QUAERITUR: plain unfermented grape juice in chalice for Mass

UPDATE 22 Jan 1553 GMT:

I received this from the original questioner:

Thanks for the tip, Father.

Between you and me, we ordered the mustum, put it in the sacristy fridge, and Father used it without saying a single word.

Back to validity again, Deo gratias. 



From a reader:

What is the status of a Mass at which grape juice is used in the chalice?

Not mustum, not wine resembling anything close to the definition thereof,  only pure, 100% Walgreen’s brand grape juice mixed with a drop or two of water.

Does this fall under the category of one element being consecrated without the other (i.e., the bread), or is the entire Mass invalid?

No other wine is consecrated, e.g., for communion of the people under both species.

We have a real, ongoing problem here with this.

So far, only the sacristan and I are aware…

Oh dear.

Grape juice which has not undergone any fermentation at all, which is not thus at least mustum, is not valid matter for the sacrifice of the Mass. 

For there to be a valid consecration you must use juice of the grape which, without additives, has undergone some fermentation (even if halted at a very early stage by, for example, freezing, thus called "mustum" – even with less than 1.0% alcohol in some cases, or – normally – having undergone more fermentation to become "vinum"). 

If you have expressed your concerns to the priest and get nowhere with him, then you must contact the local bishop IMMEDIATELY and explain what is taking place. 

If that doesn’t produce results or any satisfactory explanation you need to contact Rome.  Write to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has competence in matters of concrete instances of validity of sacraments.  The same CDF also was the dicastery which issued the directives about the use of low-gluten hosts and mustum.

Remember: Some sort of proof needs to be supplied, so keep copies of what you very respectfully wrote to the priest and/or bishop and what they responded.


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  1. Random Friar says:

    I had a conversation after Mass recently with a parishioner who kept insisting that the local retreat center “offered” both wine and “grape juice” for those who couldn’t take alcohol at their daily Mass (and she thought it was a nice thing — she wasn’t complaining). I was gently trying to teach about mustum at the moment, and I’ll have to check out her complaint, but she was pretty sure it was grape juice. That said, I think too often people take the lazy way out and just say “grape juice” for mustum, figuring that the difference would be lost on most people. Well, it may be, but it’s worth explaining it to avoid these kinds of problems.

  2. ghlad says:

    Question – are the hosts validly consecrated even if the other species is not?

  3. Traductora says:

    Why are they doing this?

  4. theloveofwisdome says:


    As I’ve heard, there is still much dispute about this issue.

    Some theologians have said that both species need to be consecrated properly in order for either to be consecrated and become either blood or body of Our Lord.

    Other theologians (most if I’m not mistaken) state that the sacramental validity of either of the species is independent from each other. This is just something I’ve heard from my discussions with people, and I’ve never actually done the reading yet – so don’t quote me. But nevertheless, I think that it is not completely outlandish that the Church has never definitively spoken on this issue- or that there is no consensus as of yet.

    Maybe this is something the Church will clarify in our life along with Vatican II – considering that this sort of thing (invalid matter being used) is something that has become a somewhat common occurrence respectively.


    In my mind, I can think of 2 (non – malicious that is) reasons why someone who try to not use wine.
    1. Some people have a severe allergy to sulfites – sulfites are commonly found in wine and other naturally fermented beverages.

    2. Perhaps someone is an alcoholic?

  5. Random Friar says:

    ghlad: Short answer: yes.

    There is a quick answer here reposted from Zenit: http://www.kaldu.org/2007/7_JulyNews/News_July11_07_E08.html
    Fr. Z answered similarly here: https://wdtprs.com/2009/07/quaeritur-words-for-the-precious-blood-twice-none-for-the-body/

  6. patrick_f says:

    So that means the wine can have no sulfurs to “hasten” fermentation?

  7. tioedong says:

    I believe when the question was first raised was about priests who had been treated for alcoholism allowed to use unfermented grape juice, since once the juice was opened, yeast from the air enter and start fermenting, so wine is indeed present in the juice (assuming you use a juice without preservatives).

    An old science experiment used by teenagers from time immemorial is to leave apple juice outside in a wide mouth jar uncovered for a few days, and voila you end up with apple cider. The kids then freeze it (to remove the water) and drink what is left unfrozen (which is “hard” apple cider), and voila, instant party.

