QUAERITUR: A priest who won’t prevent self-intinction

From a reader:

I am a lay eucharistic minister, and 2 parisheners recieve communion, then dip it in the cup.. I told my parish priest and he never did anything about it. He acted as tho he knew it was wrong, but wanted to stay “nice” to all.

First, friend, no matter what term is being used at your parish, you are not a “Eucharistic Minister”.  If you are a lay person helping to distribute Holy Communion, then you are an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC).  Eucharistic Minister is not a term found in the Code of Canon Law, but were it, it would really have to refer to the ordained.  That said, Ordinary Ministers of Communion, properly understood, are the ordained.  There are also instituted Acolytes who are Extraordinary Ministers of Communion (cf can. 920).  Lay people should be called upon only where there are not enough bishops, priests, deacons, or instituted acolytes to distribute Holy Communion in a reasonable amount of time.  And that reasonable amount of time shouldn’t be “as fast as we possibly can”.

Second, that “dip it in the cup” thing is really called “intinction”, from the Latin verb intingo or intinguo, -nxi, -nctum, “to dip in”. It can also mean “to pickle”, but that’s another kettle of garum.

We read about intinction in the document Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[104.] The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand. …

It is clear that people may not… must not… dip the Host they receive into the chalice/cup on their own.

That said, distribution of Communion under both kinds by intinction has been used effectively as a transition away from Communion in the hand.

If you have already told your pastor about this self-intinction situation verbally, and he responded that he will not do anything about it, then write a very brief letter to the pastor expressing your concern, and send a copy of that letter to your local bishop.

In writing, do not make accusations or be harsh (“I told you about this and you did nothing!”).  Do not go on at length.  Do not call into question the motives of the people who are doing the self-intinction.  Be brief, state the fact that you asked him, the pastor that is, before and that now you are asking him again to explain to you how this is permitted.

Also, don’t make a big fuss about this with other parishioners.  Let this take place quietly so that things don’t get heated.

I have some tips for writing to Church authorities HERE.

Also, lets review together the end of the aforementioned Redemptionis Sacramentum with my emphases:

6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.  It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.


[185.] “Against the seeds of discord which daily experience shows to be so deeply ingrained in human nature as a result of sin, there stands the creative power of the unity of Christ’s body. For it is precisely by building up the Church that the Eucharist establishes fellowship among men.” It is therefore the hope of this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that also, by the diligent application of those things that are recalled in this Instruction, human weakness may come to pose less of an obstacle to the action of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, and that with all distortion set aside and every reprobated practice removed, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist”, the saving presence of Christ in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood may shine brightly upon all people.

[186.] Let all Christ’s faithful participate in the Most Holy Eucharist as fully, consciously and actively as they can, honouring it lovingly by their devotion and the manner of their life. Let Bishops, Priests and Deacons, in the exercise of the sacred ministry, examine their consciences as regards the authenticity and fidelity of the actions they have performed in the name of Christ and the Church in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Let each one of the sacred ministers ask himself, even with severity, whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred Liturgy at Christ’s command. For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the Sacred Liturgy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jhayes says:

    A local parish website uses both terms

    Extraordinary Ministers of Communion (Eucharistic Ministers)

    Need: Sixty ministers at a minimum are needed for the four weekend Masses. Eighteen other ministers (or those same ones) are needed for weekday Masses.

    Eucharistic Ministers to the Homebound

    Need: Forty people are needed

  2. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I know a parish where they have a whole system set up. It’s like a fondue buffet. The congregation receives the host from the “Eucharistic minister” and then moved to the “cup line” to dip their host into a chalice held by another “Eucharistic minister.”

  3. aragonjohn7 says:

    Fascinating¡!¡¡. Thank you!¿!

  4. New Sister says:

    The Archdiocese of Portland Oregon refers to them as “Eucharistic Ministers” on its website. [the same diocese where a deacon rebuked me, on the feast of Corpus Christi, for kneeling to receive Jesus in the Eucharist] :-(

  5. Cath says:

    This happened at a former parish of mine about ten years ago. I witnessed someone self intinct and it just didn’t seem right, so I did some research and not sure about how to go about this, I went to the priest, and told him what I had seen (without mentioning names). The next weeks bulletin had a nice little write up about how to receive properly, with a mention that lay people were to never self-intinct. The person doing so was a faithful Catholic who had no idea he was doing something wrong…and it stopped immediately.

