Sunday, December 26, 2010


Protestants are angered that the Catholic Church does not invite them to Holy Communion!

It has been a long-standing tradition in the south for Protestants to attend Midnight Mass. In fact it is a family tradition for many going back well before the Second Vatican Council. Most non-liturgical protestants do not have church services on Christmas day although in the last 20 years many have started to have Christmas Eve services. This is one reason why so many Protestants come to our Christmas Masses.

At one time they would have known the etiquette about Holy Communion and that they should not present themselves to receive. But that is not the case today. We have many coming up to Holy Communion who are clueless about how to receive and others who think they should come forward as they do in their own churches. Thus today we have to make an announcement about it.

At our Midnight Christmas Mass, I made an announcement after the General Intercessions that we welcome all who are visitors especially those who are not of the Catholic faith. I mentioned that only Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Catholics who through sacramental confession are in a "state of grace" should receive Holy Communion as reception of Holy Communion indicates that one is in full "sacramental" communion with Jesus and the Church He founded (this applies to the Orthodox, who even though they do not see the pope as the head of the universal Church, have not broken communion with the Sacramental life of the Church, especially, Holy Orders and thus the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick. The Orthodox Church can legitimately declare that it was founded by Jesus Christ too.)

I invited those who are not Catholic to come forward at Holy Communion for a blessing if they so desired.

No sooner had I said this and sat down, about three men in their 20's who were sitting at the back of the Church near the front doors, came down the side aisle to our side door which is toward the front and departed, almost as though they were leaving in protest, or maybe they were catechumens from another city and thought they were dismissed. Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt.

I have found that in the last 10 years or so that Protestants are offended that they can't receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. This was not the case several years ago as those who were not Catholic when attending a Catholic Mass would respect the customs and traditions of Catholics and our understanding of the Mass and who should receive Holy Communion. I find their taking offense today as very unecumenical. So many people today think they have a right to the sacraments even when the Church they are attending is not the Church they belong to. Very odd,no?


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for making your statements re communion of Eucharist to those present at your Mass who may be non-Catholic or not in current communion for whatever reason. Far too few priests do this for the very reasons you mention & this is neither loving to those who do not know any better nor is it honoring to our Catholic faith. I would venture to say that the men you mentioned are more likely fallen-away Catholics as opposed to Protestants as it seems to be us Catholics who get our shorts in a wad every time someone tries to remind us that there are 'rules' to being Catholic (such as not receiving unworthily - shocking thought!).
At our midnight Mass, I watched a young woman go forward to receive, but she did not consume the Host. Instead, she carried it down the aisle, then she took GUM out of her mouth & then proceeded to NIBBLE the Host! At this point, I made a 'spectacle' of myself & stood up, pointing at her (everyone else was kneeling as she was in one of the last rows to receive). When she saw me, I motioned for her to put the entire Host in her mouth. With other heads now beginning to turn, she glared at me & finally consumed the Host. I pray she actually swallowed it. I went to speak with her post-Mass, but she had disappeared. So there is no telling what her state was or whether or not she was Catholic, but she obviously did not know 'what to do' in either case (or she was a wicca, etc, trying to steal the Host).
The bottom line is that the Priest celebrating our Mass did NOT instruct the congregation as to what to do & there were many attending who were obviously not regulars.
The truly sad thing is that rare these days is the Priest who will do what you did - especially at the 'big two' or at weddings & funerals. From my perspective, it is not only your responsibility as a Priest to educate those in attendance, but more importantly, it is your DUTY to protect the Body & Blood of Christ. Far too many priests are opting to be PC & this makes me wonder who they are trying to please as well as what they really believe. So, THANK YOU again for gently instructing & also protecting the Eucharist. If others cannot 'handle that' in the name of ecumenism,then perhaps they should consider attending midnight mass at their local Episcopal church in the future. -pgal

Anonymous said...

did you actually say that part about only Catholics and Eastern Orthodox...are in a state of grace? They could have taken offense at that. That is typically followed by "..and are going to HELL!" in their churches. They probably earnestly believe they are in a state of grace. Just a thought.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for addressing this issue. I wish all priests would do the same thing you have done! I had to tell a good friend of mine (lapsed Catholic) who wanted to come with me to Christmas Mass and receive, that "we" needed to go to confession first because otherwise we would be receiving unworthily.

