Pope Francis on Catholic-Lutheran Intercommunion [UPDATED]

This morning Pope Francis visited the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rome. Here is an English translation of what Pope Francis said to the Lutheran woman, married to a Catholic man, when asked about the possibility of sharing together in Communion. H/T Whispers in the Loggia.

The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper – I’m scared!

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this mandatum to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem – it’ll be there! But that will be the last one… in the meantime, I ask myself and don’t know how to respond – what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [etym. “to accompany you on the journey”] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means that there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand. But I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? And you’re a witness of a likewise profound journey, a journey of marriage: itself a journey of family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.

When you feel yourself a sinner – and I’m much more of a sinner – when your husband feels he’s sinned, you go forward to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution, [thus] I’m healed and kept alive in my Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What did Jesus do for us?, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same.

The question [Pope draws question mark with his finger]…. The supper? There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with a bishop who went a little wrong * – 48 years old, he married [then had] two children. This made for great discomfort in him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied them on Sunday, his wife and children, to Mass, and then went to worship with his community…. It was a step toward his participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [to realize] “I’m not right.” **

I can only respond to your question with a question: what can I do with my husband that the Lord’s Supper might accompany me on my path? It’s a problem that each must answer [for themselves], but a pastor-friend once told me that “We believe that the Lord is present, he is present” – you believe that the Lord is present. There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism – one faith, one baptism, one Lord: this Paul tells us; the consequences come later.

I would never dare to give permission to do this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and go forward. [Pauses] And I wouldn’t dare – I don’t dare say anything more.

On this difficult question we’ve had some fifty years now of studies and dialogues and papers and conferences and books and statements and official documents and…

If I’m not mistaken, the pope just cut through all of it and said everyone can follow their own conscience and decide for themselves.

True, this was only a Q&A and no official statement of the magisterium. But the pope said it. This is a significant.

awr

* PT reader Padraig McCarthy points out that the official Italian text is “grande amacizia con un vescovo episcopaliano.” Francis did not say that the bishop went a little wrong.

** Padraig points out that that official Italian is: “il Signore lo ha chiamato, un uomo giusto.” This is quite the opposite of the translation, which should read: “The Lord called him, a just man.”

52 comments

  1. Let us continue to hope for what the Lord Jesus prayed: That all may be one… without our human narrow-mindedness getting in the way of God’s wider embrace…

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
      On the contrary. His conversational style is all over the place, but I think one can have a fairly clear idea of what he’s saying after plodding through the whole thing. He hesitates to come out and say it clearly, but by the end he comes down for intercommunion as a decision one can make in conscience.

      He raises the familiar question – is shared communion a goal to reach after sufficient doctrinal unity is achieved, or is it a means toward achieving unity – what he calls a “viaticum”? He says he will leave that question to theologians (suggesting that it’s an open question, BTW), but then says later that it is a viaticum, which seems to be his answer to the question he posed.

      He says this:
      “There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself.”

      What can this be but a statement to follow your own lights?

      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

        He hesitates to come out and say it clearly, but by the end he comes down for intercommunion as a decision one can make in conscience.

        Does not the excitement around this statement forget the extent we already allow “intercommunication”? Under Canon 844, the theological bar which needs to be jumped for a Baptised non-Catholic to receive is manifesting the Catholic faith in the sacraments and being properly disposed, both of which are mentioned by the Pope (i.e. the first in his discussion of the presence of Jesus, and the second in his discussion of conscience).

        The Pope’s statement might appear to collapse the distinction which exists in Canon law between the baptised from real Churches and those from other ecclesiastical communities, but in his hemming and hawing and punting he also says he can’t authorise the lady to receive, which would seem to maintain this distinction (given those from Orthodox Churches etc are already authorised by the mere asking).

        Suggesting that it’s an open question, BTW

        Indicating he does not know does not suggest the question is open, just that he does not know. I would guess if you asked the Pope about the technicalities of a number of very closed Christological and Trinitarian doctrines, you would get a similar response.

        But then says later that it is a viaticum, which seems to be his answer to the question he posed.

        There appear to be different senses being used here. Clearly it is viaticum, but is it so for those still seeking full unity? Which would certainly make more sense than denying he can answer a question, and few moments later going on to answer it.

