Pope Francis on Intercommunion with Lutherans [Akin]

Pope Francis encouraged a Lutheran woman to decide for herself whether she should receive Communion when she attends Mass with her Catholic husband. The Pope made his stunning …

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To me, this seems like very poor reporting. From at least one translation, it appears to me that the Lutheran woman did not ask if she could receive Communion when she attends Mass but rather how she and her Catholic husband could achieve Communion with each other. When the pope said she would have to see for herself, it was in the context of asking her to pray to Jesus to solve her issue – the issue not being “Can a Lutheran receive Communion at Mass” but rather “How can a Lutheran and a Catholic achieve Communion with each other?”

Here is a working translation of the context of the remarks: Question: My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I’m married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?

Pope Francis: The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared!

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this command to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper, there will be the eternal banquet in the new Jerusalem, but that will be the last one. In the meantime, I ask myself — and don’t know how to respond — what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand — but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? You’re a witness also of a profound journey, a journey of marriage: a journey really of the family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.

When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution. I’m healed to keep alive the Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same. The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop who went a little wrong – he was 48 years old, married, two children. This was a discomfort to him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, the Lord called him, a just man. To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?” — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more. source This sounds much better than the article made it sound. If that translation is accurate, the Holy Father did not say to decide for yourself whether or not to receive Communion as a non-Catholic. On the contrary, he said he cannot allow it, and he said that to share Communion means having the same doctrine. The question itself was how a Lutheran and a Catholic could achieve Communion with each other, not how a Lutheran could receive Communion at Mass, and the Holy Father’s words were in the context of telling someone how to become united in faith with a Catholic when he spoke about praying to the Lord and going forward, and seeing for yourself. That is very different from saying we should just ask Jesus what to do if we want to receive Communion and then do that.

Dr. Jeff Mirus says in part:

Should this rattle us a bit? Yes, I think it should. Does it raise important questions? Yes, I think it does. Does this have implications for the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried? We might think so, but in fact the two cases turn on very different principles, so when my colleague Phil Lawler introduced this question, I would have placed a question mark after his title! More to the point here, does this decision of Pope Francis justify headlines about the baby, the bathwater, and the horror of heresy? Presumably it would if we were talking about the unbaptized and/or those who do not believe in Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist. But in the specific case at hand, given the principles the Pope enunciated for its resolution, the answer is No: Such headlines, such alarms, are not justified. Moreover, I think we may have here a rather interesting specific example of the type I requested a few days ago when I wrote “The Pope on Christian Humanism: To understand, we need concrete applications”. Is this an example of what Pope Francis means when he says the Church must transcend mere rules? If so, this example makes it clear that he does not mean the Church should transcend the principles of her Faith. I refer to the preference I stated at the outset. But it is also essential to recognize that, in this particular case, Pope Francis seems to have kept the relevant principles of faith very firmly in mind.

Sometimes I think conservative Catholics work way too hard trying to defend the Pope’s obviously-damaging remarks.

Communion isn’t about shared belief, it’s about communion.

Part of communion is sharing beliefs, yes. But unity is also constituted in things like apostolic succession and submission to the Magisterium of the Church. Lutherans, as a Protestant denomination, have neither. These are consequences of Luther’s schismatic actions, and are not something to be painted with a shiny gloss by a liberal papacy.

Umm, I’m not saying the Pope called for inter-communion (and, obviously, he did not), but IF he did, where does this presumption come from that it would be a Bad Thing?

Baptized protestants have sacramental capacity to receive Eucharist (which is what Catholics usually call it). It is within the Church’s ability to pour this Grace upon protestants. Why is it a Good Thing that the Church withholds God’s Grace from those who desire to receive it (and are able to receive it), even if they don’t desire to be formally joined to the Church?

Why is it a Good Thing for the Church to be stingy with the ministry of Grace that Jesus has entrusted to Her? What is the basis for thinking that sharing this Grace more freely is a Bad Thing?

If she is with her husband every Sunday at mass, and living a Catholic life with her husband, I’m wondering why she isn’t encouraged to enter RCIA and enter the Church.

