US Catholic promotes reception of Protestant “communion”? Fr Z really rants.

A reader alerted me to an article in US Catholic suggesting that Catholics can receive “communion” in Lutheran (read: Protestant) services.

Sound right to you?

Good… thought not.

Let’s have a look with my comments and emphases.

Should you pass on communion at a Lutheran church or participate fully?

You are at the wedding of a beloved family member or friend, which is taking place at a Lutheran church. You gladly accepted the invitation to celebrate this happy day with the bride and groom. But then there is a call to come to the table of the Lord’s Supper, to receive communion. This is the awkward moment you knew was coming.

Can you, and should you, a practicing Catholic, accept the invitation?  [This is where you are to say, “No. Of course not.”]

According to the Code of Canon Law, receiving communion in a Protestant church is generally not permissible. [generally?] According to canon 844, “Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers.” [Hmmm… isn’t there actually a bit more text to that canon?] The key term here is licit. If a Catholic receives communion from a Protestant minister, it is generally considered “illicit” or unlawful. [Not to mention it a blasphemous act of idolatry.  We are not talking a here about an ancient and apostolic Church with valid orders and sacraments, such as an Orthodox Church.  Protestants have “ecclesial communities”, but not Churches, as the clear document from the CDF teaches.  They have no valid orders or Eucharist.  They have an entirely and heretical notion of the Eucharist.  Reception of their “communion” is wrong.]

The reason for the Catholic Church’s general rule against sharing in the Eucharist with other churches is that a person can only be in full communion with one church. As a Catholic, the core of one’s union with Christ is union with the church. The center of this union lies in the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass, which is both a confession and embodiment of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.  [There is a bit more to it than that, but let that pass.  And it is always fascinating to see how some people reduce doctrinal points to “rules”, when “rules” are actually based on doctrine.]

But canon 844 includes an exception to the rule “whenever necessity requires or general spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided.” [A situation might develop when a Catholic cannot approach or be visited by a Catholic minister of a sacrament.  It is possible to receive a valid sacrament from a non-Catholic validly ordained minister in an emergency.  Protestants could give advice and comfort, but no valid Eucharist or absolution.]

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism said that, as a general rule, [there’s that language again] common worship and eucharistic and other sacramental sharing should “signify the unity of the church.” But it acknowledges that such sharing can also be seen as advancing unity. In fact, according to the decree, “the gaining of a needed grace sometimes commends” it.  [squish…splat…]

Still, within the confines of canon law, the exceptions to the rule are rather limited, and receiving communion from a Lutheran pastor during a wedding would normally be seen as “illicit” for Catholic wedding guests. [I think it would be seen as the sin of blasphemy. Blasphemy involves words or gestures, also thoughts, which show contempt for God or dishonor God regardless of whether the person intends that contempt or dishonor or not. Blasphemy is against the virtue of religion and a mortal sin.] At the same time, some Catholics would like to, and do, receive communion on these rare occasions. [And they are wrong to do so.]

These Catholics, after a careful examination of their conscience, [Huh?  Is he psychic?] find compelling reasons to “gain a needed grace” by receiving communion in a Protestant church. [] And it is also true that eucharistic sharing has occurred at the highest levels of the church. Even Jesus occasionally broke the religious law of his day, though he did so to fulfill the “spirit” of the law.  [Ahhh…. I seeeeee…. the old “what would Jesus do?” argument as a way to justify something just plain wrong.]

So it is possible that one could follow Jesus’ lead. In our example a compelling reason might be to demonstrate one’s deep love and commitment to nurturing the relationship of the newly married couple. [In other words, do something blasphemous to make them feel good?] Intercommunion could be a “yes” to God by witnessing to God’s presence in the marriage and committing to God’s work of salvation in their lives.  [And treat a piece of bread and sip of wine as if they were God.]

In the end, this may be fulfilling the “spirit” of canon law while going against the letter.

By Kevin Considine, a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Loyola University in Chicago. This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 10, page 46).

Mr. Considine is perhaps just trying to be too clever by half in engaging in this kabuki dance with law and ecumenism.

I don’t think he is being purposely duplicitous by not giving his readers the full benefit of the text of canon 844.

The second paragraph of canon 844 states,

“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.”

Note that last little phrase “in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

Validity matters.  The community, or Church the minister belongs to matters.

Protestant ecclesial communities (they are not Churches, properly understood – cf. HERE.) lack valid ordination, correct theology and intention, and therefore  cannot validly consecrate Eucharist for their communion.  They are therefore excluded by can. 844.

Canon 844 is really about our separated brothers and sisters of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Polish National Catholic Church, pre-Calcedonian Churches and so forth. These are the Churches, fully and properly so-called. They have valid orders and Eucharist.

Can. 844.2 says that it is morally and canonically proper for a Catholic to receive the Eucharist from (and to confess to and be anointed by) a priest, deacon or bishop of one of those real Churches.

Can. 844 cannot pertain to Protestant groups, such as Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc.  They lack valid orders and lack a sacramental theology consonant with that of the Catholic Church.

Considine has pitted the Church against Christ, with the notion that we must “break the religious law of the day” to “fulfil the ‘spirit’ of the law.”

I hope he was just trying to be clever and creative.

Thanks, US Catholic, for another reason to spend our subscription budget money on The Catholic Herald and The Wanderer.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I especially dislike where it says you can get a “needed grace” from a Protestant communion. You don’t get anything but a very light snack before brunch.

