Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Legality of EMHCs

Does anyone know if a Dubium along the the lines of the following has ever been submitted to the CDW: Is it licit to use Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion solely to enable Holy Communion to be distributed under both kinds?
I really do think the re-introduction of Holy Communion under both kinds is a good thing, providing the faithful are sufficiently catechised to the point where they recognise the Blood of Christ for what it is.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal sees the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds as being an exception, normally when there will be a number of priests present at Mass, such as at an ordination or profession or on Holy Thursday.

Extraordinary Ministers are envisaged by the documents to help the priest in extra-ordinary circumstances, such as when the number of communicants is too great for the Ordinary Ministers to cope with. Extraordinary Ministers are not understood to be either ordinary or normal, indeed outside of the English speaking world, possibly with the exception of France, Communion under both kinds is rare.

Where the Chalice is distributed, it strikes me that less than half of communicants receive from it, it could be because of the obvious problem with hygeine or it could be that a vested priest standing in the centre of the Church distributing the Host is a greater "sign" of Communion than a lay man or women standing off to the side.
There is also, perhaps, a problem of the multiplicity of chalices, somehow the biblical "one bread, one cup" is diminished by the normal two distributors of the Chalice to every distributor of the Host.
The real problem for me is that people will often refer to the "Bread" as "the Body of Christ", "the Host", "the Blessed Sacrament" or even "Jesus", yet the same people will often simply refer to the "Precious Blood" simply as "the wine".


Anonymous said...

Sadly too many teachers in Catholic SchOols also refer to the Most Holy Sacrament as Bread and wine! Some even take umbrage when they are asked "Do you mean the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ?"
But then again, how many actually believe Jesus is God? I have been told at a teachers' meeting He is NOT God but Son of God!!

Redemptionis Sacramentum said...

Redemptionis Sacramentum says:

'Indeed the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may adminster Communion only when the Priest or 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.' (RS, 158)

There is no mention of distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds as being a sufficient reason.

Furthermore a previous section states that there must be 'reasons of real necessity' before extraordinary ministers are instituted (RS, 155)

There can never be a necessity to distribute Holy Communion under both kinds.

parepidemos said...

Father, I agree that it is always better to have the ordained distribute Holy Communion. However, episcopal conferences may extend the provisions for Communion under both species and, as you have said, many English-speaking conferences have done so. Like you,I am very much in favour of this development. The thing is, when it is done, there is a clear need for extraordinary minsters in most cases especially since fewer parishes now have more than one priest. Appropriate catechesis is essential before introducing the practice.

As for losing the important sign of the one chalice, in our parish this is maintained by having the flagon of wine to be consecrated, placed on the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest, (or deacon,if present) then fills the other chalices which are brought forward during the singing of the Agnus Dei.

On the point of symbolism and Eucharistic theology, what do you think of the practice in many parishes whereby hosts from the tabernacle are distributed during Mass? To my way of thinking, this may be convenient but it damages the sign of the people sharing in what has been consecrated during the very Mass they attend.

parepidemos said...

EF pastor emeritus. In teaching parish catechism classes to those who are preparing for the sacraments, I always encounter a problem with how Jesus is referred to by students.

Properly speaking, Christ should be referred to as God-incarnate. It is incorrect to simply say that Christ is "God" as this would entail Him also being the Father and the Holy Spirit; this would be heresy. The concept of the Trinity challenges the best of minds,let alone those who are still in school; therefore, the language we use is crucial.

Of course,it is inexcusable for teachers to refer to the Body and Blood of Christ as "bread and wine"; I would hope this would be very rare and then corrected,when it occurs.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The use of a flagon or any other vessel that would require the pouring of the Blood of Christ is strictly forbidden in Red. Sac.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong to say that calling Jesus Christ GOD is heresy. May I refer you to the Athanasian Creed?It is quite clear that the Father is God: The Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God

RJ said...

parepidemos: I don't think it would be incorrect to refer to Christ simply as God since his nature is divine. It would be equally correct to say, as in the Athanasian creed: "The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God". I don't think anyone would say this entails that each person is the other.

Dominic Mary said...

