A new priest opines on “Extraordinary Ministers” and people with only minor sins after several years.

From a priest, on two points:

For our vigil Mass, we had our extraordinary ministers failed to show up.  I also did not have a deacon.  I preached about a 12 minute homily, used the Roman Canon, and distributed Holy Communion on my own to a congregation of about 200.

It still took only about an hour.  I don’t see how communion would be unduly delayed.  Therefore, I see no need for extraordinary ministers.

I’m still a new priest, but I really wonder about what they’ve been teaching the people here.  If someone hasn’t been to confession in several years and their only sins are minor, either they’ve not examined their consciences or they don’t know how to examine their consciences.  My bet is on the latter.

I really wonder about what they’ve been teaching the people here…”.

You are not alone, Father.

I’m glad you have your head screwed on in the right direction.

Now, learn to say the Extraordinary Form.  Also, get into that box and…

HEAR SOME CONFESSIONS.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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63 Responses to A new priest opines on “Extraordinary Ministers” and people with only minor sins after several years.

  1. iPadre says:

    Great observations from a newly ordained. So true that in most circumstances we do not need the assistance of ExM’s. This is a group of laity that has been clericalized and demand what they will and will not do.

    I no longer have ExM’s at Mass (for a good number of years now). My ExM’s go to the sick and shut-in’s on Sundays, assisting me in doing something I myself could not do on a Sunday.

  2. ray from mn says:

    Since 100% of the congregation seem to have no serious sins, maybe it would be nice if, in lieu of a homily, priests could walk the congregation through an examination of conscience, reminding them as just what is meant by a serious sin.

  3. Mike says:

    I was once asked to be an EMHC and I politely declined. I did tell the young assistant pastor why though and he listened graciously. I do remember he seemed at first shocked that I said no.

    I guess we have to remember that there are a good many good souls who are also clueless in regard to these things.

  4. wised says:

    I am impressed with this young priest. We have had two new priests assigned to our small parish in the last five years. When they arrived, these priests were “trained” by the parish staff as to how things operate here. They did not push back. We have EMHC coming out of the woodwork. Does a priest need assistance from an EMHC with 50 parishoners at a Saturday evening mass?

  5. robtbrown says:

    The reason given for EMHCs is not always the number of communicants. Rather, it’s often a preoccupation with misunderstanding of “full and active participation”. Unfortunately, this is sometimes a tendency among younger (often neo con) pastors in certain dioceses.

  6. Benedict Joseph says:

    Robtbrown is not doubt correct in his determination. The notion that you have to be on stage, moving or yapping to participate in Holy Mass is symptomatic of the doctrine of hyper-activity which has pride of place in the post-conciliar Church. Examples abound, such as the recent drone sent into subvert contemplative life and this week’s admonition for priests and religious to “leave” their comfort zones. I thought that had been well accomplished in the sixties. If anybody can find a comfort zone please let me know.
    Beware young Father, your insight and wisdom qualify you for a bull’s eye on your back. In the environment we presently inhabit fortitude is often best practiced by prudence. We need you.

  7. kiwiinamerica says:

    Newsflash….if you distribute Communion at every Sunday Mass (0r worse, daily Mass) you are not an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. You are an Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist.

    Every time I attend the Novus Ordo I think….”who are these people and why are they swarming all over the sanctuary?”

    OK, if the priest is old and infirm, he may need help in distributing Communion. Likewise, at a pilgrimage destination where the priests are few and the pilgrims are many. These are extraordinary situations. A typical Sunday Mass, however, is not an “extraordinary” situation, at least in terms of Communion distribution. This is yet another example of a post-Vatican II liturgical abuse.

    The whole process of Communion reception needs a total overhaul. Lay folk should be excluded from Communion distribution in all but a small number of “extraordinary” situations. Kneeling and altar rails should be a part of the process and there should be a paten involved at all times.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    To be fair, it used to be fairly common for most nuns and some male clergy to confess only venial sins, because they just were that experienced in the life of holiness, or they just weren’t inclined to most of the biggies and didn’t have opportunity to be tempted by most of the rest. I think it’s fair to say that some of the laity probably have similar situations.

    That said, it’s also true that such people may be committing serious sins of omission without realizing it, or may not realize that they are committing mortal sins, or may be downgrading mortal sins to venial and then honestly forgetting about them in the rush of daily life. (Given how many modern adults are sleep-deprived, this would not be surprising.)

  9. Ed the Roman says:

    EVERYONE who hasn’t been to confession in several years has serious sins. They have confessed annually. That’s serious all by itself.

  10. Ed the Roman says:

    Should be haven’t confessed.

