Few days ago one of the readers has asked me to publish difference between Catholic Church and Protestan church on the view of the Holy Communion. Here is a brif extract from Catholic web page first this is the followed with the teachings from Evangelical/Protestant point of view.
Hope you will find this informative and helpful.
Defend the word
Catholic View of the Communion
In recent years, we have seen an increase number of Catholics who have been receiving communion at Orthodox and Protestant churches. Their argument for doing so is that the communion services of all religions are equal. Furthermore, Catholic priests and laity have invited non-Catholics to receive communion in the Catholic Church. This exchange of communion is called “inter-communion.” “Inter-communion” means that the believer of one faith (religion) receives communion in another faith (religion) while attending their service.
What does the Catholic Church say about “inter-communion?” Can a Roman Catholic believer receive communion while attending the service of another faith (religion)? With the exception of believers who belong to Rites that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, “under no circumstances” is it allowed for a Roman Catholic to receive communion from ministers who are not of the Roman Catholic faith.
Defending the position of the Roman Catholic Church on the subject of inter-communion since December, 1997, His Eminence, Dr Desmond Connell, the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, stated that “under no circumstances” is it permissable for a Roman Catholic believer to receive communion from a Protestant minister. His statement is to be praised for openly speaking the truth in defense of the Roman Catholic faith, in accordance with Church Canon Law # 844.1.
“Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to Catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from Catholic ministers.” [Canon # 844.1]
Can someone of another faith (religion) receive communion while attending a Roman Catholic service? Only those who belongs to Rites that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church can receive communion within the Catholic Church. This excludes the Orthodox and Protestant Churches because they do not hold the Catholic belief that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. The presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (consecrated host) is often referred to as the “Real Presence.”
Why does the Roman Catholic Church have this law in place? When a Roman Catholic believer receives the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (communion), he is making a statement that he is “in full communion” (“in full communion” means “in full agreement, without exception, with all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.”) with those who are present and who are also partaking in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Communion with members of non-Catholic faiths such as the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, the United Church, etc… is incomplete because the believers of the Roman Catholic and those of other faiths do not share the same faith (belief) about, for example, the Eucharist. While Roman Catholics believe in the continued Divine Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist after the celebration of the Holy Mass, other faiths do not share in this belief. Some of our separated brothers and sisters believe that the consecration of the bread and wine is either symbolic or in memory of the Last Supper, rejecting the firm belief that Roman Catholics affirm, that the bread and wine are actually transformed into and remains as the Body and Blood of Christ until consumed.
Why is it that on the Sunday of Unity Week, some ministers of Protestant Churches were invited to con-celebrate the Holy Mass in Catholic Churches and even receive the Consecrated bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ? First of all, while it cannot be denied that such actions have taken place and continue to take place, this practice opposes the sound teachings of the Catholic Church that are found in the Canon Laws and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Secondly, those who implement such actions in the spirit of ecumenism are doing so to bring about a man-made unity that compromises their faith and permits all forms of liturgical scandals to take place. They fall short of perceiving that the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ transcends all human powers and gifts. This can only be miraculously achieved by the grace of the heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Thirdly, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the supreme expression of unity and not a means towards unity. When the Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, he went on to remind them: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” [Ephes. 4:4-5]
Given this understanding of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in false ecumenism, there can only be Eucharistic Communion. There cannot be true “inter-communion” because the term “inter-communion” in conjunction with a practice that opposes true “inter-communion” is a contradiction. To share the common cup while still maintaining fundamental differences in faith, order and ministry does not make sense because it violates a major element of the meaning and significant of the Eucharist.
Fourthly, ecumenism can only be built on clarity, charity, truth and love. To compromise the apostolic truths (such as the “Eucharistic Presence”) of the Roman Catholic Church is to silently reject some or all of the sound doctrines of the Church. For there cannot be two truths, one opposing the other! As such, it can only be concluded that he who rejects the apostolic truth that is found in the Catholic faith, has withdrawn himself from the sound doctrines of the Catholic faith to embrace a different faith, a truth that opposes the one Spirit of Truth. By compromising the one truth, he can no longer call himself a “Roman Catholic” faithful!
Nor can he continue to receive the Sacraments since he has rejected one or more teachings of the Catholic Church.
Reply to the Sacraments question and communion this world view is held by Protestants.
More important than the differences over baptism is the disagreement about communion. Roman Catholic scholars argue that Jesus’ words should be taken in a physical sense when he said of the bread and wine “This is my body” and when he said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” But evangelicals believe there are several good reasons for rejecting this interpretation.
It is not necessary to take these phrases literally. Jesus’ words need not be taken in the literal sense of ingesting his actual physical body and blood. Jesus often spoke in metaphors and figures of speech.65 He said, “I am the gate” (John 10:9) and “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), and Roman Catholic scholars do not take these statements literally, even though they come from the same book that records “This is my body”! It is, therefore, not necessary to take Jesus literally when he said “this is my body” or “eat my flesh.” Jesus often spoke in graphic parables and figures, as he himself said (Matt. 13:10–11). As we shall see, these can be understood from the context.
