QUAERITUR: I poured the Precious Blood down a sink

From a reader:

I was reading your blog entry on "Graviora Delicta" and started to get a bit nervous. 

Awhile ago, I served as sacristan at a Jesuit high school.  With no disrespect to the Society of Jesus, you can imagine that the Masses were full of liturgical abuses. [Yes, I can imagine that.] After Mass, I was often asked by the campus minister and/or priest to purify the vessels.  Also, after every all-school Mass there was always a considerable amount of Precious Blood remaining; [That is the first mistake.] when I began to consume the Precious Blood remaining, I was told by the campus minister and priest to "just pour it down the sacrarium; that’s what it’s there for." [ARG!] 

Now I knew that purifying vessels was reserved to the priest/deacon, and I wasn’t positive–but fairly sure–that the Precious Blood should not be poured down the sacrarium.  But, out of confusion and fear, I did what they asked me to do (only once, however, did I pour the Precious Blood down the sacrarium; after that one time, I refused to).

I brought these sins to confession, and received absolution.  However, I now fear that I have incurred a greatly penalty than I originally thought.  I know it wasn’t intentional, but would this situation still be considered "desecration or profanation of the Blessed Sacrament").  And if so, how would I resolve this?  Write to the CDF?  Or my bishop?  While I don’t want to be overly scrupulous about this, at the same time I want to make sure I do the right thing.

From what you wrote I would say No, you did not incur the penalty. You were following the direction of another person who you deemed had authority.  You also cite confusion and fear.  To incur such a penalty, you had to have committed a mortal sin in doing what you did.  You did not have the obligation to know the truth of the matter (but the sacristan and the priests do!).  You were working from innocent ignorance.  The sacristan and priests, if they don’t know the law and theology of this matter, are in a state of culpable ignorance.

I suspect that someone has incurred a censure, but not you.

But, for a moment let’s assume that you did incur the censure, which is automatic excommunication.  Another result would be that you are irregular (if male) to receive Holy Orders licitly. 

The sin is forgiven in confession (since there are no more reserved sins).  The censure, however, is reserved to the Holy See.

You could go to Rome and go to the offices of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, which has competence in this and the authority to lift the censure making you regular to receive Holy Orders licitly.  Otherwise, you could explain the situation to a savvy priest confessor who knows how to write to the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary.  He would write a letter to describe the situation – using total anonymity in your regard – and then receive back from them the faculty to lift the censure the next time you come back to him as a confessor.

However… if you were already a cleric and you poured the Precious Blood of GOD down a SINK, and you incurred the censure of excommunication, you would be suspended instantly by the very fact of doing it if, in doing it, you committed the mortal sin in full knowledge and will.  You could function as a cleric, for example say Mass and hear confessions if a priest, only if you have started the process of getting that censure lifted.  That is all well and good if this was a private act, unknown to anyone else. 

BUT… if other people saw you do it, saw you doing it all the time, and they knew you knew it was wrong because you were told or you had read it, etc., then it would be possible that someone could denounce you to the CDF.  A canonical process could started in your regard, under the new norms for graviora delicta.  You could be removed from the clerical state and "laicized", if the tribunal of the CDF determined that was the best remedy for you and for others… for the good of your souls.

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  1. Ismael says:

    “Also, after every all-school Mass there was always a considerable amount of Precious Blood remaining;”

    This is quite strange. Usually not so much wine & water are poured into the chalice, not too much for 1 person to drink (or 3-4 persons to take a sip).

    So I do not understand why there would be sacred blood left.

    Also at the end of communion most priests drop eventual crumbs of the holy hosts that might remain behind in the ‘dispensers’ (sorry I forgot the proper term) after he puts the remaining hosts in the tabernacle and actually add a bit of water and drink the whole not to waste anything of the sacred body and blood of Christ.

    “I was told by the campus minister and priest to “just pour it down the sacrarium; that’s what it’s there for.” [ARG!] ”

    O_O Argh! indeed!!! These things make me cringe! It’s like throwing the blessed host in the garbage (sure the sacrarium is not really a garbage dump, but still).

    I do not understand why a priest should ask to commit such an act. I am sorry for this poor student who was asked to commit such act.
    In his place I would have either drank the precious blood (well unless I had committed some grave sins not yet confessed) or conserved somewhere worthy.

