It is true that in normal circumstances — Sunday or weekday Mass — non-Catholic Christians are not supposed to receive holy Communion in the Catholic Church. But there are exceptions as noted in Canon 844.4: “If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer (penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick) licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”
Why this restriction? When a person receives holy Communion in a Catholic Church, not only are they receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but they are also making a statement that they believe and accept all that the Catholic Church teaches and that they are “in communion” with the Church. Many times people do not understand that second part because it has never been explained to them. If by some grace the person does, in fact, “believe and confess all that the Church believes and teaches,” then they are truly Catholic in their mind and heart and should formalize that situation by taking the next step and joining the Catholic Church.
It is completely understandable that a non-Catholic Christian who believes that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior would really want to receive holy Communion, would really want to be united to Jesus Christ. However, we should patiently explain that there is more to it than that when they receive Communion. If they really, really want to receive holy Communion in the Catholic Church under normal circumstances, then they should join the Catholic Church which is open to all — young and old, rich and poor, man and woman, saint and sinner.
Everyone is welcome, but in order to come into the banquet, you must first step through the door — you cannot remain outside.
Rev. Francis Hoffman, J.C.D., Executive Director of Relevant Radio. Follow him on his Facebook page “Father Rocky.”