It is not plausible to take Jesus’ words literally. In response to the Catholic argument, first of all, the vividness of the phrases are no proof of their literal intent. The Psalms are filled with vivid figures of speech. God is depicted as a rock (Ps. 18:3), a bird (Ps. 63:7), a tower (Prov. 18:10), and many other ways in Holy Writ. Yet Catholic scholars do not take these to have a literal, physical referent. Further, the Bible often uses the language of ingesting in a figurative sense. “O taste and see that the Lord is good” is a case in point (Ps. 34:9 nkjv). The apostle John himself was told to eat a scroll (God’s word) in the Apocalypse: “Take and swallow it.” John did and said, “when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour” (Rev. 10:9–10). What could be more vivid? This, however, was all part of a vision John had referring to his receiving God’s word (the scroll). Even Peter tells young believers, “like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk” (1 Pet. 2:2). And the writer of Hebrews speaks of mature Christians eating “solid food” (5:14) and of others who “tasted the heavenly gift” (6:4).
Neither is it necessary, as Catholic scholars suggest, to take flesh and blood literally because this phrase was used that way in many places in other contexts. The same words have different meanings in different contexts. The word “flesh” (Gk: sarx) is used in the New Testament in a spiritual, non-physical sense of the fallen nature of human beings, such as when Paul said, “I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18; cf. Gal. 5:17). Meaning is discovered by context, not simply by whether the same or similar words are used. The same words are used in very different ways in different contexts. Even the word “body” (Gk: soma), which means a physical body when used of an individual human being sometimes means the mystical body of Christ, the church, in other contexts (cf. Eph. 1:22–23), as both Catholics and Protestants acknowledge.
The fact that some of Jesus’ listeners apparently took his words literally (John 6:52) without his explicit and immediate rebuke is not a good argument. Jesus rebuked their understanding, at least implicitly, when he said later in the same discourse, “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).66 To borrow a phrase from Paul, Jesus’ words are to be “judged spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Matt. 16:17), not in a gross physical sense. Also, Jesus did not have to rebuke them explicitly in order for their interpretation to be wrong, since a literalistic understanding in this context would have been so unreasonable that no disciple would have expected the Lord to be making such an absurd statement. After all, if the disciples had taken these words literally they could have thought he was suggesting cannibalism.
Neither is the appeal to an alleged miraculous transformation of the elements called for in this context. The only miracle in this connection is the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:11), which was the occasion for this discourse on the bread of life (John 6:35). An appeal to miracles of transubstantiation here is deus ex machina; that is, it is a vain attempt to evoke God to keep an implausible interpretation from collapsing.
Finally, appeal to the church fathers to support the Trentian dogma of transubstantiation is poorly grounded for many reasons. First, as even Catholic scholars admit, the Fathers were by no means unanimous in their interpretation, and yet Trent speaks of the “unanimous consent of the Fathers” as the means of determining true apostolic tradition. But some Fathers clearly opposed the idea of taking literally the phrase “this is my body.” Second, many of the Fathers simply supported the idea of Jesus’ real presence in the communion, not that the elements were literally transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. So the later dogma of transubstantiation cannot be based on any early or unanimous consent of the Fathers which Catholics claim for it.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, whose roots are at least as old as the Roman church, has always held a mystical view of Christ’s presence in the communion but never the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation (see Appendix A).67 Likewise, the Lutheran understanding, which rejects transubstantiation, appeals to the same Fathers in support of their view over against Catholicism. Finally, as noted before, the Fathers had only a fallible interpretation of the infallible Word. They could be—and often were—wrong. So there is no reason why they could not be wrong on this issue as well.
The mass shows no evidence of the miraculous. The Roman Catholic response to the foregoing arguments is that the mass is a miracle and, therefore, appealing to the normal, natural way of observing things is irrelevant. Miracles are not normal occurrences. This strategy, however, will not work, since the mass shows absolutely no evidence of being a miracle.
First, using the same kind of reasoning to try to justify an invisible material substance miraculously replacing the empirically obvious signs of bread and wine, one could justify the belief in Santa Claus at Christmas or a little invisible gremlin moving the hands on one’s watch. Transubstantiation is literally not sensible, even though its object is a sensible (i.e., physical) body. Philosophically, it is an empirically unknowable event in the empirical world, and theologically, it is a matter of pure faith. Catholics must simply believe what the teaching magisterium tells them, namely, that the host is really Jesus’ body, even though their senses tell them otherwise.
Second, if the mass is a miracle, then virtually any natural empirical event could also be a miracle, since miracles could be happening without any empirical evidence they were. This is like a physical resurrection without an empty tomb. If this is true, then nothing is a miracle. Hence, claiming that the mass is a miracle undermines the very nature of miracles themselves, at least as special events with apologetic value.
