Expert Answer Forum

Holy Communion QUESTION from M. Tunkis April 12, 2000
Are non-Catholics (but certainly Christians) allowed to receive the Sacrament of Eucharist during Mass? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on April 12, 2000
Dear M. Tunkis, If they are members of one of the the Eastern Orthodox Churches they may approach the Sacraments under specific conditions. The rules pertaining to Protestant Christians are much more restrictive so Communion is not open to them under ordinary circumstances. The following excerpts come from the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Can. 844 §1 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic members of Christ's faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic ministers, except as provided in §§2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 §2. §2 Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ's faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid. §3 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the eastern Churches not in full communion with the catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other Churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern Churches so far as the sacraments are concerned. §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. So what does this mean? As stated above, members of the Eastern Orthodox Churches may to receive the Sacrament of Eucharist during Mass provided they are properly disposed (in a state of grace) just like a Catholic. Protestant Christians on the other hand may not receive the Eucharist or Anointing of the Sick unless they; 1. Are in danger of death. 2. In the absence of the danger of death there must be an extremely serious (grave) need for the person to receive the Sacraments. This need is not to be determined by the priest administering the Sacraments but is reserved to the judgement of the diocesan Bishop or the National Bishops Conference; 3. Spontaneously ask for the Sacraments; 4. Show that they hold to the Catholic understanding of these Sacraments; 5. Are in a state of grace. It seems that such situations would be quite rare. I hope this answers your question. John Miskell Back to Index Page

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