Intercommunion rules

Question: Recently a neighbor told me that on occasion the Greek Orthodox priest gives her Communion in the Orthodox Church near where she lives. I did not know that this was allowed.

Name and city withheld, Illinois

Answer: There is something of an anomaly in this arrangement. While Catholics may receive Communion, as well as the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick in the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church does not, as a rule, allow Catholics to receive these sacraments. Canon 844, Paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law states: “[Catholic] faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick, from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.” The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments.

The anomaly, however, is that the regulations of the Orthodox Churches do not allow Catholics (or members of any non-Orthodox denomination) to receive the sacraments in their churches. Thus, the situation you mention is out of step with the Orthodox Church — though acceptable from a Catholic point of view. The priest you mention seems to be interpreting the ecclesiastical regulations of his own Church rather liberally.

You may also be interested to know that although the Catholic Church does not allow intercommunion with members of other Christian churches, it does — as an exception — allow members of the Orthodox Church to receive the sacraments mentioned in the Catholic Church.

On the matter of Catholic-Orthodox relations, the U.S. Catholic bishops summed up the matter in their 1996 Guidelines for the Reception of Communion at a Catholic Mass: “Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Churches of the East, and the Polish National Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches.”

Feminist language

Question: In what you write, you do not seem to want to hurt feminists, since you always use man and women, brothers and sisters, him and her, his and hers and humankind. I do not like to see the feminist language introduced into the Church.

— Name and city withheld, Pennsylvania

Answer: In what I write, I seek to underscore the equality of men and women. That is why I routinely use masculine and feminine pronouns together. There does not seem to be anything radical about this practice anymore. I always respect the traditional ways of speaking when quoting from a text from the past — and especially when quoting from the Scriptures. But our English-speaking society has, by now, grown used to avoiding words like “man” when speaking about the male and female genders and to avoid using “mankind” when “humankind” seems more appropriate. I regard this as a part of a common-sense evolution of our language. In general, the term “feminist” has lost the precise meaning it had in the 1960s, and it has come to mean general respect for the equality of men and women.

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.