Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What are the Differences Between Catholics and Methodists?

Q - My boyfriend was raised Methodist and I am Catholic. We're both strong Christians and God plays the most important role in our relationship. In seeing how much I love going to church, he has started to go with me. We talk about our faith often and have tried talking about the differences between being Methodist and Catholic but haven't really found any drastic differences between them. Can you shed some light for us? Also, we talk about Mass every Sunday when we get out...he says he really enjoys it but the only part that he doesn't feel welcome in is during Communion. He was baptized/confirmed in the Methodist church and has received Communion there before, so can he receive Communion at a Catholic church? If not, then why?

A - Thanks for the questions. I will try to take them in order that you gave them to me.

1 - What are the main differences between Methodists and Catholics?
This is a very big question and could go in many different twists and turns. So, I will stick to some of the big ones:

First some of the things we share in common"

  • The Trinity
  • The Incarnation of Christ - God becomes a man
  • The life, death, and Resurrection of Christ was for our salvation
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Bishops who appoint pastors (though a difference in how they both function)
  • Both believe the Bible is the written Word of God.
  • Free will and the ability to fall away from God's grace
  • Infant Baptism (though a difference in a belief at what happens)
  • The Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed are recited

Things were we differ:
CATHOLIC - The Catholic Church teaches that it was established by Christ as His one Church on earth. The apostles were the first bishops of the Church.

METHODIST - The Methodist Church was started by John Wesley, who was an Anglican priest who tried to start a revival in the Anglican Church, but was rejected by many Anglicans. He never repudiated his Anglican faith, but many of his followers and subsequent leaders split from the Anglicans, thus forming Methodism. The Anglican Church split from the Catholic Church when Henry VIII refused to submit to the authority of the Pope.

CATHOLIC - For a Catholic, there are three authorities that we rely on - Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and The Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church. We believe that all three were instituted by Christ and none are optional.
METHODIST - Believe the final authority on all matters of doctrine is the Bible.

-Methodists have two Sacraments - Catholics have seven:
CATHOLIC - Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick.
METHODIST - Baptism, Communion (Lord's Supper).
-There is a difference of what we believe about what happens at both of these.

-The Eucharist:

CATHOLIC - Jesus becomes truly present "body, blood, soul, and divinity". 
METHODIST - Believe Jesus is present in "a spiritual and heavenly manner".

-Moral Issues:

CATHOLIC - Catholics reject contraception and abortion.
METHODIST - Methodists accept contraception and abortion after "prayerful consideration" and other practices rejected by the Catholic Church.

-Understanding of the Church:

CATHOLIC - The Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church". Thus, the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ.
METHODIST - The Church is invisible and made up of all true believers in Christ.

-Understanding of Ordination:

CATHOLIC All-Male priesthood, instituted by Christ to be able to perpetuate the Sacramental order.
METHODIST - Ordination of women, persons living active openly as same-sex couples, and different understanding of ordination.

These are some of the major differences. There are many others, including purgatory, role of the Saints, etc,

2 - Can a non-Catholic receive Communion in the Catholic Church? If not, why not?
 There are several reasons that non-Catholics cannot receive Communion in the Catholic Church.  I can tell you there are some myths out there about this topic.  It isn't a judgment about anyone's salvation nor is it about how sincere someone may believe in Christ.

First, we must give a quick explanation of what the Catholic Church teaches about The Eucharist and why it is so important. From John 6:53-56. 
So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
This is the first teaching of Christ on the Eucharist. He clearly states (again and again in John 6) that the Eucharist is not just a symbol of his Body and Blood, but truly becomes his body and blood. Otherwise it would make no sense for his followers to understand him literally (John 6: 41 & 52) and then walk away from him (John 6:66) withouth Jesus clearly explaining that he was speaking figuratively.

Then we have the last supper accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Here Christ clearly teaches that the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood ("this IS my body" & "this IS my blood"). Taken along with Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, 
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died.
It all adds up.  The Catholic Church has consistently taught, through 2,000 years, that Christ is truly present - body, blood, soul, and divinity - in the Eucharist.  For more on the Church's teaching on the Eucharist, read a previous post here.

Therefore, to receive him in Communion is an outward statement of unity of faith.  It says, in the action of the congregation, that we are united (communion) to one another in believing in all the Catholic church believes, teaches, and confesses.  Those who are not Catholic cannot make such a statement, because they are not fully in communion with us.  So, for a non-Catholic to receive Communion is a counter-sign to the truth.  It says outwardly "we are one", when we are not.  It is a lie, spoken with our bodies.

To receive the Eucharist does not only mean we believe in it, but in all that the Catholic Church holds to be true.  It says with the body "I am Catholic and hold all that the Church teaches to be true as truth."

A non-Catholic should be told exactly what we believe.  Most do not share our belief in the Eucharist.  If they don't, then they probably won't want to receive if explained as I did above.  But, what if a non-Catholic says they share a belief in the Eucharist?  I suggest you invite them to join us at Communion - but only after they enter the Church through Confirmation (and baptism if necessary).  If one truly believes in the Eucharist, then the only place to receive it is in the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  Why wouldn't you join if you truly believe we have the Eucharist?

Furthermore, the Church limits communion to Catholics out of concern for their spiritual well-being.  Paul tells us why in the 1 Cor. verse quoted above.  To receive without discerning the body and blood, is to receive condemnation.

Lastly, the Church has no right to change the clear teaching of Christ.  We must always be faithful to his teaching, even when others are offended (even when we are not trying to offend, sometimes it happens).  We are not trying to be exclusive, but honest and faithful to Christ. 

Remember this, not all Catholics can receive Communion, but only those in full communion with the Church and those in the state of grace (no un-confessed mortal sins). 

Here is the US Bishops statement on the issue that you can find on the back of most missalettes.
For Catholics
As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
For our fellow Christians
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic 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 (canon 844 § 3).
For those not receiving Holy Communion
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
For non-Christians
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
I hope this helps.

Remember that we still hold that Methodists are our brothers and sisters in Christ. God bless you and your boyfriend.


Kerri said...

Excellent! You make it so clear- thank you!

CKG said...

Great summary, thank you!

Can you elaborate on:
CATHOLIC - The Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church". Thus, the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ.
METHODIST - The Church is invisible and made up of all true believers in Christ.

Does this mean Catholics believe any non-Catholic is not Christian (despite if they believe Jesus is the messiah).

I am catholic myself, and just want to understand how the church interprets that statement.