Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What the Catholic Church says about Non-Catholics Receiving Communion

At a recent retreat that I attended a topic of discussion came up on the last day of the retreat between some team members on the receipt of Holy communion by non-catholics and what the stance of the Church is on this and I felt I should share this.

I am including below details from various documents of the Church in relation to this topic. I kept the references to a minimum but I would be more than happy to expand further and give more detailed references from which these texts are derived if required. The bold is my emphasis.

Sacramentum Caritatis

Participation by Christians who are not Catholic

56. The subject of participation in the Eucharist inevitably raises the question of Christians belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this regard, it must be said that the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Church’s unity inspires us to long for the day when we will be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist together with all believers in Christ, and in this way to express visibly the fullness of unity that Christ willed for his disciples (cf. Jn 17:21). On the other hand, the respect we owe to the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood prevents us from making it a mere “means” to be used indiscriminately in order to attain that unity. (172) The Eucharist in fact not only manifests our personal communion with Jesus Christ, but also implies full communio with the Church. This is the reason why, sadly albeit not without hope, we ask Christians who are not Catholic to understand and respect our conviction, which is grounded in the Bible and Tradition. We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Yet it remains true that, for the sake of their eternal salvation, individual non-Catholic Christians can be admitted to the Eucharist, the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. But this is possible only in specific, exceptional situations and requires that certain precisely defined conditions be met (173). These are clearly indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (174) and in its Compendium (175). Everyone is obliged to observe these norms faithfully.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

1399 The Eastern churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. “These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy.” A certain communion in sacris, and so in the Eucharist, “given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged.”(235)

1400 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.”(236) 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.”(237)

1401 When, in the Ordinary’s judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions.(238)

Ref 238 above refers to this section of Canon Law:

Canon Law

Can. 844 §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, §2.

§2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

§3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.

§4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

§5. For the cases mentioned in §§2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.

New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: (re: §4)

“Next, canon 844 makes a clear distinction between those covered by paragraph three and those covered by paragraph four. In that paragraph, a more limited exception is applied to other Christians not within full Catholic communion. With regard to the latter, who are neither Eastern Christians nor in the same situation as the East, the requirements are several: (1) a serious need (whether danger of death or, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or of the conference of bishops, other grave necessity); (2) inability to approach their own minister; (3) a voluntary request by the recipient; (4) manifestation of Catholic faith concerning the sacraments in question; and (5) a proper disposition to receive the sacrament.

With regard to the serious need, the Secretariat ofor Promoting Christian Unity has given as examples the situation of persons in prison or under persecution or, aside from such cases of suffering and danger, the situation of persons who live at some distance from their own communion. This is of course not an exhaustive list of such cases, and the judgment belongs to the diocesan bishop or, if it should have issued norms of guidelines for such cases, the conference of bishops.”

I hope this helps clarify matters. I would be more than happy to discuss this further or provide more references. I feel that one thing that I continue learning with time is the need for humility. We say we believe in ONE HOLY CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH – and that means submitting to the TEACHING AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH as handed down through the apostles, Popes and bishops. Therefore I do not wish to add MY opinion to this b/c I do not feel that I have the knowledge, wisdom and authority to do so – but the Magesterium does have the knowledge, wisdom and authority as a body guided by the Holy Spirit and given by Christ himself. Furthermore I have no right to pick and choose what I will accept of this authority.
As I always say, there is no such thing as supermarket catholicism, or conservative or liberal catholicism - You're either Catholic or you're not!

God bless (+)

Stephen

Question:

I wonder if the apostles knew what Jesus was talking about at the last supper when he said, “this is my body…”? And if so why or how could they split/ run away / deny Jesus so quickly. I don’t think they fully understood and yet the Lord let them participate.

Response: True, one does wonder…..however is not the role and teaching authority of the Magisterium somewhat related to eliminating the “wonder” “why” and “what” of matters that pertain to the faith? Maybe they did not; but maybe they did!!!! Truly I do not think any of us have the wisdom, authority and knowledge to single to get into that alone without referring to what the Church teaches us.

The probability is that the apostles did understand what it was – I refer you to John 6 -when Jesus explains that he is the bread from heaven and discusses the matter of “eating his flesh and drinking his blood”. Recall how he was adamant about this and did not change his wording….Not only that, he turned to his apostles and asked them if they also wanted to leave at which Peter asks the Lord “To whom shall we go?”. At this point Jesus responds “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Scripture scholars refer to this last sentence as an attestation that Judas refused to believe in this miracle of the Eucharist.

God bless (+)

Stephen

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Meditation on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007
Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 15: 1 - 2, 22 - 29

1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.


22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsab'bas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 with the following letter: "The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili'cia, greeting. 24 Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."

Psalms 67: 2 - 3, 5 - 6, 8

2 that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!
5 Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!
6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.

