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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Two high-ranking prelates are saying no to Holy Communion to non-Catholics. After Pope Francis made confusing comments earlier this month indicating it's up to a non-Catholic's "conscience" whether to receive the Eucharist, both Cdl. Robert Sarah and Bp. Athanasius Schneider are re-affirming that Church teaching only permits Catholics in the state of grace to receive Holy Communion.
In an interview published at Aleteia, Cdl. Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made clear that "we give Communion to Catholics." He then bluntly remarked, "Many priests have told me: 'I give Communion to everybody.' It's nonsense."
Sarah notes "rare" and "exceptional" cases in which Communion might be given, e.g., to an Anglican who believes in the Real Presence, but this circumstance "is something extraordinary and not ordinary."
When asked specifically about the case of a Catholic man married to a non-Catholic, Sarah said:
On the day of their marriage, the priest gave Communion to the Catholic husband and not to the Lutheran or Anglican wife. It's the same if they go to Mass together, because there is no intercommunion: between Anglicans and Catholics, between Catholics and Protestants. If they go to Mass together, the Catholic can go to Communion but the Lutheran or Anglican cannot.
This is because such intercommunion "would promote profanation," according to Sarah.
Rejecting the notion that it's up to an individual's conscience to decide, he went on: "It's not a personal desire or a personal dialogue with Jesus that determines if I can receive Communion in the Catholic Church. No." The cardinal affirmed longstanding Church teaching that only Catholics in a state of grace and sacramentally married (if married) are permitted to receive.
Bishop Schneider of Kazakhstan similarly rejected the idea of open Communion with non-Catholics, which abolishes distinctions between Catholics and Protestants. He warned bishops to be "very careful" in their public statements to avoid giving the impression that "Catholic and Protestant doctrine are basically the same, with only minor differences."
"This is not true," he continues. "All the truths of the Catholic Church are the truths of the Gospel. And those Catholic doctrines which Protestants deny are against the Gospel. We have to speak clearly."
Schneider also clarifed that the grace of infallibility doesn't cover every single utterance by the Pope, and that where the Pope may say things that seem confusing or in error, the Holy Father should welcome commentary from the faithful.
"I think we need to be in a climate of dialogue which is free of intimidation," he says. "Otherwise, this will be an atmosphere of dictatorship, and I think Pope Francis does not like to be considered as creating an atmosphere of inquisition, dictatorship, or persecution of someone who expresses reasoned thoughts and opinions."
Read the full interview at Aleteia.
To learn more about the differences between Catholics and Protestants, watch "The One True Faith: Catholics & Protestants."