  11. krissylou says:

    It seems to me that someone who is not aware of serious sins over a long period of time probably doesn’t have a very sensitive conscience. However, when you’re coming across these people IN THE CONFESSIONAL they’re clearly moving in the right direction. This is precisely how we grow in sensitivity.

    Often I hear people complaining that “well geez they clearly haven’t done their homework” or this version “goodness they must have had bad teachers.” And maybe so but there’s got to be a better way to encourage people who are seeking out the sacrament to grow in it. After all, they perfectly well could have just continued to stay away for plenty more years, lots of people do.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    ” I don’t see how communion would be unduly delayed.”

    And it goes even faster if the communicants are kneeling at the altar rail.

  13. capchoirgirl says:

    I was talking to a Catholic friend a few weeks ago and she said that she had no idea the EMHC were supposed to be “Extraordinary.” “You mean the priest is supposed to distribute communion to everyone!? That would take forever!” I proceeded to tell her it doesn’t take forever–especially at her church, where they have a beautiful altar rail! Have the people use it! It’s not just smoother logistically, but it definitely made the atmosphere less of a “cattle call” to communion.

  14. Sixupman says:

    A lunchtime Mass, I occasionally attend has two clergy con-celebrating and an emhc assisting in the distribution of Communion. [Franciscan]

    Another church, slightly different approach: congregation knelt along Communion rail; new PP stopped the practice and insisted upon the queue; his excuse Celebrant was ageing! But, another member of the clergy was on the altar at the Celebration of Mass – who could have halved the walk for the Celebrant. [Jesuit]

    Mass this a.m. four emhc to take account of both species distributed.

    “Wised”: my diocese is being dismembered and the bishop’s part solution is to hand the management over to the (busybody) laity – with the priest their lacky. May God preserve us from such nonsense!

  15. Matilda P says:

    I was at a 7am Saturday morning mass with three EMHCs. Three! They were bullet-fast efficient, which felt particularly tragic. About half the attendees were very old, so at least they had less far to walk, but…

  16. arga says:

    His point about Catholics who think they are without sin is well taken. On the way home from Sunday morning Mass today I tuned into a local “Church of Christ” broadcast sermon: it was ALL about sin, what it is, and how to be saved from it! And you know, it dawned on me that in DECADES I have not heard a sermon like that in a Catholic church! No WONDER our Catholics think they are sinless. Our priests never talk to them about it!

  17. Father K says:

    ‘If someone hasn’t been to confession in several years and their only sins are minor, either they’ve not examined their consciences or they don’t know how to examine their consciences.’ You sure are a newly ordained priest. I have been a priest for nearly 24 years and heard thousands of confessions. Stop being so high and mighty and unnecessarily judgmental.

  18. Joseph-Mary says:

    Ah, the ‘judgmental’ card! How often does that one get played? At one parish, we may only have 2 dozen at a morning Mass but 3 EMHCs–all older women. They are not needed. There is no extraordinary situation. But especially the older women who cam of age 40 years demand to be part of things. When a new priest decided that not everyone could have free access to the tabernacle, these older women were outraged!

    When is the last time anyone heard of the need to go to confession? When is the last time we heard about sin? I agree that many, myself included, may not know how to properly examine their conscience. And MANY do not recognize sin and the Church as a whole has not helped much with a number of high ranking prelates thinking maybe everyone goes to heaven anyway. Is God no longer offended? Even adulterous and homosexual situations are dealt with velvet gloves so to speak and not often enough the truth. Pro-abortion politicians are given a pass which is scandalous. There just are not enough prelates with the courage to speak the truth to them; rather there is compromise with the world and the desire for human respect and to be politically correct and not rock the point. That was not the way of Christ though…

  19. arga says:

    Father K: Let’s see: 24 years ago, ehh? Well, we in the pews understand your generation, and the damage that it has done to the Church. Hooray for the young priest! How on earth could you, Fr.K, who has heard thousands of confessions, think that it is possible for someone who hasn’t been to confession in years to be in a state of grace, and thus eligible for communion?

  20. revueltos67 says:

    “I’m still a new priest, but I really wonder about what they’ve been teaching the people here.”

    Or not teaching…

    The Precepts of the Church
    1.You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.
    2.You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
    3.You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season.
    4.You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
    5.You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
    See also CCC 2041-2043.

    Failure to follow the precepts is grave matter. Barring extraordinary circumstances, a Catholic aware of the precepts who has not confessed in many years is, by that fact, in a state of mortal sin.