  2. I was fooled into doing this once, at a wedding. Of course, immediately afterward I found out that all the happy ecumenistic talk I’d been told had been totally wrong, and I felt very stupid.

    Don’t be fooled. Don’t do it. It’s just not right.

  3. irishgirl says:

    I went to a funeral service for a local Episcopal priest who used to come into the Catholic book store where I used to work. A friend of mine who is a Franciscan priest, and who also knew the late rector, sat with me.
    When it came time for their ‘communion’, my friend turned to me and whispered, ‘Should I go?’, because we saw several Catholic priests we knew going up to receive. (I knew that was an absolute no-no)
    I whispered back without hesitation: ‘No-don’t go’. So he didn’t, and we just remained in our seats.
    Another time was when I was in St. Marylebone Anglican Church in London with two traveling companions. We came upon a morning service in the church. My companions went up to receive, but I didn’t.

  4. tealady24 says:

    My father was Lutheran, and it wasn’t until the end of his life that I came to realize his deep-seated hatred of all things Roman Catholic. (My mom was Catholic, thank the Lord, and instilled in me, her love of our Lord and his Mother!)
    To be Lutheran is to be heretic. We don’t receive Holy Eucharist from ANYWHERE but the Catholic church. I do believe the problem lies in the secular-humanist attitude that most people, Catholics included, have toward the Eucharist. They don’t believe in its true prescence, nor do they ever think about the Church being anchored in this most sacred Mystery.

  5. Jenny says:

    Not trying to stir the pot, but it seems that the canon is addressing ecclesial communities that purport to have a Eucharist. What about protestant churches that do not believe in sacraments at all? I am in the South and surrounded by such groups. They have a “Lord’s Supper” about quarterly and view the bread and wine as no different than Sunday dinner. All I am saying is that in these types of communities no one is under any delusions of what is going on. The folks there do not think they are offering a sacrament and the folks receiving do not think they are receiving a sacrament. I wonder if that would change the thinking a bit. I guess what I am trying to ask is, are we to view all protestant communions as attempts at a sacrament even if they do not view it as a sacrament at all?

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Why would anyone put his or her soul in danger for a piece of bread? Hypocritical article, at best…

  7. Dr. K says:

    Some parishes in my diocese proudly offer this magazine to parishioners.

  8. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Grrr…this sort of flabby thinking really irritates me. A few points…

    1. One of the things my instructor in morality at the seminary taught us was, “rules exist to protect values”; this came up when he would lead us through the exercise of explaining Church teaching in various hypothetical circumstances, such as: how would you explain to an infertile couple why in vitro fertilization is unacceptable? It was a very useful exercise and I’ve cited his saying in many contexts; precisely because when you don’t know what value is behind the rule or law, it is harder to justify the law. Our genial host does a very good job explaining the values at stake.

    2. As Father Z points out, to receive communion, as such, at a Lutheran service is either blasphemous–if you treat it as the Body and Blood of the Lord–or else it is an insult to the Lutherans who are your hosts, if you don’t believe it, but you pretend to. Where are people’s manners? I haven’t a clue about, say, Buddhist rituals, but I have visited a Buddhist temple, when traveling in Korea, and it’s really simple: be respectful but don’t muck around with other people’s rituals.

    Of course, in this case, many of our Protestant brothers and sisters–reflecting their own beliefs about communion–will invite us to partake. Just politely decline. You can explain later if it seems opportune. It may be hard to explain, but this is what we’re called to do: to bear witness to our Faith.

    Or do you really think it’s appropriate to say, out loud, “well, I know you think this is Jesus–somehow or another–but I don’t; however, rather than have an uncomfortable moment, I am going to pretend this is something special, even though I don’t believe it.”

    3. Contrary to what some folks will say, it does not in any way denigrate other people’s beliefs, when you explain that their beliefs are significantly different from your own. It is actually very respectful of them. After all, there are many people–beginning with Luther, Calvin, etc.–who made great efforts and sacrifices for these movements. To wave away all that these movements stand for, by saying, “oh it’s all pretty much the same, isn’t it?” really is an insult. So when someone says, “oh, in our church we think it’s fine for all Christians to receive communion,” it’s fine to say, “oh, isn’t that interesting! Well, as a Catholic, we have a very different belief about that, so I won’t receive, but thank you for your courtesy.”

  9. Banjo pickin girl says:

    jenny, what you describe would be like the Moravian love feast too. I think if they are not “communion” services per se, such as the Methodists have, where the bread is broken and they use the identical narrative as EPII then you are okay to do that. There are many communities who try to have the love feast thing rather than what the other Protestants call communion. The love feasts have an entirely fellowshiping feeling and not a vertical eucharistic feeling.

  10. Scott W. says:

    I guess what I am trying to ask is, are we to view all protestant communions as attempts at a sacrament even if they do not view it as a sacrament at all?

    As an academic exercise, no. As a practical matter in which a Catholic is asked to participate in non-Catholic ritual, yes. Or to put it another way, when one participates in such rituals, they are proclaiming with their actions that they agree with the non-Catholic understanding. Some people try to dodge with the “we don’t know what is in their heart”, but the simple fact is, actions speak and amount to formal approval. This is why non-Catholics may not normally receive Catholic sacraments. By doing so, they are proclaiming union (hence commUNION) with the Catholic Church, but it is lie if there is division.

  11. Fr Martin Fox says:


    Imagine this scene…

    You are at an Evangelical or Baptist or Pentecostal church, where they observe the “ordinance of the Lord’s Supper,” and they certainly do not believe in the Real Presence. But what they do, exactly, believe about their act of communion, may not be well defined; it may be defined to some degree by each person.

