Why can't Lutherans accept the Eucharist as a RC mass?

I don’t understand the Lutheran faith well. My sister is Lutheran and I am told that she cannot receive the Eucharist at our RC church because Lutherans do not believe in the real presence/transubstantiated host. Her reply is that Lutherans do believe in the real presence. Again because I do not understand her faith I do not know if she can accept the Eucharist at my church.

  1. Can Lutherans accept the Eucharist at a RC church?
  2. If not, why not? (With Lutherans and Catholic citations please)
  3. Do Catholics ad Lutherans view the Eucharist differently and if so how?

Short answer:

Lutherans are not in full communion with Catholics. If they were, they would be…Catholic!

Keep an eye out for others who will offer citations from the catechism.

I think you will find that some “high church” Lutherans view the Eucharist *similarly *to Catholics. However, that is not always the case. I am sure that some of our Lutheran brothers will comment.

There are several reasons she cannot receive in the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is part of that. Their understanding of the ‘real presence’ DOES differ from Catholic understanding. I cannot explain the complexities but I do believe Lutheran’s believe in consubstantiation which is not compatible with Catholic belief (basically they believe that while the bread becomes Christ it ALSO remains bread… and thus is not sacred, since it’s really just bread. Something like that, I don’t explain it well).

Furthermore, when you receive communion in ANY Church you are also professing your belief in that Church!!! As a Protestant I was always taught that to partake of communion is to show your outward support of that particular church. If she were to go up and receive communion in the Catholic Church all who saw her would presume she is Catholic! And that she believes all that the Church teaches! Does she really want people thinking that? Does she want to make a public statement that she believes all the Catholic Church teaches???

But last and foremost, she should not receive because the Church asks her not to (all non-Catholics are asked not to receive expect, perhaps, the Orthodox (in dire circumstances)), and it would be the ultimate in disrespect for her to receive anyway. Why would she want to disrespect the Church she also wants to take communion from? That makes no sense. Respect demands that she not receive so long as she is not a confirmed, baptized Catholic.

I would NEVER go to a Muslim country and demand that I be allowed to pray with the men. Nor would I go to a Buddhist temple that has made a vow of silence and walk around talking at the top of my voice. Why? Because we should respect other religions, even if we don’t agree with them.

Lutherans can’t receive communion at a Roman Catholic Church because the Lutheran Church is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Just as a Roman Catholic cannot receive communion in a Lutheran Church.

  1. Only under extraordinary circumstances, with the approval of a bishop (as I understand it), from the Catholic POV. From the view of a Missouri Synod Lutheran, we should not receive communion in a Catholic Church for two reasons: the Catholic Church asks us not to. That is sufficient reason, for any person of character and charity. However, additionally, reception of communion implies agreement in doctrine, doctrine beyond even that of the real presence. Sadly, Lutherans and Catholics are not in doctrinal agreement…yet.
  2. I will leave the Catholic citations to my Catholic siblings in Christ, the LCMS practices what we call “close” communion. It is similar to the Catholic practice, in that generally we welcome LCMS members, those who are members of synods we are in communion with, and others depending on the circumstances. Pastors have a range of privilege in this regard.
  3. Yes, and no. We agree on the real presence, though we express it differently.


That’s correct.

And, it has been this way since the very beginning. The Didache tells us:
9:5 Allow no one to eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized in the name of the Lord. For concerning this, the Lord has said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs.”

Um, Lutherans are baptized, and the Catholic Church recognizes them as valid. The Didache is genuinely speaking of the difference in that time - those baptized and those not. Baptism was the determining factor if one could receive.
So, it isn’t baptism that divides us. Just as a Catholics should not receive in a Lutheran parish, a Lutheran should not at a Catholic parish. And it has to do with our sad divisions, not baptism, one thing that truly unites us.


  1. No. (There are exceptions for times of war, persecution or natural disaster, but that’s probably not what you’re asking about).

  2. Because in order to share in Eucharistic Communion, we must be in full Communion in terms of what we believe and in terms of ecclesial Communion (in other words, be one single united community).

