In the dicussion about Brother Roger’s ecclesial status in the post below, Dr Mike Liccione pointed to a comment by one of his commentators on his blog. For the record, Mike, I think your commentator has it exactly right.
Question: Was Brother Roger in full Eucharistic Communion with the Catholic Church or not?
Answer: He was not.
Question: Was Brother Roger given Eucharistic Communion in the Catholic Church or not?
Answer: He was.
Although it sounds contradictory, this is fully in keeping with the practice of the Church. Baptised Christians who have not been received into full Eucharistic Communion with the Catholic Church may be given communion under certain circumstances.
The canon law that applies is as follows:
CIC 844 p. 3: “Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned”
CIC 844 p. 4: “If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed”
While on the surface, paragraph 4 appears fairly restrictive, it has in fact been exercised pastorally with some latitude.
I will give an example. My Lutheran wife and oldest daughter do not (as a rule) receive communion when the come with me to mass (my second daughter is doing her first communion at her Lutheran parish in a few weeks time). They respect me and my beliefs and they respect the Church’s beliefs. However, they do have a genuinely Catholic belief in the sacrament, and are very well disposed toward the Catholic Church. But at World Youth Day, after a week of immersion in the whole Catholic thing, and then to be at the Eucharist with the Holy Father while at the same time having no access that day to a Lutheran eucharist, they asked me if it would be permissable to receive communion. I pointed out the Church’s teaching on the matter, and then said that they should judge for themselves. They both communed.
This was, however, a highly exceptional circumstance, and they have not used this one reception of communion as an excuse to begin receiving communion at other times when they come to mass with me. I imagine, however, that if I were to die tomorrow, they would all receive communion at my funeral mass. And this too would be according to the Church’s practice, which makes allowance for such pastoral situations.
So it would be wrong, I think, to view the (admittedly repeated) instances in which Br Roger received communion in the Catholic Church as a statement that he was in full communion with the Catholic Church. The Ecumenical Directory of 1993 (p. 101) states clearly that
“In the present state of our relations with the ecclesial Communities of the Reformation of the 16th century, we have not yet reached agreement about the significance or sacramental nature or even of the administration of the sacrament of Confirmation. Therefore, under present circumstances, persons entering into full communion with the Catholic Church from one of these Communities are to receive the sacrament of Confirmation according to the doctrine and rite of the Catholic Church before being admitted to Eucharistic communion.”
Roger had not received Catholic confirmation, so he cannot have been said to have been “admitted to” Eucharistic communion.
However he was GIVEN Eucharistic communion. This must be taken as recognition that (as the canons say) he “manifested Catholic faith in these sacraments and was properly disposed”. And that is about the sum of what Cardinal Kasper says in his interview. Nothing more and nothing less. It was the repeated instances in which Br Roger was given communion which led to the impression that he had been “admitted to” full Eucharistic communion.
I might end by quoting a little of the Ecumenical Directory (1993), p.129ff:
129. A sacrament is an act of Christ and of the Church through the Spirit. Its celebration in a concrete community is the sign of the reality of its unity in faith, worship and community life. As well as being signs, sacraments—most specially the Eucharist—are sources of the unity of the Christian community and of spiritual life, and are means for building them up. Thus Eucharistic communion is inseparably linked to full ecclesial communion and its visible expression.
At the same time, the Catholic Church teaches that by baptism members of other Churches and ecclesial Communities are brought into a real, even if imperfect communion, with the Catholic Church and that “baptism, which constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn… is wholly directed toward the acquiring of fullness of life in Christ”. The Eucharist is, for the baptised, a spiritual food which enables them to overcome sin and to live the very life of Christ, to be incorporated more profoundly in Him and share more intensely in the whole economy of the Mystery of Christ.
It is in the light of these two basic principles, which must always be taken into account together, that in general the Catholic Church permits access to its Eucharistic communion and to the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick, only to those who share its oneness in faith, worship and ecclesial life. For the same reasons, it also recognises that in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities.
…Catholic ministers will judge individual cases and administer these sacraments only in accord with these established norms, where they exist. Otherwise they will judge according to the norms of this Directory.