QUAERITUR: Report a priest for receiving Episcopalian “communion”?

From a reader:

‘Should Catholic priests be reported to the local Bishop if they go up and receive the Episcopal ‘communion’ at a funeral for one of their clergymen?

When their ‘communion’ time came around, I saw the Catholic priests go up to receive. Now that didn’t look right. I, of course, remained in my seat (I attended as an act of Christian charity towards the family) and didn’t go up.
Should the Catholic priests be reported to the Bishop for receiving the Episcopal ‘communion’?

Yes.  Sadly, I think so.  If it happened, he caused scandal.  He probably did it from ignorance and not from malice towards Catholic teaching.  However, he and the his bishop should have a chat to clarify some ecumenical parameters.

The only thing I would caution about in the future, however, is to make sure the funeral is not at an Anglican Use of the Catholic Church church.  But, I am sure people will be smart about that, if they are paying attention to what is going on.

Priests and lay people may attend funerals of non Catholics. We can pray with non-Catholics to a certain extent, but not with the intention of praying as if we were also non-Catholics.  We cannot do anything or pray anything which is contrary to the Catholic Faith.  We can pray for a return of unity with non-Catholic Christians, but that cannot include receiving their “communion”.

Under limited circumstances and in emergencies it is permissible to receive the Eucharist of true Churches with valid Orders.  The Episcopalian Church is not one of those Churches.  Catholics may not receive their “communion”.  Some will argue that some Episcopalians may have valid orders.  I respond: It is all too iffy: we can’t do it.

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  1. “Some will argue that some Episcopalians may have valid orders. I respond: It is all too iffy: we can’t do it.”

    True, but that being said, it is known that some Episcopal priests do possess Catholic orders in the objective sense, in some cases having received ordination from a renegade Old Catholic bishop with the powers to confer valid Orders. It has happened, and one was a friend of mine. The recent crossing over of many Anglican priests to Rome will consist of a few such cases, which would end in them being ordained “conditionally.” I know the Holy See has stated that this would never happen, but in the instances I have described, I fail to see how the “conditional” status could be avoided, once the circumstances have been established.

    That, as opposed to being “iffy.”

  2. bernadettem says:

    How can this be? Most Catholic laity know that they cannot receive Holy Communion in any church other than the Catholic Church or in some cases an Orthodox Church.

    Are some Catholic priests that ignorant, if so, no wonder Catholics today have no concept of the faith.

    All Anglican priests coming in to the Ordinariate will be “ordained” not on a conditional basis.

    The Anglican priests whom I know are much more orthodox in their views than many who are Catholic. Yes there are a few Anglican priests that hold valid, but illicit orders, however, we are not to receive from them. Who would know which ones are valid and at this point within the Anglican Communion I would assume that only those priests who were ordained many years ago would have any validity due to women priests and bishops. This shows that whether it is from an Old Catholic or not the Apostolic Succession is no longer legitimate.

    I speak as a former Anglo Catholic and do respect many Anglican priests, however, at this time those who claim to be “Catholic” are fooling themselves. Unless one is completely honest it is the time to come into the Catholic Church even though it can be a great sacrifice for them and their families. God must come first and He will provide for them if they have the faith.

    There is no longer a reason not to become Catholic, now that the Ordinariate is a reality, if one truely believes all of what the Church teaches. I understand that for some it will take time to move on. Also I have spoken to a Continuing Anglican priest who knows nothing about the Ordinariate and find that many are not aware that there is a “Home” within Holy Mother Church for them.

  3. Conchur says:


    There have only been 3 conditional ordinations of former Anglican clergy, period. John Jay Hughes, Graham Leonard (former CofE bishop of London) and a third, very on the discretely, in Canada whose details I forget. None in the last 15 years and it has been pretty bluntly made clear that with regards to Anglican clergy coming into the Church under Anglicanorum coetibus, conditional ordination is a non-runner.

  4. mrose says:


    It is not just about a validly consecrated Bishop ordaining a man to the sacred priesthood. The Pope himself, using the Anglican ordinal, would not validly ordain any man to Christ’s priesthood – there exists a defect in form.

    Furthermore, EVEN IF those Episcopalians in question in the above Quaeritur were validly ordained, no Catholic priest ought to be receiving anything from them because they are still schismatic and heretics. You don’t just “take it when you can get it” – it is the LORD!

