A reader—SG—sent a note:
I once told him that there is an easy remedy to that: Become Catholic, and you can receive the Eucharist daily! But he says his objection isn't simply because he is personally being deprived, but because he thinks no one should be deprived simply because they aren't Catholic.
So SG put together a little "quiz" to help his friend realize "either that he is not actually being deprived of anything of great value; or that he is being deprived, but justly; or that even if he is being deprived unjustly, there is still good reason to submit to this injustice because the reward is so great." He then asked for thoughts on the soundness of the logic used in the quiz. Here it is:
Four Questions for Those Who Oppose the Catholic Church's Practice of Closed Communion
1. Do you believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, i.e. that the bread and wine, when consecrated, actually become the body and blood of Christ?
YES: Go on to question 2.
NO: Since you don't believe that what you are being deprived of is actually the body and blood of Christ, but merely bread and wine, you cannot argue that you are being deprived of anything of great value.
2. Do you believe that no special authority is required for a Christian to be able to consecrate the Eucharistic bread and wine?
NO: Go on to question 3.
YES: Then you are not being deprived of the body and blood of Christ, since you yourself should be able to consecrate the Eucharistic bread and wine.
3. If a Church defies God's will by unjustly withholding the Eucharist from a vast number of people, do you believe that God would still transubstantiate the Eucharistic bread and wine during the consecration by that Church's ordained ministers?
YES: Go on to the Final Question.
NO: Then either: 1) you are not being deprived of the body and blood of Christ, since the Eucharist that the Catholic Church distributes remains merely bread and wine, or 2) you are being deprived of the body and blood of Christ, but it is God's will that you be deprived, as a way of drawing you into the Church.
Final Question: What ransom would you not pay to receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist?
In other words, even if it is true that the Church is wrong to withhold the Eucharist from those who are not Catholic, isn't the Eucharist valuable enough to you that "paying the ransom" the Church demands is justified?
An analogy: Imagine if your child were kidnapped, and a ransom of $10,000 were demanded. You might firmly believe that kidnapping is wrong and that the kidnappers don't deserve to be rewarded for immoral behavior, but you might also acknowledge that it is more important to get your child back than to refuse to pay the ransom on principle.
In the same way, even if you think the Church is wrong to practice closed communion, isn't it more important to receive the Eucharist than to deprive yourself of it on principle?
I find the first set of questions more engaging and helpful than the final question, since it relies upon a negative analogy (ransom and kidnapping) that skews, I think, the positive nature of the Church's stance on non-Catholics receiving Eucharist (recognizing, of course, that there are extraordinary exceptions).
SG is certainly correct in saying this is a strange hiccup to have, especially if the person in question is "on board" with the Church's theological and moral teachings. But I do wonder about that, since this is very much a theological question that is intimately connected to what the Church teaches about the nature and meaning of both Holy Communion and the Church. On one level, there is the simple matter of Church authority, which is part of what the "quiz" is aimed at conveying: if you've accepted that the Church has the authority to administer the sacraments, and you believe the Church was founded and established by Jesus Christ, and continually guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, then why the qualms?
But there is another approach, one I've used in talking to various Evangelical Protestant friends and relatives. Some of them ask about Holy Communion simply out of curiosity, but some are upset that they cannot go forward and receive the Eucharist. This is, of course, most interesting since none of them have ever professed (to me at least) to believing in the Real Presence. Anyhow, I have used the analogy of marriage, which has the plus of being both an analogy and a reality, if understood correctly. Here's the basic outline:
1. God's relationship with His people is marital and nuptial in nature. The Catechism, drawing upon a variety of passages from Scripture, states:
2. The sacrament of marriage, of the other six sacraments, is most like the sacrament of the Eucharist in that it is the intimate and exclusive gift of one's self to another, a reality signified and realized in the exchange of vows and the union of body and soul. As Fr. James T O'Connor puts it in his magnificent book, The Hidden Manna (Ignatius Press, 2005; 2nd edition): "Our union with him in the Eucharist is like a marriage. This marriage imagery is but an extension of that used to describe the relationship between God and his people as depicted in the Bible" (p 338). St. Paul wrote: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church..." (Eph 5:31-32). In the words of the Catechism: "Since it signifies and communicates grace, marriage between baptized persons is a true sacrament of the New Covenant" (par 1617).