  21. Stephen Matthew says:

    I suppose it is entirely possible for a lay person to grow in holiness to the point of not having any grave sins in a given year. However, all of the great saints I am aware of availed themselves of the sacraments as regularly as possible… so while this isn’t an impossibility, it is somewhat improbable for a person to be absent from a sacrament for many years and have no grave sins, though benefit of the doubt should be given.

    If time allows, I suppose that would be an occasion for a confessor to ask some follow-up questions to help find any overlooked sins.

    Also, in some listings of the precepts of the church, annual confession is listed, in many others it is not. I have actually heard arguments among ordinary lay people on that question. It is obviously a good idea, but I am uncertain if it is technically required.

  22. jhayes says:

    revueltos67 writes 2.You shall confess your sins at least once a year.

    That’s the general statement but Canon Law clarifies that the obligation concerns mortal sins: “Can. 989 — Omnis fidelis, postquam ad annos discretionis pervenerit, obligatione tenetur peccata sua gravia, saltem semel in anno, fideliter confitendi.”

    Here is Dr. Peters’ explanation from his commentary on the Precepts of the Church.

    Catholics above the age of discretion, generally held to be about seven years of age, are required to confess their grave sins to a priest, even one of a different rite, at least once per year, at any time during the year (1983 CIC 989, 991). Strictly speaking, persons free of grave sin are not required to make an annual confession, but all Catholics are strongly encouraged to bring even their venial sins to confession (1983 CIC 988).

    http://www.canonlaw.info/precepts_noaudio.htm

  23. Benedict Joseph says: Beware young Father, your insight and wisdom qualify you for a bull’s eye on your back. In the environment we presently inhabit fortitude is often best practiced by prudence.

    I’m sick of the “prudence” that consists in our shepherds keeping their heads down. Let them be sent to the Dry Tortugas. There are souls to be saved there, too.

  24. revueltos67 says:

    Stephen Mathew @ 12:23

    “Also, in some listings of the precepts of the church, annual confession is listed, in many others it is not. I have actually heard arguments among ordinary lay people on that question. It is obviously a good idea, but I am uncertain if it is technically required.”

    Please see paragraphs 2041 through 2043 of the CCC which certainly constitute a definitive list of the precepts and their binding nature. Here I’ll quote here just a short section from 2041: “The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant…”

    The precepts oblige us under pain of mortal sin. They are, as you put it, “technically required”. Barring extraordinary circumstances it really is a mortal sin for a Catholic to willfully miss Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day, to fail to receive the Eucharist during the Easter season, and, to the point here, fail to confess at least once a year.

    To paraphrase the old poster about gravity – it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

  25. MouseTemplar says:

    O gee. Our new parish priest, in his first month with us, has added three “Special” communion lines, all happening up in the sanctuary before regular communion. It’s a sort of “Gluten Free Cafeteria”: one line for Gluten free hosts which Father distributes, one for gluten free hosts which Father hasn’t touched with his gluten contaminated hands (the communicant is the only one to touch it, they pluck them out of a dish), and the third line is for those who can only take the consecrated wine. There’s a regular line for the rest of us when all that is done.

    We’re not using EHMCs yet, but Father runs around a lot and it’s all very confusing with people milling around looking for their line….but we have plenty of time because he’s eliminated all confessions before Sunday Masses.

  26. AmjdhA says:

    There are three simple and practical questions to ask when considering the use of EMHCs to shorten the time required to distribute Holy Communion. How much time is spent by the priest to distribute the Eucharist and the vessels to the EMHCs? How much time is spent by the priest after the distribution of the Eucharist to purify the additional vessels that were used by the EMHCs? And what is the net gain/loss or time when compared to the priest simply distributing the Body of Christ?

  27. lmgilbert says:

    One good argument for employing no EMHCs is precisely so that the distribution of Holy Communion will take more time. When else are Catholics going to make a half-way decent thanksgiving after receiving Our Lord except when the rest of the congregation is in line to receive? From the standpoint of giving the congregation an opportunity to commune with their God, the slower the better.

  28. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I am just a simple layman. I have 4 children and 1 on the way. I have been brought to such personal angst by the various nonsense stated by so many bishops, cardinals, higher clergy, etc., since Benedict XVI abdication that it has brought be to tears.

    It brings me so much hope that younger priests are so thoughtful and want such good for their flock and the wider Church. That they somehow, despite the odds and the liberal homosexual despots in charge or seminary admittance, have taken to heart the clear sense of the Gospel and Tradition. Hope is the dewfall in the desert of the soul.

  29. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    @MouseTemplar:

    What in the world?!?!?!?

