Skip to comments.Eucharist for Non-Catholics
Posted on 08/18/2004 6:45:01 AM PDT by NYer
ROME, AUG. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: I have been a Eucharistic minister to the sick for the past 10 years. I have done this in four different dioceses. I have permission from the local bishop to bring daily Communion to a gravely ill relative. This past Sunday, I met several Episcopalians and Lutherans who really wanted to participate in some type of a service too. My heart went out to them. In all our readings Jesus healed based on a person's faith, not their creed. I have not shared Communion, but my heart says this would be good for the faith of those who are suffering. May the Eucharist be shared among non-Catholic if there is faith in the Real Presence? Must I abide by Church law? -- S.C., Little Rock, Arkansas
A: John Paul II has spoken on the relationship between the Eucharist and ecumenism in his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia":
"The gift of Christ and his Spirit which we receive in Eucharistic communion superabundantly fulfills the yearning for fraternal unity deeply rooted in the human heart; at the same time it elevates the experience of fraternity already present in our common sharing at the same Eucharistic table to a degree which far surpasses that of the simple human experience of sharing a meal. Through her communion with the body of Christ the Church comes to be ever more profoundly 'in Christ in the nature of a sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument of intimate unity with God and of the unity of the whole human race.'
"The seeds of disunity, which daily experience shows to be so deeply rooted in humanity as a result of sin, are countered by the unifying power of the body of Christ. The Eucharist, precisely by building up the Church, creates human community" (No. 24).
Later, in No. 46 of the encyclical, the Pope reminds us of those rare cases, and under what conditions, non-Catholic Christians may be admitted to the sacraments of the Eucharist, reconciliation and anointing of the sick.
This administration is limited to "Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid."
It adds: "These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases. That is because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive 'communion' in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of orders."
The Holy Father refers to several numbers of the Ecumenical Directory which specify these conditions in more detail, in its chapter on "Sharing Spiritual Activities and Resources."
The general principles involved in this sharing must reflect this double fact:
"1) The real communion in the life of the Spirit which already exists among Christians and is expressed in their prayer and liturgical worship;
"2) The incomplete character of this communion because of differences of faith and understanding which are incompatible with an unrestricted mutual sharing of spiritual endowments."
For these reasons the Church recognizes that "in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities" (No. 130).
Apart from the case of danger of death, the episcopal conference and the local bishop may specify other grave circumstances in which a Protestant may receive these sacraments although always respecting the conditions outlined above in the Holy Father's encyclical: "that the person be unable to have recourse for the sacrament desired to a minister of his or her own Church or ecclesial Community, ask for the sacrament of his or her own initiative, [and] manifest Catholic faith in this sacrament and be properly disposed" (No. 131).
Therefore in general it is not possible for you to give Communion to Protestants. But if you find one who fulfills the above conditions, you should advise the local pastor so that the person may receive reconciliation and anointing of the sick.
This does not mean that you are completely despoiled of all possibilities of giving spiritual comfort while exercising one of the corporal works of mercy.
Apart from words of encouragement and consolation you could also use some of the spiritual treasury of readings, prayers and intercessions found in the ritual for the care of the sick. Thus you could pray for, and with, these souls in a time of need.
Should this ever happen to you, here's the response.
I don't often "butt in" on these threads, but the obvious question to me is what are the rules governing Catholic communion as they pertain to military chaplains, especially under combat conditons? I know for a fact that Catholic chaplains routinely provide pastoral care for non-Catholics, and vice versa from Protestant chaplains to Catholics when the "other chaplain" is not available to minister to those of his faith. Until reading this article, however, I had never thought about this in the context of the sacraments.
It seems kind of weird that a dyinig person who professes belief in the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist can receive Communion without having to embrace all the teachings of the Catholic Church but a healthy one with the same mindset cannot receive.
Or do I just not understand this?
I have run into this situation with my mother in law. She tells me that I am the only person who ever explained to her that non-Catholics may not receive Communion - she says her own Lutheran minister and other Catholic priests have told her tht inter-communion is now permitted. I also have a friend who regularly takes her Lutheran sister in law to Communion because 'she is a good person and goes to Lutheran services every week'. Their cousin is a monsignor here in Boston and he administers Communion to this woman as well (his cousin is this woman's husband), knowing full well she is a practicing Lutheran.
It's a jungle out there.
Canon 844 (4) of the Code of Canon Law provides:
§4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgement of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.When we left the Episcopal Church because it finally and unmistakeably tipped over the edge into heresy, we conferred at length with the rector of our new (Catholic) parish. Because the archbishop here has permitted "high" (i.e. crypto-Catholic) Episcopalians to receive the Eucharist when their own church is not available, and in our rector's judgment our church was no longer "available" to us, we did receive the Sacraments before we were received into the communion. (We did, however, go to Confession first!)
The situation of a military chaplain in a war is plainly a "grave and pressing need" and probably also "danger of death." So administration of the Sacraments in that context is permitted.
This is an excellent question!! You may want to do some research at this site.
Failing that, you may want to consider emailing them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you do, please post their response. Thank you!
I'll look some more out of curiosity, but if I was a Catholic chaplain ministering to a dying soldier, the first sacraments I would think of would be Baptism and Extreme Unction. I agree. To die with unconfessed sin.... tragic... but for a non-Catholic to die without receiving the Eucharist which he probably really doesn't understand anyway (or he would have become a Catholic) isn't on the same level.
But let's face it... the wording is big enough to drive a Mack truck through if one wishes to do that. For one thing 'a Catholic minister' - well, is that an ordained priest only or does it include EEMs, commonly referred to by most priests/parishes/some dioceses as 'Eucharistic ministers' or 'ministers of the Eucharist'.
It's all in the language - which should be precise and abundantly clear to everyone.
Isn't this a matter of who reported on the incident? I seem to recall reading the account of 'someone who was there' and TB only received a papal blessing.
Dodgy... my mother in law could then claim that since there is no Lutheran Church in our town or in surrounding towns, she is entitled, under Catholic teaching, to receive Communion at a Catholic parish?
Yes, right to the point and no room for confusing theological words. Yes or No are good.
Umm, you know that many Protestants perfectly well understand the significance of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist. It's upon other matters of faith which they disagree with the Catholic Church. But precisely because we disagree on some important matters we should seek administration of the Sacraments from someone ordained in our own faith, excepting only in instances of grave emergency. (imminent participation in mortal combat for a just cause is just such an emergency, in my opinion)
I agree with you - even between us, consubstantiation and transubstantiation are two entirely different things although similar in some respects.
I think some of the words in the answer provided by the pope are direct and others can be played with... and are played with by quite a few of the ordained who should know better.
Not sure what exactly I am trying to say here but it's something like, just like everything else, we have gotten to the point where 'no' is taken as a personal insult and an opportunity to be the victim of prejudice of some sort or other (sit on the back of the bus).
Now, in the case of imminent danger (war) there may be a soul who does believe in what the Catholic Church teaches and would have converted if he had more time. In that scenerio, of course he would want to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and confess his sins to an ordained Catholic priest.
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