Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What does the Church really want?

In the comment box below yesterday's post, a commenter linked to this blog post from last December by Father Z., in which Father discusses a Vatican document from 1997 that few people have heard of:

It is called in English, “Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests“.

You will have to look for this document on the website of the Holy See under the Pontifical Council for the Laity. You won’t find it easily by looking on the website under the other dicasteries or by using their so-called “search” feature. [Links in original--E.M.]

Father then shares this document's discussion of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, parts of which are below:

§ 2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion.(99) They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion. (100) [...]

To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:

(...) — the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”. [Emphasis in original--E.M.]

Seems pretty clear, yes? EMHCs are not supposed to be used every Sunday at Mass.

However, we then read--at the USCCB website--the following:

19. In 1963, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council authorized the extension of the faculty for Holy Communion under both kinds in Sacrosanctum Concilium:

The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, Communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See. . . . (29)

20. The Council's decision to restore Holy Communion under both kinds at the bishop's discretion took expression in the first edition of the Missale Romanum and enjoys an even more generous application in the third typical edition of the Missale Romanum:

Holy Communion has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds. For in this manner of reception a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet shines forth. Moreover there is a clearer expression of that will by which the new and everlasting covenant is ratified in the blood of the Lord and of the relationship of the Eucharistic banquet to the eschatological banquet in the Father's kingdom. (30)

The General Instruction further states that "at the same time the faithful should be guided toward a desire to take part more intensely in a sacred rite in which the sign of the Eucharistic meal stands out more explicitly." (31)

21. The extension of the faculty for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds does not represent a change in the Church's immemorial beliefs concerning the Holy Eucharist. Rather, today the Church finds it salutary to restore a practice, when appropriate, that for various reasons was not opportune when the Council of Trent was convened in 1545. (32) But with the passing of time, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the reform of the Second Vatican Council has resulted in the restoration of a practice by which the faithful are again able to experience "a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet." (33) (All links in original--E.M.)
And under the norms for distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds on the same page, the use of EMHCs is mentioned.

So the question then becomes: which is the priority, in the mind of the Church? That EMHCs be used rarely or, preferably, not at all at Mass, but only to take Communion to the sick of the parish--or that the faithful be able to receive Holy Communion under both kinds? The objection that I'm quoting from the USCCB site, by the way, in no way changes that the USCCB is quoting from official Church documents expressing a preference for Holy Communion under both kinds.

It is true that in some places in the world, this is not an either/or question. There are enough ordained priests and deacons present at every Mass in some places that the laity are not needed to help in this way.

But where I live, for instance, we have one priest handling one parish consisting of two churches--the main church and our mission church. It could be argued (especially at the main church at some Masses where the crowd overflows onto the porch) that the Mass would be unduly prolonged if Father had to give only the Body of Christ, by himself, to all the people present. There would almost never be an occasion for people to receive under both kinds.

And here is where I find myself, as a lay person, completely unable to say with any certainty what the Church herself wants. Does she want Communion under both kinds frequently or even regularly available to the faithful? Or does she want EMHCs phased out of the liturgy completely and only permitted (a little grudgingly, perhaps) to take Communion to the sick since there aren't enough priests and deacons everywhere to do that work of charity? Because aside from a few pockets where there are enough priests and deacons to make EMHCs totally unnecessary, these are mutually exclusive goals.

This is just one example--there are many. But this kind of thing is why I find myself a little out of patience with, for instance, people who think the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be eradicated in the relatively near future; or, on the other hand, with those who think that permitting the Extraordinary Form was a bad mistake, and that the E.F. should be suppressed (not that I know any such people, but I hear they hang out at the NCReporter). There is a tendency to take what one would prefer for oneself and convince oneself that this is what the Church really wants.

Which is not to say that the Church doesn't really want some specific reforms to take place; she does, and she is good about making those things relatively clear (new translation, anyone?). But it highlights the danger of thinking that what we think the Church wants is actually so.

And I'll close with a poll (low tech, as always), to show how different faithful Catholics might answer the same question differently, all of us thinking that we probably have a good idea of what the Church really wants:

What does the Church really want for the Roman Rite of the Mass?

a) She wants the Ordinary Form to prevail, with some reforms, and the Extraordinary Form eventually to be phased out.

b) She wants the Extraordinary Form to prevail, with no reforms at all, and the Ordinary Form eventually to be phased out.

c) She wants both Forms to continue side by side for at least the next several hundred years, each informing the other, each enriching the other.

d) She wants a new single Rite to be created which will look more like the E.F. than the O.F.

e) She wants a new single Rite to be created which will look more like the O.F. than the E.F.

f) She wants something else (and if you choose this option, please describe).

