ASK FATHER: EMHCs at TLM… permitted?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR (edited):

On Sunday  I attended the [Traditional Latin Mass – TLM] at ___.  What surprised me was that an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (Male) assisted in distributing Holy Communion, Host only.

Is this proper or did I miss something?

This goes against the 1962 rubrics.  According the Universae Ecclesiae this, and other practices such as Communion in the hand, service at the altar by females, etc., are to be ruled out.

That said, stretching my mind a little, since this is more a matter of disciplinary law, not constitutive law, I suppose that a bishop could grant a dispensation to permit it.  I am not sure about that, however.  That also said, I think it would be a unwise to grant such a permission, except in cases of real necessity: keeping in mind that people are not obliged to receive at every Mass to fulfill Mass obligation or not, say 1000 folks are at the 8:00 AM Mass, Father has his foot in a cast, there is no deacon or other priest available, the parking lot already filling for the 9:00 AM. Mass….  That sort of thing.

It may be that the priest has good motives for doing this, but I don’t see how this is permissible.  This calls more for a private conversation with the priest before gathering the mob, polishing the pitchforks and lighting the torches.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Could the apparent Extraordinary Minister have been, in fact, a Deacon in cassock and surplice? The questioner also didn’t make evident whether the priest himself distributed communion.

  2. Cantor says:

    Extraordinary Ministers for Extraordinary Form? If nothing else, the naming convention leaves something to be desired.

    The American usage of the word “extraordinary” to mean “better/superior” rather than merely “outside of the regular” gives cause for misunderstanding.

    But it might reflect well on the Form if there truly are so many communicants that they can’t finish in a timely manner. Give the bishops some extraordinary headaches!

  3. jlmorrell says:

    I don’t think it is allowed according to UE. We’ve been over this before after UE was issued.

    I must disagree with Fr. Z regarding his example of a scenario when EMHC could be acceptable. The unusual example would not be a reason for EMHC according to the tradition of the Church. And the tradition of the Church must be our guide in these things, not some ridiculous USCCB or other apparatus.

    A better example was provided by Cardinal Spellman when he offered Mass in Yankee Stadium in 1958. That was an unusual circumstance with tens of thousands in attendance. Instead of hundreds of priests or EMHC distributing communion, only Cardinal Spellman received and the other Catholics did what they were supposed to do: pray (or if you like, were actively and consciously participating). It’s time that Catholics start to understand again that they don’t need to receive holy communion at every Mass they attend as if they don’t get a check mark for attendance by staying in their pew.

  4. Imrahil says:

    Dear Chris Garton-Zavesky,

    that would be a manifest and, other perhaps than an EMHC, not even excusable liturgical mistake (though a light one yes): if you are a deacon and you distribute communion, then at the very least you have to put that stole on.

    Dear jlmorrell,

    it is one thing to say that a Catholic does not sin in not receiving Holy Communion, and participates validly in Mass even with a merely-spiritual Communion. These are manifest truths, to deny them must be combated as the error it is.

    It is another thing, though, to say that the job of the laymen at Mass is to pray, viz. as I take you, they cannot expect to Communicate at all, which then, I suppose, is a sort of extra prize (for what?).

    Whereas I hold that the normal thing for the Catholic is to Communicate, unless barred by law or the state of their souls. (The second condition is redundant and included in the first: I add it just to make things.) I also hold that this is not a modernist statement but true tradition of the oldest kind (defended by St. Thomas, for instance, in the face of a quite contrary practice).

    Now while this my opinion is of course just that, I’m quite certain that at least it is an allowed one. There is the possibility that one particular use present in the 1950s is a misdevelopment (though I’m quite defending for the 1950s, otherwise).

    I’m even surer of that w.r.t. an occasion where the distribution could have been safely effected by priests; no unanointed hand would have had to touch the Sacred Species.
    (Which rule, for clarity, was not a dogma, but a positive law of the sort surrounding the liturgy, showing respect to our Lord; as such, of course, respectable and necessary to be obeyed, but always with the possibility of abrogation or dispensation by lawful authority, and with an actual dispensation in the case of necessity.)