3. The Church teaches (and many non-Catholics agree with her) that the marital embrace/sexual union is meant for marriage only. There are several reasons for this, but it's enough to note that sexual union involves the gift of each spouse to the other, and that this gift reflects, in a profound way, the gift of Christ to his Bride, the Church. To be married is to publicly proclaim one's love, loyalty, and singular commitment to the other; it is to swear a sacred, covenantal oath. It is not enough to say, as many do, "Hey, baby, I love you. We don't need to get married to have sex. That's just a piece of paper." On the contrary, that "piece of paper" is evidence that you have made a public, life-long commitment rooted in and demonstrating real love.
4. Likewise, reception of the Eucharist—the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ—is meant for those who are in full communion with Christ and his Church, which is his Mystical Body. The Eucharist is the marriage feast of the Lamb (CCC, par 1617, 1244). Receiving Holy Communion, then, is a public vow of full communion and complete commitment with the Catholic Church. "How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart -- it was truly a kiss of love," wrote St. Thérèse about her first Communion, "I knew that I was loved and said, 'I love You, and I give myself to You forever.' Jesus asked for nothing, He claimed no sacrifice. Long before that, He and little Thérèse had seen and understood one another well, but on that day it was more than a meeting -- it was a complete fusion."
5. Therefore, it's not enough to say, "I love Jesus," since even those who are not married can express love for one another; nor is it enough to say, "I'm planning on entering the Church soon," since those who are engaged are not married, however sincere their intent to be married. Sex before or outside of marriage is, put simply, a lie. It is partaking of that which is meant for marriage only, and it does so outside of the proper public and marital bonds.
Likewise, receiving Holy Communion as a non-Catholic (again, with an understanding of certain limited exceptions) is a lie. It says, "I am in communion with the Catholic Church despite not being in communion with the Catholic Church." Sincerity isn't enough. Good intentions aren't enough. Warm, fuzzy feelings aren't enough. Obviously this sometimes happens without a full understanding that what is taking place is wrong; as with all sinful acts there is an objective and subjective facet, as well as differing degrees of culpability. But this is why it is such a travesty for Eucharist to be knowingly given to someone who is not Catholic, because it causes someone to speak a lie with their actions.
As I indicated above, this approach is based on the belief that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and the Church's teachings about the nature and meaning of the sacrament of marriage and the sacrament of the Eucharist. That SG's friend says "he thinks no one should be deprived simply because they aren't Catholic" suggests a failure, in some important way, to appreciate those teachings and what necessarily follows from them in Church practice and discipline.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
• Author Page for Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
• The Spirit of the Liturgy page
• Benedict and the Eucharist: On the Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis | Carl E. Olson | March 13, 2007
• For "Many" or For "All"? | From God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Foreword to U.M. Lang's Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Music and Liturgy | From The Spirit of the Liturgy | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer | From The Spirit of the Liturgy | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• The Meaning and Purpose of the Year of the Eucharist | Carl E. Olson
• The Doctrine (and the Defense) of the Eucharist | Carl E. Olson
• Walking To Heaven Backward | Interview with Father Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory
• Rite and Liturgy | Denis Crouan, STD
• The Liturgy Lived: The Divinization of Man | Jean Corbon, OP
• The Mass of Vatican II | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
• Liturgy, Catechesis, and Conversion | Barbara Morgan
• Understanding The Hierarchy of Truths | Douglas Bushman, STL
• The Eucharist: Source and Summit of Christian Spirituality | Mark Brumley
• Eucharistic Adoration: Reviving An Ancient Tradition | Valerie Schmalz
Selected Ignatius Press titles about the Eucharist and the Liturgy
Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist
Fr. James T. O'Connor
382 pages. Paperback.
This is a profound, readable and comprehensive study of the great Mystery of the Eucharist from apostolic times to the present day. Using every possible source, from Church Fathers, Scripture, the writings of Popes, councils, saints and more, O'Connor presents a beautifully thorough and inspiring study of the Eucharist.
God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Second Vatican Council says, "We ought to try to discover a new reverence for the Eucharistic mystery. Something is happening that is greater than anything we can do. The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is the font from which all her power flows."
This profound statement about the Eucharist stands at the center of this book by Cardinal Ratzinger. He compellingly shows us the biblical, historical, and theological dimensions of the Eucharist. The Cardinal draws far-reaching conclusions, focusing on the importance of one's personal devotion to and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for the personal reception of Communion by the individual Christian, as well as for the life of the Church. For Ratzinger, any transformation of the world on the social plane grows out of the celebration of the Eucharist. He beautifully illustrates how the omnipotent God comes intimately close to us in the Holy Eucharist, the Heart of Life.