Saturday, September 20, 2008

Eucharist Questions

I have never been a Roman Catholic. That means I'm not an ex-Catholic mad at a nun who hit me with a ruler, or a priest who didn't know what he was doing. The things I've learned about Rome have been theoretical. I've never experienced them. I've only been to a Roman Catholic Church a few times, and these for either funerals or weddings. So, I don't claim to know all in regard to all things Roman Catholic. I assume the same honest admission would come from cradle Catholics in regard to my Reformed perspective. Many Catholics have never been to a Reformed church service, so they do not know what the experience of being a member of a solid Reformed church is like.

It has been from listening daily to Catholic Answers Live that I've found I don't know what most Roman Catholics are concerned about. Many, if not most of the questions called in have to do with the rules of Rome on things like divorce, parenting, or aspects of the rules of liturgy. Most of these questions (and the answers) I find dull and tedious. The "divorce" answers typically require an aspirin or two- they require listening to interpretations of canon law, personal opinions, and discussions as to what makes a marriage valid or invalid.

Some questions are actually humorous. I did get quite a chuckle when someone called up asking if it was okay to applaud after the Eucharist. The questions about what to do about contemporary worship are ironically funny- that Catholics leave particular parishes because the music is either too conservative or too liberal. Or, questions about "group confession" or "group holding hands" show that Rome suffers from some of the same silliness Protestant churches do.

Recently I started a "fact finding" discussion thread about the Roman Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. Remember, I've never participated in the mass, nor do I have reasons to go search out all the tedium of canon law on it. It's enough for me to know that it is unbiblical in theory. But, I do have some questions as to the practice.

My wife, who was brought up Roman Catholic, recently attended a Catholic funeral. She is a faithful member of the Reformed Protestant church I belong to, and has been a Christian for many years. I realize some Christians would never go to a Roman Catholic service. In terms of Christian liberty, I did not object to my wife attending the service. She knows the truth about Rome, and went only as a support to her family.

At a point in the funeral service came mass. As her relatives went forward to partake in the Eucharist, she did not. Some of those who went forward probably do not practice their Catholicism with any vigor or consistency. Some of her Catholic relatives have informed me that even though my wife has not been a practicing Catholic for many years, she still could've gone forward to partake. My studies lead me to believe that according to recent Catholicism, this would be wrong. Is this is so, and if yes, what should Rome do to stop people from violating Roman protocol? I told my Catholic relatives that non-Catholics, according to Rome, should not take the Eucharist in a situation as I've described it, only to be told I don't know what I'm talking about.

Further, here are some related questions:

1. If a person is unknowingly in mortal sin, and takes the Eucharist, what are the dangers? Should those in such a state simply be excused for being ignorant of the gravity of their state?

2. Where does the Roman Church outline these dangers?

3. Should a priest be concerned about the possibility of giving someone the Eucharist who should not have it? If so why? If not why?

I've never researched the matter in the Catechism, but I do find one of the major differences between my church and the Roman sect, according to some of the answers given in the discussion thread, is that my church would not allow strangers to partake in the communion sacrament, thus erring on the side of caution, while the Roman sect says its priests can't babysit, and thus (in my opinion) err on the side wanton irresponsibility. If Romanism were true, I would not want to be a priest giving the Eucharist to people so haphazardly, knowing that God will eternally judge my actions as a priest.

I have often read Catholics in cyber-space praise the sacrament of the Eucharist, and explain how Protestants don't take it as seriously as Roman Catholics. The questions I've asked though lead me to believe quite the opposite: my church takes the sacrament far more seriously.

20 comments:

Kepha said...

James,

My parish priest is ultra-conservative when it comes to the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament. Earlier this year he stated in a homily that if one receives the Blessed Sacrament in his/her hand, that person may not leave his presence without first placing the Blessed Sacrament in your mouth. There are numerous reasons for his decision, e.g., so that the Blessed Sacrament is not accidentially dropped, or so a child does not cause any accidents, or, worse, so someone doesn't take the Blessed Sacrament to some anti-Catholic professor who has vowed to publicly desecrate the Blessed Sacrament!

