Relaxation of R.C. Rule on Inter-Communion Envisaged

Vatican’s rules on eucharistic sharing could be further relaxed

Posted on: October 7, 2013 10:59 AM

Photo Credit: ACNS/Neil Vigers
Related Categories: EcumenicalIrelandRoman Catholic

From the Church of Ireland Gazette

The Roman Catholic Co-Chair of the Third Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) has expressed his personal view that, seeing how in 1993 certain relaxations were made in the Vatican’s rules on eucharistic sharing, further relaxation is possible.

Speaking last week to the Gazette editor following a joint session of the National Advisers’ Committee on Ecumenism of the Irish (Roman Catholic) Episcopal Conference and representatives of the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, the Most Revd Bernard Longley – Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and ARCIC III Co-Chair -referred to the changes in “specified circumstances” set out in the 1993 Ecumenism Directory.

He commented, “Given that that represents a change, and a very significant shift away from the impossibility to the limited possibility, then I could imagine and foresee one of the fruits of our ecumenical engagement as moving towards a deeper understanding of communion and a deeper sharing, a deeper communion between our Churches which perhaps would lead to reconsideration of some of the circumstances.”

Asked if he felt healing on the issue would indeed come, the Archbishop said, “I know that that will be the case”, and described the “pain” of division at the Eucharist as “a spur” towards resolving the issue.

However, he also pointed to how, over the past several decades, “further challenges – obstacles, if you like – in the way of that have been placed before us and they also have their part to play in what holds us back from sharing the Eucharist together”. He instanced differences over the recognition of Orders.

Affirming that a further relaxation in the Vatican’s regulations “could happen”, the Archbishop added, however, that he “wouldn’t like to predict the rate or the pace of change towards that”.

Archbishop Longley said that the coming together of members within ARCIC III was itself “an experience of communion”, adding, “Because of the balance, I think, of pastors, Church leaders and theologians in their various fields, there is a real respect for the gifts of each other and there has been a real sense in which we’ve been able to exchange those gifts and receive from one another.”

To hear Archbishop Longley being inteviewed by the editor, (Inteview 46) 


In this Anglican Church News Service (ACNS) article about the current ARCIC III (Anglican/Roman Catholic) deliberations and their possible future pointing towards a degree of bi-lateral Eucharistic sharing; it is interesting that the Anglican News Service does not mention the presence in the photograph of Anglican Bishop David Moxon, who is a co-Chair with Archbishop Longley in ARCIC, and now the Anglican Representative in Rome. Bishop David is also the former Pakeha Archbishop of the New Zealand Anglican Church, and in that capacity was entrusted by the Anglican Communion as a member and co-Chair of the ARCIC Commission.

However, despite a long-time agreement on the nature of the Eucharist among the Commission’s membership – there has been, to date, no relaxation of Rome’s overall ban on the reception of  the Eucharist in Roman Catholic Churches by Anglicans – a situation that is further exacerbated by Rome’s continuing non-recognition of Anglican Orders. This has presented a few anomalous situations, where inter-faith gatherings have sometimes been the scene of a seemingly permissive attitude where non-Roman Catholic participants have been – if not exactly welcomed, then not actively prevented from – receiving The Elements of the Eucharist from a Roman Catholic priest.

I, myself, have received the Eucharist in such a situation – in the strong belief that Christ can take care of Himself in these circumstances, and is in a position to over-rule even the dictates of the Church. On certain occasion of being incognito in a R.C. congregation, I have explained my personal circumstances to the priest, with the assurance that I truly believe Christ is Present in the Mass, and have been permitted to receive the Sacrament.

Perhaps it should be made plain to dispensers of the Sacraments – of whichever ARCIC Partner Church that subscribes to the importance of Eucharistic Unity in Christ – that anyone approaching their altars, believing that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, should be welcomed to receive what they perceive to be the Body and Blood of Christ.

