From a reader…
Dear Father, I serve regularly at a large shrine which attracts vast numbers of non Catholics. Several of us have to be ‘on guard’ on Sundays to ensure that (mostly Hindu) friends of Catholics or just visitors don’t either try to take the sanctissimum away as a ‘lucky charm’ or receive it when they are not Catholics. Our priest seems reluctant to clamp down on this though the vast numbers and unaware visiting clergy make it more complicated. Yesterday was particularly bad. I need to raise this formally with the PP. Is there a ruling that I can quote to warn him, in a friendly way, that my next stop is the bishop?
It is the job of the pastor to be vigilant lest the Blessed Sacrament be treated disrespectfully and to guard against abuses (can. 528, 2). The question seems to be: What should be done when the pastor is not doing his job?
Reminding him of his responsibility seems to be the logical first step. Doing his job for him is not a reasonable option. Self-appointed guardians, however well-meaning, seldom help. They often hurt the cause of respect for the Blessed Sacrament.
If the pastor is not doing an adequate to ensure that the Blessed Sacrament is not profaned, a letter to the bishop is more than appropriate. Such a letter should be carefully written. It should be written even with prayer and meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. St. Paul in Romans 12:10 urges us to outdo each other in showing honor. That applies very much to this situation.
If the Blessed Sacrament is being profaned and disrespected pray, you, and perhaps others, would do well to make reparation with sacrifices and fasting. Do this quietly, without a lot of show. That may do more than you know to strengthen the heart of the pastor, the parish priest, to be more vigilant, or even to move the heart of the bishop to reprove a priest who may have grown lax.
Remember that all the faithful are involved in safeguard the sacred and the sacraments. In Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:
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.
Thus, bring this to the parish priest’s attention first. Then, if necessary you and others could address your concern to the local bishops.
I’ll add this from Redemptionis Sacramentum, for it is good – for priests and bishops – to review and reflect on this:
[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.