I lean toward "C" of these options. I think both Forms will continue for the lengthy future, and if there is a blending of the two into one it will be an organic development in which neither form "wins" everything. But I look forward to hearing what you have to say--so please leave your comments in the comment box!


Anonymous said...

After quickly looking over the writings (two seconds) I have no idea what the 'Church' wants, but when he was with his disciples at the last supper and he blessed and broke bread, Jesus said something to the effect of 'take, eat, this is my body', and wine, blessed it and shared it with them and said, more or less 'drink this cup of wine, as it is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting life, shed for all for the forgiveness of sins', etc., the transubstantiation was to be effected by the priest, but they could have all been sitting at a table and passed the bread along with the salt and oil, as well as the wine bottle along with the drinking vessels.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

As I recall, the one time I took a friend to mass at St. Mary Maytag in San Francisco, there were a number of people, many of them women, handing out communion wafers to different sections of the cathedral. There were male priests present, I think a bishop or even an archbishop, but they remained on the platform. It was Christmas Eve, and therefore quite crowded. I don't think there was any effort to distribute wine to so may.

Naturally, I did not take a wafer, as I was on several grounds not eligible.

Chris-2-4 said...

Well, my guess would be that to ask what the Church prefers (Communion under both kinds vs. rarity of EHMCs) is to miss the larger point at the expense of the practical.

What the Church wants/needs is enough Priests and Deacons to distribute communion under both kinds to all the faithful.

I know that's wholly unsatisfying and a bit of a cheat, but I think it's the answer.

Tony said...

Because of the abuses countenanced by the Bishops, the Vatican was prompted to issue a letter (three years after the USCCB norms you referenced were published).

It was called REDEMPTIONIS SACRAMENTUM and states:

"[101.] In order for Holy Communion under both kinds to be administered to the lay members of Christ’s faithful, due consideration should be given to the circumstances, as judged first of all by the diocesan Bishop. It is to be completely excluded where even a small danger exists of the sacred species being profaned."

"[155.] In addition to the ordinary ministers there is the formally instituted acolyte, who by virtue of his institution is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion even outside the celebration of Mass. If, moreover, reasons of real necessity prompt it, another lay member of Christ’s faithful may also be delegated by the diocesan Bishop, in accordance with the norm of law,[256] for one occasion or for a specified time, and an appropriate formula of blessing may be used for the occasion. This act of appointment, however, does not necessarily take a liturgical form, nor, if it does take a liturgical form, should it resemble sacred Ordination in any way. Finally, in special cases of an unforeseen nature, permission can be given for a single occasion by the Priest who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist.[257]"

"[157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.[258]"

(This particular situation I have witnessed, and it broke my heart. 5 concelebrating priests sat down, and the "eucharistic ministers" took over).

"[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259] This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason."

(And this is the gravest consistent abuse. If the priest might take 10 minutes to distribute communion, it is considered "overly long".)

Tony said...

My vote would be "c1". Both forms existing side by side, each exerting "gravitational pull" on the other until they coalesce into one rite that contains the best features of both.

The Sicilian said...

Chris, that's a good answer and relative to the larger one about which Erin is asking. My priest is constantly asking for prayers for priestly vocations at the general intercessions; he is the lone priest in a large and growing parish. If there were no EMHCs, he'd be giving Communion to about 1000 people on his own, and probably rarely be able to give Communion to immigrant detainees who are served almost exclusively by EMHCs. Our diocese, which is huge, has very few men in seminary now. Relief isn't coming. Fr. has said the day will likely come when parishes here will have to close/blend in with each other due to the priest shortage.

I'll take your comment further. I think the Church wants its baptized but distanced and/or heretical members (like most of the individuals I know, including myself, who were at least baptized in the Church) to return to full communion and those who are in full communion to stay there and also evangelize and bring more members into the Church. But, how is the Church, at least here in the US, going to serve its current membership, much less, a hopefully growing membership, with the number of priests dwindling? Fr. here is on vacation this week, so there are no weekday Masses, and that's the norm when he's away. There is no one to cover him as the other parishes, except for one, have one priest.

To answer Erin's question directly, I would guess option C.

Anonymous said...

The last time I read your blog you had a post about toupees which you said was a joke. Now you have this question which you load up front: Should EMs only take communion to the homebound and not get to prance around the altar at Mass? Does the church think it's more important for lay people to have communion under both kinds or to not have EMs prancing around the altar at Mass? Do we think like you that the two forms of the Mass should exist side by side for several centuries until you're dead and not affected when EMs are prohibited forever? (notice how I load my questions).