    One thing that I do not understand about the use of EMHC’s is the time argument. It takes father way more time to purify ALL the vessels than it does if he would distribute Holy Communion alone.

  6. New Sister says:

    Cath -good point. The Archdiocese of Portland OR GIRM also states, “[lay Eucharistic] Ministers [sic] may assist with purifying and washing the communion vessels as needed, as well as consuming the remaining precious blood.” I think it diminishes both faith in the Real Presence and reverence for the priesthood.

  7. Sieber says:

    Which brings me to the Eucharistic Conference in Dublin. There was a surfeit of priests in attendance, yet there were many EM’s distributing communion to the crowds. Many self communicated by intinction. The 3rd day, the music was awful…We are the Bread was the communion song; the recessional was something by Marty Haugen.
    The 1st day as Carinal Oullet (sic?) was in the recessional, a priest in a baseball cap walked beside him and gave a fascist salute as he passed by. Also saw a lady swilling a store bought beverage.
    I know Fr.Z. was travelling, but I haven’t seen any commentaries by others regarding this.

  8. NoTambourines says:

    The word “minister” is tossed around so freely these days, even without so much as an online “ordination” to show for it.

  9. Faith says:

    Knowing that Intinction is against Redemptionis Sacramentum, [Not quite. The communicant may not intinct.] I was surprised to see intinction in France and Switzerland. I went to the Beatification of Blessed M. Jean-Joseph Lataste, the Apostle of Prisons, in France, a couple of weeks ago. They intincted the Host–AND there were about 50 bishops there, AND Cardinal Amato, from the Vatican. Then I went on retreat in Switzerland, and the Swiss intincted.
    What’s up with that?

  10. Faith, Self intinction is against RS, not the practice of intinction itself. Lord, save us from the Liturgical desert.

  11. lilye says:

    As someone with celiac disease, I count on being able to receive from the chalice without there being traces of gluten from the host. It is disturbing to know that there may be people self-intincting. This confirms my policy to sit as near the front as possible so that I don’t worry so much about gluten traces from people receiving from the chalice while the host is still in their mouth.

  12. Cath says:

    New Sister

    Here father insists on doing this on his own, and it caused quite a stir at first. People complained why is he taking so long….not like we just received Our Lord in Holy Communion and could spend those precious moments in deep prayer. I just find it so distracting to see all these EMHC march up and there are not always the right number so then others come up. Receiving on the tongue always makes me nervous with EMHC’s because a large number of them have no clue how to do so. As far as the intinction goes, I wonder when they are trained are they told anything about how to handle someone who tries this?

  13. New Sister says:

    Faith – I also witnessed in France, at the chapel at La Salette in 2008, the laity receiving Holy Communion in the hand, then walking up on the Sanctuary, behind the altar, to do self-intinction in the Chalice sitting upon the Altar.

  14. FrJLP says:

    @jhayes: I wonder what the size of that parish is… That seems awfully excessive! I always like to see the numbers, though. Before I became a professor, I was assigned to a Southern parish of over 6,000 very active families. Each mass, depending on season, would flux from 1,500 to 2,000 congregants. We were two priests. Each Mass, both of us would distribute communion, but were grateful for the ability to have EMHCs. Some would say it wouldn’t take much longer if “the priest just did it himself”…but I would beg to differ… The key in our parish was excellent continuing education for the EMHCs and adult education for parishioners. Ohhh…and the priest who was not the celebrant of that Mass would purify the vessels in the sacristy while Mass continued in the Church. That’s how we have to roll here in the South ’till we get some more vocations!

    @faith: RS does not at all forbid Intinction; it forbids self-intinction.

  15. jhayes says:

    FrJLP, its not my parish but the website says EHMCs in the Sunday group serve once a month and those in the weekday group serve once a week.

    Seems to work out to 5 for each Sunday Mass and three for each weekday Mass.

  16. wmeyer says:

    My parish church seats 700, at most. With standees, perhaps 800. At the 9:00 Mass, which is rarely full, there are routinely a dozen EMHCs. My limited understanding of the practice suggests that the Archbishop must be at ease with this, if he approves and ordains the EMHCs–otherwise, one must wonder given the number of qualified EMHCs and the number of Masses, how anyone could believe that their service would be “extraordinary.” Priest, deacon, and 12 assistants. So assuming more EMHCs serve from the chalice than serve the host, an even split suggests that each server has a maximum of 100 people to serve. If each serves 20 people per minute (I think that is a very low estimate), then we’re talking 5 minutes. If it took 10, is that so unreasonable? I watched a Mass at St. Patrick’s in NYC (on TV) where the only servers were Abp. Dolan, another priest, and a deacon. The time was not unreasonable. I find the use of EMHCs to be one of the most disturbing of liturgical abuses.

