Holy regret on intercommunion

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who retired on July 1st as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said his biggest regret is that he did not achieve an agreement on a common Communion with Protestants, ENI reports. “Today, there is a lot of convergence. So, we got closer to each other but we could not achieve the final breakthrough. I regret it very much but you cannot push the issue,” the cardinal said.



  1. +JMJ+

    The “sharing of Holy Communion” will come about when we have settled the “theological issues that still prevent us from communing together”. It’s no use trying to “force” shared communion, without actually being in communion with one another.

  2. That’s just the lament here, JMJ, is that Protestants and Catholics already *are* in communion though imperfectly. How perfect must a communion be in order to be the Body at Christ’s table? Consider the differences East & West and yet we find Eastern Catholics in communion with Rome. Why are Protestants not affirmed in this same universal diversity?

    Or consider inter-church families (of which I am part). My wife and I were married in the catholic church and made one flesh; and yet with the other hand this domestic church is deprived Eucharistic sustenance before the same altar which united us. The absence of shared communion is a scandalous stain of the church my wife and I bear personally at every mass.

    1. If there truly are no major theological differences between a Catholic and Protestant as you suggest, why aren’t the Protestants who want to partake the Eucharist in a Catholic church more willing to become formal members of the church? This is because there ARE major differences that they cannot reconcile with. If these differences are large enough to prevent a person from becoming a member of the church, intercommunion would only serve as a false exterior sign of a communion of believers that is not actually there. Most protestants don’t subscribe to the core belief of transubstantiation. Should we allow these people to accept our most central sacrament as merely a symbol, just to maintain Christian unity? At some point, we are obligated to spread the truth and protect our treasure against those who would dilute it’s truth to something less meaningful.

      1. Brad, I don’t think your thoughts here are quite in the spirit of what the Church taught on ecumenism at Vatican II. And there has been much progress in ecumenical dialogue in the 45 years since Vatican II. Clearly Cardinal Kasper has been tracking those developments, and as one who is close to these discussions he had reason to believe intercommunion might have become possible. This is because people like him are working at ways to preserve our core truths, but look at them in a new way which makes agreement and intercommunion possible. I have the impression that you’re stating what the RC position was before Vatican II. This is why your views (and the tone with which you express them) are so different from the words of the Cardinal. Your use of the phrase “merely a symbol” seems to indicate that you haven’t tracked what RC theologians have been saying about “real symbol” for about 60-70 years now, nor noted their consensus that symbols are real. The old “is it real or is it a symbol” view of the late Middle Ages has long since been overcome by the return to the sacramental theology of the first milennium.

      2. I did not suggest there are no differences. They are very real and very divisive. I do suggest, however, that Eucharist has the power to overcome such differences. Baptism has the power to wash away our sins and incorporate one into the church, the sacrament of reconciliation has the power to forgive, marriage actually unites, and ordination makes one a deacon, priest, or bishop. Why can’t Eucharist actually unite? Why does it seem that Eucharist is the only sacrament that does not accomplish what it proclaims (i.e. Christian unity)?

        Also, The church has taught time and time again than Protestants are already formal members of the church through baptism. There is only one church, divided though it may be.

        Finally, to address your comment on transubstantiation. Certainly this is a challenge for many Protestants. But are you suggesting it is not a challenge for Catholics? What about a 7 year old at first communion – do they fully understand and believe transubstantiation well enough to commune? I find the theological threshold in this regard is artificially high for non-Catholics wishing to receive. I nearly have to present a doctoral dissertation every time I have requested to receive with my wife (and have been denied every time since our wedding mass). Individual Catholics are not examined that closely to see if they understand all of the nuances of Eucharistic theology.

      3. +JMJ+

        Fr. Anthony, Brad used the phrase “merely a symbol” because Protestants do not believe the Eucharist (either in our Church or theirs) to be the true and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in His humanity and divinity. That is the reality present in a valid Eucharist which is not present in their “merely” symbolic Lord’s Supper.

        As for what the Church taught on ecumenism at Vatican II, could you share your impression of that teaching?

        Vatican II distinguishes between the “ecumenical movement” and individuals seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, but both are oriented to union in one Church: “when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning.” (UR 4)

        “worship in common (communicatio in sacris) is not to be considered as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of Christian unity.” (UR 8 )

        In those Church with a valid Eucharist and priesthood, “some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged.” (UR 15)

        Regarding other Christian communities, our common baptism “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.” (UR 22) That is as far as U.R. goes in even approaching the idea of “communicatio in sacris” with Protestants.

      4. The issues are not as clear as Brad and Jeffrey want to make them. Jeffrey acknowledges that there are differences in degree of communion, but seems not to know that Anglicans and Roman Catholics reached substantial agreement on the Eucharist, and that agreement was affirmed by the Pope and Abp of Canterbury. Those who are in imperfect communion with us include some, perhaps many, who agree with us on the nature of the Eucharist.

        I do not know if relations with Lutherans have gone that far, though I would not be surprised if they have. The ARCIC agreements may provide a basis for discussion among many Protestant groups. We are closer to acknowledging our common faith today than we were 40 years ago. I am sure that is a part of Cardinal Kasper;s frustration.

      5. +JMJ+

        Jim, I have heard of statements of agreement on particular matters of doctrine between the Catholic Church and other Christian communions; I’ve read some of them (such as the joint statement on justification between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation).

        Could you direct me to the Anglican-Catholic agreement on the Eucharist? (Is it “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry”?)

        What bearing does it have on the substance of the 39 Articles? I am thinking specifically Article 28 which considers transubstantiation to be “repugnant”, and Article 31 which denies the propitiatory value of the Eucharist.

        My real concern on any ecumenical statement of agreement ultimately is this: that two groups of people can agree on one text but with divergent meanings. The statement “the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise” can mean something very different to a Catholic than to a Methodist, for example.

      6. Brad, I think we realize the issues aren’t all theological. There are Christians whom Catholics recognize as having valid sacraments, and yet there is no intercommunion with the Orthodox. Is it filioque, papal primacy, or just a millennium of embittered, hard-hearted politics?

        By the way, the Church does accept non-Catholics for Communion in certain circumstances. Perhaps those conditions should be widened at least for those in “laboratories of unity,” as Pope Benedict referred to them.

        I have to reiterate I don’t see enough sorrow on the part of some Catholics for the broken unity in Christendom. In my more angry moments, it could make me question their very orthodoxy.

      7. +JMJ+

        Todd, I don’t know how sorry you would prefer I appear, but I am indeed sorrowful about the division among Christians.

        I try to go about healing those divisions through sharing the beauty of the Catholic faith and praying for my separated brethren. I’m sure I don’t do both as fervently, frequently, and effectively as I should, but I try. I should pray more, definitely.

      8. Todd,

        Just to clarify about intercommunion on the ground: there have historically been oases of occasional/periodic intercommunion here and there in southern Italy and even parts of Greece (!) where there have been centuries of Byzantine-Roman mingling (going back to the era of late antiquity – people forget that a lot of Greece was under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome until the early Middle Ages). And I believe this is also the case in some areas with some of the Oriental Churches. Rome’s position has been, as a gesture of respect, however, that people from Eastern and Oriental Churches that do not approve of intercommunion in the Roman rite should refrain from receiving in the Roman Catholic Church. Which I think is a good illustration of the varied ways respect might be understood and practiced.

        It’s also important for everyone to remember that the various relationships the Roman Catholic Church has with the various Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches are not historically identical and have varying causes and ramifications (though one might view the churches that share the Byzantine heritage as a group apart from the others).

      9. Jeffrey, Protestant sacramental theologians have come a loooog way beyond your view of them which sounds like about 50 years ago. Perhaps some Protestants hold that, but don’t generalize about all of them.

        The ecumenical discussion has also continued to advance beyond UR – eg in our ecumenical directory and in JP2’s ecumenism encyclical. One has to track the whole discussion as it’s been developing in the past several decades, I think.

      10. Joel, I wanted to address your good words about the ‘challenge’ of transubstantiation, particularly when it comes to a comprehension of the doctrine. Since the Eucharist is a mystery of faith, I don’t hold out hope of understanding it as it truly is, at least this side of heaven! The helpful link between the young first communicant and your dilemma can be resolved in this way: the Church doesn’t require that we all of us be theologians or university educated individuals to achieve salvation. Indeed, a faith lived out through love and good works is more than enough… helped along, of course, by the sacraments. Corinthians 13 is a lovely exposition of this central mystery of our faith – a love so strong that it will give itself entirely, even unto death, for another. This is embodied most powerfully and really in the Blessed Sacrament. Faith in the same and a turning to it in worship and action are a truly profound understanding of the sacrament, which in many ways could be more sublime than the most learned disputation. This is perhaps the child-like faith that nourished and sustained individuals like Thérèse of Lisieux… and it is a true example of worthiness to us all as we seek to overcome division, unite in love, and affirm the unity of the Church.