  8. Mitchell NY says:

    This is an awful thing to do..If the Priest knows, and I assume this is probably part of basic formation, validity, then what he is doing is fooling the entire Congregation into thinking this is valid. I am sure if the Congregation were informed this would come to an instant stop. It is scandalous to fool people like this. My heart goes out to them because if they do find out it will shatter trust in many ways. Giving benefit of the doubt could any Priest not know this invalidates the Wine’s Consecration? Is it possible?

  9. Dave N. says:

    If this is really happening, it’s pretty shocking. If someone is alcoholic (unless it’s the priest of course), that person can simply refrain from partaking.

    So, the person writing in is the ONLY ONE in the congregation that has tasted the difference between wine and Walgreen’s grape juice? Not very discerning palates in this parish–or pretty darn laid back bunch. And what priest would not know this? (I shudder to think.)

    I’m more than a little skeptical.

  10. FrCharles says:

    It’s sad to say, but one cannot presume that priests have been taught about sacramental validity.

  11. FrCharles says:

    When I was in religious formation we used illicit wine and licit bread for Mass at home, and licit wine and illicit bread for Mass at school. One of my confreres once said, “You can’t get a real meal anywhere!”

  12. dcs says:


    The Host would be consecrated, but the Mass would not be valid since the sacrifice requires the consecration of both Host and Chalice.

    This is a very serious issue – if priests at this parish have accepted stipends for the “Masses” they’ve offered with grape juice, those stipends have to be returned or valid Masses offered.

  13. MargaretMN says:

    So what is an alcoholic or priest supposed to do?

  14. Joshua08 says:

    Canon law describes the consecration of one species and not the other as “nefas”, “unspeakable crime”

    It is a certitude that the Host is really consecrated before the Precious blood. Even leaving aside theological arguments (and no Latin theologian at least for a millenium has held differently on this point…so there is no dispute)

    1. If Mass is interrupted before the consecration of the Host, then (for grave reason) it can be discontinued. But if after, one must still consecrate the wine, since the very symbol through which the Mass is effect is the separate consecration of each, which represents the body and blood being separated in death

    2. A clincher…we would all be violating the first commandment and the Church would be ordering us to do so if the Host were not already consecrated before the chalice. The priest holds It up so that we can adore

  15. skeyes says:

    I remembered reading about this somewhere, and I tracked it down to a liturgical Q/A on Zenit, Jan 27 of last year. They quoted from the old Catholic Encyclopedia, which itself referenced the Missale Rom., De Defectibus, tit. iv, 2 (I don’t have one around to check!), saying, “If the wine begins to turn into vinegar, or to become putrid, or if the unfermented juice is pressed from the grape, it would be a grievous offence to use it, but it is considered valid matter.” Was this misquoted, Father? If it’s right, using grape juice is valid, but certainly not licit — and as offensive as using vinegar.

  16. Federico says:

    An amateur vintner’s comment….

    In my more recent “vintages” I have been selective in the yeasts added to the grape juice to foster fermentation. Selected quality yeasts displace wild yeasts and yield a much more predictable result.

    On the other hand, in years past, I’ve allowed wild yeasts to ferment the grape juice. That happens pretty quickly (grapes are coated in yeasts and washing hardly removes them completely).

    So, a couple of thoughts here.

    1. If the juice was from actual grapes and was not sterilized in some way, expect that mere moments after it reaches room temperature some fermentation is going on.
    2. If the juice was commercial, sterilized, juice it will take a little longer, but not much. If the juice stands a couple of hours at room temperature exposed to air, it’s unlikely that some yeast has not made its home in there. In other words, fermentation is happening.

    In other words, although it’s hardly certain, and it’s not good praxis, the reality is that juice from vitis vinifera (and real wine can only come from that variety, the wine made from vitis labrusca, occasionally found in the USA, may be good but is not real wine; I would question its validity as matter to consecrate the Precious Blood) is oriented towards fermentation. Chances are it is mustum and therefore valid matter unless one goes out of one’s way to prevent it.

    All that being said, it’s best to be certain. It takes little effort to shoot a small dose of wine yeast in the juice and, well, a few minutes later you’re sure you have mustum.



