QUAERITUR: Can I continue to be an Extraordinary Minister of Communion?

From a reader asked a question about the post I made about the document Ecclesia de mysterio, which among other things requires that we avoid using Extraordinary Ministers of Communion to often or in too many numbers when circumstances don’t really require them.

If an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is fully aware of a
document such as Ecclesia de mysterio and the uses and limitations of
their ministry, can they in all good conscience continue in that role
if he or she continues to be asked to serve on a regular basis at
inappropriate occasions? Could it be construed as sinful to continue
in that role if they know what they are doing is wrong in the light of
such documents?

I don’t know it it is sinful or not.  I think that depends on the circumstances.  It could be that if a person is in the role at a parish where the pastor is determined to have them no matter what, it would be better to stay in the role and ensure that what is done is as reverent as possible rather than turn it over to people who would not to a good job of it.

What this suggests to me is that priests and bishops who allow this to go on abusively are perhaps placing good lay people in occasions of sin during the most sacred things we have as Catholics, Holy Mass.

An accounting for this practices will have to be made one day.  If priests defy their bishops in this matter, and the bishop does nothing, nevertheless, the priest will one day stand before the judge.  So will the bishop.  If the officials of the Holy See ignore their part in this, they will be held to account as well.

I have no idea what that accounting will result in.  Perhaps they are doing the right thing.  Perhaps they aren’t.  The Just Judge, King of Fearful Majesty, will know how to sort this out.

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  1. Honestly, this has been dealt with already.

    I believe it was in the mid-90s that the Holy See issued a directive calling for the regular use of extraordinary ministers in ordinary circumstances to be “eliminated.” The bishops’ conference said the matter required “further study.” They’ve had over a decade to “study” the problem. In my experience with parish work over a period of years, the vast majority of extraordinary ministers in my own (excruciatingly orthodox) diocese show a limited understanding of what they are doing, and are used far too often.

    The above being said, in thirty years of living in this area, I have only been called upon once to serve as an extraordinary minister, and that was in a parish in the city where I was a paid sacristan. That’s not counting the archbishop from overseas whom I served by myself, who asked me to assist him. (I couldn’t say no to an archbishop, now, could I?) Maybe I don’t look “holy” enough. Maybe because I’m divorced I just HAVE to be up to all manner of wickedness.

    No matter, I’d probably just be one too many. (Hey, I think I already admitted that.)

  2. Before I fully understood what being an Extraordinary Minister of Communion was, I was persuaded to become a Minister in my parish, by the parish priest saying that he needed us to bring Communion to the sick (eventually…)

    As I became more and more uncomfortable with what I understood to be abuses (EMs purifying the chalices, for example) I realised that I couldn’t continue. I tried to persuade myself that at least I was reverent and knew what I was doing, but eventually I recognised that this was a form of pride, and so I backed out.

    I am convinced that this was the correct decision. After all, no amount of knowing the rubrics and being reverent will enable me to celebrate Mass, even if I could “do it better” than Fr. Clown Mass! My instinct would be to walk away rather than legitimise something which is just plain wrong…

  3. John Nolan says:

    When Paul VI abolished the subdiaconate and the minor orders in 1972 he established the instituted lay ministries of lector and acolyte . They are reserved to men. An instituted acolyte is ipso facto an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and in the Ordinary Form is permitted to purify the sacred vessels. He is on the sanctuary and properly vested. The reason why there are not more of them is because the bishops see EMHC as a way of providing “jobs for the girls”. In England, and I suspect in the USA as well, the almost universal practice of Communion in both kinds is primarily a job-creation scheme for a growing army of mostly female EMHC.

    In 1972 it was ruled that the instituted acolyte would take over the liturgical role of the subdeacon. Does this apply to solemn Masses in the Extraordinary Form which are becoming (DG) more frequent? This is a genuine query!

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I have some experience with this. After making my confirmation at the age of 18, I was invited to become a “Eucharistic Minister” (their term, not mine). I was orthodox in faith, but not very well versed in matters of liturgical rubrics, discipline, etc. (I’ve actually noticed this to be the case in many priests.)