        True, this was only a Q&A and no official statement of the magisterium. But the pope said it! I don’t see how there can be any going back on that. This is a historic day!

        I thought ultramontanism and creeping infallibility were supposed to a right wing thing. In speaking thus, the Pope can flat out be wrong, and his words disowned by either himself or a successor.

        I am not saying he is wrong here, given his comments seem within the current theology anyway, but no such statement is an irreversible thing.

      2. @Gerard Flynn:

        I did not say it did. It distinguishes between the assumed belief in the real presence etc of those lay baptised who belong to different communities.

      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        I suspect that if I had been asked the same question as Pope Francis in a public setting I would have offered up a similar sort of word-salad, expressing similar sorts of sentiments. But there is a peculiar sort of ultramontanism that pays too much attention to the off-the-cuff expostulations of a Pope (not, may I suggest, all that different from those who saw the wearing of the fanon as the harbinger of the imminent restoration of the papal states). Perhaps something official will be forthcoming, maybe in connection with the anniversary of 1517 as Philip Sandstrom suggests, and then you can playfully elbow me and say, “See, I told you so.” At which point I will gladly concede that the papal word-salad was in fact tea leaves, and that you read them better than I.

      4. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
        It’s good to know you were not expecting an ex cathedra pronouncement under these circumstances even though your first post might have given the impression that you would not have been satisfied with anything less.

      5. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
        Fritz, you make a good point and I share the concern about ultramontanism. And I concede that I don’t always do well in resisting that particular ecclesiological distortion, now that I’m so heartened by the words of the present pope!

        However, it seems to me that there are two levels operating nowadays. On the one level, there is ‘official teaching’ and all the usual standards (however precise they could ever be) about how to read magisterial statements. At this level, ultramontanism is simply wrong. At this level, reading too much into Francis’s statement on intercommunion would be theologically suspect.

        But at another level, one has to look at what a statement like this in effect means in 2015. We’re globalized now. We’re all connected by internet. The whole planet (the affluent, I should say) has 24/7 online news and social media. This gives an outsized influence to what the pope says, especially when his statements are newsworthy because they are shocking.

        Francis is letting something loose in the church. This is a sociological claim above all. Whatever our ecclesiology, the newsworthy quips of Francis are changing the conversation for the whole planet. This is just a fact, I think.

        In the face of this epic sociological reality, one can only guess at the longer term effects and implications. Maybe it will be like the fanon –a blip that will go away very quickly because the next pope – or the next 5 popes – will shift direction, will crack down and attempt to restore order and discipline. I think it will be exceedingly difficult for future popes to do this, after Francis.

        It also remains to be seen whether Francis will institutionalize any changes by issues reform documents and changing structures. Or will it remain just words that inspire some people in the church but not others?

        I can’t predict the future! Who knows? It will be very interesting.

        awr

      6. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        People have been operating at two levels with complete cognitive dissonance since about 1968. I wonder if God will be cognitively dissonant at the at the final judgement? We can always hope 🙂

  2. I too understood the Pope well, except this part:

    Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [to realize] “I’m not right.”

    What does this mean, “I’m not right”? The Lord made him realize it’s not right to receive communion at the Catholic mass?

    Anyway, hemming and hawing and punting he did seem to have done, but then again, isn’t that how God usually works? The workings of the Holy Spirit, in my own very humble (and humbling) life experiences, has rarely been clear or concise.

  3. Anyway, hemming and hawing and punting he did seem to have done, but then again, isn’t that how God usually works?

    I can’t recall a more succinct acclamation of Catholic theological relativism than the above. Thank you, Ms. Ahn.

    1. @Charles Culbreth:

      And I wondered how long it would take for someone to bring up the term “relativism” in a not so subtle tone of accusation. Didn’t take too long, did it. So, thank you to you too, Mr. Culbreth.

      Just for the record, I do not support Catholic theological relativism any more than you do. And honestly, I do not know any practicing Catholic who does, do you?

      I do believe, however, as Pope Francis clearly seems to, that life is bigger, as in far more complicated, more nuanced, more varied and richer, than any theological explanations and interpretations could possibly grasp — hence the need for prayer and discernment with “the little theological light one has”.