  17. acardnal says:

    One of the reasons SELF-Intinction is not permitted – besides the possibility of profanation of the precious blood – is that one RECEIVES holy communion not take it or give it to oneself.

  18. Geoffrey says:

    I wish intinction was the norm. I’ve noticed that the Holy Father distributes Holy Communion in this manner to those making their First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil.

    What was the status of intinction before the Second Vatican Council (and hence now in the Extraordinary Form)? Was/is it allowed under any circumstances, such as by the bridal couple at a Nuptial Mass?

  19. acardnal says:

    New Sister says:
    23 June 2012 at 12:43 pm
    Cath -good point. The Archdiocese of Portland OR GIRM also states, “[lay Eucharistic] Ministers [sic] may assist with purifying and washing the communion vessels as needed, as well as consuming the remaining precious blood.” I think it diminishes both faith in the Real Presence and reverence for the priesthood.

    This was corrected in the new GIRM, June 2011, #163.
    To excerpt, “The priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.”

    “The priest purifies the paten or the ciborium over the chalice and after this he purifies the chalice.”

    Para #183 states that if a deacon is present, he may purify the vessels.

    Purification of sacred vessels is to be performed by the ordained clergy only.

  20. New Sister says:

    @acardnal – thanks; that’s what I thought. Perhaps the Archdiocese website is out of date (that would be a year out-of-date), but it still says it is permitted. I cannot say what the practice actually is because I keep my eyes lowered and don’t (can’t) watch all the laymen/women climbing about the Sanctuary.

  21. CatholicPhilosopher says:

    @acardnal — an instituted acolyte may also purify the sacred vessels, per GIRM 192 & 279. This provision is not an adaption for the English edition of the Missal in the USA, but is in the Latin GIRM as well.

    “192. Likewise, when the distribution of Communion is completed, a duly instituted acolyte
    helps the priest or deacon to purify and arrange the sacred vessels. When no deacon is present, a
    duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes,
    and arranges them in the usual way.”

    “279. The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table.”

  22. acardnal says:

    @CatholicPhilosopher: Yes, I should have added that. My understanding of “instituted acolyte” is a seminarian.

  23. jacobi says:

    You rightly define the term EMHC, a term which I presumed is used in Canon Law.

    But the real issue here is the term itself which is misleading and should be changed.

    The word “minister” in this context is inappropriate. Such lay members, authorised to distribute only in exceptional circumstances and not routinely, would be more properly called lay distributers of Holy Communion or ldHCs.

    A second point I would make is that where lay distributers are used routinely and no attempt is made to, for instance, institute acolytes, then this constitutes an abuse.

  24. heway says:

    Since this is only 2 popele, perhaps the priest is aware of this. We have a member who will not receive from the chalice because of ‘germs’. Maybe these people have a transmittable disease?
    could be other reasons that we do not know about…….. [Sorry, but they may not self-intinct.]

  25. heway says:

    Sorry, phone rang in middle of typing….

  26. MKR says:

    I have an acquaintance who frequently attends mass at an NO parish where *only* extraordinary ministers distribute Holy Communion to the faithful.

  27. disco says:

    Reason number a billion for Summorum Pontificum.

  28. New Sister says:

    MKR – I am one who switches lines to have the honor of receiving (whilst kneeling) our Eucharistic Lord from the hands of an anointed of the Holy Spririt. Being in your friend’s parish would sadden– demoralize– me quite a lot. Prayers.

  29. seattle_cdn says:

    Last Friday at St. John Lateran, I saw a whole slew of non-concelebrating priests self-intinct. Liturgical abuse in the Pope’s own church??

  30. CharlesG says:

    Here in Hong Kong, self intinction by the commuinicant seems to be a nearly universal practice. I don’t remember it being the case 15 years ago when I lived here before. I don’t know if the Cardinal has given some sort of approval (I would assume so since it’s done in the Cathedral). I really feel uncomfortable about it, not least because I am worried about the Precious Blood dripping on the ground. Oh, well, I wish someone would just mandate communion in the mouth kneeling at the rail so we don’t have to worry about all this stuff…

  31. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Thank you for posting this, Fr Z.

    I hope that in Hong Kong, for instance, Cardinal Tong and Cardinal Zen will get their act together and allow intinction by priests and deacons only to lay persons, where the facility of communion under 2 kinds is made available to parishioners.

