ASK FATHER: Are deacons permitted to distribute Communion in the Extraordinary Form?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

In the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass (EF), are Deacons (either transitional or permanent) allowed to distribute Holy Communion? Or is this a faculty reserved to only the Priest and Bishop?

On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People

Summorum Pontificum makes it clear that, in celebrating the Holy Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, the rubrics of that Missal are to be observed.  See also Universae Ecclesiae.

On the other hand, the celebration of the Extraordinary Form should not be seen as the proverbial fly frozen in amber.

We are not going back in time to recreate 1962.   (That said, we are re-presenting AD 33!).

In 1962, deacons were considered extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. In certain circumstances they were permitted to distribute Holy Communion.

In 2015, deacons are now considered by law to be ordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

The distribution of Communion to the faithful is something that is proper to their diaconal ordained state.

Therefore,…

Let a hundred deacons blossom!

Let them assist at regular celebrations of Solemn High Masses!

Let them assist in choro properly dressed in cassock, surplice, with biretta!

Let them place a stole upon their shoulder for the reception and distribution of Holy Communion!

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36 Responses to ASK FATHER: Are deacons permitted to distribute Communion in the Extraordinary Form?

  1. robtbrown says:

    If that is so, then why can’t there be altar girls at the EF?

    [Don’t be absurd.]

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  3. Matt R says:

    Although the CIC does not usually deal with the liturgy, does it deal with the ordinary or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist? And where in the older rubrics/legislation does it speak of the deacon?

  4. Titus says:

    Deacons as Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are permissible by, at least, analogy. The 1962 Missale Romanum and its rubrics say that the priest distributes Holy Communion, but the 1917 Code of Canon Law allowed the diocesan bishop to derogate from this norm and allow a deacon to distribute. Since the 1962 Missale Romanum was, at the time of its promulgation, implicitly subject to the derogating canon, it is sensible to regard its use via Summorum Pontificum to be implicitly subject to the analogous derogating canon in force today.

  5. majuscule says:

    I attended an EF Mass where a transitional deacon and two other priests as well as the celebrant distributed communion. Since in this area a priest basically has to learn the EF on his own, I think this was a good exposure to the EF for this seminarian. (Perhaps I should have offered to buy him a biretta!)

    Permanent deacons? I dunno…

    [Deacons are deacons.]

  6. jacobi says:

    As I understand it,

    Deacons are permitted to administer Holy Communion. I have known this in the “Latin” Mass I occasionally get to.

    The order of Deacon is one of the minor priestly orders. [Deacons are not in a “priestly” order.] Their hands are anointed and blessed.
    Altar servers are not permitted to administer Holy Communion.

    Since the order of Deacon is a Priestly Order, females may not become deacons, in either the Gregorian Catholic Mass or in the Pauline variations of the New Mass.

    In the Gregorian Mass and the new Pauline Masses, the so-called EMHC or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion does not exist. Such people are in no way “Ministers” or even “ministers”

    They are best referred to as lay distributors of Holy Communion

  7. VeritasVereVincet says:

    robtbrown:

    I would hazard it’s because 1) altar girls are a purely NO innovation, and 2) our technical status even in the NO is something like “permitted but not encouraged,” as opposed to a law that says “this is the new norm.”

  8. APX says:

    “The order of Deacon is one of the minor priestly orders. ”

    The diaconate is one of the major orders of clerics.

  9. John Nolan says:

    In an EF Solemn Mass those acting as deacon and subdeacon are usually priests; and except for religious houses and seminaries this was the case before the ‘reform’.
    In the old days a priest would have learned to sing the epistle and gospel as a transitional subdeacon and deacon, so the Missa Cantata (where the celebrant has to sing both) was less of a problem than it is for his present-day counterpart, who has to learn from scratch.

  10. JamesM says:

    @Jacobi

    The diaconate is one of the major orders. The last of the minor orders was the subdiaconate.

  11. Matt R says:

    No, the last of the minor orders is acolyte. The subdiaconate is a major order.

    Also, as far as the difference between a deacon distributing Communion and female altar servers seems to center on the fact that the former was limited, the latter never permitted and reaffirmed by the PCED.

  12. jhayes says:

    Canon 230 lays out what laypeople can do in the liturgy. #1 applies only to men. #2 and #3 apply to both men and women. The official title of a lay person who distributes Holy Communion is “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion”

    Can. 230 §1 Lay men whose age and talents meet the requirements prescribed by decree of the Episcopal Conference, can be given the stable ministry of lector and of acolyte, through the prescribed liturgical rite. This conferral of ministry does not, however, give them a right to sustenance or remuneration from the Church.