      11. +JMJ+

        Fr. Anthony, I’m not up-to-date on the development of sacramental theology in the Anglican (and other) communions, so I’m only operating on the limited knowledge I have. If the Anglicans have reconsidered those two articles I mentioned, I was unaware.

        I have read Ut Unum Sint and Communionis Notio, and I have skimmed the Directory on Ecumenism (as a reference than a straight-through read). I just started with Unitatis Redintegratio because you mentioned what Vatican II said about ecumenism.

        From what I’ve read in Church documents, it seems to me that what the Catholic Church desires is true and full communion of all Christians with the Bishop of Rome: “This situation seriously calls for ecumenical commitment on the part of everyone, with a view to achieving full communion in the unity of the Church … so that, through a new conversion to the Lord, all may be enabled to recognise the continuity of the Primacy of Peter in his successors, the Bishops of Rome, and to see the Petrine ministry fulfilled, in the manner intended by the Lord.”

        By the way, if you hadn’t seen this, here’s a homily by an Anglican priest from the 1st Sunday of Advent last year about the Church being “one” and what that means for Christian communities not in communion with the Pope.

    2. Joel

      You are a candidate for ordination in the church of the Disciples of Christ. Would you say your church shares the same understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist as the Catholic church?

      PS: I see you responded above as I was writing this. It should be noted that Catholics who disagree with the Church’s dogmatic and doctrinal teachings about the Eucharist are expected not to receive Holy Communion, and people who make a public stand about their disagreement can be expected to run into problems in receiving Holy Communion in places where their stand is well known to the ministers. The Church is not being equivocal, though it does not pretend to police this the way you imply it ought to (the logic of your complaint is that the Church is actually too lenient). I would suggest that the issue is not one-sided but reciprocal. That is, for those who insist that open communion is more correct than closed communion, they are substance (whether they realize it or not) insisting that the Roman church abandon its view of communion and adopt their view of communion; this is no less rigid than what Rome is accused of.

      1. Thanks for asking Karl. My tradition does not define what happens in the sacrament, though the great majority would have trouble with the concept of transubstantiation and sacrifice. However, I would like to point out that transubstantiation is not uniquely Catholic, several Protestant communions hold to (or are close) this belief. And I do as well, though I stand in a tradition that generally does not.

        For me “just become Catholic” is an untenable position. Yes, I would be able to commune with my wife in the Catholic church but then would be out of communion with the rest of my family, those who raised me in the faith, and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Would I rather chop off an arm or a foot?

    3. +JMJ+

      I am not an expert on the matter, but surely Eastern Catholics are not analogous to Protestants when it comes to holding the Catholic and Apostolic faith.

      The imperfect communion between Protestants and Catholics is imperfect to different degrees, depending on the Protestant (and his or her denomination). For Protestants who deny — with great fervor and zeal — that the Mass is a true and valid sacrifice and that the Eucharist is truly the flesh and blood of our Savior, why would they want to eat what they consider to be idolatrous bread and wine?

      For Protestants who do believe something similar to what Catholics believe about the Eucharist, I think they need to be approached on a personal basis to find out a) what they believe about it, b) why they want to receive Holy Communion in a Catholic church, and c) whether full communion with the Catholic Church is something they have considered.

  3. I think Joel’s questions are quite apt, especially:

    How perfect must a communion be in order to be the Body at Christ’s table?

    Without taking the Eucharist lightly, do we see Christ as being an agent of reconciliation and union in that sacrament which we honor as the most “real” of his presences?

    “The absence of shared communion is a scandalous stain of the church my wife and I bear personally at every mass.”

    At the risk of getting mawkish about this, how many Catholics have a sufficient understanding of 1 Cor 12:26 as it applies to those who feel more directly the pain of separation? Aside from the issues of theology and politics, it would seem to me if ecumenists were to insist on a parallel “perfection,” there would be many self-styled orthodox Catholics who would come up short of the altar.

  4. The problem with short interviews and soundbites is that they offer observations with many tacit premises. Honestly, in a statement like this one, I don’t know what part of lack of shared communion the Cardinal regrets. Does he regret that the lack of valid orders makes some ecclesial communities powerless to confect the Eucharist or does he regret that the Catholic Church retains belief in the Apostolic Succession, necessary for transubstantiation, or does he regret that here below things will always be imperfect or does he regret something else? The above quotation doesn’t tell us.

    As far as I know, the Deposit of Faith, to which all Catholics must adhere, contains the following: all people wheresoever and whensoever they receive baptism with water on their heads or hair in a Trinitarian formula, even if baptised by a layman or other minister or even an atheist, become a Catholic (matter, form, intending to do what the Church does).

    After Baptism Protestants . . .

    Before VII: (stated clearly) incur automatic excommunication for frequenting an heretical sect.
    After VII: (depends upon whom you ask) are in some state of less than perfect communion because lack of acceptance of the Deposit of Faith.

    Having been raised a Protestant, I was confirmed in the new rite. I was not asked to abjure heresy, but I was required to say, “I believe all that is held and taught by the Catholic Church.” (The Deposit of Faith)

  5. This may be viewed as both very ecumenical or very un-ecumenical depending on your point of view. In my previous parish, we had an elderly Episcopalian nun attend our Saturday Vigil Mass faithfully every Saturday and for years. I finally asked her what her belief was in the real presence of Christ, which was identical to Roman Catholic belief. She lived in a convent with nuns who were also priests but refused to attend liturgies celebrated by them. Our bishop granted her permission in 1998 to receive Holy Communion at our Vigil Mass upon my request that he allow her to do so. Eventually in 2003 she came into the full communion of the Church and died in 2009 at the age of 101and of sound mind. However, the Episcopal nuns never threw her out of the convent and they were all at her Catholic funeral which I celebrated in 2009. Of course, none of them sought permission from our Catholic bishop to receive Holy Communion at that Requiem.

  6. Fr. McDonald: I know a similar story. Two wonderful little old anglo-catholic ladies retired to the diocese, where there was no AC parish, and couldn’t bring themselves to attend any of the very low Episcopal churches. They held the Deposit of Faith, but for emotional and family reasons, couldn’t bring themselves to formally leave their church. The bishop, understanding human nature, allowed them the receive Holy Communion at his Cathedral. Even as a traditionalist convert, I thought it an act of mercy without compromising the Truth. It brought peace to their souls.

    1. I think it is a good thing for people who hold the Deposit of Faith and profess it to be welcomed to communion. But, in my opinion, that is much different than blanketing the entire non-Catholic community with an open-invitation, regardless of their disposition or belief system.

    2. I don’t read “blanket invitation” in Cardinal Kasper. But I think it’s a sound question in Joel’s situation (if he doesn’t mind my using that example) that if he were to profess a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, that for the grave (read: important) need of fostering unity in the domestic Church, of which he is a part, should he receive communion with his wife and family?

      Does our Catholic confidence in the Eucharist preclude hope and charity? If faith is no obstacle, I don’t see why not. And while union with Rome and one’s bishop are certainly grave matters, I’m not sure they stand as highly as the three core virtues.

  7. I’m concerned by the used of “Deposit of Faith” as if it were static and settled. I think of the work of Newman (who will soon be beatified) on the “development of doctrine.” Clearly our human perception and realization of the truths of revelation grows gradually in history. Obviously Vatican II said many things that the RC Church wasn’t ready to say yet in the 16th or the 19th century.

    1. +JMJ+

      We can’t ask if someone believes something that has yet to be developed, but we can ask if someone believes what is held with certitude. If someone denies the Real Presence, for example, or the two natures of Christ, or the Trinity, I don’t see how any future “development of doctrine” would result in their communion with the Catholic Church.

      1. Jeffrey – all true, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t what the Cardinal was talking about. What can develop in us – and I hope for this – is a greater humility that we don’t have the whole truth, and that the truth we do have, we don’t always understand very well. As we grow in our Catholic faith, we can see that the dividing points are much less important than we thought, that the unifying points are much more important than we thought, and that we have distorted our own Catholic faith by getting the proportions wrong in much of our history.

      2. +JMJ+

        Fr. Anthony, on the subject of “we don’t have the whole truth”, I think we need to tread very carefully.

        On the one hand, Vatican II said “the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth.” (DV 8) On the other hand, Vatican II spoke of “the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church” (UR 3) and said that “the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace.” (UR 4)

        As for the “dividing points”, I think the complete doctrine on the Eucharist is still pretty dividing, and until that can be overcome, I think inter-communion is risky business.

