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A Proposition


On a given Sunday

Whereas the General Instruction for the Roman Missal 162 states: “The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.

And whereas the Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum” in paragraph 88 states “Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.”

And whereas the same instruction in paragraph 151 states: “Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional. Furthermore, when recourse is had out of necessity to the functions of extraordinary ministers, special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a Priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred Orders.”

And whereas the same document states in paragraph 158: “Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

And whereas the Vatican instruction “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest” states in Article 8 § 2: “Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at Eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion. They may also exercise this function at Eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion.

And whereas the same document at the end of Article 8 states:  “To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches: the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful.”

And whereas the conclusion of the same document states:  “All particular laws, customs and faculties conceded by the Holy See ad experimentum or other ecclesiastical authorities which are contrary to the foregoing norms [On Certain…] are hereby revoked.”

And whereas in “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America” paragraph 24 states:  “In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason either for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species or for using intinction instead of distributing the Precious Blood from the chalice.”

And whereas the same norms in paragraph 28 states:  “When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., formally instituted acolytes or even some of the faithful who have been commissioned according to the prescribed rite. In case of necessity, the priest may also commission suitable members of the faithful for the occasion.”  … When recourse is had to Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, especially in the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds, their number should not be increased beyond what is required for the orderly and reverent distribution of the Body and Blood of the Lord. In all matters such Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should follow the guidance of the diocesan bishop [Mindful of the fact that this paragraph draws its authority from GIRM 151 which speaks only of instances where a great number of the faithful are gathered, and it is the competence of the Holy Father alone, and of no bishop or priest, to legislate anything in the liturgy against the norms which the Holy Father has duly set forth].

We put forth the following observations:

Observation 1:  The habitual use of extraordinary ministers at Masses in the United States is in fact a violation of the norms set forth in “On certain questions.”  In most parishes across this country are even scheduled weeks ahead of time.

Observation 2:  The majority of these Masses are not attended by “a great number of the faithful” and thus this term is being arbitrarily extended in violation of the norms of the Holy Father set forth in “On Certain Questions…”.

Observation 3:  In point of fact, aside from being viewed as supplementary and provisional, extraordinary ministers are being utilized in such a way that they believe that their ministry involves a fuller participation in the Eucharistic celebration, in violation of the norms set forth by the Holy Father in “Redemptionis Sacramentum.”

Observation 4:  The continued unnecessary recourse to the use of extraordinary ministers continues to blur the distinction between the ordained and lay members of the Catholic Church.

And in light of the above observations we submit the following petition:

 Petition:  Considering the constant violations of the norms set forth above, we humbly ask  you to implement the provisions set forth in the Norms for the United states, namely that Holy Communion normally be distributed only by the ordinary minister, under one species [the Host], or by intinction in those parishes and communities where the faithful wish to receive under both species.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Central Valley July 27, 2009, 6:01 am

    This would be banished in the diocese of Fresno, Ca.. Abuses such as the ones listed go on at many masses in the diocese on a daily basis.

  • P. McGrath July 27, 2009, 9:18 am

    It would be worth making an actual signable online petition with this text. There are several sites, such as IPetition, where you can set this up.

    • jgarlits July 27, 2009, 9:24 am

      The text from the various norms, and additionally my observations and petition, are for the benefit of any who wish to pursue the matter in their parishes and dioceses. Though I freely claim authorship, I in no way wish to limit its use. Any who wish to make it into a petition or to otherwise undersign it and circulate it to the competent authorities are free to do so.

  • Margaret Bartley July 28, 2009, 12:29 am

    Observation 5: Often times the priest or deacon sit while the EM of HC distribute communion.

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