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David Whyte wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can I please ask this question?

I am a 67-year-old Christian man worshipping in the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) since I was a teenager. Somewhat late in life I studied Divinity at Aberdeen University and went on to be ordained as a Minister. I retired from full-time Ministry 2 years ago and no longer have my own parish.

Where I now live, two Roman Catholic friends occasionally come to worship with me. Sometimes we celebrate the Sacrament of Communion and my friends partake of the bread and wine. In our congregation, we are very orthodox and biblical about communion. Only the ordained minister can be the celebrant. He reads Scripture: I Corinthians 11:23-26 and Matthew 26:17-35.

An invitation is made to all, who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God and acknowledge and confess their sins, believing in our full Redemption on the Cross and the Sacrifice of Jesus, to come to the Sacrament, praising God for the Grace of the Atonement. We recite the Apostles Creed and are led in a liturgy that is common to many Christian churches. This is followed by prayers and an invocation to the Holy Spirit to bless and consecrate the elements of bread and wine, that to us, they may be indeed become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

I cannot find fault with this, nor can my friends. Our sadness is that on occasions in which I attend Mass with them at Roman Catholic Churches, it is preferred that I do not come forward to share in the Sacrament.

I am so puzzled over this. Jesus sat down with His chosen Twelve, knowing:

  • that all of them would desert Him that night
  • that Peter would deny Him, and
  • that Judas would betray Him

and yet Jesus carried on with the Sacred Meal and instituted the Sacrament of Communion saying:

Do this to remembrance Me.

  • How can the Church deny anyone, who truly believes in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the opportunity to share together in the Sacrament He ordained for His followers?

Thank you for reading this. I would appreciate an answer that would help me understand the reasoning behind the Church's practices in these instances.

Yours sincerely, and with kind regards,

David Whyte

  { If they are allowed to receive at our congregation, why can't I receive at their Catholic parish? }

Mike replied:

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your good question.

This is a common question; it's even in our searchable knowledge base. There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try.

Although Presbyterians and Catholics have some teachings in common there are some major differences in what we believe.

I applaud that your congregation commemorates the Last Supper but Presbyterian ministers do not have a valid priesthood, meaning one that is sacrificial in nature. The roots of this go back to Thomas Cranmer when he changed the form (the words used) for Holy Orders. Holy Orders is the sacrament Jesus instituted that makes a priest, a priest.

One of the very few Churches that has retained valid Holy Orders is the only Church Jesus founded on St. Peter, the Catholic Church. While I'm sure your Catholic friends mean well, I don't understand why they would worship with a congregation that has a different set of beliefs than they claim to believe in.

Yes, a Protestant denomination may be more intellectually challenging or have more activities, but they have implicitly dropped or stopped believing in many teachings Jesus wishes them to believe.

As I said in another answer:

Receiving Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass is more than receiving the Body and Body of the Lord.

It is also an outward expression of those who partake in Holy Communion as having a communion or Common Union, in a common, divine faith.

No separated brethren can receive Holy Communion, not because Catholics are
un-ecumenical or uncharitable, but because, although some, like you, may believe in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, there are other teachings that we disagree with. When we receive Holy Communion we are re-affirming a common Communion in Faith.

Sadly, this doesn't prohibit Catholics from dissenting from Church teachings because the Church respects their free will to scandalize the Church.

If you truly believe in the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist that is a sign the He is calling you to full communion in His Catholic Church.

If you are interested, ponder getting a low cost Catechism on-line.

I searched the knowledge base for you and found these general web postings that should help.

Your Catholic friends would have to check with their local pastor but in some countries, like the United States, it is customary for those not disposed to receive Holy Communion to come forward with their arms crossing their chest. This is a sign to the celebrant of the Mass that the participant can't receive Holy Communion, but wishes to receive a blessing instead.

You also may be interested in my fairly new web site. It's all about the Early Church Fathers, the very first Christians who lived from 100 A.D. to around 800 A.D. up to the death of St. John Damascene:

BibleBeltCatholics.com

I hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Dave,

Your Catholic friends should not be receiving Communion in your church. They may be unaware of the restriction but they are in violation of our canons.

John

Dave replied:

Thank you Mike,

I appreciate your reply, but I have no knowledge that Thomas Cranmer had any influence on the Church of Scotland which is not Anglican. The Church of Scotland in which I worship declares its belief in the following:

The Fundamental Doctrines of the Christian Faith as contained in the Confessions of Faith of the Catholic Church, which are, The Apostle's Creed and the Creed of Nicea.

The Church of Scotland also teaches that:

"We believe the Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the
Old and New Testaments, to be the Supreme Rule of Faith and Life."

Following these Creeds and our belief in the Supremacy of the Word of God, I still cannot understand why the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations choose to exclude fellow Christians from the Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ despite Jesus sharing the bread and wine with:

  • men who would desert Him
  • one who would deny Him, and
  • one who would betray Him.

I doubt St. Peter himself would deny any believer the blessing of forgiveness and restoration that he received from a compassionate Saviour.

  • How then can any Church deny believers who come to the Sacrament in true repentance and humility?

In I Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul says, A man should examine himself before eating the bread and drinking the cup . . .

  • So then, if Jesus did not exclude any of His Apostles from the Institution of the Sacrament, and if we are supposed to examine ourselves as to receiving the Sacrament, how then can some Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, exclude those they deem to be Separated Brethren?
  • Who or what am I separated from?

