May I preface my remarks by observing that Holy Communion also known as the Holy Eucharist, altar sacrament (excuse the pidgin) is one of those hot potato issues along side Mary, Scriptures, the priesthood among others.
It is in the spirit of the Year of the Faith (October 2012 – November 2013) that I dare an explanation on this mystery of our faith. Through this exchange, intellectual or more precisely digital, I hope to be enriched and above all in the process help clarify any doubts.
By the way, it is quite interesting that the architect of this debate,* a Protestant of Presbyterian extraction with “langa throat” for things Catholic, reverts to a Catholic document to defend his thesis: Some Christians can receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church under some very special circumstances at some special events. It is worth noting that the proponent does not evoke the cardinal principle of Protestantism “Sola Scriptura – Scriptures Only.”
Before I go into the kernel of the argument, I would like to propose that the relevant biblical text worth pondering on the issue under consideration is 1 Cor. 11:17-34. Except otherwise stated all biblical quotes are from the Good News Translation.
v. 28: So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink the cup.
v. 29: For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink.
v. 30: That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment.
The text is quite clear on why non-Catholics are not allowed to receive Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. It is basically a question of meaning. For Catholics, during consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For others, at least for Presbyterians, it is just a symbol or may be just symbolic. This is no small difference. It is an essential difference.
Let us leave aside the question of the reasonableness of this teaching until someone brings it up for discussion. It suffices to mention here though that Christ said: “This is my body…This is my blood” and not this is a symbol of my body. We do not share the same meaning of the Eucharist. Hence in receiving Holy Communion, either the recipient is making a bold affirmation of Catholic doctrine, in which case why does the individual not follow the proper channel and officially become Catholic? Else, it is downright bad will and outright disrespect. Out of impunity, it would seem with the recipient insinuating: what can you guys do? In which case this becomes a scandal and a sacrilege.
Secondly, the nomenclature used to describe this reality is carefully chosen. It is communion, a communio, a common union. As a “comm-unity” we share a common faith. It is as a community that we profess the common faith in the Body and Blood of Christ. It helps build and foster the unity. Communion is both a precondition for Holy Communion and the source of communion. To receive communion you must be in communion with the Church and this is also the source of the communion. Kenneth is not in communion and so why receive Holy Communion.
It behooves me at this point to mention that unity is not uniformity. There is unity in diversity and so to hide behind Christ’s prayer for unity: May they all be one – is at best deceptive and disingenuous.
But Kenneth Ndeh would readily claim that he agrees with these and would add that Canon Law makes provision for special circumstances where intercommunion is possible. These extenuating circumstances are listed in the instruction by USCCB. For the purpose of this discussion, permit me quote the last part of the instruction:
This is why the USCCB guidelines, which are published in the back of every missalette, exclude weddings, funerals and other such occasions as appropriate for intercommunion. The occasions would be individual, normally determined by a pastor after consultation with the bishop, or, in accordance with norms drawn up on the basis of this canon (paragraph 5).
First of all this is circumscribed to the United States of America. I have not done any research to ascertain what the practice is in other parts of the world. At least, I know in Cameroon this is not the case.
What is more the instruction talks of special events like weddings and funerals. In addition to many other conditions to be fulfilled, it clearly specifies that it involves a process.
Let me use an example close to home: Jude Ambe’s wife is a Presbyterian but on their wedding day she received communion under both species in the Catholic Church. Suffices it to mention here that it was a mixed marriage for which dispensation was required and duly granted from the Bishop at the request of the pastor of Resurrection parish. As you would note, the above policy is specific and notes that the occasions would be INDIVIDUAL (emphasis mine). Mr. Ambe’s wife cannot continue to receive communion at every wedding because she was given dispensation. It was a onetime thing for a specific event. Other Presbyterians cannot now claim that at every wedding or funeral they would receive communion.
Mr. Ndeh, clearly under some very extreme circumstances an individual at a particular event can receive Holy Communion. To the best of my knowledge you have not fulfilled any of those conditions and you continue to make a mockery of our Catholic Faith. Thank God that it is among Catholics. Why not go try the Muslims?
* This article was originally published on the listserv of Sacred Heart College Ex Students (SHESA – DC)