      3. Jeffrey – OK, I hear you. Does it concern you that John Paul made the conditions for intercommunion less restrictive in Ut Unum? Or that JP2 and B16 both offered Communion to separated Christians on occasion?

      4. +JMJ+

        What is the current discipline regarding inter-communion? What in UUS modified canon law?

        Can. 844§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.

        I assume that when Pope Benedict XVI (and Ven. Pope John Paul II) admits non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion, he is acting in accordance with his conscience regarding the proper-ness of the act. Whether it’s always prudent, I don’t know, but hey, who am I to judge?

      5. Jeffrey,

        I think maybe the deeper question is what you (and many others also) see your role to be in the Church or on this blog when it comes to ecumenism. I gather from your comments that it is basically to police others and to make sure their ecumenical attitude doesn’t endanger your Catholic faith. Frankly, I don’t see you being challenged or stretched by, eg what Cardinal Kasper said. You repeatedly restate the basics of the Catholic faith, as you understand them. Do you hope that others, who have probably read lots of other things and probably moved further along in their ecumenism, will somehow undo all that and return to your understanding of the basics? I truly don’t understand what you’re getting out of all this, or what you hope others will get from your comments.

        Another deeper question for me is whether it is constructive to post anything on Pray Tell about ecumenism. It seems that many commenters (not only you!) will insert all their anxieties, and then we’ll all keep repeating the same points over and over, to little end.

        I’m sorry if my comments are strong. I don’t mean to direct them only at you. I seriously am wondering whether I should delete the original post and refrain from posting on ecuemnism.

        Quo vadis, ecumenism?!


      6. +JMJ+

        Fr. Anthony, deeper questions aside, could you answer my shallow question and let me know how UUS changed the discipline on intercommunion and what that discipline is now?

        What do I think my role is, re: ecumenism?

        To hold to the Catholic faith, explain it with charity, and hand it on, avoiding false irencism.

        To welcome other Christians to dialogue, with the goal of bringing them into full communion with the Church Christ instituted, Pope and all!

        I’m eager to share with others just what Vatican II teaches about the Church which Jesus founded.

        If I see someone misrepresenting the Catholic Church, I will try to correct them so that people don’t get the wrong impression of what the Church is and what she teaches.

        As another commenter pointed out, we haven’t seen all of Card. Kasper’s remarks. If they are available, I’ll read them and make more substantial comments.

        I’d love to see Joel become Catholic, to put it simply. I’d like to know what his congregation thinks of him desiring to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. I’d like to know if there’s more than just family and congregation ties in the way of that.

        I can’t tell you what you should post, but maybe it’s worth closing comments on certain articles, although that could give the wrong impression to some readers.

      7. Jeffrey,
        The 1993 directory (Rome) says at no. 131, referring to those in danger of death OR to other cases: “The conditions under which a Catholic minister may administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, of penance and of the anointing of the sick to a baptized person who may be found in the circumstances given above (n. 130) are that the person be unable to have recourse for the sacrament desired to a minister of his or her own Church or ecclesial Community, ask for the sacrament of his or her own initiative, manifest Catholic faith in this sacrament and be properly disposed.”
        In 1995, Pope John Paul II stated in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint that “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular case, to administer the Sacrament of the Eucharist…to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.” Pope John Paul II repeated these words verbatim in 2003 in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharista. He established three conditions for the reception of Communion by non-Catholics at a Roman Catholic Eucharist: 1) They greatly desire to receive the Eucharist; 2) they freely request the Eucharist; 3) they manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to the Eucharist.
        I follow those who interpret this to mean the conditions are now less stringent.

    2. +JMJ+

      Can. 844§4. sets these conditions:

      1. danger of death OR judgment of grave necessity by bishop(s)
      2. cannot approach a minister of their own community
      3. seek the sacrament on their own accord
      4. manifest Catholic faith in respect to the sacrament
      5. are properly disposed

      The 1993 Directory (nn. 130-131) gives these conditions:

      1. danger of death OR judgment of grave and pressing need by bishop
      2. unable to have recourse to a minister of their own community
      3. ask for the sacrament of their own initiative
      4. manifest Catholic faith in this sacrament
      5. be properly disposed

      Ut Unum Sint 46 gives the following conditions:

      a. in certain particular cases
      b. greatly desire to receive the sacrament
      c. freely request the sacrament
      d. manifest the Catholic faith with regard to the sacrament

      So there are some who interpret UUS 46 as adjusting the existing set of 5 conditions. And yet, in some documents where UUS 46 is referenced on this matter, canon 844 and the Directory nn. 130-131 are included in the references.

      Does this mean UUS 46 is overriding these prescriptions, or simply rephrasing them? In other words, is it possible that “in certain particular cases” covers the “missing” conditions #1, #2, and #5?

      Forgive me if I am being too bold, but if UUS 46 is construed as changing the Church’s discipline in this matter (without explicitly saying so), how should we respond to the forthrightness of, say, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis?

      1. Jeffrey –

        It is common that another document with similar meaning is cited but the meaning in the document itself is being developed or changed. I think it’s highly unlikely that a. is meant to include 1, 2, 5.

        What does Ordinatio Sacerdotalis say about intercommunion? I missed the connection.


      2. +JMJ+

        So then are non-Catholics allowed to receive those particular sacraments when not properly disposed? And without the pastoral consideration of the bishop? That seems to me imprudent and potentially scandalous.

        My reference to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not about intercommunion, but about how forthright JP II was in that document about settling a matter: “in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren I declare…” and “this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” That seems very straightforward to me.

        The language of UUS 46 does not seem comparably declarative, which is why I’m curious if JP II was simply restating and paraphrasing the conditions from Canon Law.

        Is Canon Law usually amended in this fashion? A few canons were recently revised, were they not? How come Canon 844 has not been revised in 15 years in the light of UUS 46?

      3. Jeffrey, I think your mind is made up, and you’re ready to quote the strong declaration of OS to dilute any other papal document you don’t like, no matter how different its genre is from OS. I have nothing further to add to the discussion.

      4. +JMJ+

        “I think your mind is made up”

        Fr. Anthony, I didn’t even know about the potential change in the discipline until a few hours ago, so I hope you can understand that I would not have changed my mind so soon. I’m currently trying to find something online that corroborates your argument: do you know of any materials I can read on the subject?

        I found the 1999 guidelines for Rockville Center, but even though they reference UUS 46, they list the five criteria from can. 844.

        “any other papal document you don’t like”

        That’s a bit nasty. What makes you think I don’t like Ut Unum Sint? I’m simply wary of interpreting paragraph 46 in the way you’ve brought to my attention today. I’d like to know who else interprets it that way.

        I brought up OS to contrast the forcefulness of the writing in it with UUS 46. I seem to recall having read papal documents that are much more clear about their intent to amend Canon Law.

        “I have nothing further to add to the discussion.”

        I earnestly hope you do. Like I said above, if you have a resource (online, preferably) I could read about the interpretation of UUS 46, I’d happily read it.

      5. +JMJ+

        I’ve done a bit more research.

        Redemptionis Sacramentum #85 (from 2004) mentions can. 844 in the text, and references EE 46 and the Directory on Ecumenism in the footnotes. It does not reproduce the conditions.

        I found a statement from Card. Kasper in 2005. In it, he says:

        “Canon Law … in certain particular and determinate cases – where the possibility of scandal is remote … gives room to spiritual discernment, to prudential judgement and the pastoral wisdom of the Bishop (cf. CIC can 844).

        “As for the criteria … we have a development since the publication of the two Codes of Canon Law. The criteria as listed in the Catechism … (num. 1398-1401) and in the Compendium of the Catechism … (no. 293) concerning the ecclesial communities, are four: a grave necessity, spontaneous request (of their own will), required disposition and manifestation of the Catholic faith regarding the Sacrament.”

        So this seems to reduce the number of conditions from five to four, omitting the condition about the lack of access to a minister (but keeping the one about proper disposition).

        Finally, reading Ecclesia de Eucharistia 45-46 together, I think JP II still does not resolve the question of intent for me. Footnote 99 (“the body of norms established in this area”) is for Can. 844, not UUS 46.

  8. Fr. Ruff: I’m reminded that Jimmy Carter used to, and perhaps still does, quote his teacher, Miss Jane Coleman: “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” By Deposit of Faith, I’m referring to the the eternal Truths held and taught by the Church, not changing perceptions and interpretations. If new truths are revealed, recognized, and solemnly defined, fine; they too will become part of the Deposit of Faith. Outside of that, there are plenty of areas on which Catholics may disagree. Capital punishment and the most efficacious forms of Ecumenism, among others, spring to mind.

