When may a non-Catholic Christian receive Communion?

Greetings in the Lord

I am an Anglican, with High Church/Anglo-Catholic leanings. My understanding is that a non-Catholic may be permitted to receive Communion from a Roman Catholic priest on his death-bed, but under virtually no other circumstances.

Yet in private conversation with a number of RC friends, including several priests, it has emerged that there is a body of opinion within the Catholic Church which regards this as an excessively restrictive formulation. Indeed, one Jesuit pries of my acquaintance said, when I asked him about it, “I would never refuse you”.

Moreover, sometimes when travelling overseas (I live in the UK) there is no Anglican place to go to. And on these occasions my preferred destination is a RC church, not least because the order of the Eucharist is in principle essentially the same. So I have sometimes taken communion at a Catholic church, for I am a good enough protestant to think that this is between me and God, not between me and the Vatican.

What think the good people in this Forum?


The relevant canon would be 844 §4:

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, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

The exceptions are danger of death or in the judgment of the local Bishop or Bishops’ Conference some other grave necessity urges it. So it is not up to the local priest to make the decision of grave necessity, only the local Bishop or Bishops’ Conference may do so. The USCCB has limited this to when someone shares the Catholic belief in the Eucharist andare deprived of access to a church of their own denomination for a significant period of time.”

Simply being away on vacation for a few weeks would not reasonably qualify as being deprived access to one’s denomination for a significant period of time. In Catholic theology there is no requirement to receive communion every week, the only requirement is to worship at Mass. It would be extremely rare for the conditions of the canon and the USCCB guidelines to be met during an average weekend Mass.

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