About this tab: The Eucharist is a central practice for the Catholic Church, and yet it can be controversial. This tab explores two controversies involving the Eucharist: 1.Whether the Eucharist is a sign of inclusion or exclusion, and 2.Two different ways of the Eucharist is presented in the scriptures.
For many people, the Eucharist is known as a celebration that is extremely important to the Catholic faith. For others, the Sacrament is seen as a sense of controversy that has negatively impacted many lives. In an article analyzing this controversy, Timothy Radcliffe gives specific examples referencing how the Eucharist can be seen as means of exclusion. Radcliffe explains that he doesn't necessarily fall on one side of the debate but his purpose is to share his intuitions on the subject. The first form of exclusion proposed impacts people outside the Catholic faith. The Eucharist is specific to the Catholic faith and is not inclusive for other Christians. Radcliffe then explains that the Eucharist is also considered exclusive because according to bible interpretations people who are divorced, remarried, gay or living with a partner are not to accept the Eucharist. There is also a sense of exclusion experienced by women in the Catholic faith because according to Radcliffe many women feel that they are left out of ordination and the Eucharist is seen as a male dominated activity of the church. Radcliffe explains that there is the "implicit exclusion of the poor from our celebrations of the Eucharist and our lives" (Radcliffe 158). He confirms this exclusion by explaining that there is a growing separation between the developing countries and our country. Radcliffe identifies the Church's response to these forms of exclusion and why they are necessary to the values of the Catholic faith and the practices of the Church. For example, regarding the exclusion for other Christians not receiving the Eucharist, Radcliffe explains that it is a main part of Catholicism. In order to be Roman Catholic you are “someone whose life is orientated towards receiving the body and blood of Christ” (Radcliffe 159). It is not the Catholic Church’s goal to be exclusive but rather to use the Eucharist as a celebration within their specific community. The inclusive nature of the celebration is a symbol of “the unimaginable gathering in of all of humanity into the Kingdom in Christ" (Radcliffe 160). People in the Catholic faith use the celebration of the Eucharist to unite the community and strengthen their relationship with God. According to Radcliffe, the Catholic Church explains that "the reception of the Eucharist is not just something that Catholics happen to do, and to which we might invite other Christians from time to time" (Radcliffe 159). There is a larger meaning behind receiving the body of Christ; the Catholic Church feels that if you are receiving communion you are finding your identity within Catholicism and recognizing yourself as a "future citizen of the kingdom" (Radcliffe 160). Radcliffe proposes potential objections to his explanation of the Church being inclusive of their community rather than exclusive to other Christians. For example, Radcliffe explains that many people think that baptism is a confirmation of a place in God’s kingdom. Radcliffe says that the Catholic Church would respond by saying that there is a unity created in those who are baptized. However, the unity is “concealed by the divisions between Christians" (Radcliffe 161). This controversy is something that has emerged as more and more branches of Christianity have formed. Radcliffe identifies pieces of scripture that further contribute to this debate of the Eucharist. The words that were said by Jesus while breaking the bread were “And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, Take it; this is my body” (Mark 14:22). Mark’s account of the last supper reads, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14.22–25). Radcliffe identifies the difference between how the body and blood were distributed to the disciples. The blood is shed “for many” while there is no distinction of how many people were receiving the bread. Radcliffe explains that the cup is a symbol for the Kingdom and states, "The cup points to the Kingdom, when Jesus will drink it again and when all of God’s children will be gathered together" (Radcliffe 162). Radcliffe suggests that this tension presented in scripture suggests that the Eucharist "embodies a double-layered Christian identity" (Radcliffe 162). The way in which the different Christian groups deal with this tension is what separates them.
Another Eucharistic controversy that arises is one that comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Rameilli wrote a text that gives many interpretations about what Paul states in the 1 Corinthians 11:30 about the Lord’s Supper in a way that is sinful. Ramelli explains that by sinful, it means that you should not take the Lord’s Supper in a way that uses gluttony, richness, or drunkenness. The overall thought from many commenters is that these consequences can be understood in a physical sense based on the way their commentaries like Jamison-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary describe people being weak in strength after receiving communion unworthily. Ramelli interprets what consequences can happen if you use the Lord’s Supper unworthy as “for this reason, among you, many are weak and ill, and a good number are dying (or: are dead)” and she argues that death should be understood in a spiritual sense and most ancient exegeses stated this too. She argues that most contemporary commenters believe that Paul’s idea of death and illness in Corinthians interpreted to be a physical sense instead. The only person she could recall that does not interpret the verse to be physical as well is Sebastian Schneider and he believed that feeling ill and weak after taking the Lord’s Supper was meant in faith not bodily feeling ill and week. She describes every other contemporary commenter to view Paul’s verse in Corinthians to view it in the physical sense such as Johannes Weis and Dale B. Martin. Weiss refers that eating and drinking the Eucharist with with your own judgement referring to 1 Corinthians 11:29 can lead to physical damage. Martin states that if someone takes the Eucharist when they are not supposed to it will have a toxic effect on their body. She continues explaining the idea of why commenters believe this verse should be taken in a physical sense because it was written in Acta Thomae 51 that once a man killed his fiancée and when he wanted to take the Eucharist his hands became paralyzed. Ramelli argues against all contemporary commenters who believe that death should be viewed in a spiritual sense by paralleling Paul's verse with other New Testament books such as Revelation. Her thought is that "in 1 Cor 11:30, in Rev 3:1–2 the meaning is that the person who acts badly is only apparently alive, but in fact is spiritually dead: “I know your works: you are said to be living, and yet you are dead". She believes this to be an enriching statement that proves that the Lord's Supper is something that can only affect you spiritually and not physically if you take intake it with an unworthy manner.