    What I’m concerned about is the suppression (to avoid the more highly-charged word, “censoring”) of forthrightly, even forcefully, expressed, yet civil opinion. I indulged in no ad hominem or straw man arguments, neither did I presume to read anyone’s mind or guess his motives.

    It’s your blog and you get to set any rules you wish. If I am ignorant of said rules or if you tolerate no dissent from certain views, please inform me. If you would rather that I refrain from posting here, that too is your right. I’ll regret that I’ll not be able to participate in informed debate, but I’ll, without rancor, abide by your decision.

    I do wish you Godspeed in your vocation.

    1. It’s a judgment call and we don’t claim to get it right always, but our comment policy requires ecumenical sensitivity. We’re especially leery of overly rigid presentations of the Catholic faith which seem to suggest that we have the whole truth and have nothing to learn from others. Perhaps sometimes we’re trigger-happy hitting the ‘delete’ button, but we’d rather err in that direction than in the direction of offending our fellow Christians in other traditions.

  9. Father Ruff,

    My concern is that the definition of “ecumenical sensitivity” you espouse seems to tend toward an overly tolerant view that blurs important distinctions. Perhaps I’m misreading you but as Jeffrey pointed out above the Catholic Church does have the whole truth. This has been the teaching before Vatican II, from the Council documents and post-Vatican II. Lumen Gentium #8 certainly doesn’t mean that those elements of truth found outside the visible Catholic Church are truths which She lacks, just that some truths are shared in common. Now, it doesn’t preclude the Church from coming to a better understanding of that truth or learning from others in terms of practice.

    I’m also concerned about this primary goal of not offending other Christians. I certainly would agree to delete some comments based on their level of “attack” but if non-Catholics are offended by certain teachings or practices are we then to simply gloss over them or pretend differences don’t exist? But as Christopher said, it is your blog and you certainly can moderate as you see fit.

    1. EP: I’d like to hear what our separated brothers and sisters would say on this. I suspect that they’re not offended by teachings or practices, but they are offended by attitudes. I know, these things are inter-related. But I detect in some comments a lack of humility. I think I detect some of that also in what you wrote above. But again – I’d like to hear what Christians in other traditions say.

      1. Fr Ruff,

        This is one of the most sane and welcoming places on the internet in which to have these discussions, primarily thanks to your moderation. Please keep the post. As a separated brethren (and not sure if I prefer that term – but its the best I am aware of at this time) I am not offended at the teaching of the church concerning Eucharistic theology and the like.

        However, I do get a bit offended by rhetoric like “We have the truth, you don’t;” “We have valid orders, you don’t” “We have apostolic leadership, you don’t.” Is God so constrained by these things that he is not efficacious at Protestant tables in which the name of Christ is invoked and the paschal sacrifice re-membered. Recall Numbers 11 when God uses the unofficial elders or in the Gospel when the Disciples complain about others who are casting out demons in Christ’s name. Jesus says let them be, if they are not against us they are for us.

        To those who don’t care about offending your Christian brethren who are not Catholic…(I constrain myself a bit here). We are family! That’s why it should concern you not to offend your brother or sister. And, yes many protestants are guilty of this toward Catholics. We could all do a better job of “discerning the Body” within each other (1 Cor 11).

      2. +JMJ+

        Joel, I think the Catholic Church considers Protestants as “separated brethren” because they are “estranged” from the fullness of Christian life. They’re not bereft of it, to be sure, but they do not have the fullness which exists in the Catholic Church.

        I am sorry if it offends you, but the Catholic Church has taught and does teach that she has the fullness of divine truth and valid sacraments and apostolic succession. Even at Vatican II. She also takes positions on the validity of other communions’ sacraments, etc. The Catholic Church has some pretty strong beliefs about being the Church which Jesus Christ founded.

        Having recalled Numbers 11 and “if they are not against us…”, I ask you to recall Numbers 16 and “he who is not with me…”. To be honest, I worry about conceding that God is “efficacious at Protestant tables” (in the same way He is at Catholic altars) because I think this can eventually lead to syncretism in Christianity, and from there, to all religions.

        At the end of the day, it comes down to this for me: I believe the Catholic Church’s claims about who she is.

      3. “Is God so constrained by these things that he is not efficacious at Protestant tables in which the name of Christ is invoked and the paschal sacrifice re-membered.”

        God is not constrained; is it rather not we who constrain ourselves, to greater or lesser degree, from Him? The proper role of theology (and, to a degree, ecumenical dialogue) is to discover the Divine Mystery in its reality. God will not and cannot contradict Himself; to presume that He operates in the same way and the same degree in different religions that make profoundly different claims about Him is troubling. Rather than expecting God to shift for us and violate the principle of non-contradiction, it is better to have a frank and charitable discussion of our faith such as it is and ought to be in Him.

        In another comment you observe, “My tradition does not define what happens in the sacrament,” and so the question presents itself: what, where, and how do they define? I respect the discipline of your denomination, and hope you respect mine as I ask such ecumenical questions.

        I do not desire to offend, but to speak in charitable honesty. The Christian religion as such is not primarily concerned with individual emotional experience but saving truth. However painful it may be, let’s reach for that truth together, proclaimed in the Gospels, with the Fathers, through the ecumenical councils, and by sacred tradition.

  10. The taking of offense at a remark or attitude is a highly subjective thing, which sometimes makes it a tight-rope walk in expressing an idea, depending on the circumstances. It transpires that several times a year I am in New York City at a cocktail party where I am the only practicing Catholic, or the only one who admires the Holy Father, or the only one who admires the late William F. Buckley, etc., and at which party at least half of the people present do not know what I hold dear. Often I hear people and ideas that I respect treated dismissively and with derision. I choose not to take offense, experience no inner turbulence, and I do not respond. On the other hand, if someone who knows me well were to direct gratuitous insults (notice I don’t say disagreement) toward the Holy Father, I would take offense.

    In circumstances such as this, we should all be fairly thick-skinned on the one hand, and careful, yet non-compromising, in stating reasonable differences of opinion on the other. Admittedly Ecumenism, especially inter-communion, is a touchy subject. And Fr. Ruff, being a priest, has a responsibility to admonish us to Christian virtue, including humilty. But Christians of whatever stripe can state hard truths, facts, and opinions, without lacking humility.

    On this thread, we see in action the difficulties of separation.

  11. Jeffrey,

    The ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) documents are available at http://www.pro.urbe.it/dia-int/arcic/i_arcic-info.html
    The Eucharist is covered in the 1971 Windsor Statement, with elucidations, responses and clarifications listed later on the page.
    Also important to understanding this are Cardinal Willebrands 1985 letter that pointed to a “new context” for the discussion of Anglican Orders. And of course, the ceremony at St Gregory’s in Rome in Dec. 1996 when JP2 and the Abp of Canterbury affirmed the agreements reached by ARCIC I.

    As to the 39 articles, they do not hold a doctrinal significance in the Anglican Community. At least, that seems to be the opinion of the 1968 Lambeth Conference (bishops from around the world in communion with Canterbury). But the Anglicans had been moving away from them since the 19th century.

  12. A number of years ago, Professor George Lindbeck wrote a wonderfully incisive essay called “The Eucharist Tastes Bitter in a Divided Church.” (I think he may have borrowed the expression from a book by Ephraim Radner.) In it he proposed a “taste test” for both those whose traditions favor open communion and those who favor closed communion, reminding all of us that the existence of disunity really OUGHT to affect our savoring of the Eucharist. I found his perspective chastening, and a reminder that all parties to a separation are bereft. ALL. If we do not feel this bereft-ness in the Eucharist as things stand, we have not grasped the issue. I agree with him.

    Given this, I found Cardinal Kasper’s reflections taste true. I am glad for his regret. Would that all of us shared it.

  13. Thank you, Joel, for your comment at 4:26p. The call for more careful and care-full discerning of the body is one we should all follow. We were baptized into Christ, not into a church. Let’s treat each other then as we would treat Christ.

    1. +JMJ+

      We were baptized into Christ, not into a church.

      I would say we were baptized into Christ, into His Body, which is the Church; and we are baptized in the faith of the Church.

      I’m not saying this to be contentious, I just prefer to avoid the division of Christ and His Church, because it can lead to the argument of “why do I need a church if I have Christ?”

      1. Yes, Christ and the Church are one, but they are not one and the same. We must remember who is our Head. Also, we need to recall that the Father desires to draw all things in Christ…not in the church. The church–namely the people who make up the church and how they treat one another and what they do together–is the fullest manifestation of Christ in the world today. Yet the church is not the destiny; Christ is. Recall Henri de Lubac.

      2. +JMJ+

        If Christ is the Head, and the Church is the Body and Bride, then it seems to me that in order to reach the destiny (Christ), we need to belong to the Body and Bride. Christ is the eschatological goal, but we’re not at the eschaton yet.