  17. Prof. Basto says:


    I will attempt to answer your question. In this case:

    (a) the bread is validly consacrated and becomes the Eucharist;

    (b) the grape juice, because it is not wine, is not validly consacrated and does not become the Eucharist;

    (c) the Sacrifice of the Mass itself is invalid, given that, for the Mass to make present at the Altar the Sacrifice of the Calvary, consacration of both species as the Eucharist is required.

    In this case, there is invalid matter for the consacration of the Precious Blood.

    But, the consacration of each species takes place at a different time, and there are different formulae for each.

    When the priest says the “This is my body” with proper intention, there being valid matter, the bread immediately becomes the Body of Our Lord, and that is why we immediately adore it (the priest genuflects, elevates the Body of Christ for the adoraton by the faithful, and genuflects again). So, at this point, the bread is already consacrated and has become the Body of Christ.

    If the bread were not already the Eucharist pending the consacration of the wine, then we would be worshipping not God, but the creature bread, during the elevation of the Host.

    Whether or not the priest will continue the Mass after this point (he may die, he may have a stroke, he may use invalid form for the Consecration of the wine, there may be – as in this case – invalid matter for such consecration, etc.) is not an absolute certainty.

    So it may happen – although this is very grave – that valid consacration of the wine will not follow valid consacration of the bread, and in this case we will have one scenario of one Eucharistic species being confected without the other.

    Now, as for the validity of the Mass itself as an action that makes present at the Altar the Sacrifice of the Calvary, this Mass in which only one species is consacrated is clearly invalid.

    Ven. Pope Pius XII mentions in Mystici Corporis that what makes present the Sacrifice of the Cross at the Altar is the consacration of both species. Although both Eucharistic Species are trully and perfecly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, one (the Host) is identified as “the Body” and the other (the Eucharist in the Chalice) is identified as “the Blood” of Christ, as shown by the own words with which the Lord instituted the Sacrament. According to the magisterium then, it is the state of separation of the Body and the Blood upon the Altar (one, the Host and the other, Chalice), that stands for the shedding of Christ’s blood at the Cross; thus making present at the Altar the propitiatory Sacrifice of the Altar.

    If only one species is consacrated, then this separation (the physical separation according to which the Lord is made really present, whole and entire in each species, but still under two species) is not accomplished, and ergo Mass as a Sacrifice is also not.

  18. dcs says:

    I remembered reading about this somewhere, and I tracked it down to a liturgical Q/A on Zenit, Jan 27 of last year. They quoted from the old Catholic Encyclopedia, which itself referenced the Missale Rom., De Defectibus, tit. iv, 2 (I don’t have one around to check!), saying, “If the wine begins to turn into vinegar, or to become putrid, or if the unfermented juice is pressed from the grape, it would be a grievous offence to use it, but it is considered valid matter.” Was this misquoted, Father? If it’s right, using grape juice is valid, but certainly not licit—and as offensive as using vinegar.

    Couple things:

    (1) Fresh-pressed grape juice starts to ferment almost immediately from the wild yeast growing on the skin of the grape. This is what is called must or mustum and it is valid matter. Bottled grape juice has had its fermentation process interrupted by pasteurization and I think this would also boil off any alcohol that was in the juice. That is why it is not valid matter.

    (2) De Defectibus mentions wine that has begun to turn into vinegar, not vinegar itself. Vinegar is not valid matter, but wine that has begun to turn to vinegar is.

  19. jasoncpetty says:

    How about a “fortified wine” such as MD 20/20? Is that a valid matter for the Precious Blood? It is regularly used in a parish I visit often.

  20. Will D. says:

    I’ve wondered about this because of an incident that happened at a Mass I attended about fifteen years ago. It was at a military chapel, and the sacristan accidentally used the Protestants’ grape juice rather than wine when he filled the carafe before Mass. Nobody, including the priest, realized the mistake until after the consecration.
    So was the Mass valid, since this was an honest mistake, rather than a foolish innovation?

  21. Prof. Basto says:

    Will D.

    No, the Mass was invalid, and no consacration of the juice took place, because, regardless of the good faith of the minister, juice is not wine and only wine is the matter for this Sacrament; other things apart from Bread and Wine do not suffer transubstantiation to become the Eucharist.

