In recent years, we have seen an increase number of Catholics who have been receiving communion at Orthodox and Protestant churches. Their argument for doing so is that the communion services of all religions are equal. Furthermore, Catholic priests and laity have invited non-Catholics to receive communion in the Catholic Church. This exchange of communion is called "inter-communion." "Inter-communion" means that the believer of one faith (religion) receives communion in another faith (religion) while attending their service.
What does the Catholic Church say about “inter-communion?” Can a Roman Catholic believer receive communion while attending the service of another faith (religion)? With the exception of believers who belong to Rites that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, "under no circumstances" is it allowed for a Roman Catholic to receive communion from ministers who are not of the Roman Catholic faith.
Defending the position of the Roman Catholic Church on the subject of inter-communion since December, 1997, His Eminence, Dr Desmond Connell, the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, stated that "under no circumstances" is it permissable for a Roman Catholic believer to receive communion from a Protestant minister. His statement is to be praised for openly speaking the truth in defense of the Roman Catholic faith, in accordance with Church Canon Law # 844.1.
"Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to Catholic members of Christ's faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from Catholic ministers." [Canon # 844.1]
Can someone of another faith (religion) receive communion while attending a Roman Catholic service? Only those who belongs to Rites that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church can receive communion within the Catholic Church. This excludes the Orthodox and Protestant Churches because they do not hold the Catholic belief that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. The presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (consecrated host) is often referred to as the “Real Presence.”
Why does the Roman Catholic Church have this law in place? When a Roman Catholic believer receives the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (communion), he is making a statement that he is “in full communion” (“in full communion” means “in full agreement, without exception, with all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.”) with those who are present and who are also partaking in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Communion with members of non-Catholic faiths such as the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, the United Church, etc... is incomplete because the believers of the Roman Catholic and those of other faiths do not share the same faith (belief) about, for example, the Eucharist. While Roman Catholics believe in the continued Divine Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist after the celebration of the Holy Mass, other faiths do not share in this belief. Some of our separated brothers and sisters believe that the consecration of the bread and wine is either symbolic or in memory of the Last Supper, rejecting the firm belief that Roman Catholics affirm, that the bread and wine are actually transformed into and remains as the Body and Blood of Christ until consumed.
Why is it that on the Sunday of Unity Week, some ministers of Protestant Churches were invited to con-celebrate the Holy Mass in Catholic Churches and even receive the Consecrated bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ? First of all, while it cannot be denied that such actions have taken place and continue to take place, this practice opposes the sound teachings of the Catholic Church that are found in the Canon Laws and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Secondly, those who implement such actions in the spirit of ecumenism are doing so to bring about a man-made unity that compromises their faith and permits all forms of liturgical scandals to take place. They fall short of perceiving that the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ transcends all human powers and gifts. This can only be miraculously achieved by the grace of the heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Thirdly, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the supreme expression of unity and not a means towards unity. When the Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, he went on to remind them: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism." [Ephes. 4:4-5]
Given this understanding of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in false ecumenism, there can only be Eucharistic Communion. There cannot be true "inter-communion" because the term “inter-communion” in conjunction with a practice that opposes true “inter-communion” is a contradiction. To share the common cup while still maintaining fundamental differences in faith, order and ministry does not make sense because it violates a major element of the meaning and significant of the Eucharist.
Fourthly, ecumenism can only be built on clarity, charity, truth and love. To compromise the apostolic truths (such as the "Eucharistic Presence") of the Roman Catholic Church is to silently reject some or all of the sound doctrines of the Church. For there cannot be two truths, one opposing the other! As such, it can only be concluded that he who rejects the apostolic truth that is found in the Catholic faith, has withdrawn himself from the sound doctrines of the Catholic faith to embrace a different faith, a truth that opposes the one Spirit of Truth. By compromising the one truth, he can no longer call himself a "Roman Catholic" faithful!
Nor can he continue to receive the Sacraments since he has rejected one or more teachings of the Catholic Church.