I knew beyond doubt she was in mortal sin because she had, in fact, told me. She had also blatantly, in front of me, attempted this a previous time and received sacrilegiously while I had watched not knowing what to do. No one stopped her. I was determined this would not happen again, as far as I was concerned. I used the word "we" to lessen the sting of saying what I did. Needless to say, my head got bitten off and there went that relationship.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think I might have said only those Catholics who through the sacrament of Penance are in a state of grace...I'm not sure if I lumped the Orthodox that closely to us in my statement.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you did not mean it offensively, and they should not take offense at it. However, people may have. There may be some rumour control needed.


Robert Kumpel said...

I (reluctantly) took my children to an Episcopalian wedding a few years ago. I let my Communion-aged children know in no uncertain terms that they were not to make any genuflections or bows and ABSOLUTELY were not to go to "communion" at the service, telling them that it would be a serious sin against the Catholic faith.

I AM OFFENDED that with all the overwhelming evidence of the Catholic Church's apostolic orders and the Eucharistic miracles that more Protestants do not convert to the Catholic faith. They sin not only against God and the truth, but against common sense!

Is that ecumenical enough?

Anonymous said...

The church was packed on Christmas Eve and all and sundry received Holy Communion. Situated quite near one of the distribution stations, I was quite saddened to see good folks I know being deprived Holy Communion because the "ministers" ran out of hosts (and this on Christmas Eve). It was difficult to witness as many who were in attendance seldom darken the church door step yet they were not at all reluctant to race up and receive Holy Communion. Too bad similar announcements were not made at our place.


Dan said...

I'm not quite sure about the situation of the Orthodox receiving Holy Communion. It is definitely a thorny question, and one which I wish the Church would pronounce on once and for all.

The Orthodox are separated from the Church by schism, sadly, and I'm not sure how that fits in to the issue of receiving communion in a Catholic Church. It is, of course, an infallibly defined dogma (Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII) that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. I want to see them there, receiving Our Lord, but the question is: should they be there? The Orthodox are good and holy people, but...

I hope desperately that this terrible schism between East and West will end one day soon. We need them...and they need us.

Marc said...


According to the Code of Canon Law Canon 844, members of Eastern Churches not in full communion with the Pope may receive the sacraments of the Catholic Church, if properly disposed.

However, I think that most Orthodox bishops do not allow the people to receive the Catholic sacraments.

Short answer as to whether an Orthodox Christian may receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass: the Catholic Church allows it, but the Orthodox bishop may prevent it.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc is correct and I would not encourage an Orthodox Christian to disobey his or her bishop.

Templar said...

Father, I was at Midnight Mass and in the Program and in your verbal announcement your words were almost identical, to wit, Holy Communion was open to practicing Catholics, in a state of Grace, and that anyone else could present themselves for a Blessing but not receive.

Gene said...

Protestants, outside of Anglicans and Lutherans, have no real basis for understanding the theology of the Real Presence or of the Sacraments generally. Most have reduced the sacraments to two, Baptism and Communion. But, many protestant denominations do not see Baptism as necessary for salvation (they still argue among themselves about it, but it isn't much of an issue. They do get all warmed up when they disagree about infant baptism, however), and communion is just a token, almost obligatory, of obedience. So, when they are told they should not receive at a Catholic Mass, they feel like the kid who was invited to the birthday party but not allowed any cake and ice cream.

I am going to lapse into theology again, so forgive me if it annoys you...these issues are real and they filter down to the laity who may never have opened a theology book. Reformation theology evolved a doctrine known as the "radical freedom of the Holy Spirit." This means, most simply, that we cannot say that God is definitely present at any place or at any time...not in Church on Sunday, not in Baptism, not in Communion. Calvin, and others after him, were so insistent that no effort or work on man's part can "control" or induce the presence of the Holy Spirit that they left us with only uncertainty, doubt, and longing. This is all very nice Calvinistic logic... if God is omnipotent and Sovereign, and man is Totally Depraved, then even our apprehension of Him is a gift initiated only by Him, then we can have no part in this apprehension, nor can we predict where or when His presence will be found. Most protestants would say that God's presence is most likely to be found in the preaching of the Word (preaching has always been the primary "sacrament" for protestants), but even this is not a sure bet. So, you can see where they might not understand that God has promised the Church that He will be present to us in the Sacraments...that Christ is present in Holy Communion...mysteriously, efficaciously, wonderfully present.
I mean, they call Communion "the Lord's Supper"...that always made me want to say, "pass the black-eyed peas and cornbread."

So, we are dealing here with a major gap in understanding and communication. It reminds me of the post-Reformation anti-Calvinist painting (by some famous Renaissance dude whose name I forget) of several panels, which shows a protestant innocently and stupidly taking the Host home and popping it in the oven. Of course, Satan and his angels are there to snatch him away, as the Host bleeds in the oven. Tacky, but the point is made.

