Monday, 17 September 2012

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion: What does the Church really say?

It has been an extremely busy summer, as usual and thus, blogging has been sparse. There is much on my mind and much for us to talk about. So, let us begin with this.

In this document is the clarity on what are ubiquitously referred to as Eucharistic Ministers. Friends, there are only three "Eucharistic Ministers" in the Catholic Church, a bishop, a priest and a deacon. The actual "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion" the correct term, is an Installed Acolyte, generally a Seminarian. The laity can be delegated to fulfill the need for an Acolyte in the absence of one. The Church is hierarchical, so is the liturgy. If an Installed Acolyte is present at a Mass, he has the right and obligation to Lector or serve as an Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the place of the laity. The lay person must stand down. If a priest not celebrating the Mass delivers a homily and stays to distribute Holy Communion, he cannot be usurped by a layman. If a Deacon is present, he must fulfill his role as an Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist and must never be supplanted by a layman.

In 1997, on Assumption a document was issued by the Holy See called  Ecclesia de mysterio and it was signed by an unprecedented number of Prefects! The first dicastery listed was the Congregation of the Clergy, clearly for whom this was meant. For the purpose of this topic, let us just look at Article 8 of this Instruction.

Amazingly, the document was issued and signed by:

Congregation for the Clergy
Darío Castrillón Hoyos
Crescenzio Sepe
Pontifical Council for the Laity
James Francis Stafford
Stanislaw Rylko
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Tarcisio Bertone SDB
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez
Geraldo Majella Agnelo
Congregation for Bishops
Bernardin Card. Gantin
Jorge María Mejía
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Jozef Card. Tomko
Giuseppe Uhac
Congregation for Institutes of Consecretated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
Eduardo Card. Martínez Somalo
Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti CP
Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts
Julián Herranz
Bruno Bertagna

Article 8
The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion
The non-ordained faithful already collaborate with the sacred ministers in diverse pastoral situations since "This wonderful gift of the Eucharist, which is the greatest gift of all, demands that such an important mystery should be increasingly better known and its saving power more fully shared".(95)
Such liturgical service is a response to the objective needs of the faithful especially those of the sick and to those liturgical assemblies in which there are particularly large numbers of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion.
§ 1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the the Deacon.(96) Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3.(97)
A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan bishop, using the appropriate form of blessing for these situation, to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad actum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period. In exceptional cases or in un foreseen circumstances, the priest presiding at the liturgy may authorize such ad actum.(98)
§ 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)
This function is supplementary and extraordinary (101) and must be exercised in accordance with the norm of law. It is thus useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese. Such norms should provide, amongst other things, for matters such as the instruction in eucharistic doctrine of those chosen to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the meaning of the service they provide, the rubrics to be observed, the reverence to be shown for such an august Sacrament and instruction concerning the discipline on admission to Holy Communion.
To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:
— extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants;
— association with the renewal of promises made by priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, as well as other categories of faithful who renew religious vows or receive a mandate as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion;
— the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of "a great number of the faithful".

1 comment:

Barona said...

The distribution of Holy Communion in the hand is the greatest and most disturbing change in discipline in the Latin rites. It has incalculable psychological consequences of down-playing, denying the Real Presence. Its spread was by stealth and rebellion. This was not the practice in Canada (e.g.); and any abuse at the time would have been just that. Thus, any polling of bishops of determine if it was widespread to apply for an indult to Rome would have been duplicitous to say the least. Take a poll on disobedience, and it is widespread allow it!!!?

This is my line in the sand. I must add that given that the Church allows it, I cannot say that reception per se is a sin. No. But I can say that in my humble observations I see a liturgical practice that leads very, very quickly to an undermining of the Mystery of Faith. It is possible, under the strict rules (which are virtually never obeyed) to distribute Holy Communion piously on the hand. But this would be very rare. One sees this with the terrible disrespect towards the Blessed Sacrament.

I will always remember with horror a Mass I attended in honour of Cardinal Ambrozic's reception of the Cardinalate. It was in a church in mid-north, downtown Toronto. Upon completion of the Mass; the congregation arose, and a huge din and hub-bub commenced. Talking, laughing etc. But what shocked me most was the casual strolling past the Tabernacle without any sign of reverence.

They had forgotten our Blessed Lord; they probably did not know whom they had just received. They were ignorant, un-catechized and half-protestantized.

Conclusion: dear Cardinal Collins, please suppress Communion in the Hand. You can do so, you have the power, you are the guardian and legislator in the archdiocese (not your advisors, lay and/or clerical). You are the bishop (not your advisors lay and/or clerical). You are the supreme authority, always with and never against Peter (not your l;ay advisors and/or clerical). Please also, in every parish bring back Catechetical instruction on Sundays. Please heed the warnings of our dear Pope about the dangers of bureaucratic administration impeding the life of the local church (as he recently warned the French bishops). Please be in direct touch with us; please be our pastor. We desperately want a bishop who is close to the people.