    Doing what they did isn’t ecumenism, it is syncretism.

  5. Eriugena says:

    “Absolutely null and utterly void,” said Leo XIII…

  6. Alan Aversa says:

    Indeed, Eriugena. There is no doubt of their invalidity.

  7. Phil_NL says:

    Well, Mrose, the pope could in fact decide that the Anglican ordination rite is now a valid form, as – as far as I’m aware – Leo XIII’s pronouncement wasn’t infallable. However, it would be beyond silly to do so, and regardless, none of these anglicans have been ordained by a pope making such a call… and retroactive ordination would be even too much for a Pope.

    So for all practical intents and purposes, we can stick to null and void. Which reminds me, weren’t those the nicknames of two anglican seminarians while they were in Rome? (10 to 1 that anecdote came from Fr Z himself btw)

  8. Panterina says:

    In an earlier, related blog entry, someone commented to the effect “why is it a big deal? I know that I’m just receiving a piece of bread.” The problem with that attitude, if that’s what I speculate that priest had on his mind, is that, by the same token, we should then allow non-Catholics to receive the Blessed Sacrament during a Catholic Mass. You can see what confusion this leads to: We Catholics go and receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, and the non-Catholics receive whatever they believe it is.

    Now, because the Church, in her wisdom, forbids this, it stands to reason that Catholics should not receive “communion” in another ecclesiastical community. “I can go receive “your” communion but you cannot receive “mine” is hypocritical, isn’t it? It’s best that each stick to their own, without widening the gap between Catholics and our Episcopalian brethren.

  9. dominic1955 says:

    I don’t know why any Catholic (let alone a priest!) would want to receive the “communion” of a group which is objectively heretical and lacks valid orders. Knowing what real Communion is, doing the same kind of thing in a false church makes a mockery of the real thing.

    Likewise with the E. Orthodox. Even though in this case they do have valid orders, they are schismatics (and the thought is mutual). Since we only *have* to receive Communion once a year, why would you not just observe if going to an E. Orthodox liturgy? Even if you were in the hinterlands of Siberia with no Catholic church within 500 miles, you’re Sunday obligation let alone your Easter obligation does not bind and you were never expected to go to an E. Orthodox church for any reason.

    I do not see any reason whatsoever that any Catholic should ever receive Communion in a church that is not in communion with Rome.

  10. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    This is certainly a violation of Canon 1379, and the priest is culpable for harm and scandal that arise from his not shunning an act so sacrilegious. Perhaps a qualified canonist would comment.

  11. thepapalbull says:

    Eriugena, Catholics don’t need to be so overly simplistic in their support for the present practice of the Catholic Church with regard to Anglican orders. Citing Leo XIII’s bull and saying, “’nuff said,” is a bit silly. Apostolicae curae was a judgment of Anglican invalidity based on certain historical factors at play in the 1890’s, and much earlier. Since then there have been certain developments both within the Catholic Church and the Anglican ecclesial communities, which – if a fair assessment is to be made – need to be taken into account; such as liturgical changes, Polish National & Old Catholic intervention, women’s ordination, changes which bring the present Catholic rites closer to the Anglican, ARCIC doctrinal agreements, etc. I don’t advocate for a reversal of the Church’s position on the issue (I left the Anglican “priesthood” in part because of doubts about validity), I’m just saying lets not be ignorant of the facts.

    Phil_NL, I’m pretty sure in Ratzinger’s commentary on Ad tuendam fidem, he uses Apostolicae curae as an example of the teaching of the ordinary, infallible magisterium to be definitively accepted by all Catholics.

  12. James Joseph says:

    If I might relate a story from last Sunday after holy Mass.

