Skip to comments.Holy Communion and Non-Catholics (with a Quiz!)
Posted on 03/28/2009 2:49:11 PM PDT by NYer
A readerSGsent a note:
I have a close friend whose primary reason for not becoming Catholic is one of the strangest I can think of. He agrees with all of the Church's moral teachings, and he's even comfortable with practically all of its theological doctrines ... but the thing that is holding him back is its practice of closed communion.
I once told him that there is an easy remedy to that: Become Catholic, and you can receive the Eucharist daily! But he says his objection isn't simply because he is personally being deprived, but because he thinks no one should be deprived simply because they aren't Catholic.
So SG put together a little "quiz" to help his friend realize "either that he is not actually being deprived of anything of great value; or that he is being deprived, but justly; or that even if he is being deprived unjustly, there is still good reason to submit to this injustice because the reward is so great." He then asked for thoughts on the soundness of the logic used in the quiz. Here it is:
Four Questions for Those Who Oppose the Catholic Church's Practice of Closed Communion
1. Do you believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, i.e. that the bread and wine, when consecrated, actually become the body and blood of Christ?
YES: Go on to question 2.
NO: Since you don't believe that what you are being deprived of is actually the body and blood of Christ, but merely bread and wine, you cannot argue that you are being deprived of anything of great value.
2. Do you believe that no special authority is required for a Christian to be able to consecrate the Eucharistic bread and wine?
NO: Go on to question 3.
YES: Then you are not being deprived of the body and blood of Christ, since you yourself should be able to consecrate the Eucharistic bread and wine.
3. If a Church defies God's will by unjustly withholding the Eucharist from a vast number of people, do you believe that God would still transubstantiate the Eucharistic bread and wine during the consecration by that Church's ordained ministers?
YES: Go on to the Final Question.
NO: Then either: 1) you are not being deprived of the body and blood of Christ, since the Eucharist that the Catholic Church distributes remains merely bread and wine, or 2) you are being deprived of the body and blood of Christ, but it is God's will that you be deprived, as a way of drawing you into the Church.
Final Question: What ransom would you not pay to receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist?
In other words, even if it is true that the Church is wrong to withhold the Eucharist from those who are not Catholic, isn't the Eucharist valuable enough to you that "paying the ransom" the Church demands is justified?
An analogy: Imagine if your child were kidnapped, and a ransom of $10,000 were demanded. You might firmly believe that kidnapping is wrong and that the kidnappers don't deserve to be rewarded for immoral behavior, but you might also acknowledge that it is more important to get your child back than to refuse to pay the ransom on principle.
In the same way, even if you think the Church is wrong to practice closed communion, isn't it more important to receive the Eucharist than to deprive yourself of it on principle?
I find the first set of questions more engaging and helpful than the final question, since it relies upon a negative analogy (ransom and kidnapping) that skews, I think, the positive nature of the Church's stance on non-Catholics receiving Eucharist (recognizing, of course, that there are extraordinary exceptions).
SG is certainly correct in saying this is a strange hiccup to have, especially if the person in question is "on board" with the Church's theological and moral teachings. But I do wonder about that, since this is very much a theological question that is intimately connected to what the Church teaches about the nature and meaning of both Holy Communion and the Church. On one level, there is the simple matter of Church authority, which is part of what the "quiz" is aimed at conveying: if you've accepted that the Church has the authority to administer the sacraments, and you believe the Church was founded and established by Jesus Christ, and continually guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, then why the qualms?
But there is another approach, one I've used in talking to various Evangelical Protestant friends and relatives. Some of them ask about Holy Communion simply out of curiosity, but some are upset that they cannot go forward and receive the Eucharist. This is, of course, most interesting since none of them have ever professed (to me at least) to believing in the Real Presence. Anyhow, I have used the analogy of marriage, which has the plus of being both an analogy and a reality, if understood correctly. Here's the basic outline:
1. God's relationship with His people is marital and nuptial in nature. The Catechism, drawing upon a variety of passages from Scripture, states:
2. The sacrament of marriage, of the other six sacraments, is most like the sacrament of the Eucharist in that it is the intimate and exclusive gift of one's self to another, a reality signified and realized in the exchange of vows and the union of body and soul. As Fr. James T O'Connor puts it in his magnificent book, The Hidden Manna (Ignatius Press, 2005; 2nd edition): "Our union with him in the Eucharist is like a marriage. This marriage imagery is but an extension of that used to describe the relationship between God and his people as depicted in the Bible" (p 338). St. Paul wrote: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church..." (Eph 5:31-32). In the words of the Catechism: "Since it signifies and communicates grace, marriage between baptized persons is a true sacrament of the New Covenant" (par 1617).