    §2 Lay people can receive a temporary assignment to the role of lector in liturgical actions. Likewise, all lay people can exercise the roles of commentator, cantor or other such, in accordance with the law.

    §3 Where the needs of the Church require and ministers are not available, lay people, even though they are not lectors or acolytes, can supply certain of their functions, that is, exercise the ministry of the word, preside over liturgical prayers, confer baptism and distribute Holy Communion, in accordance with the provisions of the law.

    [As you well know, much of this is irrelevant when discussing the Extraordinary Form.]

  13. robtbrown says:

    VeritasVereVincet says:

    robtbrown:

    I would hazard it’s because 1) altar girls are a purely NO innovation, and 2) our technical status even in the NO is something like “permitted but not encouraged,” as opposed to a law that says “this is the new norm.”

    Altar girls are not permitted because the EF is subject to the liturgical law at the time the Missal was promulgated–1962. That restricted service at the altar to males.

    In that same law deacons are permitted only as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion:

    13. The ordinary minister of holy communion is a priest exclusively. The extraordinary minister is a deacon to whom this privilege may be granted by the Ordinary or the pastor, but only for a good reason. In case of necessity the permission can lawfully be presumed.

  14. VeritasVereVincet says:

    Altar girls are not permitted because the EF is subject to the liturgical law at the time the Missal was promulgated–1962.

    So…basically exactly what I said. I see I should have specified that I meant NOOF when I said NO.

  15. Robbie says:

    At the parish I attend, the TLM is offered every Sunday and one of the two deacons often participates. He wears a cassock, surplus, and biretta. And during communion, he dons a stole to administer the sacrament.

  16. jacobi says:

    James/ APX,
    Thanks for correction. Have made a note. Major Order, but short of the Order of Priesthood?
    My point was really to emphasise the importance of the Diaconate. they are permitted to handle under certain circumstances. But my real point was the irregular handling of the Sacred Elements and vessels by laity which in the Pauline New Mass I attend amounts to an on-going abuse.

    r

  17. Imrahil says:

    To the dear robtbrown’s question,

    let’s face it: it’s because we don’t want them to.

    You can get so and so far by accurately following the rubrics, but they aren’t everything.

    That said, the step from an extraordinary minister to an ordinary minister is lesser than from a not-at-all minister to a minister.

    (And in fact, I have seen someone on the internet some time who preferred the EF but speculated that one day there may be EF altar girls there because, after all, it’s in principle possible [in the sense: if the Church changes her law accordingly]. We may not share his preference but he’s right so far that it is in principle possible; nothing dogmatic stands in the way.)

  18. oldconvert says:

    Oh dear, I really offended one of the little old ladies who so eagerly act as EMHCs at my parish’s NO Masses, even when there less than half a dozen communicants . I referred to her as an Extraordinary Minister and she puffed up immediately and objected. She insists she is a Eucharistic Minister, thank you, as this is I believe the custom in the Anglican church. But not the Catholic, surely? [She is no kind of Eucharistic minister.]

  19. JabbaPapa says:

    IIRC, Pope Benedict XVI clarified once, some time after the publication of Summorum Pontificum, that new instructions concerning “The Mass” or “The Latin Rite” published since 1962, but not precisely stating which Form of the Rite, are applicable to both the TLM and the NO.

    Some people have interpreted this instruction as allowing a Bishop to authorise altar girls at the TLM in his diocese, if both a congregation and their pastor should desire it. [No.]

    Consensus on the question, even if the analysis might be technically correct, seems however to be towards not permitting it, due to the potential for scandal among the Faithful, as has indeed occurred on the rare occasions when a more … erm … enterprising clergyman has experimented with such innovation. [It’s not a matter for consensus. It’s wrong.]

  20. robtbrown says:

    VeritasVereVincet says:

    Altar girls are not permitted because the EF is subject to the liturgical law at the time the Missal was promulgated–1962.

    So…basically exactly what I said. I see I should have specified that I meant NOOF when I said NO.

    Yes, exactly what you said. I mentioned liturgical law as a basis to note the change with deacons. In 1962 the deacon is an extraordinary minister (1), in 1970 an ordinary minister.

    (1) NB: In 1962 an extraordinary minister was not considered a tool of participation freaks.