        I have not read any Henri de Lubac (to my knowledge). Could you elucidate on the subject for me?

      3. I don’t believe it is a question of separating Christ and the Church, which is impossible, but what do you mean by Church? What is your Ecclesiology?

        I believe the Church is the mystical Body of Christ, which you are incorporated into at baptism. I don’t identify the Church with one specific institution.

        Anthony, I would encourage you to keep posting articles on Ecumenism. I think that is where some of the most fruitful discussions take place.

      4. +JMJ+

        J. BeBeau, what I mean and believe by “Church” is what the Catholic Church has taught about her. I find Mystici Corporis Christi of Pius XII and Ecclesiam Suam of Paul VI to be excellent “treatises”, if you will, on the identity, nature, mission, and mystery of the Church.

        Lumen Gentium and the other documents of Vatican II also elucidate on the identity, nature, mission, and mystery of the Church. I have a collection of quotes from the Vatican II documents that demonstrate exactly what the Council taught about the Church of Christ.

        “I don’t identify the Church with one specific institution.”

        Why not? I don’t understand why some people consider “institution” to be a dirty word. When I say that the Church is an institution, I mean — outside and above the common connotation that word carries — that Jesus instituted and established and built and ordained it.

        I think the alternative to Jesus instituting the Church is that the Church just “happened” when a bunch of like-minded Jews got together. If that’s what happened, then it’s no wonder that every time another group of like-minded persons get together, they start their own church.

      5. Jeffrey – you might want to read Raymond Brown so that you’re not making claims at odds with Scripture scholarship. Since the New Testament offers so little evidence that Jesus established any structures or offices – and lots of suggestions that He was the kind of person who wouldn’t do that – I think any account of the divine institution of the Church (which I affirm) has to be very nuanced. Fides et ratio – our Faith has to be open to all the results of rational inquiry. We can’t just make things up, or accept uncritically what developed over the course of history, then quote documents to settle the issue.

      6. +JMJ+

        Fr. Anthony, is this the same Raymond Brown who will very well lead me to question the veracity and historicity of the Scriptural accounts of Christ’s nativity? Is there a reason I should trust the scholarship of Raymond Brown over that of, for example, William Most?

        I am certainly glad to hear that you affirm the divine institution of the Church, but I am curious how much of Vatican II’s documents I should read with a grain of salt and a critical eye, for fear that they are making something up or just accepting uncritically what had developed in the Church historically.

        I don’t like the idea of having to read Church documents with a filter that alerts me to ecclesiastical baloney like “the apostolic office of bishops was instituted by Christ the Lord” and “Christ established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church as an entity with visible delineation.”

        I’m not sure I should pursue this any further here, because I have the nagging suspicion I’m not going to be taken seriously.

      7. Jeff

        I think you have been taken seriously here, not treated dismissively.

        That said, I think what was laid out was clearly uncertainty, of a kind that won’t be resolved by a simple resort to textual authority. I think that’s the signal being given, not personal towards you, but not feeding an iterative textual comparison of authority. As you know, comboxes are not a good medium in which to do that anyway, especially if one doesn’t limit oneself to a single textual subject and source – I think people do falsely imagine that comboxes are a good medium in which to do a Mishnah, as it were, but they aren’t unless one is selective with authority and commentary, which defeats the point. Fr Ruff seems to indicate he is working from a meta-context in which to sift the various magisterial statements at play, but the combox is not going to be a useful place to dialogue about that.

  14. I don’t think any of us commenting on this blog are opposed to allowing those baptized who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church to receive Holy Communion and the other sacraments as highlighted in the arguments stated in previous comments and what Church norms now allow. These post-Vatican II norms would have been unthinkable prior to the Second Vatican Council. What I think most of us who respect Church law do not like to see is a blanket invitation to those at Catholic Wedding and Funeral Masses or other ecumenical venues to come and receive Holy Communion so that we’ll all feel united at least at that particular moment. This would go way beyond our already somewhat liberal norms. I often wonder if those priests who offer such blanket invitations (it has happened in my diocese and in my parish by a visiting priest celebrating a wedding) if they would offer the congregation, in particular all Protestants, an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance through auricular confession prior to receiving Holy Communion so they would be in a “state of grace” and thus receive Holy Communion worthily?

    1. Fr. McDonald,

      I believe those are very wise precautions. Certainly “indiscriminate” use of the Eucharist in this way (i.e. blanket open communion) does no good either. Until more full unity is realized I find a great deal of hope in these exceptional (and by that I mean individual) opportunities for sharing in the sacred.

      Christian traditions can fail to “discern the Body” in both directions (and here I speak to the aspect of Body as the assembly of the church). Some may fail to discern the Body in fellow Christians and thus divide the table. And some fail to discern the Body and open to the table to all – including non-Christians and thus “it is no longer the Lord’s Supper [they] celebrate.” I will admit that many churches and pastors in my own tradition are guilty of this latter lack of discernment.

      While I long to receive Christ with my brethren in the Catholic Church, I still appreciate that the RCC values real unity so highly, that it refuses to create a unity in name only. I am grateful of the work of Cardinal Walter Kasper who helped to make the Body more aware of its pain in division.

  15. Jesus celebrated fellowship meals of differing ritual quality with differing groups of people.

    Early on, the ritual meal (Agape) was separated from the Eucharist, and continue to be celebrated with greater ritual than just meal prayers.

    The Byzantine Rite distributes blessed bread at the end of Liturgy. Heightened ritual meals at funeral, weddings, and church dinners are present in many traditions.

    Ecclesia is a mystery we cannot completely comprehend except by many different analogies. Using one analogy, we often see it as a city. This has come to dominate the celebration of the Eucharist. But Ecclesia is also household and family intimacy. Sometimes this model seeks expression in the Eucharist at home Masses, funerals and weddings.

    We should maintain the Eucharist as a “city” celebration that connects us far beyond family to fellow citizens across time and space in our different traditions.

    We should redevelop the Agape in various forms as the “family” celebration of intimacy and the personal depth of love among Christians in our smaller communities of family, friends, colleagues (who may be citizens of different ecclesial communities).

    In discussions of funerals and weddings, we have seen how personal “family and friends” celebrations conflict with the “city” celebration of the Eucharist.

    We are not going to put the intimate meal back into the Eucharist. We need both Eucharist and Agape, cities and families in Christianity.

  16. Dear Jeffrey,

    No, you are not being taken seriously. The reasons, as far as I can tell, are
    (i) that a very little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.
    (ii) that proof-texting Church documents is also a very dangerous thing: it is necessary always to consider context before quoting anything. For example, you have to know how to interpret Canon Law; it is not sufficient simply to quote a translation of the CCL without being able to interpret the mind of the legislator. The same applies to other disciplines and documents. This appreciation of context only comes with extensive experience. What an individual thinks he reads into an extract from a document may be far from the intention of the author of the document.
    (iii) the fact that you admit that you haven’t read any de Lubac (and, one might suspect, many other authors worthy of being read).

    Might I, in all kindness, suggest, that you consider limiting your posts until such time as you have acquired the breadth of reading and experience necessary to make an informed judgement? I say this not out of a desire to attack you at all but because I do believe that the essence of dialogue is listening to what others have to say, and absorbing it, before attempting to counter with what may otherwise prove to be superficial arguments. On this blog, it seems to me, many of us are learning by listening to others, but those who do not listen are actually not learning.

    1. +JMJ+

      I’m 28 and a Computer Science major, so philosophy and theology and religion were not areas of study of mine in school. I only started being serious about my faith about four years ago when I started reading Church documents and found a real interest in them (and I was not really one for reading before then). That’s probably why I haven’t read de Lubac and Brown and Schillebeeckx and McBrien and a whole host of other authors you might mention.

      That’s all I’ll say for now.

    2. +JMJ+

      Upon re-reading your comment, I think I can summarize my situation thus:

      1) I don’t know very much
      2) I don’t understand what I read
      3) I don’t read enough (or I don’t read the right things)

      I really am content simply to read my Bible, my Catechism, the Church Fathers, and other Church documents. If that makes me a simpleton with a simple faith, so be it; and if that makes me a fish out of water here, so be it.

      1. Jeffrey,

        I think it is admirable that you have been re-engaging with your faith, and I certainly don’t think that someone should be unwelcome here because that have not read this or that book or author. I also think that scripture, the Fathers, the Catechism and Church documents are good places to start that re-engagement. But you might want to revisit your being “content” with this. There is much that is technical and, frankly, arcane in scripture, the Fathers and especially Church documents (the Catechism not so much). It doesn’t hurt to read beyond these primary texts to draw on the wisdom of those who have devoted their lives and labors to interpreting them. You may end up disagreeing on any number of points with their interpretations, but then you are disagreeing because you have engaged and evaluated the arguments, and not dismissed them beforehand.

