Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Distributing the Eucharist to Protestants?

In response to my post about who may receive the Eucharist, Anon asks, “What about our fellow Christians in Protestant faiths? What if they are baptized but no one has explained the meaning of the Eucharist to them? I was told (by a priest) that a baptized Christian may receive Eucharist if they are informed, fully believe it is the body and blood of Christ, and they are not in a state of mortal sin. Yet another priest indicated that the above is inadequate and that person should not receive. Is there a rule that you have to go through the RCIA program and formally become a Catholic before receiving the Eucharist? I am confused. I think a lot of people are confused about this one.”

Thanks for the questions, Anon. We can turn to Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, who was asked the same question online. Portions of his answer follow (to view the full text, click on the title of this post):

"John Paul II has spoken on the relationship between the Eucharist and ecumenism in his encyclical ‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia’:

'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.”


At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would seem to contradict the point made recently on this blog that one may receive the Eucharist even when he does not believe in the real presence.

At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to anon above-
very good point!

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

The question that I answered the other day referred to receiving the Eucharist in a 'state' of unbelief in the Real Presence. I answered it on the assumption that it was referring to a Catholic who was in a temporary state of unbelief; he/she had previously been disposed to receive the Eucharist (through instruction, formation, faith, etc.).

That would be different from a non-Catholic who has lived a permanent lack of faith in the Eucharist; he/she has not shared the Catholic faith in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, not been instructed and formed to receive, and thus not been previously disposed to receive.

Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the confusion.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A person who takes the Eucharist daily is he/she in a better state of grace than a person who takes the Eucharist weekly?


At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friends'(Anglican) grandmother died, and at the funeral there was distribution of the Eucharist but none of the Catholics took it. The Anglican people were a bit put off by this and couldn't understand why the Catholic people didn't partake of the Eucharist. An explanation was given but that didn't help any.


At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father Greg-
Please answer Markov's question!
Really cool question,dude.

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope Father Greg answers Markov's question too! Good question.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am a baptized presbyterian who is very interested in becommig Catholic. I have attended Catholic mass for the last year and have questions regarding the Eucharist. I truly believe in the power of the Eucharist and how it truly is the body and blood of Christ. I read your post and others online to find out if my own beliefs and desire to become Catholic would be enough for me to share in this sacrament. In one post I found this:

The guidelines for receiving Communion, which are issued by the U.S. bishops and published in many missalettes, explain, "We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray 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’ (John 17:21).

Is this true. Thank you father for your advice. God Bless.



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