Bishops Blast Intercommunion as Against Church Teaching

by Alexander Slavsky  •  •  May 24, 2018   

Ottawa's Abp. Prendergast and Philadelphia's Abp. Chaput weigh in

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VATICAN CITY ( - Two bishops are defending the Catholic faith in the face of calls to give Holy Communion to non-Catholics.

Both Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Abp. Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada are slamming the German bishops' proposal to allow non-Catholic spouses to receive the Eucharist under certain conditions after a "serious examination" of conscience and an "affirm[ation] of the Catholic [faith], among others.

This comes as German-speaking Catholics and Protestants met in Münster, Germany for a Catholic conference, Katholikentag, where some reaffirmed Holy Communion as the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, while others dismissed it as simply "a wafer."


Instead of settling the matter, Pope Francis punted the issue to the German bishops, asking that they come to a "unanimous" decision on intercommunion between Catholic and Protestant spouses earlier this month following a conference in the Vatican.
In a First Things article published Wednesday, Chaput noted what he considered "the essence of the German intercommunion proposal," which is a "sharing in [H]oly [C]ommunion even when there is not true Church unity."
He insisted that there is "an intrinsic link" between "being in communion" with the Church and "receiving communion" in the Church.
His Excellency explained that the schism among Christian believers is a "wound in the unity of Christians" not "willed by God" but a "reality" that must be addressed:

To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one's encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist — to say by one's actions, "I am in communion with this community," when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community — is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.

In an interview on Wednesday with the Catholic Register, Prendergast noted the intrinsic link between "my personal faith and the faith of the community to which I belong."

"[O]pen communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of 'open communion,' it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful," he said.

He continued:

Receiving communion has to make a difference in our lives, and be meaningful. Otherwise we are deceiving ourselves, and as pastors we are deceiving others. In Holy Communion[,] we receive the Lord, and so, to [be] receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.

But German Cdl. Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops' conference, is throwing his support behind opening Holy Communion to non-Catholics — an initiative supported by Cdl. Walter Kasper, former head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

"When someone is hungry and has faith, they must have access to the Eucharist," declared Marx. "That must be our passion, and I will not let up on this."

But Cdl. Rainer Woelki of Cologne — a defender of Church teaching on the Eucharist — and Msgr. Nicola Brux, past advisor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stand in opposition to intercommunion, saying Holy Communion is open only to Catholics in a state of grace.

Open communion is spiritually and pastorally unfruitful.

"Communion presupposes common faith and creed, including supernatural faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, along with the seven sacraments recognized by the perennial tradition of the Catholic Church," argued Chaput. "By renegotiating this fact, the German proposal in effect adopts a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity."

Intercommunion "misleads the faithful" and causes scandal, acknowledged Chaput. If Protestant spouses want to receive the Eucharist, then "enter into visible full communion" — in other words, convert to Catholicism.

Protestants cannot change Church teaching, Prendergast said.

"Even more important is the challenge to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine and not to propose practices that undermine the faith, and the need to foster loyalty and communion with the universal Church," he said.

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