Anonymous said...

And who get upset with that? I would gladly accept a blessing from clergy of most faiths in the spirit it is given. *I* know I am not in communion with them and would not want it, if no other reason than it would put them on the spot or give the wrong impression. Sort of like the sister who told the Buddhist monk he could make the sign of the cross.

Locally there are a lot of non-Catholic christian faiths that rely heavily on the work of Catholic theologians as well as the Holy Father's guidance in matters of faith. This is often pointed out by our RCIA candidates and a motive of their investigation.


SqueekerLamb said...

The link here is to the Munk Debates website...not really anything to do with Holy Communion Ecumenism perse, but very disturbing and interesting. (Didn't really know where else to post this comment)
The topic was 'Is Religion a Force for Good in the World?'

c-span2 reaired this debate last night (12/26/10)and it was horrible to watch a lay Catholic convert (former Prime Minister Tony Blair) debating against what seemed like Lucifer made flesh (Christopher Hitchens). What was particularly horrible was how the audience laughed at and enjoyed Mr. Hitchens' anti-religion quips..some quite anti-Jesus Christ. He won over the audience far too easily. [Reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's way]
It was quite interesting to observe Mr. Blair's style of speach change during the debate from that of a statesman/world diplomate to that of an average lay Catholic giving his personal testimony and speaking from knowledge gained by his own catechesis.
Mr. Hitchens may have 'won' the debate there, but it is Mr. Blair that the world respects and is a global player, not Mr. Hitchens.
What is disturbing is that the audience was so easily won over by his hate-talk. He is known for his ascerbic style and it is used only for his own personal gain, i.e. fame. he offers nothing to humanity or to those he wins over. Sounds like Satan to me...the pied piper calling the children away to an empty abyss. It's quite scary. Mainly becaue it's so insidious and so prevalent. This is what we're up against.
Plus, the moderator twisted the Pope's words by asking Mr. Blair about the Catholic Church's recent reversal on it's position of condom use for AIDS prevention and cited the 'rigidty' of the Church...aargh.
The video costs $2.99 to purchase, and I don't know if c-span2 has plans to replay it.

Even if you don't purchase or get to view the debte, the website has a good deal of material about the debate.

We need more Tony Blairs.

Mr. A. said...

No, I don't think we need more Tony Blairs. Given his not too distant ramblings, he doesn't know his faith. Rather, what we need is more G.K. Chesterton's.

Gene said...

Mr. A, Ditto on G.K. Chesterton. His "Orthodoxy" should be required reading.

SqueekerLamb said...

What I meant is we need more Catholic statesmen; more Catholic world players; more Catholics in positions of influence.

Tony Blair has lived a life of tailoring his words to please many audiences, and his Faith Foundation does the same. While this sadly waters down the message, he is still allowing his Catholicism to shape and steer his actions and he will praise Jesus in front of an audience and unashamedly state that he is guided not by his own will. At least he did in this debate. Giving up of free will was one of Mr. Hitchens arguments against religion.

In the debate, it was an uneven match. A diplomatic smooth statesman against someone who makes a living by professionally bashing religion and romoting atheism and the uglyer he talks the more money he makes. Apples and Oranges. Tony Blair was too much of a nice guy.

A more even match would have been Fr.McDonald against Christopher Hitchens (aka Lucifer made flesh). Father would have slammed him. Actually any well catechised Catholic that isn't hampered by concern of public opinion should have been able to slam him. Even our man pin could have nailed him on every point.
$2.99 isn't much's a fascinating debate to watch and worth your spare change. The final question was the best: each was asked to put themselves in the other's shoes and talk about the other's most convincing argument. Lucifer admitted to there being a 'trancesdent' being.

Gene said...

Lamb, Thank you for your confidence...I go back and forth in my mind about whether we should even engage these people. Dialogue among Christians, even when we disagree as with Ignotus and myself, is healthy and serves to strengthen us in the Faith. Engaging Satan's marionettes seems to serve no purpose, unless it is to edify and evangelize "fence-sitters" or those struggling with faith isssues. The problem is, the media is a hostile and biased environment in which to attempt this. Christians are always placed on the defensive (or allow themselves to be), and it is axiomatic in these kinds of venues that, if you are explaining, you are losing. I'd rather just take Hitchens out back and kick his ass...prayerfully, of course.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens is a cry baby, as are most of the militant atheists. They want to make broad statements then 'debate' individual details of human behaviour. This is not a debate. If the person is rational it's a tactic to avoid addressing the core issue. If the person is not mature or sane, it reflects the disorganisation of their own thoughts. I am not sure Hitchens is sane. Even so, I am pretty sure Tony Blair is over matched and not sophisticated to see what Hitchens is up to.


