Should Catholics receive communion in Protestant churches?

While Protestants and Catholics differ on many points of doctrine, we tend to forget that we have lots in common too. In particular, we can be strong allies in the current culture war. God willing, we will someday become a united flock again, as Jesus wanted for us. In the meantime, we should be honest about our commonalities and our differences.

A particular area of importance for Catholics is about receiving communion in Protestant churches, for example at a friend’s wedding. Please take a moment to read Fr. Z’s explanation here. In a nutshell, he explains that Catholics are never to receive communion in Protestant churches. A Catholic may only receive sacraments in churches that have valid orders and sacraments, such as Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Polish National Catholic Church, pre-Calcedonian Churches and so forth. But even in those churches, Catholics should only receive their sacraments if it is physically or morally impossible for them to approach a Catholic minister and if the reception of the sacraments is required by necessity or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided.

So you see, there are a lot of conditions here. Even for churches with valid sacraments, you would be advised to refrain from receiving communion in most cases.

6 thoughts on “Should Catholics receive communion in Protestant churches?

  1. Our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters in my experience often show a dedication and holiness that is to be honoured and encouraged. In this context, I am saddened to see such words as blasphemy and idolatry enter this discussion. The issue of to what extent we can share worship is an important one that deserves to be approached in a spirit of deep charity and wisdom.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the comment. I am also often impressed by the virtues of our separated brethren.

    Fr. Z isn’t implying that they’re less virtuous than Catholics. On the contrary, his words “idolatry” and “blasphemy” are directed towards the actions of Catholics, not of our separated brethren. The words “idolatry” and “blasphemy” are certainly strong and highly flammable which is why I chose not to use them in the body of my blog post. Yet, they are the proper theological terms to objectively describe the acts that he discusses. Catholics know that the bread and wine in Protestant celebrations are not the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ. For a Catholic to receive them as such would indeed be idolatry on the part of the Catholic. For a Catholic to receive them publicly while knowing that they aren’t the Eucharist would indeed by “blasphemy”. This is the proper theological terminology.

    From a practical and pastoral perspective, it would be unwise and imprudent to use these terms when discussing the matter with our separated brethren. The terms are best reserved for formal discussion among Catholics, which is the object of his blog. He meant no disrespect towards non-Catholics.

    Take care.

  3. I agree with not receiving Communion in Protestant Churches. What I don’t understand from Father’s comment about it being idolatry, idolatry of what?

  4. Hi Sean,

    As you know, for Catholics, Holy Communion is he most sacred thing in the universe because it is God Himself. We rightly show great reverence for the consecrated host and worship it. If a Catholic were to show that reverence and worship for a piece of bread that hasn’t been validly consecrated, such “bread-worship” would constitute idolatry. I think that’s what Fr Z meant.

  5. As the intended object of reverence and worship in all cases is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, it is illogical to accuse anyone who offers such reverence and worship of being an idolater, that is someone who worships a being other than the one true God.

  6. Hi Dave,

    I respectfully disagree. That statement would be try if we were talking about an object that people reverence because it is a symbol of God. For example, when a person kneels to pray before a statue of the Sacred Heart, it’s clear that the individual is showing worship for the God who is being portrayed, and not the statue itself.

    The Eucharist is an entirely different ball-game. The Eucharist *is* God. We worship it for itself, because it *is* Him. Idolatry does not presuppose ill intent one part of the person doing it. Even if somebody sincerely thinks that a cow is a god, they’re still committing idolatry if they worship the cow, objectively speaking. Likewise, to worship a mere piece as if it were the Eucharist would be idolatry.

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