    You are told that as you are baptized, or you profess faith in Jesus, or for some other reason, that you can participate in their Lord’s Supper. And you wonder, should I?

    Before you do, ask yourself: how do you explain to them, later, what this means…to you? How do you explain how it fits with what you believe, as a Catholic, about the Eucharist? How do you express your understanding–as a Catholic–of the real, objective significance of their ritual?

    When I try to think that through, I get something like this:

    “Well, as a Catholic I believe Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood to re-present Calvary, and the bread and wine truly become his Body and Blood. Of course, you don’t believe any of that, and you don’t have a priest, so this was nothing but bread and wine. It wasn’t real communion, but I went along with it because it’s important to you. I realize all of you treated this as a very solemn moment, and it meant something to you, but…”

    How’d you like that on the other foot–after Mass sometime?

    And if you do think it has meaning to you, what meaning would that be? What positive meaning could a Catholic give to receiving mere bread and wine during a well-meaning–but erroneous–attempt to do what Jesus said to do? The silly author in U.S. Catholic offered the notion that it means affirming their marriage. As if simply hugging the happy couple afterward and wishing them well wouldn’t work?

    I’ll say it again; to participate in rituals that others consider sacred when you don’t believe what they do is disrespectful of them.

  12. Joe Magarac says:

    I don’t understand why the author of the article thinks that he can look to the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism for guidance on how to interpret canon law. That Decree dates from the 1960s. Our current Code of Canon Law is from the 1980s. The drafters of the Code doubtless knew about the Decree and took it into consideration when they adopted the current rule. In other words, the Catholic Church, when it adopted the current Code of Canon Law, considered and rejected any notion in the Decree on Ecumenism that Catholics could receive “sacraments” from Lutheran or other Protestant ministers.

  13. Riverman says:

    I echo Jenny’s question. I mostly understand the concern about denominations that believe their Eucharist is a sacrament and has the “Real Presence”, but many Protestants do not. For example, at a Baptist church, Communion is clearly ONLY and symbol and a remembrance, Baptists deny that their Communion has a “Real Presence” or that it is a sacrament (they call it an “ordinance”). So if Catholics are in *agreement* with Baptists that the Baptist Communion is only symbolic and a remembrance, why is it wrong to participate in that case?

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Some Lutherans believe in Consubstantiation, which means that Jesus is somehow present, but with the bread and wine, not that the bread and wine have actually been changed into His Body and Blood as we do with Transubstantiation. Most Lutherans believe in “Sacramental Union”, which means that somehow, the receiver of communion in their church is receiving Christ in a mystical manner. The bread and wine are not changed, but a person mysteriously receives Christ. This was stated at the Council of Wittenberg in 1536, a Lutheran council. The “mass” for a Lutheran is not the reenactment of Calvary, nor is communion for them an efficacious sacrament, as it is for us. There are at least 27 synods of Lutherans in the US and these vary according to doctrine on the Real Presence.

  15. Riverman says:

    Sorry, I posted my question just before Fr Martin Fox posted his reply to Jenny. I guess the follow up question would then be: why can’t I participate in a Baptist communion when although I don’t believe what they believe in general, I *do* believe with them that the Baptist communion is only symbolic and a remembrance? Further, why then accept the baptism of a Baptist-turned-Catholic as valid, when the Baptist view of baptism *isn’t* in agreement with the Catholics?

  16. teomatteo says:

    “Intercommunion could be a “yes” to God by witnessing to God’s presence in the marriage and committing to God’s work of salvation in their lives.”

    Was it Flannery O’Connor who said: “… if its just a symbol [bread and wine] then what the h___ good is it!” ?

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Why it is wrong to participate in the communions is that we would be entering into communion with the church which is heretical by taking the bread and wine and, in effect, denying Christ’s Real Presence. We are not even allowed to attend Protestant services without permission from a priest, which is a rule long ignored, and to actually participate in one is a sign of our public agreement with the particular church’s doctrines. Martyrs died over this point, in England, for example, for refusing to take part in Anglican “masses”. In fact, a Catholic going to Anglican communion in the 16th century and beyond was a sign of apostasy. Catholics who did not communicate with Anglicans were fined severely in Britain, as part of the Catholic persecution.

  18. Fr Martin Fox says:


    As far as baptism, the Church deems a baptism valid when validly administered; and while there may be exceptions, our Baptist brothers and sisters get baptism right. I.e., they baptize with water and in the Names of the Trinity. An atheist can validly baptize, mirabile dictu!

    As far as being at a Protestant Church which has its form of communion, the real differences notwithstanding, this is a ritual that is important to them. To participate in these circumstances is, I think, implicitly contemptuous: you consider it all right to participate precisely because you know, as a Catholic, it’s really nothing special. Do you want to say that to the congregation before you participate?

    Of course we don’t believe what they believe. But that doesn’t mean we rub their noses in it. The very same logic, applied in reverse, is how many of our Protestant brothers and sisters justify receiving the Eucharist at Mass.

  19. Riverman says:

    Hi Supertradmum, I’m sorry but I still don’t understand: how is it wrong to deny the Real Presence in the Baptist communion, when neither the Catholic nor the Baptist believe that the Real Presence is in the Baptist communion in the first place? Why can’t I partake of it in only the way Baptists intend it: as only a symbol and a remembrance, with which Catholics agree that’s all a Baptist communion is? I ask not only for an academic reason, but because my wife is Baptist and this is constantly a sore point for us, and I don’t have a good answer.

