Intercommunion: the next theological ambiguity

Cardinal Walter Kasper suggests that sharing the Eucharist with non-Catholics solve pastoral problems

Pope Francis prays during a visit to the Lutheran church in Rome in November 2015. (Photo credit: Associated Press)

The following comes from a December 28 Crisis article by John M. Grondelski :

A recent issue of the Italian daily Avennire suggests the next possible front in the effort to accommodate the sacraments to “pastoral” problems (at least as Cardinal Walter Kasper sees them): intercommunion.

The December 9 issue features a brief interview in which Kasper reflects on Pope Francis’s October 31-November 1 visit to Sweden to mark the launch of the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation.

Kasper was asked about progress on the next Catholic-Lutheran ecumenical document, and replied that, over the next “two or three years” he hoped for an understanding on “Eucharistic sharing in particular instances, especially regarding mixed marriages and families, which represent a most urgent pastoral problem in countries like, for example, Germany and the United States.”

An understanding on intercommunion—especially in two or three years following half a millennium of misunderstanding—would be a miracle, something the same Cardinal Kasper warns “we should not expect.” He concedes that the “ways and places where full communion will be reached are in God’s hands,” although he apparently hopes Heaven will accelerate the schedule for the next ecumenical document.

One hopes that oneness might rapidly occur: the Lord prayed, after all, that his followers “be one” (John 17:21) at the Last Supper, their first Communion. That unity is precisely what the Master wanted as his last testament—the definitive covenant—made the night before he died. His Will is normative, something Protestants properly understood when the Reformers insisted on the “once-for-all” nature of Christ’s Sacrifice (which, however, perdures in time at every Eucharistic celebration).

But Eucharistic sharing presupposes a common faith, and that is just not there. Most generously, we can say that Lutherans diverge from Catholicism by a Eucharistic theology of consubstantiation (Jesus and bread) rather than transubstantiation (the bread becomes, is transformed into, the Body of Christ).

What is even more cogent, however, is that regardless of the theoretical truth of Lutheran Eucharistic theology, there remains the question: is there a “Eucharist” there at all? Are valid Orders to be found among Lutheran clergy?

If there is no real Eucharist to share in on their side, and no common understanding of the reality being shared in on our side, then what does “Eucharistic sharing” mean?

Back in the 1970s, the same quest for intercommunion was pushed in some circles vis-à-vis the Anglicans. They’re “almost” Catholics: the smells and bells, music and vestments seemed pretty Gothic. Only “rigid” theologians presumably questioned how we would “share” Eucharist with a group that had lost the Eucharist roughly four centuries ago, because that is when it lost valid Orders.

Advocates of intercommunion had introduced a subtle shift into their arguments. The Eucharist was no longer the real symbol of real ecclesiastical communion, the end we shared. Instead, it was a means—presumably each according to his understanding—that would drive us towards that ecclesial communion. (Pope Francis himself used an analogous approach when, answering a Lutheran woman in 2015 who asked him about intercommunion with her Catholic spouse, he equivocally described the Eucharist as “viaticum”—a technical term referring to the last Communion administered to a dying person—that might accompany those in mixed marriages on their marital way).

The progressive collapse of the Anglican Communion into ever deeper heterodoxy and the clear intent of St. John Paul II to impose theological order on the post-Conciliar Church eventually put an end to those quests. Eventually, those Anglicans who shared a common understanding of the Eucharist also found they shared a common understanding of a lot of other things with Catholics.

They shared more with Rome than with Canterbury (or at least American Episcopalians), and swam the Tiber.




  1. “…One hopes that oneness might rapidly occur: the Lord prayed, after all, that his followers “be one” (John 17:21) at the Last Supper, their first Communion. That unity is precisely what the Master wanted as his last testament—the definitive covenant—made the night before he died.”

    Jesus directed His prayer to His Heavenly Father, not to us. The faithful were told to stand fast to His teaching, not to manufacture “unity” and “oneness” based on a rejection of His teachings.

    +Kasper, with all due respect, seems to opt for pastoral play house. Pretending something for convenience sake that is not there.

  2. John Feeney says

    More of the “Fruits of Vatican II”? Will the novelties ever end?

  3. Another form of the sacred liturgy should be developed: the ECF or the Ecumenical Form. Perhaps, the Lima Liturgy could be considered. The world’s Christians must stand together or we will surely hang/die together!

  4. I read Catholic news each day wondering what fresh hell will arise. In years past it stemmed mostly from AmChurch. Now it comes from the Vatican as well.

  5. Just what some want, receiving our Lord from a man hating Lesbian claiming to be following the footsteps of Christ. Previous Popes must be turning in there graves at the Vatican.