Regarding the liturgical aspects you've mentioned, belonging to a parish that consist of members who travel great distances to be members of it, I can certainly testify to the liturgical divisions and debates within the Catholic Church. Contemporary Catholics treat the Liturgy like Protestants treat doctrine. So, while Protestants "church-hop" because of doctrinal issues, Catholics "parish-hop" because of liturgical issues. While there are doctrinal sects (e.g., theonomists) within Protestantism, there are liturgical sects (e.g., traditionalists who aren't sedevacantists) within Catholicism. Just like there are theological schools of thought within Protestantism, there are liturgical schools of thought within Catholicism.

BillyHW said...

but I do find one of the major differences between my church and the Roman sect,

my church takes the sacrament far more seriously.

You anti-Catholics are too funny. I don't believe that even you, James Swan, can with a straight face call the Church of over one billion followers (that's one sixth of all humanity) a mere "sect." The spiritual pride that gushes forth from your words is very apparent when you refer to saints like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta as "non-Christians."

You see it is precisely because the Catholic Church is not a tiny little English-only speaking upper middle-class American Protestant sect like your deformed ecclesial community that the priest cannot know personally each and every person that brings himself forward to receive holy communion. Catholics are permitted to attend any liturgy sanctioned by the Church in any parish in the whole entire world. The Catholic Christian has a home in the Church virtually everywhere in the world.

St. Paul visited the Church at Rome, and the Church at Corinth, and the Church at Jerusalem, and the Church at Spain. Where is your sect at Rome or Corinth or Jerusalem? Or Tokyo or Mexico or the slums of Calcutta? Or Baghdad or Peking or Buenos Aires? Or Sydney or Lisbon or Moscow?

At any given mass, and this is especially true for funeral masses, there are Catholics attending from other parishes. At any given mass, any of the more than one billion members of the Body of Christ might be in attendance. Unlike you, James Swan, the typical priest (St. Padre Pio is not your typical priest) cannot read the hearts and minds of the people who present themselves for communion, nor can he cast judgments upon the state of their soul. The communicant must examine himself to ensure that he is properly disposed. The priest must assume that this self-examination has taken place and the communicant is properly disposed. At many funeral masses the better priests will often remind the people attending that only Catholics who are properly disposed should present themselves for communion.

So, like the priest, I will assume that your questions are sincere and attempt to answer them:

1. If a person is unknowingly in mortal sin, and takes the Eucharist, what are the dangers? Should those in such a state simply be excused for being ignorant of the gravity of their state?

In the case of a person who partakes of the Eucharist unworthily the danger is that he will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, and he will bring judgment upon himself. It is for this reason that many are weak and sick among us, and many sleep.

However, if a person, through no fault of their own unknowingly does this, their guilt can be mitigated to the extent they were not morally culpable for their ignorance.

2. Where does the Roman Church outline these dangers?

The Catholic Church, headquartered in Rome, the city where both Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred, outlines these dangers in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 and Luke 12:47-48. (By the way, if you are ever passing through Italy you can visit the graves of the Catholic authors of these particular passages of Sacred Scripture and pay your respects. The body of St. Luke rests in the Catholic Basilica di Santa Giustina in Padua and that of St. Paul rests in the Catholic Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura. While you're there you can even pass by Vatican City where you can check out the oldest known manuscripts of these books preserved there.)

3. Should a priest be concerned about the possibility of giving someone the Eucharist who should not have it? If so why? If not why?

Yes, the priest should be concerned because as an ordained minister of the visible Church Christ founded, he is a custodian of the sacraments, and has a special responsibility to ensure that the Eucharist is protected from profanation. He is also a spiritual father to his children, and has a special responsibility to ensure that the laity are properly formed in their faith so that they can grow in holiness and grace.

eklektos said...