      This is not relativism, for one does not follow one’s own light, but God’s.

      Obviously, you disagree, and that is fine, but please, do not put words in my mouth to please yourself on the Internet.

  4. I do not see this as relativism, much too easy a term to bandy about. Instead, it’s a matter of context. Would the Lutheran spouse go to daily Mass, for example, and “go forward.” And receive, to the spite of the Catholics in the community? Or would the Lutheran spouse “go forward” with her husband on their anniversary, for example? Or on their Catholic child’s First Communion?

    “I’m not right” seems one possible result of a discernment. One goes forward, hands cupped or arms crossed and one is attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit. One maintains one’s gesture, adjusting the intent.

  5. …”but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? And you’re a witness of a likewise profound journey, a journey of marriage: itself a journey of family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism. ”

    Is Baptism of the Spirit or of doctrine? I have absolutely no problem believing–knowing–that some Lutherans and other non Catholics have been baptized in the Spirit. “We have the same Baptism”. Surely we can intuit the legitimacy of what Francis is saying here.

    Maybe we don’t have to have every theological ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed to grasp this simple point.

    +1 to Anthony’s post.

  6. So “conscience” is now our only guiding principle for any issue involving reception of the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of our Lord?

    1. @Chip Stalter:
      “So “conscience” is now our only guiding principle …”

      That’s not what Pope Francis said. In a typically Ignatian way, he suggested discernment. Belief in the reality of the Eucharist is not exclusively a Catholic thing. But standing with Peter has been. Does one need to stand with Rome, so to speak, to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass? I like the example given, of spouses sharing the Eucharist together. It strikes me that cross-Christian couples and families have their own difficulties. And if the sacraments of Roman Catholics assist, nourish and bear fruit for such persons, is that not a sign of validity that would be more readily recognized by the world than taking our word that those unbroken lines stretch clean through te Middle Ages? If non-Catholic spouses accept the Eucharist, what if the need of the family trumps union with Rome?

      There are already instances where intercommunion is permitted–this just brings it more into the open.

      1. @Todd Flowerday:

        But standing with Peter has been. Does one need to stand with Rome, so to speak, to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass?

        Based on the allowances to receive already provided to Eastern Christians, outside full Communion with Rome, the answer to that is already no. Schism, heresy or some related state of separation does not necessarily preclude the reception of communion by the lay baptised, if they accept the real presence and are in a state of grace (i.e. while such separations from full communion are objectively sinful, to one born into them they are unlikely to be mortally so).

  7. Do any other parts of the church have this invitation at requiems etc where there are very likely to be people in all sorts of states of christian affiliation and canonical irregularity?
    “Now is the time for communion. If any present feel they cannot receive communion, please come forward for a blessing. Indicate this by crossing your arms over your chest.”
    Leaving it to conscience? Looks like it.
    Its very common in this neck of the Catholic woods.

  8. I think that this Q &A with Pope Francis must be taken, read, and understood — especially when spoken in a Lutheran Church — in the light of the coming celebrations concerning Martin Luther in 2017. This is another area where the German Bishops are under ‘pressure’ and are ‘looking forward to progressive ecumenical developments’. What it portends and leads to deserves close watching.

  9. Here’s the problem with his statement: there’s not one faith. There isn’t actual unity until they come to the true faith.

    And while there is one Lord and one baptism, not all Christians recognize what it truly means.

    1. @Ben Yanke:
      The author of the Letter to the Ephesians doesn’t see it as you do.

      “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (4.5).”

      There may not be unity of belief, but there is one faith, one Lord one baptism.

    2. @Ben Yanke:
      Gerard’s point is spot on: there is a distinction between faith and belief. Faith is a gift from God. Belief is a human act. Conflating them might lead to a dangerous flirtation with pelagianism.

      The other frequent confusion is on the point between unity and uniformity.

