I read this on the blog of an Episcopal priest a few months ago:
‘No Catholic or Anglican is required to say that the communion as practiced in a congregation outside of Apostolic Orders is null and void of any grace or spiritual benefit to the worshippers. Benedict XVI said as much a year ago, I believe, in the midst of the recent Eucharistic Congress held in Rome. (Catholics, correct me here if I am wrong.) What the Catholic I think would be required to say is that he or she cannot with any assurance precisely what the nature of that grace. In fact, I am reminded of the saying hear from time to time from the Orthodox “We know where the Church is, we do not now where the Church is not.” Perhaps one way of reading some Catholic comments on validity of the Mass would be “we know where the sacrament is, we do not know where it is not.’
I would be especially interested in an authoritative Catholic response to this argument. Apostolic Succession and valid Holy Orders guarantee that valid Eucharist (Rome adds the stipulation of good standing with the Holy Father). Conversely, can we be certain that Christ is DEFINITELY NOT really present in, say, a Presbyterian or Methodist Communion? This question has been troubling me.
P.S.–This is my first ever thread! I wait in excited anticipation for your responses:)
It would be nice to have an actual quote from Pope Benedict.
I can say that in 1998, in his a commentary on Pope John Paul II’s Ad Tuendam Fidem, he (Card. Ratzinger at the time, and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) wrote:
With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations …
I would not say that any Protestant’s “communion” is “void of any grace or spiritual benefit”, but I think I would say it is “null” – that is, it is not what Catholics would consider a “valid Eucharist”. This is because they do not have a valid priesthood, and they certainly do not intend to do what the Catholic Church does.
But there is every possibility that a Baptist’s bread and grape juice could be a means of grace or spiritual benefit, by God’s great and benevolent mercy. At the same time, I would caution against assuming that God is pleased by pretty much anything, even those things which are deliberate deformations of what He ordained. (Consider the spiritual legacy of Samaria, cf. 2 Kings 17.)
Wherever there is a valid priesthood and the intention of confecting the sacrament, there is the Eucharist. The Orthodox have it. Some other communities have it by sheer luck (if you can call it that) because they have ministers who are Catholic priests who have in one way or another defected from the Church, but are still endowed with their priestly power. The “Old Catholic Church” is one such place. It is possible that some Anglican parishes have a valid Eucharist because their priest was ordained a Catholic and then converted.
Christ is not present in Protestant “communion” in the way He is present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in the Eucharist. He may be present spiritually, but not substantially.
Being in communion with Rome is not required for the validity of the Eucharist, only it’s licitness.
I understand you are looking for official Church docs that speak of validly ordained priests being the only ones who can confect the Eucharist. I think japhy gave you plenty of food for thought. Here are a couple other examples:
*Although, however, all the faithful can baptize, the priest alone can complete the building up of the Body in the eucharistic sacrifice. Thus are fulfilled the words of God, spoken through His prophet: “From the rising of the sun until the going down thereof my name is great among the gentiles, and in every place a clean oblation is sacrificed and offered up in my name”. (Lumen Gentium, #17)**Only Priests Have Power To Consecrate And Administer The Eucharist
It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church, that the faithful should receive the Sacrament from the priests, and that the officiating priests should communicate themselves, has been explained by the holy Council of Trent, which has also shown that this practice, as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained, particularly as Christ the Lord has left us an illustrious example thereof, having consecrated His own most sacred body, and given it to the Apostles with His own hands. (Catechism of the Council of Trent, 2.4.90)*Also implied in:CANON X.-If any one saith, that all Christians have power to administer the word, and all the sacraments; let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, 7.CX)