QUAERITUR: “self-service” from the chalice

From a reader, edited:

Last night I was scandalised, apart from the usual "inclusive" language that the Priest used throughout, he asked, after the Priests Communion (normally the EMHC’s are crawling over each other by now) whether there was a "Eucharistic Minister" available – no takers ! Lo and behold he then declared "the chalice will be there (pointing to the Altar) feel free"

This would be considered "self-communication" and it is strictly forbidden.

If he is doing this regularly, the diocesan bishop and/or the Congregation for Divine Worship should be informed.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum you read:

94. It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . and, still less, to hand . . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice.[181] Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass.

       [181]Cf. Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 160.



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  1. Supertradmum says:

    When I worked at a University, the chalice was passed around. Thankfully, that ended. However, I have seen priests place the chalice on the altar and let people go up and drink from it. It is reprehensible and confuses the laity, allowing for more “clericalization” of the laity. I have seen this at Mass in convents as well.

    I was married at a Latin Mass, so we did not do the sharing of the chalice part of Holy Communion. I find that custom awkward and although legal, dubious in symbolism as well as in sacramental theology. Christ gives of Himself, through the priest, who is the alter Christus.

  2. asperges says:

    There is still this quasi-heretical idea that when you get the “wine,” you get something extra.
    Another very foolish NO innovation which, even for the best of motives, weakens doctrine, instead of affirming it. Sub utraque specie!

    The NO is the rite of paradox through and through.

  3. Tradster says:

    94. It is not licit for the faithful “…to hand…from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice.

    And why, exactly, does that wording not also forbid the use of the Eucharistic Marine Corps?

  4. Magpie says:

    That’s happens all the time at a local monastery here in Northern Ireland. The people are invited to trudge up to the altar to help themselves. All sorts of abuses and heresies are spouted there. Nobody seems to care.

  5. jaykay says:

    The only time I ever saw this was about 5 years ago when I used attend Mass at our local Dominican church where the then Prior (they get rotated fairly frequently) started the practice of putting the chalice on the altar rail for people to “serve themselves”. Very few actually did so, and after a while it stopped. None of the other priests did it. I think it was just a step too far and we are, by and large, a fairly conservative area (although not, unfortunately, enough so as to have reinstitued use of the rail and kneeling).

    That particular man was, I heard later, an academic and unhappy away from academe. His celebration was orthodox enough but his preaching was very dry and often on the mildly rebellious side. It was also boring, as he had a monotonous and low voice. He was ordained in the late 60s. I think he had, as they say, “issues”.

    Haven’t been in that church much in recent years as choral duties in my parish church have taken over, but I’m told that that innovation has never been repeated by any other priest since. Deo gratias.

  6. JohnMa says:

    This used to happen at the Mass on campus where I went to undergrad. However, it was both the Body and Blood left their for people to self-communicate.

  7. SimonDodd says:

    Magpie: As we read in the Apostolic Constitutions, “if the pastor be unblameable as to any wickedness, he will compel his own disciples, and by his very mode of life press them to become worthy imitators of his own actions,” “‘And it will be, as is the priest, so is the people'”; the converse is also true. If clerics act in a manner inconsistent with belief in the real presence, the laity will follow him right off that cliff.

    A problem that would obviously be solved if the Church would only ordain women, of course!

    Perhaps a tangent, but I suspect that even if a complaint made it to the bishop, the bishops of Ireland (presumably including Northern Ireland) lack a certain moral authority right now. The Apostolic Constitutions just cited go on to observe: “if the bishop himself be an offender, how will he be able any longer to prosecute the offense of another?” I don’t know why the Church isn’t cleaning house there, let alone why it refuses to allow them to self-clean. Abuse is going to happen when there’s no authority to stand against it.

  8. irishgirl says:

    When I used to attend Saturday noon Mass at the church where I was baptized, it was a regular event for people to go up to the altar and ‘help themselves’ from the chalice. I never did it.

    Once-this was after Easter-a rather large lady on her way up to the altar brushed up against the paschal candlestick (large tall gold plated-I think) and the whole thing crashed to the floor..in seeming slow motion!

    Another time-my mother told me this-a street person went up and ‘drained it’ (he drank it all), then grinned and gave a ‘thumbs up’.

    It’s things like this that make me glad I now attend the EF Mass exclusively.

  9. Obviously, the thing to do in these cases would be to prostrate yourself before the Blessed Sacrament, just because you feel like it. And then the priest might feel like doing his job, simply out of embarrassment.

