Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Receiving the Eucharist a Requirement for Salvation?

Q - I was recently posed the question, "Is a literal interpretation of true presence in the Eucharist (and subsequently receiving the sacrament) a requirement for salvation?" My answer was "yes," as backed up by John 6: 53-58 and other sources of church teaching that expound on the necessity of and graces poured out in receiving Christ in the Eucharist. After further thought however, I'm beginning to have some doubts. At the time of baptism, we receive sanctifying grace and need nothing else. For most Catholics, there is a multiple year time span between baptism and first communion. Are these children lacking in salvation because they haven't received Eucharist? Also, we maintain that there are non-catholics in heaven. How could they get there if they don't believe in or receive sacramental Eucharist? Am I missing something?

A - Thanks for the question. There is a bit of confusion and I hope I can help you out, though I might even add to it with my answer below.

First off, there seem to be some contradictions with Catholic doctrines as we have below.

  1. The Eucharist is necessary for salvation. Jesus clearly teaches in John 6 that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood for eternal life. He couldn't be more clear.
  2. We are saved by grace and the Eucharist gives us grace we need to resist sin and be faithful.
  3. Some who are non-Catholic might be saved through Baptism (whether an explicit baptism or a baptism of blood or a baptism of desire), though they never received the Eucharist.

How do we reconcile these teachings? Well, we must understand them in their proper context.

Receiving the Eucharist is necessary for salvation of those that know the truth about the Eucharist. Therefore, a Catholic, who knows the teachings of the Church about the Eucharist, and who deliberately refuses to receive the Eucharist is putting their souls in grave danger. As adult Catholics, we are required to receive the Eucharist for our salvation, once we know the truth about it.

Yet, a non-Catholic who might not know the truth of the Eucharist or who might not believe it, even if he knows it, is not necessarily part of the normative requirement to receive the Eucharist as part of their salvation. Rather, the grace they receive through baptism is enough for their salvation.

I hope this helps.


Brock Talks said...

As a protestant convert to Catholicism, I have to wonder about this all the time.

St. Ignatius seemed to reject the notion that those who rejected the truth of the Real Presence receive eternal life, "They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes."

The question seems to be, when does somebody become culpable for their mistake about the Eucharist. Protestants have at least a portion of Divine Revelation. They have the portion that reveals the nature of real presence.

So the natural extension of the question is: If they can be exculpated for their unbelief concerning the Eucharist, why is Baptism any different?

That can be extended to: Why not exculpate those who are raised in a society that does not recognize Christianity, but another form of God?

I think the Catholic Church tends to say those are valid questions that only God can answer, but that each of those individuals could possibly reach Heaven.

If that is true, why evangelize? There is some necessity to recognizing and spreading Truth, and God seems to require it. It seems like having Divine Revelation which includes John 6 is strong evidence against exculpating non-believers for their mistakes...

Marcel said...

Just a thought. We are unsure how any non-Christian is saved, though we hold out the hope that they are. If they are saved, it is through Christ, but how they receive it we do not know.

On the other hand, we know salvation is offered to us through the Sacraments. This alone should drive us to evangelize.

Brock Talks said...


I think the fine line is when your mental state concerning the Real Presence becomes your own liability. It was my contention that having Divine Revelation inclusive to John 6 seems to assert that one ought to recognize the Real Presence.

In the US, one is culpable for laws on the books regardless of if we are mistaken as to the meaning of the law. This is so because by engaging in conduct in the US, we agree to prescribe by the laws of the US as the governing body defines them.

As a protestant, you agree to a code of law which includes John 6. This seems to be strong evidence that justice would not allow them to be exculpated.

When they Protestants someday explain themselves, "But, my Lord, I was mistaken. I did not know about the Real Presence!" It seems more likely Christ will look at them and reply, "“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Mt 22:29). Christ rebuked the Sadduccees for not understanding their own scripture, and their scripture did not even include passages that were much more indicative to the Truth in that circumstance. Christ points to a verse that requires an extension of the verse to the context of marriage to recognize the Truth. Imagine the rebuke he will hold for those who have Scripture much clearer than the Sadducees.

I always hope that Christ will save our brethren, because God knows how often I am mistaken on issues. My parents and siblings are Protestants, so these questions hit home.

But after reading the Church Fathers, it is readily apparent that they were in constant fear for those who did not submit to the churches authority and fell into heresy. God is Just. God is Merciful. Neither characteristic knows an end, but to extend either principle too far seems to eliminate or guarantee human presence in Hell. How amazing is God's mystery!

Brock Talks said...


I'm hoping that you can assuage my fears. I'm not trying to tell you that you are wrong, because I've heard many wise men give the response that you've given.

I'm hoping that you will enlighten me and point out some logical flaw with my thought process.

In Charity,

Marcel said...

Brock - it isn't just about knowing what Catholicism teaches, but you have to believe it as well - then leave it.

Brock Talks said...


I am going to assume you are not telling me to "leave [the Church]" because that seems rather uncharitable, but that you are telling me to "leave [the issue]".

Does that mean to just accept it without question? I'm not asking because I don't believe the Church has the authority to make decisions regarding my Faith and Morals, but because I want to know how to explain those beliefs when asked about them. The Catholic Church does not tend to create its policy on "just accept it" terms. It at least builds a foundation for the practice through Tradition. That Tradition tends to be established primarily through Church Father's and Saints.

I directly quoted St. Ignatius speaking on the necessity of the Eucharist.

So maybe I can better rephrase the question:

From where does your teaching come?

I tend to think your analysis ultimately promotes the "Ignorance is bliss" concept,and that there is ultimately better reason why what you are saying is true.

Marcel said...

Brock - you misunderstand. I am saying that for a Catholic to be in danger of losing salvation, they would have to know and believe the Eucharist is truly Christ. Then leave it anyway.

Sorry for the confusion.