QUAERITUR: EMHC told to put unconsumed, recognizable Host down the sacrarium/drain

From a reader:

I attended the class in our parish to become an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. I do not want to distribute Communion at Mass because I think it is not needed, but I would like to bring Communion to the sick.

The pastor instructed us that if a host was spit out by a sick person, we should bring it back in a tissue and wash it down the sacrarium. When I asked if the host should be dissolved in water first, he said it wasn’t necessary. Is there documentation on exactly what to do the host in such a case?

This is wrong and I urge you never to do this.

You cannot “throw away” a Host.   Someone who “throws away” the Eucharist, either by, for example, simply tossing a consecrated Host in the garbage, or putting it down the sacrarium, or pouring the Precious Blood down a sink or sacrarium, knowing that it is wrong to do, runs the risk of incurring a latae sententiae excommunication, the lifting of which is reserved to the Holy See alone.

The practice is these cases has always been… always… to dissolve the Host in water first and only then to dispose of the mixture in the sacrarium.  If the Host is recognizable as such, it is correct to bring it back in a tissue.  I would not simply wash it down any drain.

You can argue that the Host dissolves in the drain… but… heavens… that gives me shivers.

Why am I so concerned?

In the Latin Code of Canon Law we find:

can. 1367: Qui species consecratas abicit aut in sacrilegum finem abducit vel retinet in excommunicationem latae sententiae Sedi Apostolicae reservatam incurrit; clericus praeterea alia poena, non exclusa dimissione e statu clericali, puniri potest … A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state..

The word abicit, abicere, means here “throw away”, and this was clarified by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, at their plenary session on 4 June 1999, as not … not… being restricted to “throw away” in a spirit of contempt, or intent to do dishonor.  It really does mean “throw away”, which is what happens when you put a consecrated Host or the Precious Blood down a sacrarium without first making sure that the substance of the same is first broken down (by dissolving).  Precious Blood, of course, should be consumed.

In the case of any objectively sinful act which incurs an excommunication, there are always the circumstances to be considered (e.g., the person’s will and knowledge).  But you must not throw away the Blessed Sacrament in a recognizable form of a Host you know has been consecrated and whose substance you know has not been already broken.

Redemptionis Sacramentum distinguished different levels of liturgical abuses.  The worst are in the category graviora delicata (graver crimes).  Among the graviora delicta is throwing away the Eucharist (cf. RS 172).   This grave crime is reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Enough said.

I urge you warmly, if you have any doubts about my answer, to contact your local chancery to get a clarification about the precise thing you have been told to do: put a recognizable consecrated Host down the sacrarium without first dissolving it in water.

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  1. TrueLiturgy says:

    What about burying the host Father? I know a man to takes Communion to the sick and if it is spit up, he takes it and burys it. Is that permissible? [Read the top entry.]

  2. twherge says:

    I wonder what is to be done, though, with the Precious Blood when it has been poisoned (which has happened often enough in history). Perhaps one must then wait for evaporation/turning to vinegar? Boiling would seem a crude way to go about it, but might then a heat lamp be used? Oh, goodness, such questions I ask–God forbid they ever become an issue. [C’mon.]

  3. mila48 says:

    And along those lines, what does one do if the sick person throws up and one is unsure if the Sacred Species have broken down or dissolved? This has always troubled me, especially during my late husband’s last illness, although thank God it never happened. But still, I’d like to know what to do in such cases. [Read the top entry.]

  4. Summers says:

    When I attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy last year I witnessed the priest giving communion to an elderly woman who could not chew the Body and Blood of Our Lord completely and it therefore spilled out of her mouth onto the cloth that is held up under the chin of the communicant. The priest took the cloth and licked the remaining part of the Body and Blood that fell out of the elderly lady’s mouth right off the cloth…completely (I was seated in the second row of the chapel so I witnessed this up close)…before proceeding on to the next communicant.

  5. Centristian says:

    I’ve seen the abuse (by an EMHC) of the Precious Blood poured into the sacrarium and I did address the matter, very calmly and politely, with the pastor, who seemed to have no issue with the practice. One would imagine, at least, that the consecrated wine [Most Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus] ought to be so diluted with water as to cause it to cease to be wine (thus to cease to be the Eucharist) before disposing of it in the sacrarium. Even so, I’m fairly certain leftover Precious Blood is meant to be consumed, not disposed of. [Exactly. And no more than necessary should be consecrated.]