I love the anti-cstholic label Billy, as if the world is defined by your heresy. Maybe James is pro-reformation, which by it's nature entails a disagreement with Rome. Your own documents say that if I'm outside mama Rome no matter how great my good deeds I'll died condemned. But of course we cannot believe such things, that if one dies outside the true gospel, like say Mother Teresa, their good works are for naught. You may desire to define the world by your apostacy, but I'm afraid I must reject such claims. Oh, and Peter and Paul having been martyred at Rome (possibly, we don't know for certain, and "Catholic" scholars admit this) does not ipso facto make Romanism true. So quit stating it like it proves something, it doesn't.

Mike Burgess said...

Taking this post seriously, because I believe that's honestly what James had in mind, I think the first question is really the most pressing:

"Some of her Catholic relatives have informed me that even though my wife has not been a practicing Catholic for many years, she still could've gone forward to partake. My studies lead me to believe that according to recent Catholicism, this would be wrong. Is this is so, and if yes, what should Rome do to stop people from violating Roman protocol?"

Your wife, having presumably been baptized, confirmed and catechized with a properly formed conscience might very well have placed herself in danger of committing sacrilege (not to mention idolatry from your perspective, of course) if she had received Holy Communion. I doubt very much that any of us could have gone for any great length of time without availing ourselves of reconciliation through Confession prior to Mass. Of course, she could have made a perfect act of contrition and then sought to receive Sacramental absolution, but I daresay I'm getting afield of your issue. Speak to a canonist like Father Jay Scott Newman. He's accessible.

"If a person is unknowingly in mortal sin"
is like saying "if a dog is unknowingly in a masters degree program" or "if a frog had wings." These things don't happen. Knowingly and mortal go together, unknowingly and mortally don't. This doesn't negate natural law. That's why God gave it, too.

"Where does the Roman Church outline these dangers?"
Nowhere. They just expect you to "get it." No, seriously, all over the place they outline it. People just don't pay attention. For as many ignorant relatives of your wife, I'll give you informed Catholics. For as many informed Protestants, I'll give you Biblically illiterate pew-sitters.

"Should a priest be concerned about the possibility of giving someone the Eucharist who should not have it?"

Yes. He should be much more pastorally concerned about giving the Body of Christ to the faithful who should receive It. That's his job. He must weigh pastoral concerns, just as your pastor must. There are times for fencing the table and every bulletin I've ever seen says "don't come up here to receive the Body of the Lord if you don't believe what we believe," and there's one thing we know about Protestats: they know we believe it's Jesus in the wafer.

The Dude said...

"1. If a person is unknowingly in mortal sin, and takes the Eucharist, what are the dangers? Should those in such a state simply be excused for being ignorant of the gravity of their state?"

A person cannot unknowingly be in mortal sin, as the 3 conditions outline.

"2. Where does the Roman Church outline these dangers?"

In 2 parishes I've been to, the priests have always stressed that non-RCs and those not in a state of grace are not to partake before each distribution.

"3. Should a priest be concerned about the possibility of giving someone the Eucharist who should not have it? If so why? If not why?"

Sure, which is why most of the priests I've encountered have that little disclaimer before distribution, or they assume catechesis has educated the faithful present (but as you said, your Catholic acquaintances were indifferent or ignorant it seems). But they can't read souls or know every face when there are packed parishes every mass.

"my church would not allow strangers to partake in the communion sacrament, thus erring on the side of caution, while the Roman sect says its priests can't babysit, and thus (in my opinion) err on the side wanton irresponsibility. If Romanism were true, I would not want to be a priest giving the Eucharist to people so haphazardly, knowing that God will eternally judge my actions as a priest."

