I have a question about receiving communion. I am Roman Catholic and I know we normally do not allow non-Catholics to receive communion during our services. However, I see in our catechism that there is an exception for Orthodox christians. They are also allowed to receive communion at Catholic services. Is the same true for Orthodox churches. Can I receive communion if I attend an Orthodox service?
It has been many years since I read the Roman Catholic regulations on admitting non-Catholics to the Eucharist, but if I remember correctly, the Roman Catholic regulations state that an Orthodox Christian may receive the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic Church:
for good reason or cause
only with the mutual agreement of the local Roman Catholic and Orthodox ordinaries, i.e., diocesan bishops
While one might argue that any number of situations constitute a “good reason or cause,” the critical point is that without the mutual agreement of both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops, offering Communion to an Orthodox Christian would not be allowed. I know of no situations where local Roman Catholic and Orthodox ordinaries have made such an agreement.
Further, Orthodox Christianity does not permit its faithful to receive Holy Communion in non-Orthodox communities, whether they be Roman Catholic, Protestant, or whatever. Hence, while Roman Catholicism may extend Eucharistic hospitality to Orthodox Christians, it does not mean that Orthodox Christians are permitted to accept such hospitality.
For Orthodox Christians, the Eucharist is a visible sign of unity; to receive the Eucharist in a community to which one does not belong is improper. If one does not accept all that the Church believes and teaches and worships, one cannot make a visible sign of unity with it. The Eucharist is the result of unity, notthe means by which unity is achieved. While many non-Orthodox see this as a sign that the Orthodox Church excludes non-Orthodox from the Eucharist, in reality the opposite is true. Because a non-Orthodox individual has chosen not to embrace all that Orthodox Christianity holds, the non-Orthodox individual makes it impossible for an Orthodox priest to offer him or her communion. It is not so much a matter of Orthodoxy excluding non-Orthodox as it is the non-Orthodox making it impossible for the Orthodox to offer the Eucharist.
Sometimes people argue, “But Father, I believe everything the Orthodox Church teaches.” If this is indeed the case, then the question is not one of Eucharistic hospitality but, rather, “Then if you believe everything the Orthodox Church teaches, why haven’t you become an Orthodox Christian?”