Friday, July 1, 2016

Can a Protestant receive Holy Communion? The Pope's non-answer

On 15 November 2015, Pope Francis visited the Christuskirche, the church of the Lutherans in Rome. Once upon a time no Catholic, not even a pope, would darken the doors of a Protestant house of worship, but times have changed. As reported in "Luther's Revenge: The Surrender of Pope Francis" [Contains a great video! Ed.], the Francis will travel to Sweden in October to commemorate and "thank God for" the Protestant Reformation. What next?! Declaring Luther a saint, perhaps?! But I digress...

While the Pope was visiting Luther's "church", a Protestant lady asked him if she could receive Communion together with her Catholic husband. In "Communion For All, Even For Protestants", our old friend Sandro Magister calls Francis' answer "a stupefying pinwheel of yes, no, I don’t know, you figure it out." He quotes, in its entirety, the official transcription of the Pope's lengthy and incomprehensible response:

"Thank you, Ma'am. Regarding the question on sharing the Lord's Supper, it is not easy for me to answer you, especially in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m afraid! I think the Lord gave us [the answer] when he gave us this command: 'Do this in memory of me'. And when we share in, remember and emulate the Lord's Supper, we do the same thing that the Lord Jesus did. And the Lord's Supper will be, the final banquet will there be in the New Jerusalem, but this will be the last. Instead on the journey, I wonder – and I don’t know how to answer, but I am making your question my own – I ask myself: "Is sharing the Lord's Supper the end of a journey or is it the viaticum for walking together? I leave the question to the theologians, to those who understand. It is true that in a certain sense sharing is saying that there are no differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – I underline the word, a difficult word to understand – but I ask myself: don't we have the same Baptism? And if we have the same Baptism, we have to walk together. You are a witness to an even profound journey because it is a conjugal journey, truly a family journey, of human love and of shared faith. We have the same Baptism. When you feel you are a sinner – I too feel I am quite a sinner – when your husband feels he is a sinner, you go before the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and goes to the priest and requests absolution. They are ways of keeping Baptism alive. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, it becomes strong; when you teach your children who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did, you do the same, whether in Lutheran or Catholic terms, but it is the same. The question: and the Supper? There are questions to which only if one is honest with oneself and with the few theological lights that I have, one must respond the same, you see. 'This is my Body, this is my Blood', said the Lord, 'do this in memory of me', and this is a viaticum which helps us to journey. I had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop, 48 years old, married with two children, and he had this concern: a Catholic wife, Catholic children, and he a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sundays and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participating in the Lord's Supper. Then he passed on, the Lord called him, a just man. I respond to your question only with a question: how can I participate with my husband, so that the Lord’s Supper may accompany me on my path? It is a problem to which each person must respond. A pastor friend of mine said to me: 'We believe that the Lord is present there. He is present. You believe that the Lord is present. So what is the difference? Well, there are explanations, interpretations…'. Life is greater than explanations and interpretations. Always refer to Baptism: "One faith, one baptism, one Lord", as Paul tells us, and take the outcome from there. I would never dare give permission to do this because I do not have the authority. One Baptism, one Lord, one faith. Speak with the Lord and go forward. I do not dare say more."

Walt notes and deplores the Pontiff's use of the term "Lord's Supper", which is a formulation of the Protestant heretics who would transmute the Sacrifice of the Mass to a mere church supper, celebrated not on an altar but a picnic table. That doesn't bother Pope Francis, apparently. Whatever it is -- a commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Saviour of Mankind or just a nice community meal -- Francis seems agreeable to everyone helping themselves. Sgr Magister says "It is impossible to gather a clear indication from these words. Of course, however, by speaking in such a “liquid” form Pope Francis has brought everything into question again, concerning intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. He has made any position thinkable, and therefore practicable."

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