Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Ecclesia de mysterio, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and the St. Monica situation

December 28th, 2010, Promulgated by Abaccio

Have you been to a Mass where there is a sudden mad rush to the sanctuary, wherein 30 people rush to the bottle of Purell, are then all handed Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, whom they hold for a period of time (say, during the Ecce Agnus Dei) before consuming with the priest as if they are concelebrating Mass?  I know that in my boyhood parish,  this happened EVERY SINGLE MASS.

Did you know that the church has deemed such behaviors unacceptable?  In 1997, a document entitled Ecclesia de mysterio was signed by a whopping eight dicasteries of the Roman Curia, that addressed this very issue.  Fr. Z posted on this here.

The document states (with Fr. Z’s emphasis),

“§ 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)”

Clearly, the practice at St. Michael in Rochester does not fit this bill.  At this church, they feel the need to have both a priest and a deacon distribute the consecrated hosts, while the chalice is given by two laymen (or laywomen).   This is rather astounding when those at Mass number approximately 30.

The document continues, (emphasis, again, from Fr. Z)

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

— extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants;

— the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”.

Now, this document focuses in on a number of things, not just EMHC’s.  For instance, it also states:

It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as “pastor”, “chaplain”, “coordinator”, ” moderator” or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.(58)

The Diocese of Rochester clearly has ignored this little segment.

It continues:

§ 1. The homily, being an eminent form of preaching, qua per anni liturgici cursum ex textu sacro fidei mysteria et normae vitae christianae exponuntia,(68) also forms part of the liturgy.

The homily, therefore, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, Priest or Deacon(69) to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as “pastoral assistants” or catechists in whatever type of community or group. This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For the same reason the diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from the canonical norm(70) since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying.

For the same reason, the practice, on some occasions, of entrusting the preaching of the homily to seminarians or theology students who are not clerics(71) is not permitted. Indeed, the homily should not be regarded as a training for some future ministry.

All previous norms which may have admitted the non-ordained faithful to preaching the homily during the Holy Eucharist are to be considered abrogated by canon 767, § 1.(72)

We are left to one of two conclusions:

1)  The ignorance of the Bishop (either of the document, or of the illicit practice)

2) The willful disobedience of the norms of the Church

Which sounds more likely?

But that’s not all!  In article 4 of the same document, there is a discussion of lay pastoral collaboration

The non-ordained faithful, as happens in many worthy cases, may collaborate effectively in the pastoral ministry of clerics…Provisions regulating such extraordinary form of collaboration are provided by Canon 517, § 2.

§ 1. The right understanding and application of this canon, according to which… requires that this exceptional provision be used only with strict adherence to conditions contained in it. These are:
ob sacerdotum penuriam and not for reasons of convenience or ambiguous “advancement of the laity”, etc.; (Are you reading this, Your Excellency?)

b) this is participatio in exercitio curae pastoralis and not directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the Parish; these competencies, according to the canon, are the competencies of a priest alone.

Because these are exceptional cases, before employing them, other possibilities should be availed of, such as using of the services of retired priests still capable of such service, or entrusting several parishes to one priest or to a coetus sacerdotum.(75)

In any event, the preference which this canon gives to deacons cannot be overlooked…(We’ve got more than enough of them to cover the jobs of the layfolk who are currently running parishes…)

The presentation of resignation at the age of 75 by a Parish Priest does not of itself (ipso iure) terminate his pastoral office. Such takes effect only when the diocesan Bishop, following prudent consideration of all the circumstances, shall have definitively accepted his resignation in accordance with Canon 538, § 3 and communicated such to him in writing.(79) In the light of those situations where scarcity of priests exists, the use of special prudence in this matter would be judicious. (Sound familiar?)

In view of the right of every cleric to exercise the ministry proper to him, and in the absence of any grave health or disciplinary reasons, it should be noted that having reached the age of 75 does not constitute a binding reason for the diocesan Bishop to accept a Parish Priest’s resignation. (Note that the retirement age for priests in Rochester is a full 5 years before the general, non-binding retirement age.  The priest shortage is what Bishop Clark WANTS!) This also serves to avoid a functional concept of the Sacred Ministry.(80)

This is getting long, I know…but it’s all incredibly clear, and incredibly AGAINST what we are seeing here in Rochester.   The real reason this document is hugely important at this time comes later in article 6. (See this post to understand the reference.)

§ 2. To promote the proper identity (of various roles) in this area, those abuses which are contrary to the provisions of canon 907 are to be eradicated. In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers — e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology (Fr. Brian Cool is infamous for asking his congregation to pray the final doxology together.) — or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. (Hey!  LOOK!) It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity.
It would appear that the situation at St Monica’s on Christmas Eve constitutes a “GRAVE ABUSE!”  Our own Dr. K correctly noted that this falls into the “more serious” category of abuses.  EIGHT dicasteries of the Curia agreed on that!Finally, this document notes:

Should it become necessary to provide for “supplementary” assistance in any of the cases mentioned above, the competent Authority is bound to select lay faithful of sound doctrine and exemplary moral life.  (I have to ask how, precisely, women’s ordination advocates are “of sound doctrine.”)


2 Responses to “Ecclesia de mysterio, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and the St. Monica situation”

  1. avatar Jim R says:

    The really sad part about all this garbage is that complying with liturgical and ritual requirements is the easy part. Do the red; say the black. NOT HARD!

    Doctrine, theology, morality, life issues, etc., – these can be difficult, maybe messy and confusing. Unfortunately, by mucking up the easy parts, so many priests, bishops, vowed religious, etc., have led themselves to believe that the hard issues are easy, too. I.e., there are no rules; there is no Truth, there is no dogma, everything is OK.

    So sad.

  2. avatar Bill B. says:

    You can also say it in any mother toung!

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-