Is it acceptable to receive communion in a Protestant church that doesn't believe the Real Presence?

I understand that it’s wrong to receive Holy Communion in Protestant churches without valid orders (e.g. the Anglican church), because the Church teaches that they don’t have valid orders, and so cannot confect the Eucharist.

But what about churches such as the Church of Scotland (Calvinists) who don’t believe in the real presence in the first place. For the Church of Scotland and its’ offshoots, Holy Communion is only a representation that reminds us of God’s love for us and our community of faith with one another. In some ways, this is similar to the Agape or love meal which the early Christians shared outside the Eucharist.

In a Church of Scotland Church, the Minister is saying “this isn’t really the Body of Christ, it’s just a symbol”, and as a Catholic I can agree with him, that it isn’t the Body of Christ. As a Catholic, would I be sinning by taking part in this?

Dear DL,

NO—as a Catholic we don’t agree with the minister. He is saying that Jesus only meant the Eucharist to be a symbol. That is precisely the OPPOSITE of what we believe. We believe that his church’s eucharist is not the body of Christ because he has not been validly ordained and therefore does not have the power to validly consecrate the elements–and not just because he doesn’t believe it.

Whether other Christians have the real presence or not, Catholics have no business in participating in their communion services. You did not sin because you didn’t know.
The exception to this would be participating in the Liturgy of schismatic churches (such as the Eastern Orthodox) when no Catholic church is in the area.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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