    I was apprehensive, do to my own unworthiness, etc., and was encouraged by the parish’s religious education director to speak to a particular priest who was leading the confirmation retreat. He said that he himself felt unworthy when considering what happens at Mass, and so I should do it, particularly to be an example to other young people. So, I did it.

    The training was horrendous, consisting of only one meeting where you were taught what to do… and I recall the practice of receiving on the tongue was lightly “bashed”. There was no special blessing or commissioning according to the proper liturgical books, etc. I think I did it for about a year. During that time I was learning more about the faith and liturgical tradition, and began to realize that things just weren’t right. I ended up leaving that parish and began receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

    Should I have kept doing it? I often wonder that. Perhaps I could have been a good example “from the inside”. The more I think about it, I am convinced that orthodox Catholics with traditional liturgical leanings should take an active part in parish life, in order to “change things” for the better.

    I also think that if we have to have Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, let them be orthodox Catholics, as is required by the Holy See. More than once I have seen a few receive Holy Communion on the tongue before proceeding to distribute. THEY get it. We need more like them!

  5. skellmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, your advice here is simply wrong.

    If the pastor is determined to have Extraordinary Ministers, that’s his problem, it’s none of the orthodox laity’s problem.

    The pastor may be determined to do all kinds of things: have women deacons or women priests, have leavened bread with honey for the consecration made by the laity or have some other sinful foolishness. How does the pastor’s determination change the foolishness?

    Or, to put it another way, how can you do something stupid “reverently?”

    The pastor may be the primary liturgist in the parish, the pastor may have the right to make the judgment about what constitutes “extraordinary” but the laity have the right and the duty to excuse themselves and refuse to help Father in his foolishness.

    If Jesus is handled badly, that is ENTIRELY the pastor’s fault.
    It’s his responsibility to find worthy ministers and worthy instructors for those ministers.
    If he can’t do BOTH, then maybe he should re-think his whole position.

    As a previous poster pointed out, it is NOT the laity’s business to celebrate the Mass when Father can’t make it. I don’t see why it would be the laity’s business to distribute Jesus.

    Subsidiarity, Father. Let the priests do their work, let the laity do the laity’s work, and if either one doesn’t get accomplished, then let the both wait quietly until the work can be done by the ones to whom God gave that work.

    As for the laity, consecrating and distributing Jesus AIN’T OUR JOB.

  6. Brian K says:

    Several years ago, one of our local pastors decided to cease distributing the Precious Blood at every mass, at least in part to come into conformity with Ecclesia de mysterio. He advised his EMHCs of this change during the week, and instituted it on a Sunday. He had no EMHCs at his Sunday masses, and the Precious Blood was not distributed.

    EMHCs complained to the diocese.

    Early that week, he was called in to the bishop’s office to give an accounting for this change.

    He was told in no uncertain terms that “if could not handle such a ‘large parish,'” the bishop would be happy to move him into prison ministry or hospital chaplaincy.

    He got the message loud and clear and restored the EMHCs and distribution of the Precious Blood the following Sunday.

  7. moon1234 says:

    I sometimes wonder if the Holy Spirit may not have been calling that particular priest to a new mission. Those in Prison and Hospital are the ones that MOST need a traditional chaplin. Both need their souls saved in different ways.

  8. mike cliffson says:

    m’ father is distinctly traddie, inter alia, and an extraordinary minister, Uk. Few are really necessary most Sunday masses.But the sick, elderly, bedridden, and houseband, would not get communion, let alone on Sunday, on spreadout rural parishes around my home village – around three times as many priests, or more would be needed.

  9. Moon1234, you are so right. That is how Blessed Columba Marmion started his priesthood: as a chaplain in a women’s prison.

  10. B Knotts says:

    A few years back, I submitted a dubium to the CDWDS, asking if the mere desire of a priest, bishop, etc., to distribute Holy Communion under both Kinds constituted a “necessity,” allowing for the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

    Unfortunately, I never received a response. Now that there is a new prefect, I suppose I ought to try again.

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