The sooner Rome drops its objection to the validity of Anglican Orders, the sooner this scandal of division on the basis of ‘sacramental assurance’ will be put behind us, and the basic Unity of our parts of The Body of Christ be re-established – especially  in the eyes of those scandalised by apparent disunity between our two Churches.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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15 Responses to Relaxation of R.C. Rule on Inter-Communion Envisaged

  1. Brian Ralph says:

    I began teaching in Roman Catholic schools in 1976 and refrained from partaking of the Eucharist until I attended a week long retreat for lay teachers in 1980. On the first evening I remained seated at the distribution and some of the other participants later asked me why. When I explained that I was an Anglican they went to the retreat leader, a Jesuit priest. He called me over and told me that I was a member of the community and therefore welcome to receive. On the final night of the retreat I was invited to assist in the distribution. From that time on I have always partaken. Some priests would have known my status but none objected. Since retiring in 2005, I have not attended Catholic masses until this year at the Hofburg chapel in Vienna where the Vienna Boys Choir sing. I received the Eucharist on that occasion. I have always been “proud’ that Anglican churches invite all baptised persons to receive.

  2. kiwianglo says:

    Good to hear that, Brian. As a matter of fact, on two different cruise vessels, in my retirement, I have asked the R.C. chaplain on the ship if I can receive the Eucharist – explaining my situation, and have been welcomed to receive the Sacrament. On the first occasion, I was communicated before the rest of the passengers, with part of the ‘priest’s’ own Host. That’s ecumenism at its hospitable best. There would seem to be many exceptions to the Roman Rule.

    • R.C. says:

      Actually, there are not exceptions of the kind you describe; there are just a lot of poorly-taught and/or disobedient Catholic Christians, including clergy, who go with their gut because they’ve never been taught that their gut doesn’t outrank Jesus Christ.

      • kiwianglo says:

        I think that what needs to be understood clearly, R.C., is that neither Church nor Pope are actually ‘Jesus Christ’. Why even Pope Francis admits that he himself is a ‘sinner’. Perhaps that brings a fresh new insight into the teaching of the Church.

  3. Gerard Eaton says:

    Unless you have been received into the Roman Catholic Curch, you cannot receive Holy Communion, unless in particular grave circumstances. This the teaching of the Catholic church.

    • kiwianglo says:

      You are correct, Gerard. That is the current official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. But, like the official teaching on Contraception, even most R.C.s disregard that particular ‘teaching’. What Jesus, Himself, might think about these teachings – we are not ye able to verify.

      • R.C. says:

        I have to respectfully disagree.

        We are able to verify that Jesus is saddened when those who ought to know better disregard the laws and exhortations He gives to sinners for their safety and their sanctification. This is in accord with the attitude He showed towards the wealthy young man who “went away sad” because he was unwilling to do what was necessary for his own salvation.

        It is sad that so many Catholics risk hell, undermine their gospel witness, and retard their own growth in love, because their adherence to the uniform teaching of all of pre-20th-century Christianity has been lost to the spirit of the age. But, there’ve always been wheat and tares, haven’t there?

        The Davidic king, like all other ancient royal houses, had ministers (or, “stewards,” or “viziers”). The people of The Name, including the children of Israel, also had priests; first after the fashion of Melchizedek (fathers & kings), later, that of Aaron (only of the Levitical bloodlines). And, among them they had teachers and judges and prophets responsible for applying the word of God to the lives of the people.

        Each of these forms of authority were described as “locking and unlocking” or “binding and loosing” according to their sphere of influence. Thus a priest might expel the unclean from among the people or welcome them back into the fold after their cleansing; a steward might set policy within the kingdom; a teacher might instruct that walking so-far on the Sabbath was permitted but more-than-so-far was prohibited.

        In Jesus Christ the son of David the stewardly offices, priestly offices, and judicial-teaching offices were united in the ordained bishops. They bound and loosed in all these areas, and did so with the promise of Jesus Christ that the collective-and-official judgments of the Church-In-Union-with-the-Petrine-Office – a plural “you” in Matthew 18, though a singular “you” in Matthew 16 – that what they bound as a visible church on earth was already bound in heaven. (Pretty strong promise!)

        The person who — with whatever amount of wincing or bewildered incomprehension, as it may be — submits to the authority Jesus Christ has set up in the world to speak on His behalf until He returns is no fool. He submits to that authority because Jesus set it up and has never revoked it.

      • kiwianglo says:

        “the uniform teaching of all of pre-20th-century Christianity has been lost to the spirit of the age”

        Oh, you mean like the Church teaching about cosmology that was undermined by Galileo and others, that later was rescinded because of a more modern scientific understanding of the universe? And yes, the official stance of the R.C. Church on ‘indulgences’. I really think that the Reformation – for instance – put paid to some of the excrescences that had arisen in the Church.