Anonymous said...

So let's get this straight: these "complainers" do not want to embrace the fullness of the Catholic Faith and its sacraments but yet want to pretend they do, even if just one day of the year? Go figure!

Pater Ignotus said...

First, inasamuch as most Protestant congregations practice "open communion," it should come as no surprise that Protestants who attend Midnight Mass arrive with an expectation that they will be allowed to receive communion.

This is a "new" policy for many Protestant congregations which would, Fr. McDonald, explain why in the last 20 years, things have changed in terms of their expectations.

Second, it is necessary to remind those attending a Catholic mass (Midnight, Wedding, Funeral, etc.) that the Catholic Church does not have an open communion policy. One of the best "reminders" I have heard from a priest is this: "I regret that as a result of our divided Christianity, I cannot offer communion to those present who are not Catholic. If you are not Catholic and, therefore, cannot recieve communion, please use this time to pray for the unity of the Church which is the will of Chirst."

I have found that few, if any, take offense if the policy of our Church is explained to them in a charitable, respectful way.

Third, this has nothing to do with ecumenism or "unecumenical" behavior. It has to do with the fact that we and most Protestant congregations have different practices regarding who is and who is not welcome to receive communion in our liturgies. Protestants who disagree with our beliefs and/or practices are not behaving in a "unecumenical" way. They are simply being true to their own beliefs as we must be to ours.

Gene said...

Ignotus, I like what you gave as an example of the announcement to non-Catholics. When put in that way, it may, in fact, move some to ponder our "divided Christianity" and to pray for the unity of the Church, which is, indeed, the will of Christ (of course, we in the Church may disagree about how to achieve this unity).

On another note, protestants who merely disagree with our beliefs and practices may not be "unecumenical" in their attitudes, but those who get up in a huff and walk out may be said to be "unecumenical" or, at least, uncharitable. "Ecumenical" has a variety of interpretations depending on who you ask. Some of these interpretations are rather disturbing.

There is a lot of presumption in protestantism in a general sense. The Reformation itself, by the time it reached Calvin, was a bit presumptive. I mean, when you condemn the Catholic Church for "persecutions and torture" and cry foul when the Church challenges you theology, then you turn around and burn Servetus for "evil, heretical, and satanic preaching," it does seem a bit presumptuous, n'est ce pas?

Unfortunately, Vatican II only encouraged this presumption among protestants, who saw it as a move toward "openness" on the part of the Church. It was hailed by hard core prot theologians as the best thing since clip-on ties and cardigan sweaters. Ah, those unintended consequences again...

Templar said...

I have a unique situation along these lines which I could use some advice on how best to handle.

My son's girlfriend is currently going through RCIA and will rejoin the Church at the Easter Vigil (she was baptized a Catholic). Her Guardian's were both baptized Catholics, but have left the Church and become Baptists. They intend to come to the Easter Vigil, and have both stated that since they were Baptized Catholic they fully intend to receive Communion. It has been charitably explained to them but they are unmoved.

Should I wash my hands of it, the sin of it being on their souls now that it has been pointed out to them, or continue to try and force the issue? If the later, any ideas on a convincing argument, although I believe I've tried all the basics.

Anonymous said...

We publish the following in every Wedding and Funeral order of worship and have it read after the general intercessions and before the offertory at those Masses and at our Christmas and Easter Masses.

"As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Mass when we receive Holy Communion, the true Body and Blood of the Lord. Yet, we Catholics should receive Holy Communion only when we are living in communion with the Catholic Church and in the state of sanctifying grace and have made the appropriate fast from food and drink.

Because of the connection we draw between being in full communion with the Catholic Church and receiving Holy Communion, we cannot invite those who are not Catholic to share in Holy Communion with us. Still, we welcome all to this celebration of the Mass as our brothers and sisters, and pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit will one day draw us closer “…that all may be one.” (John 17:22)"

I perceive the results to be, first, many fewer evidently first communions and, second, many non-practicing Catholics freed up from anyone's expectation that they should receive communion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Have you told them that the only way they can receive Holy Communion in a state of grace is by first repenting of leaving the "full communion" of the Catholic Church, going to Confession to a priest, receiving absolution, doing penance, and a firm intent not to sin again? If that doesn't work, you can always point out to the priests present who they are and the priest can legitimately refuse to give them Holy Communion and only impart a blessing. You can also show them this comment of mine if you wish. The gall!