Thursday, February 11, 2010


Like a lamb led to the slaughter, I was taught in the 1970's that in order to promote the novel practice of the laity drinking from the common chalice, as opposed to the then recently allowed "intinction" method, which in fact has a basis in tradition and antiquity, we were to tell reluctant laity the following:

"Because of the alcohol content of the wine, the turning of the chalice each time a person received and the wiping of the rim of the chalice with a purificator, we have been told that scientific studies show that a person is unlikely to contract a germ, virus or some communicable disease. In fact, one is more likely to get sick from shaking hands with others."

I believed those who told me about this "scientific" study and so I have taught the above diligently now for over 30 years! I never asked for the actual study. I never asked if there were other studies that had other conclusions and I never asked why we were to ask people who were actually sick with a cold or some other simple virus, not to drink from the common chalice. I was obedient. But my obedience was misplaced. I was obedient to "liturgists" who were pushing their "agenda" of renewal of the Mass. I do not have to be obedient to them or to any form of scientific study that indeed could be flawed. I must be obedient to the Church and my bishop in the areas of faith, morals, canon law, the GIRM and yes, also Sumorum Pontificum only. But church law gives priests a great deal of flexibility in things liturgical and otherwise. Pastoral sensitivity is another issue.

When my bishop mandated that the common chalice no longer be permitted two months ago because of the concern for spreading the H1N1 flu and the fear of an epidemic and when he also at the same time mandated that the sign of peace (handshake) no longer be shared at Mass, mine eyes were opened! What? You can get the flu from the common chalice? What? you can get sick from shaking someone's hand, if that hand is contaminated with a virus of some sort? You mean to tell me what I had taught for over 30 years about the laity not being able to get sick from drinking after one another was a lie at worst, or mistaken at best? Yes, this one event of my bishop forbidding two practices that I had employed and encouraged for over 30 years now opened "mine eyes" and woke me up! And what an awakening it was! I was indeed like a lamb led to the slaughter and I led other lambs and sheep in the same direction!

I have to ask now, is the Church, her liturgists, her bishops, her priests, her deacons, her catechists, legally liable in any way for giving wrong medical or scientific advice as it concerns the common chalice and the "fat chance" that you'll get sick from some sort of communicable disease by drinking after others, multiple others? Are there lawyers smacking their lips eager to sue us in this regard? No, no one would ever sue the Church! Right?

Common sense needs to reign in our Church, not ideology and liturgical innovation and naivete. Coming next, the common chalice, drinking poison, handling snakes and the like...


wmjack40 said...

Father,thanks for opening this topic for discussion....its been on my mind for years. Back in the '80s our family attended a Spanish language Mass in the Augusta area. The priest was under the authority of a bishop outside of the U.S. At that Mass the priest presented the sacred Body & Blood by the intinction method...thus solving multiple problems: (1) less risk of spreading infection (2) none of the problems associated with receiving in the hand (3) no decision to make about whether to receive the Precious Blood.

In the Augusta area we also have an active Eastern (Melkite) Catholic church....and they maintain the traditional "intinction" method to present the Sacred Species to the faithful.

Makes a lot of sense....and by the way involves none of that nonsense about using extra-ordinary ministers of communion.

Templar said...

Clearly no liability on the part of the Church as it required no one to drink from the common chalice or hold hands during the Our Father. In the case of the former it could be considered misguided to have offered it, but everyone had the option to walk past the Chalice (and Communion entirely for that matter). In the case of the later, the Church not only didn't encourage hand holding during the Our Father, it doesn't even teach it. That little bit of heterodoxy is self inflicted by the laity upon themselves. The vast majority of those who do it probably think they should be.

St Ann's Parish said...

Excellent post Father.....I have added you to my sidebar.

kiwiinamerica said...

Templar: The absence of an obligation to drink from the chalice is not a legal "get out of jail" card. Nobody is obliged to smoke cigarettes either but that doesn't stop manufacturers of same having the pants sued off them. The fact that one simply "offers" something for consumption can be construed as endorsement and a blood-scenting trial shark...........excuse, would argue just that. I think it's unlikely that such a case would arise as it would be extremely difficult not to say almost impossible to show beyond reasonable doubt that one had caught disease "X" from the Communion chalice, unless large numbers from the same congregation also contracted the same disease and even then, there's room for argument in an epidemic as to exactly where the infection occurred.

Father, I rather enjoyed the Bishop's recent influenza-inspired restrictions, with the notable exception of the ban on Communion on the tongue, of course. With the exception of the aforementioned, is there any chance that they could be made permanent, do you think?

Templar said...

Kiwi: you are correct in that some lawyer would definitely see liability there. I am thankfully not a lawyer, have only slight regard for the species, and think part of what's wrong with the world today (in and out of Church) is a lack of personal responsibility. Lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers and similar such cases are perfect examples of that. Our society looks at sin the same way, which is a big reason the lines aren't longer for Confession.

On the recent H1N1 restrictions; what restriction on receiving communion on the tongue? Not even a Bishop can deny you that right, and no one at St. Joseph was denied. I am truly sorry for you if you were in your Parish in Augusta. Of the other H1Ni inspired restrictions; Communion under both species is optional and done at the discretion of the Pastor; The Sign of Peace is likewise optional and done at the discretion of the Pastor; and hand holding during the Our Father is not taught, encouraged, or endorsed any where in the Church and thus always an option for you to refuse to participate in. You should communicate your desires to your Pastor as he has no way of knowing what his parishioners are thinking other wise, but always communicate with him charitably.

warm regards; Templar