    There were 6 or 8 or us standing around, chitting and chatting about what just transpired, when out of the blue someone began to discuss how it is truly wonderful that we have the Eucharist; that is, not just a piece of bread. Someone launched quick vigorously, “You mean to say that other churches don’t have the Eucharist?!” This was offered as an admonishment against the fella who said how wonderful the Catholic Church is and also how wonderful the assurance of the priesthood is. The fella continued, “So you’re saying in your own judgement that no other Church’s have the priesthood?!” At this point he was quite offended on behalf of the non-Catholics. An African imigrant fella swept down to save the day. He began to elaborate about the Orthodox and just like the Catholics, and that they have the priesthood too. Someone else spoke of the connection between Mary and the Eucharist, and how if you lose one you lose the other. The indignant fella was quite perturbed, “What about the Anglicans?! They have priests!” “O certainly not”, said another. “So says you!” says the indignant fella. “No. The Pope says so”, said another. “It’s true sadly” I offered, “the apostolic succession was lost in a cloud or abiguity.” He was ripe and red, “So you’re saying the Archbishop of Cantebury is not a priest. You’re saying he’s just pretend?!” Upon hearing this, I have a feeling in me saying whispering to my conscience, “I think this man might actually be an Anglican.” And so, I said, “The man in Cantebury is a good man. He is brilliant. I honestly could listen to him talk at length about quite a lot of things. I admire him and his crazy hair and shaggy beard is an outward sign of his intellect.” It was at this time that someone brought up a fella named Cranmer and the murder of the real archbishop of Cantebury. I do not know if that is true.

    When the discussion got heated and subsequently cooled the light dawned on marblehead. Not everybody is aware of the concept of Apostolic Succession. It seems like such a basic thing to me that I know a guy who shook hands with a guy who shook hands…. with a guy who shook hands with Jesus Christ way back during the Iron Age. In a similar way, I know a guy who knows the Pope and the Pope I am sure is familiar with him (at least a little). Catholics are not far from their king. That is a lovely thought that perhaps has been not talked about enough.

    Why is that?

  13. Lopes says:

    ‘Catholics don’t need to be so overly simplistic in their support for the present practice of the Catholic Church with regard to Anglican orders. Citing Leo XIII’s bull and saying, “’nuff said,” is a bit silly.’

    Modernists are an arrogant sect, for sure!

    ‘Apostolicae curae was a judgment of Anglican invalidity based on certain historical factors at play in the 1890?s, and much earlier.’

    It is amazing how Protestant, I mean, Modernists understanding is always evolving, everything is fluid…right. What has changed since then?? A lot and for the worst. But Leo XIII was just an obtuse Pope; no tolerance or diversity in his heart. Besides Nichols (Abp. Nichols of Westminster) has just said that the Church supports homosexual ‘civil unions’ and diversity so the Protestants may be right after all…everything must be updated to our times.


  14. John Nolan says:

    Older generations of Anglicans, who were brought up with the BCP and are happy to call themselves Protestants, take Holy Communion very seriously, and were only admitted to the sacrament after they were confirmed. They don’t like the modern habit of inviting all and sundry to partake of it, including nonconformists and those (in the case of the Salvation Army) who may not even have been baptized. They don’t care for the way the ‘Family Eucharist’ has replaced the traditional Morning Prayer in most parishes. They would not take it as a compliment if a ‘Roman Catholic’ were to approach the communion rail; they actually think we receive too frequently, and at too young an age.

  15. fxkelli says:

    “We can pray with non-Catholics to a certain extent, but not with the intention of praying as if we were also non-Catholics. We cannot do anything or pray anything which is contrary to the Catholic Faith. ”

    Having been to many different non-Catholic services, I’m curious what else, besides communion, I should be looking for to prevent this from happening.

  16. Banjo pickin girl says:

    fxkelli, if you are in a mainline church there really isn’t anything much you would find. you will know when something is wrong. if you are in a tiny house church in the hills though don’t let anybody hand you a rattlesnake!

  17. Judith23 says:

    Most Episcopalian churches now receive anyone to their “communion”. Baptized, unbaptized, Hindu, Muslim, and the list goes on. I am a new convert and I am amazed at the number of priests who seem to think they can make their own rules and then demand conformity from their flock. I seem to have much to learn.

  18. Bill Russell says:

    The “Episcopal Church” is not a Church but an “ecclesial community” as it lacks the marks of authentic apostolicity. Cf. CDF – signed Cardinal Ratzinger – June 29,2007.

    Anglican Orders are definitively invalid as Cardinal Ratzinger explained in his doctrinal commentary on the Apostolic Letter “Ad Tuendam Fidem” in 1998. The Prefect of the CDF cited Leo XIII’s decree on the invalidity of Anglican Orders as as example of a teaching which requires “firm and definitive assent” to which Canonical penalties are attached for dissent. Those who fail to give “firm and definitive assent”, according to the commentary, would “no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church”.

