Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Argument in Support of One Species Decisions

Here is a little essay for those who like to "talk shop" on matters disciplinary in the Church. It comes on the heels of a decision to remove chalices from ferial celebrations at a local parish. Enjoy!

Nearly every discussion of whether or not to have communion under both kinds (species) at every Holy Mass is bound to bring up a mention of the “spirit” of the Second Vatican Council. So, let us begin there. What did the Second Vatican Council say about the matter of whether or not a parish must have holy communion offered under both the host and the chalice?

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, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism (SC, 55).

What we here notice is that the spirit reinforces the Council of Trent. This might come as a shock, given that many picture the Second Vatican Council as going contrary to Trent, believing that the Second Vatican Council opened up unrestricted distribution of the Holy Eucharist under both species all the time. We see here, however, that holy communion under both kinds is contingent upon permission which “may be granted when the bishops think fit.” The Council then gives certain examples where such permission might be given. What we notice as we read the examples given here is that each of these examples are extraordinary circumstances: newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination; newly professed…; newly baptized…. These are not the same as your every day 6:30am Holy Mass. What we also notice is the quick history lesson: before the Second Vatican Council, rarely did a Catholic receive from a chalice. (Therefore, if a pastor is accused of being “pre-Vatican Two” when he decides to remove the chalices from the daily Mass, and if he keeps the chalices on Sundays, he is certainly not “pre-Vatican Two.” Pre-Vatican Two would not have a chalice for the people—rarely if at all).
The reference to Trent is not just an aberration, however. Even in 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament issued an Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain Matters to be Observed or to be Avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist) which invoked Trent as well. (Side note: This title inspired me to develop an essay entitled, “On Certain Matters to be Observed or to be Avoided regarding That Moment When You’ve Realized You’ve Dropped Your Car Keys into Hot Magma”). With regards to holy communion under both kinds, the Instruction says,

So that the fullness of the sign may be made more clearly evident to the faithful in the course of the Eucharistic banquet, lay members of Christ’s faithful, too, are admitted to Communion under both kinds, in the cases set forth in the liturgical books, preceded and continually accompanied by proper catechesis regarding the dogmatic principles on this matter laid down by the Ecumenical Council of Trent (RS, 100—emphasis mine).

So, it appears as though understanding Trent is essential to understanding what the Second Vatican Council and what Redemptions Sacramentum directed should and should not be done. *<see note below>

So what does Trent say? What are the dogmatic principles that are here being referred? Redemptionis Sacramentum cites session XXI of Trent. There we find this:

laymen, and clerics when not consecrating, are not obliged, by any divine precept, to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species; and that neither can it by any means be doubted, without injury to faith, that communion under either species is sufficient for them unto salvation (Trent, XXI)

This sounds odd. This seems to imply that there were those in or outside of the Catholic Church who were proposing that one must receive the host and the chalice, or else that person would not be fully receiving Jesus. I say this may sound odd to us because we are hearing this argument once again—just re-packaged: “You can’t take away the chalices,” says the parishioner, “it takes away from the full symbolism!” Why is the full symbolism so important? Does one’s salvation depend upon it? If the parishioner says yes, then they have reached the same error which Trent tried to remedy—just by a different route.

Back in the 1500s, it was the case that many who, arguing from scripture alone, voiced that because Jesus gave his Apostles the host and the chalice and commanded “… eat… drink…” that the host was only the Sacred Body and the chalice was only the Sacred Blood. But this is not how the Catholic Church understood the scripture, as is evident not only here and in the following canons, but also in the previous centuries’ development of doctrine on the matter.

            Let us continue our historical journey from Vatican II to the present-day. Most recently, in 2011, the Holy See approved the English translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. And once again, the spirit calls upon Trent while also highlighting the Second Vatican Council:

… the Second Vatican Council was able to give renewed consideration to what was established by Trent on Communion under both kinds. And indeed, since nowadays the doctrinal principles on the complete efficacy of Eucharistic Communion received under the species of bread alone are not in any way called into question, the Council gave permission for the reception on occasion of Communion under both kinds, because this clearer form of the sacramental sign offers a particular opportunity for understanding more deeply the mystery in which the faithful participate (IGRM, 14).

What is being said here is that, in the modern day, everyone believes that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ is received fully under either species of bread or of wine (this is “not in any way called into question”), and because of that, the spirit led the Council to give permission for the reception of communion under both kinds “on occasion.”
Two things can be said here. First, while reception under both kinds offers a “clearer form of the sacramental sign” and “offers a particular opportunity for understanding more deeply the mystery in which the faithful participate,” such reception is predicated upon the assumption that the faithful already know that each species itself is fully the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. While this might have been the case in 1962, it is surely not the case in 2012.
Second, while reception under both kinds offers benefits as mentioned above (clearer form, opportunity to go deeper into the Mystery), reception under both kinds has not been raised by the Holy See to be the expected and ordinary way of “doing things.” The Holy See reiterated that this was a “permission” given and given so that one might receive “on occasion.” Again, “on occasion” is not the same as “every day.”
Already then, we see the Church giving a pastor of a parish clear reasons as to why he might prudentially refrain from offering communion under both kinds every day—a reason which is more than just “his personal taste” or a desire to “go back to the good ol’ days.” Should the pastor decided to offer the chalice only on feasts and solemnities (which include every Sunday), the pastor is not only being faithful, but it can be said, and in the minds of some, such liberality could be seen as quite generous.