I have one answer: EMs should not take communion to the sick and homebound either--the priest needs to visit his people, especially those who are sick.

My questions: why is there a shortage of priests not to mention faithful (could it be the NO)? Who cares about communion under 2 kinds except for EMs?

In regard to the toupee issue: did you know that Hasidic married women who are not supposed to show their hair actually are allowed & often do wear wigs to cover their hair?

Did you ever consider that when women covered their heads in church abortion was illegal and so was euthanasia whether administered via hospice or suicide? Or that he who isn't faithfl in small things isn't faithful in large things either? If you want to be first in heaven be a servant on earth.

I think you should give up being an EM if it is such a stumbling block to you.

Rebecca in CA said...

I kind of think option d, though I can't really give reasons.

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous at 12:59, I'm not an EMHC, and have never been one. I don't personally receive under both kinds, either, for many reasons (none of which are theological, and all of which are practical). But I think you've missed the point.

I do agree with you and with Chris: what needs to happen is that we have so many priests and deacons available all over the Catholic world that even tiny congregations in rural areas of mostly non-Catholic countries don't ever have to decide between Communion under both kinds and using EMHCs. It would also be wonderful for priests to be able to visit every single sick person in their parishes and bring them Communion--but in an age when it's not at all uncommon for two or even three rural parishes to be sharing a single priest, banning EMHCs from assisting in this work of charity simply means accepting that chronically sick people who are housebound or in a hospital or nursing home may have to go months at a time without the Sacrament.

And that's why I ask what the Church wants, not what I want. The Church could outlaw EMHCs tomorrow, if she willed to; it's within her right to do so. But *she* isn't taking that action. So I ponder what that means.

Yes, more priests, and more deacons (even the married permanent ones--though we have to settle the Peters question, I suppose). But in the meantime?

eulogos said...

Option C, eventually leading to option D. At least, I believe that is what the Holy Father envisions. (My idea of what this would be: The original Roman rite, in the vernacular with some parts in Latin, celebrated ad orientem with more responses said by the congregation. Oh, and without the silent canon. At least, this is basically what the Eastern rites did with their ancient liturgies after VII. I believe this is what the Fathers of the Council had in mind.)

As for the communion in both kinds vs no regular use of EMHCs, this is easily solvable, really it is.

Yes, having enough priests and deacons to distribute communion as we do now would solve it. But even now, it is solvable. First of all, get everyone kneeling at an altar rail, or at least standing in a line where the altar rail ought to be. Then have the priest use an intinction set, which is a small chalice of wine set into a paten for the hosts. The priest goes along the line, intincts each host and puts it on the communicant's tongue. This is nearly as fast as communion in one kind only. This is what the Anglican Use groups in Scranton and Boston do.

If there are two priests or a priest and a deacon, then the desire of some to have communion in the hand and to drink from the cup can be indulged without EMHC, if you just get everyone kneeling at an altar rail, by doing it the way the Episcopalians do. The priest goes along putting the host in cupped hands, then the deacon goes along with the cup. These days many Episcopalians self intinct (they didn't back when I was briefly an Episcopalian) which is not and should not be allowed. Some Episcopalians/Anglicans were taught to lift the cupped hands to the mouth rather than picking up the host and a few continue to do this; I think it does emphasize that the Blessed Sacrament is not something to be handled in an ordinary way, much as does communion on the tongue.

I have to admit that having begun my Christian life as an Episcopalian (and having had my conversion center around an experience when receiving the cup) I have never really been comfortable with communion in one kind only. I believe Our Lord is entirely present in the smallest fragment or sip of either species, of course, but I really do believe communion under both species is a fuller sign of the sacrament.

My preferences fit in neatly with neither end of the current liturgical spectrum. But I am happy in the Eastern rite, and for the Latin rite, the Anglican use, (which uses the Roman canon spoken aloud in English) suits me well.

Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Communion by intinction. A Presbyterian minister in West Virginia tried that once. Quite moving. No wafers of course.

The pleading for more priests highlights the fact that individual men have to make an individual decision that they want, or are called and choose to accept the call, to be priests. Short of numbering off in each parish and consigning every tenth man to holy orders, there is a factor that cannot be decreed. So, if insufficient men step forward, the options narrow to, how shall the few priests available be provided with proper assistance, or, how shall communion be rationed among the faithful. Or... is there another pool that could be tapped as a source of priests?

eulogos said...

Siarlys, I don't know what you mean by "tried" that, and "quite moving". It doesn't need to be "tried"-it is already known to work quite well. We aren't really talking about the same thing, anyway.