I don't see what else a priest can do besides giving the quick disclaimer beforehand. Doesn't your pastor say something like "if you are not a member, please refrain"? And does your pastor know who is apostate in his congregation? Not necessarily. Maybe your pastor can recognize every face right now, but if your church has some exponential growth, that might get a lot more difficult. And I would assume this is specific to your particular church, not necessarily your denomination. I believe the Reformed generally practice open communion as long as you have a credible confession of faith yes? As opposed to Lutherans who are generally more restrictive and only permit Lutherans.

EA said...

There are numerous reasons for his decision, e.g., so that the Blessed Sacrament is not accidentally dropped, or so a child does not cause any accidents, or, worse, so someone doesn't take the Blessed Sacrament to some anti-Catholic professor who has vowed to publicly desecrate the Blessed Sacrament!

This is complete baloney!
1) What is the priest going to do if the Eucharist is dropped? Summon forth the spirit of Michael Jordan and "make a save"? Please!
2) As far as children go; see #1
3) This nothing more than a Catholic version of "Jack Chick" horror storyism; legions of "anti-Catholics" wanting to get a hold of the Eucharist "to desecrate it". Come on!

Secondly, in the US, parishioners typically do not "travel great distances".

Thirdly, "Sedevacantists" are not
"within Catholicism", but without; or vice versa (from their perspective).

Timothy said...

>"2. Where does the Roman Church outline these dangers?"

As previously noted, the Roman Church outlines the dangers in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.

Non-Catholics who receive the Eucharist usually don't become sick or die. The anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that non-Catholic Christians, who willfully receive the Eucharist, are compelled to convert to Catholicism. God is very just.

>"It's enough for me to know that it is unbiblical in theory".

Hmmm. After Isaiah 55:11, Genesis 1, three Gospel accounts all saying "this is..." and numerous other Bible accounts of the power of Almighty God, the Eucharist is unbiblical in theory? Good to know that even God has limitations on His power. What else can God not do, in theory?

So is the Eucharist unbiblical in reality? What is your take on the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano? Has anything like Lanciano ever occured at a Reformed communion service?

God bless...

+Timothy

Kepha said...

ea.,

A few words before my family makes their regular hour drive our parish:

First, I don't know what my priest would do if the Blessed Sacrament were to be dropped. I guess I could ask him for you, if you want?

Second, I never claimed that it is typical for Catholics to drive great distances to go to Mass. I think we all know what the "typical" Catholic is like. Suffice it to say, my parish is unwaveringly orthodox, and, believe it or not, people drive an hour and more every Lord's Day (as well on Holy Days of Obligation) to attend it. Why? Numerous reasons. One of the most important is that it is liturgically orthodox. We don't have to worry about altar girls at our parish, or "eucharistic ministers," or women "associate pastors," or "liturgical dancers," etc., etc.

As far as anti-Catholics wanting to desecrate the Eucharist, you obviously live in a closet! Did you not hear about the professor at the University of Michigan who asked that someone bring him the Eucharist so that he could publicly desecrate it? This was, what, a month ago? Wake up, man, anti-Catholicism is real.

Reformed Catholic said...

As to what would happen if someone dropped a Eucharist, as a former altar boy, I have seen what does happen in at least one case.

The priest got went to get the cloth he uses to clean the chalice and the paten, and covered the host with the cloth. He then placed himself directly in front of the host so that no one would step on it.

After Communion was served, he went over, removed the cloth, picked up the host and ate the host himself, then using some water from the cruet and the chalice cloth, mopped up any crumbs from the host into the cloth.

He directed another altar boy to obtain another cloth, so he could then clean the chalice and other communion vessels used, and folded all the cloths which are then washed in the proper fashion.

Dozie said...

Mr. Swan:

This blog has been dull these past few weeks and to spice things up, the marketers here know which button to push – the Catholic button. Of course, the Catholics would want to respond, the obvious trashiness of the post not withstanding. In any case, there are few points that need to be highlighted.