Absolutely not. Where are you getting this? The fact that in extraordinary circumstances the Eucharist may be administered to Protestants does not mean that the Church can simply do that whenever the liberal cultural winds tickle her fancy. Exceptions are exceptions because they except. If you die on the way to Confession, the Church proclaims the mercy of God over you… but that doesn’t mean we abuse that grace.

This is probably, by the way, why the Church warns of difficulty in Catholic|Protestant marriage. (Insert Kermit the Frog, “But that’s none of my business” meme here).

  1. The Eucharist is a symbol of unity (1 Cor. 10:17); Protestants are not in union. They are invited to union, but because of their theological inheritance they often refuse. (This is coming from a convert, btw. I was a Baptist before.)

  2. It’s dangerous. (1 Cor. 11:29–30)

:hmmm: David, I agree with you, but we need to be sure that we speak clearly with the church in this, okay?

I think it’s extremely important that we look to Pope John Paul the Great’s Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucaristia which is very specific on this issue of intercommunion, saying…

[LEFT]I would like nonetheless to reaffirm what I said in my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint after having acknowledged the impossibility of Eucharistic sharing: “And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so ‘with one heart’”.94

  1. While it is never legitimate to concelebrate in the absence of full communion, the same is not true with respect to the administration of the Eucharist* under special circumstances, to individual persons *belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this case, in fact, the intention is to meet a grave spiritual need for the eternal salvation of an individual believer, not to bring about an *intercommunion *which remains impossible until the visible bonds of ecclesial communion are fully re-established.

This was the approach taken by the Second Vatican Council when it gave guidelines for responding to Eastern Christians separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, who spontaneously ask to receive the Eucharist from a Catholic minister and are properly disposed.95 This approach was then ratified by both Codes, which also consider – with necessary modifications – the case of other non-Eastern Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.96[/LEFT]

[LEFT] Cont’d
[/LEFT]

  1. In my Encyclical* Ut Unum Sint* I expressed my own appreciation of these norms, which make it possible to provide for the salvation of souls with proper discernment: “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid”.97
    [LEFT]
    [/LEFT]
    [LEFT]These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.98

[/LEFT]
[LEFT]The faithful observance of the body of norms established in this area 99 is a manifestation and, at the same time, a guarantee of our love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, for our brothers and sisters of different Christian confessions – who have a right to our witness to the truth – and for the cause itself of the promotion of unity.

So, I believe that we have to take Pope Francis remarks in this context and hope that this becomes a sort of call to those Lutheran and other n-C friends who long for this fullness of truth.

I think you’re on the right track my friend, but I just wanted to add this important teaching to the discussion. :slight_smile:
[/LEFT]

I’m having trouble figuring out just what Pope Francis is saying in a few places. :o

Re bolded: Am I correct in interpreting the “step of participation” refers to his attending Sunday Mass even tho he could not participate in the Eucharist?
If so, then what did the bishop do when “he went forward”? The Pope doesn’t specify.
Does it mean the he just went up one Sunday and received the Eucharist?
Or does “went forward” mean he took the further step of converting to Catholicism so he could legitimately participate in the Catholic Eucharist when he attended Mass with his family?
I tend to think the latter, but I’m not sure. Does anyone know?

To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

Am unable to grasp what he’s asking, or getting at, here. Maybe it loses clarity in the translation.

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?” — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more. source

Re bolded sentence: The Pope uses here the same phrase - went/go “forward” - that he used for the bishop. For me, this repetition makes it important to know what the bishop did when he “went forward”, if I’m to correctly interpret what Pope Francis is advising here when he tells the woman to “go forward”.

Thank you, CM - as always. You have made me aware of a teaching which was not known to me.

And I also appreciate the comments by Pawstruck (cool handle, BTW).

My comments were specifically directed to the protestant woman (to whom Pope Francis responded) married to a Catholic husband, and her desire to receive Communion alongside him. It is IMPOSSIBLE for her husband to receive Lutheran communion, because (AFAIK) the Catholic Church considers this a false sacrament, and She (wisely) prohibits Her members from partaking.