  20. chonak says:

    Is the magazine published with ecclesiastical approval? I’m trying to figure out what official should correct this publicly.

  21. LisaP. says:

    Being Flannery O’Connor, she was more shocking than that. Here’s the quote. It disturbed me a lot when I first heard it, but when you take it from the POV of idolatry, it’s exactly right.

  22. Rich says:

    This dribble is an obvious springboard for saying that we, then, as Catholics, should allow anyone else to receive Communion in Catholic churches.

  23. Riverman says:

    Hi Fr Martin Fox, I would not say that to the congregation, because it isn’t “nothing special”. It is special, but only as a symbol and remembrance. I am in agreement with them as to what it is for them. On the flip side, an evangelical partaking of the Eucharist in a Catholic church is not the same, it is the opposite, for they would be in *disagreement* about what the Eucharist is. Earlier you indicated that it would be disrespectful to participate, but I’ve found (with my wife, at least) that she considers it very disrespectful *not* to participate when I agree with her about what her Baptist communion is (and isn’t). She sees my abstaining as rubbing their noses in it, not the other way around.

  24. mtoddm says:

    Very well said – there is no excuse for the sloppy handling of Canon Law texts in this article. Should we hold our breath for a retraction or clarification after your excellent response?

  25. Supertradmum says:


    Here is a quotation from the CCC, which might help: 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.”239 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.”240

    We are not giving credence to the heresies in those churches which are separated from us. We are not acknowledging the errors.

    section 1400 of the CCC

  26. Fr Martin Fox says:


    We believe that they are simulating a sacred thing. Their intentions are sincere, but they are wrong. Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me.” The “this” is the Mass offered by a true priest. They aren’t doing that. They are, in fact, not doing what Jesus wished; and yet they say they are.

    So we don’t participate in the wrong “do this”; we want to “do” the correct “this” that Jesus said to do in his memory–which is the Mass.

    Now, that may be a little harsh to say, so you may want to try a different approach. Have your wife and or her pastor explain to you, in detail, just what their ordinance of the Lord’s Supper means–what does participation in it mean. I have a feeling they will say, at some point, because we are being faithful to the Lord’s command.

    And that is when you say, politely, “well, as you know, we Catholics believe that’s not the way he wanted us to keep that command. So without finding fault, I think being faithful to the Lord means I have to follow my lights as a Catholic, and participate in the Eucharist at Mass.”

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Put it this way. If you completely disagree with abortion, would you stand up with a group protesting the Catholic Church’s stand on pro-life? If you disagree with same-sex-marriage, would you go to a same-sex- “wedding”? I would hope you would answer “no” to both, as what this is about is publicly agreeing and assenting to a belief which is not your own.

  28. Riverman says:

    Hi Supertradmum and Fr Martin Fox,

    Thanks, that helps quite a lot. I agree we should not be supporting and even participating in error. That, and the fact that the Church simply says “no” to it (and I am willing to obey the church even when my own understanding wants to argue), are why as a Catholic I won’t participate in a Baptist communion. I still don’t fully understand it though, but your replies have definitely helped. :)

    BTW, please pray for my wife and kids. I would love to see them join me one day in conversion to the Catholic Church. :)

  29. Ed the Roman says:

    Generally. In general. These are used most often in English to mean “most of the time”.

    In mathematics and physics, they mean something rather closer to semper et ubique: a general solution covers all cases, and general relativity applies to both inertial and accelerated frames of reference (special relativity only applies to inertial frames).

  30. pseudomodo says:

    Methinks Mr. Considines candidature has just gone down the toilet….

  31. Jenny says:

    Fr Martin Fox,

    Thanks for your reply. I think explaining about the difference in understandings on doing the correct “this” is probably the way to go.

  32. Ismael says:

    Receiving communion outside the Catholic Chuch would make sense ONLY in an Orthodox Church, since the Orthodox, altoough scismatic, still retain aposlic succession and validity of the sacraments (whethere it is licit or not and whether an Orthodox priest would even allow a Catholic to partecipare to Holy Communion is another topic)

    Protestant ‘churches’ however have no apostolic succession and their sacraments (except for Baptysm and Matrimony) are invalid.

    If you receive communion in a Luthern church you just get a piece of bread, while in the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church you receive true communion with the Blessed Lord…

    Hence receiving communion in a protestant church is akin to curing a cold by flapping your arms…

  33. Ismael says:

    PS: pardon me for the typos… my keyboard is in need of the last rites I fear…

  34. RJS007 says:

    This is such a no-brainer, folks.. We are married to One Church, The Catholic Church. When we visit other churches not in Communion with her Visible Head on earth we better stay quiet and just pray. Anything more like receiving “Their” communion is tantamount to adultery. Get it? Good. (Unbelivevable that this sorta thing still has legs)

  35. dominic1955 says:

    Although he doesn’t say, really what one should do first is decide if they should go to the presumed “wedding” at all. It might be fine if they are both non-Catholic (and never were), but if one person is a fallen-away Catholic or ignorant Catholic getting married outside the Church without all the proper dispensations, then one shouldn’t go at all-let alone receive “communion” in said heretical sect.

    Secondly, what goes on at a Protestant service is objectively heretical and maybe even sacrilegious. One should not even engage in any sort of “communio in sacris” (like praying their service with them), thus why it used to be that people weren’t even supposed to go at all except for certain weighty civil reasons and then just sit there.

