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Ask A Franciscan: Same Eucharist?

I am a lifelong Roman Catholic who married a man who is a lifelong member of the National Polish Catholic Church. We raised our children in the Roman Catholic Church.

My Roman Catholic pastor recently preached about the divisions within Christianity, saying that we are allowed to attend Mass and receive Communion in an Orthodox Church, but not in the National Polish Catholic Church. He said the Eucharist at an Orthodox Church is the same as ours, but that is not true of the Eucharist in the National Polish Catholic Church. My husband’s pastor says that does not represent his Church’s belief.

Why can members of the National Polish Catholic Church receive holy Communion in our parishes but Roman Catholics cannot do the same in theirs?

Since 1996, the following statement from the US bishops has appeared in all worship aids printed in this country: “Members of the Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their 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 844:3).”

According to the Roman Catholic Church, you could receive the Eucharist in any of these Churches— if they would permit that. Under no circumstances should a Catholic do this primarily to “make a statement.” Christ present in the Eucharist deserves to be received devoutly.

Because many readers may be unfamiliar with the Polish National Catholic Church, here’s a bit of background. It has approximately 25,000 members and was established in 1897 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, by Father Franciszek Hodur, who felt that Polish American Catholics were discriminated against by mostly Irish American bishops. The teaching of Polish was forbidden in some Catholic schools, and there were disputes over ownership of Church property.

The Polish National Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.