  17. You know, this is the very argument that was put to me, and I HAVE read de Lubac.

    Might I suggest that, for a Catholic and a theologian, the most prudent course would be to cultivate quite a bit of humility, especially in areas of study that have been declared doctrine by the Church.

    Those who think they “know more” because they’ve read and studied quite a bit, but have no problem being at odds with Church teaching, simply become gnostics. One need not be a brilliant scholar to enter Heaven. In fact, it can be an impediment– especially if in your teaching, you lead others to err.

    I can find any number of sources that corroborate the issue I am trying to sell, but if it’s not in line with the truth, what good is it? I firmly believe in Ecumenism, but the underpinning philosophy here is all relativism.

    For you, who would criticize those who are simply giving a defense of the Church’s formal teachings because you “know more,” might I offer a fitting suggestion for the topic of this post: that you examine your conscience before receiving Communion next, and discern whether you are fully in communion with the Church before saying “Amen.”

  18. So when you ask, “Is this the same Raymond Brown who will very well lead me to question the veracity and historicity of the Scriptural accounts of Christ’s nativity?” you are not being as sophisticated as most readers thought that you meant to sound. You are talking from a child’s point of view, who is entirely in the thrall of biblical literalism, and has never even considered the critical issues that all exegetes have to face honestly.

    1. +JMJ+

      Fr. Joe (I assume you are Fr. Joseph O’Leary; beg your pardon if I’m wrong), if I’ve misrepresented Fr. Brown’s scholarship, I apologize.

      What I know of him is from an RCIA session a few years ago where the presenter (who said he was using a few of Fr. Brown’s books as his resources) cast doubt on the historicity of Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2. They were, instead, pseudo-narratives told by communities to express who they believed Jesus to be using symbolic language.

      I think the things that are recorded in the accounts of Christ’s Nativity are literal/historical and symbolic. I think Christ is great enough that we (or the evangelists) don’t need to make up stories about Him to try and establish Who He is. In other words, if Jesus really is the son of David and Abraham, we don’t need to make up a genealogy for Him. If He really was born from a Virgin, we don’t need to make up a story about it.

      If that’s “a child’s point of view” or “biblical literalism,” then I’m guilty as charged.

  19. Mr. Pinyan: Human nature being what it is, when people don’t like a message (a fact or thesis or whatever) or a question posed, they really have only a few options, other than reacting directly to the substance. It doesn’t matter if they’re a third grade student or college professor, an engineer or brick mason; all of us are subject to the limitations of this earthly existence. (Cicero knew all of this well.)

    1. Attack the messenger (ascribe lack of sophistication, hypocrisy, ulterior motives, or try to isolate [“most readers thought”])
    2. Attack what they believe to be the message’s character or tone, not its substance (“mean-spirited,” “divisive,” “unsophisticated,” et al.), which is related to . . .
    3. Change the subject.
    4. Lie.
    (5. Answer a question with another question, which usually tends in the direction of the aforementioned.)

    Having been a teacher, I’ve been the recipient of all four. (I could tell you stories. *chuckle*) You’ve been, to varying degrees of intensity, subjected to Nos. 1, 2, and 3. Don’t let it get you down. I’ve certainly enjoyed your posts, and may God bless you for setting out on a journey which already bears good fruit.

  20. Father Raymond Brown, SS was a suburb Scripture Scholar and equally an excellent teacher. In fact, his verbal presentations as well as the manner in which he answered questions were better than his books! He was very personable too and had a good sense of humor. I can remember him describing the NCR as a “rag” at a meal I had with him and others. His intent was to place the “historical critical method” of Scripture study at the service of increasing faith not ripping it apart, thus he understood the limitations of this hermeneutic and the danger to faith involved. From this perspective I do not think he would disagree with much of the hermeneutic of criticism that Pope Benedict in his book “Jesus” brings to the “historical critical method” of interpreting the Bible, especially in Brown’s later years. Fr. Brown was truly a churchman and a gentleman.

    1. Fr Brown was also twice named to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which advises the Pope on Biblical issues. The politics behind such an appointment show that he was a> an excellent scholar; and b> respected not just by peers, but by bishops and cardinals. Reading Brown you are “reading with the church”, a very Catholic way of studying.

  21. I hesitate to comment on the recent direction of this thread. I would not agree with the advice given to Jeffrey to post less. A parable if you will:

    I got serious about really learning chess (beyond knowing the moves) in 1972, following the moves from the world championship in the newspaper. I studied those games as they played out on my chessboard that summer and every so often I thought I had found an error. Sometimes I would look deeper and see the player’s reason. But usually I didn’t. And years later when I replayed some of those games after I became an experienced tournament player, I remembered my initial encounter with Fischer-Spassky and realized I had been wrong about every alleged error. That’s not to say that either player didn’t make errors from time to time. I was simply out of my depth to perceive them without the analysis of others.

    It may be that serious theological study requires a community, and maybe not an internet community at that. What was of benefit to me was not only being taught by professors of theology, but engaging with them and seeing them apply their learning to exchanges with students and peers. At the very least, a theology student should have a mentor. And my peers were also of great help to me in my grad student years.

    Jeffrey, I would encourage you to deepen your theological studies in whatever way you can, especially if you can do it in a school.

  22. I’m reminded of a classic Taftism on the occasion when a girl in Bob’s class at Notre Dame said “But Father, I always thought that…” “Young lady,” he cut her off, “I’m not interested in what you think. You are here to learn what I think.” !

  23. Jeffrey – the problem on here is that there seems to be no awareness that nobody here forms part of the Magisterium. The documents to which you refer are part of the teaching authority of the Church: the opinions of others is interesting but carries no official weight. I (accurately I believe) summarised the Church’s teaching on the problem of intercommunion (not just the problem of belief in the Real Presence, but issues of apostolic succession and recognition of valid ordination to the priesthood necessary to consecrate the Eucharist, as seen in the Church’s eyes). I was not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing (a nice Fr Ruffism there, eh? 😉 ) but trying respectfully to explain the reasons as I understood them. For my mentioning of an inconvenient truth (the fact that it is Church teaching, not whether it should be), my comment magically disappeared in a form of rapture! Don’t give up on commenting here. I value your comments. Cardinal Kaspar went on to say: “I know what these problems are but I cannot jump over the whole existing doctrine.” Precisely.

    1. Throughout the Middle Ages it was held that the magisterium consists of bishops and theology professors, since these all are magistri, teachers. The first time the Pope issued an encyclical letter was 1742. Only with the 18th century Enlightenment did Popes begin to issue teaching documents for the whole Church. Before that they mostly wrote letters to individuals, or issued legal/juridic judgments. “Following the teachings of the Pope” – albeit a good thing and something I do – is a phrase which would have been meaningless to most Catholics for most of Catholic history.

      Ceile, you sound rather untraditional, historically uninformed, and captive to late developments in the Catholic tradition when you speak of “magisterium.”


      1. +JMJ+

        Is the acceptance of “development of doctrine” also being “rather untraditional, historically uninformed, and captive to late developments in the Catholic tradition”?

        Could you clarify the difference between the two situations for me?

  24. Tradition must mean all of tradition, no? That is one reason why I fully accept the texts of Vatican 2. If we could pick and choose periods, I might be tempted…but no, I won’t go there.

    I would be more interested to hear here a discussion as to why intercommunion remains a problem. Understanding of the nature of the Eucharist is of course part but, even if that could be overcome, I do not hear much discussion on the nature of the priesthood needed for the valid consecration of the Eucharist in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I am not glad about it, just being realistic – the obstacles seem huge but there do seem to be good reasons why we cannot jsut ignore them.

    I understand that the Church may, exceptionally, allow Protestants to receive if they exhibit the same understanding of the Real Presence. That makes sense if the Church wishes no one to receive the Real Presence who does not believe it, at least as the Church does.

    I accept but admit that I do not understand why a Catholic cannot receive at a Protestant communion service which proclaims itself merely commemorative. Surely, there is no risk of confusion here.

    In my uneducated way, the only problem I see is a Catholic receiving what is, in the Catholic Church’s eyes, not, but which in the relevant Protestant Church’s eyes is, the Real Presence. There, the risk is that the Catholic thinks he is receiving the Real Presence where his or her Church does not believe he or she is. The danger there is clear.

    I just wonder if my logic holds water. To do that, I think it useful hear to be clear as to what Church teaching is, then discuss what in it would or would not need to change to allow intercommunion, and only then discuss how likely that is to happen. I still see room for movement but I do not think it sheds much light if we aren’t first clear on the Church’s position and its reasons.