No such impediment exists for the Lutheran who wishes to receive Catholic Eucharist beside her husband. AFAIK, Lutheran communities do not deny the Real Presence of Catholic Eucharist. They say we over-think it, but they do not deny it.

Lutherans believe they receive the “Real Presence” of Jesus, in Body and Blood. They have a different idea of what that Presence looks like. But, seriously, how many Catholics (or Lutherans) could really describe the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation? And is it really all that important that the Faithful discern this difference? (because, they don’t)

A faithful Lutheran believes that she ALREADY receives the “Real” Body and Blood of Our Lord. She has an imperfect understanding of what that entails (which is better than many Catholics, who have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what it entails). She sees no deficit in her own community. She is not aware that her Communion (ie, that which Catholics call “Eucharist”) is not really “real” so she is unable to perceive any reason to become Catholic other than a motive of convenience (to receive with her husband), and that is a poor reason to desire conversion (and I think most pastors would not accept her into RCIA, for the same reason that they won’t witness the matrimony of a pregnant woman).

I would prefer to see the Church relax the inter-communion restrictions for circumstances such as this. It would be on a case-by-case basis, with the priest carefully questioning the protestant. There should probably be guidelines, and I would go so far as to say the Ordinary must approve.

The Church ALREADY allows exceptions. I’m just saying that I think the scope of those exceptions should be expanded A BIT, on a carefully considered case-by-case basis, with the approval of the Bishop.

I think that, in most “mixed marriages” such as this, that the Lutheran goes to her own worship, and the Catholic goes to his own Mass. I think it would be better if the Church offered the Lutheran a greater opportunity to participate alongside her husband at Mass. I think this will possibly promote her conversion, where this opportunity is lost if she continues to go to her Lutheran worship.

The Church COULD do this. It is within Her purview. There is no DOCTRINE that prevents it - only Canon Law (which can, does, has, and should change from time to time).

One thing that I think we need to make clear is that only a Catholic priest can consecrate the Eucharist, so …what we have in the Lutheran context is not the same by any means, regardless of their understanding and belief. That is the reality, both spiritually and doctrinally, so canon law is less relevant except that it applies to Catholics.

I think that the reality is that if one wants the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, the only authentic option is to join the Catholic Church. I don’t see Lutherans as having a better option other than to come home. :shrug:

IMO, being nearly Catholic is not enough and I would have to seriously consider whatever was keeping me out of the church if I wanted the Eucharist.

I also would have to (and this is probably more important to the majority of n-Cs) make a careful study of the New Testament passages that pertain to communion and the Eucharist to see where they inform and instruct me as to what is going on and how I may need to comply with them.

I have tried to lay out my own personal study of that in my blog article The Eucharist IS Scriptural so perhaps that will also help somewhat.

Pope Francis has in no way said anything that counters or changes church teaching on this matter, but it certainly appears that (as is so often the case) the media has botched/compromised its reporting and created controversy where there isn’t any.

I think we may be looking (ovehearing, actually) pastoral counsel given to one individual on one occasion. I don’t think he was making any sort of general statement. Nonetheless, I am reminded of what a certain ballet teacher used to tell us: “If I am telling ONE of you to lift your leg higher, I mean ALL of YOU better be hiking them!!” On the other hand she would sometimes give instruction meant for one: you are sick, go sit down, Then she did not mean all of us.

I don’t see any sort of general pronouncement here - if anything an avoidance of such.

jimmyakin.com/wp-content/uploads/lutheran-800x500-300x187.jpgPope Francis recently answered a Lutheran woman’s question regarding the possibility of her taking Communion with her Catholic husband at Mass.

His remarks, which he made at an ecumenical meeting in a Lutheran church, have raised eyebrows.

You can read them online here. Another translation is here. You can also watch the exchange in Italian here.

What the woman asked

This is what the Lutheran woman said:

My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I’m married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?

What might the pope have said?

Of course, one response would be, “Become Catholic.” But if popes said that routinely when they were in a Lutheran church, they wouldn’t be invited to Lutheran churches and would lose this form of outreach to other Christians.

Intra-Christian unity proceeds slowly. Being too explicit right up front is a little like saying “Marry me!” on the first date.

