Tuesday, 22 April 2014

CD 280: on the priest ministering the chalice himself

In my diocese the Bishop has indicated that there should be communion under both kinds at every Mass. As an assistant priest, celebrating the early Mass with just a few people, I give holy communion under the form of bread and then minister the chalice myself. Am I correct in my thinking about the Church’s wishes in this matter?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal gives the Bishop the faculty to permit communion under both kinds whenever a priest with pastoral care of the faithful judges it appropriate (n.283) It is not within the competence of a Diocesan Bishop to go beyond the law of the universal Church. He may recommend or encourage Communion under both kinds but he has no authority to make it compulsory.

Indeed, Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) indicates various circumstances in which the practice should not be allowed. If there is even a small danger of profanation of the sacred species, if there is such a large number of communicants that the amount of wine to be consecrated cannot be accurately gauged, or if a notable part of the faithful does not approach the chalice, the practice is to be excluded. (nn.101-102)

The universal law of the Church also sets out certain conditions for the use of extraordinary ministers. The 1997 Instruction on the Collaboration of the Lay Faithful reminds us that the use of extraordinary ministers is for cases of true necessity if the distribution of Holy Communion would be unduly prolonged, and that the habitual use of extraordinary ministers should be “avoided and eliminated.” (n.82) It could be argued that the use of extraordinary ministers solely for the purpose of making Communion under both kinds possible, is not a case of necessity.

Although the contrary custom of using extraordinary ministers habitually is now widespread, (and the Holy See may judge whether this custom is to be tolerated or not) a priest certainly has the right to obey the law as it is stated. Your decision to minister the chalice yourself at Mass with just a few people is therefore entirely in accord with the mind of the Church.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
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