Following the June 2021 assembly, one could be forgiven if they came away with the idea that the bishops had told Biden he could never enter a church again. 

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“Targeting Biden, Catholic Bishops Advance Controversial Communion Plan,” said the New York Times. “Catholic bishops back document that could lead to limits of Communion for Biden,” wrote the Washington Post. There even was a Twitter moment compiled by the website, proclaiming “US Catholic bishops to draft Communion document that could rebuke Biden.” 

Of course, none of those headlines were an entirely accurate telling of what actually happened in June over Zoom. The USCCB has no power to excommunicate Biden. That’s not what a conference of bishops does, it’s not what it’s intended for, and it’s not something they would do even if they could. 

That being said, back in June the bishops did vote overwhelmingly in favor of drafting a document on Eucharistic coherence. Now that they’ve done so, in preparation for the bishops to vote on it at this assembly, it’s certain to dominate media coverage of the event.

In mid-October, the draft text of the document, titled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” leaked. An analysis of its 26 pages reveals that it doesn’t contain anything that could even remotely be considered a “rebuke” of Biden, or any politician of any political persuasion. 

The only reference to politicians came in the form of a restatement of the USCCB’s 2006 statement about Catholics in public life. Further, there was no criteria whatsoever in the draft about what would prohibit a person from reception of the Eucharist. The document mainly centered on the real presence, and the Eucharist as a tool for conversion. 

Of course, it’s still possible for the bishops to amend the document before it comes to a full vote. A two-thirds majority is needed for passage, and it would still need the Vatican’s approval before it could become a teaching document.

8. Tuning in. The parts of the assembly that are open to the media — Nov. 16 and 17 — will be livestreamed on the USCCB website, which will publish a full schedule of meetings and speeches.

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