VIDEO: Archbishop – ooops – “consecrates” whisky instead of wine.

Wait long enough and that hardly-to-be-imagined thing will happen.

Holy Church has been at this Holy Mass thing for a really long time and in really diverse circumstances.  Hence, she has been through a great many “What if X happens…?” situations.

Wisely, and like the good mother she is, the Church used to tell us what to do, at least with general principles, so we could correct the situation and get on with it.

“What to do”, for example, “if a spider drops into the chalice after the consecration? … if a mouse runs across the altar and runs away with a host? … if the celebrant drops dead between the consecrations? … if it is discovered at the time of Communion that the wine for Mass was corrupt or had turned and wasn’t valid?”

Not to worry. Armed with first principles, priests know what to do!

Take for example the recent Mass in Malta when the celebrant, Archbp. Scicluna, decided at the time of Communion that – surprise! – that was whiskey in that cruet and not wine.

I guess the sacristan was storing the ALTAR WINE bottle along side the ALLT-A-BAINNE.   I mean, if you squint and know the right pronunciation, hey!  They’re pretty close, right?  Of course, a sacristan would want to keep those bottles in a place where they’d be, you know, “safe”.

So, the Archbishop gets a snoot full of Scotch – O Lord let it have been a single Malta – and informs the concelebrant… who immediately tried it!  As one does.

You can hear them… “whisky… whisky…”, at which the camera lists to starboard to focus on a picture of a cleric. (Please leave your Graham Greene cracks at the door.)

So, here’s is what is supposed to happen next.

Once the substance in the chalice is determined to be invalid, you must take steps. Namely,

13. If the celebrant notices before the consecration of the Blood, even if the Body has already been consecrated, that there is no wine in the chalice, or no water, or neither wine nor water, he should immediately put in wine and water, make the offering as above and consecrate, beginning with the words Simili modo, etc.

14. If after the words of the Consecration he notices that there was no wine in the chalice, but only water, he is to pour the water into some vessel, put wine and water into the chalice and consecrate, starting again from the words Simili modo, etc.

15. If he notices this after consuming the Body, or after drinking the water in question, he is to set out another host to be consecrated, together with wine and water in the chalice, offer both, consecrate them and consume them, even though he is not fasting.

So, in this situation, having discovered that the stuff in the chalice was invalid matter, the celebrant should immediately require wine (and water) to be brought, probably with a new chalice, and a new host, and go through the two-fold consecration again.

Of course this situation in the video is complicated by the fact that it is a concelebration.   How do you do this discreetly to avoid scandal… never mind that it’s being televised and because of that damnable clip on microphone you are saying “Whiskey” to the whole world.

Moral of the story.  Don’t use clip on microphones!

Or, if you do, be sure to say the proper vesting prayer when putting it on.

Concede, Domine, virtutem labiis meis et prudentiam ad Tuam proclamandam veritatem, ut per indigni servi Tui vocem, vox Tui tonitrui in rota contremat terram.

One more thing before we break for a drink.

What constitutes valid matter, valid wine, for Mass?

For this spirited question we Unreconstructed Ossified Manualists turn to, of course, Tanqueray!

I am not ginning up a response to this important question.  Tanqueray is really a writer of manuals of theology, in this case Tanqueray’s tonic for the soul the Theologia Dogmatica.

It is of divine institution that the only valid substances for transubstantiation are, for the Body of the Lord bread made from wheat and, for the Precious Blood, wine made from grapes or raisins (dessicated grapes).

But the grapes also have to be ripe, which rules out “wine” such as verjus (I actually have some, for ancient Roman and Medieval recipes). It can be red, white, dry, sweet, whatever.  Some prefer red because it resembles blood.  Some prefer white because it is easier to clean the linens.

Sometimes questions come up about the use of wine which has very low alcohol content, called mustum, a wine which had the fermentation process halted by means of rapid freezing.  That is a valid substance because it is from grapes and the natural fermentation process began, making it wine.  It has an artificially low alcohol content, but mustum is consider valid wine.

However, there is the other end of spectrum to consider: wine which has an artificially high alcohol content.  Sometimes alcohol distilled from wine is added to wine in order to preserve it against spoiling, changing to vinegar.  In this case we have “fortified wine”.  The usual types of “fortified wine” we encounter are port, sherry, madeira, marsala, and vermouth.

Unreconstructed Ossified ManualistUnreconstructed Ossified ManualistLong ago it was established that fortified wines are valid matter so long as the wine-spirit added was distilled from grapes, that the quantity of alcohol added, together natural content from the fermentation, does not exceed 18% and that the additional alcohol is added during the process of fermentation.

Fathers.  If you have any doubts about the wine, don’t use it!


I would rule out vermouth, because herbs and so forth are added.  I would not go for sherry because, if I am not mistaken, the addition of the spirits takes place after fermentation.  Marsala seems to be okay, so long as it is 18% or less.  Vin Santo, from dessicated grapes, is fine.  As the name implies, it is wine for the altar! Port is valid, 18% or under.

Furthermore, this is a good reason why there are ecclesiastically approved makers of altar wines.  If you have a doubt, don’t screw around with anything that may not be valid.

Lastly, back to that single Malta Mass.  Do you suppose that the other cruet contained club soda?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Fr. Z wrote: “Please leave your Graham Greene cracks at the door.”

    Okey-dokey, Faddah, how ’bout Indiana Jones?

