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As a Catholic, may I witness my grandson’s Lutheran first communion?

Full Question

My husband and I are Catholic; our daughter and her family are Lutheran. Her son is now going to make his first holy communion but at a Lutheran church. Is this acceptable, and are we as grandparents and Catholics allowed to attend his first communion at a Lutheran church?

Answer

We could not recommend that you attend such an event since Lutheran churches do not have a valid priesthood and thus do not have a sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. While Lutherans who take communion in their churches in good faith may be blessed by God for their attempts to please him, in fact their community rejected the priesthood at the time they broke away from the Catholic Church, and so their ministers do not have the power validly to celebrate the Eucharist.

As a result, your attendance at the event in question would seem to imply that you recognize or endorse the idea that your grandson is actually receiving further Christian initiation by receiving the Eucharist (one of the sacraments of initiation). That is a message you must not send as it would constitute a form of false witness to your family and to your grandson.

Matters would be different if the sacrament were valid—for example, if he were being baptized or married in the Lutheran church (those two sacraments being valid among Lutherans) or if he were receiving Communion in a church that has a valid Eucharist (such as the Greek or Russian Orthodox churches).

But to attend a non-Catholic ceremony that one knows to be invalid—whether it be a baptismal ceremony, a marriage ceremony, or a first communion ceremony—would be to send the wrong message. It would be better, if more painful, to say, “We know that this is event is meaningful to you, but we cannot attend.”










116 comments

  1. Patricia Reply

    Absurd! What are you thinking? Of course you should go. The primacy of your conscience is your guide. This is family. For God’s sake (really) you should go.

    1. keda smith Reply

      surely attending the ceremony is ok? They are not planning to receive communion themselves. I find the answer to be very harsh, surely this would cause derision in the family if his nana and poppa weren’t there for him.
      I have always been under the impression I can attend a non Catholic Church as long as I do not participate in the service i:e receive communion etc

      1. Lois Reply

        How do you refrain from receiving their communion because it is not The Eucharist but still attend the service celebrating, thus joining in with the celebrating, of your grandson’s receiving these invalid sacraments? As a previous Missouri Synod Lutheran, I am aware that there are two celebrations in this… They receive confirmation and first communion together.

        On my journey into The True Church, I became painfully aware of the invalidity of communion outside of The Catholic Church and hated not being able to receive, precisely because I believed in the True Presence as a Lutheran (even though Lutherans do not believe that The Lord remains in and under the bread and wine after service, I as a Lutheran was never taught this and thus did not believe that Jesus just exited after Divine Worship). I even took offense at people who told me we believed it, but that didn’t stop it from being what the Lutheran Church taught. However, I was all the more joyous upon receiving the Real Thing.

        I do believe these grandparents can convey their love for their grandchild (who should be in about the 8th grade) and explain why they can not join in a celebration that they do not believe in. Our teenagers see through the wishy washy-ness of us adults. Even if he does not agree, he will respect them for standing by what they believe. If we can not suffer the slight consequences we might currently experience for our beliefs, why on earth would any one else want what we have?

        I have been on both sides of this coin, my fundamentalist Baptist family refused to attend the Baccalaureate Mass for my daughter’s graduation, and I have been the one who refused to attend (witness as matron of honor) my sister’s wedding to a Catholic man outside of the Catholic Church, in said fundamentalist church. I respected my family’s choice and did not give them the grief that I received from them when the shoe was on the other foot.

      2. Karen Linsmayer Reply

        If the child was baptized in the Catholic Church, as my grandsons were, and parents were both raised Catholic, I definitely will not be going and approving of their leaving the church.

    2. Janine Reply

      ConscIence is the last thing you should pay heed to, if it contradicts the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

      1. Father Dominic Reply

        but the teachings of the church require that one follows his or her conscience. this does no harm to anyone, but is a loving grandparent attending a special moment her his/her granchild’s life. not going would be a sin against charity.