  21. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Imrahil and JabbaPapa,

    I think that Pope Benedict’s comment about the applicability of new instructions not specified to a particular Form also give guidance regarding the applicable Code of Canon Law. Given that the 1917 Code was supplanted by the 1983 Code of St. John Paul II, Canon 230, quoted above by jhayes would apply. Thus it would be licit, if authorized by the Episcopal Conference and the circumstances truly required it, for not only altar girls in the EF but for Holy Communion to be distributed by lay persons as well. [No. See Universae Ecclesiae.]

  22. tominrichmond says:

    Personally, I’d be happy to see a moratorium on part-time, married deacons. Many dioceses ordain more of these than priests, and it seems in some way to be a “fill in the vocations gap” measure for many places which obscures their inability to foster priestly vocations.

    More than that, I question the rigor of the training and education these men receive, who, after all, are permitted to preach homilies. The ones I’ve heard from part-time deacons are pretty unimpressive. Then there’s the whole problem of having Fred the car mechanic or Joe the divorce lawyer donning vestments and baptizing, preaching, and distributing communion on Sunday… men who have lots of worldly entanglements including disputes and habits that could easily scandalize. There’s a reason we’ve insisted in the past on full time clergy.

    I’m not sure there’s any precedent in Church history for a class of part-time, married, ordained clergy. I wish more thought and preparation had been put into the whole idea, but alas, like so much in the Revolution, it was full speed ahead, consequences be damned.

    And I agree with an earlier poster that logically and legally, if we must allow married part time deacons in the EF, then there seems no principled reason to exclude female altar servers.

  23. Imrahil says:

    On a side-issue here,

    the deaconate is undoubtedly a major order. The subdeaconate, though, has always had a somewhat unclear position between the major and minor orders. It was long time classified major (but in a sort of special manner, as many taught then already, what is at least now the common opinion, that this ordination is a “mere” sacramental), and at least by the letter of Ministeria quaedam, it is now to be considered minor* (though, we might say, in a sort of special manner there too). That the deaconate is a sacrament has been made clear by the last Council.

    [* Quote (from memory): The major order of subdeaconate will not henceforth be had in Church. The Latin text also allows the translation: “The subdeaconate will not henceforth be had in Church as a major order.”]

  24. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Tom in Richmond,

    While I agree that homiletics could use some work by some clergy, this is by no means limited to permanent deacons and should not necessarily be a bar to ordination (In fact, homilies were actually optional prior to the adoption of the Mass of Bl. Paul VI, so that, unless you were attending a Mass celebrated by a Vincentian or Redemptorist who regularly preached parish missions your experience could be pretty hit or miss).

    The issue of being a part-timer could also have historically applied to priests who were engaged in teaching. Many Augustinians, Jesuits, Vincentians and others were educators whose subject was not theology. It could also apply to members of the Curia (both Diocesean and Vatican).

    The same is true of “habits that could easily scandalize”. Priests are not barred from buying chances or lottery tickets or occasionally going to the casino. They are not prohibited from going to out to dinner and having alcohol, or, for that matter, of going to the sports bar. All of these could be scandalous to someone, and it is established fact that some particular priests, being human, struggle with a gambling addiction or with alcoholism. This does not and should not bar them from ministry, either (Remember that St. Paul rejoiced in being given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. –
    2 Cor. 12:7).

  25. APX says:

    “More than that, I question the rigor of the training and education these men receive, who, after all, are permitted to preach homilies. The ones I’ve heard from part-time deacons are pretty unimpressive”

    All the ones I’ve heard were sing-along 12 string guitar homilies of rewrites of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and some warm fuzzy originals. Bleh.

  26. Gregorius says:

    Respectfully, tominrichmond et al. who do not see why females servers should be on principle excluded from the EF, let me explain the difference between them and modern deacons.
    As robtbrown quoted, deacons actually did have some jurisdiction to distribute communion. It was rarer than today, but back in 1962, it was still possible. As the principle that they could distribute was already established, it was not a big leap at all to extend permission for them to distribute communion on an ordinary basis.
    Altar girls, on the other hand, had/has NO basis or precedent in liturgical law whatsoever, and their presence is alien if not completely contrary to the established teaching on acolytes and holy orders. (their allowance in the OF is only justified precisely because of rejection of the traditional teaching on holy orders). Their presence in the EF would be a modern(ist?) imposition onto the rite rather than a universal extension of a permission already there as is the case for deacons distributing. Hence, the PCED already ruled altar girls are not possible in the EF, and Fr. Z had posted a copy of that letter on this blog back in 2011. Look up ‘altar girls’ in the tags to find it.
    Now granted, the Pope/those he gives authority to could make a new rule allowing altar girls in the EF in the future, but then then the EF would no longer be defined as what was in force in 1962. He would technically have to promulgate a new Missale Romanum at that point , albeit one with apparently limited juridical application if he wanted to keep the pauline rite as an OF.

