Restrictions at Eucharist?

Joel J. Miller takes exception to Gene Robinson’s claim the Catholic church is doing politics at the Eucharist when it says some are not to be communicating at the Table if they don’t get their faith right.

What do you think? Here are Joel’s opening lines…

Gene Robinson, retired Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, says the Catholic church is playing politics with the Eucharist.

The comments stem from recentpronouncements that Catholics who oppose the church’s moral teaching should refrain from taking the Eucharist. Neither should they be surprised if denied the sacrament.

“For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: ‘I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches,’” said Allen Vigneron, Catholic archbishop of Detroit.

But to bar abortion or same-sex marriage advocates from the cup is “a manipulative tool” that “surely profanes the sacrament,” according to Robinson.

On what grounds? “Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior,” he says. “We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.”

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  • EricW

    While I disagree with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist, knowing what they in fact do teach means that I believe they are correct – perhaps duty-bound – to withhold it from those who knowledgeably and willfully through their writings and/or actions reject those Church teachings which the Church does not consider to be simply matters of one’s own conscience.

  • Adam

    I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be seeing here. All protestants are denied the Catholic Eucharist. I can’t see how adding a few more to the list is going to make any difference.

  • Rick

    It would appear that Robinson has issues with various RCC moral positions, and is using the Eucharist restrictions as a way to encourage those in the RCC that disagree with those positions.

    As was seen in writings with the installation of the new pope, this seems to be more of the “why can’t the RCC believe and act in the way I decide.”

  • If Eucharist does indeed mean “good grace” the situation (both strange and complicated) is worth revisiting and revising. And another questions arises. It is not works that make us ready for the Eucharist, but it is obedience that makes us not our own, but God’s. How do we navigate the area of obedience for believers…or what should the Community that Christ as saved do on this part?

    (I’d, personally, have to chew on this a long time to come up with something worth typing.)

  • I’m not sure why Robinson is bothering to anything at all to say about the RCC’s position on the eucharist.

  • Miriam

    I’m not Catholic, but an Orthodox convert…we’re similar enough here that I worry about this. I’m not LGBT, but I have many friends who are and I personally disagree with the Orthodox Church’s teaching on the issue. To the point where I’ve considered leaving, but ultimately, I stay because I am Orthodox, I converted to Orthodoxy, not Anglicanism or anything else because I believe in its teachings on so many more foundational issues.

    Should I be barred from communion for disagreeing with my Church’s teaching, though I am not ACTING against those teachings (since I myself am not LGBT)? Is it only action, or is it thought too?

    What if I believe in women priests? Or if I were Catholic and vehemently believed priests should be able to marry? Are those things enough to bar me from communion?

    The difficulty I think is that if you start policing thoughts on these things you’re going to have to exclude everyone. I seriously doubt there are many who agree totally and completely with every doctrinal point.

    The barring Protestants issue feels different to me. Those are MAJOR doctrinal differences, to the point of completely different views about the nature of the Eucharist itself, oftentimes. Requiring doctrinal orthodoxy on every point as a prereq. for communion seems impossible, so where do you draw the line?

  • Robin

    I think that this issue depends entirely on the authority that you invest in the Church’s teaching.

    The Catholic church is saying “If you are a Catholic, then you must believe that salvation is offered through the Church, her sacraments, and her teaching.” If you don’t believe this, or if you believe it but still go against her, her sacraments, or her teaching, then you are living in a state of sin of which you must repent before taking communion.

    This is the reason that I, a baptized Catholic, cannot take communion…I rejected my infant baptism and was re-baptized as an adult. Some people don’t reject the sacraments, but reject the teaching…in the eyes of the church they are as far from being a faithful Catholic as me (someone who explicitly rejected the sacraments). Neither of us is welcome at the table.

  • Robin

    I should clarify I was re-baptized as an adult in a protestant church.

