No point in obtaining Eucharist by deceit

Published October 1, 2002

Dear editor,

Having read several times over the last month the letter from your Prague correspondent (Anglicans incognito, June 2002), I cannot dispel my initial reaction to it, which was to find its thrust disturbing.

John McKillop suggests that traveling Anglicans should have no problems receiving the Eucharist by attending Roman Catholic mass as long as they do not overtly show their Anglican identity. But the aim of attending a mass is surely not just to celebrate a festive occasion. The true purpose of any mass is to celebrate Christ?s sacrifice for us on the cross and the redemption for our sins gained through that sacrifice.

Now just what is the point of seeking forgiveness for our sins from Christ during the Eucharist and then committing another one, obtaining that Eucharist by deceit? Why not simply approach the communion rail, show that you are an Anglican by kneeling as you normally do, and cross your arms over your chest. The priest will bless you and Christ will surely extend to you his redemption just as if you were receiving the Eucharist – and you will not be committing another sin.

The writer is no doubt expressing a common Anglican complaint that we offer communion to any baptized Christian yet Roman Catholics do not reciprocate. I am not so sure that we should be so complacent about our practice which, in contrast to the rigid structure of the Roman tradition, is surely casual in the extreme: visitors generally are offered no information as to what it means to receive the Eucharist in the Anglican tradition and baptized Christians becoming regular communicants in an Anglican parish are not required to take any formal training.

By contrast, any applicant to become a Roman Catholic communicant must undertake training in their entire catechism that will generally extend over a year.

The simple fact is that we are not in full communion with the Roman branch of the holy catholic church and are not likely to be in the foreseeable future. A true ecumenical approach to this situation is to engage in dialogue with people like the clergy at the Roman church in Prague and discover the impediments that are standing in the way of full communion with the other branches of the holy catholic church. You may rightly disagree with the reasons given but at least you would know them and the very act of dialogue is likely to bring some ecumenical sympathy from the other party.

John Matthews


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