  10. Pope Francis seems to be opening up our approach to the sacraments in ways other than the purely legal. In appealing to the union created by the sacrament of baptism he is reflecting the thought found in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, especially 7:14 f. where he speaks about the unbelieving spouse being consecrated by the believing one. And their children being rendered clean by the faith of the believing partner.
    You could also approach this through the sacrament of matrimony, wherein the church affirms Jesus’ teaching that the two become one flesh. What are the practical ramifications of this? We haven’t full turned out attention to what it means for everyday life. This cannot simply be reduced to conceiving children, as it applies to every married couple, even those who live in celibate marriages, as the church would ascribe to Mary and Joseph. The pope is opening up whole new avenues, (or perhaps we might describe them as neglected or even forgotten avenues) from the immense treasury of faith built up in the church over the centuries.
    Following the law is obviously always the safest way – but that is not always available to people in every case and circumstance.
    Pope Francis is challenging the theologians and canonists to meditate and discover ways that set good people free of burdens they do not always have to carry.
    From her storehouse the church brings out what is old and what is new.

  11. I appreciate Francis’s “hemming and hawing” or “word-salad” because it is an acknowledgment of the complexity of the question involved. He didn’t try (as many would) to offer the tidy official stance, with a few notes of apologetics to show that’s how it is and must always be; NOR did he try (as others would) to tell us why, just as curtly, we can all comfortably ignore the official hogwash.

    The issue is a complicated one; there are real and valid reasons for the official Catholic stance; there are also real and valid reasons to think the stance ought to be different (and perhaps for an individual to act differently). He respected the questioner enough to acknowledge all of that.

    That’s just the opposite of the approach of the commenter above who wrote, “Here’s the problem with his statement: there’s not one faith. There isn’t actual unity until they come to the true faith.” That statement is not simply a different opinion. It’s a mistaken opinion, because it ignores the complexity of reality. Yes, there IS unity. And yes, that unity is incomplete. It’s not an either/or question. When we try to provide answers that ignore the complexity, we fail in our respect for both God’s people and God’s truth.

  12. How about (simply?) reading this for what it was: an attempt at a pastoral response to one Lutheran woman married to a Catholic husband, and that in Italy.
    I am not sure we should so quickly extrapolate this particular, pastoral, off-the-cuff response to a general position on “intercommunion.”

  13. And why not make more of the official gift the Pope gave to the Lutheran community (rather than his off-the-cuff words)?
    From what I gather, Pope Francis’s gift was a paten and chalice, in a box with the papal coat of arms — the usual papal gift when visiting a diocese.

  14. As a Lutheran Pastor who lurks and sometimes participates here, I cannot resist a thought or two. I thank Teresa Berger for her thoughtful comments. When I read the translation (I don’t read Italian or Latin) I saw me about 25 years ago in my first parish, as a Deacon. Having grown up (Baptized and Confirmed) in the Roman Catholic Church, pre-Vatican II. I was known as “that Catholic guy” in my clergy circles. I had a couple in the parish, he was Lutheran, she was Roman Catholic. Long before I got there a gentleman’s agreement existed between my Pastor and Monsignor down the street that they could each commune at each others altars. It just was!

    I really enjoy this Pope! He is so alive, so much a Pastor, so I relate to him. I see his response in this article as a Pastor who cares about the Roman and Wittenberg Catholics before him, and he responded with his heart, knowing full well that this would get him into trouble, even if he is the Pope. So he stopped short of blessing their request with a “go ahead”.

    I pray that Pastors in both of our Communions will determine our future together, not our respective theologians. If we leave it to our theologians we will talk, and talk, and talk, even after Christ has come at the parousia, they will still be talking in heaven!

    Lord, save us from our theologians!

  15. SOk sorry to be so late to comment, but I just ran over to church to rip the back covers out of all the missalettes.

    This is a sort of family question; does anyone know whether it was a topic at the recently concluded synod?

    1. @Jim Pauwels:
      I believe the recent synod’s concluding document included a recommendation that Anglican spouses of Catholics be admitted to communion. Anyone with contrary information, please share. Of course, some time ago the Bishop of Strasbourg offered Eucharistic hospitality to Catholic spouses. And, I suspect many of us could share instances where the Eucharist has been shared between Catholics and those separated from the Catholic Church through the Reformation. I always welcome worshipping at a joint Lutheran-Catholic parish when I visit my brother-in-law; in theory the Catholics and Lutherans separate at the offertory for their separate eucharistic celebrations, but, as one member told my wife and me
      , “it really doesn’t matter where you receive.” Ecumenicism on the ground has been a lot more fruitful than ecumenicism in the official dialogues.

