So, do you think this is a good idea?

Fr Hunwicke muses about a generous application of canon law provisions concerning the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

He writes:

I do, however, feel that the Ordinariates, given their own particular charism, ought to utilise the currentcanonical arrangements so as to be generous to those Anglican Catholics who, while repudiating the present policies of the Church of England, still, for whatever reason, linger the other side of the Tiber. Let us examine those current arrangements.

The Catholic Ecumenical Directory, to which Longly referred, deals sensibly and straightforwardly with the question of sacramental sharing between Catholics and non-Catholics. I do not propose to look at the norms concerning such sharing between Catholics and members of those Churches whose sacraments are accepted as valid by the Church. Nor at the rules concerning Catholics and the sacramental celebrations of ecclesial bodies where the Church does not discern sacramental validity; but simply at the admission of non-Catholics to Catholic sacraments. I have in mind particularly the Mission and Apostolate, in terms of its own specific charism, of the English Ordinariate.

I will not repeat all the provisions of Canon 844, or of Directory Paragraphs 129ff., nor of the 1998 document of the (English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish) Hierarchy One Bread One Body. I will start with the following: the Church “recognises that in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments [of the Eucharist, Penance, and Unction] may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial bodies”[my italics]. The conditions “are that the person be unable to have recourse for the sacrament desired to a minister of his or her own Church or ecclesial Community, ask for the sacrament of his or her own initiative, manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament, and be properly disposed”. It is understood that “unable” does not mean simply physically unable, but extends to morallyunable.

I remember when Archbishop John Hepworth speculated about this back in the days when he was trying to sell Anglicanorum coetibus to those of Anglican Catholic Church of Canada flock who were not quite ready to sign on the dotted line they believed everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true.  He indicated this particular canon law provision could kick in.   And it’s kind of sad to think of the people we lost—good people with sincere struggles over a doctrine here or there but who were essentially far more Catholic than the average Catholic in the pew in terms of their beliefs—because they would no longer be able to receive Communion once we were received into the Catholic Church.

He was laughed at in some quarters for suggesting it.  And given how obedient we are here in Canada I certainly do not see this happening here.  But Fr. Hunwicke is widely respected and will not engender scorn for making these comments, though I am sure there will be disagreement.

We used to, in Ottawa,  have an open Communion policy before we entered the Catholic Church.   We had the exhortations from the BCP about taking the Blessed Sacrament unworthily (Christmas and Easter?) and we were told we were welcome to receive the Sacrament if we were not aware of any grave, unconfessed sin and if we believed in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist.

I liked that approach because I saw myself in need of the healing power of Holy Eucharist to transform me and thought it kind of odd the Catholic Church insists you be fully transformed and in a state of grace before you can receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.   And in some of the things Pope Francis has said recently I see echoes of my previous thought.  He told Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa this recently (my bolds):

“When I speak of prudence I do not think of it in terms of an attitude that paralyses but as the virtue of a leader. Prudence is a virtue of government. So is boldness.  One must govern with boldness and prudence. I spoke about baptism and communion as spiritual food that helps one to go on; it is to be considered a remedy not a prize. Some immediately thought about  the sacraments for remarried divorcees, but I did not refer to any specific cases; I simply wanted to point out a principle. We must try to facilitate people’s faith, rather than control it. Last year in Argentina I condemned the attitude of some priests who did not baptise the children of unmarried mothers. This is a sick mentality.”

But now I’m Catholic and I abide by the Catholic Church’s rules and try to think with the Church on these matters.  I doubt, however, I would have stuck around back in the days of first coming to the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, if I had been refused communion.

And I doubt I would have stuck around in the Baptist Church if they had forced me to sign say the Nicene Creed in order to become a member.

Now, of course, I see the importance of believing an Apostolic faith, but I did not get it back then, and had I been barred from membership for not getting it, would I still be wandering around in gnosticism, a lonely pilgrim?

I have so much to be thankful for because of the way God has sought me, wooed me, gently nudged me along to where I am now.

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6 Responses to So, do you think this is a good idea?

  1. Pingback: So, do you think this is a good idea? | Catholic Canada

  2. EPMS says:

    On the one hand, in many if not all Canadian dioceses the priest presiding at a funeral or wedding is required to print and/or read a statement reminding attendees that only members of the Catholic church in good standing are welcome to Communion. On the other hand, I have never known anyone who requested permission to receive before a service began to be turned down. Those who go through diocesan channels, referred to above, are also generally successful. As you have commented before, Mrs Gyapong, the average Catholic in the pew is astounded if a Christian friend declines to join them in the Communion line-up.

  3. Rev22:17 says:


    You wrote: I remember when Archbishop John Hepworth speculated about this back in the days when he was trying to sell Anglicanorum coetibus to those of Anglican Catholic Church of Canada flock who were not quite ready to sign on the dotted line they believed everything the Catholic Church teaches as revealed to be true. He indicated this particular canon law provision could kick in.

    Yes, this is in fact accurate. The Catholic Church does allow baptized Christians who (1) have a faith in the respective sacraments consistent with the doctrine of the Catholic Church and (2) do not have access to ministers of their own communion to request and receive the sacraments of reconciliation, communion, and anointing of the sick from Catholic ministers thereof, provided that there is no danger of scandal. The first condition is presumed in the case of members of the churches of the Orthodox Communion, any of the ancient oriental churches, and the churches of the Union of Scranton, but Anglo-Catholics also would meet it without question. If all of the clergy of a parish of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) were to join the Catholic Church, the members of the parish would meet this requirement so long as the remainder of the TAC parish remained without TAC clergy.

    You wrote: And I doubt I would have stuck around in the Baptist Church if they had forced me to sign say the Nicene Creed in order to become a member.

    Here, it depends what one means by “membership.” Catechumens enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults are, in some sense, members of the Catholic Church. They receive Christian formation according to their progress in the faith, participate in the fellowship of the community of faith, and, in the event of death, receive full Christian burial. Catechumens, however, do not possess the fullness of membership, and are not entitled to receive any of the other sacraments until they are baptized.


  4. Christopher William McAvoy says:

    What Fr. Hunwicke is suggesting is heresy. It is against the safeguarding of the unity of the faith. Reception of the eucharist symbolizes complete total absolute unity in faith.

    “This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.”

    “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
    Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. “

    • Christopher William McAvoy says:

      Those who decide to receive the true eucharist from the true faith and later return to regurlarly receive a false eucharist from a false faith that rejects the true Church could be seen as defiling themselves and blaspheming God. However, out of ignorance, God surely has mercy on them…. nevertheless it ought not ever be encouraged. That is when the clergy themselves lead their flocks astray.

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