Third, it is futile for Catholic apologists to appeal to special divine appearances (theophanies) in an attempt to avoid these criticisms, for in so doing they overlook a very important difference. When God himself appears in a finite form it is an obvious miraculous appearance that one knows clearly is not a normal event. That is, there are supernatural manifestations, voices, prophecies, or unusual events of nature connected with it (cf. Exod. 3:1–6). The mass has no such events associated with it. Indeed, nowhere in the New Testament are the normal words for miracle (sign, wonder, power) used of the communion. There is absolutely no evidence that it is anything but a natural event with natural elements on which Christ places special spiritual blessings (and/or presence) as we “remember” his death (1 Cor. 11:25).
The Mass as a Sacrifice
Roman Catholics (and Anglicans)70 view the eucharistic feast as a sacrifice (albeit an unbloody one).71 This term is found as early as Gregory the Great (c. a.d. 540– 604), who was elected pope in a.d. 590.72 Gregory held that at every mass Christ was sacrificed afresh and consequently “This notion of the mass as sacrifice eventually became standard doctrine of the Western church—until it was rejected by Protestants in the sixteenth century.”73
In a.d. 831, a Frankish monk, Paschasius Radbertus (d. ca. 860), in a work titled On the Body and Blood of the Lord, addressed this issue. Radbertus taught that Christ is “corporeally” present during communion. The early church had considered the Eucharist a fellowship meal. Hence, “The new emphasis on the corporeal presence of Christ permitted the Church to begin to treat Christ as a victim, rather than as the host [of the feast], to think of itself as offering him to the Father, rather than as coming to be nourished at his table.”74 Thus, the Lord’s Supper—which the early church viewed as a fellowship meal—became a sacrifice. The remembrance of a sacrifice becomes a new enactment of that sacrifice.75 While, as Roman Catholics point out, the New Testament term “remembrance” (Gk: anamnesis) is often used in a sacrificial context, it does not justify their contention that communion is a sacrifice. What Jesus said was that, in participating in communion, we are remembering his sacrifice on the cross, not reenacting it.
The Corporeal Presence of Christ
As mentioned earlier, the doctrine of the corporeal presence of Christ during the eucharistic feast poses another problem for most evangelicals.80 Brown summarizes the difficulty that Roman Catholics (and Lutherans) face: “In order to be bodily present at thousands of altars, the body of Christ must possess one of the so-called attributes of the majesty of God, namely, omnipresence or ubiquity.”81 Simply put, “To believe that Jesus was in two places at once is something of a denial of the incarnation, which limited his physical human nature to one location.”82 This eucharistic understanding is fraught with difficulties. In an effort to preserve the “actual presence,” one comes perilously close to “monophysitism,” which held that, following the incarnation, Christ possessed only one incarnate divine nature—combining and co-mingling his two natures. Monophysitism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus (a.d. 431), and this official condemnation was reaffirmed at Chalcedon (a.d. 451).83 Thus, by the same logic, should not the co-mingling of the divine and human in the substance of the communion elements also be condemned as unorthodox?
65 The intensity with which Jesus spoke when challenged does not prove that his words are to be taken literally. Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides” (Matt. 23:24) and labeled Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32), both strong metaphors not meant to be taken literally.
66 Ott’s argument that “In V, 63 (‘It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing’) Christ does not reject the literal, but only the grossly sensual (Capharnaitic) interpretation” is implausible for reasons given above.
67 The Orthodox church permits but does not require that real presence be understood in terms of transubstantiation which Roman Catholicism proclaims infallibly as the only way to properly understand it.
70 Roman Catholics and Anglicans have issued a 600-word, five-point statement on common eucharistic beliefs, including viewing the Eucharist as a sacrifice. See “Catholics, Anglicans Agree,” The Southern Cross (27 January 1994): 10.
71 It should be noted that Eastern Orthodoxy agrees with Roman Catholicism on this point: “At the Eucharist, the sacrifice offered is Christ himself, and it is Christ himself, who in the Church performs the act of offering” (Ware, pp. 292–93).
72 Cross, Oxford Dictionary, pp. 594–95.
73 González, Story of Christianity, 1:247.
74 Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ, p. 233.
75 Ibid., emphasis added.
80 We use the word “most” because this difficulty is also inherent in Lutheran theology with their understanding that, in communion, the physical body and blood of Christ are “contained in” or are “under” the communion elements. In spite of “denials of various facets of the Catholic position, Luther insisted upon the concept of manducation. There is a real eating of Jesus’ body” (Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 1118).
81 Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ, p. 229.
82 Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 1121.
83 Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ, pp. 168–72, 181–85.
Geisler, N. L., & MacKenzie, R. E. (1995). Roman Catholics and Evangelicals : Agreements and differences (267). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.