When I first came to the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) parish here in Ottawa, we had open communion, in that if you believed in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and your conscience was not convicting you of any grave sin, you were welcome to receive.
Given my spiritual formation at the time about 15 years ago, I doubt I would have stuck around if I were not allowed to receive communion. I also had the “field hospital” idea popularized by Pope Francis that if I were to lead a life victorious over sin I needed the spiritual food of the Precious Body and Blood. It puzzled me the idea that in order to receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church one already had to be in a state of grace without the benefit of the Bread of Life.
And in order to become Catholic, you couldn’t even avail yourself of a sacramental Confession until your reception was imminent. I at least had the graces of baptism and an Orthodox Chrismation, but what about poor catechumens who don’t even have that? What grace is required to come to the point of full assent to Catholic teachings without the sacraments! Thankfully, God does pour out grace liberally without the benefit of sacraments to poor and contrite hearts! How much more responsibility we have as Catholics since we have all the benefits of the sacraments and the Magisterium to help us to lead holy lives.
Of course, now that I am Catholic, I go by the Church’s rules. And our Ordinariate parish welcomes only Catholics in good standing to receive Holy Communion–and that point is made at every Mass visitors are present.
Thus, I am glad we have begun a monthly Choral Evensong at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary followed by wine and cheese that allows us to invite people to visit us without the awkwardness of having to say you must stay put in the pew once Communion begins. It gives us an opportunity to worship with non-Catholics and to share some of our glorious Anglican patrimony. (BTW, we tried serving sherry, but it was not as popular as white or red wine).
For someone who believes in the grace of the sacrament, it is a great trial to be unable to receive Holy Communion. Unfortunately, receiving Holy Communion now seems to have become a prize to be fought over. The current discussion over the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried focuses on their being permitted to receive Holy Communion, as a means of recognising, tolerating or approving their state of life. In another example earlier this year, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth quite properly explained that politicians who vote in favour of abortion or same-sex marriage, thus demonstrating a lack of communion with the Church, should not receive Holy Communion.
Conor Burns MP publicly described this as a lack of welcome, something hurtful to him. Bishop Egan was hung out to dry with indecent haste when Greg Pope, head of parliamentary relations for the Bishops’ Conference, wrote to MPs saying that there were no plans to deny Holy Communion to those who voted in favour of same-sex marriage. One is left wondering how long it will be before the European Court of Human Rights issues an edict safeguarding the right of pro-abortion MPs to march up to the altar rail, and whether Bishop Egan will be left alone contra mundum in opposing it.
Why Focus on Just One Group?
What seems to be forgotten is that there are actually many people whose state of life is such that they may not receive Holy Communion, not only the divorced and remarried.