The Eucharist: Accept No Substitutions.

It’s widely known that the Catholic Church doesn’t allow non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist (read about it here), but what about the flip side of that coin? If for some reason a Catholic is attending a Protestant service, can they partake in communion?

No, they cannot. Under no circumstances are Catholics to receive communion from a Protestant denomination.

The rule is outline in the Code of Canon Law 844:

Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone.

As it is known, Catholics believe that by partaking of Holy Communion, we are eating and drinking the literal Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (transubstantiation). It is not a symbol, nor is it a metaphor, nor do we believe, as the Lutherans, that Jesus is with the bread and wine (consubstantiation). Once consecrated, the bread and wine cease to be, and we are left with the Body and Blood.

Receiving communion is the most important part of our faith. It’s not just a big deal; it’s THE biggest deal there is. The entire Mass is centered on the Eucharist. It’s the crux of our salvation. When we present ourselves before the Eucharist, we are literally standing at the feet of our savior.

As Catholics, we must confirm with our words and actions that we believe in the real presence of Christ as the Eucharist. This is why we genuflect before the altar, and why, we must first clear our heart of mortal sin through reconciliation before receiving.

By taking communion in a church that does not accept our beliefs of the Eucharist, we are equating the real presence with a symbolic gesture, and that is irreverent to the Church, and a sin.

But, regardless of the law, I can’t understand why a faithful Catholic would want to receive from anywhere other than the Catholic Church in the first place. When we take the Eucharist, we bind ourselves to the Father, body and soul. We renew our spirit, strengthen our faith, and rejoice in the unconditional love and grace that God has for us.

There is nothing for Catholics in the communion of other churches. No added grace. No redemption. No salvation. For us, it is an empty, incomplete action. Why would we want to celebrate that?

Now, there is a second part to Canon Law 844 that should be explained. It states:

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.

At a first glance, this might make everything I just said irrelevant, but lets take a closer look at the stipulations.

First, receiving outside of the Church is permitted only when it is impossible for a Catholic to approach a Catholic priest. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, we need to take note of the part of the law: in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

This means that if a Catholic is to receive outside of the Catholic Church, he or she must do so in a church where the Eucharist is also recognized as the literal Body and Blood of Christ, and was consecrated by a validly ordained priest (valid, being contingent upon the Roman Church Authority and not our personal opinion).

With these restrictions in mind, a Catholic can only receive the Eucharist at an Orthodox Church. Though, through a schism, we are not in complete communion with the Orthodox Church, they are the only other Christian church where the Catholic Church recognizes the sacraments and ordination as valid.

Understandably, all this can cause Catholics to feel a bit awkward at other church services, and sometimes we might feel as if we’re offending other Christians by denying ourselves communion. However, when it comes to Church teaching and law, our feelings should play not part in the matter, nor should the opinions of others.

As Catholics, our lives are a perpetual witness to the faith. Let us not compromise that faith by pretending that Real Presence exists anywhere else.


God Doesn’t Owe Us Anything: A Short Reflection

I  actually wanted to post about the Gospel readings for Nov 11 the day of, but I never got around to it. Thank God for a universal Gospel, right?

The reading was from Luke 17, and goes as follows:

Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him,‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

I love the allegorical nature of our Savior’s teachings. In comparing his disciples with the servant, Christ is reminding us that all we do for God is out of obligation and Christian duty. Like the master to the servant, God doesn’t owe us anything, and we should never expect to profit from our salvation (sans the whole dying and going to Heaven part).

Unfortunately, many people are more concerned with what they can “get” out of following Christ than what they should be giving, and not just with material things.

Yes, there are the Osteen’s of the world who tell you that if you surrender yourself to Christ, He’s going to shower your with money, cars, friends, and good fortune, and while there are those out there who are duped by the infamous prosperity gospel, I think a lot of us expect something on a more spiritual or emotional level.

We think that if we make it to Mass, participate at all the right moments, and receive the Eucharist, we’ll be granted insight, knowledge, healing, special protection, or, as it is so often these days, for God to look past our unrepentant hearts and turn a blind eye to our sins.

But that misses the whole point of being a Christian.

We fulfill our obligation to God out of love for the Father. We do it out of thankfulness that he gave His Son so we could one day enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We sacrfice our own human desires for the will of God. Salvation is not tit for tat. It’s not a quid pro quo. It’s not a transaction.