  6. Sharing the Eucharist with non-Catholics is another step in destroying the hieracrchy of the Catholic Church and turning it into part of a one-world religion.

  7. St. Christopher says

    The only thing “ambiguous” is whether any men of Faith are running the Church these days? The institutional Catholic Church is now pretty much an institution like any other, political, full of concern about “fairness” and “ecumenism” and “diversity” and other garbage notions. Those leading the Church have lost there way, led by a quasi-Marxist, who calls evangelizing non-Catholics to join the True Faith, a “sin.”

    Christ did not invite those in sin to continue to sin while contemplating joining Him. This absurd notion — a rejection of sin — lies at the heart of today’s problems with the Church. No, “cross-communion” has no place here. It is just another point of failure being foisted on us by non-believing clerics,…

    • St. Christopher says

      (Part Deux) ” . . . who believe that we all owe them a plush living, even while they push mis-teachings, if not heresy, at us.

      2017 should be the year that members of the Church stand up, declare their faith in Christ, and demand that their clerical leaders be men of Faith. In other words, time to call out the devil for a fight, one that counts.

  8. If we believe that in the taking of communion we are receiving the true body and blood of Christ, why would we not want to share Christ with all who believe the same? Lutherans, for example, do not believe that the bread and wine are representations of the body and blood, but in fact are the body and blood of Christ. A reading of the their liturgy will show how similar it is to ours. I know that various other denominations believe in communion as a “representation” of the last supper, but many do not. Lutheran and Episcopalian are two that believe in the real presence. Is it fair, however, to ask why we are not in “communion” with them or they with us? I know the answers, but it might…

    • As I understand it, members of the Anglican Communion (including the Episcopal Church in the USA] are FREE to believe that the Eucharistic elements are the real Body and Blood of our Lord. The important thing to remember is that they ARE NOT REQUIRED to believe this to remain members in good standing. No blanket statement re the Eucharistic belief of Anglican Communion members is possible.

    • I know the answers, but it might make for a good discussion, if without polemics and fireworks. Why does our faith reject inviting others in, just because they are there? Why don’t we want to share Christ and his graces? We, the Church, has already agreed with the Lutherans on justification, why not on Communion.? Perhaps some of the Priests and theologians who visit this site could lead the discussion. The views of untrained persons is never too helpful in these kinds of discussions, but all are welcome to contribute thoughtful ideas.

      • Linda Maria says

        Bob One, this is not about nice social discussions!! Our religious beliefs are very serious! You can go to someone else’s church, without accepting their beliefs– and so can I! The Popes do it, too! Don’t you agree– it is very important for you, as a Catholic, to uphold your Faith, and kindly share it with others, when you have the opportunity?? Our teachings on the Eucharist, straight from Christ– are very exact– and very serious, very important!! Wouldn’t you want to be a deeply devout, sincere, practicing Catholic, and to lead your family in the practice of the Faith– and share your holy Faith with others, when possible??

        • Linda Maria says

          Yes, trained Church leaders should be the ones to lead interfaith discussions– but they should not be discussions– they should be lessons in the Catechism! And if other churches want to accept our Church’s teachings, fine, let them join the Catholic Church! That is all there is to it! And for those who say “no,” fine– we can all be good friends– and everyone go to their own church! That is the most HONEST way to do things, I think!

          • I think Bob One is married to a Protestant, and that is his quandary. If I remember correctly, he said that before on here. He can correct me if I am wrong.

      • Bob One, take a look at 1 Corinthians 11: 23-30 to see why those who do not believe in the True, Real, and Substantial Presence of the Lord should avoid receiving Communion at a Catholic Mass.

        Extra credit if you read the solemn (infallible) canons by the Council of Trent’s Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist– actually, reading the entire decree would be beneficial– to understand more. Canons 1, 8, and 11 directly deal with this can of worms the impious Kasper is bringing up.

  9. Well, my, my, my, here we go again!

  10. Your Fellow Catholic says

    It would be one thing if we allowed Baptized Christians not aware of serious sin to commune with us. It might be something else entirely if we were allowed to participate in a liturgy officiated by a person who has no legitimate ministry within the Catholic Church.

  11. Tony de New York says

    ‘ Is it fair, however, to ask why we are not in “communion” with them or they with us?

