From a reader:
May a duly commissioned Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion distribute the host at Mass in the Extraordinary Form when the celebrating priest is physically impeded from doing so?
It would seem that paragraph 28 of Universae Ecclesiae precludes the innovation of Extraordinary Ministers:
28 – Praeterea, cum sane de lege speciali agitur, quoad materiam propriam, Litterae Apostolicae Summorum Pontificum derogant omnibus legibus liturgicis, sacrorum rituum propriis, exinde ab anno 1962 promulgatis, et cum rubricis librorum liturgicorum anni 1962 non congruentibus.
This paragraph is commonly understood to exclude female altar servers and communion in the hand. Yet what of Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion when a genuine pastoral situation seems to necessitate these?
I double-checked with a canonist on this. It is a good question. Let’s find some solutions.
Universae Ecclesiae does seem to preclude the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
So, what should be done when the priest is infirm and there is no other priest or deacon or even instituted acolyte around?
The first possibility is simply to announce that Holy Communion will not be distributed at that Mass. The faithful are not obliged to receive Communion, even on a day of precept. Attendance, not Communion, fulfills the precept. If the priest is physically impeded from doing so, he is not obliged to distribute Communion. He is not bound to do something that is not possible. People can make a spiritual communion in such a case. No doubt they will want to pray for vocations.
There would be a possibility of an duly commissioned Extraordinary Minister distributing Communion before or after Mass with the proper prayers, etc.
The exclusion of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass in the Extraordinary Form is disciplinary law, not constitutive law. Therefore, in accord with canon 87, the diocesan bishop could grant a dispensation from this provision. I don’t especially like that solution, but it is a possibility.
If this is going to be happening often, in a regular way, it would be a good idea to seek the dispensation from the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“. A dispensation would probably be more readily given were an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion were he an instituted Acolyte stably part of that group. Also, the group could petition the local bishop for a deacon (permanent or transitional) to help with Holy Communion at those Masses if a priest would not be available.