    Are there honestly that many celiac and celiac-spectrum and celicac emphathizing parishioners that they need 3 pre-communion lines? That might actually be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. I’m a physician, so I feel compelled to offer a point of view here. Celiac is not a Type I immediate hypersensitivity; there is no need for “gluten free hands” handling hosts. This is pseudoscience affecting the liturgy for the worst.

  30. yatzer says:

    Our priest ceased using EMHCs and offering the chalice at Communion. We also use the altar rail. People stand or kneel as they must or as they choose, and may receive in the hand or on the tongue. It works great. Most people choose to kneel and receive on the tongue. God bless this new priest. True love involves the truth.

  31. RobJ says:

    We have eight EMHC on Sundays. Along with the three altar servers and the priest up there, it kind of looks like a football huddle.

  32. WYMiriam says:

    kiwiinamerica: “Newsflash….if you distribute Communion at every Sunday Mass (0r worse, daily Mass) you are not an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. You are an Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist.”

    Umm . . . ‘scuse me, your terminology is incorrect. Only priests and deacons are ordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Anyone else who distributes the Holy Eucharist to the faithful are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. There is a huge difference.

  33. APX says:

    I suppose it is entirely possible for a lay person to grow in holiness to the point of not having any grave sins in a given year

    Not committing any grave sins in a year isn’t really growing in holiness. It’s a matter of making a conscious decision not to commit any grave sin. In other words, according to the great spiritual writers on the spiritual life, it’s deciding to take the first step into the beginning stage of the spiritual life, followed by choosing to stop committing willful Venial sins, both of which are very possible to the average lay person.

  34. MouseTemplar says:

    @ Atra Dicendra: yep.

    With a new pastor willing to go such lengths, it’s become fashionable to need these special accomodations. Suddenly people I’ve worshipped with for decades are stricken with gluten sensitivities. This includes the children whose mothers feel their kids owe all manner of behavioral shortcomings to gluten’s ill effects.

    It’s all I can do to keep from rolling my eyes when I should be preparing to commune with Our Lord.

  35. Precentrix says:

    Last I checked, not going to Confession at least once a year (in preparation for Easter dues) was considered a serious sin. Either maybe that’s just because it’s of precept, or because while it is possible by grace to last a year without grave sin, failing to make some kind of progress in the spiritual life (involving the examen and some effort to cooperate with grace in a purpose of amendment) is surely sinful in and of itself – it must at least involve the vise of sloth and a lack of charity?

  36. Precentrix says:

    *vice

  37. oldconvert says:

    I can see the point of Extraordinary Ministers under certain circumstances. Such as when there is only one priest on the altar celebrating Mass in a cathedral, as happens even on Sundays in our diocese here. Under those circumstances, communion would indeed take forever.

    However in my parish church on a weekday, there are usually fewer than a dozen communicants, sometimes only four or five. But we always have to have an EMHC for the chalice.

    Unfortunately humans, like other animals, love routines and precedents and discover them wherever they can. EMHCs, having been brought in to cover extraordinary situations, have insensibly become ordinary even where there is no need for them. So that now it will take a brave priest to say no, because he will be regarded as a revolutionary breaking a “tradition”.

  38. JonPatrick says:

    This idea that communion is somehow “better” if you receive in both kinds, another idea gotten from the Protestants and now widespread since Vatican 2. In the daily masses at my parish, the priest distributes the host but 2 EMHC’s have to come up from the congregation to distribute the precious blood. This would be unnecessary if we went back to the communicating the host only as was done in the Church for a millennium or so until the present craziness.

    It is notable when you attend the EF and go right up after the Domine non sum dignus, compared with an OF Mass where there is this interminable wait while all the various EMHC’s receive in both kinds, dishes and chalices filled and distributed, and so on. At least you have a chance to pray and prepare for reception.

    Also should be noted that this idea that everyone should communicate all the time is a fairly recent phenomenon. Even in my memory I recall in the pre V2 Masses not every one went up, and no one thought it was unusual.

  39. pray4truth says:

    Thank you, dear newly ordained priest … you give much hope! Around here, there are a plethora of “Eucharistic Ministers”… ugh… THAT’S what the people are taught. The non-judgemental clergy and staff “evangelize” everyone into so much error. They are taught to attend the bi-annual “Healing Mass” where EVERYONE gets annointed and they are told that “all your sins are forgiven” and sometimes “now you don’t have to go to confession”. Yes, those are the grave errors being taught by some priests. THANK GOD for learned, holy priests like Fr. Z and now, you, who teach the TRUTH!