“The things I've learned about Rome have been theoretical. I've never experienced them. I've only been to a Roman Catholic Church a few times, and these for either funerals or weddings. So, I don't claim to know all in regard to all things Roman Catholic.” And:

“I've never researched the matter in the Catechism…”

Clearly, these are truths about your condition that should shape your approach to Catholicism. But these facts notwithstanding, you put yourself forward as an expert on Catholicism and continue to make conclusions and assertions that are foreign to the Church. A man in your situation, who is fully aware of his many handicaps, should either refrain from making outrageous about the subject matter (Catholicism) as you often make or approach the subject with a great deal of humility and trepidity. Are these what we get from you? No, we instead see a kind of unwarranted bravado and constant abuse of liberty in your approach to the Holy Church, which in truth turns out to be a mark of pathological foolishness.


“It has been from listening daily to Catholic Answers Live that I've found I don't know what most Roman Catholics are concerned about.”

Another great point. You do not know how Catholics think and you know little about their approach to faith. When this is your handicap, trying then to define for, or tell, Catholics what they believe on any subject of their faith – Mary, the Eucharist, etc, is simply a display of the same pathological condition already mentioned, or something worse. When you consider a question on Catholic faith to be humorous, you should ask yourself, “humorous to whom?”


“Remember, I've never participated in the mass, nor do I have reasons to go search out all the tedium of canon law on it. It's enough for me to know that it is unbiblical in theory.”

If you have not experienced the matter you are writing about and have not done research about it, what is the prudent thing to do? Most people would keep their mouth sealed. Is it not shameful that one who prides himself on being a researcher can publicly state the above? You reach a conclusion on a subject matter you have neither practical nor theoretical experience about? Really, “the emperor has no clothes”.


“I've only been to a Roman Catholic Church a few times, and these for either funerals or weddings”.

“Remember, I've never participated in the mass”.

Which one is it? Have you or have you not been to a Catholic Mass? Would you know a Catholic Mass if you saw it? For your information, most Catholic funerals and weddings would include Mass service.


“In terms of Christian liberty, I did not object to my wife attending the service.”

The relevance of this information beats me, especially when you have yourself been involved in similar situations.


“Some of her Catholic relatives have informed me that even though my wife has not been a practicing Catholic for many years, she still could've gone forward to partake. MY STUDIES LEAD ME TO BELIEVE THAT ACCORDING TO RECENT CATHOLICISM, THIS WOULD BE WRONG.”

Something tells me that you are not at all doing any studies on this or you are studying from the wrong chapters. One would have to know the cut off date for your “Recent Catholicism” to make sense of your assertion. But anyone remotely informed about Catholicism would know that the rules for reception of the Holy Communion are rather “relaxed” now than was the case in previous times. Try reading some Catholic materials or anything other anti-Catholic books.


“Further, here are some related questions”.

First of all, one would want to know why you are concerned about Catholic practices. Why devote your time on a subject you do not understand, do not care about, and most of all, despise? What is your level of interest in the matter?


“I've never researched the matter in the Catechism, but I do find one of the major differences between my church and the Roman sect, according to some of the answers given in the discussion thread, is that my church would not allow strangers to partake in the communion sacrament”.

Let me indicate that this statement and the one following it in the blog are the reasons for my responding at all.

Mr. Swan needs to be encouraged to continue his research. If he continues, he will understand that the difference between the Catholic Eucharist and whatever he does at his church is that the Catholic Church has absolutely no regard for what he does at his church. What he calls communion is described as “Null and Void” in Catholic circles – it has no significance. Thus, there are no comparisons between Catholic Eucharist and Protestant communion. Protestants themselves also reject the idea that what they do has any significance at all. Why Mr. Swan’s church would deny crackers and wine to hungry strangers in their midst simply confounds me.

EA said...

Kepha said:"As far as anti-Catholics wanting to desecrate the Eucharist, you obviously live in a closet! Did you not hear about the professor at the University of Michigan who asked that someone bring him the Eucharist so that he could publicly desecrate it? This was, what, a month ago? Wake up, man, anti-Catholicism is real."

Again, I believe that you're being overly sensitive on this particular topic.