So you wouldn’t really expect Pope Francis to explicitly propose swimming the Tiber in this particular context.

He could have said, “Study and pray—especially pray for the day when Christian unity is restored and we can have full sharing at the Lord’s table.”

Or he could have said, “It is a profound sadness that, because of the differences that divide us, we cannot presently share the Eucharist. This does not mean that you and your husband cannot share and celebrate the aspects of the Christian faith that we have in common, and you can work to overcome the obstacles that remain.”

There are all kinds of brief responses the pope might have made.

Presumably, he didn’t have to take the question at all. Papal questions are regularly screened to keep the pope from being put in the position of commenting on something he doesn’t want to address.

Since he took the question, Pope Francis apparently wanted to address this issue—he felt he had something useful to say about it.

What the pope said

The pope’s response is hard to summarize. His answer was somewhat stream-of-consciousness.

After joking that the question of sharing the Lord’s Supper was hard for him to answer—particularly in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper (who, as the former Vatican head of ecumenical affairs, was there)—he reflected on the role of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian life.

He noted that we will all receive it at the eternal banquet in the New Jerusalem, but he had questions about intercommunion here on earth, saying:

To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together?

Goal or assistance?

Here he refers to two views of intercommunion. The first would make it the goal of ecumenical dialogues. In other words, we need to restore full unity in faith, and the crowning result of that will be sharing the Eucharist.

The second view would be that sharing the Eucharist is something Christians of different confessions should do now as a way of fostering growth in Christian unity (walking together).

The pope does not decide between these two views, the first of which is the one the Holy See has consistently maintained. Instead, he says:

I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.

The fact he speculates on this question in public, in an ecumenical setting, could be viewed as a source of concern.

Even if he thought the question of eucharistic sharing needed to be further explored, is this the right context to be discussing that? It seems to carry several risks. One is that the pope could look like he’s not backing the Catholic position.

Apparently, Pope Francis thought such risks were worth taking.

Doctrine and baptism

Pope Francis goes on to say:

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine—underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand—but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same baptism?

The first part of this acknowledges the principle supporting the Church’s historic position on intercommunion: that sharing in the Eucharist means holding the same doctrine, so that people who disagree with Church teaching, especially its infallibly defined teaching, should not be receiving the Eucharist at Mass.

Pope Francis acknowledges the legitimacy of this principle, but he appears to ask whether it is the only relevant principle and whether the common baptism that we share could affect the situation.

Current intercommunion

It’s surprising the pontiff didn’t take this occasion to refer to something that would make the point that baptism does have an effect on the question of intercommunion.

The Church *does *permit—and has for some time—intercommunion in limited circumstances, on the basis of our common baptism.

Canon 844 §§2-3 of the Code of Canon Law describes the particular requirements for when baptized non-Catholic Christians can be admitted to the Eucharist, confession, and the anointing of the sick.

More on that below.

Further reflections

Pope Francis reflected further on baptism, though it is somewhat difficult to follow his train of thought. The impression is that he was answering off the top of his head, which can result in hard-to-follow answers, at times, for anybody.

Returning to the subject of the Eucharist, he says:

The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself.

This is true. The question that springs to mind is the one every Catholic must ask before receiving Communion: Am I in a state where I can receive worthily?

Only the individual knows whether he has fulfilled the requirements, and however much or little theological knowledge he has, he needs to apply it before going to Communion.

That’s not to say that a person can simply “discern” that it’s okay for him to go to Communion. Canon 844, among others (such as canon 915), provides limits on who can receive Communion and when. It is only when such canons do not impede an individual that the question of one’s personal judgment comes into play.

Pope Francis continues:

This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me—this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

This echoes his point about the Eucharist being assistance for the journey rather than exclusively a goal. The principle certainly applies to the life of the individual believer—Jesus means to strengthen us through the Eucharist throughout life, not just give us admission to the banquet at the end of time.

Whether the principle applies in the same way to the ecumenical movement is a separate question.

An illustration involving a bishop

Pope Francis then tells a story about a bishop “who went a little wrong.”

