The Vatican’s chief official for relations with other Christians gave a speech Friday morning. Here’s how our friends at Catholic World News led the story:
Cardinal Kasper backs “Eucharistic hospitality”
Vatican , Jun. 18 (CWNews.com) – Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has said that “Eucharistic hospitality” is licit in some circumstances.
Speaking at a major conference of German Catholics in the city of Ulm on June 18, Cardinal Kasper said that “there are circumstances when a non-Catholic can receive Communion at a Catholic Mass.”
The CWN writer suggests that the Cardinal is at odds with the Pope’s recent writings and Vatican directives on the question of non-Catholics and Holy Communion:
In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II devoted most of a chapter to the issue, stressing that non-Catholics should not receive Communion. The Pope argued forcefully that the practice of intercommunion is an offense against ecumenism, not an aid, because it creates the false impression that non-Catholics share the Church’s teaching on the nature of the Eucharist.
In the recent instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum , the Congregation for Divine Worship reiterated that stand, emphasizing that under any normal circumstances “Eucharistic hospitality” is a grave abuse.
And as you might expect, readers chimed in with expressions of outrage:
“Kaspar is an embarrassment to Catholicism. His positions are heretical and reflective of an apostate who has lost the faith….”
“Cardinal Kasper should be given the boot out of the Vatican’s door….”
“What a joke – the head of the council for Christian Unity doing everything he can to destroy unity in the Church. …”
Now, I don’t know where CWN got their impression of the Cardinal’s speech, because their article does not reflect what he said on this subject. The term “Eucharistic hospitality” does not appear in the speech. The statement about circumstances in which non-Catholics may receive Communion isn’t his opinion: he’s citing the Code of Canon Law.
All in all, I think the CWN piece misrepresents the Cardinal’s speech, so here’s the relevant passage, available from the conference website (my translation):
The Question of Eucharistic Sharing
The question of sharing of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper remains. For us the Eucharist is the Sacrament of Faith. “The mystery of faith”, we say, every time after the words of institution or consecration. At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer the assembled community responds to it with “Amen”: “Yes, we believe,” and at the reception of Communion each individual repeats this “Amen”: “Yes, this is the Body of Christ”. This “Amen” of course means more than a purely intellectual assent to a dogma: it is a Yes that must be given with one’s life and must be clothed with a Christian life. For this reason there can be no general open invitation to Communion, even for Catholics.
The basis for admission to the Eucharist is the question of whether one can say “Amen” with the whole assembled community at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and at the reception of Communion with an honest heart: “Amen” to what happens in the celebration of the Eucharist according to the Catholic Faith; and whether one is bearing witness to this “Amen” with one’s life. Luther and Calvin would not have been able or willing to speak such an “Amen”, because their protest against the papacy was aimed most strongly against the Mass. Thanks be to God, we have come a fair way along with the Lutherans over this question; but even today there are still serious differences.
So the rule of thumb holds: one goes to Communion in the Church to which one belongs. There are good biblical reasons for this rule (1 Cor. 10:17) and a long common tradition that reaches all the way to the ’70s of the twentieth century.
Alongside this basic rule there is a second one. The Council says: “the grace to be obtained” commends common worship in some cases (Decree on Ecumenism, 10). [Trans. note: actually #8. –RC] Similarly the Catholic code of canon law says: “The salvation of souls is the supreme law” (CIC c. 1752). For this reason canon law foresees that in certain extraordinary situations a non-Catholic Christian, providing that he shares the eucharistic faith and witnesses it in his life, can be admitted to Communion (CIC. c. 844; Instruction “Redemptoris sacramentum”, 85). Naturally all the thinkable individual situations cannot be listed in the canons; canon law sets a binding framework, within which one can act responsibly as a pastor.
The Pope wrote in a more spiritual manner about the meaning of the provisions of canon law in the 1995 encyclical on ecumenism. He writes that it is “a reason for joy, that Catholic priests in certain individual cases can confer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick upon other Christians who do not yet stand in full communion with the Catholic Church, but earnestly desire the reception of these Sacraments, ask for them at their own initiative, and manifest the faith that the Catholic Church confesses in these Sacraments” (Ut unum sint, 46). This sentence from the ecumenism encyclical was apparently so important for the Pope that he quoted it in full in his encyclical on the Eucharist in 2003 (Ecclesia de eucharistia, 46).
I have confidence that our priests possess sufficient pastoral and spiritual sensitivity to find solutions, along the line given by the Pope, in agreement with the bishop, that do justice to the respective personal situations and varied circumstances.
To label the foregoing statement as an endorsement of “Eucharistic hospitality” is seriously misleading, and deserves a correction.
[Note: The German text of the speech is available on-line as a document in MS format.]