Communions are two very different things

Doctrine means never the twain shall meet (Digital)

You Religion Correspondent, Alf McCreary, makes some valid points in “Almost 500 years on from Luther, can we manage our own reformation in Northern Ireland?” (23 September).

There are however some areas which require qualification.

When Alf affirms, “The 500th anniversary of the Reformation occurs on October 31 to mark the initiative of the Augustinian Friar Martin Luther, who pinned his 95 short theological theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517 and thus started a process that changed history.” he like many others overlooks the fact that the process was already started.

Martin Luther was preceded by many others like the Waldensians of the twelfth century,  John Wycliffe (1330-1384), Jan Hus (1369-1415), William Tyndale (1494-1536)  Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), Ximenes De Cicneros (1435-1517) – to mention but a few, all of whom challenged not only the sale of indulgences but the Pope’s doctrine.

The question which Alf poses “Why, in God’s name, are Protestants forbidden to share full Holy Communion with Roman Catholics some 500 years after the beginning of the Reformation?”,  is an interesting one which requires an answer. The short answer is that Roman Catholic communion and Protestant communion are two very different things.

A fuller answer comes from the Pope in Dominus Iesus (6 Aug 2000)

“On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense;”

The valid Episcopate is the claim that the Roman Catholic Church has a continuous linage going back to the Apostle Peter, whom they claim was the Bishop of Rome, even though there is no conclusive evidence  to support it.

The “Eucharistic mystery” is the doctrine of transubstantiation, which claims that the bread and wine in communion are transformed into the real body and blood of Christ. This is rejected by protestants and some catholic scholars.

Because of this pre-requisite of a “valid Episcopate . . . and integral substance of the Eucharist (sic)”, it places Presbyterians, like Alf and myself, well beyond the Pale.

Your etc,

Brian Kennaway

Presbyterian Minister (Retired)

County Antrim

This letter appeared in the Letters in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday 27 September 2017