According to this translation, the bishop was an Episcopalian, and his wife and children were Catholic. However, another translation omits the reference to it being an Episcopalian bishop and, in the commentary, takes it to be a reference to former Catholic bishop Jeronimo Podesta.

The first translation appears to be correct. A check of the Italian original (also here) reveals Pope Francis saying “un vescovo episcopaliano”—“an Episcopalian bishop.”

He says:

He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, the Lord called him, a just man.

It is unclear what this means. It could mean that the Episcopalian bishop “went forward” to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass. It could mean that he “went forward/onward” in his walk with God and became a Catholic or somehow addressed the fact that he had gone “a little wrong.” The latter is suggested by the second translation, which reads, “Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [to realize] ‘I’m not right.’”

Answering a question with a question

I’m not sure what to make of the pope’s story about the Episcopalian bishop who “went a little wrong,” and he doesn’t seem to draw any decisive lesson from it. Instead, he tells the woman:

To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

Or:

I can only respond to your question with a question: what can I do with my husband that the Lord’s Supper might accompany me on my path?

Pope Francis thus invites the woman to explore what she and her husband can do either because the Eucharist accompanies her in some sense or so that it might accompany her.

If the former translation is correct, he might be suggesting she explore how the closeness of Christ in the Eucharist (or perceived closeness, given the Eucharist’s invalidity in Lutheran circles) might better inform her marriage.

If the latter translation is correct, he might be inviting her to consider becoming a Catholic to be able to receive the Eucharist with her husband.

Or he might mean something else entirely. It isn’t clear what he is trying to say.

What’s the difference?

Whatever he is inviting the woman to do, Pope Francis considers it a matter that must be sorted out individually. He says:

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?”

The pastor he refers to is, apparently, a Protestant who believes in the Real Presence.

“So what’s the difference?” could mean, “So what’s the difference between the Catholic position and mine?” Or it could mean, “So why can’t we have intercommunion?”

Pope Francis responds to the question by saying:

Oh, there are explanations, interpretations.

He appears to mean that there are different understandings of the Real Presence, which is true. The Catholic position is not just that Christ is present in the Eucharist but that the bread and wine become his body and blood (transubstantiation).

Not everyone who believes in the Real Presence shares that view. A common Lutheran formulation is that Christ is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine; Orthodox sometimes use the term transubstantiation, but sometimes they understand the Real Presence differently; Anglicans have a range of views; etc.

The pope then says:

Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there.

By this, I assume he means that our fundamental unity as Christians (“one Faith, one baptism, one Lord”) is more significant (“life is bigger”) than the divisions that exist among Christians on particular questions, such as the precise way the Real Presence works.

This isn’t to say that the divisions aren’t important or that they don’t genuinely divide us, just that they don’t deprive us of the common status of being Christians.

The way we should proceed is thus to recognize our common identity as Christians, despite our differences, and work to figure things out from there (“take the consequences from there”).

Pope Francis’s ultimate answer

Returning to the woman’s original question about intercommunion, Pope Francis concludes by saying:

I wouldn’t ever dare*to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.

This is a strong statement. “I wouldn’t ever dare allow” is an emphatic way of saying that he can’t give the woman permission to take intercommunion. In fact, if you watch the video, he uses his vocal inflection to add extra stress to the point that he cannot give permission.

He also cites a reason: It’s not his area of competence. He appears to be using this admission to signal that he’s not refusing to give permission out of ill will. Instead, he recognizes that he’s not an expert in the relevant area and considers it too important an area to make further pronouncements without consultation.

A matter for experts

Why might Pope Francis think that consultations with experts would be needed to answer the woman’s question? Why not simply say, “Sorry, but we can’t offer you Communion as a Lutheran”?

Because the situation isn’t that simple. The current Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983 by St. John Paul II, allows for Communion to be given to Lutherans in *some *circumstances.

This woman’s case doesn’t meet the criteria named in the Code, but Pope Francis may be wondering if it would be possible to give Communion in additional circumstances beyond those mentioned in canon 844.

For example, canon 844 §4 states that Communion, confession, and anointing of the sick can be given to Protestants who share the Church’s faith in these sacraments (note that qualifier; it’s an important one) only “if the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it.”