    At any rate, when it happened one day that I discovered a consecrated Host [That was a secure assumption, though it probably didn’t have a little neon sign: “CONSECRATED”. In the top entry, the person in question is even more certain that the Host in question is consecrated.] on the floor of the church after Mass (underneath a pew), I wasn’t about to report it to a EMHC or to the pastor, but instead I lifted it with a purificator and put it into a large vase of hot water in the sacristy, in a secure and hidden place, where I allowed it to dissolve for a week before dumping the entire contents of the vase into the sacrarium.

  6. Or just consume the Host on the spot…I’ve heard of it being done in a case like this

  7. Childermass says:

    A friend of mine once saw a communicant vomit in the chalice. Without hesitation, the priest drank the whole thing.

    This was in Mexico, of course.

  8. Luvadoxi says:

    Dear Lord, these priests–these stories of them consuming after someone is sick–just touches my heart–what they do for our Lord–God bless them!

    I am wondering about twherge’s question–what *is* the procedure in such a case?

  9. StellaMaris says:

    It causes me to really wonder if these priests actually believe in the Real Presence, Body, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord. Clearly some do by the truly courageous act of eating vomit. “Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist” should be phased out completely. (Except in Extraordinary Cases, of course)

  10. PaterAugustinus says:

    St. John the Wonderworker, when a sick child once vomited the Eucharist immediately after reception, stopped down, picked it up and consumed it himself.

    Perhaps those of us who aren’t saints find it difficult to understand the respect due to holy things, in the same degree. But, the idea of throwing the Eucharist away… I am thunderstruck that things have come to such a pass, that an ordained priest would give that advice.

    Some priests in the modern-day Orthodox Church also have this lackadaisical attitude; I knew a priest who spilled the Lord’s Blood upon the rug in front of the altar. He hung the rug out to dry and then put it right back in its place, standing on top of it for the next Liturgy (when one of the men, serving at altar, was horrified – leading him to appropriately burn the rug and dispose of the ashes in the special concrete pit, just outside of the apse). Obedience is key, but when priests (or “EMHC” folk) are this far gone, sometimes the faithful have to take some initiative in doing what’s right.

  11. patrick_f says:

    For all my weaknesses of faith I have never ONCE doubted who is present under the sacred species.

    This IS THE PROBLEM with our catechism efforts in alot of parishes – No emphasis is given on the Holy Body and Blood being present..not just represented.

    If this was taught better, then I truly believe you wouldnt see issues like this…but I am making assumptions

  12. drubertini says:

    I, like the person who posed the question, became an extraordinary minister to the sick. I will not do it at the Mass so people can get home soon enough to see the game or race. I believe what goes on during the Mass is an abuse which should be stopped. I thought I was the only one with this feeling.

    About a year ago I ministered communion to an elderly woman who suffers with dementia-like symptoms. She receives on the tongue, and this time she spat our Lord out in my hand. Man was I alarmed. I kept my cool holding it in my hand beneath the pix while I finished distributing to the rest of the ladies at the house. I knew what I had to do, but I may have the weakest stomach of any man ever created by God. I quickly concluded the prayers and excused myself. I went out to my truck. I was afraid that I would vomit when I consumed the host, and I did not want to do that in the house. I briefly considered burying it, but instead I made a quick prayer for strength of stomach and consumed it. I gagged and prayed and made it through with watering eyes. I felt so guilty that I would gag on a consecrated host no matter the reason. I am now very careful to try to decide if a person is capable of receiving our lord. I will do the same thing again if needed, but I sure hope I never need to do it again. I was never going to tell anyone about it, other than my wife. If it helps another to see that with our Lord’s help we can go way way way outside our comfort zone for him, it was worth telling.


  13. cgell says:

    What is the proper procedure if Precious Blood is dribbled a bit when consuming it onto the shirt? Do we burn the shirt or not wash it? I was horrified when it happened this Sunday and I don’t know what to do with my shirt. My priest is not one that would give the proper answer in this case. I would appreciate some guidance on it.

  14. Brooklyn says:

    cgell – This sounds pretty serious. I would put this shirt in a plastic bag or a place where it will be very safe and not touched, and contact your diocese office to see what can be done. In the Catechism from the Council of Trent, there is an interesting section:

    “Why The Celebrant Alone Receives Under Both Species
    It is clear that the Church was influenced by numerous and most cogent reasons, not only to approve, but also to confirm by authority of its decree, the general practice of communicating under one species. In the first place, the greatest caution was necessary to avoid spilling the blood of the Lord on the ground, a thing that seemed not easily to be avoided, if the chalice were administered in a large assemblage of the people.”

    For this reason alone, I will never receive under both species.

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