    Is it so difficult for priests and deacons to be faithful to a clear norm of Redemptionis Sacramentum…we wonder sometimes what they spend 6 years on studying in seminary…

  32. St. Epaphras says:

    Question: If enough lay people in enough parishes in enough dioceses (in the US where I live) self-intinct, will the USCCB ask Rome for an indult so it will be lawful? Or will someone in authority, someone way high up, lay down the law and insist that it STOP?

    As a still new convert, I am trying to wrap my brain around how things work in the Church. In the groups I was associated with before, if there was a written standard it was enforced. Period. Quick and decisive action would be taken by the appropriate person (whether elder or bishop) in charge.

  33. “Or will someone in authority, someone way high up, lay down the law and insist that it STOP?”

    Redemptionis Sacramentum
    On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist
    March 25, 2004
    Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
    [104.] The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand.

    How could it be made any clearer? The problem is simply one of fidelity to the highest authority in the Church.

  34. acardnal says:

    EVERYONE believing and faithful Catholic should get a copy of Redemptionis Sacramentum and read it and use it to inform clerics of what is proper and what is not!
    Mine is dog-eared, highlighted and well worn.

  35. jhayes says:

    My understanding of “instituted acolyte” is a seminarian.

    An instituted acolyte is any layman who has been installed (not ordained) in that ministry:

    Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 230§1, hereby decrees that a layman who is to be installed in the ministries of lector or acolyte on a stable basis must have completed his twenty-first (21) year of age. The candidate must also possess the skills necessary for an effective proclamation of the Word or service at the altar, be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church, be free of any canonical penalty, and live a life which befits the ministry to be undertaken.


  36. acardnal says:

    USCCB notwithstanding, Canon 230(1): States “lay man” and “lay men” ( Latin “viri”), never layman.

    It also says that they must be installed “in accord with the prescribed liturgical rite”. I have never seen this done a a parish or in any diocese. An acolyte is not the same as an altar server. Moreover, I have observed abuse in the purification of sacred vessels.

    Returning to paragraph 192 of the new GIRM:
    “192. Likewise, when the distribution of Communion is completed, a duly instituted acolyte
    helps the priest or deacon to purify and arrange the sacred vessels. When no deacon is present, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes,and arranges them in the usual way.” (emphasis added) Isn’t a priest always present at Mass?

    I think para 192 is confusing, can lead to abuse and needs to be revised in light of para 163 of the GIRM which says “The priest purifies the paten or the ciborium over the chalice and after this he purifies the chalice.”

    Because a priest is always present at Mass, he should be the one purifying the vessels. An acolyte may assist him. If anyone other than a cleric purifies the vessels, it drags the reverence due to the Precious Blood and Body down to the mundane and pedestrian level – much like receiving communion in the hand and not kneeling to receive Jesus Christ body, blood, soul and divinity. Just my opinion and another reason I usually attend TLM/EF Masses.
    Thankfully, these issues don’t exist in the TLM/EF.

  37. St. Epaphras says:

    Thanks for the links and information, Henry and acardnal. Oh Dear. I can just hear our pastor’s derisive laughter if I read parts of Redemtionis Sacramentum and said, “But what about…[fill in several blanks here] which we do here?” Most likely I’d hear some comment about “the Pharisees among us”. In general, do the bishops simply not know about abuses? I understand disobedience — happens wherever there are people. What I am having difficulties with is why it goes on year after year. In my imagination a bishop who got wind of a liturgical abuse in his diocese would sweep down on the pastor “like the wolf on the fold” (not to destroy but to set things straight).

    On a more positive note, there are parishes with faithful and obedient priests, deacons and lay people. I have been there, thanked them and will continue to do so. This stuff really does matter. Jesus said that he who is faithful in a little thing is faithful also in much, or words to that effect.

  38. acardnal says:

    @St. Epaphras: use Fr. Z’s recommendations for communicating with a bishop and your pastor. Be respectful. Don’t impute motive/intent to the pastor. He may/may simply be ignorant! (I have had some priests thank me and they made the appropriate changes.) On the other hand, he may actually know better but prefers to do it his way. I had one pastor say it was “parish tradition” to invite everyone into the sanctuary around the altar on Holy Thursday Mass during the consecration. Sorry, not in the rubrics Father. He still has not changed despite my alerting the bishop and sending the bishop a photograph of the offense from the parish newsletter no less! Maybe next year.

