Thursday, October 18, 2012


It is possible for a Protestant Christian to receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church but Church law requires three things:

A. That the person believe what we believe about Holy Communion, that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ and that through Holy Communion Christ brings us into full communion with Him through the Church.

B. That the Protestant cannot receive Holy Communion in their own denomination (perhaps there isn't one in that location).

C. That the bishop approve it.

When I was stationed in Augusta at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, we had an elderly Episcopalian nun, Sister Clare, who came every Saturday night to our Sunday anticipated Vigil Mass. She was opposed to women's ordination and was a High Episcopalian and believed what we believe in most if not all things, in fact she was better informed of Catholic Church's teachings and beliefs and more faithful to these than most rank and file Catholics. Her convent of sisters had several who were ordained Episcopal priests and she was dead set against receiving holy Communion at their "Liturgies."

I asked Bishop Boland if she could be given permission to receive Holy Communion given the state of affairs in her convent. He graciously allowed it. After about three years of this arrangement, at the age of 96 she asked to be received into the full communion of the Roman Church. I celebrated her funeral when she died at 102. She was never expelled from her Episcopalian convent!

Often times I have Protestants asking to go to confession or to be anointed. In these situations it is a pastoral call on my part. I seldom refuse these sacraments to non-Catholics if they understand what these are and have a real need and of course their own denominations do not offer these. Often it is a way for these people to eventually enter the full communion of the Church. I do see offering these sacraments as extraordinary especially if someone is critically ill either spiritually or psychically and are baptized practicing Christians.

Some of you who read this blog are converts in the truest sense, you were received into the Catholic Church through baptism.

What role did the Blessed Virgin Mary play in your conversion?

What role did the practice of the Sacrament of Penance play?

What role did the hierarchy of the Church and her Bishop of Rome Play?

What was the major role in your conversion?


Henry Edwards said...

The very first Catholic Mass I attended--as a serious Methodist college student in the mid 1950s on a chance invitation --made a profound impression with its stunning beauty and reverence. I did not know precisely what was happening, but it was clear that SOMETHING was happening, some actual action, not just words and preaching.

The liturgy led me into inquiry about Catholicism. I became convinced of the primacy of Peter, and everything else fell into place.

After that first Catholic Mass, I returned the very next day for my second, and the die was cast. Unfortunately, after a first exposure to the liturgy in a typical OF parish today, a return for a second Mass might be unlikely. And any depth of any conversion that nevertheless occurred might unfortunately be proportional to the depth of that first liturgical exposure.

Anonymous 5 said...

I think this post and Canon 844 sec. 4 raise more questions than they answer.

Looking at the canon, I see different (and more) requirements than the ones Fr. McD mentions.

a) A danger of death or some other grave necessity (in the judgment of the bishop or conference of bishops);

b) the non-Catholic cannot approach a minister of his own community;

c) the non-Catholic seeks the sacraments of his own accord;

d) the non-Catholic must manifest Catholic faith in respects to these sacraments; and

e) the non-Catholic is properly disposed.

I would say that this section is tailor-made for Eastern Orthodox, and only makes complete sense in the context of discussing the Eastern Orthodox, but they have their own section to cover them--section 3. Thus the questions. My commentary follows.

b) What's this about the non-Catholic being unable to approach a minister of his community? Either this means that he can't get his own brand of sacraments and has to settle for ours as a substitute, or he cant get our brand of sacraments from his own ministers. The former can't be the case as I explain below, and the latter is a truism (since of course one can't get Catholic sacraments from anon-Catholic). So this requirement seems pointless.

d) Is it possible to manifest Catholic faith in regard to the sacraments and still be a Protestant? If I'm willing to accept the authority of the priest to absolve and to confect a Transubstantiated Eucharist, why would (and how could) I reject the authority of the Church in all other doctrinal matters? (Remember, we aren't talking about the Orthodox here). And if I am "settling" for Catholic sacraments since I can't get the ones I really want, am I really manifesting Catholic faith in regards to those sacraments? It seems odd, but I'm open to discussion. (I suppose the strongest argument would go to the Anglicans, as in the very interesting case of the nun that Fr. McD mentions--specifically, and Anglican who believes in the Real Presence and sacramental confession, but who then comes to believe that Anglican ordinations are invalid. But a Baptist or a Pentecostal or a Mormon? Or even a Lutheran? I would have to say that the theology there is just too divergent.)

I haven't checked the Pio-Benedictine Code, but I think that this whole Canon might be taking Unitatis Redintegratio a bit too liberally (and giving it a bit too much authority). It seems to me if you're willing to meet all these requirements, then then you're simply a de facto Catholic and should be required to formalize it by making a profession of faith. Why wouldn't you want to? Why shouldn't we make you?

I agree that there may be truly extraordinary cases, and Fr. McD's nun is a textbook example, but how many of those can there really be?

In sum, I would be hugely against using this canon to encourage or even permit reception of the sacraments by non-Catholics except in an almost literal one-in-a-million situation. To do otherwise cheapens the sacraments, embraces and propagates indifferentism, and starts us on a slippery slope of intercommunion (which I'm guessing is the agenda behind the canon). In the vast majority of cases, I would say "You want Catholic sacraments? Then put some skin in the game. Membership has its privileges." That, after all, has been the general view of the Church for 2000 years.

carl said...

I was baptized at the age of 19 at the Easter Vigil, and the major role in my conversion was a hs and college friend of mine who has been a priest now since May. I wanted to find objective truth, and he proclaimed it to me. So I'd say the Magisterium, hierarchy, and apostolic succession as guarantors of truth played the biggest role. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and coming to the sacraments just followed naturally from there.