As RS says, the use of EMsHC must be justified by 'reasons of real necessity'; and giving Holy Communion in both kinds can never be argued to give rise to one of those, simply because to suggest that it does argues against the totality of Christ in every particle of the Sacred Host, or drop of the Precious Blood.

motuproprio said...

I'm afraid any such ruling in response to the dubium you suggest would be widely ignored. There is no authority for Extraordinary Ministers to purify the vessels, yet they do so in practically every parish where they are used. A recent response to a dubium indicated that a concelebrating priest should not elevate the chalice at the "per ipsum", this being the prerogative of the principal celebrant or a deacon assisting at Mass, but nobody seems to take any notice.

Gregory the Eremite said...


It is possible that the GIRM itself adds to confusion on the issue of communion under both kinds, by a certain lack of clarity.

The end of para. 282 states that "the faithful should be encouraged to seek to participate more eagerly in this rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident."

Perhaps an added "in the light of previous norms" would have helped no end! Many seem to interpret this as implying that communion under both kinds should be the norm in all celebrations of mass.

This also seems to be amplified by the document "Celebrating the Mass" that was issued by the English Bishops when the GIRM was published.

Physiocrat said...

Is it necessary to receive communion under both kinds? Is one not receiving the Lord completely if one only receives the sacred Body? Of course not. But could communion under both kinds not convey the misleading idea that one has not received fully if one partakes only of the Body?

If time is a problem, is it not quicker if the communicants are in line and the priest distributes by moving along? Also distribution proceeds more quickly if the priest does not need to wait for the communicant to reply "Amen".

Also in the matter of time, it is quicker if the Ordinary is sung whilst the priest recites the Canon silently at the same time.

If masses are unduly extended, the obvious solution therefore is to use the Extraordinary form.

frd said...

Any chance that Fr Z could chime in on this one, I wonder?

@Parepidemos - In teaching parish catechism classes - maybe you need to look again at the Catechism of the Catholic Church before being let loose any any more of your classes: what other Christological confusion are you sowing?

nickbris said...

I was confirmed SIXTY YEARS AGO and I can remember that it was the most important day of my life.The Bishop came and we all had to kneel and kiss his ring and then took our FIRST COMMUNION,it was the Body of Christ,the Blood of Christ was only allowed to the Priest and we thought that that was quite right as it was far too important for us.

Over the years things have changed and to us septuagenarians and octogenarians taking Communion has become less reverential and those of us who still take it the way we were taught are looked upon as odd-balls.

Changing from Latin to the vernacular was always going to be a problem but we "got over it" although some of us lapsed a bit and never really got over the "hand shaking".

It would be nice if we could get back to some routine which we all understand.

JARay said...

I have said this before, I know, but I am an Instituted Acolyte. We wear albs and cinctures and we are present on the altar all of the Mass (which should always, always, always be printed with a CAPITAL "M" is NOT a 'mass' as in a mass of manure!).
We are officially permitted to cleanse the Sacred Vessels after Holy Communion, EMHCs are not.
The church which I attend most Sundays has communion under both kinds every Sunday.
My own parish has communion under both kinds at all Masses every weekday (numbers are usually only around a couple of dozen on those days although Saturdays sees 50+).
Usually, more than 60% receive under both kinds.

Tom said...

Father - you raise a very important point.

I'm not aware of a dubium, but I do recall reading some while ago a comment which I think was made by Cardinal Arinze, then Prefect at the CDW, that while the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds was lawful, this did NOT require that EMHCs were to be used for that purpose.

Rather, that if sufficient ordinary ministers were unable, then Holy Communion should be distributed under only one kind. Instead, there has been an even greater burgeoning of EHMCs, with the excuse given that Communion under both kinds requires them.

Regreattably, I have mislaid my source for that comment and have been unable to trace it. I have hoped that someone more knowledgeble than me would be able to provide a citation.

Damask Rose said...


Perhaps pertinent to this discussion are some posts made by Fr Mark Kirby of Vultus Christi ( on:
1 Oct: Wounded in the house of them that loved me;
and then go into the Archives:
13 Sept: Let us test and examine our ways;
14 Sept: Just Asking.

