With the holidays upon us, many of us might be bringing our non-Catholic friends to church with us. Of course, the church teaches that they should not receive the Eucharist (just as we should not receive in a non-Catholic church). As this topic might come up within your family, I thought I'd post an old essay I wrote on the subject:
While Catholics and Protestants have different views of the celebration of the Lord’s supper, Catholics are taught, according to the official Catechism of the Catholic Church to respect that Protestant churches, while not claiming the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, are genuinely seeking a deeper spiritual “communion” with Christ through the remembrance of his last supper and subsequent sacrifice.
However, there are three basic reasons why Protestants should not partake in the celebration of communion at a Catholic Church. Unfortunately, since the reformation, there are deep and divisive differences between the theology of Catholics and their Protestant brothers and sisters. For this reason, in matters of spirituality, we are not truly “one” in thought, as Christ asked us to be in John 17:21. It is perfectly acceptable for a congregation of Catholics (who had made themselves spiritually worthy) to join together in communion because they are spiritually in communion. Likewise, it is perfectly acceptable for a congregation of Baptists to join to join together in communion because their common spiritual philosophies unite them. However, as long as division, unfortunately exists between denominations, it contradicts Scripture for a Protestants to receive communion among Catholics OR for a Catholic to receive communion among Protestants. 1 Cor. 10:17 explains, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Unfortunately, for non-Catholics to receive “Holy Communion” proclaims a unity to exist that, regrettably, does not.
A second reason we ask non-Catholics not to receive the Eucharist is that our interpretation of Scripture demands us to do so for their safety. “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:29-30). Since most Protestants, by their own admission, do not feel that the true body of Christ exists in the Eucharist, as Catholics we feel the only Christian thing for us to do is to ask that, for their own safety, they not “drink judgment upon” themselves.
Lastly, Scripture tells us many times that we are showing our respect for God in the way we respect or treat others. As Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the true body and blood of our savior and that to receive it one must truly discern this miracle and be of have received reconciliation for grave sins, etc., if a Protestant were to partake in “Holy Communion” within the context of a Catholic Mass (which calls for the invocation of the Spirit to accomplish the miracle of transubstantiation), we would not only see this as a profaning of Christ, himself, but also as a sign of disrespect towards Catholics and their beliefs. Although we may disagree seriously on many issues, we all agree that we must truly respect the sincere beliefs of one another because to do show disrespect to children of Christ is to show disrespect to Christ, himself.