      1. @John Schuster-Craig:

        I believe the recent synod’s concluding document included a recommendation that Anglican spouses of Catholics be admitted to communion.

        That was a proposal raised, but it was not adopted in the final report, which deals with the matter at paragraph 72:

        On the question of Eucharistic sharing it is recalled that “the decision to admit or not the non-Catholic party to Eucharistic communion should be taken in accordance with the prevailing general norms, both for Eastern Christians and other Christians, and taking into account this particular situation, that those who receive the sacrament of marriage are two baptised Christians. Even if the spouses of a mixed marriage have the sacraments of baptism and marriage in common, the sharing of the Eucharist cannot be but exceptional and, in every case, the regulations which have been laid down are to be observed…” (Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms for Ecumenism, 25th March 1993, 159-160).

  16. * PT reader Padraig McCarthy points out that the official Italian text is “grande amacizia con un vescovo episcopaliano.” Francis did not say that the bishop went a little wrong.
    ** Padraig points out that that official Italian is: “il Signore lo ha chiamato, un uomo giusto.” This is quite the opposite of the translation, which should read: “The Lord called him, a just man.”

    Thank you for this correction, Father.

    Looks like Rocco’s version is all kinds of wrong in that part of the translation (which is odd, because he’s usually quite careful with such things).

    Also, this bishop friend clearly is Tony Palmer, who died last year, so what Francis meant, according to Aleteia’s Diane Montagna’s translation (h/t Deacon Greg: http://aleteia.org/2015/11/16/pope-francis-stirs-communion-controversy-at-lutheran-gathering-in-rome/), was: “It was a step to participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [home], a just man.”

    It wasn’t that the man went forward, then the Lord made him realize it wasn’t right that he should receive.

    Thank God, this all makes sense now.

  17. The unwed laity should also consider the situation discussed on this thread. Often on summer vacation in the rural Northeast I would worship at the local Presbyterian church for Sunday service (yes, I was scrupulous enough to drive quite some distance the night before to a Mass). I enjoyed worshipping at this church. Most everyone in the small farming town worshipped here, so it was akin to the town meeting up for the morning. I have rarely experienced this even in a smaller Catholic parish.

    Once I happened to arrive on a Communion Sunday. I sat with my friend and his family. At the appointed time the usher, smiling, passed the bread plate and a glass of grape juice to me. Both times I shook my head no quite insistently. The usher was visibly crestfallen.

    Certainly the problem is quite a bit more complex for those married across confessional lines. I cannot say anything of the married faithful. But I do not know what Pope Francis would tell this lonely heart at worship with his Protestant brothers and sisters. Would he excommunicate me for a Calvinist spiritual encounter with Christ?

    Probably not, though he might counsel me not to do so often. Certainly, how am I to know? At the time though, I was a Super-Traditionalist (like Superman, but with a cappa magna rather than a simple cape? 😉 ). I would certainly be scorched there and then if I took a mockery of the Holy Eucharist offered me by manifestly unrepentant Hereticks! But when the incense of high Catholic liturgy dissipates or the austerity of Presbyterian liturgy ends, the human facet of all eucharists, Catholic or Protestant, appears. I hope that families of “mixed marriages” take heart as well.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo:

      Hi Jordan,

      as another lonely heart who’s been at worship with her Protestant brothers and sisters on a Communion Sunday at the invitation of a close friend, I feel like confessing that, unlike you, I received both, quite instinctively and without thinking much about what it might mean, theologically or otherwise. (The only thoughts that crossed my mind was: “oh look, the blood of the Lord in a tiny little individual plastic cup!”, followed by “huh, this is not wine.”)

      Even though I’m far better informed now about these things, I would probably do the same were I to be offered “the bread plate and a glass of grape juice,” as I was then. If not offered, however, I would not ask for it. (Who, btw, was it that said, Never ask for what ought to be offered?)

      All this to ask, sincerely: was/am I not supposed to receive the Eucharist at Protestant worship?