3. The Church teaches (and many non-Catholics agree with her) that the marital embrace/sexual union is meant for marriage only. There are several reasons for this, but it's enough to note that sexual union involves the gift of each spouse to the other, and that this gift reflects, in a profound way, the gift of Christ to his Bride, the Church. To be married is to publicly proclaim one's love, loyalty, and singular commitment to the other; it is to swear a sacred, covenantal oath. It is not enough to say, as many do, "Hey, baby, I love you. We don't need to get married to have sex. That's just a piece of paper." On the contrary, that "piece of paper" is evidence that you have made a public, life-long commitment rooted in and demonstrating real love.
4. Likewise, reception of the Eucharistthe true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christis meant for those who are in full communion with Christ and his Church, which is his Mystical Body. The Eucharist is the marriage feast of the Lamb (CCC, par 1617, 1244). Receiving Holy Communion, then, is a public vow of full communion and complete commitment with the Catholic Church. "How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart -- it was truly a kiss of love," wrote St. Thérèse about her first Communion, "I knew that I was loved and said, 'I love You, and I give myself to You forever.' Jesus asked for nothing, He claimed no sacrifice. Long before that, He and little Thérèse had seen and understood one another well, but on that day it was more than a meeting -- it was a complete fusion."
5. Therefore, it's not enough to say, "I love Jesus," since even those who are not married can express love for one another; nor is it enough to say, "I'm planning on entering the Church soon," since those who are engaged are not married, however sincere their intent to be married. Sex before or outside of marriage is, put simply, a lie. It is partaking of that which is meant for marriage only, and it does so outside of the proper public and marital bonds.
Likewise, receiving Holy Communion as a non-Catholic (again, with an understanding of certain limited exceptions) is a lie. It says, "I am in communion with the Catholic Church despite not being in communion with the Catholic Church." Sincerity isn't enough. Good intentions aren't enough. Warm, fuzzy feelings aren't enough. Obviously this sometimes happens without a full understanding that what is taking place is wrong; as with all sinful acts there is an objective and subjective facet, as well as differing degrees of culpability. But this is why it is such a travesty for Eucharist to be knowingly given to someone who is not Catholic, because it causes someone to speak a lie with their actions.
As I indicated above, this approach is based on the belief that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and the Church's teachings about the nature and meaning of the sacrament of marriage and the sacrament of the Eucharist. That SG's friend says "he thinks no one should be deprived simply because they aren't Catholic" suggests a failure, in some important way, to appreciate those teachings and what necessarily follows from them in Church practice and discipline.
Saturday evening ping and quiz :-)
Is he actually trying to claim that anyone outside of the Catholic Church is barred from receiving the Eucharist?
I have had some friends who have attended Mass with me but hadn’t been to church for years ask me the same question. I simply told them we are one body in worship with Christ in what we believe and suppose to live. We say amen when we receive holy communion,yes to what we believe. I have kids not of age who also wanted to receive holy communion. One little boy asked to go to communion and I said he wasn’t old enough yet and said you have to be seven,he then looked me straight in the eye and politely said,well I am seven!! He was four years old at the time. We also fast before Mass so as to receive holy communion and we also practice not receiving unworthy with being in serious sin. There are many different ways one cannot receive holy communion. It it about the sacred,Christ,not just what we think or want. We have plenty of other ways of demanding our own way. We practice humbleness,sacredness,rightenous!! Grace! So maybe that frined is not ready to be Catholic.
This is the practice of the Catholic Church, not just this one individual, and for the very reasons cited above. This is also true in the Orthodox Church. In Church missalettes, it reads:
For our fellow Christians
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We ray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844, paragraph 4).
I take it you were not aware of this. Think about it ... the word "Communion" is what unites same believers.
Missouri Synod Lutherans have the same issue, and also embrace the doctrine of transsubstantiation. They (we) adhere to closed communion as well, a continual source of whining from the left-leaners.
Let's take it one step further. Is he also claiming that Transubstantiation does NOT occur in an Episcopalian church service?
I was raised Catholic. I always knew there was a reason you could not receive Communion in a Catholic church but was not truly aware of the Canonical reasons behind it.
I don't agree with it. If my children were with me at a Catholic Mass I would not hesitate to take them to Communion since they have already received at the Episcopal church we go to.