    Dear newly ordained priest, prepare for the resistance of many laity and even other priests for changing things back to the way they should be because it will “exclude” them from sharing their “makes me feel good that I can ‘give out’ communion and blessings” while dressed in their picnic attire (oops, I’m judging them!) “talent” and “time”… Please, oh, please, dearest newly ordained, holy priest, stick to the truth, no matter what! Stay under the protection of Our Blessed Mother! Encourage folks to go to confession, often! Preach like St. Alphonsus Liquori:
    “More souls have been sent to hell by the mercy of God than by his justice. This is indeed the case; for men are induced by the deciets of the Devil to persevere in sin, through confidence in God’s mercy; and thus they are lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? But, great as his mercy, how many every day does he send to Hell? God is merciful, but he is also just, and is therefore obliged to punish those who offend him.”

    You can read the rest of that particular sermon and many more awesome sermons in the book “Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori: For All the Sundays of the Year” by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

    Finally, dear newly ordained, brave priest, of course, be a Zedhead! We love, appreciate and pray for all priests every day!

  40. APX says:

    Also should be noted that this idea that everyone should communicate all the time

    Those who are in the state of grace and well disposed to receive communion should receive whenever they have the opportunity. Receiving communion is an act of love of Jesus coming to us and intimately uniting Himself with us in the most profound way possible outside of Heaven. A priest from the FSSP, who takes reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament with the utmost of seriousness, even went so far as to tell me that when I attend Mass twice on Sundays, I should still receive at the second Mass because, even though one does not receive more sanctifying grace, it’s still an act of love and a union of ourselves and Jesus, so it’s not receiving communion in vain and routine of simply being at Mass.

  41. un-ionized says:

    Atra Dicenda, That is going on everywhere, gluten is the new poison. Can someone be so sensitive to gluten that they react to the minimal amount in a gluten-free host? I have an acquaintance who thought her weight gain was due to gluten poisoning (her term) so she went on a gluten free diet and she lost 25 pounds, which she attributed to her now absent gluten sensitivity. I asked her what she added to her diet to replace the starch calories. Nothing. So she removed about 800 calories a day from her diet and lost weight, a miraculous cure.

  42. un-ionized says:

    Jon Patrick, the new catechism says that communion under both kinds is a more complete sign, but this also contributes to people not understanding the word “sign” and developing a Zwinglian theology.

  43. Dan says:

    Ah to be blessed with a parish that held themselves accountable. I would have to drive I think at least 3 hours, (unless I stopped off at an SSPX chapel) to find a parish that actually followed the Vatican guidance on the use of EMHC. Since the Vatican has taken the time on at least two separate occasions to specifically address this issue using fairly strong terms you would would think that more priests and Bishops would have taken the guidance to heart.
    Yes EVERY Sunday (and weekday) is habitual use, using them for the purpose of distributing under both species is creating an artificial prolongation which is explicitly not allowed. Using excessive EMHC constitutes a much higher risk of profanation. Yes the Missal does say that distribution under both species can carry a fuller representation, but it also states that it should be used for people entering into certain sacraments (ie marriage) and doesn’t say explicitly to distribute to all people, also to suggest that receiving under only one species is in anyway lacking the fullness of Christ is heretical to Church teaching.
    I think most priests know they are not following the guidance given to them but many fall into two groups; 1. Priests that believe that laypeople must directly participate in the liturgy in order to be active participants (felt that way because most people have been to dumbed down in regard to the liturgy to actively participate any other way.) 2. Priest that know the rules are not being followed but fear the retribution of Mr. and Mrs. Churchlady who happily hand out wafers and get to stand in front of the world showing how holy they are, and will pitch a fit and run the next town over if you tell them no.

    To group 1. I say retire already.
    To group 2 I say, grow a pair. The Eucharist and people’s souls are to important to cower in the corner over.

  44. Mike says:

    . . . the new catechism says that communion under both kinds is a more complete sign . . .

    A good reason to stick with the Baltimore Catechism, which inculcates reverence for the perennial Magisterium instead of dismissing it with a condescending sneer.

  45. Patikins says:

    un-ionized asked: “Can someone be so sensitive to gluten that they react to the minimal amount in a gluten-free host?”

    Short answer: Yes! Longer answer: it depends on whether they have celiac disease or whether they have an intolerance to gluten. I know a young lady with celiac who receives the Precious Blood from a small chalice that is prepared without a fragment of the Host added to it because she cannot have any gluten. I also have a friend who is gluten intolerant that has no trouble receiving the regular host. If I was a betting person I’d say gluten intolerance is more prevalent than celiac disease but neither condition is all that common.