First, I believe that the individual that you're referring to is actually at the U. of Minnesota (Dr. Paul Zachary Myers).

It appears that he made statements regarding eucharist desecration in response to an incident reported to have taken place in Florida. Apparently a student (raised Catholic) at the U. of Central Florida, "stole" a host (received it but did not consume it) at a mass on campus. This student (Webster Cook) allegedly received death threats as a result of his actions and according to some reports was physically detained at the parish by an irate parishoner. It appears that Dr. Myers found the treatment accorded to Mr. Cook objectionable. Dr. Myers posted the now infamous request for a consecrated host on his blog; Pharyngula.

Secondly, if you look at what this "gentleman" (Dr. Myers) actually says, you'll see that he is in fact a militant atheist - he doesn't care one whit whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, or Bahai. Yes, he rails against the RCC - but if you care to read what he says, he is opposed to ALL religion.

So while yes, he either attempted to desecrate a consecrated host or actually desecrated one. And yes, while that may be "anti-Catholic", Dr. Myers is not merely anti-Catholic nor merely "anti-Christian". Anyone holding to any belief of a supreme being that acts upon that faith is "fair game" for this man. In that light, he's the exception that proves the rule that host desecration is an overblown threat akin to 'bogey man' stories.

EA said...

dozie said:"Protestants themselves also reject the idea that what they do (at Communion) has any significance at all."

No. that's wrong. While it is true that some (or many, if you like) denominations consider the elements as symbols, others, most notably Lutherans, do not.

Therefore, your advice to Mr. Swan (viz. that he research his topics more thoroughly) would seem to apply to you as well.

Carrie said...

So is the Eucharist unbiblical in reality? What is your take on the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano? Has anything like Lanciano ever occured at a Reformed communion service?

Timothy,

These are ghost stories - anyone could produce this stuff in their support. These types of stories play on people's emotions and are cooked up for just such an effect.

So what of your story? It is either a fraud (and there are plenty of those in your church's history) or a demonic trick. Either way, I wouldn't base your faith on ghost stories but on scriptures.

James Swan said...

With the answers from Catholics given here, as well as the answers given in the similar discussion thread, I have learned one thing: Catholics are not unified in their interpretation of the Eucharist.

I had deleted Dozie's comments because of their rudeness, but Dozie posted them again. I left them because they demonstrate Catholic disunity on this issue.

The Dude said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Dude said...

"With the answers from Catholics given here, as well as the answers given in the similar discussion thread, I have learned one thing: Catholics are not unified in their interpretation of the Eucharist."

Hmm, I'm not sure why this is so surprising. Do Calvinist theologians and laymen offer their own nuanced and varying views of the Real Presence in accord with WCF and other binding confessions? Of course, not a big deal. RCs do the same, stay within bounds and they're fine. Anyways, have the responses been helpful to your questions or are you wanting more information?

jim_l said...

I was raised Catholic, but am now Protestant with no intention of returning to Catholocism. However, I have been to many masses in recent history, as I would take my Dad to mass. I had taken communion a number of times as I brought my Dad forward. I finally asked the priest if I should or not. He said if I believed in transubstantiation, then OK. If not, then I should not. He left the choice to me. I did not take communion any longer. I appreciated his approach.

As for people leaving the church with communion, frankly they have no business doing that. The service is not over. We come to worship God, not to punch a time clock. If you are Catholic, then you have to abide by those rules. If you cannot abide by those rules, then you should not be Catholic.

Scott said...

Hi James,
I have taken your questions seriously and answered them in the same tone.

My answers

In JMJ,
Scott<<<

L P Cruz said...

I am an ex-RC. I can tell you right now that the RCC does not practice close communion as some naive folk believe.

It practices expediency.

LPC

Scott said...

Hello again James. I was looking forward to your responses to my answers - did I miss them? Exactly what sort of disunity are you talking about from Catholics? Please be precise.

Scott<<<