The following comes from a December 28 Crisis article by John M. Grondelski :
A recent issue of the Italian daily Avennire suggests the next possible front in the effort to accommodate the sacraments to “pastoral” problems (at least as Cardinal Walter Kasper sees them): intercommunion.
The December 9 issue features a brief interview in which Kasper reflects on Pope Francis’s October 31-November 1 visit to Sweden to mark the launch of the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation.
Kasper was asked about progress on the next Catholic-Lutheran ecumenical document, and replied that, over the next “two or three years” he hoped for an understanding on “Eucharistic sharing in particular instances, especially regarding mixed marriages and families, which represent a most urgent pastoral problem in countries like, for example, Germany and the United States.”
An understanding on intercommunion—especially in two or three years following half a millennium of misunderstanding—would be a miracle, something the same Cardinal Kasper warns “we should not expect.” He concedes that the “ways and places where full communion will be reached are in God’s hands,” although he apparently hopes Heaven will accelerate the schedule for the next ecumenical document.
One hopes that oneness might rapidly occur: the Lord prayed, after all, that his followers “be one” (John 17:21) at the Last Supper, their first Communion. That unity is precisely what the Master wanted as his last testament—the definitive covenant—made the night before he died. His Will is normative, something Protestants properly understood when the Reformers insisted on the “once-for-all” nature of Christ’s Sacrifice (which, however, perdures in time at every Eucharistic celebration).
But Eucharistic sharing presupposes a common faith, and that is just not there. Most generously, we can say that Lutherans diverge from Catholicism by a Eucharistic theology of consubstantiation (Jesus and bread) rather than transubstantiation (the bread becomes, is transformed into, the Body of Christ).
What is even more cogent, however, is that regardless of the theoretical truth of Lutheran Eucharistic theology, there remains the question: is there a “Eucharist” there at all? Are valid Orders to be found among Lutheran clergy?
If there is no real Eucharist to share in on their side, and no common understanding of the reality being shared in on our side, then what does “Eucharistic sharing” mean?
Back in the 1970s, the same quest for intercommunion was pushed in some circles vis-à-vis the Anglicans. They’re “almost” Catholics: the smells and bells, music and vestments seemed pretty Gothic. Only “rigid” theologians presumably questioned how we would “share” Eucharist with a group that had lost the Eucharist roughly four centuries ago, because that is when it lost valid Orders.
Advocates of intercommunion had introduced a subtle shift into their arguments. The Eucharist was no longer the real symbol of real ecclesiastical communion, the end we shared. Instead, it was a means—presumably each according to his understanding—that would drive us towards that ecclesial communion. (Pope Francis himself used an analogous approach when, answering a Lutheran woman in 2015 who asked him about intercommunion with her Catholic spouse, he equivocally described the Eucharist as “viaticum”—a technical term referring to the last Communion administered to a dying person—that might accompany those in mixed marriages on their marital way).
The progressive collapse of the Anglican Communion into ever deeper heterodoxy and the clear intent of St. John Paul II to impose theological order on the post-Conciliar Church eventually put an end to those quests. Eventually, those Anglicans who shared a common understanding of the Eucharist also found they shared a common understanding of a lot of other things with Catholics.
They shared more with Rome than with Canterbury (or at least American Episcopalians), and swam the Tiber.