Episcopal taking communion at Mass?

Several years ago while in the Air Force I was deployed to the middle east with a long time friend. With our hectic and stressful work schedule, Mass became an even greater privilege than normal. My friend, a very committed and traditional Episcopal, would accompany me to Mass since the generic Protestant services were either very Baptist or Pentacostal in their worship styles and not to her taste.

After one of the Masses she approached the Priest and requested his permission to receive communion, which he apparently granted. I’m not sure what was said during the conversation, but she told me afterward that the Priest ok’ed her receiving.

At the time I didn’t think much of it. I was glad for her, but there was something that didn’t sit quite right with me. As time goes by, I am beginning to think everyone meant well, but something is somewhat unsettling about the whole thing.

I’m no expert on Episcopal/Anglican doctrine, but I’m assuming they believe in transubstantiation. While clearly the Episcopal Church is not in communion with the Catholic Church, they do have the same creed, though they obviously do not recognize the authority of the Holy Father. That said, I know Anglican priests are somehow able to “transfer” over in certain circumstances, which suggests some alignment of doctrine and acceptance of Anglican sacraments, right?

Who, if anyone, was wrong in this situation? As an Episcopal, was my friend out of line to ask for communion during a Catholic Mass? Was the priest right in allowing her to receive? Under what, if any, circumstances would this be okay?

The only one who can grant permission, and, this is only in the gravest of circumstances, would be the diocesan bishop. Receiving Holy Communion not only means believing in the Real Presence of Jesus, it also means being in communion with everything that the Holy Catholic Church, the One True Church founded by Christ, Himself, holds to be True.

The Anglicans do not necessarily have the same Creed. Furthermore, their ordinations are invalid because of defect of form (and other factors). Anglicans and other ministers (Lutheran, Methodist, et al) who convert to Catholicism and decide to become priests must be re-ordained under the Rites of the Church. The only sacrament that the Church recognizes is Baptism, so long as the proper Trinitarian formula and water are used.

The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, for example, was a Lutheran Minister before he became Catholic. He had to wait at least a year (or more) before he could be ordained a Catholic priest, since he had to go through the necessary doctrinal, theological and dogmatic training.

I am happy someone asked this question. I was at Mass for spanish class one sunday and we sung for the parish during the Mass. Some parents came to see their children but most of them (if not all) did not speak spanish. One of the mothers I thought was Lutheran, but I am sure she is episcopal now, received Communion. I was not 100% on what her faith was or the episcopal communion with the Catholic Church. However she kneeled at the appropriate times, even before the Eucharist so I figured she must have known something from the episcopal church because the Mass was not in english. What should one do in a situation like that? It would be wrong to interrupt the Mass and make a seen (the priest may not be mistaken)?:confused:

For your friend conversation with the priest, I think I know what they said. I accidently received the Eucharist on two occasions because I did not understand the Catholic teaching. At protestant Churches there is no guideline to who receives communion usually. Nor do you think about it being or not being the Lord’s literal Body and Blood. When I went to the Priest to receive communion, he asked me if I received Communion. I said yes with out thinking, I always took communion at the protestant Church. He gave me communion because of this. I should not have been able to receive the Eucharist because I was not Catholic. Amazingly, now I am making the journey to the Catholic Church and understand the importance of the Eucharist.

Oh, I should explain this to father. I received a blessing last time I went to Mass. I’d hate for him to think I am an unrepentant mortal sinner. I repent but because I can’t go to confession I can’t still be in a state of mortal sin, can I?:gopray2:

It’s quite possible that the chaplain asked the bishop’s permission. When you think about it, an Anglican/Episcopalian requesting Communion from the Catholic Church under the circumstances described might rightly fall under the ‘grave circumstance’ (deployed, danger of death - even if not eminent, belief in the True Presence, unable to receive from own minister).

I could understand the decision in that case. It beats what I see regularly in our church, when the United Church minister and his wife and many of the non-Catholic members of a deceased’s family receive Communion and Fr. himself takes Communion at the Anglican Church, thus leading those Catholics who weren’t going to receive to follow suite after they see him do so.

There are certain conditions that a non catholic may receive communion under. Not having access to their own minister or danger of death. They must hold to the same belief about the Eucharist as we do. They conversation you did not hear may have fit the conditions as the Military Chaplain understood them. I’m not sure if the Military Chaplains have been given permission by the Archbishop of the Military to make that decision as they see fit. It’s possible that was what was done.

the circumstance OP describes could very well fit the circumstances under which a non-Catholic Christian might be allowed to receive communion. Since she did approach the priest, explain her situation, and receive permission, we are bound to accept the most charitable interpretation, that she was in fact receiving correctly and satisfied the priest as to her beliefs in the real Presence and her intentions and reasons. we must further assume that a priest, such as a military chaplain or someone likely to encounter this situation, has been granted the faculty to make that judgement. So I would not spend any time worrying about it after the fact. Those circumstances are however, few and far between, and just attending a Catholic wedding or funeral, by a person with ample access to their own clergy, does not qualify.

Wow…interesting responses. I always ribbed my friend about her “Catholic Lite” status, but never really got into any real discussions of where our beliefs were similar and where they diverged. This was a few years ago, but from what I recall I remember her saying that she believes in the true presence of the Body and Blood of Christ.

As I said, I was glad she found some level of accommodation that allowed her to worship in otherwise uncomfortable circumstances. I appreciate puzzleannie’s comment that we are bound to accept the most charitable interpretation based on what we know. In essence, I guess that’s what I did all along. I just always wondered what, if any, circumstances would allow this to occur.

The situation is similar to that involving my daughter, an active duty Air Force officer and very traditional Anglo-Catholic (not in communion with the Episcopal Church). She was stationed, some years ago, at an isolated base, far from any traditional Anglican parish. She approached the RC chaplain and asked if she might be permitted to receive the Sacrament, under these conditions. The priest was a little nonplussed, but said he would look into it. “But”, he said, “why don’t you attend the local Episcopal church”?

“I can’t do that, Father. They’re protestants”.


*Anglicanus Catholicus *

reminds me of someone Marcus just interviewed on the Journey Home program, guest and his wife used to be Episcopalean, although they had been raised Baptist, and he says they were always quick to assure people “We belong to the Christian branch of the Episcopaleans”

A vanishing breed.



When other Christians who believe what the Catholic church teaches concerning the Holy Eucharist are deprived of access to a church of their own denomination for a significant period of time, they too may be admitted to Communion in the Catholic Church in exceptional circumstances (cf. Canon 844 §4). These exceptional circumstances are also described by the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

When, in the Ordinary’s judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1401)


Some really funny comments on this thread, so I’m giving it a bump. :thumbsup:

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