    In any case I would have immediately called the bishop (or one of his secretaries). I think the bishop should be informed about this and that he should have a LONG talk with the ministers/priests who are asking to commit such sacrilegious acts… Those priests deserve a good kick in the butt and a long time to reflect on their behavior.

  2. jbas says:

    This person clear has fear of the Lord, a much neglected virtue these days.

  3. Tantum Ergo says:

    I’ve got an important question: What does an extraordinary minister do about the Host particles remaining in the pyx? I am no longer functioning as an EM, but I had brought the Eucharist to the sick for years. I’m sure there are many who would like to know how to properly cleanse a pyx (or other sacred vessels in parishes where the priests will not.)
    I’d love to see the day when this would be a moot point, because of EM’s no longer being in existance, but we’re not there yet.
    Fr. Z, could you please comment?

  4. Susan the Short says:

    Oi! This gives me the willies! 15 or 20 years ago, when I was a new, poorly catechized convert (RCIA), I hung out with the local charismatics. At their monthly healing Mass, I helped set up the altar, and…horrors…WASHED THE CLEAR CRYSTAL CHALICES (yes, multiple)IN THE COMMON SINK with various dirty dishes after the social hour.

    It never occurred to me that this was wrong until just now reading this post. The nun in charge was the one who told me to wash them in the kitchen sink. I did this month after month until I left the charismatics in disgust.

    At a parish in the same town (since closed by the diocese) there was a sink in the sacristy/chapel where the old women washed the altar vessels after Mass. This same sink was adjacent to a toilet in a closet (no sink in there) so bathroom users washed their potty hands in the same sink used to wash the sacred vessels.

    Father Z, your blog is so valuable! Thank you for all your work!

  5. During this Month of the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, this has a great significance.
    The norms in “Redemptionis Sacramentum” make the consuming of the Precious Blood and the purification of the vessels very, very clear. That there are places (I hope, I pray, they are not legion!) where this is ignored simply must come to the attention of the local Bishop.
    He is responsible that the Blessed Sacrament, both under the form of Bread and of Wine, are treated with utmost respect, decorum and reverence.
    And the pastor has the responsibility to see that these norms are carried out.
    If we don’t love, adore and honor our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, then why do we wonder why there is so much evil, chaos and general mayhem in the world?

  6. ShihanRob says:

    @ Nazareth Priest, or any other of you Fathers!

    Does Redemptionis Sacramentum trump the wishes of the local Ordinary?
    In our diocese, practically everyone, from His Excellency down to the Parochial Vicar, pour the Precious blood from the wine decantor/flagon into the crystal goblets for distribution of the Precious Blood at Communion. That is, the Consecration takes place in the wine decantor and the Presider’s Chalice then, the Precious Blood is poured by a regular EM into the crystal goblets. As I read RS, this should not be happening, I realize, but it is.

  7. ShihanRob — Some people (including my old Ordinary) argued in the past that crystal counts as being precious. Rome said no, and people are wrong to keep doing it. But it’s for the bishop and/or the individual pastors and priests to stop using crystal. Similarly, Rome definitely ruled that you can’t use flasks and stuff, but people are still doing it. It’s for the bishop and the priests and pastors to stop doing it.

    Of course, you can say something about it to your pastor, or write to your bishop. And you can document it and write to the relevant authorities. If you’ll look around the website, Fr. Z has instructions on how to do this (ie, calmly and respectfully, and with evidence). Good luck!

  8. asperges says:

    EMHC frequently and routinely consume the surplus Precious Blood – half communicants do not take the chalice – and purify the vessels whilst the priest sits there and lets them.

    I was once told that the instructions were “ambiguous.” Funny, I thought that’s why the new GIRM was written. Although 3 years old (?), it is widely diregarded on all sorts of details. No-one seems very bothered. Such is the nature of the new rite: endemic with abuses and ambiguities.

  9. Elly says:

    I don’t understand how a sin can be forgiven but not the censure. If an excommunicated person can’t receive the sacraments, how can they go to confession to have the sin forgiven? And can they at that point receive the other sacraments too (besides Holy Orders) or do they need the censure lifted first?


  10. Reginald Pole says:

    It is my understanding that if the Precious Blood had become undrinkable, let say in the unlikely event that it had been poisoned, it would first have to be diluted with a sufficient amount of water so that the accidents of the wine no longer existed. It could then be poured down the sacrarium. Such incidents are thankfully extremely rare. To routinely dispose of the Blood of Christ is IMO sacrilege.

