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INTERCOMMUNION

Roman Catholicism says the Blessed Eucharist or the Mass is an act of worship wherein the bread and wine are turned by the priest, who uses the power of God, into the body and blood of Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. To eat and drink this is to partake of holy communion.

Traditionally, as the wafer is made up of individual grains it represents each person being in one Church so it symbolises unity.  The Didache teaches this tradition.  Thus if that is correct, then there is something about communion that excludes heretics and schismatics.  Paul too says the many are one religious unity for they all take the one bread.

Intercommunion is members of one Church taking “Holy” Communion in another sect.

In 1997, Ireland’s President, Mary McAleese received communion in the Church of Ireland which often encourages non-member Christians to partake.

If communion is meant to be a sign of membership in the Church that celebrates it then this is wrong. Catholicism follows St Paul at 1 Corinthians 11:17-19 which says that coming together in worship means the Church must have doctrinal and faith unity. And he says that factions and divisions are only allowed to happen because they show who does not really belong in the Church. So if you deliberately reject a Catholic doctrine you become a faction and so should not take communion which is a sign of faith and charity unity.

Some argue that all that matters is not what denomination you belong to but you belonging to the family of God which is to be found in every Church. The Roman Catholic Church says that she is the true Church and that God gave the Eucharist so that she would maintain this visible unity. Hence, it is bad if a priest gives communion to Christians from other sects. This is saying that visible unity, being one organisation, is more important than being outside it and being sincere and in union with Jesus. This is certainly intolerance. It is better and more important to be sincere and good than to be in the organisation. A person who does not have the true faith could be closer to God than people in the true Church. Being in it will do no good unless you are kindly and genuine. It is more important for unity to have Jesus in your heart than to receive his body and blood. If Jesus spiritually dwells in Catholics and Protestants the unity argument is no reason why they can’t receive his body and blood for the main thing is having Jesus’ spirit inside you and not his body and blood which are no good without the spirit anyway.

If Jesus is in the Eucharist he would want the Church as an organisation to grow more solid and for his body to be given to those who don’t belong to it so that they may be carried by the Spirit a step closer to visible unity with this Church. There is no proof that intercommunion is wrong.

The Church argues from the Bible that Paul said that those who share in the sacrifice of the pagans even if they don't believe in their religion but in Christianity share in false gods and unite with them. He said that a parallel is how the Jews who ate sacrifices in their Temple entered into communion with the altar. He means both that they indicate by their reception that they affirm the religion that makes the sacrifice and provides them with sacrificial food. It says something about how they view the beliefs of the religion. If they do not accept them they still affirm and say they are good enough.

The Catholic Church says that Jesus gives us himself in communion to nurture our belief in his teaching so to take communion implies that you agree with the required teachings of the Church. This is the rationale behind the law that heretics are to keep away from communion unless they repent first. If the beliefs are harmful or evil then taking communion is clearly wrong even if the beliefs are rubbish.

The Catholic Church permits giving Protestants communion if they are in danger of death and express belief in the miraculous change of the bread into Jesus Christ. That is giving communion begrudgingly. And Catholics on holiday in Eastern Europe may receive communion in the schismatic Eastern Church if they need grace and no Catholic Church is available. So, communion is not chiefly about union but about grace. Anyway, it has to give you grace and let you worry about furthering the unity for there is no unity without grace. 

If intercommunion leads people to the notion that one Church is as good as another which no true Catholic can accept then that does not disprove its goodness. It only proves that the Church has not educated them and that the Holy Spirit is not trying to keep them in the truth and make them see it. So it could not be the fault of intercommunion.

Catholics declare the Holy Communion of the Protestants to be invalid, to be devoid of grace. They say it appears to be the Eucharist but it is not. The Catholic Eucharist, they say, is the only true one. They do believe that in so far as the Protestant version is a prayer for grace it can give grace but that it is not sacramental. They do believe that in so far as it is a seeking of the presence of Jesus to have it within, it succeeds. But there is nothing special about it and taking holy communion gives the body and blood of Jesus that nothing else can do not even the most fervent prayer. So a Protestant service of Holy Communion is as good as a Catholic praying for grace and for Jesus to dwell within the heart. The reason Protestants are supposed to have an invalid Eucharist is because they are not ordained right. The power to celebrate the true sacrament has to be inherited through the bishops from the apostles.

It seems plain from this that the Catholics cannot take communion in a Protestant service because it is not communion. But this is a mistake. The sceptical Catholic can partake even if it is administered by a Church that requires her to believe it is communion. The requirement is that Church’s problem. The Catholic can take it as a sign of Christian fellowship, as a way of receiving Jesus’’ presence and grace. The Catholic who thinks it is real communion can take it because communion belongs to Christ and not the Church. It is not a declaration of membership of the other Church but of membership of Christ. It is a declaration of approval of the goodness in the Church but not necessarily of approval of the error and evil in it.

The Protestant who does not believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus cannot receive communion in the Catholic Church which does believe all that. The Protestant will hold that it is because God forbids idolatry, the worship of what is not God as God and might say, “Catholic communion is unholy if it is idolatrous. The Devil dwells in it for the apostle Paul said that heathens sacrifice to Devils though they mean to honour good gods.” The Protestant would have to answer, “Amen”, when the priest says, “The Body of Christ”, and that would be insincere and traitorous of him. Should the Church discard all the rites in the Mass that convey the notion of transubstantiation and leave the interpretation of the Eucharist open? No the meaning would still be there so it would be no help.

The ban on intercommunion in the Catholic Church is just bigotry. The Protestant who wants communion in order to let God erase her sins because she believes God is bigger than any errors in belief she makes is banned. And she is banned because the Church decrees that only believers in the Catholic Church have the right to take communion for communion is a declaration of belief. It is supposed to be about building up a community that shares a faith and agrees on the faith.