  46. GOR says:

    I agree with Fr. K.

    Just because someone has not been to confession for a year or more is no indication that he/she must have committed serious sins. What are you thinking?

    The obligation to yearly confession is ONLY if one has committed mortal sins. Is it so hard to believe that someone can go for a year or more without mortal sin…?

    If that’s what you – or this ‘young priest’ – thinks, then you are being judgmental and maybe you should be examining your own conscience.

  47. bethv says:

    The last time I went to confession my first sin was that I used the Lord’s name in vain. Priest became upset with me and loudly said, “That isn’t a mortal sin!” and told me, “You worry too much!” I said, “It isn’t a mortal sin?” What he said that made it a venial sin was exactly what I thought did make it a mortal sin. I remember Fulton Sheen’s description of hearing a nun’s confession, that it is, “like being pelted with popcorn.” I admit that confession was a lot easier for me when I fully committed to the Church about 5 years ago after a 50+ year absence because I had BIG STUFF to confess. Now, it really is hard to pick out particulars because I don’t do the kind of things I used to do. God has given me the grace to not backslide in those regards. However, though I know I do wrong everyday because I am still a sinner and would be able to articulate it for confession, a lot of it seems to be considered venial, and I get the impression that priest’s don’t want to be “pelted with popcorn”.

  48. un-ionized says:

    I think Fr. K is right. We are not called upon to assume the worst in others. And that generational nonsense has to go as well.

    Bethv, I once confessed to gluttony and the priest referred to it as a vice and not a sin. He absolved me though and I really have done better. Maybe Americans think it’s not a sin.

  49. Gentillylace says:

    I was under the impression that the Eucharist is more “complete” if the laity partake of both kinds. As for me, I often have a dry mouth (due to the medications I take) and there are times when I find it hard to swallow the Host without partaking of the Precious Blood. If it were up to me (as if!), I would forbid EMHCs to distribute the Body of Christ at Mass, but allow them to distribute the Precious Blood at Mass, as well as to give Communion (under the form of Hosts) to the sick and homebound, since priests find it impossible to visit all the sick people in their parish on a weekly basis. I am an EMHC both at Mass and to the sick, and I feel relieved when I am not assigned to distribute the Body of Christ at Mass. I think that should be reserved exclusively to bishops, priests and deacons.

  50. Gail F says:

    He doesn’t have to wonder! Many Americans would faint at the idea that they had to go to Confession or not go to Communion. Please, young priest, don’t tell them that on your second or third week there. You have to work them up to it!

  51. hwriggles4 says:

    I was the head usher at our college Newman Center at the Sunday evening 5:30 p.m. Mass. During our training, criteria for EMHC’s was brought up by the priest, who is now a bishop. This was the criteria for an EMHC:

    1. Must be baptized, confirmed, and received Holy Communion.
    2. Must be a practicing Catholic.
    3. If married, marriage must be in accordance with the Church.
    4. Names of EMHC’s had to be submitted to the local ordinary.

    What I don’t know is if these four items are universal throughout the United States and Canada. Personally, I think it varies, and I think some pastors take too casual of an approach. Today, most dioceses require background checks for liturgical ministry, but there definitely needs to be more guidelines than passing a background check. Setting a good example as a practicing Catholic should be a priority, since an EMHC is representing the Church.

    A case in point: I do know that the Church where I grew up oftentimes had a Protestant who sang in the choir at our Church pass out communion, and I think the priest (Father Yeah Whatever) knew she was a Protestant. I also remember sometimes an EMHC would have one of her children visiting from out of town, and they would be an EMHC even though they were a “C and E Catholic” or were living in sin with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I do recall another college I attended where the priest who ran campus ministry cautioned EMHC’s, Alcolytes, Ministers of Hospitality, etc. that “as liturgical ministers, we are to be examples, so don’t go out and get tanked Saturday night and then present yourself on Sunday as an EMHC, etc.”

  52. Father K says:

    ‘We are not called upon to assume the worst in others. And that generational nonsense has to go as well.’ Thank you un-ionized, that is all I meant.

    Joseph-Mary and arga, I actually said, ‘unnecessarily’ judgmental. I am atypical of ‘that’ generation of priests. I attended a very orthodox Roman seminary, ordained at the age of 36, taught for many years in a highly orthodox seminary upon my return home, make very sure that whatever I preach and teach is in accord with what the Church teaches and I celebrate the EF frequently. I am a qualified Canon lawyer so am no antinomian. As you don’t know me at all please do not be so judgmental, and I don’t qualify that adjective this time around!