  11. pforrester says:

    In my parish the EMHC consume the Precious Blood themselves. Cleanse the vessel with water carefully trickled into the cup then pour the blood/water into the Priest’s Chalice. The sacristan is supposed to then pour this mixture of water and Precious Blood down the sacrarium. I stopped being a sacristan because of this abuse.

  12. “Comment by Reginald Pole — 17 July 2010 @ 6:51 pm”

    I was in a similar situation as a paid sacristan in Georgetown in the early 1990s. (Yes, it was a Jesuit parish.) Upon discovering that leftover Precious Blood was poured down the sacrarium — they consumed well over a gallon every weekend — I took the matter under advisement outside the parish. I then would routinely pour sufficient water into flagons of the Precious Blood, to render it invalid (in other words, it was more water than in the form of wine), before pouring it down the sacrarium. Eventually, after making an appeal to the pastor, my procedure was adopted by the other sacristans in the rotation.

    It is a process routinely covered for seminarians, more as a contingency than a regular practice.

    After three years at the parish, I left, but it was because of that experience, that I no longer could recommend the practice of “utraquism” (communion under both species) on a regular basis. In addition to being an unhealthy practice, Communion administered regularly from the cup is too easily abused.

  13. dans0622 says:

    Fr. Z.,

    I have to disagree with the comments you made regarding irregularities for reception/exercise of orders arising from this sort of treatment of the Blessed Sacrament. The only irregularities (in the Latin Church) are those listed in cc. 1041-1042. I understand what you mean by “suspended instantly” but that is only because of the excommunication, not because there is also the penalty of suspension attached to this crime. (Unless I am mistaken.)

    Also, (not directed at Fr. Z.) the Pontifical council for legislative texts has given an authentic interpretation regarding the word “abicit” used in c. 1367 (which regards this crime against the Blessed Sacrament) and said the word “should not be understood only in the strict sense of throwing away, nor in the generic sense of profaning, but with the broader meaning of to scorn, disdain, demean. Therefore, a grave offence of sacrilege against the Body and Blood of Christ is committed by anyone who takes away and/or keeps the Sacred Species for a sacrilegious (obscene, superstitious, irreligious) purpose, and by anyone who, even without removing them from the tabernacle, monstrance or altar, makes them the object of any external, voluntary and serious act of contempt. Anyone guilty of this offence incurs in the Latin Church, the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae (i.e., automatically), the absolution of which is reserved to the Holy See…” For fuller context, scroll down at this site: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20020604_interpretationes-authenticae_lt.html


  14. ShihanRob: What Suburbanbanshee said, very well, I might add!
    We live in a liturgically schizo world, I’m afraid.
    The universal norms in “Redemptionis Sacramentum” are to be obeyed by all.
    I hate to say this, and I mean no disrespect, but some bishops and priests ordained before, let us say, 1990 (just as a shot in the dark) either have not read the rubrics of the Mass carefully nor the recent liturgical documents referring to things such as the use of flagans, crystal chalices, etc., etc. In addition, they do not know where they may “add a few words” and where they must “say the black”…it’s unbelievable! The call for a greater understanding of “ars celebrandi”, the art of celebrating the Mass, is needed, badly.
    And some of these are the most “orthodox” clergy in doctrine and morals.
    We have a LOOOONG way to go liturgically, I’m afraid.
    I taught “How to Say Mass” one semester at a seminary and I was educated into all the aberrations that go on throughout the country by the seminarians learning to say Mass with the gestures and idiosyncrasies they had learned from their bishops and pastors…I’m not kidding!

  15. skellmeyer says:

    About ten years ago, I knew a VERY orthodox Dominican priest with whom I conversed about these kinds of things.

    He was absolutely shocked when I told him that the Precious Blood does not go down the sacrarium.

    “Well, where on earth does it go if not there?!?” he exclaimed, “That’s what a sacrarium is for!”

    He literally had no idea.

    I just finished working at a parish which does not have a sacrarium. It’s in Texas, and the Baptists won’t allow a sink which has a drain that goes to ground. The staff is theologically insane, and no one ever fought the refusal, so ALL drains go to the sewer system. They dispense the Precious Blood at Mass, and they have all the Eucharistic ministers drink the potable wash water that they swirl in the chalices. Then the second wash goes down the sink.