    It would not be licit to trip any non-Church-authorized person who tries to step past you while you’re lying there, but the results would be valid, according to the canon law of gravity. :)

  10. TJerome says:

    very disappointing. The priest must be one of the “fruits” of Vatican II.

  11. I have also found a habit in some parishes of “self-intinction,” where the communicant dips his Host into the chalice. On one occasion, I served Mass for an archbishop from overseas. After the Agnus Dei, he asked me to assist him with Communion bearing the chalice. I conceded, reluctantly, after asking for his blessing (I was not an extraordinary minister). One person tried to self-intinct. I put my hand over the chalice, whispering quietly: “Sir, this isn’t done. Please see me after Mass.” It was one time in my life when I was able to explain something like this in a civil manner, and it was received in kind.

  12. John F. Kennedy says:


    I like it! A sort of “civil disobedience” to illicit directives. I could see this technique being used in other ways too. In fact, now that I think of it I have done it already. At different times at different Churches, I’ve knelt on the floor during the Consecration, even though I was directed by people nearby and once by a priest that I should stand. Other things also come to mind, saying “and became Man,” in the Creed when everyone else leaves a gap, etc.

    We should call it “Canonical Obedience.”

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    “and was made Man. Being of one substance with the Father . . . “

  14. AnAmericanMother says:

    mwbh –

    The Episcopalians (usually when they had a cold) would self-intinct.

    I’ve never seen it in Catholic practice, but our parish is rather orthodox, even our resident hippies, relatively speaking.

  15. jaykay says:

    An American Mother:

    Bring it on! Can’t wait for Advent 2011, meself. In fact, the cathechesis should be starting soon… yeah?… Yeah?… Oh wait, I’m in Ireland :(

  16. jaykay says:

    Erm: “… consubstantial with the Father”, no? Ineffably so, surely.

  17. Magpie says:

    SimonDodd: I think if a complaint were made, it would achieve nothing, and I’m guessing I would probably be labelled as a neurotic. I think if the Pope himself came here, he would be run out of most parishes and dioceses. At least his ideas, proposals, and instructions would be. Of course there would be plenty to line up and get their picture taken with him, then bid him good riddance.

  18. xgenerationcatholic says:

    We don’t “take communion”, as the Protestants do, we “receive Communion.” So it must be given to us, we can’t go up and help ourselves.

  19. lizfromFL says:

    @irishgirl, what a horrible story! I am glad to say I have never seen this practice before.

  20. Oneros says:

    Rite of Paradox indeed! You’ve really got to wonder if there is ANY consistency to all this anymore at all. Like, when the Vatican issued its directive saying only clerics could cleanse the vessels, I could only think, “Really? Too little too late, guys. You already have lay people touching the Eucharist DIRECTLY and distributing it. Limiting them from cleaning the vessels is a strange priority.”

    Same thing here. I mean, they say “self communication” is not allowed…but communion is received by eating, not by holding. Communion in the hand thus seems little better than self communication as the person puts the host in their own mouth!

    And with lay EMHCs touching the hosts anyway, this seems like trying to put the cat back in the bag, making distinctions arbitrarily that no one is going to understand.

    Catholics understood and accepted the old rules because they were simple and consistent: the priest gave you communion on the tongue with his consecrated hands. Period.

  21. ChantalM says:

    OMG, the stories I’ve heard here. Even the priest who confirmed me at Daily Mass wouldn’t do such a thing, and he’s a liberal of the first order. I can still remember attending Daily Mass there in the summertime a couple of years ago, and it was only me, a fellow student, and him. When it came time for Communion both me and the student received both species from him, no taking from the chalice as was done here. Egads, what is this world coming to?

  22. Jack Hughes says:

    I may be preaching to the Choir but ONLY those whose hands have been consecrated should touch the Sacred Host, leaving the Precious Blood on the altar for people to self-communicate is a recipie for disaster.

    slightly off topic another benefit of ONLY the priest recieving the Precious Blood is that it eliminates the need for Armies of EMHC

  23. kittenchan says:

    “94. It is not licit for the faithful “…to hand…from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice.

    And why, exactly, does that wording not also forbid the use of the Eucharistic Marine Corps?”

    My question precisely.

