CV NEWS FEED // Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, raised eyebrows this week when he criticized his fellow American bishops, in part for their effort to increase their flocks’ devotion to the Eucharist.
In an essay published by Commonweal Magazine, Stowe praised Pope Francis and the controversial Synod on Synodality – a yearslong process initiated by the Vatican.
There are “critiques of the process, suspicions of its agenda, and attempts to discredit it,” Stowe complained. “Reception by the bishops in the United States can be characterized as lukewarm at best.”
Stowe suggested that his brother bishops in the U.S. displayed the “dominant cultural pragmatism in North America” by questioning where the synod “is going.” “Bishops frequently stated that they do not know how to lead a process when the desired outcome of that process is unclear,” he wrote.
He then confronted the U.S. bishops over the Eucharistic Revival, initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to the troubling discovery that a large majority of American Catholics no longer believe the Church’s teaching that Jesus Christ is fully present in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. The bishops’ agreed to promote devotion to the Eucharist in part by encouraging the practice of Eucharistic adoration among the laity.
“It is easy to see why the national ‘Eucharistic Revival’ has received far more energy, attention, and resources in the U.S. Church” than the Synod on Synodality has, Stowe wrote:
there is a plan, there is marketing, there is a beginning and end point, there is substantial funding, and there is a problem to be addressed, namely the concern that Catholics do not believe sufficiently in the Real Presence.
Stowe continued with an even more direct attack on the bishops’ effort.
“Instead of ensuring a eucharistic centrality to the synodal process, allowing for an organic discernment about our eucharistic understanding, plans for a mega-event featuring plenty of pre-conciliar piety and theology have replaced the focus on the Synod for a Synodal Church in the USCCB,” he wrote:
It does not strike me as coincidental that much of the Eucharistic Revival focuses on eucharistic adoration, passive in nature, and so offers an easy alternative to the active engagement of walking together synodally.
The surprising criticism quickly generated a flurry of concerned and puzzled responses from Catholic thinkers on social media.
“Why, for the love of Pete, would anyone describe adoration this way?” wrote Catholic moral theologian Charlie Camosy.
“It’s sad that a bishop would put it that way,” added Catholic publisher Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press. “Also, the reference to ‘pre-conciliar piety’. Well, ‘prayer’ is an ancient, ‘preconciliar’ idea.”
Catholic author and speaker Stephen White responded by simply quoting Pope St. John XXIII, whom Stowe’s essay had cited as a model for the Church today.
Readers can find Stowe’s full essay here.