From a reader:
Dear Father – Like yourself I am not a fan of concelebration, but I would like to ask two questions. These questions came about in one of those after dinner discussions which come under the heading of “what if?”.
1. Thinking about large gatherings (e.g. Lourdes, open-air Masses, etc) is there any rule about how far away from the altar a priest can be before his actions become invalid?
2. If a priest is in the congregation (either in clerical dress or
“civvies”) and he said the correct words of the Eucharistic Prayer and did the correct actions, would that be valid concelebration? I suspect the answer is “no” but I would appreciate your words of wisdom!
As I have said many times, I think concelebration should be safe, legal and rare. There are appropriate moments for it, such as when the local bishop celebrates the Chrism Mass or the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, an ordination to the priesthood, occasional gatherings with priests.
Is there a “rule” about how far a priest can be from the Host he is supposed to be consecrating? No. Not that I know of.
I have pondered this from time to time. It seems to me that the priest has to be morally present to the Host. That is, he has to have some sort of moral contact with it. I am not sure about this, but I suspect there is analogy to be found in the distance at which a priest can absolve sins (within range of the human voice… not by phone, etc.). It seems to me that a priest’s words of consecration should be audible where the hosts are. I don’t think he necessarily has to be able to see the hosts. A priest validly consecrates hosts in a ciborium placed on the corporal when he or the deacon forget to remove the cover.
So, no, there is no rule. But we play fast and loose with that which is most sacred to us when he have these enormous Masses. I would have them ended. Let priests attend in choir dress. Let people make spiritual Communions. But I digress.
To the second point, if a priest is in lay clothes in the congregation and he says the words of consecration without actually concelebrating in the proper way…. Valid? Yes, I think so. However, he violates about a zillion rubrics and he maybe even violates the stern canon forbidding a priest to consecrate outside of Mass. Even though the priest is at Mass, he seems not actually to be celebrating the Mass or concelebrating the Mass. The Church makes it clear how priests concelebrate: they put on vestments, they enter the sanctuary or stand in the proper place, etc. Standing somewhere in the church amongst the laity in lay clothes and saying the words of consecration with the intent to consecrate skates on the edge of sacrilege. It may even be as bad as the nefas that Canon Law uses in reference to consecrating apart from celebrating Mass.
Reasons #8677 and #8678 for Summorum Pontificum?