        1. Mario Reply

          I would not follow my conscience. I would follow the teaching of the Catholic Church. true and purchased at a price. Imagine if Christ would have made excuses in Jn 6; ie, i meant symbolically! because Moses said do not eat uncooked flesh or drink the blood of any thing. Strong language as it was. The Lord fulfilled the law completely

        2. Toni Bright ( grandparent to 9 children with faith and integrity in their lives) Reply

          Thank you Father Dominic! Encouraging a grandchild to have faith and love and follow the Lord is so important! God is love.

        3. Anthony Reply

          I disagree Father Dominic, it would be a sin against charity to attend the event. The attendance at the event would seem to imply that you recognize or endorse what is going on; and that would be the most uncharitable thing you could do. And the teaching of the Church is to conform ones conscience to the Catholic Faith.

          1. Donna

            Anthony, your remarks are just one of the reasons I left the Catholic church. It is divisive and unloving which in my opinion is caused by caustic and spiteful comments such as yours.

          2. Diane

            I agree with you Donna. Trying to be as charitable as possible, I can only say that Anthony’s remark is nonsense.

    3. Marlene Reply

      If your a catholic then you have to go…nevermind all that..your grandson will think there is something wrong with his church and you wont have the same relationship that you had..so the catholic church is telling you not to go thats a bit two faced..jesus would of never said to stay away from your grandsons first communion..so they are judging …and thats not godly

      1. Father David Sharland, YA Reply

        The Catholic Church is NOT telling anyone not to go. A website has suggested they shouldn’t go. This website does not speak with the authority of the Church. The initial response raises some very good points, but I would disagree with their answer. I think the grandparents should go, not receive communion themselves, and make sure both the grandson and his parents understand, in great love, why they didn’t receive.

        1. Shane Reply

          Thank you Father. I was about to type these exact words.

      2. Margarett RBC Zavodny Reply

        But there is something wrong with the Lutheran ecclesial body. Jesus would have expected us to follow his teachings–all of them. We are indeed called to judge actions. Right Judgement is one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    4. Sabrina Harper Reply

      I wholeheartedly agree with Patricia on this issue. Regardless of theology (not to say that it’s not important, but…) this is a pastoral issue. It is important for parents to support their children and grandparents to support their grandchildren. The grandson is being raised in the faith of Jesus Christ, these arbitrary distinctions between Catholics and Lutherans are man-made arguments that are of no consequence. The primacy of your conscience is your guide. Family is more important. God is love, show your love for your family and be god-like.

    5. Clay Evans Reply

      Patricia, I so agree with you. I am fully Catholic … Drank the cool aid a long time ago. This answer was so far from where the church that I know is, through the leadership of our last three Popes. The rigidity of the person who answered this question leaves me speechless. Keda makes the best point. This couple are not “participating in the liturgy” but celebrating a Christian family milestone. And to the writer of the answer, Lutherns do support and offer the Eucharist. Albeit not as Transubstantiation (Catholic) but Consubstantiation (both the Body of Christ and bread).

    6. Jimmy Reply

      ‘Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgements. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt.’ (paragraph 1801 Catechism)

    7. AMARINE GRIPOND Reply

      As a catholic, were you not taught to extend love and attention to all ? were you not taught that the sabbath was made for MAN, not the opposite? were you not taught to share meals with sinners? were you not taught to PRAY WHEN YOU HAVE A QUESTION ? were you not taught THAT YOUR FATHER GAVE YOU FREE WILL ?
      …..so NOW…..what do YOU think and feel ?

    8. Marie Caron Reply

      Yes, please go! Your grandson needs all the support and prayers you can give him in following Jesus in a hostile society. Your love and grace and faith are so very important, and your actions will say much to him about what is right and good and beautiful about your Roman Catholicism. Go – praise him for taking this step of faith. Ass you are able, give his a faith momento and a ‘fun’ gift. If you do not go, he may not understand that you do not accept this rite in the Lutheran church. He may feel you are rejecting him and his non-Catholic parent. Be gracious. Be loving. Jesus did not always agree, but he loved. You are not expected to receive Communion in his Lutheran church.