  53. revueltos67 says:

    Re jhayes at 1:20

    Thanks for pointing out the specific canon and Dr. Peter’s commentary. Very interesting – these clearly qualify my earlier statements. Though, perhaps excusing those who have not sinned mortally during the year could fall under the caveat “barring extraordinary circumstances”. :-)

    I was interested in what the previous, 1917 code had to say on the subject so did some digging. Here is the Latin of the applicable canons followed by English translations – for the 1983 code the official translation from the Vatican website and for the 1917 my own, probably maladroit, translation.

    1983 Can. 989 — Omnis fidelis, postquam ad annos discretionis pervenerit, obligatione tenetur peccata sua gravia, saltem semel in anno, fideliter confitendi.
    1917 Can. 906 – Omnis utriusque sexus fidelis, postquam ad annos discretionis, idest ad usum rationis, pervenerit, tenetur omnia peccata sua saltem semel in anno fideliter confiteri.

    Can. 989 After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.
    Can. 906 All the faithful of both sexes who have reached the age of discretion, that is the use of reason, are bound to faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year.

    The 1983 code’s stipulation of grave (or mortal) sins was not explicit in the 1917 code. Despite this, the understanding under both codes is apparently the same as the following commentary on the 1917 canon (quite similar to Dr. Peters’ 1983 commentary) shows:

    “Each and every one of the faithful of either sex have the obligation, from the time they attain the use of reason to confess all their sins truthfully at least once a year. That is to say, all their mortal sins which have not been properly confessed and directly remitted by absolution.”

    Sources for 1917 code here:
    http://www.archive.org/stream/newcanonlaw00woywuoft#page/183/mode/1up
    http://www.jgray.org/codes/1917CIC.txt

  54. Dan says:

    Father K, I would maybe suggest this, although I am not a canon lawyer or nothing, But perhaps it may have been a bit judgmental of you to jump down the throat of a young priest who simply made an observation that people seem to consider it a right to receive the Eucharist so long as they can make a justification in their own conscience. (wonder where they got that idea?)
    I personally did not read his remarks as judging any particular person rather than observing that more people go to Communion than go to confession, and I think it would be nothing short of naive to believe that all of them have reached that level of saintliness that they have in no way committed a moral sin. Every Sunday even the non-observant Catholic can witness those people who are divorced and remarried, stayed at the lake the week before rather than come to Mass, have “Vote for Hilary” bumper stickers, lining up in the Communion line and have a reasonable idea they didn’t go out of their way to hit the narrow window confession is available the Saturday before.
    So please don’t judge this young priest to harshly for noticing that there is a need for catechesis in his parish with regard to examination of conscience, what constitutes mortal sin, and the need to confess such sins before receiving the Eucharist. And Thank God, there are still those in the world who can go a year or longer without committing a mortal sin, I pray that we will all be counted among them.

  55. Imrahil says:

    With all due respect,

    the reverend new priest is a bit rash in jumping to generalizing conclusions.

    1. That EMHCs aren’t necessary for congregations of 200 doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be in a parish of 5000 souls all of whom go to Church and most of whom Communicate (in 3 Sunday masses). And the a bit hypothetical part is only “all of whom go to Church”.

    2. It’s problematic enough to complain about the Communicating percentage, but stating as he does that a man cannot possibly go without mortal (!) sin over the course of a year is not only, as some commenters here said, judgmental, but worse, it’s unconscious repeating of a tenet of classical Protestantism.

    Shorten the examined group to “married Catholic regular Church-goers that don’t dissent with the Church on contraception” (and the latter is a question of belief, not practice), and even the percentage won’t be too small, I guess.

  56. Imrahil says:

    Dear revueltos67,

    “your sins” means “your mortal sins” here as far as he commandment goes.

    Not saying that yearly Confession, at the least, isn’t just what practicing Catholics do: but as far as the commandment goes.

  57. Imrahil says:

    In fairness to the priest, though, the most favorable and also not improbable explanation is that he simply just as mistaken about the “confess your sins” Church commandment as others are.

    All the easier since yearly Confession even without new mortal sins does belong to the category (to be used with caution) of “no obligation, but all good Catholics do it, just do it”.

    Still, i.m.h.o. an extensive study of theology not excluding canon law should treat this; but there I may be dreaming.

  58. revueltos67 says:

    Imrahil said: “…yearly Confession even without new mortal sins does belong to the category (to be used with caution) of “no obligation, but all good Catholics do it, just do it”.

    Your phrasing is a little confusing to me. To be clear, a Catholic who has committed grave sin does have a strict obligation, under pain of mortal sin, to confess during the year. Correct?

