“Ask a Priest: Can I Receive Methodist Communion?”

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Q: I was having a discussion with a friend that is non-Catholic. I was informed as a Catholic that it was a sin not to go to church every Sunday, that you must confess your sins to a priest and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. Protestants don’t have to confess their sins to a minister or go to church every Sunday. I, for years, have prayed to God directly to confess my sins, and I watch the Catholic Mass on “Heart of the Nation.” I started watching it about a month ago and have also gone to a Methodist church where I was recently told that I could receive communion there if I choose even though I was baptized Catholic. Any comments would be greatly appreciated! – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’ll try to address your questions briefly.

First, one of the key precepts of the Church is that we attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. The Church has the authority to issue this precept. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

Christ wants to gather us together as we worship the Almighty. This is one reason why he established a Church. If he wanted us to go off and do our own thing, he would have said so. But he didn’t.

And watching Mass on Internet or TV doesn’t substitute attendance at the Eucharistic celebration. Part of the value of Mass is being present when Christ comes in our midst at the consecration. The Eucharist is one way Jesus fulfills his promise, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Moreover, the U.S. bishop’s conference guidelines on televising the liturgy recognize the tendency of television “with its inherent lack of physical interaction, to lead people to more passive roles as spectators.”

As for confession: True, in one sense we can always confess to God. But Christ was the one who established the sacrament of confession. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23).

So the sacrament of confession is the ordinary means by which Jesus wants us to seek forgiveness.

As for receiving the Eucharist: Catholics are obliged to receive it at least once a year. They have to be in a state of grace (no mortal sin). People with mortal sin need to go to confession first. (Catholics should go to confession once a year in any case.)

Methodists don’t have the Eucharist since they don’t have a valid priesthood. What they call “communion” is mere bread and wine. It’s not the true Presence of Christ.

Catholics aren’t allowed to receive Protestant communion. To do so is akin to publicly denying one’s Catholic faith.

You might want to step back and rethink how you are living your faith as a Catholic. If you have questions, seek answers. The Catholic Answers site has a lot of helpful material.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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  1. I guess I must be a heretic. My mother was Protestant and my father RC. While I spent 99.9% of my time inside a RC church, I felt then, and still do decades later, that RC church is NOT above all other Christian churches. I do believe 99% of its teaching but not this one. My father felt the same; but I do not accept teachings just because a human said so. Methodists do believe their communion, just like ours has the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, , as do Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans…. Our RC faith has flaws just like all of the others. The Schisms of the past have valid reasons for their occurance and I wish our Pope was working harder to heal them- especially with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. I pray that the mercy of Jesus and God the Father will allow me to see them one day and answer these questions of the Eucharist and the Schisms.

  2. I came across your old comment and saw it hasn’t been responded to. You may have even forgotten about this comment but I’m replying for others who might read this too

    First, I understand that growing up in a family with different faiths and traditions would generally make one more tolerable and understanding of different views or even swayed to relativism. My grandparents were non-denominational and when we visited them, we went to their church together as family. Their pastor used to say to us to stop “worshipping Mary”, to which we just responded with an awkward smile.

    All Christians should long for unity, as Jesus himself envisions for one church (John 17:21). We believe we are that One church that Jesus instituted. To say that our church isn’t the one true church would be denying our very creed “I believe in the Holy Catholic church…” and the Communion itself.

    With regards to “real presence”, this term has been gradually reduced to the point where many people forget the differences between denomination. Catholics (and other ancient churches like Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East) believe that the consecrated bread and wine are the real body and blood of Christ. Lutherans, Anglicans and Methodists unfortunately do not believe this concept but rather they believe in the spiritual presence (this is a generalisation, each denomination has their own view)

    Also, the Eucharist that we receive is a statement of faith. Not only we receive the body and blood of Christ, but it also means we believe in the Catholic church and in all that it holds to be true, hence the term ‘communion’. This is why Orthodox church generally would not permit us to receive the Communion in their church, because we are not in communion with them.

    On schism between us and Orthodox (even other Christian denominations), the Pope in 1960s established a Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity which is still very much alive and active today. If you notice, there are around 18 millions of Eastern Catholics in the world today, those who have different tradition to Latin and yet are in communion with Rome. Still so much need to be done in this space.

    Over the last century, Catholics have become more hospitable to our Orthodox brethren. Unity can be achieved if both sides are willing to work together. Unfortunately you can see many Orthodox are still not willing to do this. Even worse today the Greek and Russian Orthodox are excommunicating each other.

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