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Anonymous Amy wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is a person who was baptized a Roman Catholic and later re-baptized in the Coptic Orthodox Church, a member in good standing at both Churches . . . allowing them to receive Communion in either Church?

A dear friend of mine was baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic Church.

As an adult, he was drawn to the Coptic Orthodox Church and decided to become a full member of that Church. He had to be re-baptized because the Coptic Orthodox Church does not accept Roman Catholic Baptism.

He believes that he is now a full member in good standing in both the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches and therefore, on any given Sunday, can go to Mass and receive Communion at either one.

My friend is hoping that I, too, will get re-baptized in the Coptic Church. I decided not to. I thought that Baptism was a sacrament that could only occur once and so I am concerned that getting re-baptized implies a rejection of the Roman Catholic faith.

Also, as best as I can tell, the two Churches have some differing beliefs so it does not make a lot of sense to me to try to belong to both faiths.

  • Is there anything about this issue that I misunderstand?

Thank you very much.

Amy

  { Can someone be a member in good standing at both the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches? }

Bob replied:

Amy,

Your understanding is correct. Baptism cannot be repeated.

The Coptic rejection of Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church belies their disunity with our Church and therefore reception of Holy Communion, which is also a symbol of unity, is not permitted except for dire exceptions.

Stay true to the faith you received; you are bright and in-tune with the truth and we need you.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Amy replied:

Bob,

Thank you for clarifying this and for taking the time to answer this question.

  • Does this mean that my friend is not supposed to receive Communion in the Catholic Church?
  • If he decided that he wanted to become a practicing Catholic again, what would he have to do?

My other question concerns how best to discuss the Coptic and Catholic Churches with my friend. We're pretty close friends who genuinely care about each other's good and have a lot of in-depth conversations about issues of importance [and/or] interest.

The challenge for me has been that my friend, who is extremely smart and highly logical, is not very concerned with the truth or falsity of the positions of the Churches and keeps telling me that there is no need to be exclusive about adhering to one or the other of the Church's official Teachings.

I keep trying to explain why the theological differences are important. We've succeeded in not being too argumentative but we have not really come any closer to understanding each others point of view.

Thank you for any insight you can provide.

Amy

Bob replied:

Amy,

  • Why don't you start with having him do some of the work?

For example, why don't you ask him to explain why the Coptic Church doesn't accept (RC) Roman Catholic Baptism and then use that as a vehicle to open up a discussion.

If he accepts that RC Baptism is valid, then you have starting point of commonality to work from.

Let the differences unfold organically so he can see the logical disconnect for himself. Most people don't like to be told they are wrong so, if he can see it for himself, then you will get further.

Also, our team member Eric is quite familiar with Orthodox and other Eastern issues, perhaps he has a book to recommend that you both could read and have a conversation around.

Stay in touch and we'll help along the way.

Peace,

Bob

Amy replied:

Bob,

Thank you very much for taking the time answer my questions.

Your advice sounds like a good approach which I will take. I would definitely welcome any book recommendations, too.

Thank you again.

Amy

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Amy,

There are two types of Coptic Church’s in the world; Coptic Catholic and Coptic Orthodox. Coptic Catholics are in communion with Rome and Coptic Orthodox are not.

If you or she were to join the Coptic Catholic Church you would not be leaving the faith and they would not re-baptize you. However:

  • joining the Coptic Orthodox Church and
  • submitting to another Baptism

. . . is rejecting one’s faith and if you do it knowingly then you are excommunicating yourself.

Your friend may have just been mistaken and, if so, if she wants to be in good standing with the Catholic Church, she should go to Confession. You, however, should just not do this, as you now (have knowledge) that it would be a serious sin. You have to know it is a serious sin, for something to be a serious sin.

Having said all that, the Coptic Orthodox Church does have a valid sacraments and so
Canon 844 §2 applies:

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.

Fr. Jonathan

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