Expert Answer Forum
Communion QUESTION from Rick Ales December 27, 1999 As a Catholic I have always been told that no one outside my faith may receive the Holy Eucharist. I regret I do not understand why and I have done some research which has led me to Reverend Paul Turner, Pastor of St John Regis Parish in Kansas City, Mo. who holds a doctorate in Sacremental Theoolgy from Saint Anselmo University in Rome. e-mail PaulTu@aol.com
He writes Catholic communion is just that, a sign of Catholic unity. The Eucharist symbolizes our union with God but also our union with one another. this is taken out of context from his web page at http://www.rpinet.com/ml/2310bi2.html.
This incident which troubles me arose at a Christmas Mass when my daughter's boyfriend started to go to communion with her. She told him he sholud not since she had been taught as I that if you are not Catholic you should not partake of the Eucharist.
This bothered the young man and my daughter who are obviously in love and I believe very serious.
Can you help me with a valid explanation and perhaps some canon law which explains just why a protestant cannot receive communion when their differences are with the church and not their belief in Christ. I like and respect this young man and feel that a valid explanation is owed him and I am at a loss to give him one.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 28, 1999 Dear Mr. Ales:
Yes, you understand correctly as you have read it from Rev. Turner. Catholic Communion is a symbol of our union with God AND with each other. As such allowing communion with people who are NOT in union (who don't agree) with us is improper.
Let us take a look at this issue from the official teaching of the Church as outlined in the Catechism, especially paragraph 1400:
1391 Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 1396 The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:
1398 The Eucharist and the unity of Christians. Before the greatness of this mystery St. Augustine exclaims, O sacrament of devotion! O sign of unity! O bond of charity! The more painful the experience of the divisions in the Church which break the common participation in the table of the Lord, the more urgent are our prayers to the Lord that the time of complete unity among all who believe in him may return.
1400 Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders. It is for this reason that, for the Catholic Church, Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible. However these ecclesial communities, when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper . . . profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory.
The Eucharist, shared in communion with others, means that we are in unity with each other. Being in unity with one another means that we agree upon the elements of faith of which the Eucharist represents.
If a person doesn’t believe the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ, then how are they in union with us? It would be a lie for us to allow inter-communion in that instance because to take the Eucharist with us is to AGREE with us about the Eucharist.
If a person does not agree with the dogma and definitive teaching of the Church, then they are not in communion, that is, not in union with us, and thus it is improper for them to take the Eucharist. To do so would be to lie. Taking the Eucharist means that the person AGREES with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Finally, you state that Protestants are in union with us on Christ and just not on the Church. This is not true. When the Church speaks, Christ speaks. The Catholic Church is not just some organization that happens to follow Jesus. Jesus is NOT independent of the Church. The Church is His bride. It is the True Church that Jesus Himself established. The Catholic Church is the living and visible Body of Christ on the earth. This is not mere differences in Churchology. It is fundamental differences that go to the core of the teachings of Christ.
If for no other reason, Protestants cannot share the Eucharist with us because they don’t believe in Christ in the Eucharist – the Real Presence. This is the CORE of the faith. It is the central core of Jesus’ promise to be with us always. It is the central core of our Church.
But Protestants also disagree with us on many other central dogmas and doctrines.
It is sad, but Protestants and Catholics are NOT in union with each other. To pretend that we are is a lie.
To lie is a sin. To lie (especially about the very core and nature of the Body and Blood of Christ) out of a sense of niceness and neighborliness is a greater scandal.
When we take the Eucharist together we are affirming that we are in complete agreement on the Real Presence and on all other required dogmas and doctrines of the Church. If a person, whether Protestant or Catholic takes the Eucharist and does NOT believe in what the Church teaches, even on one point that is required for belief, then that person is lying to the community and flipping his nose at God saying, I don't believe in this, but I will abuse you Lord and take of You anyway.
We need to pray that someday the Protestants will be enlightened to the fullness of the faith and come to believe all that Jesus taught about Himself (such as in the Eucharist), and about faith and morals, and about His Church. Until that day comes, we are not in communion with each other. We cannot pretend that we are unless we wish to offend God and commit sacrilege against the Eucharist (remember St. Paul talks about people who got sick and even died for committing sacrilege against the Eucharist. This is a serious thing.)
May all of the Christian world come into full union someday with Christ and His Church under His appointed Prime Minister, the Pope. This separation is a scandal upon the faith and a sorrow to our Lord. Let us work toward unity, but let us never fall into the temptation of lying about a unity that is not there for the sake of plausibilty. As Christians we are bound to tell the truth, even when that truth is hard.
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