Church Row

By Irish America Staff
June / July 2001

Recently elevated Dublin Cardinal Dr. Desmond Connell incited a row with the Archbishop of the Church of Ireland when in an interview with the Sunday Business Post he criticized the Church of Ireland for allowing all baptized Christians to receive Holy Communion at its services.

“It is all very well to say that everybody whose conscience permits him is welcome to come to communion, but in circumstances when it is known that this is tantamount to an invitation to Catholics [in attendance] to come to communion, that fails to respect the faith and obligations of our members and, consequently, the cause of ecumenism,” he told the Post.

Connell also pointed out, “For Catholics, when we receive Holy Communion, it is a statement that we are in full communion with those people with whom we are taking communion. It is a very public statement of common faith, of full communion of belief and worship.

“We have a certain communion with other Christians…but our communion with the Church of Ireland and other Protestants is incomplete; because we and they do not have the same faith about, for example, the Eucharist,” he argued.

Dr. Walton Empey of the Church of Ireland promptly replied on RTE radio, “[Cardinal Connell] asks the Church of Ireland to respect the `very clear position’ of the Roman Catholic Church regarding inter-communion. However, I must ask [him] to respect our position, which is also very clear.

“We welcome to Holy Communion all those who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, our communicant members of their own churches and whose con-sciences allow them to receive Holy Communion,” Empey pointed out.

“When I go to a Roman Catholic church,” he continued, “I respect the tradition that we do not come forward for communion and I respect their position on that. But when we are in our own Church of Ireland churches, then I have to ask him to respect our position in that matter.”

This debate between the two churches was brought to the fore in 1997 when President McAleese, a Catholic, took communion at Christ Church Cathedral. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Connell told radio host Eamon Dunphy that for a Catholic to receive communion in a reformed church was a “sham.” ♦

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