Communion given to Lutherans in St. Peter’s Basilica – The Wrap Up

There was a kerfuffle about some Lutherans who visited Pope Francis and then – horribile scriptu – were somehow invited to receive Holy Communion during a Mass. Frankly, I didn’t follow this too closely, though the very thought irritated me in the extreme.

Now, some clarity comes from Ed Pentin.   It seems that this wasn’t part of some gruesome plot of ecumenical indifferentism.  In the end, it seems that the priest was just dumb.  Read on.

Finnish Catholic Spokesman: Communion for Lutherans at the Vatican Was a Mistake [D’ya think?]

The distribution of Holy Communion to a group of Finnish Lutherans in St. Peter’s basilica last week was a mistake and not a sign that the Church is changing its practice on access to the Sacraments, a spokesman for the Finnish Catholic Church has asserted. [Would there also be a statement of some kind from the Holy See?]

In a statement issued Jan. 20, Marko Tervaportti, director of the Catholic Information Centre in Helsinki, stressed that only members of the Catholic Church “in a state of grace” may receive the Eucharist, with some “special exceptions”. [The Code of Canon Law states that there is a narrow set of circumstances in which a non-Catholic may be admitted to Holy Communion.  In this case only the diocesan bishop can give permission for this to happen, not the pastor of a parish, not an individual priest, not a deacon, not a lay minister, not a nursing home administrator.  The question is: Who invited them to Communion?  Of course the Roman Pontiff could make this decision, but someone else… not.]

Tervaportti was referring to reports last week that a Lutheran group from Finland, led by their bishop, Samuel Salmi of Oulu, had received Holy Communion in St  Peter’s basilica, despite indicating to the priests present that they were ineligible to do so. According to Finnish news agency Kotimaa, the priests celebrating the Mass were aware that they were Lutherans.  [Good grief. It is in moments such as these that I am inclined to set up special “Reeducation Camps”.]

In his statement, Tervaportti rejected talk of a “new ecumenical attitude” at the Vatican, reiterating that the Church’s doctrine and practice in this regard “has not changed in recent years and decades”, and if it does change, it will do so through “alteration of Church law and additions to teachings.” [“additions to teachings”… ummm… how about “non-Catholics embrace Catholics teachings and become Catholics”?]

He also said a so-called “new mindset” of Pope Francis “is not a sign that the Catholic Church is going to change its practice with regard to the distribution of the Holy Eucharist,” but rather it is a “sign” for Catholics to be more careful in examining their conscience.

“For Catholics the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit’ of our Christian life,” Tervaportti explained. “It is, as it were, our credo. We carefully prepare to receive it, and confess our serious sins and fast (even shortly) before receiving it.

“We adjust our lives so that we might receive the Lord’s Supper worthily,” he continued, “knowing that ‘Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord’ (1. Cor. 11:27).”

He said “not every person distributing the Holy Eucharist knows every point of teaching and practice of the Church” and so “mistakes” can happen. [It seems to me that before a priest is given faculties to say Mass, he should know about that whole “Catholics in the state of grace” thing, or at least “Lutheran ministers… no, I can’t give them Communion” thing.  Too much to ask?]

But he said “creating communion” between the churches “on one’s own authority” makes the “true efforts of the churches to draw closer more challenging.” It would therefore “be good to respect the approach of each church in this matter,” he concluded.

So, I guess the take away here is that those priests were simply dumb, not loony.

Gosh, that’s reassuring.

I’d would, however, like to know that priest’s name, or their names.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Seems like a lot of dumb things are happening these days. On top of communion for the Lutherans in the Vatican, the Pope has announced he will travel to Sweden to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I just don’t get this at all. Thomas More lost his head fighting the Reformation and now a pope will celebrate it.

    Strange times, but clearly the Holy Spirit is full of surprises. Sigh.

  2. Acanthaster says:

    “…despite indicating to the priests present that they were ineligible to do so.”

    So how were they in a position to receive if they themselves knew they were ineligible? Was it forced on them and they just went along with the process? I’m still confused about how this could happen.

  3. Bosco says:

    Unless that priest has been distributing the Holy Eucharist to Lutherans erroneously throughout his entire ministry, then I wonder who or what gave him the belief that it was just peachy to do so at this moment in time?

  4. slainewe says:

    Sacrilege offends God. Allowing someone to commit sacrilege offends Charity.

