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Al Foytek wrote:

Hi, guys —

  1. Is a Catholic required to believe all that the Church proposes for belief?
    i.e. Is a mortal sin not to?

  2. Where is this stated?

  3. Can a Catholic receive Holy Communion if they do not believe all that the Church proposes for belief, i.e.
    • all the Catechism
    • all the Church's doctrines
    • what the Magisterium teaches
    • and what Bishop says, etc.?

Al

  { Can a Catholic receive Holy Communion if they do not believe all that the Church proposes? }

John replied:

Hi, Al —

Thanks for your question.

Catholicism is not a buffet or a cafeteria. One cannot be 99% Catholic, just as one cannot be 99% pregnant.

It is a binary proposition; one is either Catholic, or not. That means one must believe all that the Church proposes in matters of faith and morals.

  • That doesn't mean one has to fully understand everything.
  • It doesn't mean one isn't expected to struggle with certain doctrines.

Faith, often times, seeks understanding. That's what mature faith does. In those matters with which one struggles, one must at least submit and acknowledge that despite any personal struggle with the doctrine, we acknowledge Holy Mother Church is infallible in these matters and therefore She is right even though we don't see it.

Heresy, is the obstinate post baptismal denial of a truth necessary to believe for our salvation;
so if one refuses to submit to a doctrine, one is in heresy and therefore in grave sin. In this case, one should abstain from receiving the Eucharist. That doesn't mean you can't have doubts, or struggles, or lack of understanding but you can't deny a matter of faith and morals and you certainly can't openly dissent.

So for example, those who believe:

  • in legal abortion
  • same sex marriage, or
  • dissent from the Church's teaching on the artificial contraception

should abstain from receiving the Eucharist. Communion is a sign of unity with the Church.
One can't be in unity if one dissents in matter of faith and morals. Nevertheless, they should still go to Sunday Mass and  pray for guidance in the areas where they struggle with the Church's teachings.

John

Al replied:

Thank you,

I was afraid that was the answer.

I was baptized as a baby into the Church, received my First Communion, and was an alter boy
fifty years ago. I stopped going to Mass when my parents did; I was twelve then. It has been a circuitous route back to its doors. I know many Catholics, but none who know all of what the Church teaches and none who believe all it teaches. They think it is OK not believe all the Church teaches, however, I heard Father Corapi say one must believe all the Church teaches or be in sin.

  • How can one believe what they do not know?

My Bible study led me to study the teachings of Catholicism. I found myself in agreement with many of its doctrines and positions contrary to those in Protestant churches.  I have been reading for about nine months now and still do not know all that the Catholic Church proposes for belief in faith and morals. I have no problem with any of the moral teachings. It is more the rules, rites, and other areas that bring up questions.

I have come across a few areas where there seems to be a divergence. I cannot get a good answer anywhere to support certain practices in the Church. e.g.

  • Why is water put into the wine, to be changed into the blood of our Savior?

I know Saint Justin mentions water being combined with the wine in his first Apology, but that was about 100 years into the life of the Church and he does not say why it is done. Jesus did not dilute the wine before commanding the disciples to drink.

  • Why doesn't the Church offer the blood of our Savior to those receiving Holy Communion?

Jesus said the blood is His life, but I have yet to see a Church do this, though I have heard some do. I also see the priest and deacons doing this.

  • Why not everyone?

Al

John replied:

Hi, Al —

Well, first of all, if you don't know what the Church teaches, you can't be held responsible to believe it.

Secondly, you need to separate official Church teaching in matters of faith and morals from practices, disciplines, and Rites in the Church.

Mingling water with wine as part of the Liturgy is not an essential matter of faith. If it's not done, it doesn't invalidate the sacrament, although it is illicit.

The water represents us and the mingling of water and wine symbolizes our uniting ourselves to Christ in His Sacrifice, by offering Him ourselves.

The Church does, in fact, offer both the Body and the Precious Blood at many Masses. In the Eastern Rite, it's is at every Mass by intinction; however, it's not necessary.

The Body is not just the Body, it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, sacramentally present.
In other words, if you receive either OR both the Body and Blood, you receive Jesus (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity). That's why at many Masses, only one species is offered for convenience sake.

But again, this is a practice. It's fine to offer one species, just as it's fine to offer both.
What we must believe is that both are sacramentally Jesus.

It's also perfectly fine if you prefer to receive both consecrated species (the consecrated host and consecrated wind|the body and blood of Our Lord), so long as you don't deny that Jesus is fully present in both.

Does that help?

John

Al replied:

Yes, thank you very much.

Your prior answers were also helpful. I do accept that I cannot understand everything, and in some areas, without an authority. I would not even have an answer I could depend on.