  2. dommia11 Reply

    I have a huge problem with this answer. How is that going to help bring the daughter and her family to the Catholic faith when they’ve pretty much caused division and anger with their refusal? Not only is the daughter going to be hurt by their rejection, but the innocent grandson as well. He did nothing, why should he be punished by not having grandparents he loves there for him no matter the ceremony. l really think that is the wrong way to go about it and would only cause anger. My family is not Catholic but nothing would stop me from attending their ceremonies.

  3. Bridget Reply

    I was told by many priest that as long as you know the truth of the Catholic Church, and know that what they are doing is not right but still want to be there for your loved one, it is okay to attend the ceremony. But if you are weak in your knowledge and faith in the Church then attending the ceremony is not recommended. It does not send a wrong message if you go to the ceremony and know its not Christ they are receiving in the sacrament, it just enforces more understanding.

    1. Mary Reply

      The best, most informed answer yet. My family is half Lutheran and half Catholic. We love and respect each other but know the boundaries concerning Communion. That does not mean that we do not celebrate our love for Jesus in our lives and family though. He unites us.

      1. Diane Reply

        As a practicing Catholic I find the use of the phrase ” what they are doing is not right” unfortunate. The
        Lutheran tradition is certainly not the same as the Catholic tradition but that does not make it wrong for those who embrace the Lutheran tradition. Once again, no one is suggesting that the grandparents practice, become, or promote their grandson’s religion. The are simply celebrating this child’s participation in HIS faith tradition.

  4. Isaac Mounce Reply

    Plus, these Lutherans and other protestants are basically nothing more but heretics, who we should not even associate with.

    1. Lois Reply

      Whoa there…while I fully believe in abiding, thriving in the teachings of The Church, we must ‘associate’ with those of other or no faiths. That, however, does not mean not adhering to our own.

    2. foxglove2013 Reply

      Heretics, seriously, Isaac? I don’t think the Church has espoused that for years. It certainly doesn’t bring others to the faith, only to harsh judgement of others. As I understand, the Church states we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Wishing you peace in Christ.

      1. Margarett RBC Zavodny Reply

        Yes, the Church does indeed take heresy very seriously, especially in this day and time!

    3. Rob Reply

      Dear Issac,
      You are my brother in Christ. I would never ask you to compromise your practice of our catholic faith. You happen to be Roman; I am Methodist. I confess my belief in one holy catholic and apostolic church every Sunday. (Lower case c as in universal)

      While our connection may not be in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, he is our brother too.

      When my friend Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb invited me to participate as a protestant witness at the memorial mass for Pope John Paul II, eagerly accepted his invitation. When he greeted me during the peace I welcomed his embrace. And yes, on the occasion of my congregation’s 180th anniversary, he attended the worship service, as did the Chancellor.

      During the worship service I presided over Holy Communion. I am obliged by our tradition to offer the Eucharist to all who confess their sins and seek to lived in peace with God and neighbor. He, as a Roman prelate was obliged to decline. He did not leave or object. He observed in a worshipful manner. After the service he complimented me. “That was a fine job of presiding.” he said. I was touched.

      There are doctrines that distinguish us. That does not mean that we are divided. The lost ones are watching us. Let’s agree that our witness must draw them to Jesus.

      Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

      1. Donna Reply

        A beautiful response, Rob… made my heart full!

        1. Rob Reply

          Thank You Donna. Also, you might find John Wesley’s “Letter to a Roman Catholic” refreshing. It was written to be published in an Irish newspaper. Would to God that Anglo-Irish relations, both temporal and spiritual, could have taken this tone.

          “If your heart is as my heart, then give me thy hand.”

          May the world see “Christ in (us) the hope of glory!

          Rob

          1. Donna

            I’m trying to reply to Rob, not Clay Evans, but the site won’t let me; so let me just say to Rob a huge thank you!!! I too am a Methodist (born and raised), joined the Catholic church , and went back to my original, beautiful Methodist Church. Everyone there was glad to see me, unlike the other. I was and am HOME!! It feels wonderfully peaceful! I am going to read your recommendation. Thank you loads, Rob!!!

