I attended a funeral on the weekend, and my friend asked me to go up with her for the wafer (no disrespect intended, I'm not sure of the correct term to use). She is RC herself, but was shy to walk up alone - it was a large funeral.
I did not, because I have been told in the past that it would be very disrespectful. She said that it was considered okay for a baptized person (of any faith, as long as you had been baptized by 'someone') to do so, RC or not.
You were correct.
The ruling in the Catholic Church is that only communicant (as distinct from baptised) Catholics can take Holy Communion (receive the Blessed Sacrament/bread/wafer). It is a strict ruling, made even stricter since the present Pope became Pope. I think members of the Orthodox Church may also, but that's all, not even Anglicans and Episcopalians.
However, although that is the strict ruling, and it is very much to be upheld without variation, there are still local variations because there are some parishes where the priests are a bit rebellious. But they are few and far between, again since Pope Benedict became Pope. The ruling has never actually been otherwise, but a few years ago there were more rebellious parish priests. it's all been tightened up though.
Just to clear up a couple of other points:
wafer= eucharist or host, as Still Thinking already said.
In fact, to Catholics, the bread IS the Body of Christ, is Christ himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. That is the teaching, believed by all Catholics, and it is different from general Episcopalian/Anglican belief. The latter churches are more likely to be the ones using the term *eucharist", though that term, in the UK at least, more usually refers to an Anglican Communion service. To a Catholic, that "service" is the Mass.
Lay people never received wine until recently.
In the UK, that practice came in towards the end of the eighties. It is not referred to as wine. Catholics believe it becomes the Blood of Jesus, and it is more usually referred to as "receiving from the chalice".
Band On the Run, the old Latin liturgy, known as the Tridentine Mass, is still celebrated and has not changed. Many churches (not splinter groups) reserve one or more weekly masses for those who prefer the old liturgy. They do so around here, and I am sure it is no different in your part of the country.
Depends where you are, Botchtower. In my area, there are only a very few such Masses available, and only a very few people attend them. However, this Pope offers the practice every encouragement, and the swing is very much in that direction. It tends to be more the older people who like it and only a minority of those, but there is also a growing number of almost militant and fervent young catholics who are trying to revive the old Latin and the former traditions.
She said she was taking communion again, when I asked how she was getting on in the confessional, she said they didn't have to do confession any more and could do communion without that. In fact, confession was no longer manditory.
I have to say I was shocked because it was always a big deal and you could not receive communion/eucharist unless you went to confession first. So although my friend thought that was great...I couldn't understand it because it was considered a sin to accept communion without confession and doing the said amount of Hail Marys and Our Fathers for repentance.
Was that before Vatican 2, still thinking? It isn't quite like that these days.
The two things are separate. Regular sacramental confession, maybe monthly, is encouraged but no longer widely practised. It is not mandatory to make a sacramental confesion before receiving Holy Communion, but it is mandatory to go to confession at least once a year, particularly, within the Eater season, which lasts from the beginning of Lent to Pentecost.
However, if a serious, i.e. mortal sin has been committed, one should make a sacramental confession before receiving Holy Communion. People living in a state of serious sin, according to the teachings of the Church, e.g. living together unmarried or divorcees who have remarried without annulment, may not take Holy Communion. However, gain, there are parish priests who turn a blind eye, so you may find a parish where the practice is less strict. However, in such a parish, the priest will be disobeying the rule of the Church.
If anyone wants to know an absolutely up to date fact about the RC church please feel free to ask me in a PM if you want or PM me and draw my attention to a thread on the forum. I haven't been back to church yet but I am very up to date and in touch with recent changes and developments there.