  39. This is one abuse I’m starting to see less of. In my parish here in Idaho, only the priest purifies the vessels. The EMHC’s place the auxillary chalices on the credence table, then the priest purifies them at the credence table. I would have sworn the indult for EMHC’s purifying the vessels ended in 2006, when the Pope said no to the extension to conform the American Church to the Universal Norm. Only a priest or deacon should be purifying the vessels. And thus endeth my rant

  40. St. Rafael says:

    Exept in certain areas of the world where intinction is a local custom or tradition, the Latin rite should return to Communion under one species. Intinction has never been a tradition in the United States. The best way to remedy the liturgical abuse of EMHCs is to return to Communion under one species. The laity were never ready for the chalice, and the last 30+ years has shown that to be the case and has clealy been a mistake. I urge pastors of parishes to ban Communion under both kinds and for bishops to do the same for their diocese. Communion under both kinds is permitted, but cannot be forced on any parish or diocese.

  41. acardnal says:

    @Joe of St Therese, jhayes, et al:
    You are correct. The CONGREGATIO CULTO DIVINO ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM issued a notice Prot. n. 468/05/L, dated 12 October 2006 applies. (too long to paste here.)

    Here are the pertinent paragraphs from the clarifying Q&A attached to the Notice:

    4. When Holy Communion is distributed under both kinds, what happens to what remains
    of the Precious Blood?
    “When more of the Precious Blood remains than was necessary for Communion, and if not
    consumed by the bishop or priest celebrant, the deacon immediately and reverently consumes at
    the altar all of the Blood of Christ which remains; he may be assisted, if needs dictate, by other
    deacons and priests. When there are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, they may
    consume what remains of the Precious Blood from their chalice of distribution with permission of the diocesan bishop.”9
    5. Who then purifies the sacred vessels?
    As ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the Priest and the Deacon purify the sacred vessels.
    The instituted acolyte, by reason of his office, “helps the priest or deacon to purify and arrange
    the sacred vessels.”10 In the Dioceses of the United States of America, the ministry of
    instituted acolyte, which is open only to men, is primarily made up of those preparing to
    receive Holy Orders.11
    6. May an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion assist in the purification of sacred
    In accord with the Holy Father’s recent decision, as reported in Cardinal Arinze’s letter of
    October 12, 2006 (Prot. no. 468/05/L), an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may not
    assist in the purification of sacred vessels. This extraordinary ministry was created exclusively
    for those instances where there are not enough ordinary ministers to distribute Holy Communion, due to the consummate importance of assuring that the faithful have the opportunity to receive Holy Communion at Mass, even when it is distributed under both species. (cf. RS, no. 102)

  42. I remember spotting that abuse one Sunday. Deo gratias, I’d just received myself, and the Divine Presence protected me from the temptation to wrath such things would normally provoke. Instead, I made an Act of Contrition for the person. I had to talk with the pastor after Mass anyway, so I took the opportunity to mention it.

    He looked at me. “I saw it.”

    Neither of us said another word about it. We didn’t need to.

    I haven’t seen the abuse at that parish since. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen that person back again. I saw her again in another parish, doing the same thing, but shortly thereafter they got some new priests, and practices changed there (far fewer EMHCs, for one thing). I haven’t seen it since. I won’t name the diocese, but suffice to say, if things are starting to turn around there, the whole Church may be on its way to rediscovering a sense of the sacred that the Ordinary Form has seldom seen.

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  44. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    lilye mentioned celiac disease: is the ‘commixtio’ not a problem here, and, assuming it is, what can one do about it?

    acardnal said (23 June 2012 at 2:39 pm), “One of the reasons SELF-Intinction is not permitted – besides the possibility of profanation of the precious blood – is that one RECEIVES holy communion not take it or give it to oneself.”

    And seattle_cdn said, (24 June 2012 at 1:28 am), “Last Friday at St. John Lateran, I saw a whole slew of non-concelebrating priests self-intinct. Liturgical abuse in the Pope’s own church??”

    Is the answer ‘yes’, and for the reasons acardnal gives?

    Something like acardnal’s reasons also occurred to me, though I wonder if it is mere quibbling to ask if self-intinction is strictly more “tak[ing] it or giv[ing] it to oneself” than sipping, whether directly or by means of a tube? What surprises me is that I cannot recall ever encountering any discussion, dogmatic or historical, of intinction (such as would include a consideration or exposition of reasons against self-intinction): can anyone give any (online) recommendations?

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