    Did I mention that the parish staff disgusted me?

  16. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Oh dear! For a number of years I was an ELEM and we had been instructed to do just that. It’s been over 10 years since I last did such things, when I really began getting back to the Latin Rite. I stopped doing Lector or ELEM, and stuck to doing faith formation classes and Catechism.

    Do I try to go to confession before Mass tomorrow, now educated with this knowledge?

  17. Sandra: I would say no.
    Reread Fr. Z’s advice/counsel; you are not primarily responsible, it was the person/people in charge.
    Being contrite and making reparation to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, however, would be a great way to renew your love for Him and sorrow for anything that you might, in ignorance, have done. But let it go. You have to know what you’re doing, realize its gravity, and not care. Evidently, that is not the case here.

  18. basilorat says:

    I recall when I was an active part of the Papal Mass in St. Louis. We were given strict instructions by then Abp. Rigali in reaction to what happened in Baltimore’s Mass in 1995.

    In 1995 in Baltimore, the took left-over hosts from Mass and put them in new, never been used, garbage cans with a simple cross spray painted on the front and then were hauled off.

    In St. Louis we purchased cheap, though dignified and stackable ciboria into a very large dignified tabernacle constructed by a seminarian which was placed in a make-shift chapel at the TWA Dome, with contemplative nuns in adoration until every last host was removed and distributed to parishes.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    Nice. And if all of this:

    “However… if you were already a cleric and you poured the Precious Blood of GOD down a SINK, and you incurred the censure of excommunication, you would be suspended instantly by the very fact of doing it if, in doing it, you committed the mortal sin in full knowledge and will. You could function as a cleric, for example say Mass and hear confessions if a priest, only if you have started the process of getting that censure lifted. That is all well and good if this was a private act, unknown to anyone else.”

    is going on in any particular case, how do the people in the pews ever find out that the masses they might be attending are, uh, what exactly?”

    All the more reason to know that the CHURCH intends masses to be licit. But also all the more reason to travel to where you know the masses are being said licitly and properly. This is just creepy. Only in Catholicism. Tilt.

    PS, Susan the Short is correct. This is very common. As a new and ignorant convert, I also had the 3 minute training session as a “Eucharistic Minister,” and was told the same thing. I’m sure it goes on in the local parish at least part of the time. At any rate, my ministry didn’t last long for a lot of reasons, most of them along these same lines, and I don’t regret that.

  20. Gabriel Austin says:

    Why the modesty in mentioning “a Jesuit parish”? Why not just name the parish? Light is the best way to dispel the darkness.

  21. If this derails the focus, forgive me and delete me.
    But something triggered in my own mind the comments of Basilorat re: the massive attendees and communicants at a Papal or even Eucharistic congresses, diocesan events, etc. (outside of the Cathedral or church)..in a stadium.
    The orchestration and execution of providing Holy Communion to thousands of people at one venue is just mind-boggling. I have heard (anecdotally) about what happened in Denver at World Youth Day with the distribution of Holy Communion or the careless reception; I can’t but wonder why this is at all condoned and practiced? The practice of “spiritual communion” has been lost, I’m afraid, and everyone has to receive in any and all kinds of circumstances that really do not prevent profanation, irreverence and carelessness.
    There once, and maybe there still is, in monastic or other religious communities of men, the practice of attending the Conventual Mass, not receiving Holy Communion if one has or will offer Mass later in the day, and yet it is certainly a praiseworthy and traditional practice.
    Making the “Precious Blood” available to everyone at every Mass does not make sense practically, liturgically or theologically. This is why we have the Precious Blood being poured down the sacrariums. The Church, in all her wisdom and perennial practices is not so dumb! The Chalice can be offered at special occasions and within the circumstances of what is practical and possible. But it’s not a “right” for everyone to receive from the Chalice.

  22. Mike says:

    Nazareth Priest–I forget where I read this but I believe the Holy Father was never particularly enthusiastic about WYD, especially in regard to what you mention. Of course, it’s a great chance for large-scale evangelization, but the problems are real.