    The author of this piece is either very ignorant, very stupid or just a plain heretic trying to justify his silly views with a really flimsy appeal to the CIC, VII and WWJD. Just another example of why letters behind a name alone mean absolutely nothing, conferred yet or not. On top of that, they are a strike against you when they are from some crazy Jesuit school or other liberal outfit. To me, a Masters or Ph.D in theology from such a school is less than worthless.

  36. Supertradmum says:


    Can we add “Trinitarian” to baptism, as some non-denominational churches, especially in the South and Midwest, have been baptizing, for over thirty years, “in the Name of Jesus”, which means the baptisms are no longer valid, not sacraments. By the way, a new marriage law in Mexico, which may or may not have passed yet, will allow for a time period in the marriage contract. How far we have come from the Sacrament in that supposed Catholic country. This type of marriage has also been introduced in Italy as a possible law.

    The Protestant Revolt has caused these aberrations by re-defining marriage and baptism, and all the other sacraments. The secular governments followed suit, but the impetus of the heretics started this confusion in the Christian world, now post-Christian.

  37. MJ says:

    Participating in a non-Catholic communion service, among the things already mentioned, also says to those who witness the participation that we have no problem with what they’re doing. The conclusion might be drawn: “Hey if the Catholic doesn’t have a problem with my non-Catholic service, and they’re in fact participating in it even, why should I convert?”

  38. Peggy R says:

    I have learned in our area that the average Catholic does NOT know of the distinctions between Roman Catholic belief about communion being the Body of Christ and that protestants believe it merely a symbol. Even my parents do not know this; catechized pre-V2. They may mistakenly believe that the Church changed that too in V2. As a result, I inject this teaching into my PSR lessons routinely, as the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.

    Many Catholics must think that the opposite of only Catholics (or Eastern rite Christians) being permitted to receive communion at a Catholic church is that Catholics may receive anywhere since the other churches are largely open. Nope. Not true. A family in our town who left the parish school b/c of a problem, sadly, also left the parish (small town) and is going to the Lutheran Church in town. Mom laments that first communion is at an older age, having no idea that communion is not the same thing for Catholics and Lutherans. Sigh.

    Much teaching is needed on this most basic Catholic belief.

  39. Supertradmum says:

    As a further clarification for even going to Protestant weddings for the author above, the person invited needs to ask these questions: 1) is it really Protestant or New Age, or some other mixture, such as Native American, and Protestant,(which I have come up against), thereby nullifying any sacrament; 2) have the people been living in sin before and are being married in that state-creating a situation where a sacrament is not being made between the two at all as the people are in sin; 3) is one of the persons a fallen away Catholic, in which case that person is in mortal sin and is not receiving any sacramental grace at all, as Canon Law covers a Catholic from Baptism to death. fallen away or not, as was recently clarified; 4) is the minister a real minister, or a minister of the Church of Bob, or an Anglican fake priestess, for example, which again nullifies the sacrament; 5) do I actually know if both Protestants in the marriage are baptized, as some ministers will marry non-baptized people to a Christian, making the marriage not a sacrament–I know of an Anglican minister who did this two months ago; 6) is my presence as a Catholic at the Protestant wedding an affirmation of any of the above? Communion on top of this is just too much….

  40. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    [A situation might develop when a Catholic cannot approach or be visited by a Catholic minister of a sacrament. It is possible to receive a valid sacrament from a non-Catholic validly ordained minister in an emergency. Protestants could give advice and comfort, but no valid Eucharist or absolution.]

    Thank you for clearing this up. I remember reading something online a couple years ago that said something about being able to receive communion from non-Catholic “when in dire spiritual need” and was quite confused as to how a piece of bread could fill my “dire spiritual need”. Of course, at the time I was under the impression that Eastern Orthodox Churches were also catholic, just “little-c catholic” thus any other church was “non-catholic”.

  41. Supertradmum says:

    sorry-person,not people, which would really be weird..

  42. Springkeeper says:

    As a recent convert from the Baptist faith I can tell you they hold the belief that you are not to participate in their communion unless you covenantly agree with them so if they see you partaking, they will assume you concur with all their beliefs.

    We had a Lutheran partake of the Eucharist at our church. Someone who knew him told him that he could not do that and the man was outraged. He said he didn’t “believe the Eucharist was Christ’s body and blood so what difference did it make because we are all part of Christ’s church”?

  43. Scott W. says:

    As a recent convert from the Baptist faith I can tell you they hold the belief that you are not to participate in their communion unless you covenantly agree with them so if they see you partaking, they will assume you concur with all their beliefs.

    Thank you! Perfect case in point that I was trying to make. Actions speak, and in this case partaking of Baptist communion the action says to everyone around, ” I formally support the theology behind this and count myself as one of you.” I recall in the play A Man for All Seasons where his daughter tempts Thomas More “to say the words of the oath
    and in your heart think otherwise.” He responds: When a man takes an oath, he’s holding
    his own self in his own hands…like water…And if he opens his fingers then,
    he needn’t hope to find himself again. Yes, communion is not the same as taking a solemn oath, but the principle is the same: You can’t do something that demonstrates formal support and paper over it with mental fudging.

  44. Daniel Latinus says:

    The article Fr. Z. fileted for us today has been typical of US Catholic’s general attitude for as long as I can remember (back to the 1970s).

    ISTM, somebody at the CDF needs to find out what they’ve been publishing all these years. Unlike Commonweal or the Bird-Cage Liner (that’s Fishwrap to you), US Catholic is published by the Cleretian Fathers in Chicago. I seem to remember the editor of a Jesuit magazine being removed over similar content.