    I know! Let’s make a rule that people unworthy to receive Holy Communion do not approach the ministers, so as to avoid the near occasion of sacrilege. God is happy. Souls are saved.

    What? We tried that before and it worked? Horrors!

    [Perhaps a little dumb should be saved for the Lutherans who knew they were not supposed to receive and still did?]

  5. “So, I guess the take away here is that those priests were simply dumb, not loony.”

    Would that there were not so much overlap between the two–at all levels, apparently–in today’s Church.

  6. Traductora says:

    Well, I guess they found some poor priest to take the hit, because the upset must have been a little more than they expected. Pope Francis and his Argentinians and Germans live in their own bubble and always seem to be surprised when the greater Church reacts.

    And now we know that his friend, the Argentinian Abp. “Tucho” Fernandez, famous for his 1995 work, “The Art of Kissing,” is writing the March document. What could go wrong?

  7. FXR2 says:

    “So, I guess the take away here is that those priests were simply dumb, not loony.”

    Sorry, Father, that is just too far a reach. I’m pretty sure that every kid in my wife’s second grade CCD class could answer that “Catholics in the state of grace” question. Are the standards in the seminary and the associated universities that low? Really, after how many years of formation? Loony or confused by someone’s recent statements are the only possible answers. Perhaps that should be loony and confused by someone’s recent statements.

    We must all pray for priests,


  8. Yosef says:

    It is good that some sort of correction to the events have been made, and I wholeheartedly agree that it would be best if the Holy See also provided a statement.

    That being said, a couple things greatly concern me:

    1. The paragraph talking about the doctrine and practice not changing recently and would only change with the alteration of Church Law and “addition to the teaching” (specifically the addition part) at face value sounds a whole lot like the evolution of the doctrine on the Eucharist to me.

    2. The Holy See (and reportedly the Holy Father himself) is set to “celebrate” the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Revolution, and a recent document issued on Lutheran-Catholic relations specifically mentions the possibility of Lutherans being able to receive the Eucharist in more circumstances, among a plethora of other theological bombshells within the document. Lastly, the Holy Father reportedly told a Lutheran woman who asked if she could receive communion that “I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it is not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one Faith. Talk to the Lord, and then go forward. I don’t say anything more.”

    With these things in mind, I think it is easier to see how a “mistake” like this can be made. I put mistake in quotations because with all the factual concerns I listed, I have a hard time believing that this was a mistake caused by ignorance- perhaps I am just cynical. The confusion in the Church is, in my opinion, at an all time high, and I think it will only get worse before it gets better.

  9. Mariana2 says:

    It’s in the weekly Lutheran magazine, ‘Kyrkpressen’, we receive as my husband is still Lutheran. The Lutheran ministers really thought it was alright and the magazine is slightly miffed at the people at the Catholic Information Centre for saying it wasn’t.

    Unfortunately, some Lutheran ministers think RC priests uneducated and not very knowledgeable, so this kerfuffle will only further lower their opinion of them. Many of my old friends are Lutheran ministers….

    I’d like to point out that Mr. Tervaportti at the Centre is a staunch supporter of the Mass in the EF. It’s an uphill struggle in this country….

  10. Dave N. says:

    This just doesn’t pass the smell test IMO.

    Coupled with 1) the event last November where the Pope answered the woman’s question about Lutherans receiving Holy Communion with something reminiscent of “it’s above my pay grade” and 2) the Pope’s near concurrent announcement that he will observe the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses in Sweden—it’s becoming more difficult to believe that these are simply unconnected one-off incidences without some greater implications.

    And which action are people (including and especially priests) going to remember: the communion event itself, which received a fair amount of religious media coverage, or this after-the-fact statement that very few people will be aware of, and fewer even bother to read? I think Catholic Pastors who already permit Lutheran and Episcopal spouses to receive Holy Communion will simply feel affirmed in their practice and more than a few will assume that “the rules just haven’t caught up yet with what’s happening in the parish,” a la footwashing.

  11. Kathleen10 says:

    I remain skeptical about this being the way it happened. Too much is going on, just too much. The weekly horror show goes on, and here comes Lent! Lot’s of opportunities there. Uh boy.

  12. lairdangusmcangus says:

    Nope, sorry. Not buying it.

    This was just another Gramacian incursion by those who are relentlessly devoted to de-Catholicizing the church. Bit by bit, brick by brick… [? ummm … Gramscian…?]