    2. @Jordan Zarembo:

      Alright, clarification (but you all probably got it already): “I would certainly be scorched there and then if I took a mockery of the Holy Eucharist offered me by manifestly unrepentant Hereticks!” Okay, that hyperbolic statement was said in role as my alter ego Super-Traditionalist. I should have made that clearer. What’s pathetic though is that at for almost twenty years I thought I would be marked indelibly and helplessly for a realm of Dante’s Inferno if I shared a Protestant communion. Super-Traditionalist’s position was pretty much my own. This is why I refused the Presbyterian communion. The whole time the pastor conducted the communion service I thought “this ‘communion’ is an affront to the true apostolic Eucharist!” I wasn’t thinking (as I should have) “this is a moment to share with my friend, his family, and their loving community.”

      I should have partaken and then talked to my confessor when I got home. I truly regret this, but the opportunity might arise again sometime. I can say that my past persona of hatred for non-Catholics and non-Orthodox is now vanquished.

  18. If it isn’t intended to be the Eucharist as WE understand it, can we not share the bread and wine(?) as THEY understand it?

    1. @Alan Johnson:
      Alan: yes to this, at least from me. I have often shared the bread and wine in Protestant churches and ecclesial communities on that basis.
      Besides, I would never be able to receive the Eucharist a Catholic Mass either if I waited until I had fully figured out what exactly is entailed in this profoundly mystery, utterly real presence of God.

  19. Regarding the backs of missalettes: I happened to walk away with one last night. I know the guidelines already are familiar to many folks here, but I offer them now, not with a desire to bludgeon anyone here with them, but rather as a foil to Francis’s impromptu “word salad”.

    “We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions that separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (JOHN 17:21).

    “Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarilly not admitted to holy communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (CANON 844 s 4.). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the disicipline of hteir own churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these churches (CANON 844 s 3).”

    I suspect this is a case in which Francis is more aligned with priests and other pastoral ministers at the parish, grass-roots level than he is with the bishops. Probably not the for the first time. In this instance, Francis doesn’t dare to give a definitive answer – but the bishops do.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:

      If Catholics believe “the celebration of the eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith life and worship” how can Lutherans married to Catholics be excluded? In marriage and baptism the unity of this couple in faith life and worship is already recognized. It is hard to believe an “indissoluble” marriage would be forced apart by whatever theological disputes.

      I think this is the important consideration behind the Pope’s words. There is a reality shared by this couple that is confronted by the Church trying to drive them apart. There is something wrong with this. Only after that reality is addressed can we move on to a more general consideration of Lutherans being excluded as a class.

      1. @Jim McKay:

        Hi, Jim, the short answer to your initial question is, “I don’t know” :-). FWIW, I’ve dwelt on somewhat analogous thoughts regarding marriage and the diaconate: if my marriage unites my wife to me, does she share in my ordination in some way? At a practical level, she went through all the academic work and formation.

        In the spirit of conversation, permit me for a moment to play devil’s advocate to your larger point. If the woman who posed the conundrum to Francis is a good Lutheran, then it’s quite possible that she doesn’t have the same belief in the Eucharist that her Catholic husband does (if he is a good Catholic). Surely that also is a part of the reality of their marriage, their life together? That they are united despite not sharing complete affinity of belief? None of us who are married would claim that our marriages bring our beliefs in line with our spouses’, I assume?

        Nor (continuing to play devil’s advocate a bit more) do I think we can separate out the personal from the denominational as you suggest. By identifying herself as Lutheran, she is positioning herself within the class of Lutherans – within an entire system of faith and belief, not all of which is completely aligned with Catholic faith and belief. By saying, “I am Lutheran”, she pulled the Lutherans-as-a-class problem into the conversation.

        Finally (after this, I will drop the pitchfork), it could be noted that words such as the pope’s seat-of-the-pants analysis, “‘We believe that the Lord is present, he is present’ – you believe that the Lord is present. There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations.” – regarding that passage, surely there is truth in that, but also that such an observation could be used to posit a superficial unity that papers over real and substantial differences. It’s the sort of attractive rationale that saves pastoral workers from having to have difficult conversations.

      2. @Jim Pauwels:

        @Jim McKay:

        they are united despite not sharing complete affinity of belief

        They are united, in Christ, despite incomplete agreement on beliefs. Which is more important to the Eucharist, their unity or their disagreements about belief? Is it a sacrament of shared beliefs, or a sacrament of unity?