  45. “Validity matters.” –Fr. Z.
    Ditto. –edp.

    [GMTA. Aiming at pith.]

  46. DavidJ says:


    Being in any state of sin does not prevent a marriage from taking place. Sure, there might not be the graces that accompany the Sacrament until that person is once again in a state of grace, but that doesn’t impede the Sacrament from taking place.

  47. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Apart from the question of sacramental validity or invalidity, I would not receive Communion in a non-Catholic church, even if I were invited to do so, for the simple reason that I am not in (full) communion with that ecclesial body. One receives Communion in order to express and nurture communion (in faith and charity) with the Church and her Lord.

  48. florin says:

    I have a question here. We are speaking about the Eucharist and why, when and how we can receive Holy Communion and I agree but how is it that Catholic Politicians who not only publicly endorse abortion but publicly advance and advocate for the abortion agenda and are yet considered to be Catholics in good standing – we believe this is so because they are permitted to receive Holy Communion. If those who publicly promote the killing of unborn babies are permitted to receive the Sacrament, if aggessively and publicly and consistently pushing the abortion agenda is not evil or cause enough to be prohibited from receiving the Eucharist, it’s hard to imagine what could be more evil…we are talking about the lives of over 50 million human babies being terminated…some full term and yet those who aggressively advance this agenda here and in abroad, are permitted to receive Holy Communion. Nancy Pelosi is now furious because pregnant women are being asked to listen to their unborn babies’s heartbeat in order to encourage them to carry their baby through to birth…if we truly honor the sacredness of the Eucharist as Christ’s Body and Blood, why are those who PUBLICLY endorse such evil practices as abortion considered Catholics in good standing and are therefore permitted to receive Holy Communion? No wonder so many Catholics are confused…

  49. Nicole says:

    illicit acts = grave sins…if done with full knowledge and consent of the will = mortal sins… These are actions which gravely offend God…to the point that if you do them with full knowledge and consent of the will…and never receive the fruits of the sacrament of Penance or come to perfect contrition…you are choosing to separate yourself from God eternally to dwell in hell with the demons… nice…

    It’s funny that this US Catholic would even suggest that it is “ok” to sin gravely and is sometimes an option…sounds like liberalism in full force to me…

  50. mike cliffson says:

    Idolotry of “nice” – yes one can be put on the spot.
    Nonetheless, avoiding even occasional communion, as Supertradmum notes leads to persecution , not always lethal, but economically crippling, loss of prestiege, public offce, employer, clients, etc , for inter alia Shakespeare’s Dad almost certainly, his Mum´s family definitely, and millions of other British Catholics from the 16th cent on….
    And to begin with, I understand but have no proof, there WERE validly ordained priests doing a certain amount of both sides against the middle to protect their flocks and thems elves as best they could, like the (true?) scene of a jewish boy in occupied poland whose concealment was abetted by a priest and was given unconsecrated hosts, only the other way round, secret catholics every once in a while being given truly consecrated hosts going up for communion with the rest in the now church of England church. Only till they died out, of course, not everywhere nor all of them anyway.
    They risked public shaming, prison, onerous fines, loss of employment, up to and including death.
    We risk embarrassment. Poor us!

  51. Scott W. says:

    how is it that Catholic Politicians who not only publicly endorse abortion but publicly advance and advocate for the abortion agenda and are yet considered to be Catholics in good standing[?]

    Bluntly, in many cases, dereliction of duty by our shepherds. I also think this gets back to my comments about not understanding manifest public acts and formal support or cooperation with evil.

  52. Supertradmum says:


    Those in mortal sin who receive a sacrament, including marriage, have committed the greater sin of sacrilege and as I know it, sacrilege invalidates the sacrament of marriage for the reasons below. [Ooops. No. People in the state of sin can validly be ordained and can validly contract marriage. They are truly ordained and truly married. They don’t receiving all the graces from the sacrament until they are in the state of grace, but they are validly married and validly ordained. The same goes for confirmation. The sacrament of anointing is a more complicated question.] This is not true if a priest is in mortal sin when saying Mass, that is, the Mass is valid, but when the two persons are giving the sacrament to each other, living together creates an “impediment of public propriety”. The sacrament must confer sanctifying grace to be valid and that grace is given through the sacrament. No grace, no sacrament. The question is, is a sacrament which is not efficacious in fact a sacrament? The sacrament is the contract and the reception of grace. In fact, nullity, as in an annulment, is given for this reason.” Deep routed sin in either or both their lives during the courtship which interfered with their discernment, such as sex”. Of course, until proven otherwise, validity is assumed. However, this situation is not unusual in nullity cases so I feel free is using the term “invalid”.

  53. Supertradmum says:

    PS This is why good priests follow the norm of asking couples to separate if living together and confessing fornication before marriage. In some dioceses, couples must live separately for a given period of time before the wedding is allowed. In fact, many years ago, when a student at Notre Dame, I was asked this question by a priest when my then fiance and I were in Pre-Cana talks. We were not living together, but the priest indicated that he had to ask, and if we were, we would have to wait for so many months to get married. South Bend Diocese had an excellent bishop. In some dioceses, a nine month waiting period is required and in others, six months. Good priests ask the correct questions in marriage preparation, as an annulment is a recognition that something was wrong on the day of the wedding, which the priest witnessed, causing invalidity. [People in the state of sin still validly enter marriage.]

  54. dominic1955 says:

    That would be Donatistic to say that a sacrament is invalidated because of the sinfulness of the minister, even in the case of marriage. How would one ever know if their marriage is valid? What if their purposed spouse committed a mortal sin right before the wedding? The conferring of grace is not the matter and form but the proper effect of the sacrament.