    Yes, is FAIR!
    We are NOT in communion because they believe what Luther and Zwingli and many, many, many other by their own authority founded their own little communities with their own theologies, their own magisterium, and their own belief.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says

      Well, I think that many Lutherans have come to the realization that in the US, their liturgies and beliefs were influenced by the protestant and often anti-Catholic American practices. So beginning around the Vactican council, they began lookin inward at their own theologies and came to understand that they had unfortunately discarded much of what was good in what they inherited from the Roman Church, and reformed accordingly. Also, the Lutheran Catholic dialogues helped them understand that Catholic understandings of things like the Real Presence, the Petrine Ministry, the role of Mary in salvation history, etc., are not actually very far at all from what they believed all along. The differences between Lutherans and Roman Catholics is…

    • Then, Tony, it would be fair if you have read the 97 Thesis (sic) posted on the door of the Church by Martin Luther. Do you agree that the Church was correct in selling indulgences to fatten its coffers? You also know, I suppose, that Luther did not suggest leaving the Church but was pushed out for questioning the Pope’s authority. The reason for “Solo Scriptura, Solo Gracia” was to avoid continuing the corruption that eminated from the Papal Palaces. History is written by the victors. We Catholics learned what our church wanted us to learn. Its like taking a class in the History of the Civil war at a northern university, but in a southern university the course is called the War of Northern Aggression.

      • St. Christopher says

        Except, “Bob One”, that it is Christ that established the Church and the Church has spoken repeatedly on this. See, e.g., the post, above, by “Fr. Michael”.

        If you believe that you have been mis-taught by the Catholic Church, then simply disavow your status within it, and leave. Many sects will be glad to have you, including the Lutherans (who reject many, many things about Catholicism and with whom we can never have “cross-communion.”). Good luck.

      • Linda Maria says

        Bob One, best not to be deceived by phony modern “liberal-leftist psycho-babble,” of desires to create a false harmony, a false world peace– by means of a fraudulent, false equalization of everyone and everything in the world– right or wrong! Another name for this type of false temporary diplomacy, is to “to go along to get along.” There is definite RIGHT and WRONG in the world! YES, Abraham Lincoln was RIGHT, to end slavery, and keep the Southern states in the Union– and he died for it! And YES the teachings of the Catholic Church were RIGHT, although some clerics in Luther’s day rightfully objected to Church abuses!! Christ calls us to stand up for what is RIGHT!!

  12. Similar not the same the Episcopalians do not believe in the real presence…. sorry

    • Some do, some do not, but those who do — mainly high church Anglicans — finally crossed the Tiber to Rome and became full-fledged Catholics. Nevertheless, even though some Anglicans (Episcopalians in the U.S.) believe in the Real Presence, they do not have it since they lost Apostolic Succession when they broke with Rome.

  13. Expect Vatican II reform/modernism to continue, but under Bergollio to accelerate exponentially. Most are naïve and haven’t been taught the true Roman Catholic faith and could careless about the watering-down of the faith to its present form in the last 50 years. This dream of the ecumenists/co-exist followers is probably not that far away from happening, all it will take is some more watering-down of the faith within another generation. What will be left of the V2 Church in 20 years? Statistics show less than 25% attend weekend services in the U.S. and 2% in Europe! They also show less than 2/3rds believe in transubstantiation! In another generation more V2 parishes will close for consolidation as fewer priestly vocations will arise…

  14. I have known people who run to one denomination and tale Communion, then run to another denomination and take their Communion and also take Communion when they go to the Catholic Church for some function. They feel deprived for some reason if they are “left” out. To my way of thinking that is just being dishonest. No one can believe all those different competing things. I have never felt like taking Communion at someone’s wedding, funeral and so forth If I do not believe in that denomination’s teachings. It is just plain hypocritical

  15. I remember when a younger priest told me that a lady brought her child to the rectory to enter him in Communion classes. When he questioned her further, she said she wanted him to take classes so he could get the “cookie” that the other children were getting. The poor priest was flabbergasted.

    With people wanting their children to have something just because other children are getting it, and they do not want them left out, even though they have no idea what it is, that explains how easy the “Rev.” Jim Jones got so many of those people to drink the poison Kool Aid at Jonestown.

    Parents use your heads, please. Just because Sally and Trent get it, does doe not mean your child should get it.

    • On the lady’s side, though, at least she did what was needed to find out about that “cookie”. Nevertheless, the priest I am sure was wondering what she had been taught all those years if she claimed to be Catholic.

  16. 95, not 97, Bob One.

  17. If you wish to return to the true Roman Catholic faith, you must deny yourselves and follow our Lord as He said. Jesus created the Roman Catholic Church not men. All others including V2 are protestant and created by men. The only narrow path of return to God is through Jesus by joining the Roman Catholic Church practicing traditional ancient Latin spoken 7 Holy Sacraments. Visit to find a parishes near you.

  18. David Jones, From what I could read of your blog you are correct, but just 40+ years late in realizing these truths. Better late than never. Sad thing is the blind deny it and the provacatiers are the wolves in sheep’s clothing!

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