    On an aside, if I’m correctly informed you need spiritual-and-sacramental Communion as a requirement for gaining a complete indulgence; spiritual Communion, again if I’m rightly informed, does not suffice. This, too, should be a reason that especially the lengthy, large-crowd Masses with (as they sometimes are) a complete indulgence attached, but where many people reasonably cannot make it to yet another Mass on the same day (possibly because they’re all at the same time…), should have Communion.

  5. Imrahil says:

    To better explain the primary idea of the second part of my comment I add, if our Rev’d Host is going to suffer it, the basic notion that

    Yes, Catholics have a right to the Sacraments.
    (That is, excepting to a degree, and certainly for all practical matters, the Sacrament of Order.
    [Exception from the exception: a transitionary deacon has principally, albeit not absolutely, the right to be ordained a priest, as Church Law says.])

    I mean, of course, a “right rightly understood”. But still, they have it – they are not favors to be given at an arbitrary whim.

  6. Mike says:

    One of the benefits of the Traditional Latin Mass, at least from my lay point of view, is its inherent focus upon reverence for the Eucharist. The use of “extraordinary” ministers in the Traditional Mass would seem, at best, to be orthogonal to this principle; I don’t see how it can make sense.

    Were the rules adhered to about worthy reception of Holy Communion, and a three-hour or longer fast restored, one suspects this issue would surface even more rarely than one presumes it does now. The moral here may be that the restoration of the Traditional Mass does not by itself make up for decades of bad practice and poor catechesis.

  7. DavidJ says:

    Sure, it’s not obligatory to receive, but you can’t blame someone who attends Mass for dearly desiring to receive (yes yes, assuming proper disposition, piety, etc).

    [I am not sure why “blame” would be part of this scenario.]

  8. VexillaRegis says:

    Having EMHCs at a TLM is like fitting a Honda car door into a Ford model T!

  9. Geoffrey says:

    At the very least, let us hope it was an instituted acolyte, who is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion by right of institution.

    I came across this interesting tidbit in Donald Attwater’s “A Catholic Dictionary”, 3rd Edition (1958): “Mass can be said and the Eucharist consecrated only by a bishop or priest, who is also the ordinary minister for administering holy communion. But a deacon may be delegated to do this last, and in case of urgent necessity (e.g., danger of death without Viaticum) a layman may administer it to himself or to others” (p. 177).

    So it would seem that prior to Vatican II, there were extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (including deacons), but never at Mass…

  10. Jackie L says:

    This doesn’t seem like something those who attend the TLM would go for, could this have been someone with holy orders?

  11. It’s kind of hard to comment without seeing the specific situation and knowing if competent authority has authorized an exception. I will just say that “no one is held to the impossible.” Sometimes, discipline has to bend a bit. If the only priest present is in a wheelchair and the layout of the altar rail prevents him from distributing there (a narrow space between some steps and the inside of the altar rail, for example), the communicants may even have to enter the sanctuary to approach the priest wherever he can reasonably be, perhaps even standing to receive. Having offered one maxim, though, I will also offer a second: “Hard cases make bad law.” The problem today is that society seems to make law solely on the basis of bad cases (also known as law by feelings).

  12. pitkiwi says:

    A possible explanation:

    Perhaps he was a deacon. In many dioceses, bishops have flat out forbidden deacons (who are not studying for the priesthood) to wear the roman collar or other clerical garb (other than the stole/dalmatic). As such, it’s possible that the obedient Rev. Mr. distributed Holy Communion in his lay clothing due to some stupid edict that deacons (clerics) cannot wear clerical garb. It’s also possible that diaconal stole was not available (many parishes are without, especially if they don’t have a deacon assigned to te parish).

    Just a possible explanation.

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