  24. puma19 says:

    Just another case of liturgical vandalism going on. But then, heh, haven’t we seen loads of this since the end of the Council and the so-called renewal of the liturgy.
    We’ve had guitar masses, masses in forests, youth masses, childrens masses and goodness knows what else. |We’ve had altars that are just a side table or a stump in the woods. What is new now?
    Well this abuse of the sacred has just continued unabated in the Church globally, and primarily in the USA, Australia and other western countries especially. Rare to find such in South Asia or SE Asia where there is a greater sense of the sacred.

    Its about time, well its past time, that those in the Church looked across to our Orthodoc brothers and their liturgies. Have they changed, have they chucked out the sacred rituals and torn down their inconostasis(?) in their stunning churches? NO NO NO.
    They have not. Their sactuaries, their icons are still there.
    What have we replaced ours with? |Well lets start at the concrete churches that have sprung up, often designed by atheists or those who have no connection with the worshipping church. |And so many, loads of priests AND and indeed bishops have no idea on church architecture etc. This is not the Middle ages when they had decades to build great cathedrals. no, this is now when all has to be done in an instant – the liturgy, the buildings….this is ourt problem now. No time to do things and heaven help us, to pray and be silent.

    No, the fact is the priest has become reduntant in many areas of the Church. Laity think they can do the sacraments, nuns can fill in and do it all…This is the problem today. We have lost the sense of the sacred. SImple as that.
    Bishops especially need to be more holy, more prayerful and return their dioceses back to the sacred.

    A massive problem in the Church. But when you let the laity start ‘running the liturgy’ like it was a geton get off bus, then we are in real trouble. Priests need to be aware of their function, sacred and eternal.
    I am a firm believer that ONLY PRIESTS OR DEACONS should distribute communion and never the laity.
    |We ought abrogate ‘special ministers’ of the Eucharist. Where did that originate in the Gospels?
    Next we’ll be having special ministers of the confessional and laity or women doing ordinations. Crazy.

  25. pseudomodo says:

    A question for you, Father.

    “Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass.”

    Does this mean that spouses MAY administer HC to each other or MAY NOT?

  26. Panterina says:

    >>”And why, exactly, does that wording not also forbid the use of the Eucharistic Marine Corps?”

    Tradster, kittenchan–EMHCs have to be mandated by the local Bishop. Their use is licit by virtue of this mandate. Unless I’m mistaken, bishops have some authority to regulate certain aspects of the Liturgy in their diocese, but I don’t know how this authority applies when interpreting “Redemptionis Sacramentum”.

    In any event, EMHCs are allowed by the local bishop via a 1-year mandate as an exception to this rule, although their widespread use in the United States seems to indicate otherwise.

    BTW, I am a layman and a mandated Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Communion. I’ve been asked by my parish priest right after getting married. My pastor has great insight and knew what he was doing: It strengthened by faith and I can’t thank the Lord enough for the graces that He has poured on me by allowing me, a poor sinner, to be so close to Him. I always cringe when posters belittle EMHCs: I know it’s a huge privilege. My parish priest asked me to serve, and I replied “Serviam!”. The bishop allows it. Please let’s use charitable words when referring to these brethren who are asked to fill a role greater than themselves.

  27. irishgirl says:


    There were a few times when I was ‘pressed’ into being an EMHC. I was so scared at the thought of dropping Our Lord! But when I brought each Host out of the ciborium, I would hold It by the very edge of my first three fingertips and ‘show It’ to each communicant as I said, ‘The Body of Christ’.

    Only once did I ever administer the Precious Blood-it was at my last Third Order Carmelite retreat. I was sitting in the front row of the retreat house chapel, and the married Maronite deacon who was a member at the time all of a sudden gave me a GLASS CHALICE [arrgh!] with the Precious Blood and quietly directed me to go to the back of the chapel. I didn’t want to ‘make a scene’ and refuse, so as reverently as I could I went in the back and did what I was told to do.

    I was never ‘officially’ an EMHC, but somethings ‘things happen’.

    lizfromFl-yes, those things were horrible!

  28. Frank H says:

    pseudomodo – the abuse was that couples were administering Holy Communion to each other at the nuptial Mass. The abuse is to be set aside, that is, they are NOT supposed to do that. And I must say, I have not seen it done in quite awhile, so the priests must be heeding that directive!

  29. pseudomodo says:

    Thanks Frank!

    I have only seen it once in my lifetime, some friends were ‘permitted’ to do this by a very liberal priest who was fond of experimetation. My guess is that he seldom crossed this line deliberately and did things that were barely valid though maybe illicit.

    My understanding was that the local bishop used him as a resource for post V2 experimentation.

    I think the only sacrament that spouses administer to each other is matrimony.

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