However, according to canon §3, danger of death or other grave necessity is not required to grant these sacraments to Orthodox Christians. They only need to “seek such on their own accord and [be] properly disposed.”

One could ask whether it would be theologically possible to modify the Code so that danger of death or grave necessity isn’t required for Protestants who share the Church’s faith in these sacraments, allowing such Protestants to receive them on terms like those that presently apply to the Orthodox.

That’s a delicate question, and it would require consultation and deliberation among experts.

So it’s understandable why Pope Francis would punt on the question due to it not being within his personal area of expertise.

A general answer

He thus gives a general answer referring to the common elements of our Christian identity, saying, “Talk to the Lord and then go forward.”

In this case, “go forward” does not mean “go forward and receive Communion.” He’s just said he can’t give permission for that. “Go forward” means “proceed on the basis you discern after speaking with the Lord,” and that can mean all kinds of things.

It could mean “proceed to become a Catholic” or “proceed to receive the Eucharist at Mass” or anything in between. The Pope isn’t telling her what course of action she should pursue. He’s pointedly not telling her that, and he’s expressly not giving her permission to receive.

He appears to feel this kind of general answer is all that it’s possible for him to offer, given the limitations of his expertise. Thus he says, “I don’t dare to say anything more,” for he would be moving beyond his personal competence.

Concluding thoughts

It’s good that Pope Francis considers the subject important enough not to go further and to leave technical matters like what may be possible in the future to be explored by those who are competent in these areas.

It’s also good that he recognizes the limitations of his own expertise, despite the fact he is pope.

Indeed, watching the video shows him being somber and seeming to struggle at points, particularly when he is speaking most directly to the woman’s question.

However, it is not easy to piece together his line of reasoning, and at some points it isn’t clear what he was trying to say.

As someone who answers questions live on a regular basis, I know what it’s like to struggle with an answer. You can have an idea what you want to say and yet have difficulty putting it into words.

That happens to everyone. “Even Homer nods,” as they say.

Because of the cautions Pope Francis makes during the course of his answer, I don’t view it as the earthquake that some took it for.

Is the pope giving permission to Lutheran spouses to take Communion at Mass? No. He expressly says he’s not.

Is this a portent of an imminent shift in Catholic doctrine or sacramental practice? No.

Is it possible that the current rules regarding when Communion can be given to other Christians could one day be tweaked? Yes. It’s imaginable that a pope might one day decide that any baptized Christians who share the Church’s faith respect to Communion, confession, and anointing could receive those sacraments on the same basis that Orthodox Christians can.

Are the pope’s remarks a sign that this—or anything like it—is going to happen any time in the foreseeable future? No.

Could the pope have answered more clearly? Yes. One might argue that, if the pope were going to struggle with the question as much as he did, he would have been better advised not to take it. But these things happen, and there is no reason to see this as a sign of an impending doctrinal or sacramental earthquake.

feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/jimmyakin/HPRf?d=yIl2AUoC8zA
http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/jimmyakin/HPRf/~4/IwOpN0f91bs

More…

Agreed. Of course, Canon Law does not apply to Lutherans.

I think that the reality is that if one wants the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, the only authentic option is to join the Catholic Church. I don’t see Lutherans as having a better option other than to come home. :shrug:

Yes, but that is a very Catholic opinion. Lutherans have a “Real Presence” theology. They believe they also receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. They do not perceive any need to come “home” to receive what they think they already receive.

Any Lutheran who becomes aware of the shortcomings of his Faith is obliged to become Catholic. I’m not talking about THOSE Lutherans. I’m talking about Lutherans who believe they ALSO share in the Sacramental life of the Catholic Church, but do so through their Lutheran Faith. And, in large part, they are correct, as Lutherans practice valid Christian Baptism, which is the foundation and prerequisite for all other Sacraments. One could say that Baptism is 99%+ of the Sacramental life of the Catholic Church (as a mathematician, I would say that Baptism asymptotically approaches infinity in the Economy of Salvation).