    With the approval of the CDF, on November 9, 2009, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda SJ, Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, repeated this teaching and said with reference to the new Anglican Ordinariates, that “the ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896.” Given the doctrinal collapse of Anglicanism and the ordaining of women bishops, any further consideration of the validity of Anglican Orders is mute.

  19. thepapalbull says:


    Do tell this protestant, oops, I mean modernist (ha, what a good one!) on what grounds Leo XIII declared Anglican orders null and void, if not the historic texts and the historic facts surrounding Anglican ordinations at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth? I mean, really, what else is there?

    I’m not sure what the alternative to what I’ve written above may be, that you may be advocating… Are you saying that Pope Leo didn’t research and condemn the original Anglican texts? Are you saying that Pope Leo didn’t take into account that the only ordaining “bishops” in the Church of England at the time were, uh, Anglicans?

    Or perhaps you are taking the wholly untenable position that *were* Anglicans to change their texts in conformity to Catholic teaching and insert valid, recognized lines of succession, such as that of the Old Catholic Church, into her orders, that it would be altogether impossible to confer valid orders in the Church of England? Wait, that couldn’t ever happen, historical situations don’t evolve or change, do they? You’re right, of course not. I’m sure that Leo XIII didn’t ground Apostolicae curae on any pesky facts or documents, he just went with his gut, right? “I mean, really, they’re Anglicans after all!”

    To be sure, so-called Anglican orders are absolutely null and utterly void (didn’t that come across in my first post?). If ever there was doubt, WO sealed the deal. But to turn a blind eye to the historical developments of the past 100 years, and argue for the invalidity of 21st century clergy based on a 19th century document, is in my opinion – silly.

    But then again, I’m just a protestant, oops I mean modernist (I love it!), so what do I know?

  20. JeffTL says:

    It is distinctly possible that the Catholic priest in this situation knew the Episcopal priest to have been ordained by a Catholic bishop…we (Anglicans) do have such priests. Typically men who were Catholic since before they were born, became priests, but then fell in love, and weren’t willing to either fall out of it or leave priestly ministry entirely. I know two of them.

    That said, good ecumenical practice includes the rule of reciprocity – avoid doing anything to or for the other party that would be morally or canonically impossible for him to reciprocate. An Episcopalian cannot licitly receive the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic church under circumstances not involving mortal peril, so it is inappropriate for a Roman Catholic priest to receive in an Episcopal church, with sacramental validity and the Episcopal priest’s duty and probable willingness to communicate him if requested being moot points.

  21. Supertradmum says:

    Leo XIII’s document is still in force. As to Anglicans being ordained by Catholic bishops, this is a rare situation. In the Ordinariate, there have been to my knowledge, no conditional ordinations, all understanding that Anglican orders are invalid. As to receiving, it is still a scandal, as the so-called Anglican priest who may have been ordained by a Catholic bishop, has intentionally separated himself from Rome. Like the SSPX, he is in some sort of disobedience. What would say to a Catholic priest receiving Communion from and at an SSPX Mass? And the is not a question of reciprocity, of one of Church law, which states we can only receive Communion from the Orthodox under certain circumstances.

    Ecumenism is a false argument here.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    sorry, forgot a we in the second to the last sentence–typing in the sun..and cannot see the screen for corrections…

  23. AnnikaMira says:

    The fact that this guy wrote in to ask this question and no one asked where was his heart and mind during this most sacred moment of the Mass….wondering if and to who he should tattle to? This whole post scandalizes me. Do you all keep notes on what everyone else is doing? I better watch out that I don’t get reported by the WDTPRS secret police.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Phil_NL, as far as I know Leo XIII’s pronouncement was infallible, though no dogma but one of the things theologians call “a Catholic truth”.

    Dear @mrose, I’m not so sure. I think the main problem was the ordinal between 1550something and 1660something. After that, there was no validly ordained bishop left. Whether the ordinal in force since this time can, in itself, be valid, is far from clear to all my knowledge.

  25. AnAmericanMother says:

    It was 1552, when the Edwardine Ordinal was instituted, and 1662, when the language was belatedly changed to try to cure the problem. But by then, of course, no validly ordained or consecrated men survived.
    Read all about it: Apostolicae Curae

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