It is time for Rome to open up the Lord's Supper
This is likely to be His Grace's last full day as the temporary successor of St Peter. If not today, then tomorrow. Having dealt with the chronic divisions within the Church of Rome which arise from 'Papal Infallibility'; mandatory clerical celibacy; the absence of lady cardinals, and its centralising and authoritarian tendencies, it is time to turn to 'the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ'.
Michael Gove and Chris Bryant got into a spat last month arguing over the exclusion of non-Roman Catholics from Mass. They were speaking at cross purposes, unfortunately, and neither was actually hearing what the other was saying or meaning. They reduced the Lord's Supper to party politics. All Christians may participate in a Roman Catholic Mass (indeed, anyone may attend). But ordinarily only Roman Catholics may eat the flesh and drink the blood, and in many Roman Catholic churches the blood isn't even available. Their Catechism notes:
Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite.These 'pastoral reasons' are basically ease of distribution and the protection of the wine-blood from profanation: you can easily pick up a dropped wafer, but getting red wine out of a carpet is like getting blood out of a stone. So, it's wafers only. The Catechism goes on to note:
..the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.This is the usual form of receiving Holy Communion. There are diverse beliefs about the sacrament or mystery of the bread and wine which His Grace will not rehearse here. Readers and Communicants are free to Google 'Transubstantiation', 'Consubstantiation', 'Real Presence', 'Sacramental Union', 'Spiritual Presence', 'Receptionism', 'Memorialism', 'Symbolism', etc., etc. And neither must one forget the Quaker/Salvation Army view that the Eucharist is not a necessary obligation at all.
It doesn't help to hurl the term 'blasphemy' around, so we'll move on from talk of the 'Popish Mass', the 'abomination of Antichrist' and 'the heinous errors of the papists'. His Grace wishes simply to deal with the claim of the Roman Church to catholicity while enforcing exclusivity in Holy Communion - the very means by which all men and women may be stirred to friendship, love and concord. It is a symbol of brotherly and sisterly affection; of unfeigned love between members of the Body of Christ.
The Roman Catholic Church considers certain Christian groups deficient in holy orders: Anglicans (for example) 'have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness'. We 'commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord's Supper'; we 'profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ'. But commemoration, signs and symbolism are inadequate. Therefore we are barred for our own sakes from taking bread and wine in Roman Catholic churches.
His Grace was at St Peter's in Rome a few years ago, and participated in the Mass. That participation was full and complete. It was in the 'extraordinary form' (Tridentine) and His Grace knew the plainest meaning of every word spoken. As he approached the altar to receive the Host, he knelt and thanked God for feeding him.
Had he disclosed his Anglican heresy, no doubt the elements would have been denied him. The participation was contingent upon deception. Yet in his heart he knew Christ. With Tertullian, writing against Marcion, he believes: 'Jesus taking bread, and distributing it amongst his disciples, made it his body, saying "This is my body"; that is to say, a figure of my body.' And St Cyprian, the holy martyr, said: "Christ's blood is showed in the wine, and the people in the water that is mixed with the wine: so that the mixture of the water to the wine signifieth the spiritual commixtion and joining of us to Christ.' And St John Chrysostom talked of 'bread and wine for a similitude of his body and blood'.
And St Augustine displayed His Grace's belief more clearly: 'Therefore, as after a certain manner of speech, the sacrament of Christ's body is Christ's body, the sacrament of Christ's blood is Christ's blood', but later '...by baptism we be buried with him into death'. He did not say 'we signify burial', but plainly that 'we be buried'. So the sacrament of so great a thing is not called but by the name of the thing itself.
This post is not a disputation on Transubstantiation: it is a plea for the church that calls itself Catholic to welcome Christians of all denominations to participate fully in the Lord's Supper, should they themselves wish. Roman Catholics are most welcome to the Anglican Eucharist, but there is no reciprocity. We are excluded, deficient, outcast. Our theological beliefs about bread and wine excommunicate us along with adulterers, practising homosexuals and abortionists. Our rejection is the 'medicinal penalty' intended to invite us to repent, change our beliefs and amend our ways.
It is indeed kind of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to care for His Grace's soul to the extent that he is excommunicated. But it is a matter for his own conscience: every man and woman repenting of his or her offences may yield wholly to God, and often come to the Holy Supper which our Lord and Saviour Christ has prepared. You may believe that you eat literally the flesh and the blood: His Grace eats and drinks spiritually, remembering the death, thankful for the benefits, and looking for no other sacrifice at no priest's hands for remission of his sins.
So, paraphrasing the words of Ronald Reagan to Mikahil Gorbachev: "Your Holiness, if you seek peace; if you seek unity for the Catholic Church; if you desire that all Christians may be one, come here to this altar. Your Holiness, open up the Lord's Supper to all believers for us to feed on Him by faith. Your Holiness, tear down this wall of transubstantiational dogmatism."