Who can receive communion in Catholic churches?

Obviously, Catholics can.

Is it considered infallible dogma that all non-Christians are excluded?

As for non-Catholic Christians, are there changes from time to time in who can participate? Can Protestants receive communion by special dispensation? Are dispensations normally granted if a Protestant and a Catholic are married in a Catholic church (so the bride and the groom both receive communion)? Are Eastern Orthodox Christians currently allowed by the Catholic church to receive communion in Catholic churches? Might the rules pertaining to Eastern Orthodox Christians vary with geography?

This from the USCCB should answer your questions:


As noted in the USCCB link, all orthodox (small ‘o’) Churches are allowed to receive communion from Churches in the Catholic communion, not limited to Eastern Orthodox but also the Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Church.

From personal experience in the Maronite Church, it’s common to see our priests commune the Syriac Orthodox (and the Syriac Orthodox are not reluctant to commune us as well).

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like there are the rules and the actual practice. I know, for example, that Lutheran seminarians commune at some of the local Catholic churches here. Maybe it’s just up to the local pastor (in practice)?

Only Roman Catholics (e.g. Catholics in communion with the Pope) can receive. Orthodox (e.g. Catholics not in communion with the Pope) are allowed to receive according to canon law of the Roman Church, but are not allowed by their own (Orthodox) authorities. More generally, Christians who believe what the Roman Church teaches regarding the Eucharist (this can be strictly interpreted as “transubstantiation” [excluding everyone] or loosely as “real presence” [including Orthodox, Lutherans, and High Church/Anglo-Catholics]) and are unable to access a Church of their own denomination for a “significant period of time” (again open to interpretation) may be allowed to communicate under “extraordinary circumstances” (cf Canon 844 §§1-4), which I believe is defined in the Catechism, ¶1401:“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 [Roman] Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions.”

So, strictly interpreted, the Roman Church allows only Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Catholics to receive communion, but the Orthodox are excluded by their own authorities (an Orthodox is not allowed to receive Roman communion). Less-strictly interpreted, high-church Anglicans and Lutherans can receive in certain situations. As commonly (mis)interpreted in several parishes I have seen, anyone can receive at any time as long as they profess to be Christian, or at least of a moderately ritualist variety (cf above poster, “Maybe it’s just up to the local pastor (in practice)?” indeed, it is so in practice, as are other liturgical abuses: the ordinaries very rarely legislate liturgical abuse). It appears “acceptable practice” falls somewhere between the strictest interpretation and the misinterpretation.

From the 1996 NCCB (now USCCB) guidelines: “… Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3) …”

[quote=Codex Iuris Canonici 1983]Canon 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.

§3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.

§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.

Absolutely not. If they are not Catholics who have received first communion or select Orthodox/other ancient eastern churches they are not allowed to receive.

“Lutheran seminarians” receiving Holy Communion in a Catholic parish is pretty scandalous if people actually know their status.

Please read the Doctors link in post #2. Perhaps these seminarians are presenting themselves a Catholic unbeknownst to the priest. No Lutheran seminarian identified as such should be receiving the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic Church per the link shared in post #2.

The only thing that varies is practice. Not the “rule”. Probably the pastor is not aware of these seminarians receiving or he is allowing this in disobedience. Communion in the Catholic Church is a closed Communion. All are invited but it is required to be in communion before receiving the Eucharist.

Baptism is the gateway to all other Sacraments.

I don’t know what you mean by “changes from time to time”.

Yes there are circumstances in which members of non-Catholic ecclesial communions can receive the Eucharist. See Canons 840-844 in Canon Law, particularly Canon 844.4.


No. That (a) does not meet the requirement of Canon 844.4 and (b) would create scandal.

Yes, they are fully initiated and have valid sacraments, the Church does not prohibit them from receiving. See Canon 844.3. However, their own bishops do not permit it.


Maybe it should be “the ones who believe Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity” in the Eucharist. Gosh… I’m so sorry to say that at one point, I didn’t believe…

I would assume faith in what your receiving falls under being properly disposed. And we all grow in faith so past mistaken beliefs are of little affect :).

And I am so happy for “the forgiveness of sins!” Who was the guy who said, “Oh my Lord, late have I loved thee!” Everyday I’m thankful for the gift to believe what Jesus said, even if I can’t see it with my eyes!!!

When I was at anglican confirmation class I asked the priest at the time where can we receive communion? I/we were told about the Catholic Church and if we seek permission from the Catholic Priest or the Priest knows us etc and invites us to before hand and if he says yes then we can but otherwise out of respect for Catholic Tradition not to receive it though I believe we can receive communion anywhere. We just don’t in the Catholic Church out of respect that basically they do not want us to because they believe we aren’t of the True Church since we have mixed opinons about Transubstantiation etc.

“O Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief” - straight from the Scriptures, Mark 9:24.

No, that’s not the case. The pastor is fully aware of and approves of their reception of the Eucharist there, so I guess you could say he is allowing it in disobedience or maybe in favor of Ecumenism–I don’t know his thought process. Or maybe this is this up to the bishop’s discretion?

That’s why I was contrasting the rules and the actual practice. As an analogy, everyone knows what the speed limit is, but a lot of people just ignore it.

If this is true as you say, it is an abuse and against the Catholic Church.

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