I’m a former traditional Anglican, so this argument makes complete sense to me. I once held it myself. I was converted, NOT because of Eucharist (or any perceived inability to receive it validly in the Anglican Church), but because of the Papacy and the ultimate concept of authority.

“asymptotically”. :tsktsk: for making us all head for the dictionary.

Which is the crux of the matter…think about it. If their own communion was sufficient why want the Eucharist from the Catholic Church?

Most everyone knows that we have never practiced intercommunion or open communion and with good reason. :shrug:

Lutherans have a “Real Presence” theology. They believe they

also receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. They do not perceive any need to come “home” to receive what they think they already receiveHowever, errant belief does not mitigate the fact and the clear norms of the Church, David,

These are not going to change. As Pope John Paul the Great said,

  1. The safeguarding and promotion of ecclesial communion is a task of each member of the faithful, who finds in the Eucharist, as the sacrament of the Church’s unity, an area of special concern. More specifically, this task is the particular responsibility of the Church’s Pastors, each according to his rank and ecclesiastical office. For this reason the Church has drawn up norms aimed both at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which communion may not be given. The care shown in promoting the faithful observance of these norms becomes a practical means of showing love for the Eucharist and for the Church.

He went on to say,

*45. While it is never legitimate to concelebrate in the absence of full communion, the same is not true with respect to the administration of the Eucharist under special circumstances, to individual persons ***belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this case, in fact, the intention is to meet a grave spiritual need for the eternal salvation of an individual believer, not to bring about an *intercommunion *which remains impossible until the visible bonds of ecclesial communion are fully re-established.
[LEFT]
This was the approach taken by the Second Vatican Council when it gave guidelines for responding to Eastern Christians separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, who spontaneously ask to receive the Eucharist from a Catholic minister and are properly disposed.95 This approach was then ratified by both Codes, which also consider – with necessary modifications – the case of other non-Eastern Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.96[/LEFT]

[LEFT](Emphasis mine)

There is and will not be a blanket dispensation for n-Cs of any stripe because it would be scandalous false witness and a grave disservice the faith of all.
[/LEFT]

I’m talking about Lutherans who believe they ALSO share in the Sacramental life of the Catholic Church, but do so through their Lutheran Faith. And, in large part, they are correct, as Lutherans practice valid Christian Baptism, which is the foundation and prerequisite for all other Sacraments. One could say that Baptism is 99%+ of the Sacramental life of the Catholic Church (as a mathematician, I would say that Baptism asymptotically approaches infinity in the Economy of Salvation).

Valid baptism is the first step, of course, but as Pope John Paul the Great has stated,

46. In my Encyclical Ut Unum Sint** I expressed my own appreciation of these norms, which make it possible to provide for the salvation of souls with proper discernment: “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid”.97[LEFT]**
**
These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.98

[/LEFT]
The faithful observance of the body of norms established in this area 99 is a manifestation and, at the same time, a guarantee of our love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, for our brothers and sisters of different Christian confessions – who have a right to our witness to the truth – and for the cause itself of the promotion of unity.

(Emphasis mine again)
(Cont’d)

His Holiness has taken great pains to clearly express the teaching of the church here, and I think Pope Francis has been careful to communicate this to the lady in question. The “controversy” is (as usual) the fault of poor media reporting.

I’m a former traditional Anglican, so this argument makes complete sense to me. I once held it myself. I was converted, NOT because of Eucharist (or any perceived inability to receive it validly in the Anglican Church), but because of the Papacy and the ultimate concept of authority.

:slight_smile: And Glory be to God for that my friend!

You touch here upon the real issue in this matter. “[T]he Papacy and the ultimate concept of authority” which, as we agree is, the key point for all concerned. If these matters were not important there would be no discussion.

I think this is a very good summation. Bravo Jimmy!

On the heels of a statement by Pope Francis seeming to suggest openness to non-Catholic Christians receiving Holy Communion, the cardinal who heads the Vatican congregation dealing with the sacraments has said that there are preconditions for the reception of Holy Communion and when those conditions are not met, and the situation is publicly known, ministers of the sacrament “have no right to give him communion.

lifesitenews.com/news/vatican-chief-of-sacraments-no-pope-can-change-divine-law-on-communion

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