    But, in your example, it would seem that although the Mass was invalid, no sin was commited, since it was an honest mistake. There was an ilicit action (and an invalid attempt to consacrate grape juice, rendering the Mass invalid), but no one was culpable, since it seems that it happened in good faith.

    Such good faith what seems to be lacking in the case originally mentioned in this thread, since the priest knows – or is reasonably supposed to know (it is something that is expected that he must know – that he has been using grape juice, straight from a grape juice bottle, and not wine, and any priest must know, and is reasonably required to know, that such a defect of form leads to the invalidity of the Sacrament.

    So, the intentional or grossly negligent use of grape fruit mentioned in the original case cited by Fr. Z is a grave matter, since Canon Law treats the consacration of one species without the other as an unspeakeble crime. And anyone should know that juice is not wine, and as such will not undergo transubstantiation.

  22. dcs says:

    How about a “fortified wine” such as MD 20/20? Is that a valid matter for the Precious Blood? It is regularly used in a parish I visit often.

    A parish that uses Mad Dog in the Chalice? I thought I had heard everything!

    My understanding is that fortified wine is permissible as long as it is fortified with grape spirits and that its alcohol content is 18% or less. I don’t know whether MD falls into that category or not – I don’t know what is used to fortify it. Plus it is flavored. I would think its validity is doubtful at best.

  23. biberin says:

    I’ve been to a couple Masses celebrated by a recovering alcoholic priest who very definitely does not take even a sip of the Blood of Christ. Is it *ever* something that a priest can get a dispensation from? I’m thinking not, because of what’s going on theologically, but in charity I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. What implications does this have for those assisting at a Mass he celebrates?

  24. Will D. says:

    Prof. Basto, thank you for that response. I figured that the case was along those lines: an invalid Mass, but not a sinful or sacrilegious one.

  25. Charivari Rob says:

    “…we ordered the mustum, put it in the sacristy fridge, and Father used it without saying a single word. Back to validity again, Deo gratias.”

    Having the valid matter sounds like a good thing.

    Is the way you went about it also a good thing? I have my doubts, but there aren’t enough details in your account to be sure.

  26. Random Friar says:

    biberin: When I do a search, this is what I keep finding “For some time different Ordinaries [bishops] have asked this Sacred Congregation for the permission to allow priests who are undergoing a treatment for alcoholism or who have undergone this treatment, to celebrate Mass with unfermented grape juice. With this situation in mind, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith authorizes the Ordinaries of the United States of America to grant to those priests who have made this request the permission either to concelebrate with one or more priests a normal Mass but without receiving Communion under the species of wine or, when this is not possible, to celebrate Mass using unfermented grape juice and to use water alone for the ritual ablutions after Communion. Also, one must avoid creating scandal for the faithful.” So yes, it seems that in extreme cases, a priest may be dispensed. Note the situation, though: in concelebrations. I do not imagine such a priest would be dispensed from being the sole celebrant. I myself am fairly intolerant to the accidents of wine, so I use about as small an amount of the Precious Blood as I can for the priest’s chalice, and there may be a time when I lose almost all tolerance, so I have a great deal of sympathy.

    I’m pretty certain it’s mustum they mean. Catholic Answers has this on their site: “Article II-C of Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter describes mustum as ‘fresh grape juice from grapes, or juice preserved by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods which do not alter its nature).’ While several brands of grape juice are available commercially, not all varieties meet the requirements of mustum.

    Any commercially produced grape juice whose fermentation process was arrested, even at a very early stage, may be used for mustum. However, those grape juices which have been pasteurized are not proper matter for Eucharist because such pasteurization removes even trace amount of alcohol produced in the natural fermentation process.

    The insistence on the purity and integrity of the grape juice used as mustum is to assure that the matter used for the Eucharist retains, as closely as possible, the characteristics of the matter intended by Christ to become his own Precious Blood.”

  27. Tim Ferguson says:

    I, for one, want to applaud the original questioner for his (or her) approach to the situation. By all means, complain when there are abuses going on (and this was, most certainly an abuse), but also being willing to go out on a limb and provide the solution. This shows a firm grasp of Fr. Z’s “Rules of Engagement” and simple human charity. Good for you!

  28. Tim F: I wholeheartedly agree.

    This was a good day’s work.

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