  2. JGavin says:

    This is unfortunate. We do not see what was done next. I hope they stopped and requested your third scenario be completed. What I do not understand is how do you not appreciate this at the preparation of the gifts? The aroma of whiskey is quite distinct and for me appreciated at at least two or three feet away. It does not smell like wine. As to club soda , in a single malt, NEVER! One drop of water please and NEVER ice. [Give up humor for Lent?  

  3. Julia_Augusta says:

    Now I know where the world’s last bottles of Hibiki whiskey are hidden!

  4. Thomas S says:

    Fr. Z,

    I’m a little confused. If the consecration of the hosts was valid, why is a new host to be brought and the twofold consecration done again? Why wouldn’t the priest in a like situation just double back to the Simili mode postquan cenatum est? Is it so that he can repeat the commixtio with the real Precious Blood? Why couldn’t he just use another host that was consecrated at that Mass already?

    I know there’s a reason if it’s the law, I’m just not clear on it.

    [One species should not be consecrated without the other. The point of the two-fold consecration is the separation of the Body and Blood, the Sacrifice.]

  5. Austin Steele says:

    Who knew celebrating Mass could be such… whisky business. I apologize, but I just had to say it.

  6. Lurker 59 says:

    Fr. Z, a question.

    It seems that the above instructions are envisioning only one chalice on the altar. If it is the case that there are a plethora of chalices, the celebrant’s contains whiskey whilst the others contain the proper mixture of wine and water (I have often seen the additional chalices readied prior to delivery at the altar with the celebrant’s only readied at the altar), what is to be done in this case if the issue is caught only after the consecration?

  7. Hidden One says:

    Is there a good reason to keep whiskey in a sacristy?

    [These days?]

  8. WmHesch says:

    He might have noticed the whiskey beforehand if he had been using a clear glass chalice…

  9. Father G says:

    Here’s an update:

    “Sacristan Godwin Dalli said on Facebook that while he was not to blame for what had happened, he wanted to publicly apologise.
    He explained that one of the volunteers who had been preparing the offerings got confused over the cupboards where the wine used for Mass was kept and picked the wrong one.
    No contempt was meant, nor was this a joke. It was a mistake…
    After a pause the Mass continued as usual. A second chalice, containing consecrated wine, was used.”

  10. JARay says:

    I happen to be quite partial to “Alt-A-Bainne” and I do know the difference between Whiskey and Whisky. The former comes from Ireland and the latter from Scotland. That “e” makes all the difference.
    I cannot, for the life of me, imagine how anyone could possibly mix up whisky and altar wine. They both have quite different aromas.

  11. PostCatholic says:

    I just thought I’d say that while I don’t know the correct pronunciation of ALLT-A-BAINNE, whatever that may be, the word “bainne” means “milk” in modern Irish.

  12. mpolo says:

    Here in Germany, the bishops decided that modern wine-making being what it is, we no longer need to seek out specifically Mass Wines. Any white or red wine from grapes that has the German “Qualitätswein” or “Prädikatswein” seal is considered to be valid matter.

  13. Imrahil says:

    One other step that has to be taken is this: Each celebrant needs, immediately, to make an act of contrition, because he is required to communicate. After Mass, with the relevant correction, has been celebrated and finished, they really are under the obligation, which we laymen when we happen to fall into mortal sin are often said to have but actually haven’t, namely: to make a Confession as soon as possible, per can. 916, in this case of inadvertently taking invalid matter for a sacrament (and Holy Eucharist at that).

    I don’t think the celebrant’s duty to make sure that the sacramental matter is valid can be delegated, ultimately, to the sacristan or altar server.

    (Oh, I’m not intending to be harsh on the celebrants. The whole situation does have a somewhat Percivalian ring of “becoming guilty guiltlessly” to it; but I don’t think it can be denied that some guilt is there.)

    – What I’m actually surprised is that the sacristan says he was not to blame. Even the celebrants are to blame; much more the sacristan. If he delegates the preparing of the offerings, which is an integral part of his job description, then he too has to check whether it has been done correctly before the celebrant starts to celebrate; as does, in any case, each celebrant.

  14. Kevin Ryan says:

    After reading this, this popped into my mind:

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “So, the Archbishop gets a snoot full of Scotch – O Lord let it have been a single Malta – and informs the concelebrant… who immediately tried it! As one does.”

    The Sour mash and the Glory.

    The Water of Life Comes for the Archbishop.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Kevin Ryan is a Gentleman and Scholar for unearthing that musical treasure from Ireland.

    I’m off to search the peatbogs of County Yough Toughbe for more, first donning wool sweater and trousers, brogans, a tweed jacket and a linen driving cap.

    Meanwhile, this is the “What Time Is It?” clip from The Quiet Man. John Wayne has a drink with his pugnacious brother-in-law:

    Barkeep: “Whiskey? Nah, it’ll get your blood up.”

    (Barkeep serves the two men a pint.)

    Pugnacious brother-in-law to John Wayne: “You’re widow- me sister- she coulda’ done a lot worse.”

    Barkeep: “True, true.”

    John Wayne: “Thanks.”

  17. Semper Gumby says:

    “You’re widow” = “Yer widow”

  18. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Note that the concelebrant, having taken a sip and said “Whisky,” proceeds to drain the chalice. Fie on the cameraman who then pans away to a vase of flowers.

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