Pope Francis has offered some confusing observations about the possibility of Lutherans receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.
I’m getting email… angry… alarmed… confused… sad… above all demoralized.
Edward Pentin has the best press breakdown I have seen so far. HERE You can read the whole of the answer that the Pope gave to a Lutheran woman Anke de Bernardinis. Here’s the video of the whole event in the original language, Italian. The part under discussion here starts at 21:00:
Here below are the Pope’s comments in context (Pentin’s working translation):
Question: My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I’m married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?
Pope Francis: The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared! [Meh. I wouldn’t worry about Kasper.]
I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this command to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem will be there but that will be the last one. In the meantime, I ask myself — and don’t know how to respond — what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand. [Ummm… it’s not that hard. It’s both.]
It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand [“doctrine” is difficult to understand? How about “That which is taught. Christian doctrine ordinarily means that body of revealed and defined truth which a Catholic is bound to hold, but is often extended to include those teachings which are not of faith but are generally held and acted upon. Occasionally the word indicates these last only, “the teachings of theologians,” as distinct from “the faith taught by the Church.” – The Catholic Dictionary – Is there more to say? Sure. But that’s a start.] — but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? You’re a witness also of a profound journey, a journey of marriage: a journey really of the family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism. [Yes, we have the same baptism. I was baptized in the Lutheran Church. My baptism was valid. However, in order to receive Communion in the Catholic Church, to be admitted to the Catholic Communion, I had to repudiate the errors of my Lutheran background and publicly state that I embraced and accepted everything that the Holy Catholic Church teaches. HERE (“Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved.”) When I was ordained, I put my hand on Holy Writ and, publicly, said that I accepted what the Church teaches. Lutherans have valid baptism, but they do not believe in the effects of baptism in the same way that we Catholics in regard to justification and sanctification. Furthermore, baptism, though foundational, is one sacrament. We have others, too. But let’s go on.]
When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution. [The Sacrament of Penance is the means given to us by Christ Himself, the means by which HE desires for us to seek forigivness and reconciliation.] I’m healed to keep alive the Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same. [What Jesus did for us.. okay… but how we participate in what Jesus did for us is different.] The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.
I once had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop who went a little wrong – he was 48 years old, married, two children. This was a discomfort to him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, [?!?] the Lord called him, a just man. To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?
It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?” [While I don’t think that, in this phrase, Pope Francis is implying that there are no differences between what Lutherans and Catholics believe, allow me to state for the record that there are HUGE differences between what Catholics and Lutherans believe about how the Lord is present in the Eucharist.] — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. [We have more than one sacrament.] “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. [NB… really… Nota bene:] I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. [THAT’S RIGHT. It is not his competence.] One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more. [And THIS is where the confusion comes in.]
First, Pope Francis clearly states that he cannot officially say that Lutherans can be admitted to Communion. He doesn’t have the competence. This has been settled clearly from the Council of Trent onward. The Pope knows that he can’t change this.
However, “Talk to the Lord and then go forward.” This is confusing. Let me try to untangle it.
On the one hand, that’s what people of good will do any way. (There are people of bad will, too, but leave them out for now.) In the end, Catholics and non-Catholics alike make up their own minds at the moment of Communion at Holy Mass in Catholic Churches. No one is monitoring their thoughts. We can’t paralyze them in their pew and constrain them not to go forward when they should not. A lot of people – never mind non-Catholics – a great many Catholics go to Communion when they should not.
If there is a case of a public sinner, a well-known person who should not go to Communion, then the bishop, priest or deacon is obliged not to give that person Communion. Sure, that’s not the practice of all bishops and priests, but that’s not my fault.
What we need to do is catechize Catholics and teach clearly as a Church what we believe about the Eucharist and the proper disposition to receive the Eucharist in Communion.
If we don’t, then we priests and bishops are also guilty of profaning the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. We are responsible.
A lot of people become angry and confused about some things that Pope Francis says… and doesn’t say… and then says and doesn’t say at the same time. It’s frustrating to try to figure him out. For example, he tends to speak in derogatory terms about doctrine and law, as if they are not important. BUT… BUT… he doesn’t actually say that they aren’t.
There is the tone with which he speaks and there are the words with which he speaks. We are left to untangle the knot.
That said, for this issue the Pope made a clear statement:
“I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence.”
Before anyone gets out onto the ledge outside the window, read that again and repeat it to yourself. The Pope is not saying that Lutherans can go to Communion.
The moderation queue is ON.