The Eastern Church does it with cubes of bread soaked in the wine in the chalice, which are put in the mouths of the faithful on a long gold spoon.

And as I said, wafers can be dipped in the wine in a small chalice and put on the mouths of the faithful.

I have received both ways, the first way almost every Sunday, the second way maybe ten or twelve times.

I really hoped Red Cardigan, who expressed perplexity about how this can be done, would comment.

Priests will come if the church is orthodox and holy. So let's not have subtle little hints about "another pool." We could have a whole raft of semipagan priestesses like the Episcopalians (the Anglicans in the US also have a few real Christian female ministers who are real Protestants and don't believe in the priesthood) but then we wouldn't be the Catholic Church.

Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

What difference does it make about receiving communion under both kinds? Guess you all don't remember how this country was founded - what did the people do w/out EMs back then? What did they do in England, France, Russia, Asia & Mexico when Catholicism was against the law? What do they do in China right now? Catholics have a duty to receive communion (and go to confession) once a year. Receiving communion unworthily is a mortal sin. The wages of sin is death. Think about it. Seriously.

eulogos said...

Oh dear. Anonymous....the people who founded this country were mostly Protestants and Deists. The few Catholics I am sure received under one species because that was the norm then in the Latin rite.
In Russia if they were Eastern rite Catholics (or Orthodox) they received as I have already described it, a square of leaveded bread soaked in wine put directly in the mouth from a golden spoon. In China right now most Catholics go to church openly in the Patriotic Catholic Church; I could find out whether they recieve under both species by asking a blogger I know who is there. It is pretty hard for a Westerner to find out anything about the underground Catholics in China.
The subject really was communion under both species, not worthy reception of communion. The two are not related to each other either directly or inversely!

But of course we should all be serious about not receiving communion unworthily.

Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

Sorry, Susan; I would have commented sooner.

I realize that the altar-rail/by intinction method could work for both kinds distribution--the problem is that so many Catholic churches don't have such rails, and sadly aren't even designed in a way that would make installing them a realistic option. I'm not sure about the "standing line" method, because the priest would have to be very careful not to spill anything as he moved from person to person while the line continually moved (if I'm envisioning this right). And, again, many churches are designed in such a way that having people line up in a line across the front would be difficult to do.

To be honest, my preference would be for communion to be under one kind only for most occasions, and reserve the two kinds for major feast, sacramental celebrations, and the like. Since those days are already crowded the use of EMHCs then wouldn't be a problem.

But my one priest would probably take at least fifteen minutes to give communion to everybody; it takes about five now (and I've timed it, for choir purposes) with EMHCs. Is that "unduly prolonged?" Well, given that our Mass is at 8:30 a.m. and Father has to be twenty minutes down the road at his main parish to say the 10 a.m. the logistics might get a bit tricky if Father had to give communion to everyone all by himself--but that's our situation, not everybody's.

Again, though: to me it makes sense to stop giving communion under both kinds until there are enough priests to do so. But is that what the Church wants? And what happens in situations where EMHCs are needed just to give the Body of Christ to everyone without having Communion take fifteen or twenty minutes?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

For the record Eulogos, the minister held a loaf of french bread in one hand, and a serving dish of some kind with the grape juice in the other. We each filed by in a line, broke off a piece of french bread, and dipped it in the juice -- after a brief introduction to communion by intinction. I said "tried that" because it was new and different, and I haven't seen it since. I said "very moving" because it was.

You are of course right that we are not talking about exactly the same thing.

Now I know someone is going to say that's not REAL communion, and you are welcome to do it in any way that you believe God requires of you. I am beginning to be reminded of the Protestant so hung up on baptism by immersion that he pronounced anyone baptized by sprinkling in the middle of the Sahara Desert, where there isn't enough water to spare for immersion, as inescapably damned.

Charlotte said...

For awhile you had "L" to contend with.

Now you've got a few new ones.

What is it with you, Red? : )

Siarlys Jenkins said...

On the remote speculation that you're referring to me, among others, Charlotte, I admire Red as a woman who is sincere in what she believes, and who says it straight. Since we disagree about so much, every time we see eye to eye is all the more precious.

Since we are both citizens of the same republic, bound by the same laws, it seems rational to me that we should be able to talk about it without either banishing each other by bell, book and candle, or coming to blows.

Wouldn't it be boring if this site were nothing but a mutual admiration society? People who sincerely believe that the Bishop of Rome is Christ's Vicar on Earth, and that when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and doctrine, he is infalliable, really do exist, and they do not have horns on their head. Therefore, it seems reasonable to talk these things over with them, without either of us expecting the other to cave in.