A reader responded to my post, "Holy Communion and Non-Catholics," with this following comment:
First, no one here, least of all myself, said it was an "absurd" objection. "Strange," yes, but not in the sense of "absurd," but in the sense that it simply doesn't make sense in the context of someone who claims they accept everything else taught by the Church.
You wrote: However, the Eucharist is Christ's feeding of His people, and we are one body who partake of Him.
Your remark hints at the real issue, the same issue I attempted to address in my post: ecclesiology. By saying "one body," you imply that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is in full and visible communion with one another. But they aren't. The Catholic Church, in "excluding all other Christians from her table" is simply saying that those other Christians are not full and visible members of herself. If you are not a full and visible (public) member of the Catholic Church, why does it follow that you should be able to receive the sacrament which states, in the very reception of it, that you are a full and visible member of the Catholic Church?
Thus by excluding all other Christians from her table, the Catholic church is denying their status as Christians and saying that none of them can possibly be serving Christ, and further that Christ is not allowed to accept them as His own.
But surely you know that is NOT what the Church states about other Christians; quite the contrary:
For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church-whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church-do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. (Unitatis Regintegratio ["Decree on Ecumenism," Second Vatican Council, Nov. 21, 1964], par 3).
So non-Catholic Christians are indeed Christians in the eyes of the Catholic Church. But:
Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. (par 3)
Also worth noting, from the same document:
Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion.
Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders, nevertheless when they commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord's Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory. Therefore the teaching concerning the Lord's Supper, the other sacraments, worship, the ministry of the Church, must be the subject of the dialogue. (par 22)
In other words, sadly, the reason you give above for not entering the Catholic Church is not one based in an accurate and fair understanding of what the Catholic Church actually teaches.
As I've indicated elsewhere, I believe the vast majority of disagreements or misunderstandings between Catholics and most Protestants are ultimately rooted in disagreements or misunderstandings about matters of ecclesiology. One of the best documents to read for those who have questions about Catholic ecclesiology is Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; it was an essential text for me when I was working though many questions in my journey to and into the Catholic Church.
Some other good resources:
• Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Meaning of Christian Brotherhood, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church As Communion, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Joseph Ratzinger: Life in the Church and Living Theology, Fundamentals of Ecclesiology | Maximilian Heinrich Heim
• Loving the Church: Spiritual Exercises Preached in the Presence of Pope John Paul II, by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• Theology of the Church, by Charles Cardinal Journet
• The Motherhood of the Church, by Henri de Lubac, S.J.
• The Splendor of the Church, by Henri de Lubac, S.J.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Links/Articles:
• Motherhood of the Entire Church | Henri de Lubac, S.J.
• The Church Is the Goal of All Things | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
• Excerpts from Theology of the Church | Charles Cardinal Journet
• On the Papacy, John Paul II, and the Nature of the Church | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Peter and Succession | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• "Primacy in Love": The Chair Altar of Saint Peter's in Rome | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Church Authority and the Petrine Element | Hans Urs von Balthasar
• Mater Ecclesia: An Ecclesiology for the 21st Century | Donald Calloway, M.I.C.
• Authority and Dissent in the Catholic Church | Dr. William E. May
• Exploring the Catholic Faith! | An Interview with Diane Eriksen
• Understanding The Hierarchy of Truths | Douglas Bushman, S.T.L.