        I am sorry for posing these as questions. I’m not really sure of the answers, though I lean toward the indissolubility of marriage rather than the divisiveness of theologies. Both is probably the right answer, but we have to juggle them then to make sure we keep both in sight. I am more worried that we will fail to recognize unity that exists “despite not sharing complete affinity of beliefs” than I am of papering over differences. Unity comes from God, I am not sure who is responsible for the differences.

  20. As a frequent communicant in Anglican churches, and once or twice in Lutheran and Calvinist ones, I appreciate the Pope’s eucharistic theology. He is saying we have one baptism, and one eucharist — look at the Supper, he says, and make up your own mind. He cites two people who felt the Lord calling them to ignore church strictures and approach the altar in a Catholic Church, and he cites them with approval, though going on to say that he cannot give formal permission, not being qualified to do so. But then he ends “there is more I could say, but I dare not, I dare not…” meaning, I suppose, that the would like to see full intercommunion between the two churches.

  21. In short he respects people’s freedom of conscience and urges them to exercise it.

    His friendship with Bp Tony Palmer (who was 48 at the time of his accidental death in 2014) is a remarkable dimension of Francis’s profile. He is in deep syntony with the Protestant world, and even with its charismatic reaches.

  22. 1. About Protestants/Anglicans communing at Catholic celebrations of the Eucharist: In the phrasing of Catholic eucharistic prayers, the offering of the Lord’s Body and Blood is made by all believers in union with him, with no word that some are excluded because of separation from the bishop of Rome. So I don’t understand why some who are part of that offering are not allowed to be part of the communion that follows.
    2. About Catholics communing at Protestant/Anglican celebrations of the Eucharist: Long ago, some friendly Lutherans pointed out to me that the Eucharist is called the Lord’s Supper, not the Church’s Supper—implying, I’d say, that Jesus is the ultimate authority on the validity of the celebration and of the presider’s orders. Pope Francis seems sympathetic to such thinking. Maybe he dares not say some things, but it’s hard to imagine phrases like “absolutely null and utterly void” coming from him, especially concerning his Anglican friend.
    3. Jim Pauwels (#42): The Lutheran-Catholic dialogue on the Eucharist goes back half a century, and the joint statement from 1967, to my quick reading, suggests that there may be no great difference between the husband and wife on that issue. (On the offices of pope and bishop, there could be.)

    1. @Paul R. Schwankl:

      “In the phrasing of Catholic eucharistic prayers, the offering of the Lord’s Body and Blood is made by all believers in union with him, with no word that some are excluded because of separation from the bishop of Rome. ”

      Sure, that is true. On the other hand, at least some of the eucharistic prayers (I’m thinking of II and III) contain prayers for unity, which seems to imply that the church acknowledges that unity among believers is not achieved. Those two prayers then situate the church as being one with pope and bishops.

      And if you’ll pardon my saying so, imperfect unity is the reality, apart from liturgical texts. There is still a lot of hard work ahead for Lutherans and Catholic to achieve genuine unity. Whatever the critical mass of unity is that would allow us to celebrate communion with one another, it doesn’t seem we’re there yet. Don’t you think it’s better that our public worship acknowledge this painful reality and ask God to help us, rather than conduct our sacramental life as though what isn’t real is real?

      1. @Jim Pauwels:
        On that reasoning, though, Orthodox Christians would not be allowed to commune at Catholic Masses. But they are.
        Like you, Jim, I am an occasional reader of backs of missalettes. During one such read, I nearly dropped my dentures (or would have if I had dentures) to see that the Orthodox churches had joined the Polish National Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East on the intercommunion list. Were the Orthodox there before but had just escaped my notice?

  23. Some probably have not read the Declaration On The Way… I encourage you to do so. I for one pray and hope for unity of the Churches. I am Catholic, by the way, and my wife is Lutheran (ELCA). I would be great if Catholics and Lutherans followed the suggestions and recommendations outlined at the end of the above stated document. We are part of the community in which we reside and should be visible and active in it; my parrish is not. The Lutheran Church where my wife attends is 1/4 mile down the road and they are very active in the community with helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, with Habitat for Humanity, etc. What better way to work toward the unity of the respective churches than to work with each other in a concerted effort in community based humanitarian efforts.

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