Also interesting picture put up on Cathcon (
27 Sept: I don't see Christ, I see bread.

I don't understand why on a weekday Mass in my parish when there are sometimes less than 10 of us, we have to have an EMHC distributing the Precious Blood. Why isn't Holy Communion enough? We do have nuns that attend these Masses too and if there is no EMHC then they will distribute.

Pedant said...

As all 'bodies' contain blood I have never accepted the fact that we need to receive from the chalice in order to 'fully' receive the sacrament. Trent dealt with all this. It was reintroduced, in my opinion, simply as an ecumenical gesture to non-Catholics who really do receive only bread and wine.

I remember an enthusiastic extraordinary minister telling me some years ago that his enthusiasm for reception from the chalice was killed stone dead one Sunday morning. This old chap took the chalice (which, by the way, is not allowed in case of spillage) and as he put the chalice to his lips a great amount of saliva came from both sides of his mouth into the chalice. He said he felt physically sick becasue he knew he would have to drain the chailce if any of the precious Blood remained. He never received again from the chalice.

Delia said...

I don't really understand the objection to tincture, which would seem to me to solve the 'problem'. I've received Communion this way in both Egypt and Greece - does this mean that this is general practice in Latin-rite churches in the East?

Adulio said...

Is it necessary to receive communion under both kinds? Is one not receiving the Lord completely if one only receives the sacred Body? Of course not. But could communion under both kinds not convey the misleading idea that one has not received fully if one partakes only of the Body?

Indeed. The church, mindful of the Hussite heresy, forbade the reception of both kinds because of this very error that would inevitably creep up. How many Catholics now labour with the error that one must receive both species in order to "receive Holy Communion"?

Kevin said...

See article 8 of this document from the Vatican website, issued in 1997. I don't attend the Novus Ordo anymore, so for me the problem doesn't arise, but I know in my own parish that there are two EMHC's in the sanctuary, along with the priest, at every Mass, for a mere handful of communicants. Before I stopped attending the Novus Ordo, from my fairly wide experience of visiting parishes in my own and other dioceses, that kind of abuse is the norm. (Incidentally, the EMHC abuse was one of the many reasons I stopped attending the N.O. Mass)

Richard Collins said...

Receiving just the host is quite sufficient and constitutes both the body and blood of Christ.
To receive under both kinds is risking a most awful accident. It is bad enough if a consecrated host is dropped, the spillage of the sacred blood does not bear thinking about.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Intinction: It is difficult and time consuming. you have to wait for the communicant to decide just in case they want to receive in the hand or don't want to receive the P. Blood, when even a drop of alcohol is prblematic.

gemoftheocean said...

Nickbris, just a question: IF the precious Blood was "far too important for the likes of us" then why wasn't the Precious Body "far too important for the likes of us" too?

Delia said...

Sorry, intinction! Thanks, Father. But at the Masses I went to everyone received on the tongue - there was no choice. And it didn't seem any slower. But I take your point about the alcohol.

The Bones said...

Like the new layout, Father.

nickbris said...

Thankyou Karen,would Sacred be a better word?

I will admit though that when we were serving at Mass we used to be very sparing with the wine as one of our perks was drinking what was left over before we went off to breakfast,there was never a shortage of servers at St Swithins.

Unknown said...

I think we should never have instituted the distribution of the Precious Blood to the laity. I think the Latin Church wisely got away from this practice for a number of reasons that do not seem to have been removed in the last 50 yrs. or so. Another litnik innovation, just like Communion in the hand plucked out of some dim and distant past and given its own new "Spirit of VII" spin.

It seems that only the Easterners have a proper way to give Communion in both forms, but it is their own venerable Eastern custom which we should not copy (nor should they copy ours).

I exclusively (well, practically speaking) attend the TLM so I do not have to worry about that. The few times I do go to the NO, I never receive from the chalice and haven't for quite a few years before I made the switch to the TLM. However, it always seem to me that the unstated reason some parishes had Communion under both forms was to give more lay people something to do. Another pointless "ministry" to let suburbanites feel important.

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