  25. Ceile,
    For Cardinal Kasper to say what he did, one gathers that he has beliefs such as these: It is a scandal that Christ’s followers cannot celebrate Eucharist together; all traditions including the Catholic Church bear responsibility for this unfortunate situation; we all have something to learn from other Christian traditions; it is possible and desirable for the Catholic tradition including doctrines and teachings to develop (yes, that means change) such as happened in the twentieth century leading up to Vatican II; we all must work humbly for the kind of growth which will making sharing between churches possible; for the Roman Catholic Church this will not be a betrayal of our tradition but a faithful development of it; it will mean moving beyond our current beliefs not by rejecting them, but by developing them.

    Ceile, I can only go by what you (and a few others) have written on this thread. I don’t see evidence that you share much, if anything, of the above beliefs. Rather, I see evidence of a fairly rudimentary, rather unreformed understanding of the Catholic faith, with the goal of preventing any of the above beliefs from disturbing your understanding.

    We can haggle endlessly about this or that point. But I think the core issue is that you don’t seem to share any of the holy impatience of Cardinal Kasper. I don’t see any ecumenical zeal. So, there’s really not much to talk about with people trying to prevent the real conversation from happening.


    1. For focus, Cardinal Kasper became the head of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity after his predecessor had shepherded the ARCIC-I agreements through to their affirmation by the heads of the two denominations; and after (I think) the agreement on Justification with the Lutherans. It was a hard act to follow, and he must have taken up the job in the hope of achieving some reconciliation. Instead he encountered a wave of colleagues criticizing Protestant theology as a way of fortifying their positions within the RCC.

    2. +JMJ+

      “this will not be a betrayal of our tradition but a faithful development of it; it will mean moving beyond our current beliefs not by rejecting them, but by developing them.”

      It will only not be a betrayal and rejection if the development does not clearly oppose what is held now. The tree does not betray or reject the acorn.

      1. +JMJ+

        Jim, what specifically are we to repent of and convert to?

        Repent of doctrines which Protestants are not yet able to accept?

        Repent of keeping non-Catholics Christians from receiving Holy Communion? How about non-Christians too?

        I will gladly (is that the right adverb?) repent of the corruption of the members of the Church which has led people, throughout history, to separate from her. I am sorrowful that there are still such separations. But I am not going to adopt a false irenicism or indifference to the ordinances of the Church.

      2. I do not know what we should repent of. Anything sinful, I suppose.

        What exactly do you think we should “not clearly oppose”? It just seemed an awfully broad statement, and in its breadth, exclusive of acknowledging sin and error.

        Are the “ordinances of the church” impeccable? There is no room for consideration of any possible role in our sins? But I am not even sure what you mean by “ordinances”.

      3. +JMJ+

        Yes, I agree we should repent of what is sinful. Is the discipline of the Church regarding the admittance of non-Catholics to Holy Communion sinful? Perhaps it is “scandalous”, but then one should look to the cause of that scandal, which would be the separation of Christians from one another, and specifically the separation of Protestants from the unity of the Catholic Church.

        My comment about “not clearly oppose” is about doctrine, not discipline. It’s quite clear that discipline can change to the opposite of what it once was.

        By “the ordinances of the Church”, I mean whatever JP II meant by it in Ut Unum Sint 79. (The footnote is to V2’s UR nn. 4 and 11.) I think he meant we’re supposed to respect the rules and laws of the Church; work to reform them if necessary, but don’t just break them.

      4. Is Leo XIII’s decision on Anglican Orders doctrine or discipline? I can’t see how to apply your distinction, so maybe this example will clarify.

        I hope you have read UR 4 & 11. They give good context for your remark on “false irenicism and indifferentism.” It would have been less jsrring if you had been faithful to that context, as JP 2 was in UUS 79:

        In this courageous journey towards unity, the transparency and the prudence of faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and indifference to the Church’s ordinances. Conversely, that same transparency and prudence urge us to reject a halfhearted commitment to unity and, even more, a prejudicial opposition or a defeatism which tends to see everything in negative terms.

        To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands of revealed truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenical movement. On the contrary, it means preventing it from settling for apparent solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results. The obligation to respect the truth is absolute. Is this not the law of the Gospel?

      5. +JMJ+

        My first draft of that post had a lengthy quote from UUS 79, but I took it out and just made reference to it instead. And yes, Jim, I have read UR. I read those two paragraphs again when I wrote the post.

        UR 4 instructs Catholics to “make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ through the Apostles” and to “acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren.”

        UR 11 is where JPII got the “false irenicism” phrase from: “the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.” We want our separated brethren to truly understand the tru Catholic faith, and we should do whatever we can to aid them in so doing, without harming the integrity of that faith.

        The reference to the “hierarchy of truths” is one I’ve heard get twisted to mean all sorts of things, instead of what it does mean: an organic ordering of the truths of the faith.

        As for whether Apostolicae Curae is “doctrine or discipline”, I think we’ve seen that I do not have the capacity to make such a decision.

  26. Ceile said I would be more interested to hear here a discussion as to why intercommunion remains a problem.

    Of course it’s not a problem at all for people who are already doing it — i.e. those who think that the Eucharist should not be merely a symbol of a unity already achieved, but rather a bridge on the way to unity.

    Those people (and they include Catholic bishops and priests, by the way) are convinced that Christ would not have turned anyone away from the Eucharist, and they think that the experience of the sacrament and the grace of the sacrament is the medium for bringing Christians together, rather than having to flourish your union card stating what you have signed up to. What we are talking about, once again, is the difference between the Church Institutional (read ‘POWER’) and the Church Pastoral (read ‘JESUS’ and ‘PEOPLE’). I know which I prefer.

  27. Ceile said “I would be more interested to hear here a discussion as to why intercommunion remains a problem.”

    Forgive me, but what would be interesting about this? It would be a restatement of what we all already know. Who is interested in that??


  28. Well, it might not be interesting for everyone but I would like to see what further room for intercommunion there might be…I suspect (perhaps wrongly) there may be some. I would love there to be further intercommunion but I just don’t see how it can happen. The gap between us and the Anglicans/Episcopalians looked like it came close to being bridgeable (it does seem as many Catholic church objections to Anglican ordinations were covered by having Orthodox or Old Catholic bishops involved in Anglican ordinations after Leo XIII) but, with their ordination of women as priests and bishops, I can’t realistically see that gap now being bridged. It is a pity but my gut feeling is that the Anglicans/Episcopalians chose, as is their right, to prioritise female ordination over intercommunion with the Catholic Church. I re-read the Catechism on this point and it points to (lack of) apostolic succession as the key stumbling block to intercommunion.
    I am glad trinitarian Christians share one baptism. I see no reason at all why we cannot have a shared Liturgy of the Word and I am interested in what may be possible with shared Liturgy of the Eucharist but I wonder if we’ve reached the limits of what’s possible there, apart from with the Orthodox, the prospect of unity with which seems very real and should be a cause for rejoicing. But fudging the differences won’t get us anywhere. So, I’d love to hear how those here who favour more intercommunion would, if they were Pope for the day, deal with intercommunion in the context of the need in the Catholic and Orthodox tradition for an ordained priesthood to consecrate the Eucharist. I hope where I am coming from is clearer now.

    1. Ceile, there are two major strains within Roman Catholic thought on Anglican orders. One is represented by ARCIC, the international dialog group that reached an agreement on ministry and ordination. That agreement provided, ARCIC believed, a new context for judging the validity of ministry and ordination different from Leo XIII’s ad hoc decision.

      The other stream is represented by Cardinal Ratzinger’s commentary on ad Tuendam Fidei, where he opined that Leo XIII’s decision on Anglican Orders was definitive and could not be changed. He later clarified that this was a personal opinion. If my opinion mattered, I would the ARCIC position to be the official Church position, though it certainly needs to be reconciled with Leo XIII’s judgment. (Like Jeffrey, I am largely self-educated, so judge me as you and others judge him)

      The issue of ordaining women is an interesting obstacle in this context. The two major statements on it were both in the context of movement within the Anglican Communion — the ordination of women in the ’70s and the consideration of women bishops in the ’90s. Is it a survival of the Catholic-Protestant polemic that V2 sought to overcome? Is it a legitimate part of the RC tradition, like Leo XIII’s decision? How should we handle disagreements that arise while we fight to overcome disagreements of the past?

    2. It is a pity but my gut feeling is that the Anglicans/Episcopalians chose, as is their right, to prioritise female ordination over intercommunion with the Catholic Church. I re-read the Catechism on this point and it points to (lack of) apostolic succession as the key stumbling block to intercommunion.

