From a reader:
I attended the class in our parish to become an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. I do not want to distribute Communion at Mass because I think it is not needed, but I would like to bring Communion to the sick.
The pastor instructed us that if a host was spit out by a sick person, we should bring it back in a tissue and wash it down the sacrarium. When I asked if the host should be dissolved in water first, he said it wasn’t necessary. Is there documentation on exactly what to do the host in such a case?
This is wrong and I urge you never to do this.
You cannot “throw away” a Host. Someone who “throws away” the Eucharist, either by, for example, simply tossing a consecrated Host in the garbage, or putting it down the sacrarium, or pouring the Precious Blood down a sink or sacrarium, knowing that it is wrong to do, runs the risk of incurring a latae sententiae excommunication, the lifting of which is reserved to the Holy See alone.
The practice is these cases has always been… always… to dissolve the Host in water first and only then to dispose of the mixture in the sacrarium. If the Host is recognizable as such, it is correct to bring it back in a tissue. I would not simply wash it down any drain.
You can argue that the Host dissolves in the drain… but… heavens… that gives me shivers.
Why am I so concerned?
In the Latin Code of Canon Law we find:
can. 1367: Qui species consecratas abicit aut in sacrilegum finem abducit vel retinet in excommunicationem latae sententiae Sedi Apostolicae reservatam incurrit; clericus praeterea alia poena, non exclusa dimissione e statu clericali, puniri potest … A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state..
The word abicit, abicere, means here “throw away”, and this was clarified by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, at their plenary session on 4 June 1999, as not … not… being restricted to “throw away” in a spirit of contempt, or intent to do dishonor. It really does mean “throw away”, which is what happens when you put a consecrated Host or the Precious Blood down a sacrarium without first making sure that the substance of the same is first broken down (by dissolving). Precious Blood, of course, should be consumed.
In the case of any objectively sinful act which incurs an excommunication, there are always the circumstances to be considered (e.g., the person’s will and knowledge). But you must not throw away the Blessed Sacrament in a recognizable form of a Host you know has been consecrated and whose substance you know has not been already broken.
Redemptionis Sacramentum distinguished different levels of liturgical abuses. The worst are in the category graviora delicata (graver crimes). Among the graviora delicta is throwing away the Eucharist (cf. RS 172). This grave crime is reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
I urge you warmly, if you have any doubts about my answer, to contact your local chancery to get a clarification about the precise thing you have been told to do: put a recognizable consecrated Host down the sacrarium without first dissolving it in water.