Netherlands cardinal criticises pope’s stance on Eucharist

Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk of the Netherlands has written to Pope Francis criticising him for ‘creating confusion’ among the faithful and ‘endangering the unity of the church.’

Eijk was responding to Francis’s response this week to a delegation of German bishops about allowing the non-Catholic partners of Catholics to receive Communion in certain circumstances.

Rather than make a direct ruling, Francis urged the bishops to come to a unanimous decision themselves.

In his open letter to Francis, Eijk said this response is “completely incomprehensible.”

He said Francis’s “failure to give German bishops proper directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the church, points to a drift towards apostasy from the truth.

“The Church’s doctrine and practice regarding the administration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist to Protestants is perfectly clear.”

He then quoted the Code of Canon Law (844 § 4). This says:

“If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

Eijk said Eastern Orthodox Christians “have true sacraments and above all, by virtue of their apostolic succession, a valid priesthood and a valid Eucharist,” so administering the Eucharist to them is allowable.

However, Protestants do not share faith in the priesthood or the Eucharist, he said.

Therefore if someone receives the bread and wine without believing in transubstantiation, the Body and Blood of Christ are not really present.

This is why communion should not be administered to a Protestant, Eijk said.

The differences between consubstantiation (which the Lutheran church, for example, believes in) and transubstantiation are so great, that except in case of danger of death the Church must ask the person to explicitly and formally enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Only in this way can the person explicitly confirm acceptance of the faith of the Catholic Church, including the Eucharist, Eijk said.

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