          2. Donna

            Rob, I love your words. I, too, am a Methodist, born and raised. I turned to the Catholic church for some years, but after much disillusionment, I returned to my loving Methodist Church. They were glad to have me and I am filled with joy to once again be HOME!

    4. Michael Houston Reply

      Isaac, that is very unchristian, in fact it’s sectarian and bigoted, you should reflect and reconsider your relationship with Christ, would he think like that? I don’t think so

  5. Adaku iwuogo Reply

    Yes oo!

  6. dolly Reply

    Sorry father but this seems unfair for grandparents and for us catholics who accept people as they are

    1. foxglove2013 Reply

      Couldn’t agree more. When this child understands his beloved grandparents were forbidden to attend an important event in his life, do you think that will positively affect his perspective of the Roman Catholic Church? I have a difficult time believing that Pope Francis would agree with this lack of support for love and family.

  7. -vb- Reply

    Hi! I am also a Catholic.

    I read in a Catechism book that I may attend events made by other Christian sects or other religions for “social reasons”, and as long as I am not particularly participating in their rites/rituals. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

  8. Alex Reply

    Why catholic bishops discussed and voted though not passed issue of homosexuality while is against life? I think it is some thing not to discuss but to rebuke and reject all over. WHY? you make my faith get down on catholic

  9. Jim Wilson Reply

    Nor ought our Romanist friends expect to be communed in the Catholic and Evangelical Church known as Lutheran, until that is, they have been instructed in the Faith and in consequence of their agreement in it, are received as members. We would not harm those, nor offend our Lord by distributing His Body and Blood into those who are not so examined and rightly prepared.

  10. Andrew Reply

    Sad to say that so many people do not follow through with thought out logic and have fallen into the trap of relativism.

    1. Lois Reply

      So right, I am afraid.

    2. Jana Reply

      I am a Catholic all my life, growing up with Lutherans friends , i don,t see the reason why can not grand parents be there? What harm can that do? There is only” ONE GOD” We all worship the same GOD! Just for thinking all those of different faint will be punish by GOD?

  11. Donna Reply

    This sort of thinking and believing is exactly why I left the church. The child does not know the difference for heaven’s sake! By not attending, you would possibly be making a family ununited. Only love of God comes before love of family in my estimation.

    1. Lois Reply

      “Only love of God comes before love of family in my estimation.”

      Love of both are the very reasons they should not attend.

      “The child does not know the difference for heaven’s sake!”

      This young man (teenager at least) should be well instructed in Luther’s Large & Small Catechism, just in his preparation with his church for reception.

      We would welcome you back in an instant.

      1. Donna Reply

        Lois, that’s not going to happen. The Catholic church is divisive in so many ways! I taught in a catholic school system; I know how it works. No retirement for teachers, custodians, or kitchen help; but certainly the superintendent and principals got it. Purchase of property never stopped, infact increased, yet no retirement for its “grunt labor”. We had a loving, caring staff who saw to it that our students achieved above and beyond the public schools. Finally, when the priest “lost” my annulment papers THREE, yes I said 3, times that was the final straw. Now, by not attending the family is going to be further divided… is that what Jesus would do??

    2. Debi Reply

      Exactly correct

  12. chris Reply

    You should not distance yourself from family. They know with you being Catholic what your stance is. In no way should you participate but not going would cause more harm them good. If you fail to go, the door will close tightly on any further evangelization…. If you are well grounded in the Catholic faith then there should be no problem..that answer applies primarily with Catholics questioning their faith….Good luck and God Bless

  13. Miss_EH Reply

    If you want to be simply horrible and disrespectful to your daughter and her family, by all means don’t attend. If you want to be decent, loving grandparents, attend. There are some families who keep their relatives firmly at a distance, and it’s for reasons just like this. Why would they want to subject their beloved son to grandparents who have plainly demonstrated they are unfeeling, cold, and judgmental?