    Impediments are often mortal sins (objectively, at least) but mortal sin is not an impediment. It is an important distiction.

  55. Supertradmum says:

    I was talking about living together, which is a state of sin, not one sin, and which is the impediment of public propriety in canon law, even the 1983 version. I am not talking about a “one off” sin. That is why the priests have the normative of asking engaged couples about such things, which some do and all should do. Obviously, this state is an impediment as it is not the same as a marriage relationship, causes scandal, becomes a sacrilege, and deadens the discernment of the couple. [People in the state of sin can validly exchange vows and be validly married.]

  56. Riverman says:

    @Springkeeper: “As a recent convert from the Baptist faith I can tell you they hold the belief that you are not to participate in their communion unless you covenantly agree with them so if they see you partaking, they will assume you concur with all their beliefs.”

    The name “Baptist” covers quite a range of people and churches. Some have what is called “closed communion” where you have to be a registered member of that local congregation to participate. Some have “open communion” where anyone who trusts in Jesus as their savior may participate. Others are somewhere in the middle, like what you described. Good point though, because regardless, participation is giving an impression to others that we should not be giving.

  57. fimwat says:

    Using ‘What *Would* Jesus Do?’ (imaginative speculation) to contradict ‘What Jesus *Is* Teaching’ (reality) through His bride the Church is quite silly. After all, the Church, by virtue of being joined to Christ her bridegroom through His Spirit, acts in His authority and power to make these kinds of binding rulings (Mt 16:18-19, 18:17). It’s an attempt to render asunder what God has joined (Mk 10:9). It also beHeads Christ the Head from His Body (Eph 5:23). Hmmm…, generally speaking, beheading God is usually considered a *bad* idea. X-)

    Even naturally, it’s silly: only schizo’s and people with no integrity that flatly contradict one’s letter to the spirit (the latter are usually looked down on as liars and ‘politicians’). Jesus, the Man of integrity, keeps even the jot and the tittle, even while fulfilling the spirit (Mt 5:17-20). Thankfully, He is neither a schizo’, a liar, or, thankfully, a ‘politician.’ ;-) (Bible references from above)

    I like Fr. Martin’s comment above that “rules exist to protect values”, though. It kinda puts things into perspective, of what it’s all for.

    [reposted from Facebook comment to a friend’s link to this article]

  58. dominic1955 says:

    Yes I know of that case, but you said, “Those in mortal sin who receive a sacrament, including marriage, have committed the greater sin of sacrilege and as I know it, sacrilege invalidates the sacrament of marriage for the reasons below. ” If you meant specifically living together and not sacrilege in general, then I agree.

  59. Supertradmum says:

    That is what I said in all the comments I made, but I could have been clearer by stating “living in mortal sin”.

  60. ALL: People who are not in the state of grace can validly enter into marriage. For a couple to be married validly they must understand the ends of marriage and agree with them and intend them, they must be able to be married and not impeded, they must exchange the proper vows in the proper form before an authorized minister. They don’t have to be in the state of grace. They don’t benefit from all the graces of the sacrament until they are in the state of grace, but they are validly married. Validity of marriage doesn’t depend on the state of grace.

    I have written on this before HERE.

  61. James Joseph says:

    Find me one instance where Christ broke the Law.

  62. Nordic Breed says:

    It scares me that this guy is a Ph. D. candidate in theology at a supposedly Catholic University. I would have flunked him out long before now if I were his advisor or certainly would have made sure he had an authentically Catholic understanding of the Holy Eucharist. Again, we have people invoking Vatican II as if the Church actually began in 1965 and nothing that came before is relevant. We also have a non-canon lawyer purporting to interpret canon law. Will this never end?!!!

  63. benedetta says:

    I think the concern arises from the author’s phraseology of a Catholic “receiving communion in a Protestant church”. In this author’s envisioning, something more would need to happen with respect to the belief or faith on the host side, to meet that inspired attempt at capturing a special grace where it is, as communion does not seem finally to be an issue of what the conscience of the one receiving determines it to be at any given moment or depending on various circumstances.

    Have been to Catholic occasions offering something called “an agape meal” (yes, I know…) where there is bread which is supposed to be blessed broken as a symbol of a sort of communion, memorial or re-enactment. If everyone regards it in its essence as exactly as much or little as they deem it to be, or as the primary architect of the effects of it, what sort of communion is it.

    Someone else will have a better understanding than I could offer on this but isn’t it true that Catholics may receive in Orthodox churches not in Rome under certain circumstances?

  64. eiggam says:

    I was at a protestant service where they passed the communion plate and those little cups of grape juice around the congregation. My friends said that anyone could receive, but I just said ‘no thanks’ because I knew it wasn’t really the Eucharist. It’s an opportunity for teaching and if one is polite, there shouldn’t be a problem not receiving. This was a Good Friday service in the evening.

  65. ContraMundum says:

    I’m a convert from the Baptists, so I have some sympathy for the perspective of my former coreligionists. They insist that their communion is only a symbol — and so it is. It would be roughly equivalent to kissing the Cross on Good Friday. Neither Veneration of the Cross nor Protestant communion is really sacramental, but I think that Protestant communion can still be a source of grace to those poor souls who really are trying to please God. We’re not talking about a small number of people in that class, either. Perhaps the reason God gave me the grace of conversion is that He saw that, due to my many sins, I could not be saved by weak graces filtered through errors. (More explicitly, I had a dream in which I was in Heaven, and it was revealed to me that the only way I made it was because all the Popes throughout all history had been praying for me. That last part at least is certainly true. I was very disappointed to awaken and find that I was still alive — and still a Protestant!)

