From a reader…
What constitutes a custom? My friend appealed to custom when saying that we are allowed to use glass chalices, but I don’t think that applies here. So when can argue for something from a custom?
Using glass chalices at Mass is an abuse, not a custom.
For a custom to have the force of law, there are several requirements.
1) The custom cannot be contrary to divine law (can. 24, 1).
2) It must be reasonable (can. 24, 2).
3) It must be introduced by a community capable of receiving a law (can. 25).
4) The community must have the intent of introducing a law (can. 25).
5) If it contradicts the current law, it must be observed for thirty continuous and uninterrupted years (can. 26).
The use of glass chalices at Mass does not seem to be contrary to divine law.
When we get to the second requirement, that it is reasonable to use glass chalices, we hesitate and ask: Is it truly reasonable to use glass? Glass is fragile. Glass is an exceedingly common material. It is reasonable to use glass to hold the Precious Blood of Our Savior? Hmmmm.
Concerning the next three requirements, this supposed “custom” falls entirely flat.
Who is introducing this “custom”? The parish community, or the priest and parish leadership? A litmus test of whether a practice fits the bill as a legitimate custom is to ask, “How would the community react if this were taken away?” The more disturbed the community would be, the more likely we are that we’re dealing with a custom introduced by the community with the intention of introducing a customary law. Would the parish be up in arms if, next Sunday, the glass chalices were replaced with dignified gold chalices? I suspect not.
Moreover, has this practice gone on for thirty years? What has the local bishop said about it? The universal Church, through the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, clearly condemned the use of glass chalices at Mass. That seems to be a clear vote in the “no” category for the supposed reasonableness of this alleged custom.
Again, using glass chalices at Mass is an abuse, not a custom.