I am not Roman Catholic, but I do believe that the Roman Catholic Church ought to be able to act in accordance with its own dcotrines, principles, and understandings. If that means that someone who is not a Roman Catholic cannot receive Communion in a Roman Catholic church, then I am perfectly comfortable with that.
It seems to me that SG's close friend is an product of a culture that seems to have lost the point that beliefs really do matter. SG's friend seems to think that it is just plain wrong for the Roman Catholic Church to act on its own beliefs.
SG's close friend sounds very much as though he would feel very comfortable with what I understand that Unitarian/Universalists believe -- no one is excluded from anything.
It is in fact the teaching of the Catholic Church that transubstantiation does NOT occur in Anglican services, for the reason that Anglican clergy are not part of the Apostolic succession.
Confecting the Eucharist requires a validly ordained priest who is able to trace his priestly lineage back to the Apostles. Jesus divinely instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper. He told the apostles and to those who they would ordain what He began they were to carry on. This has been done for 2000+ years by the laying on of hands. The Episcopal Church came into existence as an independent denomination after the American Revolution. It does not have validly ordained priests.
I was raised Catholic.
Were you baptized into the Catholic Church? If so, then you may receive communion in a Catholic Church but only after you have gone to confession. If your children were baptized in the Catholic Church and celebrated the Sacrament of First Penance, then you may make arrangements for them to prepare for First Communion.
What were your reasons for leaving the Catholic Church, if you don't mind my asking?
“Is he also claiming that Transubstantiation does NOT occur in an Episcopalian church service?”
Undoubtedly. I’d maintain the same thing. Aside from some baptisms, the only sacraments which Orthodoxy and Rome accept are those of each other.
“If my children were with me at a Catholic Mass I would not hesitate to take them to Communion since they have already received at the Episcopal church we go to.”
The Episcopal ecclesial group is not in communion with the Pope of Rome, nor with any of the Orthodox Churches. What is the basis for your presumption that it is proper to approach the chalice in a Latin Church? The discipline of the Latin Church forbids it. It allows me as an Orthodox Christian to approach but my Church forbids me to do so. My Church also forbids you and anyone else who is not Orthodox, including Latin Rite Catholics, from approaching. Sadly, what you propose, namely that you will decide what the discipline of The Church should be regarding communion, has lead to the necessity in many Orthodox Churches for the priest to announce before communion that it is reserved for Orthodox Christians in good standing who have prepared themselves by fasting and confession according to the disciplinary canons of The Church.
As it should be :-) There is no reason for anyone to take personal offense.
So as to the first question, being in the Lord’s Prescence and breaking bread with Him, has no value? Your quiz is rigged
I have a problem with the praying to Mary and the saints thing. I only pray to Jesus, or The Lord, or The Holy Spirit (in essence, to the one true God, The Holy Trinity). Praying to different Catholic saints for different reasons strikes me as odd. No offense please, just saying that is odd speaking as a conservative Lutheran. I so admire and commend the Catholic church for never faltering in their pro-life fight. That makes the Catholic church very inviting for conservatives who find it more and more difficult to find a pro-life church.
I'm not sure I follow you here. What do you mean by "being in the Lord's Presence"? In Catholic Churches around the world, any consecrated bread that remains from Communion, is placed in a Tabernacle. Before the Tabernacle is a lamp that burns day and night, to remind us the Jesus Christ is truly present within. Consequently, even for those not receiving communion, they sit in Christ's presence.
Or are you referring to the Scripture passage that says: 'Where two or more are gathered in my name, there will I be also"?
Hey it could be worse. You could be one of us dirty Presbyterians.
Imagine the responses you’d get THEN...
Catholics, despite what you may have been told, do not pray to Mary or the saints. We ask for their intervention.
"The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, [Cf. Heb 12:1 .] especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were 'put in charge of many things.' [Cf. Mt 25:21.] Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world."
Catechism of the Catholic Church 2683
While He was dieing on the Cross, Jesus entrusted His mother to us. She leads all men to her Son. In every icon of Mary with the Child Jesus, you will notice that she points to Him, not herself.
It’s “close” communion, not “closed” communion, although many people say “closed” when they mean “close” when speaking of the union in communion.
Even a theology oriented to the concept of succession, such as that which holds in the Catholic and in the Orthodox Church, need not in any way deny the salvation granting presence of the Lord in a Lutheran Lord's Supper.
I figure this guy could go far.
The way I understand it, the only time an Orthodox believer is allowed to approach a Latin priest (allowed by Rome, that is) is in case of grave emergency. And Latins are allowed to approach an Orthodox priest in similar circumstances.
But in grave emergencies only, not as a regular practice.