Bishop McElroy: When bishops increase barriers to Communion, we are not being the pastors Pope Francis called us to be

By Gerard O’Connell, 11 October 2021
Bishop Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego. Image: Catholic Diocese of San Diego.


During his recent visit to Rome, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego gave a wide-ranging, exclusive interview to America’s Vatican correspondent.

In Part I of the interview, he speaks about political polarization in the United States and the divisions within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop over the push to deny Communion to pro-choice politicians. Bishop McElroy comments on Pope Francis’ remarks on the flight from Bratislava on the Communion question and the need for bishops to be pastors, not politicians. He expresses his hope that at their November meeting, the bishops can prioritize “eucharistic revival.”

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Gerard O’Connell: Six years ago, on Sept. 24, 2015, Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress and warned against “the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.” He said: “The contemporary world, with its open wounds, which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.”

My question: Has the pope’s message been heard?

Bishop McElroy: The pope’s talk to Congress was electrifying, particularly for congressional leaders and public officials, because it pointed to the better angels of our nature as a country: the great figures of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton and to the different dimensions that can elevate discourse, dialogue, public debate, decision-making and the true building of culture, with spirituality as its core. That was really a high-water mark for the vision that we as a country should be pursuing.

However, that vision has not transformed or even been able to hold the line on the course of the American political culture during this time, I am afraid. Things have gotten worse, not better, because the tribalism, the division, the politicization of every issue into partisan divides and the degree to which partisan labels have overtaken vast areas of human life. Now combat occurs across the entire culture in our country, even within families, within churches, within the society as a whole, within people’s work and friendships. It really is a corrosion that is taking place, accelerating rather than diminishing, I fear.

To continue reading this interview with Bishop McElroy, click here.

Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent and author of Inside the Election of Pope Francis. He has been covering the Vatican since 1985.

With thanks to America Magazine and Gerard O’Connell, where this article originally appeared.


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