            But that all said, I believe there is another reason as to why some pastors refrain from offering the chalice at every Holy Mass. This reason, again, is not born of their own tastes (although, some pastors might intuit this reason, but are unable to communicate it, and so it comes off as being merely from their own preference). The reason is this: since the close of the Second Vatican Council, there has been a growing confusion and a blurring of the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the lay faithful—a blurring which has done great harm and which needs to be corrected, for the sake of not only the priest, but the people too.
When the Holy See promulgated the General Instruction, it gave the Diocesan Bishops—the Shepherds—the
faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest to whom a community has been entrusted as its own shepherd, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and that there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or for some other cause (IGRM, 283).

So, it is up to the Bishop and the pastor’s prudential decision, being sure that nothing is being profaned and that the rite doesn’t become too difficult.

            The Holy See also reiterated the “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Diocese of the United States of America” as drawn up by the USCCB. In those Norms, we see not only see once again the Council of Trent referenced and the wording of “permission”/“on occasion”/“when appropriate” (Norm 21), but we also see a discussion, just three paragraphs later, about the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the lay faithful. Norm 24 says,

In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the Priest and the Deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason… for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species…

The Holy See is saying here, then, that an excessive use of extraordinary ministers to distribute the Eucharist can lead—and in fact often does lead—to the blurring of the distinct identities of the ministerial priesthood and the lay faithful. This, the Holy See says, is a reason for limiting the distribution of the Eucharist under both kinds. (The Norm does offer an alternative: that the priest could “intinct”—that is, dip the host in the chalice—for the people to then receive under both kinds. But I must question aloud: would intinction quell the parishioner’s desire to “receive the Blood from the chalice”? My educated guess would say “no.” At which point, it is completely rational to ask: is the issue about receiving both species or about something else?—because any hullabaloo about a pastor taking away chalices is couched in terms of “full symbol” and “receiving Jesus’ blood.” What would the parishioner say then? Would they be honest and bold enough to admit that a deep issue is simply “I want to hold/give the chalice”?

Let us summarize what the Holy See says is required for the reception of communion under both kinds. Required is

1) the lay faithful’s understanding of the Real Presence as found in either host or chalice;
2) permission (which is already given by just about every Bishop);
3) the safety of the Eucharist from profanation;
4) that such reception does not burden having Mass or its celebration; and
5) that in the reception of both kinds, extraordinary ministers do not become ordinary or common to the distribution/reception.
I believe this fifth reason is the crucial reason offered for our time. So, for example, when a parish has twenty extraordinary ministers—most of whom are not deputized by the bishop or pastor—who are expected to distribute the Holy Eucharist at every Holy Mass, not only has the extraordinary minister become common and “ordinary,” but the practice—whether the minister intends it or not—evidences two deficiencies:

1) a failure to support the dignity of the ministerial priesthood; and
2) a failure to uphold the dignity of the lay faithful.

How is this so? When the participation of the lay faithful at Holy Mass is reduced to “what it does in the sanctuary,” slowly replaced is not only the proper “active participation” which the Second Vatican Council asked of the peoples in the pews (that is, to firstly pray the Holy Mass and to offer themselves in union with the sacrifice), but also the vocation particular to itself: namely, the lay faithful’s call to be leaven in the world. This is not a stretch or hyperbole, especially considering that what is done at Holy Mass affects what happens when the “Mass is ended.”

In such terms, then, when a pastor decides to refrain from using the chalices at every Holy Mass, his decision is not only making us look at the doctrine of the Real Presence, but it is also making us look at the doctrine of the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the universal priesthood. And that it is an important distinction to discover and understand, for its beauty can be uplifting for all the varying members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

This might ruffle some sensitivities of the extraordinary ministers. They might say, “Father is clerical. He is insensitive to us. He has taken the chalices away. I miss giving out the chalice.” These complaints should be heard and sensitively addressed, of course, not only because they are human expressions of pain, but also because they express something deeper: the lay faithful suffers from clericalism—not the kind of clericalism that we have learned about in the past, where the priest prefers his own way and has his own “club,” but a clericalism where the lay faithful become their own priest by preferring their own way. The action itself, when demanded to become ordinary, bespeaks a desire to make of the lay faithful into clerics. In so doing, the lay faithful are also (whether intended or not) laicizing the priest—and that is insensitive not only to the pastor himself, but also to Jesus Christ who instituted the ministerial priesthood in the first place.

When a pastor decides to remove the chalices, there will be many side-effects. There will be some grumbling. There will probably be a change in how many extraordinary ministers are used at Holy Mass and how often. And there will be more grumbling there too. But another side-effect will be not only the opportunity to now teach on the Real Presence of the Eucharist, but also there will now be the opportunity to teach on the vocation proper to the lay faithful and, also, the importance of the ministerial priesthood. And this opportunity will be all the more important because, now that the people are primarily in the pews they will ask what they are to be doing while they are there. And what’s more: now that there are fewer ministers in the sanctuary, we will see what we have been told for so long now—and maybe not believed—that we need priests.

* On the 450th anniversary of the close of the Council of Trent (Dec 4, 2013), Pope Francis explicitly spoke about the continuity of Trent and the Second Vatican Council. His words:
 in fact, the “hermeneutic of renewal” which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI explained in 2005 before the Roman Curia, refers in no way less to the Council of Trent than to the Vatican Council. To be sure, this mode of interpretation places under a brighter light a beautiful characteristic of the Church which is taught by the Lord Himself: “She is a ‘subject’ which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia offering them his Christmas greetings – 22 December 2005).
You can find the Latin text of Pope Francis' Letter here.

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