    I’m sure they had quite a giggle over this at the time. Giving Lutherans communion in St. Peter’s? How titillating! They must have felt like a teenager having sex in his parent’s bed.

  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    Instead of the correction coming from Finland, the correction should have come at least from the Vatican, if not from the mouth of Pope Francis. He has time to talk about the weather, but not about the application of Roman Catholic doctrine and dogma, except when it appears to serve a contrarian purpose, articulated in the counter-intuitive mode.
    Would this have happened during the pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul? Would this have happened during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI? It did happen during this pontificate. Why?

  14. lairdangusmcangus says:

    …sorry, that should have read “Gramacian incursion.”. I’m on my mobile phone.

    And I apologize if my analogy scandalizes anyone. This sort of thing just infuriates me.

  15. SaintJude6 says:

    I don’t buy it for a second. Not when the first report said that they approached with their arm across their chest to receive a blessing, but the priest insisted they receive. And if it wasn’t the EF, then wouldn’t the priest have said “The Body of Christ” and the person receiving have said “Amen”? Or did that part just get skipped?

  16. lairdangusmcangus says:

    Fr. Z:

    Antonio Gramsci was an Italian communist and Freemason who argued that the West could not be communized through direct confrontation. Instead he argued that the West was supported by a superstructure of cultural institutions (churches, social organizations, labor unions, schools, media) that could be infiltrated and Marxized from within. This was his theory of cultural hegemony.

    Even though most Westerners have never heard of him, he was probably one of the most diabolical and successful revolutionaries.

    The enemies of the Church have followed his blueprint to a t.

    [Yes… I know who Antonio Gramsci is. I have mentioned him many times on this blog and elsewhere. What I wasn’t sure about was your word “Gramacian”, which didn’t correspond to much of anything I recognized. I suspected that you might have been referring to Gramsci.]

  17. Augustine says:

    This declaration checks all marks of a cover up attempting to control the damage after the fact. What are the odds of a priest not knowing the norms for the most public act of worship of his Church and what are the odds of his being a dissident in this day and age? The answer is quite obvious. [I am not sure that anything is obvious about this.]

    Pax Christi

  18. lairdangusmcangus says:

    @Fr. Z.

    Ah, I’m sorry. I’m typing on my phone tonight and mis-keyed it in my original post.

  19. Joe in Canada says:

    Perhaps the priest in question was so pious that it never occurred to him that there might be such a thing as a “Lutheran”.

  20. pmullane says:

    An impish journalist may have asked the bishop why ‘the rules’ concerning Lutherans receiving Holy Communion has to be followed, however ‘the rules’ regarding ladies having their feet washed on Holy Thursday could be freely ignored, so much that the Pope changed the rules to suit practise? No wonder the poor priest was confused what rules to follow and which to ignore!

    More seriously though, The Holy Father and senior members of the Church should be reflecting on having created the situation where any ‘mistake’ like this is seen as a herald of a new dawn of new rules and newness. Is the Pope being a universal pastor of souls when people are so confused about the faith that they think that this is possible?

  21. Nicolas Bellord says:

    Dumb? You can tell that to the marines.
    It is quite common, here in England, for non-Catholics to be INVITED (not just given) to receive communion. Some priests do; others don’t. As for the Vatican anything can happen. We had a loony over here, a Father Cantalamessa, preaching in the Anglican Westminster Abbey on the gifts of the Reformation. He did not have the elementary decency to ask Catholics in the UK what we would think of such a betrayal of our martyrs.

  22. Latinmass1983 says:

    Well, this leads one to think that not only was the priest (or priests) dumb, but so were the Lutherans. And so they (whoever provided the explanation) expect us to be so dumb as to believe such a silly explanation for such a scandal!

    Are we to believe also that the Lutherans DID NOT KNOW that they should not have received Holy Communion? Are we to believe that even if they had known they were not supposed to receive that the Priest practically forced them to receive and they could not say no?

    Did not the Lutherans know they were at a Catholic Mass (even if the New Order may resemble, in some ways, their own “Mass”) and that they were not supposed to receive at all? If they did not know, why would we want such ignorant Lutherans becoming Catholics, which will simply mean that we will be getting more ignorant Catholics (like the priest who supposedly was ignorant “of every point of teaching and practice of the Church”)?

