WATCH: Cardinal Burke denounces ‘intercommunion’ ahead of pope’s tribute to Luther in Sweden
ZAGREB, Croatia, October 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- It is “irreformable” dogma of the Catholic Church that only those who believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine are able to receive Holy Communion, stated Cardinal Raymond Burke. The Vatican cardinal said that St. Paul makes it clear that unless the person receiving recognizes the body of Christ, he “eats condemnation to himself.”
“This is a sacrilege. This is among the gravest of sins,” he said.
The cardinal was responding to a question on intercommunion with other Christian denominations asked by LifeSiteNews’ John-Henry Westen during the October 23 launch of the Croatian version of the cardinal's book on the Eucharist in Zagreb, Croatia.
“No one can approach to receive the Holy Eucharist unless he believes that the host that he is receiving — even though it looks like bread, tastes like bread, and smells like bread — is in reality the body and blood of Christ. Only that person who believes in this way can approach the Blessed Sacrament, can approach to receive Holy Communion,” he stated.
Burke’s comments come days before Pope Francis travels to Lund, Sweden to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the castle church of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Lutheran and Catholic bishops have expressed a hope that the Pope will allow for intercommunion at first at least for Lutherans married to Catholics.
The pope has shown openness to Lutherans receiving Holy Communion alongside Catholics, telling one Lutheran woman last year to “go forward” guided by her conscience. Also last year, a Lutheran pastor from Rome insisted that the pope had “opened the door” to intercommunion between Catholics and Lutherans after the pope visited a Lutheran community and said that the two religions “must walk together.”
But Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s liturgy chief, responded days later by stating that “intercommunion is not permitted between Catholics and non-Catholics,” adding that “you must confess the Catholic Faith. A non-Catholic cannot receive Communion. That is very, very clear. It’s not a matter of following your conscience.”
Burke called it “very problematic” for anyone to suggest that the forthcoming celebration honoring Martin Luther should be the “occasion of some kind of ‘Eucharistic hospitality’ or intercommunion.”
“That is not possible. Yes, it is irreformable,” he stated.
“Either the sacred host is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, or it is not. And if it is, it is the gravest of sins to offer the sacred host to someone who does not believe,” he concluded.
Cardinal Burke’s full statement
LifeSiteNews: Your Eminence, is there something about the Holy Eucharist that forbids intercommunion with other Christian denominations? We have next week, and already now, some of the Lutheran leadership expressing the hope for receiving Communion and having intercommunion between the faiths. Is there something about the Holy Eucharist that forbids that, and if there is such a forbiddance, is that teaching irreformable?
Cardinal Raymond Burke: What is it about the Holy Eucharist [that forbids intercommunion between the faiths]? It's the reality that the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, that after the words of consecration are pronounced [by] the priest — lending his voice to Christ himself who is the one who is acting at the holy mass — the bread and the wine are changed in their substance into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, no one can approach to receive the Holy Eucharist unless he believes that the host that he is receiving — even though it looks like bread, tastes like bread, and smells like bread — is in reality the body and blood of Christ. Only that person who believes in this way can approach the Blessed Sacrament, can approach to receive Holy Communion.
St. Paul makes this very clear in the 11th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, in which there were abuses in the Eucharistic celebration in the early Church. He said very openly that the person who receives Holy Communion without recognizing the body of Christ, eats condemnation to himself. This is a sacrilege. This is among the gravest of sins.
And so, we don't invite those who don't believe in the Real Presence to receive Holy Communion, first of all out of respect for our Lord Jesus Christ and out of respect for the reality of the Holy Eucharist, but also out of respect for those persons, because to invite them to receive something in which they don't believe is an ultimate sign of disrespect [to Our Lord] and does great harm to the souls of those who are so invited.
This is simply the case. For instance, [take] the classical Lutheran belief: There is this idea about Holy Communion of a kind of moral presence of our Lord during their celebration of the liturgy. But, when the liturgy is over, those breads that are used — and I use the term deliberately ‘breads,’ because they are not the body of Christ — are simply put back in the drawer for another time.
For us, once the hosts that have been placed on the altar are consecrated, are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ, they are reposed in the tabernacle for those who are sick and dying, for our adoration, and for the eventual communion of the faithful. Those hosts can never be treated in any other way then as the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in our midst.
I think it is very problematic to suggest that the celebration which is going to take place in honor of Martin Luther would be the occasion of some kind of ‘Eucharistic hospitality’ or intercommunion. That is not possible. Yes, it is irreformable.
Either the sacred host is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, or it is not. And if it is, it is the gravest of sins to offer the sacred host to someone who does not believe.