  • EricW


    I was Orthodox for a time. My understanding/experience is that the EOC has very few “you must believe and confess”-es that one must in good conscience affirm and not deny in order to be Orthodox and receive the Eucharist, a public and personal spiritual statement of one’s uniting oneself to the Church.

    The RCC on the other hand has several things that the faithful are required to believe and not reject, though of course it’s impossible to know what communicants really accept or reject unless it’s shared in confession (private in the RCC versus openly side-by-side with one’s priest in the EOC) or a matter of public record or action (e.g., politicians’ statements or voting records).

    Thus, one can more easily still be a communicating EO Christian even if one has reservations or disagreements with some Orthodox teachings and practices, even important ones, than one can honestly take the Eucharist in the RCC if one explicitly rejects certain teachings.

  • Tony Springer

    Whose Table is it?

  • Rick

    Tony #10-

    I am not sure if you are directing that towards the RCC, or towards those who want to challenge it.

  • Mark Z.

    You know who was invited to the Lord’s Table? Judas.

  • EricW

    10. Tony Springer:

    Depending on the church/Church, the Table is the Lord’s or it’s the Church’s (the Body of Christ’s), and has been entrusted by Christ to His bishops and priests, who confect and administer it in persona Christi.

  • Stephen Rankin

    Let’s see, Bishop Robinson is accusing the RC Church of playing politics? And why does the retired Episcopal bishop have cause to make a public criticism of another tradition? I wonder who is playing politics…

  • Steve

    The Eucharist is a gift and not a reward for good behavior. HOWEVER, that does not mean that a person cannot disqualify himself from reception of the Eucharist through bad behavior. A child who receives a gift from his parents did not earn the gift. But if the child doesn’t obey his parents, they may rightfully withhold the gift.

    Saint Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:27 – “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”

  • I’m a big “open communion” believer myself. We United Methodists place no restriction whatsoever on communion.

    I don’t know about the “doing politics” part—although every election cycle the RCC in America only goes after those Catholic Democrats who support legal abortion and gay marriage. Why stop there? Why not also excommunicate politicians who support capital punishment and acts of war that go against “just war theory”? If you haven’t noticed, the RCC has a teaching on everything.

    Besides, since the vast majority of Catholic practice birth control, how many would be left to take communion?

  • Alan K

    Somebody help me here. What is the RCC teaching on conscience?

  • EricW

    @17 Alan K:

    Article 6

    Moral Conscience

    1776 “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.… For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God.… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”47 (1954)

    I. The Judgment of Conscience

    1777 Moral conscience,48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking. (1766; 2071)

    1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law: (1749)

    Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise.… [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50

    1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection: (1886)

    Return to your conscience, question it.… Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.51

    1780 The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment. (1806)

    1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God: (1731)

    We shall … reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.52

    1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”53 (2106)

    II. The Formation of Conscience

    1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. (2039)

    1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart. (1742)

    1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path;54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55 (890)

    III. To Choose in Accord with Conscience

    1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

    1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law. (1955)

    1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. (1806)

    1789 Some rules apply in every case: (1756; 1970; 1827; 1971)

    — One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

    — the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”56

    — charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience … you sin against Christ.”57 Therefore “it is right not to … do anything that makes your brother stumble.”58

    IV. Erroneous Judgment

    1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

    1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (1704)

    1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct. (133)

    1793 If—on the contrary—the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience. (1860)

    1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.”60 (1751)

    The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.61

    In Brief

    1795 “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (GS 16).

    1796 Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act.

    1797 For the man who has committed evil, the verdict of his conscience remains a pledge of conversion and of hope.

    1798 A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience.

    1799 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

    1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

    1801 Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt.

    1802 The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed.

    (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

  • John I.

    1 Corinthians 11:27 has nothing to do with confession of sin nor with correct doctrine. It has to do with unity in the body and with excluding fellow Christians from participation in communion–with divisions in the body and not waiting for one’s brothers and sisters to arrive at the table.