Ask a Franciscan

Receiving Holy Communion in a Protestant Church

Q: I recently attended the wedding of a friend’s son who was married in a Protestant ceremony. This wedding included a communion service. In order to show respect for my friend and his son, I received communion but afterwards questioned if I should have. How does the Catholic Church view this situation?

A: The Catholic Church does not see this as proper because the physical act of receiving communion is virtually the same during a Catholic Mass and a service such as this one. The faith represented by this action, however, is not the same. It certainly is not on the level of what these faith communities officially teach about the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Your desire to honor your friend and his son is commendable, but should that come at the cost of obscuring what you believe about the Eucharist? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that eucharistic intercommunion with ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation is not possible because of the absence of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The Catechism goes on to teach: “However, these ecclesial communities, ‘when they commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection in the Holy Supper… profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory’” (article 1400, citing section three of Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism).

Someday intercommunion may represent a common belief in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but at present it does not. This issue is openly addressed in various ecumenical dialogues.


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