  14. Rev. Dean Kavouras, Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church Reply

    As a Lutheran pastor this answer makes me angry. Today is Martin Luther’s birthday, and I now celebrate it in these waning hours with more joy. O that a new Luther would appear, who would teach Rome the truth Gospel of Christ: and how to give the fingers of Christ the full glory for his sacrament, and not the fingers of man.

    I don’t know if this answer actually represents the official teaching of the Roman church. But if it does, I thank the writer for reminding me that nothing has changed since Trent, and any thawing of relations between our denominations is a mistake.

    1. mommalovesherbabies Reply

      Reverend Kavouras, this is not the entirety of what the Catholic Church teaches. I am a convert to the Catholic Faith from the Baptist Church. I went to extensive OCIA classes and was fortunate to have had a wonder priest who was a Canon Lawyer to be my catechist. While we may have different views on the truth of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholics believe that when the bread and wine are prayed over in the mass (and this is only done by a priest of the church) the holy spirit enters the bread and the wine and through the power of the Holy Spirit it truly becomes the body and blood of Christ and we are receiving His Body and Blood when we receive Holy Communion. Most protestants do not believe this and this is why Catholic Churches ask our non Catholic visitors to refrain from receiving communion. This is why the grandmother should not receive communion from the pastor at the Lutheran Church where her daughter attends. However, she should go and witness her grandchild’s communion and there is no harm done as long as she herself does not receive the communion because it goes against what we believe in. I do not know what the Lutheran Church teaches and if I teaches that the bread and wine are only mere symbols of the act that Christ performed at the last supper than a Catholic should not be participating. However, going in support of her grandchild would not be considered a sin as far as I can see. The catechism of the Catholic Church is readily available to anyone who wishes to read it and can be found at any book store that sells religious material.

      1. John Reply

        Lutherans believe that Christ is present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine — a Real Presence. It would be a sad mistake if this loving grandmother were not present for this important occasion in her grandson’s life. I find the writer’s answer to be insulting to all non-Catholic Christians and certainly does not help in achieving Christian unity.

        1. Mario Reply

          wish I knew what the real problem is, instead of not focusing outside of the self by contending on the validity of the Eucharist, by now things seem very much confused by the enemy. Some of the mistakes Luther made and he still has a following or it seems like. The original mistake the Catholic Church made and the changes it has gone through. My question is if the Catholic Church has all the validity, where is the humility of acknowledging its truth

    2. TS Reply

      Didn’t Martin Luther come back to the Catholic church?

      1. with-a-z Reply

        He did when he saw the face of God and realized his errors surely.

    3. Lois Reply

      Actually, the teachings of The Catholic Church have not changed since the council of Trent, or since Jesus Christ for that matter. Thanks be to God for the Magisterium.

      The Catholic Church is not a denomination.

      Protestants have denominations.

      Please, keep in mind, we were not the ones who left.

      1. lisa Reply

        Lois – Luther didn’t leave – he loved the Church. It was the Church that kicked him out and put a price on his head, all because he wanted to correct certain abuses… like selling indulgences.

  15. dclarion Reply

    Please attend. This is a significant event in the life of your grandson. Your family is real, unlike the deity the Catholic Church invented. I will say that the attitude shown by the person answering your question is one of the reasons for my apostasy, the second-best decision of my life.

  16. lou Reply

    Your faith is in God and his and his son Jesus’s teachings and the main teaching is LOVE, you love your family so go, God also gave us the gift of free will, is that also now disallowed in the Catholic faith?

  17. Susan Masten Reply

    What would Jesus do? He would attend and probably bring wine to the celebration after the Communion! It angers me to no end that the author would respond with disdain for your immediate family and for another Christian faith. God is a loving and merciful God – and as such, I can’t imagine that God would want anything other than you supporting your family. Peace!

  18. Thomas Moeller Reply

    I applaud the answer. It is good to actually read a good example of good and bad doctrine mixed together and see that the good portion is ruined by the bad.

    The Christian Book of Concord: Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article X. Of Ordination and the Call.