I am going to share this with my wife. She is even more confused than I.

We want to go to true Communion, but do not want to violate Church teaching.

God Bless You All and have a wonderful weekend.

Al

John replied:

Al —

I wouldn't get too scrupulous about this. The fact is you seem to be accepting of the Church's authority to teach in the area of faith and morals. That is sufficient for you to receive Communion with a clear conscience.

The standard is that you are not willingly and obstinately denying a truth of the faith. This applies to serious matters of faith.

  • You don't deny anything in the Creed do you?
  • You don't deny the Church's moral Teachings on matters such as:
    • abortion
    • artificial contraception, or
    • same sex marriage, do you?

That's about all that can be expected from the average Catholic who has a fundamental faith formation. No one expects you to understand the nuances of the Dogmatic Constitutions of the Council of Trent.

So relax and go to Communion, so long as you don't have a mortal sin to confess.

John

Eric replied:

Hi, Al —

You said:
I was baptized as a baby into the Church, received my First Communion, and was an alter boy fifty years ago. I stopped going to Mass when my parents did; I was twelve then. It has been a circuitous route back to its doors. I know many Catholics, but none who know all of what the Church teaches and none who believe all it teaches. They think it is OK not believe all the Church teaches, however, I heard Father Corapi say one must believe all the Church teaches or be in sin.

Canon Law sets out the laws that apply to Catholics. This is what it says:

Canon 205 Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.

["Communion" is a concept that means, among other things, sharing in the faith received from the Apostles, that is, the faith as articulated and proclaimed by the teaching office of the Church. See the Catechism #949. "Fully in the communion of the Catholic Church" means having faith in everything the Catholic Church proposes as worthy of faith. The Eucharist, or Communion, is an external sign that one accepts and is in full communion with the Catholic Church.]

Canon 209 §1. The Christian faithful, even in their own manner of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church.

[In other words, the Christian faithful are always obliged, among other things, to accept with faith that which the teaching office of the Church proposes as worthy of faith.]

§2. With great diligence they are to fulfill the duties which they owe to the universal Church and the particular church to which they belong according to the prescripts of the law.

Canon 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

Canon 748 §1. All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and his Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know.

Canon 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively.

Canon 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Canon 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

Canon 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

Canon 753 Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

Canon 754 All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.

You said:

  • How can one believe what they do not know?

My Bible study led me to study the teachings of Catholicism. I found myself in agreement with many of its doctrines and positions contrary to those in Protestant churches.  I have been reading for about nine months now and still do not know all that the Catholic Church proposes for belief in faith and morals. I have no problem with any of the moral teachings. It is more the rules, rites, and other areas that bring up questions.

Well rules and rites are human things, and don't pertain to faith. While you are required to observe them, you are not required necessarily to agree with them.

You said:
I have come across a few areas where there seems to be a divergence. I cannot get a good answer anywhere to support certain practices in the Church. e.g.

  • Why is water put into the wine, to be changed into the blood of our Savior?

I know Saint Justin mentions water being combined with the wine in his first Apology, but that was about 100 years into the life of the Church and he does not say why it is done. Jesus did not dilute the wine before commanding the disciples to drink.

This symbolizes the two natures of Christ: divine and human. It can also be said to represent the water and wine that flowed from Jesus's side after his death. (John 19:34)

You said:

  • Why doesn't the Church offer the blood of our Savior to those receiving Holy Communion?

Jesus said the blood is His life, but I have yet to see a Church do this, though I have heard some do. I also see the priest and deacons doing this.

  • Why not everyone?

I'm surprised you haven't seen this. It is quite common in Catholic parishes to offer the Precious Blood. In any case, Jesus is fully present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in either the Precious Blood or the Host, so doctrinally, it doesn't make a difference. There may be various reasons why it isn't done:

  • It requires employing many Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, an idea strongly frowned upon by Rome (though more excusable for purposes of administering the Precious Blood).
  • There is more of a danger of sacrilege (through spillage).
  • There is a danger of spreading disease, and during the SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) scare, a while back, some dioceses forbade it.
  • There is also the danger that people will get the erroneous impression that they need to receive both the Precious Blood and the Host in order to receive the whole Christ. (This reason is why the practice was abandoned for centuries.)
  • Or, it could be as simple as that the priest is grossed out by having to drink afterward all the remaining Precious Blood that everyone has drunk from.

Hope this helps,

Eric

Al replied:

Thank you so much for your work in providing me with canonical references from the Church.
I will study this and try to digest it fully. I see where Father Corapi is coming from.

  • Can you suggest an online source for Cannon law?

  • One thing puzzles me. If people must believe fully in Catholic teaching to participate in Communion services, why is it that the Catholic Church allows Orthodox Christians communion when they do not believe all the Catholic Church teaches?