    Did the Holy Father make sure that such scandal did not go unpunished so that it will never be repeated? Or did he simply advised the people involved to take it to prayer to the Lord and then move on?

  23. Mojoron says:

    We had some friends with the seminarians of the Little Rock Diocese who were at St. Peter’s during this fiasco attending a tour and saw the Lutherans, of course they didn’t know they were Lutherans, attending Mass and signing in their native language. They said the music was beautiful and didn’t think twice about it. I saw the original post on Facebook about the “mistake” and placed it on my Timeline and they saw it and laughed. “Wow,” they wrote.

  24. kiwiinamerica says:

    Ahhhhhh………………so it was all just one big misunderstanding…. *wink*

    Phew, that’s a relief! We can all rest easier now!!

  25. Fr. Frank says:

    I don’t mean to sound hysterical, but am I the only one who has a deep sense that something is terribly, terribly wrong — and it’s speeding up? It’s moving faster. Not only in the Church. Everywhere. (Yes, I know, “Lexapro is your friend!”)

  26. Justalurkingfool says:

    Father Frank,

    You are far from alone.


  27. Giuseppe says:

    What happens to
    a) the Body of Christ when it enters someone who is not in a state of grace?
    b) the soul of the recipient not in a state of grace who does receive the Body of Christ?

    Is this considered a profanation of the Eucharist?

  28. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Fr Frank, you are not alone at all.

  29. Joe in Canada says:

    Another example of why inviting people to come forward for a blessing instead of Communion is a bad idea.

  30. slainewe says:

    “What happens to
    a) the Body of Christ when it enters someone who is not in a state of grace?”

    Our Lord is held prisoner in said soul until the species no longer exist. Being forced to attempt union with a soul who hates Him, He experiences a scourging worse than He suffered under Pilate.

    “b) the soul of the recipient not in a state of grace who does receive the Body of Christ?”

    Said soul is guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. At some point in this life (or at his Judgement) he will see that what he did was worse than those who physically tortured the Lord during His Passion.

    It is a HORRIBLE profanation. In justice we should drop DEAD (like the Israelites who dared touch the base of Mount Sinai) but, because Our Loving Savior is SO MERCIFUL, we are allowed to abuse His Mercy.

    [“Blessed be the Divine Mercy, forever and ever. Amen.”]

  31. Ling Guohai says:

    We probably should avoid reading too much into it. In Catholic countries in Europe, the vast majority of the Catholics, and sometimes even priests, are largely unaware of Protestant teachings, and would not know whether Holy Communion may or may not be distributed to Protestants or Orthodox Christians. Because this issue occurs so rarely in these countries – how many Protestants would head for Holy Communion? And how often would the priest know they are Protestants? I understand that this wouldn’t be a priority for catechization.

    It are the official statements from Rome that worry me far more.

  32. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Frank. Yes, we have the same feeling and observation. It’s an amazing descent.

  33. Gerhard says:

    Fr Frank – you are right. Now, we are in a state of OPEN WARFARE. Previously the rot was under wraps, beneath the surface. Now the horror is rampant: Islamic expansionism, mass murder of children and the old, sexual perversion, unbridled greed, communism, relativism, and, in the Church: spiritual chaos, division and downright bad faith. But… as the saying goes, “God don’t sleep.” Courage, friends, and let us charge the gates of hell with prayer and penance for the greater glory of God!

  34. Giuseppe says:

    Thank you. I had some sense that the Body of Christ could possibly change the soul of an unbeliever or a mortal sinner. The images you describe are horrific and could never be worth the possibly of some miraculous conversion. How can people be so blasé re. the desecration of Our Lord, which probably occurs thousands of times each weekend throughout the world?

  35. slainewe says:


    You ask: “How can people be so blasé re. the desecration of Our Lord, which probably occurs thousands of times each weekend throughout the world?”

    We just do not believe the Eucharist is JESUS, Our Lord and Our God, the TRUE BRIDEGROOM OF OUR SOUL. Or we do not recognize the fact that, as Catholics, we are HIS TRUE BRIDE. Or we do not understand Communion as the consummation of this TRUE NUPTIAL MYSTERY.

    What else explains the callousness of inviting Him into our bridal chamber while we are in bed with the devil? Or approaching the altar for His blessing with our demonic lover in tow? Or inviting non-Catholics (non-brides) to attempt fornication with Him?


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