Revelation 21: 10 - 14, 22 - 23

10 And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

John 14: 23 - 29

23 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. 25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, `I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe.
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For those that have eyes and see through them, and ears, and listen through them, they are a clear directive against the relativism that has overtaken our society and crept into our church…

I may seem to be starting from the tail-end of things – However I ask you to keep in mind the following concepts, on which I am building my thoughts. The readings of this week are a story of the continuum of the plan of salvation and I summarize them as follows: –


1. God, the source of everything
2. Christ as the “Mediator and fullness of All Revelation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC)
3. The Church as the “transmission of Divine Revelation” (CCC)


1. God, the source of everything

In the Gospel Jesus reveals to us more of the mystery of who God is and the Holy Trinity. How many times have we ranted the Creed without thinking about what we are really saying? We commence by saying “We believe/I believe”. What is it that “we believe”? The Creed is a proclamation of our faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man…” (CCC 26).

Fr. Wulstan Mork OSB in his book “Transformed by Grace” explains God, in the best humanly possible form of explaining, as a being essentially involved in knowing and willing himself. The Son is God’s knowledge of himself, while the Holy Spirit is God’s love of himself. Keeping this in mind, the Gospel passage we are presented with this Sunday has several words that stand out: “word”, “love” and “peace”. These are key words or key actions relating to God and who he is. Now, the Catechism tells us that “God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son” (CCC 73)….and in this Gospel we are shown more of who God is through the words of Jesus.

2. Christ as the “Mediator and fullness of All Revelation” (CCC)

In the Gospel Christ tells us to keep his “word” and in this way we express our love for him. Now Christ is THE “Word” (Jn 1:1-2) that comes from the Father. In the Eternal Word, that is, in Jesus, we see an expression/a revelation of God’s knowledge of himself Thus in keeping with Christ’s word, we come to know God and be in closer union with God and thus are able to love God. When Christ talks about God the Father’s love for those who keep Christ’s word one might say “does God not love each one of us irrespective?” I personally feel that in these words Christ is telling us that by listening to his word, we learn about God and thus are able to love God and in doing so we also open ourselves to God’s love. Think about this in human terms – when we fall in love with someone, don’t we first come to know them? Don’t we also need to be open to them for them to be able to love us? So it is with God.

But to know God we need help and Christ reveals to us where that help will come from –the Holy Spirit who “will teach [us] all things”. I stated earlier that the Holy Spirit is God’s love of himself. Where is the link? Let us recall back to Easter evening when Christ “breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit….’” (Jn 20:22). Thus the Spirit is the breath of Love of God – metaphorically speaking in the same way as a lover sighs a sigh of love towards his lover. From true love then comes the true peace – the peace that we so yearn for, however we appear to not have grasped this concept so well, as human beings.

This explanation in no way touches the real complexity of God. However it should not let it discourage us but should give us some insight into the spiral of infinite love that God truly is and the reason of why we are here and why the Church exists (which is the next peace of the puzzle).

Thus in this gospel we can say that we are being presented with the source and foundation of our being, of our faith, of the Church, in whom we all have to be grounded - The one God, the Holy Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the one and only source of the Word, of Truth, Love and Peace.

The church’s role in all of this is to transmit this message.

3. The Church as the “transmission of Divine Revelation” (CCC)

The reading from the book of revelation is fascinating and truly a wonderful explanation of what the Church is. The Church is described as the “holy city, Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God”. This is exactly what the Church is with its foundation laid firmly in Christ. We have the grace of belonging to God’s church but it is not our doing. It is a gift to us from God – his way of bringing us back to him.

The continuity of God’s plan is evident in this reading too. The names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed on the gates of the wall of the city. The Church tells us that “God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants” (CCC 72). Thus Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (who was given the name Israel) and his sons making up the foundation of the twelve tribes of Israel formed the “gateway” through which God revealed himself to us.

The universality of the mission of the Church is reflected in the gates of the city that face all directions of the winds. It exists not to save the select few but to bring all of humanity back to Christ. This is after all what Catholic means. However, to do that it needs to have a solid foundation and never deviate from its foundation.

The foundation of the Church lies on the “twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the lamb”. There can be NO deviation nor compromise. The teachings of Christ are handed down to us from the apostles through the Church and can never be antiquated. Christ is God and is ever present and so are His words. There is no past, no future – only the present for him. Thus, there is no such thing as the “Church needs to change it’s thinking on such and such” or “needs to move with the times”. If it did it would be the equivalent of moving itself off the foundation of the apostles. This obviously is not easy for many to accept, however there is NO compromise or alternative to the truth/reality!

This is where the Magisterium or teaching body of the Church gets its authority. Therefore, it is not as some think – it is not a single person speaking of his own will or even a group of people – What the church teaches is what God is directing it to teach first and foremost through his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and ultimately through the apostles and unfailingly through the ages, through the continuous apostolic tradition. Thus there is an undeniable basis for the authority of the Church that we MUST respect and accept with humility.