    But here is a question – should the phrases “his or her grave sins” and “persons free of grave sin” be taken in an objective or subjective sense?

    As an example: suppose a person is contracepting but rejects the Church’s teaching on contraception. Objectively that person is involved in grave sin but is this the case subjectively? Would that person be strictly bound to confess during the year – i.e. bound to bring the acts, which they know violate Church teaching, along with the circumstances surrounding them to the sacrament of penance?

  59. pannw says:

    After reading all of these comments, I’m left wondering why there is a strict requirement that one go to confession within 8 (?) days to obtain a Plenary Indulgence. If it is perfectly reasonable to think, and the Church really teaches, that people* can go more than a full year and be in a state of grace, then…??? Is the 8 day thing going to put one in a super-duper special state of grace?

    *Sure there are saints among us, but I think even they would be under the 8 day requirement too, wouldn’t they? Though I would wager the actual saints are in the confessional a lot more than yearly anyway.

  60. Peter Stuart says:

    I’m left wondering why there is a strict requirement that one go to confession within 8 (?) days to obtain a Plenary Indulgence
    I can’t speak for the super-holy but for someone with as many attachments to sin (mortal and venial) as I have, eight days is an eternity. If it wasn’t for frequent Confession and the priests who offer it, God alone knows how much deeper a hole I’d be digging myself.

  61. un-ionized says:

    I think it’s because it is for a plenary indulgence. One day over a week seems reasonable. Maybe they were just trying to be reasonable.

  62. Imrahil says:

    Dear revueltos2,

    sorry for the confusion.

    To be clear, a Catholic who has committed grave sin does have a strict obligation, under pain of mortal sin, to confess during the year. Correct?

    Certainly correct.

    The interesting question here is what is a Catholic to do who has not committed a mortal sin since his last Confession, for a whole year.

    Now there are – generally speaking – a lot of people around in pious circles that keep saying “do this” and “do that” and if you point out to them that it is not obligatory, they’ll say “but would you really only do what is obligatory”. I don’t generally like this, which is why I said “to be used with caution”…

    but for some, for a limited amount of things, this just happens to be the only way to put them: it’s not an obligation, but the consensus pretty much is to treat it as if it were. You might call it a quasi-obligation if we’ve defined before what we mean by the word. The category is to be used with caution, but is just the apt one to classify some things.

    Now Confessing once a year as a not-mortal sinner is actually the most outstanding example for this (whereas who has committed mortal sin is actually obliged). [Some other examples might include reception of the Ashes on Ash Wednesday, attending at least two services over the Easter Triduum instead of the obligatory one, etc.]

    I didn’t raise the point of subjective and objective sins at all. Since you ask, I’d say that theoretically it is probably the subjective sins that have to be confessed (ask a theologian), while practically we will just confess all the objective ones and let God sort it out.

  63. Imrahil says:

    Dear pannw, Peter Stuart and un-ionized,

    a couple of separate points.

    First, 8 days, when it applied, meant “two weeks”… because it was always a before and after-Confession-thing.

    Second, it’s actually 20 days now or “Confess at least once in six weeks to get your indulgence every day”.

    Third and most importantly, please please let’s not confuse either mortal sin with sin, or sin with “improvability”.

    A venial sin is venial, this is a technical term, but actually a major fault; we’ve just become so used to them that we don’t recognize them for what they are. A mortal sin is a ghastly crime against God, oneself, and in many cases society – yes, each one of them, and yes, that includes voluntarily missing a Sunday Mass.

    People obviously keep doing things they could have done better on most days of the year; if accounts are to be trusted, it doesn’t even help being a saint, here, because the saints just knew themselves so good that they found even more of this sort of thing than we do.

    People also stumble again and again over doing things recognizing “well, that was sinful”, and also over having done things they really consider a shameful sin, recognizing “I’ll better confess that in my next confession”. (Say: they overslept and lingered a bit and didn’t appear at their Sunday mass before the Gloria.)

    This is laudable enough, but that a sin raises such a feeling in us does not mean it is mortal. It is mortal, as we all learnt when we read the catechism, if it is done with full knowledge and deliberate consent in a grave matter.

    And why now, for a plenary indulgence, the duty to have Confessed within such and such a time? Because Confession, even not strictly necessary confession, is such a great thing helping us not to dig deep holes (as Peter Stuart puts it). Also, the Church happens to rule over this most delicious ice cream truck that is called “Plenary Indulgences: get your punishment-debts off for free!” So, what happens in effect is that the Church stands there and says, “it’s good for you to go to Confession anyway, right? And if you do, we’ll give you an ice-cream”.