ASK FATHER: Too much water mixed with the wine in the chalice. Valid?

IMG_8892From a reader…


Your article, “ASK FATHER: Altar boy notices priest skipped the consecration of the Precious Blood” states that Mass is not celebrated until the priest consumes both species of the sacrament. Since our congregation receives under both species, there are three chalices on the altar. No water is mixed with the two smaller chalices, (I know water isn’t required for validity) but sometimes, way too much water is mixed with the wine in the main chalice, winding up with the validity of the matter in doubt. Since the priest only drinks from the main chalice, I can only assume that the Mass may not have been celebrated. The problem of the water/wine mixture is common among both priests and deacons. Once I (very courteously) brought the problem to a deacon’s attention who used more water than wine in the mixture, and he nearly bit my head off. Since that time, I’ve sent documentation to priests and deacons who don’t seem to understand the concept of “valid matter”.

Any suggestions?


If you have given them documentation about the issue, and there is still a problem with adding too much water to the wine in the chalice, try once more in writing.  If that doesn’t produce immediate results, then contact your local bishop with a brief description of the problem, some sort of demonstration or proof that it is happening, what you have tried to do, and the documentation that you sent, with copies of any written correspondence.

If the bishop doesn’t get the job done, write to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Also, there are issues of stipends involved.   If Mass isn’t celebrated, then the intention wasn’t fulfilled.   So, we can see that this is serious.

The problem is that people tackle issues like these in parishes or elsewhere and they have no way to substantiate what they say they saw.   For real action to take place in the matter of abuses, people need “proofs”, written, photographic, testimony from more than one person, etc.

Once again I put on my Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist hat to give a more complete answer about this very important issue.

Click me!

As I have written in the past, in the manual of dogmatic theology by Tanquerey, that tonic for the soul, we read that “quinta pars aquae ad vinum corrumpendum non sufficiat … a fifth part of water isn’t enough to break [the substance of] the wine”, and thus render it invalid matter for consecration.  Prümmer is not too lenient is saying a third part water and you have highly doubtful matter, it should not be consecrated, and more wine ought to be added before it is consecrated.  I am inclined to be guided by Tanquerey’s view and never add more than a fifth part.

This is important especially for priests who prefer small quantities of wine for Mass.

It is not a bad idea to use a “scruple spoon”. This has nothing to do with “having scruples” or “being scrupulous”.  This small spoon measures a scruple, an old apothecary measurement for the 24th part of an ounce in weight.  Sometimes an image of a scruple spoon will appear in the header of this blog.

I will grant that there is something proper about the pouring gesture.  However, given the issue of dilution, I think safe is better than iffy.  Sometimes the surface tension of the water can result in the necessity of adjustments with the wine.  Prümmer prudishly posits that the scruple spoon tolerari potest.  Whatever.

Scruple spoon with friends,
to provide scale.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    That’s amazing that a guy named “Tanqueray” tackled the question of booze / water ratios in Dogmatic Theology.

    Call me Old Fashioned, but I wonder what the esteemed dogmatic theologians Monsignor Crown-Royale or Don Basil Hayden might say. They might be a dash bittered not to have been added the the mix, possibly even shaken by the oversight.

    Hopefully Tanquerey isnt left alone on the rocks on this one.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Btw, Father, did you see the story about the crop duster-assisted aspersion of Cow Island, Louisiana? Fr. Barzare and St. Anne Parish seem pretty cool!

  3. JPCahill says:

    As an altar boy many years ago (about 60 more or less; how did I get so old?) the priests in my parish used to add the water by placing a thumb over the mouth of the water cruet. When tipping the cruet whatever escaped the thumb was what was added to the wine. My highly unscientific estimate would be more than a couple of drops but something less than a dollop. I wonder if that method was something specifically taught back in the dear, dead days of yore?

  4. padredana says:

    Maybe a “Scruple Spoons For Priests” campaign is in order.

    [Good one! I’ll check on that.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. Cincture says:

    My dear friends. Is it not a wake up call to see this WITHIN the celebratory faith? I recall many years ago a secularist cartoon of the modernist New Yorker magazine, which portrayed a person arriving at a party event with the elegant butler announcing: ‘Mr Smith and two witnesses.’ Funny, in a down the culture we have become sense. But to Fr Z’s point, our materialistic and legalistic “progress” indicates clearly the unfortunate necessity of his admonition in some circles today.

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