Last week a parishioner told me he was going to a wedding in a Protestant church where holy communion would be offered. He asked if it would be okay for him to receive. I told him there are a number of things we believe about the Eucharist that are different from our Protestant brothers and sisters. Among them is the belief that the Eucharist is a sign of unity. When we receive Holy Communion, it is a sign of our common Catholic faith – seven sacraments, heaven, hell, and purgatory, the primacy of the pope, the real presence of Jesus (body, blood, soul, and divinity) in the Eucharist, apostolic succession of bishops, and the necessity of valid orders to confect the Eucharist. We are in communion with the Church and one another. However, since we are not in communion in faith with our Protestant brothers and sisters, it would be a false sign for us to receive communion in one of their churches and for a Protestant to receive communion in a Catholic church. Furthermore, the Catholic Church does not believe that Jesus is present in the host at a Protestant service. To respond Amen (I believe) when offered a host at a Protestant service, is not what the Catholic Church believes, and we would be disloyal to do so.
All of this is not to put down our Protestant brothers and sisters, there are many good people among them and there is much good in their churches. They just don’t have the fullness of what Christ wants in his church. That only subsists in the Catholic Church.
Let us pray for our Church and for the day when all Christians will be united in faith.
- Fr. Carl