When Christ commanded us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, he didn’t promise us a reward or a pat on the back. When he commanded us to turn from sin, he didn’t add that doing so would make life easier for us. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Christ just said “do,” and we follow because as His disciples, it’s our job.

Our only reward is the joy of doing the Lord’s work, and what more could we possibly need?

How Catholics Should Respond to Cardinal Burke’s Demotion.

Trust the Pope.

That’s all any Catholic needs to do about this situation. No more speculating about Francis’ completely made up “liberal agenda” or some other conspiracy, heretical nonsense. He’s the Pope. We’re the laity. Trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

On another note, it would do the laity a massive amount of good to stop trying to segment in the Church into “liberal” and “conservative” factions. I doubt you can find an article online that doesn’t mention Cardinal Burke as a “conservative hero.” It’s pointless, and it does more harm than good.

There is no conservative Catholicism or liberal Catholicism. There is only Catholicism. Such titles put politics and agenda before the faith, and that is dangerous.

The State of Protestantism Today

In June of this year, the largest Presbyterian denomination in America voted to allow their clergy to perform same-sex “marriages” within the church, thus joining the ranks of other Protestant denominations, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Episcopalian Church, and United Church of Christ.

This “evolution” of theology and “modernizing” of church doctrine is a trend that I predict we’ll continue to see in non-Catholic Christian circles for years to come, and not just with marriage. Today, nearly all Protestant denominations support and even advocate the use of artificial birth control, turn a blind eye to divorce, and many allow at least some level of support for abortion.

Of course, not all Protestants are willing to “move with the times”, so to speak; there remains, especially among the more conservative groups, quite a bit of dissent. However, it cannot be denied that many modern day Protestant denominations are falling further into the depths of secularism.

While it pains me to see Christians turning their backs on the sanctity of life and marriage, I have to admit that whenever the media lights up with news of another Protestant church endorsing an otherwise wholly unchristian act, I find myself entirely unsurprised.

The reason for my utter lack of shock lies, interestingly enough, within two of the critical tenants of Protestant Theology: the doctrines of sola scriptura (scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone). (I discuss these two at length here and here)

As Catholics, the Bible is not our sole source of authority, nor was the Catholic Church based upon it. In fact, what we now call “The Bible” — the collected Old Testament and New Testament writings — was put together by the Church herself, and is meant to enrich and support our doctrine and Tradition.

(Consider too that the Gospel is the written testimony of the teachings of the apostles, which, due to apostolic tradition and the God-given teaching authority of the Church, precedes the written text. Thus, any authority of the Scriptures is derived from the recognition of the Church.)

Yet, the Protestant Reformation severed the Tradition from the Bible, and put all other authorities beneath it. By doing so, they created a type of religious relativism (unwittingly, I’m sure) that opened the door for an “anything goes” mentality.  So long, of course, as it can be found — or not found — in the scriptures.

For years, sola scriptura was a major weapon against Catholic theology, claiming that our practices were either absent or directly forbidden by Sacred Scripture. However, since the latter part of the 20th century, the charges that “Jesus never said (x)” or “That’s not in the Bible” have turned on themselves and have now become, “Jesus never said (x) was wrong, so that means (x) must be okay.”

This idea blends well with many in my generation, the millennials, who wish to hold on to some shred of spirituality but cannot bring themselves to relinquish the desires of the flesh.  It is also a base notion of “Progressive Christianity”, which is basically the feel-good parts of following Christ without any actual sacrifice.

The same problem goes for sola fide. Though the only place in the Bible where the words “faith” and “alone” appear next to one another is in James 2:24 (“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”), it still remains a significant tenant of Protestant Christianity. However, much like sola scriptura, it has seemingly evolved into an even more bastardized version of itself that states, “As long as I’m a good person and believe in Jesus, I’m okay.”

Now, understand, I’m not among the ilk who believe that Protestants can’t go to Heaven (though the path is significantly more challenging, and not in a “take up your cross” kind of way). They can, and many will. I do believe, however, that Christianity was never meant go in this direction. And I certainly believe that, should things continue in the manner, modern-day Protestants will eventually have nothing left to call Christian at all.