    Of course, nothing in the above has any relevance for Catholics. For us, there are two reasons not to partake of Protestant communion. (1) We’ve been told not to by those who have the authority to make the rules. (2) The reason for the rule is easy to understand: it would lead to confusion, certainly for the Protestants, and probably for the participating Catholics, too.

  66. bhcordova says:

    Articles like this in US Catholic are why I dropped my subscription.

  67. theophilus says:

    Riverman said
    For example, at a Baptist church, Communion is clearly ONLY and symbol and a remembrance, Baptists deny that their Communion has a “Real Presence” or that it is a sacrament (they call it an “ordinance”). So if Catholics are in *agreement* with Baptists that the Baptist Communion is only symbolic and a remembrance, why is it wrong to participate in that case?

    On the surface this may seem ok, but when you look at it closely, there is more to disturb than console. If our Blessed Lord instituted the Eucharist and designed this mystery in a very specific way, then any deviation from its intended purpose is contrary to the will of God. It becomes a mockery. If I went to the hospital with my pregnant wife and recieved a toy baby instead of a my real baby… I would not be happy. As a matter of fact, I would advise everyone to stay away from that hospital:)

  68. Peggy R says:

    And don’t we already know what Jesus would do? From the Discourse on the Bread of Life in John Ch 6 (from USCCB site):

    47Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z 50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

    52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
    …60Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” …66As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

    Our protestant friends are like the Jews who rejected this teaching. We do not share a communion with them.

  69. Innocentius says:

    [i]Communicatio in Sacris[[/i] — prohibits Catholics to take part in services and ceremonies of heretics (Protestants, et al).

  70. fxkelli says:

    When certain protestant congregations believe entirely in the symbolic presence of Jesus in the communion service, it seems like they are celebrating an entirely different event. I can see how people would believe that they would be symbolically re enacting the last supper in one religious venue and actually celebrate communion in another without believing they are committing any heretical behavior.

  71. Y2Y says:

    Can anyone suggest one good reason why the editors of US Catholic, NCR, the Tablet, America, etc should not be horsewhipped?

  72. Cassie says:

    @Riverman –
    I will be praying for the conversion of your wife and children! Be sure to post it up on that Monday’s good news when they do :-)

  73. fxkelli says:

    “Our protestant friends are like the Jews who rejected this teaching. We do not share a communion with them.”

    I don’t think Protestants reject it as much as interpret it differently.

  74. Jayna says:

    Yup, that’s how we roll at the LUC Theology department. Which is why I’ll be going elsewhere for my doctorate after I finish my MA here. I am tempted to post a link to this page on the student caucus FB page, but I really don’t think you want those people posting here.

  75. Peggy R says:


    I think you’re splitting hairs. Choosing a different interpretation effectively rejects the Catholic “interpretation” which we accept as Truth. I’ll grant, however, that many protestants today, over 400 years since Luther’s theses, do not know explicitly the foundations of their ‘protest’ of Rome, their faith as passed down. They may not know what they are rejecting or that they are rejecting anything. But many do, and we still have dissent from as well as mockery of Catholic belief that the consecrated host is The Body and Blood of Christ. Even the editor of the NYTimes, raised Catholic, recently mocked that belief.

  76. Michael_Thoma says:

    Here’s a question perhaps Fr. Z or another poster can answer. There are particular agreements with the Syriac Orthodox that Catholics may receive and vice-versa – the Agreement approved by H.H.Pope JP2 as well as HH Patriarch Ignatius recognize situations such as: familial gatherings, weddings, funerals, or when advantageous morally/spiritually, provided no danger of indifferentism is present.

    Now, a lot of priests of the Roman Rite Church tend to think that the allowance of “the non-Catholic Easterners” to receive Communion refers to all of the earlier mentioned Churches and refer to the Canon Father sited.

    Most Eastern Catholic priests I know highlight not only that particular Canon, but the subsection:

    Latin Canon: 844 §5 In respect of the cases dealt with in §§2, 3 and 4, the diocesan Bishop or the Episcopal Conference is not to issue general norms except after consultation with the competent authority, at least at the local level, of the non-catholic Church or community concerned.

    Eastern Canon: Canon 671§5. For the cases in 2, 3 and 4, norms of particular law are to be enacted only after consultation with at least the local competent authority of the non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community concerned.

  77. fxkelli says:


    I think you’re splitting hairs. Choosing a different interpretation effectively rejects the Catholic “interpretation” which we accept as Truth. ”

    Agreed if they’re using the historical origins of their doctrine back to Luther. Most evangelicals will tell you they base their doctrine on “the word of God” and not their church history (as if it’s possible to separate the two). Without trying to divine intentions of individuals, most will tell you that their beliefs are based on how they read the bible, without regard for the beliefs of other churches.

    Not trying to beat a dead horse, but it’s important when you try to evangelize evangelicals. We have a wonderful message to share with them. The RCC doctrine on the Eucharist isn’t rejected, as much as not comprehended, by most protestants, just like many other RCC beliefs. We aren’t on parallel planes with our doctrines. The RCC understanding of many things doesn’t work on a simple, superficial, analysis of one line from the Bible. Now that point may be splitting hairs, but it’s a very effective tool to build that bridge that many protestants walk across to get through the door of the Catholic church.

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