St. Isidore's of Stow

Why only practicing Catholics are to receive communion
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Author:  cac [ Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:16 am ]
Post subject:  Why only practicing Catholics are to receive communion

Contrary to what many people believe, it is not the Church that is refusing communion. She invites to communion all who truly are in full communion but she recognizes the seriousness of that communion and cannot pretend that part way is ok. Jesus would do just as he did when the rich young man could not commit fully to discipleship. He looks on us with love but he would not compromise his understanding of the need for full commitment.

It is about the Church being true to what the sacrament does. It either makes us one in a way that includes all that the Catholic Church teaches as the foundation of our faith or it doesn't. That is what the Church believes that Jesus commanded us to do: to become one as he and the father are one. He gave us this sacrament to help us achieve that unity, just as he gave us the ministry of Peter as a unifying ministry.

If you are ready to say Amen with your whole being to becoming one with all the others who are receiving communion, adhering to all that the Catholic Church teaches as the foundation of our faith then why would you not enter into full communion with the Church (see, the very words reveal what the sacrament does)? And if you are not ready to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, by that very choice you are stating that you cannot say Amen to becoming one in full communion. The Church honors that decision and the tradition to which you remain faithful by insisting that we don't pretend to be in communion when we are not. The Amen is not a half hearted or even a 99 44/100% assent. It is a 100% assent to that entering into communion.

Many people (including most Catholics that I have talked to about this), understand communion as a somewhat personal meeting with Jesus. This leads one to conclude that Jesus would never turn any one away.

The Catholic Church teaches a sightly but significantly different understanding of eucharist. The summary statement from the new Catechism is:
1322 ( ... t1art3.htm)
The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.
As the catechism's reflection on the Eucharist unfolds, the understanding that I have described above is touched on. There is nothing in that understanding that is in conflict with the teaching of the Catholic Church. The emphasis, though, is definitely different. The Church sees this sacrament as an essential action in the process of becoming fully Catholic (a Christian who has been baptized into and confirmed in the Catholic Church).
So another way of understanding this is, if you were not baptized, would you be seeking to become Christian by being baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church? If not, then receiving communion would not be "doing" what the Church understands that it is doing. If so, then why not enter into full communion by being confirmed and receiving communion as one in full communion?

One might argue that the Church's understanding of the sacrament is not correct. That is a reasonable position for someone to take but that by itself indicates less than full communion with the Church's teaching and therefore, of itself would argue against receiving communion until that conflict has been resolved.

In situations such as someone who is a baptized, non-Catholic Christian who regularly attends Mass with his/her family but is unable to receive communion with them, there is pain on both parts that results from our inability to express full unity in communion. The Church teaches rather emphatically that this pain should be something that reminds each of us how important are ecumenical efforts to restore the Christian community to unity. Trying to cover up the pain without addressing the root cause is not a good thing.

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