    1] If the bishops would be true bishops [would rightly discharge their office], and would devote themselves to the Church and the Gospel, it might be granted to them for the sake of love and unity, but not from necessity, to ordain and confirm us and our preachers; omitting, however, all comedies and spectacular display [deceptions, absurdities, and appearances] of unchristian [heathenish] parade and pomp. 2] But because they neither are, nor wish to be, true bishops, but worldly lords and princes, who will neither preach, nor teach, nor baptize, nor administer the Lord’s Supper, nor perform any work or office of the Church, and, moreover, persecute and condemn those who discharge these functions, having been called to do so, the Church ought not on their account to remain without ministers [to be forsaken by or deprived of ministers].

    3] Therefore, as the ancient examples of the Church and the Fathers teach us, we ourselves will and ought to ordain suitable persons to this office; and, even according to their own laws, they have not the right to forbid or prevent us. For their laws say that those ordained even by heretics should be declared [truly] ordained and stay ordained [and that such ordination must not be changed], as St. Jerome writes of the Church at Alexandria, that at first it was governed in common by priests and preachers, without bishops.

  19. Kyle Ness Reply

    Of course you should go, It’s first communion of your grand kid and not only that, you can fully participate in communion. In a Lutheran church you are free to come up for communion as long as you believe in the holy spirit, that Jesus died for all sins. And the service lasts 45 min to an hr usually.

    1. Rev. Don Pobanz Reply

      There are many different Synods known as ‘Lutheran’. Not all are alike. ‘Open communion’ is practiced in some Synods, but not in others.

  20. Franz Reply

    Opinion much? Please learn the facts about what you’re denouncing, before you make a fool of yourself. This blog is going around the Lutheran community as completely absurd and misrepresenting everything Christianity is about. We’re having a good laugh at your ignorance. (Baptism and Communion are the only true sacraments. Marriage is not.)

  21. tpel Reply

    I am Catholic, and am godmother (sponsor) to a Lutheran girl. When she received her first communion, not only did I attend, but I took communion with her that one time — normally, when I attend her church I don’t receive. Before doing this, I discussed it with both her pastor and mine. The Lutheran pastor was fine with it, as they do not prohibit other Christians from receiving. My pastor and I looked into Cannon Law, and found that normally Catholics are not supposed to receive communion from sources that the Church does not consider valid. But there is an obscure exception: one may do so “whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or indifferentism is avoided” (CL 844). Naturally, it would be pretty rare for true spiritual advantage to result from receiving communion from a priest outside one’s denomination, and the examples given focused on advantage for the individual receiving, not for another. But my pastor and I agreed that it could apply to my situation: receiving communion (and talking with her about why) would be to my goddaughter’s spiritual advantage; doing it only on her first communion day would avoid indifference. Now, the grandparent role is different from the godparent role. So, I don’t think that receiving communion would necessarily be called for in that case. But attending? Absolutely.

    1. Fr Thomas Reply

      Hi Tpel,

      If you read the entirely of that subsection 844(2), it states:

      §2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

      So the sacraments must be considered valid. Since Lutheran Eucharist is considered invalid by the Catholic Church owing to the lack of a validly ordained priesthood, then this provision would not apply to receiving communion from the Lutheran Church.

      God bless

      Fr Thomas

    2. Lois Reply

      Tpel
      It grieves me to hear that you were counseled this way….. Say it isn’t so….. :'(

  22. karen Reply

    Why is everyone condemning the grandparents. The daughter was raised Catholic, she is the one who turned her back on the faith her parents passed on to her. I would send a card and a child’s catechism of the Catholic Church. Something his mother should have been teaching him!

    1. Donna Reply

      So are you, Karen, saying the grandparents shouldn’t go? The baby has nothing to do with its mother leaving the Catholic church. I pray that families can be united with God and His son at the top of their unity…. regardless of what congregation they share their faith.

    2. Simple Catholic Layman Reply

      Excellent comment Karen. The indifferentism exhibited by catholics on this page is astounding. Faithful catholics didn’t pinch incense to the Roman emperor just to please family & friends. Likewise, faithful catholics shouldn’t pretend to recognize the mock/invalid sacrament of a heretical group that stole away a daughter and grandchild from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.