QUAERITUR: Priest lost use of arm. Is Mass still valid?

From a reader:

A priest I know has temporarily lost the use of his left arm because of surgery and has been saying Mass using his right arm only. He keeps his left arm under the chasuble, and someone else helps him distribute communion. I know a priest has to have both hands to be ordained, so is the Mass still valid (or licit) if he’s only using one?

Hopefully Father will make a full and swift recovery.

Validity of Mass, or any other sacrament, does not depend on the number of limbs the priest can use. Furthermore, I don’t believe that there is still a requirement that a man have both hands or his thumb and index fingers to be ordained. That was the case in the past, however.

So, Mass is still both valid and licit in this case.

I wouldn’t give this a second thought.

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  1. Mary Jane says:

    Bless this priest’s heart! Sounds like he’s doing his best. Prayers for his recovery.

    I have read about saints who were disfigured (from torture) and who still said Mass even though they were missing fingers, etc.

  2. jasoncpetty says:

    Obligatory St. Isaac Jogues reference.

    Get well, anonymous Father.

  3. jbpolhamus says:

    Prayers for the Father. I was about to make the obligatory St. Isaac Jogues reference myself, but jasoncpetty beat me to it. Well done, Jason! St. Isaac’s was a most remarkable and inspiring case.

  4. Andy Lucy says:

    I did read in the “Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents,” many, many moons ago, of a Jesuit in North America, in the late 17th century (it may have been St Isaac Jogues, but I could be wrong), who was tortured by a group of Native Americans and lost the forefinger on each hand… the Natives believing that all of his “magic” resided there. He escaped his captors, and returned to France, where he received a special dispensation from the pope to offer mass with his disfigured hands.

  5. Geometricus says:

    The priest at our wedding lost the use of one arm in a motorcycle accident back in the ’80’s. Fr. Piche is still an active priest in our archdiocese after all these years.

  6. Pater, ever come across the ‘canonical eye’ norm?

  7. M. K. says:

    Furthermore, I don’t believe that there is still a requirement that a man have both hands or his thumb and index fingers to be ordained.

    That’s my understanding – see, for example, Father Rick Curry, S.J., who was born with one arm (his left) but was ordained a priest in September 2009. Fr. Curry was actually a Jesuit brother for many years and sought to be ordained late in life after he started ministering to veterans who had suffered disabling injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq; this article has more on his story: http://www.catholicvoiceoakland.org/2009/10-19/inthisissue6.htm
    . Here is more on his story: http://www.catholicvoiceoakland.org/2009/10-19/inthisissue6.htm

  8. jhayes says:

    Dr. Edward Peters,

    See HERE re “canonical eye.”. It’s not clear why a priest couldn’t turn slightly to accomodate but perhaps they had so many candidates of the priesthood in those days that they could afford to be picky.

    Reminds me of the OT requirements that priests could not have blemishes:

    No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.
    –Leviticus 21:21

  9. Will D. says:

    We had an old priest in our diocese that had blown off part of his thumb as a kid, when playing with blasting caps. He had to have a waiver of some sort to be ordained back in 1944. Fr. Haas was a faithful priest for more than 50 years before going to his reward, may he Rest in Peace.

  10. Dr. Eric says:

    Fr. Esswein of St. Louis was crippled in a car accident about 2 or 3 years before his ordination. I’ve been to a few of his Masses when he was in Ellisville, MO. He uses a wheelchair and his hands are partially paralyzed due to the area of the spinal cord that was damaged during the accident.

    He is a good priest and his story is very inspiring.

  11. ray from mn says:

    Questions like this remind me of Third Grade Catechism class when we would ask “Sister” whether we wold have committed a Mortal Sin if we had missed Mass because our ocean liner had crossed the international date line while we were sleeping and woke up on a Monday.

  12. The Egyptian says:

    This answers a question for me, back in the late 50’s a neighbor boy was going to seminary and on a visit home lost the tip of his index finger in a hunting accident, I was told that that was the reason he left the seminary and his brother took his place, he was not considered whole, I was relating that story in another context to a group including our parish priest, he told me that was ridiculous, there never was such a thing as being whole. Well I guess he was wrong

  13. James Joseph says:

    I’ve seen healthy, vibrant, two-armed priests perform the elevations with one hand.

    I’ve also seen the priestly orans position only done with one hand.

    I’ve also seen the part where the priest lays his hands over the oblation, performed with one hand.

  14. kah10161 says:

    I know a La Salette priest who had a stroke a few years ago and lost much of the use of his right arm. When he would give the Mass at my parish, he had an EMHC hold the ciborium for him at Communion, using his left hand to give the Precious Body.

  15. jlduskey says:

    Many Chicago area Catholics are old enough to remember: His Eminence Samuel Cardinal Stritch was appointed to the Curia, as pro-prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in early spring, 1958. He traveled to Europe on a boat, and upon his arrival in Rome, had to be hospitalized due to gangrene/blood clot in his right arm. A short time later, the arm was amputated.
    Cardinal Stritch celebrated mass on Sunday, May 18. There was a papal dispensation allowing him to use his left hand. Photographs of this mass are included in his biography. He suffered a stroke later that day and his condition deteriorated. He died on Pentecost Tuesday, May 27. His body was laid to rest (with a separate casket for the arm) in the bishops’ mausoleum at Hillside, Illinois. If one has had this experience with one’s own bishop, there can be no doubt about the validity of a mass, properly said, with one arm.

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