Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dear Father Tharp,
I am an old-fashioned Catholic. Just wondering about this – Would the Catholic Church approve of a Methodist minister to receive the bread and wine given during the Catholic Mass?

Name and Hometown Withheld

First, let’s clear up a point of confusion that is present in your question. Nobody, Catholic, Protestant, or Pagan, who receives Holy Communion at any Holy Mass receives bread and wine. It is the firm and constant teaching of the Catholic Church that after the words of Consecration, apart from its appearances, nothing of the bread and wine remains. What one receives at Holy Mass is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the same Body born of the Virgin Mary. On this point, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “[I]n the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained (CCC# 1374).’” It is an unfortunate state of affairs but we have grown far too casual with our language concerning this most wondrous Sacrament. Unclear language gives growth to unclear belief. From unclear belief comes every sort of aberration in the proper and pious witness that Catholics must render so that others may be saved.

Now, in principle, the Church does not advocate or encourage the reception of Holy Communion by Protestant Christians, those ecclesial communities whose origins are found in the Reformation. The Holy Eucharist, along with being the Body and Blood of Our Lord, is also a sign and the source of the visible unity that should exist within the Church. This is why notorious public sinners are excluded from Holy Communion; their actions have distanced them from the Church. Difference in belief and practice result in real divisions within the body of those who profess to believe in Christ and therefore, until the scandal of division is healed, general intercommunion is not possible (cf. CCC #1400).

However, with that said, the Church recognizes that, under grave situations, a non-Catholic Christian, could be admitted to the Holy Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick if the following conditions were fulfilled: 1.) the person asked of their own free will and 2.) must profess the same faith as the Church as concerns the nature of these Sacraments (CCC #1401). The Code of Canon Law further specifies that the non-Catholic must be deprived of the minister of their own community and are properly disposed to receive them. Further, the Code adds the instruction that the non-Catholic in question must be in danger of death or in some other serious situation as defined by the Bishop or the Bishops’ Conference (CIC, can. 844, § 4).

So, to answer your question, the answer would be no. The Church would not approve, generally, of a Methodist minister receiving Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass. By the fact the Church’s teaching and law employs the term “grave,” it is reasonable to conclude that any reception of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, by a non-Catholic should be very rare. In the situation you describe there is the added fact that this person is a minister within his own community. It is impossible for him, barring the circumstances of imminent death, to be without a minister from his own community. Therefore, I cannot see any rationale for that situation persisting.

DVD Bonus: As a bonus for this article I wanted to give a couple of alternative opening paragraphs that ended up in the deleted pile.

Alternative Opening 1: "Wow, you really are an old-fashioned Catholic. You hold a belief about the Holy Eucharist which predates Christianity!"

Alterative Opening 2: "If it all that we were receiving at Holy Mass was bread and wine, then anyone could come and receive. What we receive is not Bread and Wine. It is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Our Lord."

There were meaner ones which for sake of not having to go to confession remain hidden in my brain.


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