  3. Yes. Very differently. The belief of the Catholic Church is that there is no Communion in a Lutheran service. It is nothing more than bread and wine; because there is no valid priest to consecrate them. Since it’s not the Body of Christ, it’s not Communion.

The Catholic Church recognizes Christian baptism - that includes Lutherans. As long as one is baptized with a Trinitarian formula and with water.

The difference between Catholics and Lutherans is not real presence, but an understanding of how it becomes the body and blood of Jesus.

Lutherans believe in consubstantiation while Catholics believe in transubstantiation. In simple terms (really a bit more complicated than this), consubstantiation is the idea that the substance/qualities of the bread and wine AND the body and blood of Jesus exist in the Eucharist at the same time (con = with). Transubstantiation is the idea that the substance/qualities of the bread and wine leave (trans = move) the Eucharist and the body and blood come into the Eucharist.

It’s a difference in understanding of the Eucharist becomes what it is.

Just a quick point of clarification. Lutherans do not believe in Consubstantiation, as is too often said. Lutherans profess Sacramental Union. To apply the term Consubstantiation to the Lutheran understanding of the Real Presence is to wrongly suppose that Lutherans hold an Aristotelian explanation of the Sacrament. Instead, Lutherans simply acknowledge that it is a mystery. Lutherans just don’t put commas where they understand God to have placed a period.

We do not accept consubstantiation. Consubstantiation teaches that the substance of bread and wine exists alongside the substance of Jesus. We do not teach the real presence in terms of substans. Yes, we do say the bread and wine is Jesus’ body and blood, but we refuse to define it in Aristotelian terms, which both consubstantiation and transubstantiation do.

Why are the Orthodox (by Catholic canon) allowed to receive communion?


What Lutheran synod does your sister belong to?

I might wonder is she belongs to the ELCA synod if she is asking about why RC’s practice closed Communion.

I think Jon’s post,

covered all the significant points, but I’ll add this quote:

“4. If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

  • Canon 844

They may be allowed to in the point of view of the Catholics under certain conditions, like not being able to have access to an Orthodox church, but generally the Orthodox will not commune Catholics. Canon Law is more specific on this.

However, the reason why it is permitted under those circumstances is because the Orthodox have valid Apostolic Succession, thus valid Sacraments. Though the Churches are in schism, Apostolic Succession was not broken and the priests and Bishops are validly ordained.

Some Orthodox wonder that too – in particular (:() some of them have suggested that we Catholics are engaging in some kind of “neo-uniatism” by allowing such intercommunion.

Lutherans cannot take the Eucharist at an RC church, nor can an RC accept the Eucharist at one of our confessional Lutheran churches.

That is because we are divided on the real presence. We both believe in it, but disagree as to “how” the real presence is well present. RC goes with Transubstantiation, that only the accidents of bread and wine remain post consecration. Lutherans go with sacramental union, that bread wine, and Jesus body and blood are present, but without the substance/accidents division.

We are also divided on other things, such as justification, sanctification, purgatory, the power and primacy of the pope etc. Taking communion means you are in communion with that particular church. Communion means you are in unity, that is total agreement with all doctrine. Since Lutherans and Catholics are not in total agreement, it’s better that our tables remain separate for now. It may even be that our tables remain separate until the Second Coming. That would be unfortunate, but I am not willing to compromise one bit on any issue of doctrine. And I would never want anyone else, especially the RC to compromise any of their doctrine for the sake of unity. That would be doing both of us a disservice.

Sorry Father David, but what you write seems to be contrary to the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue where the Eucharist is much of the focus. In-fact, Lutherans “could” commune at a Catholic Mass, per the proposal in Dialogue, just as Orthodox are welcomed. The issue of the Real Presence at Lutheran altars is not as you state and I will gladly provide citations from the Roman Catholic Church, if you are unfamiliar with ‘From Conflict to Communion’.

Catholics are welcome at Lutheran altars with the exception of some very conservative Lutheran synods. I have been invited and have communed in Catholic parishes at family events [baptism, weddings].

Thank you for sharing that, but I will follow my church’s discipline which says not to (just like, if I were Orthodox, I would not receive from a Catholic priest).

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