Certainly not a fundamental belief in the Scriptures or a commitment to Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, all of which are foundations in my life. I believe from reading the Scriptures and particularly from studying the Words of Jesus, that there is no reason why I should be denied the fellowship of sharing fully in the Sacrament of Communion in any orthodox, Bible-believing Church.

A lot of things happened here, in the United Kingdom during what was called the Reformation, but Thomas Cranmer and others are long dead and I believe God is continually working out His purpose among His people, bringing them together in Jesus Christ and directing us again and again to His Word to lead us, under the guidance of the His Holy Spirit, to continue to be the Body of Christ in the world — the One True Church. The Body of Christ was broken once, on the Cross, for our sake and for our salvation — restored by the Father in the Resurrection.

I believe we must be very careful of doing anything that would allow the world to conclude that the Body of Christ is fragmented. Christ's Body is never fragmented for those who believe, but our human divisions may very well give the impression to the world that Christ's Body is broken. In this matter also, I believe that we should examine ourselves least we fail to serve the Lord as we should.

Thank you again for taking the trouble to reply to me. I do hope you can tell that my concern is for the face of Christ that is seen in the world when people look toward the Church.

With Kind Regards —

David Whyte

Mike replied:

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the reply.

So everyone can chip in, remember to Reply All when replying to any answer from us, so we can all pitch in to give you an overall better answer. It's my understanding that the Presbyterian church was a offshoot of the Reformation after Anglicanism.

Check out my time line of When was your church founded. By the time the Presbyterian church was founded, the Reformers had rejected Holy Orders so any ministers ordained from the Reformation had invalid Holy Orders.

You said:

  • So then, if Jesus did not exclude any of His Apostles from the Institution of the Sacrament, and if we are supposed to examine ourselves as to receiving the Sacrament, how then can some Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church ...

The Catholic Church is not a denomination. A denomination implies it is a part of the whole faith. The Catholic Faith is not part of any other faith; rather the Catholic faith is the fullness of the Christian faith.

The word Catholic itself means according to the totality of the faith. Check out my quote from
St. Pacian and St. Ignatius on the home page of my web site.

There is not one of the Twelve Apostles who would ever deny they were Catholic.

And St. Pacian implies as much from the second part of his quote on the home page:

"But, under the Apostles, you will say, no one was called a Catholic.
Grant this to have been the fact; or suppose it to have been so."

You said:
Following these Creeds and our belief in the Supremacy of the Word of God, I still cannot understand why the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations choose to exclude fellow Christians from the Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ ...

Because we don't have a unity of truth. Faith has its basis in the Truth: Jesus! What is believed in the Church of Scotland is different than what is believed by practicing Catholics.

I personally applaud the Church of Scotland for those teachings they hold in common with us but we can't treat partial agreement as total agreement otherwise the Catholic and Greek Orthodox would be one today — we agree on 99% of our teachings.

You said:
I doubt St. Peter himself would deny any believer the blessing of forgiveness and restoration that he received from a compassionate Saviour.

Your assuming St. Peter would allow someone to receive the Eucharist who doesn't believe in everything the Church teaches.

  • Can you show me the Biblical basis for your opinion that he would accept someone that doesn't believe all the Church believes?

You said:

  • How then can any Church deny believers who come to the Sacrament in true repentance and humility?

In I Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul says, A man should examine himself before eating the bread and drinking the cup . . .

First, I applaud fellow Christians who are repentant and humble, but if they don't believe certain teachings are wrong and sinful, they will never be repentant of those teachings.

It all comes back to the differences in teachings that we hold or we don't hold in common.

Your quote from 1 Corinthians 11 is an excellent quote from St. Paul. If you examine yourself and do believe all the teachings that the Catholic Church holds, you should see a pastor about becoming a Catholic.

Otherwise, because of the difference we have in teachings, if you ever when to a Catholic Mass and went up to receive the Blessed Sacrament you would be publicly and privately saying you are in a Common Union with the teachings of Jesus and His One Catholic Church, when you really are not.

You said:
I believe from reading the Scriptures and particularly from studying the Words of Jesus, that there is no reason why I should be denied the fellowship of sharing fully in the Sacrament of Communion in any orthodox, Bible-believing Church.

While I applaud your study and knowledge of the Scripture, the only way to understand the totality of the Scripture is within a context of Catholic Tradition. The Bible was written by Catholics and their ancestors, for Catholics, for use in the Catholic Mass. That's History 101.

You said:
I believe we must be very careful of doing anything that would allow the world to conclude that the Body of Christ is fragmented. Christ's Body is never fragmented for those who believe, but our human divisions may very well give the impression to the world that Christ's Body is broken. In this matter also, I believe that we should examine ourselves least we fail to serve the Lord as we should.

I respectfully disagree with your view here. As Cardinal Law said when he was bishop of Missouri:

The most ecumenical thing a Catholic can do is be unmistakably Catholic!

And I would also say that our Separated Brethren should be unmistakably themselves as well — with all our disagreements. Otherwise we are being phonies in our ecumenical dialogues.

Forget the seculars; they'll never believe anyway.

Just my two cents.

Mike

Dave replied:

Thank you Mike,

I appreciate your two cents worth more than you will know — that is until the Day of the Lord, then we will all know, for the Lord Himself will show us all things.

As for now, I am simply a seeker of Truth, and again, I do appreciate your contribution to my understanding.

The Lord Bless you and Keep you.

With Kind Regards,

David Whyte

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