      In point of fact, the apostolic succession is not a problem, as almost all Anglican clergymen can (and do) trace the succession of their ordaining bishop back to a Catholic or an Old Catholic bishop.

      That being so, and given that these are the same clergymen who have voted (correctly, in my opinion) for the ordination of women, I do not see that the two (female ordination and intercommunion) are mutually incompatible.

      The great Jesuit ecumenist John Coventry told the Anglican Church in England not to look over their shoulders at Rome when they were debating the issue of women’s ordination but to do what they felt the Spirit was prompting them to do. They did.

      One day, the Roman Catholic Church will come to its senses, but not under the present management.

  29. Jim – self-educated here too – it does seem as if Leo XIII genuinely looked at Anglican orders with an open mind but concluded that there were defects – such defects were (as I understand it) largely overcome after he looked into the issue – I think but for women’s ordination the gap might have been closed. On the bright side, full unity with the Orthodox and groups of former Anglicans has never been closer. I read Todd’s post and find nothing to disagree with there. My mother in law is Presbyterian but attends the Extraordinary form with us. Sher is certainly properly disposed but does not (yet?) fully accept Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. If she ever decides that she does, I see no reason why she could not request to receive too.

    1. When we resume full communion with Anglicans, we will recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as the successor of St Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to (re) evangelize England. The issue of apostolic ‘lines’ and what Old Catholic or Orthodox bishops ordained Anglican bishops will testify to that succession, but otherwise is not a big part of the problem. iirc Leo XIII said something similar, like what mattered was not the individual ordinations, but pervasive defects in the ritual used.

      Leo may have had an open mind, but he looked at the controversy without consulting Anglicans, which may have skewed the resulting conclusion. It is a tricky matter, with important ecclesiological implications, and almost beyond my ability for speculation.

  30. JMJ- I quite agree – When people read your posts, they say ‘Jesus, Mary & Joseph! – what a load of rubbish!’

  31. Fr. Anthony wrote: “The first time the Pope issued an encyclical letter was 1742.”

    I’m not sure this is correct Father. “Sicut Dudum” seems to fit the bill in the early 15th century.

    1. +JMJ+

      Mr. Quinn is occasionally more civilized than that. He had some very constructive comments recently in a few other threads. But every now and then, he makes comments like this, directed almost exclusively at me.

      But I have a sense of humor about it. To my Caesar, he’s the court official reminding me, “Thou art mortal!”

      (And these comments of his usually do get removed in due course.)

    2. JF, the comment is gone. We don’t moderate comments 24/7, but we do check all the new comments at least once every 24 hours.

  32. I’d like to interject a different note. I come at the topic of communion from an RCIA perspective, which I believe reflects the best of the Catholic tradition concerning the integrity of the sacraments of initiation in the life of the Church.

    From that perspective, Eucharist is the consummate act of membership in the Church. It is preceded by conversion, by the building of relationships within a faith community, by immersion in the Word of God and learned adherence to the creed cherished by the faith community, and by sharing in the mission of the Church. These are the classic structures within which Eucharist makes sense. (Children’s reception of the sacraments is predicated on this formation being built within the family, but it’s still the goal.) I do not believe it’s for the best that Eucharist be removed from this matrix.

    Some things that trouble me in the arguments I hear in favor of intercommunion are these: (1) they are terribly individualistic: i.e. if I believe it’s truly Jesus, that’s all that counts; and (2) they draw on a reductive and literal approach to Sacred Scripture: i.e. if Jesus fed the five thousand, he intended Eucharist to be given on demand to whoever wants it. They either overlook the development, in the apostolic church and beyond, of an initiatory polity, or they choose to pull the Eucharist outside of it, stressing its efficacy totally apart from it. Several historical developments in the Catholic tradition contributed to the

    1. continued…
      problem of #1 by isolating the sacrament and treating it as an object, but IMHO it shouldn’t be isolated, and it’s not to be approached with a “believe it or not” attitude! #2 is sadly the fruit of separating scripture from tradition.

      I am very much in favor of ecumenism. I believe in it, I work toward it, I benefit from it. I know and respect many Protestant Christians. But I also know, and must respect the fact that many of them are very different from Catholics in their outlook on the sacraments. To share communion without coming to terms with some of those differences seems short-sighted to me.

    2. Rita, I was with you until the very end, when you began talking about how “many [Protestants] are very different from Catholics…” Isn’t this the same “individualistic” attitude you decry in point 1?

      There are two routes to greater communion amongst Christians. One is for individual to align themselves with a different Christian denomination, ie an Anglican becoming a Roman Catholic. This is the route of the RCIA. It should not be prejudged by offering indiscriminate intercommunion.

      Ecumenism is very different from that individualistic model. One community accepts that another community’s initiation, including Eucharist, is comparable to their own. For example, initiation into the Lutheran communities is accepted by Episcopalians in the US as initiation into the same Church as Episcopalian initiation. The differences between Lutherans and Episcopalians have not disappeared, but the two communities recognize that the differences are not essential.

      The extent of the difference between Catholics and Protestant are not a reason to prevent intercommunion. Roman Catholics and Maronites are arguably more different than Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, yet Maronites and Romans intercommune. What matters is how essential the differences are. Differences may enrich rather than impede. Here again, precipitous intercommunion is not advisable, but what exists is based on unity in essentials, which is initiation into the one Church of Christ in two different communities.

      1. Jim, thanks for your response, which picks up on my imprecise language. The reason I said many is simply that I am wary of saying all—but I meant corporate bodies, not individuals. Your point is quite valid about the work of ecumenism pertaining to Christian bodies as a whole and not to individuals per se. The “liturgical churches” have much more common ground on many of the controversial issues surrounding the sacraments, especially due to the dialogue and liturgical renewal that has taken place throughout the twentieth century. I do not mean to minimize this achievement at all.

  33. The ecumenism of Cardinal Kasper is much
    appreciated by this Lutheran priest who grew up
    a Roman Catholic. While I have had the privilege
    of sharing the Eucharist (unofficially) at weddings and
    funerals, when it was pastorally appropriate, I long
    for the day when the Lord will break down the walls
    that separate us and we can share publicly. Oh, what
    a day of rejoicing that will be.

    Our LC-Missouri Synod is closer to Rome than either
    of us will admit, but both sides “officially” stand far
    apart. I cherish the times in my parish ministry when
    priests of the Roman parish and I have seen the pastoral
    need to be together. While I do not have those contacts
    here in Phoenix, I long to re-establish them. Any

  34. I appreciate the difficult perspectives that this topic raises.. and I always appreaciate Rita’s wisdom and insight (she is one of my heroes!).

    One of the problematic areas in all of this for me, is that among catholics themselves, whether we like it or not, have a galaxy of divergent views about communion, sacramental presence – many of them express a point of view that many of us would argue to be “protestant.” So what do we do with that in regards to the inter-communion issue… if our concern is that there is not a unity in terms of how “catholics” and “protestants” view these things.. we need to be honest and acknowledge that within our own house (and they all receive communion at the same table) there is such a divergency of beliefs… I am anxious to hear some of the wisdom of the group in regards to this.

    1. David, I believe Rita provided the answer to this question above:
      Eucharist is the consummate act of membership in the Church. It is preceded by conversion, by the building of relationships within a faith community, by immersion in the Word of God and learned adherence to the creed cherished by the faith community, and by sharing in the mission of the Church

      Divergent opinions about the Eucharist among Catholics are acceptable because they are Catholics, adhering to the creed and sharing in the mission of the Church.

      Ecumenism otoh is about determining if other Christian denominations share our faith, beneath the differences within their own community and despite differences from our practice. If the Catholic faith is at the heart of the churches of the Anglican Communion, how can we not commune with them?

  35. David– I think you hit the nail on the head.

    We need to be respectful of others beliefs, especially about the Eucharist.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but I think that a lot of the desire for intercommunion comes from the Catholic Church’s desire for “all to be one,” whereas many Protestants already see themselves as “in Communion” with each other, even though doctrinally, we diverge immensely.

    What, imho, can’t happen is (a Catholic) inter-communion without a common belief in the Catholic Faith. However, Protestants, not seeing this as an issue for the aforementioned reason, don’t see the problem, and push for it… in a sense, to be “validated” by the Catholics. And without this, there’s an us/ them situation set up.

    We as Catholics, of course, don’t want that, so we try to do what we can to break down the us/ them scenario. I think the issue of indiscriminate corporate intercommunion amongst all Christians is a misguided approach to solving the problem. But I think someone said elsewhere in this now, very long, thread– that we don’t have the rest of what his Eminence said, so we can’t really be assured at what he was getting at.

    My question is, if one truly desires Catholic Communion, why not the rest of the Catholic Faith? And if not the Catholic Faith, then why Catholic Communion? It makes no sense to me.

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