Communion at Episcopal liturgy?

This weekend I attended a memorial service for a relative at an Episcopal church. Before the Liturgy of the Table (similar to our Liturgy of the Eucharist), the reverend (first female reverend I’ve seen!) invited ALL attending to share in the communion, the Eucharist, as she called it.

Now it was a bit embarassing, as I was in the 2nd row and all the relatives in the first row (including some Episcopals, agnostics, and one Catholic) all went up for communion, but I decided to stay back.

No one asked me anything about it, but I felt awkward in a way like I was excluding myself.

Was I wrong? I thought since we are not in full communion with the Episcopal church, we should not as Catholic partake in their sacrament. :confused:

In Peace,

I have this same question. Often my Grandma who is Episcopalian invites me to her church, I have only gone once because I didn’t want to offend her by not taking communion there, and when I went today I did not recieve communion. I know she personally believes in transubstantiation (sorta) but I have always understood that Catholics can only take communion at Catholic and Eastern Orthodox services. Am I right in assuming this? Personally I am not comfertable taking communion at an Episcopal church anyways but I was wondering if anyone knows the actual rule on it.

They offer, so we are free or not to by their rules. It does not hurt anything to go up and receive it, it just does not count towards the Catholic formal obligation. You can go up as a show as a sign of ecumenical friendship.

If it were a Baptist service, I would NOT take communion out of ecumenical friendship, as they view the communion bread and wine as a symbol, not as Jesus’ divine presence. I just wasn’t sure about the Episcopal’s view on the Eucharist nor about what Catholic dogma states about receiving communion at non-Catholic churches.

Is this your opinion or is it indeed Catholic dogma?


The Catholic Church does not recognize the Episcopalian ordination as valid. Thus She does not recognize their communion as anything but bread and wine. It is therefore forbidden for Catholics to receive it since that would constitute false worship for the Catholic.

But it’s against our rules.

Here’s the canon law–Episcopalians do not have valid orders, so receiving their “communion” is never an option, even when the other conditions may be met (which they are not in the OPs case):

Can. 844 §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, §2.

§2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

We as Catholics must appreciate and respect what Communion means for us - it means assent to the tenets and teachings of the faith in which we commune.

For us, when we receive in an Episcipalian church we are affirming that we assent and are in agreement with the view of the Episcopalians about the Eucharist, if not actually that we are in full agreement with Episcopalianism!

Since we obviously aren’t - we believe in Transubstantiation, they don’t, they believe their sacrament is valid and their faith Apostolic and we DEFINITELY don’t - we can’t partake.

It is against the rules and the next 3 paragraphs explain more.

§3 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the eastern Churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other Churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern Churches so far as the sacraments are concerned.

§4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.

§5 In respect of the cases dealt with in §2, 3 and 4, the diocesan Bishop or the Episcopal Conference is not to issue general norms except after consultation with the competent authority, at least at the local level, of the non-Catholic Church or community concerned

I found this explination on another website and it does a great job of explaining this cannon:

***In keeping with the sacramental meaning of the Eucharist this canon reserves the sacraments to Catholics, that is, those who are in communion with the Church. It then addresses the question of Catholics receiving the sacraments from non-Catholics. It sets the following strict conditions:

a. necessity or genuine spiritual advantage
b. when the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided
c. it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister
d. a church which has valid sacraments***

No one asked me anything about it, but I felt awkward in a way like I was excluding myself.

Was I wrong? I thought since we are not in full communion with the Episcopal church, we should not as Catholic partake in their sacrament.

You were not wrong not to communicate in a non-Catholic service. Other than a wedding or a funeral, I’m not sure it is even permitted for a Catholic to attend such a service as it does sound like a worship service. But you would be in a better position to know.

One other point: I know people will jump all over me but except for making your Easter duty, it is never a mortal sin NOT to communicate at a Catholic Mass either.

In fact, if we are not disposed properly, it would be an added sin to receive communion, whether we feel pressured or not.

Catholics can attend their services (though they must also attend Mass as a Protestant service does not meet their Sunday obligation). As explained above, Catholics cannot receive communion at Protestant services.

From Catholics United for the Faith:

A Catholic may attend and participate in common prayer at services in Protestant churches. Catholics are encouraged to pray and sing, and they may read or preach, but a Catholic may not receive “communion” if this is part of the service.

The question that, other than feeling awkward, is why partake? We Catholics are (literally) about substance rather than symbol, when it comes to the Eucharist.

So, pray with them, worship with them, but when you go to communion, go to real communion. :wink:

Thanks for the clarification on this. However, I can easily see myself sticking out like a sore thumb not receiving both bread and wine at a Lutheran service. :slight_smile:

I’ll stick with attending organ recitals at their churches only. :slight_smile:

[quote=zagjames]It is against the rules and the next 3 paragraphs explain more…

The selections of the rules indicate that it is of course against the rules if you want to consider it a substitute for The Real Thing.

If you know full well that it is not and treat it as such and the Episcopal rules allow them to offer it to non-memebers then how is it different from participating in any service in another church?

Because it’s communio in sacris, and this is forbidden to Catholics (i.e., with regard to other churches, at least those you do not recognize as having valid apostolic succession). It states symbolically something that you as a Catholic are not allowed to believe (that we are fully part of the Church).

We allow all baptized Christians to receive because we regard all baptized Christians as part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This is a shift in our practice–until the “Vatican II” era (which affected us as much as it did you) we only allowed those confirmed by a bishop to receive communion (at least this was the official stance–I’m sure lots of low church and liberal Anglicans disregarded it). But the liturgical reforms in our Communion led us to a new stress on the baptismal covenant rather than the episcopacy as the basic criterion for membership in the Church (this is arguably defensible on the basis of the theology of Richard Hooker, our greatest post-Reformation theologian, who wrote in the late 16th century).


This was difficult but you did the right thing. I’m proud of you. I think the Lord is too. You are doing a good job forming your conscience and then living it.

Actually, you get bread + wine + body + blood at Lutheran communion, just not together. :slight_smile: Or should I say they get…I don’t know if a Catholic were to sneak into communion if it would “count”. :smiley:

Ah, yes, Consubstantiation, but without the proper form, intent, and ordination. (Question: would an ex-Catholic priest count?)

Such canons are why Catholics can receive sacraments from Eastern Orthodox in an emergency. However, the Episcopal Church does not have valid communion, so that it is impossible to receive the eucharist there, nor confession for example. I know of Episcopal ministers who have used coca-cola and potato chips for communion. And this is not sacrilege, since their ministers are not actually priests nor can they make what the people receive the body and blood of Christ.

This is one of the major problems with the Episcopal Church. They let anyone come to the table. One does not even have to be a Christian. In the end, this shows that they do not respect their own service. So why should we?

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