  27. JabbaPapa says:

    Thanks, Gregorius.

  28. Gregorius says:

    And let us be clear here, regardless of the quality of diaconal formation programs, modern deacons are still real deacons, even if they are married, even if they have other jobs. St. Peter was married (though continent/widowed during his ministry), and St. Paul practiced his tent-making trade to support himself during his ministry. The EF rite of priestly ordination actually assumes the ordinandi DON’T know the rites as the rite was established before the invention of seminaries.
    The clergy in all times and places may be poorly formed, but they are still clergy nonetheless. Ex opere operato and all like that…

  29. robtbrown says:

    jhayes,

    Are you aware that canon 230 was used to deny the possibility of altar girls up until the early 90’s, when JPII gave in and permitted them? The same text that was used to forbid altar girls is now being used to permit them.

    The reason given by jurists was based on a hermeneutic principle of juridical texts. In multiple paragraphs of an individual canon, the first paragraph is the determiner, and subsequent paragraphs must follow the same interpretation: Thus 230.1 says viri laici, so when 230.2 follows with laici, in fact, viri laici is to be understood. This was told to me by multiple canon lawyers, including the dean of the canon law faculty at the Angelicum.

    IMHO, however, no matter how the canon is interpreted, it has been made ambiguous by the mess known as Ministeria Quaedam..

  30. robtbrown says:

    Gregorius says:

    Respectfully, tominrichmond et al. who do not see why females servers should be on principle excluded from the EF, let me explain the difference between them and modern deacons.
    As robtbrown quoted, deacons actually did have some jurisdiction to distribute communion. It was rarer than today, but back in 1962, it was still possible. As the principle that they could distribute was already established, it was not a big leap at all to extend permission for them to distribute communion on an ordinary basis.

    Actually, it was a big leap. It might seem otherwise because Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are now the ordinary practice. In 1962 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion were in fact Extraordinary Practice.

  31. robtbrown says:

    Also: Distributing Holy Communion is not a matter of jurisdiction.

  32. robtbrown says:

    Gerard Plourde says:

    I think that Pope Benedict’s comment about the applicability of new instructions not specified to a particular Form also give guidance regarding the applicable Code of Canon Law. Given that the 1917 Code was supplanted by the 1983 Code of St. John Paul II, Canon 230, quoted above by jhayes would apply. Thus it would be licit, if authorized by the Episcopal Conference and the circumstances truly required it, for not only altar girls in the EF but for Holy Communion to be distributed by lay persons as well.

    Not really. It is, as I noted yesterdeay, a matter of liturgical law, which is not to be found in the CIC of 1917 or 1983. See the Rituale Romanum of 1962.

  33. Gerard Plourde says:

    robtbrown,

    Not sure I follow. Are you saying that Canon 230 is subject to another law? I thought the Code of Canon Law was controlling and other regulations (not matters of doctrine or dogma, of course) are to be read in conformity with it.

  34. robtbrown says:

    Gerald Plourde,

    On the application of the Apostolic letter Summorum
    Pontificum. Ecclesia Dei Commission

    27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.

    28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.

  35. Gerard Plourde says:

    robtbrown,

    Thanks. That does clarify the matter.

  36. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown says:

    If that is so, then why can’t there be altar girls at the EF?

    [Don’t be absurd.]

    A question is hardly absurd when it raises the need for distinctions.

    1. There is a change from the EF to the OF over who can serve at mass. In the latter altar girls are now permitted. (And from what I see at most parishes, it can almost be said that they are required.)

    2. There is also a change over who can be a minister of Holy Communion.

    a. In the EF the deacon can be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. And Extraordinary Ministers are not the ordinary practice.

    b. In the OF the deacon is an Ordinary Minister of Communion. The Extraordinary Ministers come from non clerics (cf the contemporary meaning). And Extraordinary Ministers are the ordinary practice.

    3. Just as there is a difference between the EF and OF over who can serve mass, there is also a difference in the role of deacons in administering Holy Communion.

    [Apples and banjos.]