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Monday, January 17, 2011

Why can't non-Catholics receive Communion?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Why can't non-Catholics receive Communion**?  Isn't that arrogant and discriminatory?  Would Jesus do that?

This is a hard one for me.  It does indeed seem that Jesus would want us all to receive Him in the Eucharist...

Yet when we examine what it is we're really saying and doing when we go up to receive Communion, it's easier to understand the Church's teaching that only Catholics may receive the Eucharist.  When we approach the altar to receive, we are saying that we are in communion with Jesus, and in communion with His Body, the Church.  We are professing with our action, with our bodies, that we are fully united to the Church.

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes."

We proclaim that we are fully committed to Christ and His Body, the Church, when we "eat this bread and drink the cup."

"Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion." (canon 844 Section 4).

The Eucharist is our nuptial relationship with God; it is our One Flesh Union with Jesus.  It is our moment of spiritual and physical intimacy with our LordWe are the Bride and He is the Bridegroom.

Apologist Tim Staples says (paraphrasing): If you haven't made the commitment to the Catholic Church by "signing on the dotted line" so to speak, it's like a man and woman engaging in the marital act (the One Flesh Union) without being fully committed (i.e married). 
So even if a non-Catholic wants to receive Communion and professes to believe that it is indeed the Body/Blood/Soul and Divinity of Jesus, until he has fully committed and "made it legal" so to speak, he ought not be receiving.  Just as a couple who truly love each other but are not yet fully committed to each other ought not be engaging in the One Flesh Union.  (Our Church is nothing if not consistent in her teachings! )

"Since the “one flesh” union of man and wife foreshadowed Christ and the Church right from “the beginning,” John Paul II speaks of marriage as the primordial sacrament...This is why...the Eucharist is “the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” When we receive the body of Christ into our own, in a mysterious way, like a bride, we conceive new life in us – life in the Holy Spirit. It is this same Holy Spirit that forms the bond that unites spouses in the Sacrament of Marriage."  Source here.

In my opinion this teaching is not arrogant or discriminatory; it safeguards the sanctity of the sacrament as a sign of communion with Christ and communion with the Catholic Church. 

Would Jesus do this?  Yes, I suppose He does.  The Scriptures do not give us the norms for receiving communion, so we must look to the Church to see how He speaks today.  "He who hears you hears me." (Luke 10:16).  So when Bishops are speaking, as a united teaching authority in union with the Pope, Jesus is speaking! 

**Just to clarify, some non-Catholics can receive the Eucharist--members of the Eastern churches (Orthodox) who share our same understanding of this sacrament--under certain circumstances.  And other non-Catholics may also receive, under stricter conditions.
***Also even some Catholics ought not receive the Eucharist; we must be in a state of grace in order to receive Communion, that is, in a state of communion with our Lord. 
For more in-depth study visit these websites
Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

Catholic Answers Forums discussion on this topic

Who Can Receive Communion?

Christopher West's website (speaker and author on Pope JPII's Theology of the Body)

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. good job in explaining. other good point, catholics confess and those who are not catholic dont go to confession because they dont believe in it. and it would be a great insult and sin to receive christ with sin on your soul. even for us catholics.

  2. Thanks a lot! This is a really good explanation because I want to explain this to a friend. Thank you and God bless! May God continue to guide you in the path of wisdom.

  3. wowzer! I always thought I was in the same body of believers as the Catholic church. Not so! Apparently, Jesus loves only Catholics! I was denied communion at a Catholic funeral today. I am a devout Christian. Just absolutely blown away. Thank goodness God hates religion and no one can snatch me out of His hands.

    1. I am sorry that you feel this way, Beth, but there is nothing in Catholic teaching that declares that Jesus only loves Catholics.

      That is as much a misrepresentation of Catholicism as it would be for a non-"devout" Christian to read your comment above and say, "Apparently, Jesus only loves devout Christians".

    2. And as far as God hating religion, that is a man-made tradition that you've fallen for, Beth.

      There is nothing in Scripture that says God hates religion.

      In fact, without religion, you cannot have a relationship with Christ. For that is what religion is--it comes from the Latin word, religare, which means "relationship".

      And, the ONLY way you can know anything about Jesus is through religion--the CATHOLIC religion, which preserved the words of Christ and His Apostles for you.

    3. Finally, regarding John 10 and no one being able to be snatched out of the Father's hands, Catholics ought to respond with a hearty amen!

      However, that doesn't mean that you can't walk away from the Father. That would occur of your own volition. That's not being "snatched". That's your free will at work, should you choose to leave the Body of Christ.

    4. Jesus intended ANYONE who believes in Him to take part in Communion, NO EXCLUSIONS! If you don't join the "club" in the Catholic religion, you can"t participate. Catholics aren't allowed to take Communion in any other Christian church either. I guess their Jesus is better than ours. Controlling and arrogance.

    5. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous.

      However, I think you are simply making an assertion, with no evidence to back up your claim.

      And I don't see how the Catholic teaching on this is any more controlling and arrogant than your assertion is.

      A Muslim or an atheist might call your teaching "controlling and arrogant" too, for you say that they can't receive the Eucharist, right?

  4. I have attended the Catholic church with my husband for 40 years because it was important to him that our children be raise Catholic. I sit beside people who come to church on religious holidays only but have no problem getting in line to receive communion while I sit alone waiting for my husband. This is grossly hypocritical. I am in communion with God and Christ and I am being denied the Holy sacrament because of people who believe they are holier than thou.

    1. I understand how hurtful it is to watch others receive while you cannot.

      But one ought not confuse the wrong behaviors of others with a wrong teaching of the Church.

      The Church's teaching is correct. It is incorrect for these other people to receive.

    2. I also want to add that we ought not judge these others who are receiving communion.

      Perhaps they just received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Or they attend Masses at other times. Or at other churches.

  5. I am NOT judging other people. These are people I know and they do not attend church regularly; only on special holidays.

    1. Fair enough.

      It's wrong for these people to receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

      But perhaps they don't know. Priests haven't been very loudly proclaiming the Church's teaching that Catholics in mortal sin ought not be receiving the Eucharist.

      I know how hurtful it must be to see others receive Him when you want to so badly....and thank you for doing the right thing and not receiving until you are in full communion with the Church. For that is what it means, right, to receive communion? You are saying, "I believe and am in communion with all that is proclaimed by the Catholic Church!"

      And if someone does receive communion but doesn't actually believe this, then she is lying with her actions. She is NOT in communion yet receiving communion.