Thank You All for your expert help.

May God Bless you this day!

Al

Eric replied:

Hi, Al —

You said:
Can you suggest an online source for Cannon law?

The Holy See has it available.
http://www.vatican.va/archive/cdc/index.htm

You said:
One thing puzzles me. If people must believe fully in Catholic teaching to participate in Communion services, why is it that the Catholic Church allows Orthodox Christians communion when they do not believe all the Catholic Church teaches?

One can argue whether this discipline is a wise one or not, but the reason is because what we believe is so close to what they believe if:

  • they opt on their own initiative to receive Communion and
  • have permission from their bishop

they can receive The Sacrament.

Eric

Al replied:

Thank you so much for the clarifications.

Yes, I know a lot of Catholics who know what the Church teaches but do not agree with her, because I use to ask some of them the questions I have posed here.

I have issues with the practice of the Church declaring sins not supported by Scripture or supported by the Early Church Fathers, like not going to Church on Sunday. I always try to go to Church on Sunday but do not think it a sin, not to. I:

  • listen to preachers all week long
  • love to listen to and watch EWTN
  • read my Bible
  • pray daily, and
  • read about the saints. (they are my heroes, I so want to be like them.)

Nevertheless, I think I need the grace of Confession, Holy Communion and all the other graces
I can get to even begin to approach the life of a saint.

I get a lot of spiritual input and inspiration all week long. I love the Mass; it is the most meaningful worship service I know. I sometimes go during the week when I can. Not going to Church on Sunday would be a strange thing to me, but not one I'd consider a sin. I guess I would classify it as a bad choice and if done consistently; a choice that can certainly lead to sin if there were not offsetting influences, like going to Church on Wednesdays.

Since I don't know all the Catholic Church has taught, I don't know if I would disagree with other teachings I haven't learned yet. I do understand the need for authority in teachings. In regards to Mary, indulgences and infallibility, I can accept that I may be wrong. With things like going to Church on Sunday, I do not believe it is a mortal sin.

  • Would it be okay to receive Holy Communion with my thinking?

I am not being flippant. I honestly want to understand what the Church wants from a communicant. I do not want to disrespect Christ in the Eucharist. I have been told I am Catholic, just a bad one. I am trying to be good by being honest, respecting the Catholic Church by not violating its rules, and, yet, not live a lie — which I see many doing. As much as I want to receive Holy Communion, I will not disrespect this sacrament by partaking, when I should not.

May God Bless each one of you,

Al

Mary Ann replied:

Al —

A child of 8 obviously doesn't know all that the Church teaches, and yet can receive Communion.

Most adults these days don't know a lot of what the Church teaches, and might not like it if they did! It is not necessary for a communicant to both know and accept everything. It is necessary that one not reject a Church teaching that has been declared part of Revelation, or reject the Church as Teacher.

One can have doubts, problems, not understand, be praying about certain teachings, and not like some authentic teachings without sinning. There may also be some teachings people think are teachings of the Church, but are only teachings of a particular pastor, nun or individual.
In addition, one can certainly reject teachings that pertain to prudential matters only, and are not part of the Deposit of Faith, though one may err in doing so.

Anyway, that's why a Catechism is a good resource for an adult. The point is, not that Eucharist is restricted to those who know and believe everything, but that it is restricted to those who share the one Faith revealed to the apostles by Jesus and passed down by the Church.

One must not be in a state of adamant refusal or truth of doctrine or a truth of morality.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Al —

First, I applaud you that you get so much spiritual input and inspiration all week long. Nevertheless, the ten commandments are not the ten options. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and most of our brother Christians throughout the world believe when the Lord gave Moses the third commandment it wasn't because God wanted to be a pain in our side, but for our own good. In obedience to Our Blessed Lord, receiving the Blessed Sacrament in a state of grace at Sunday Mass, is for our own good. By receiving the Eucharist on Sunday, we are able to discern good, holy choices from ones that are not good and unholy for the entire week.

If you want to ensure you believe all that the Church wants you to believe, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover. After that read the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a GREAT second read because, similar to the work we do at AskACatholic.com, it is ALL in a question and answer format.

As my colleagues have said, in order to receive the Blessed Sacrament in a state of grace you should believe all that the Church teaches. If you disagree with the Church on an issue of faith or morals, still make your Sunday obligation by going to Mass without receiving, but spend some extra time that day going over the issues you are struggling with.

If you are having difficulties with a teaching on faith or morals but TRUST that the Church is right, in your mind and by your actions, you may receive Holy Communion. Remember what John Henry Newman said:

ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.

Hope this helps,

Mike
[Continued here]

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