  23. frjim4321 says:

    It is true that the Precious Blood, in the case of an emergency, can be super diluted to the point that the accidents of wine are no longer present, thus the mixture which is 95% water can be safely dispensed into the sacraruim; however with proper planning this should never become a necessity. We find that if there are 200 individuals receiving the host, two cups filled to the level of about 8 ounces is just about perfect. The ratio of four open ciboria to 2 cups works fine for us; only about 1 in 4 choose to recieve from the cup. We do have a young person who can only recieve from the cup, thus at our church providing the cup is a must at all masses.

  24. Jerry says:

    “We do have a young person who can only recieve from the cup, thus at our church providing the cup is a must at all masses.”

    Does this person attend and receives Holy Communion at every Mass?

    The way most parishes I am familiar with deal with similar situations is to have anyone who has special needs for Holy Communion notify the priest before Mass or place their special vessel with the gifts to be brought up during the offertory procession.

  25. frjim4321 says:

    He and his family are here every weekend, they are very much practicing Catholics, although they attend different masses every weekend. The procedure you mention has its drawbacks in that it emphasizes the infirmity of the indidual and may thus dissuade her/him from attending. I see your point with respect to low gluten hosts, which need to be provided rarely, but with respect to the cup, it would be fairly absurd to offer the cup to only one member of the assembly and not for all.

  26. Fr Jim: Why absurd to offer Holy Communion under the form of wine for someone who cannot receive under the form of bread and not to all?
    The reception of both forms has to do with completing the Sacrifice;
    the faithful do not have a “right” to receive under both forms. Only the celebrating priest(s) must consume both the Host and the Precious Blood.
    I think there is some question/misunderstanding of sacramental theology here.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    You are right, there is a misunderstanding of sacramental theology here. I would agree with you on that.

  28. Jerry says:

    “it would be fairly absurd to offer the cup to only one member of the assembly and not for all”

    Why is that?

    “The procedure you mention has its drawbacks in that it emphasizes the infirmity of the indidual and may thus dissuade her/him from attending”

    Anyone who is intolerant or allergic to gluten is focused on their infirmity every single day of their life. The steps I suggested are absolutely nothing compared to having to carefully check the ingredients of every food product consumed or quizzing the kitchen staff at restaurants. If they would dissuade someone from receiving Holy Communion, that would suggest the person does not understand what the Eucharist is, and thus _shouldn’t_ be receiving.

  29. UbiCaritas says:

    Respectfully, Father Jim, the church I attend (Tridentine Mass) does precisely that. A small girl who recently made her First Communion has health issues which prevent her from being able to receive the Host. She is the last person to kneel at the altar rail. Father distributes the Hosts to everyone else, and then returns to the altar, places the remaining Hosts on the altar, returns to the communion rail with a tiny golden chalice and a white linen cloth, administers the Sacrament to the girl, and then goes about the usual purification. Not really a big deal, at least at this parish. I assume her parents explained the situation to Father prior to her First Communion so as to avoid either illness or awkwardness.

  30. JimGB says:

    The post and the responses to it have me both confused and concerned. For a number of years, I served as an EM at our parish, at the invitation of the pastor. Generally, EMs are used in our parish in a manner not entirely consistent with the rules (e.g., a priest concelebrant would retire to his seat after receiving both species and allow EMs to distribute Communion; about a half dozen EMs used at every Mass even though priests on staff ranged from the current 3 to as many as 5 in prior years). I backed away from this ministry because I was uncomfortable with how EMs were used.

    However, here is the source of my concern. As an EM, I would sometimes assist the sacristan in washing the sacred vessels in the sacristy after Mass. In every case that I am aware of, the priest had performed the ritual washing of the chalice at the altar, but the chalices used by the EMs to distribute the Precious Blood were usually put on the credence table and not wahed by the priest. No Precious Blood was ever in these EM chalices, except for perhaps a tiny residual amount. The sacristan (at that time a religious brother) would consume whatever small amount remained and then add water and pour the mixture down the sacrarium.

    Did I (however unwittlingly) participate in an improper act, and what would I need to do to correct this?

  31. “Why the modesty in mentioning ‘a Jesuit parish’? Why not just name the parish? Light is the best way to dispel the darkness.
    Comment by Gabriel Austin — 18 July 2010 @ 1:48 pm “

    It is a practice I developed over the years, when referring to my experiences there in a forum such as this. Discretion is the better part of valor.

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