ASK FATHER: Am I excommunicated for desecrating the Eucharist?

From a reader…


I have something in mind that has been troubling me. In my past, there has been an incidence where I dropped a host while receiving communion (I used to receive by hand, I no longer do), I may have dropped a crumb or crumbs (I went to a Jesuit college where they used a crumbly bread for the host. The incident was a long time ago and I don’t remember exactly what happened. I vaguely remember seeing the crumb, lowering my hand and then raising it back up once it dawned on me. I don’t remember if I got it or not.), and I vaguely remember once or twice accidentally letting a piece of “chewed” host come out of my mouth (I vaguely remember thinking I had something in my teeth and went to remove it. I don’t think I had malice in my heart to defame the Eucharist, but again, a long time ago and I don’t remember exactly). Did I incur latae sententiae? Help, I feel confused and concerned. I did talk to my priest (a good and holy priest) and he said that my circumstances seemed to not fit canon 1367 CIC. He said he would offer me absolution. Am I being paranoid or is there something I should worry about here.

First, be at ease.  From what you described, you DID NOT incur a censure.   In order to incur a censure you have to have committed a mortal sin and, from what it seems, you didn’t.  I can’t see how you knowingly and willingly violated can. 1367 so as to incur a censure.

I think you might be able to find a little fault in, at the time, a bit of carelessness in consumption of the Host.  Then again, we are human beings and a, say, cough can come suddenly, or a transient pain, etc.   Things happen even when we are being really careful.   But if they are unintentional you didn’t commit a sin and if you didn’t commit a sin, you didn’t incur an automatic censure.

Your story, however, is a great example of why we should, why we must …

  1. eliminate Communion in the hand.
  2. eliminate “substantial’ bread or hosts that are not well made.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. KateD says:

    It seems like with the bready types, there is leavening and other matter than is prescribed in the rubric for the Sacrament. Since both form and matter are required for the sacrament, is it possible the host was unconsecrated?

    Either way it brings up a rather relevant question given the current climate. How does one provide the bread required for the priest to use during Mass if the wafer thin, melt in your mouth variety is unavailable?

    We make bread almost daily and we have wheat berries that we grind for some. Because we don’t have a mill, but use a coffee grinder, the flour is coarse and affects the quality of the baked goods made with it. It is more mealy. How does one make home made bread for use in the Mass? How did the Irish do it during the persecution?

    This has been discussed previously, but perhaps a refresher is in order?

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Wafer bread, and wafer cookies and other treats, are pretty old cuisine technology. Unfortunately, stuff like this is not always explained in cookbooks!

    The historical advice was to “take the finest wheat flour you can get,” mix your batter a little thicker than (English) pancake batter, and then cook your wafers in the oven (more like Communion bread) or in wafer irons warmed in your fire (more like waffles). You might want something like pastry flour?

    There were a lot of secular wafer recipes for things like crunchy or melt in mouth rollup wafers, too. Secular wafer recipes often include things like cheese and butter and cream and flavorings, but obviously Communion wafers were just flour and water.

    You can get pizzelle irons that are cooked in stove burners instead of in a fire (two or three minutes a side). They use about a teaspoon of batter at a time for the little pizzelles.

    I think the wafer thing is that the thinnish batter is squished together and heated evenly in both sides by the cooking method. The art would be getting the consistency and temp right, so Communion wafer batter is not burning and not sticking. (Secular wafers mean you can just butter up your wafer iron.) I think you can also make wafer stuff on parchment paper in the oven, but that is a vague impression I do not trust. Never been on a field trip to see Communion wafers made, alas, so I just know this stuff theoretically, and without modern conveniences! has a page on medieval and modern wafers and waffles, which includes a great medieval illumination of St. Wenceslas baking communion bread in a wafer iron.

    Oh, and like cookies, i understand that wafers can get a little browner after they are done cooking. You can cool them on a wire rack to keep them crisp.

  3. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    One could also suggest eliminating the large hosts used at Consecration that are then broken a bunch of times.

    Each time those large hosts are broken, numerous “Crumbs” are formed.

    But those Crumbs are the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of God.

    This is pretty sad and I have witnessed it on more than one occasion: a priest with a large belly/stomach consecrates the very large host, and then breaks it several times. The multiple breaks cause the formation of numerous Crumbs, which then can literally be seen falling to the floor each time the priest lifts up a broken Host for distribution at Communion time.

    Not only that, but because the priest has a large stomach, I have noticed the “Crumbs” resting on the priest’s vestments while I am approaching him to receive the Most Holy Eucharist. The priest lifts up the Host for distribution and the “Crumbs” fall on his vestments at the stomach area. That is not good.

    And, for the record, this commentator complained to two different bishops about this most serious desecration/sacrilege/abuse. One response was, “We have been using those hosts for a long time, it is not a big deal.” The other response was no response and continued use of the large hosts. Also, for the record, both of these bishops were/are considered by some to be “conservatives” or “Traditionalists”. Hardly.

  4. Bthompson says:

    As a priest gifted with belly, I feel the same way. One of the first things I did at one if my churches was tell the sacristans that I did not want the huge 5+” hosts anymore.

  5. Chaswjd says:

    I agree that we should take care of the Eucharist and display to it the reverence our Lord is due. But that said, our Lord chose bread and wine to be the matter of the sacrament. He knew in instituting the sacrament that bread crumbles and wine spills. He knew our nature and that for even the best intentioned there would be accidents. He is also our merciful Savior. And while that doesn’t excuse a lack of care going in or in taking care of the immediate consequences of an accident, I wouldn’t worry too much afterwards about something which truly was an accident.

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