        In speaking of Reform, which Good Pope John XXIII initiated at Vatican II, there was an exciting sense that the Roman Catholic Church was going to lead the way in theological and sociological progression. Sadly, however, this was put on the back-burner by subsequent Vatican Polity. However, there seems to be further hope for renewal – with the advent of Pope Francis.

  4. Gerard Eaton says:

    The fact that some R.C’s use contraceptives will not alter the church’s teaching, Their reception of Holy Communion will be between , their confessor, ,and their informed conscience..

    • kiwianglo says:

      “….and their informed conscience.” – . Precisely, Gerard. After weighing up the teaching and our own situation, we each are the dictates of our own conscience. I think even Pope Francis would agree to that

  5. Gerard Eaton says:

    MOST people would want to know the church’s teaching on contraception, and the church teaches that the use of contraceptives is a grave sin. If the church’s teaching is abandoned by an informed conscience then a grave sin may be committed.

  6. kiwianglo says:

    In that case, Gerard, the Church, Herself, may be guilty of forcing her children into a category of sin – ‘grave’ – that could be entirely unjust. s it is well-known, many adult Roman Catholics are using contraception and the Church is living with that reality. Perhaps the dogmatic approach may not be helping the situation – where Catholics are knowingly and deliberately disobedient to the Magisterium.

    • R.C. says:

      Yes, many adult Catholics – of various rites and particular Churches – are doing that. And that’s sad.

      But it’s no use saying “the dogmatic approach may not be helping.” For “dogma” — which is to say, known truths of the faith which an average guy in the pews can rely on not to shift with the times — is one of the two great unique benefits which the authority of the ordained clergy gives to the Church. (The other is validly administered sacraments.) “Dogma” does help, or Jesus would not have set up His Church to uniquely be able to provide it. Jesus does not grant useless gifts.

      Or perhaps you did not mean to use the word “dogma” as a general epithet, the way the world does? If by “dogmatic approach” you merely meant, “delivering true information in a fashion which does not predispose the hearer to understand and accept it,” then I agree of course that THAT’S not helpful. One wants to be winsome.

      But if that’s what you meant, I offer these concerns:

      1. Why call that the “dogmatic” approach? Isn’t that rather adopting the world’s terminology, a terminology crafted for propaganda-use against Christianity? It isn’t helpful when Christians are constantly having to substitute new words for the old ones they traditionally used to describe concepts, because the old ones have since been redefined in common usage to mean something negative or useless. Let’s not contribute to the process.

      2. People in our era are just as rebellious and stiff-necked as the children of Israel ever were, if not more so. Do we have any proof that there is ANY fashion in which the Church could deliver true information, which would predispose modern hearers to understand and accept it? “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” As it was in the beginning…or perhaps I should say, “plus ca change….”

      3. Reading your other comments, I wonder: Are you really concerned with helping people understand and accept the information which assists them in running the race that’s before them, helps them avoid spiritual pitfalls, and so forth? Or are you hoping that the Church will not perform its duty of “teaching them whatsoever [Jesus] has commanded?” …so that those who are not taught will have an excuse for sinning? It seems to me that the critical thing to understand is that sin is Bad For You. Even if one happens to not be at fault through bad catechesis, still, when a sheep falls in a pit because its shepherd failed to guide it, the sheep is not at fault but still has a broken leg.

      • kiwianglo says:

        I do appreciate your concern, R.C. However, when I talk about the word ‘dogmatic’, I am using it in its Oxford Dictionary definition: “inclined to assert principles or opinions as incontrovertibly true”. And as for the word ‘dogmatics”, interestingly – considering your nom-de-plume, R.C – the O.D. has this to say: “treated as a system of dogma, especially one laid down by the Roman Catholic Church” – as, for instance, the ‘Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M., a dogma that undermines the full humanity of Jesus, and therefore unacceptable to most Incarnationally-minded believers, for whom the un-divinised humanity of Mary was necessary for Jesus to ‘taken upon himself our sinful human nature.

  7. Gerard Eaton says:

    The church does not force anyone into grave sin, we have been given free will and can choose between right and wrong.

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