We are told that John, in this vision saw “no temple….for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb”. This phrase takes us further into the makeup of the Church. Christ himself tells us "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn 8:12). In the psalms we are told "The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation" (Ps 27:1). The Church acknowledges this. In fact in the Vatican Council document, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, this document, starts with the words “Christ is the Light of nations” (Lumen Gentium). The Church is the vessel for the dissemination of this light throughout the world. Thus, at the core of the Church is Christ who lights its way. Irrespective of the human faults that fill the church, nothing can diminish or alter that light which energizes the Church. When we look around us and see all the issues that have arisen in the past years, this is not always easy to grasp, however it is an undeniable truth that the church with Christ as its light and built as the reading tells us earlier, upon the foundation of the Apostles and Peter as the rock “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).


This leads us into the final reading of today – well really it was the first reading. What is very evident here is the procedure that was followed by Paul and Barnabas clearly sets a good example to us as to how and where we should look to get direction and guidance. Paul, a Pharisee, could have pretended to know “everything”. However Paul was humble enough to submit to the authority of the Church and set out to Jerusalem, no easy journey by the standards of those days, to seek the advise of the teaching authority of the church – the Magisterium. With the support of Judas and Silas as well as a letter of support and explanation, the church leaders seek to clarify matters that were acting as stumbling block to some of the church faithful. This is the same procedure that is used now, two thousand years later. In reality, what I should say this is the procedure used by those, archbishops, bishops, priests and lay people alike that are FAITHFULL to the faith and the church. In this day and age we have many who don’t.


There are many amongst the faithful and the clergy that have gone astray. Satan and the winds of permissiveness and, one would go as far as saying, of apostasy have unfortunately penetrated into the church – something which should not surprise us given the growth in pride and loss of focus of many who are in a position to lead and teach the people of God. In addition, we have the unheeded and trivialized warnings that our blessed Mother gave us in Fatima and other places, as well as what the Lord himself told St. Faustina. In one diary entry St. Faustina says ‘…the Lord Jesus began to complain about the souls of religious and priests, about the lack of love in chosen souls…. “souls without love and without devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive: My Heart cannot bear this…..I called convents into being to sanctify the world through them…..The great sins of the world are superficial wounds on My Heart, but the sins of a chosen soul pierce My Heart through and through…”’ (Diary, 1702)


These issues result when individuals lose their focus or rather, when the focus changes from Christ to “me”. We are a society that have become so egoistic and narcissistic that that we have selectively and knowingly blocked Christ out of our lives. For many the Eucharist is not the “source and summit of our life” anymore and what about the respect and love that Christ is owed when we enter the Church, the way we dress in Church, when we receive communion, time in adoration? Christ and his bride the Church are treated worse than a second class citizens and worst of all by CATHOLICS THEMSELVES and EVEN WORSE BY MANY IN THE PRIESTHOOD. Strict adherence to what Christ taught and teaches us through the authority of the church has been lost. Pope Benedict in the pre-conclave sermon addressed this issue as he has done previously in the past and still does. He asks us “How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.


Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires


This criticism is not solely for “them out there”– it applies to each of us. But how seriously do we take the Pope’s concern? What are we doing about it? Are we ones to defend his Church and his loyal priests and the teachings of the faith at work, or when it is attacked in the media? Are we instead on the malicious bandwagon doing Satan’s work with many out there, including many in the media? How seriously do we take the readings of this Sunday? Do we profess to believe in the apostolic tradition and apostolic succession and in the teaching role of the Magisterium and on the other hand do what WE want liturgically, morally etc etc etc.? Do we have the humility of the apostle Paul, who though knowledgeable still sought the guidance of the apostles?


May 13th is the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. How appropriate that these readings should fall on this day. Here we have two essential “components” of the Church - Our Lady as Jesus’ mother could have assumed or wished for any authority above and beyond the apostles…..however she did not. The same humility present when she first accepted the call from God to be the Mother of the Christ, was present afterwards. Thus we have here the greatest model of humility that we should strive towards after the example that God himself gave us when he became man. The Blessed Mother’s focus was God, her guide was God, her will was God’s – “May it be done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). How many in the Church, clergy and lay, and yes it includes each one of us, myself included have the humility of Mary – to let go of ourselves into God’s hands and let him guide us, be our focus and pray that our will is in conformity with God’s will….or have we let Satan take control. These problems stem from one source – the outright intentional disregard and lack of focus on the Eucharist and Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist and the proportional increase of focus on the self. The Blessed Sacrament is what energizes the Church. It is that beacon of light that directs the Church and yet how many look towards the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of our lives? If as Catholics we value this most blessed of all sacraments, the giving of Christ himself to us for all ages as our nourishment, do we proclaim it in the way we act? Every time we receive communion, is it out of habit? Or is it an act of faith? Do we heed Christ’s words in John 6 “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink my blood, you do not have life within you…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him”? or do we like some of his disciples question Christ’s sanity? Or doubt his words? Or say that they are metaphorical? How serious are we when we receive communion? Do we spend any time in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, face to face with Jesus or do we leave him alone in total desolation in an act of pure intentional disregard?

This is my meditation on the readings of the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2007. I hope my thoughts challenge the reader to think about his/her true calling within the Catholic Church.


God Bless

Stephen