The following post originally appeared in July 2010 on the Laodicea blog, and was re-posted more recently by James Preece on his blog Catholic and loving it. The aim of giving it another airing here is to look more closely at the issues the author, Aelianus, raises so eloquently, and, if possible, to help unravel some of the confusion arising from post-conciliar liturgical practice. Your comments (opinions/thoughts/experiences etc.) are an important part of this and would be greatly appreciated:
I was in Westminster Cathedral the other day and I beheld a most edifying sight, something I have experienced in a number of places over the years. It was a well-attended lunchtime weekday Mass, the congregation numbering several hundreds. When it came to communion the priest approached the congregation with three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. After a few dozen people had gone up to receive from the extraordinary ministers the rest of the several hundred laity resolutely refused to budge from the Priest’s communion queue and the extraordinary ministers were forced to stand there pointlessly for quite some time. I felt sorry for the EMs who are usually pious members of the laity keen to assist in their parish. But the fact is that the use of extraordinary ministers is an abuse.
It is an abuse in two senses. It is an abuse in the sense that it should never have been allowed in the first place; the priest’s hands are anointed because he alone externally touches the Blessed Sacrament. Even the deacon traditionally only touched the chalice containing the Blessed Sacrament not the species themselves. Servers and those in minor orders below the subdiaconate would not even touch the sacred vessels when empty. The random introduction of Mrs Cannybody at the Agnus Dei is an absurdity greatly deleterious to the reverence due the Blessed Sacrament and a major plank in the campaign to clericalise the laity. But it is also an abuse in that the permission for extraordinary ministers is so restrictive that if the law were observed they would never be used anyway. The law concerning their use is laid out in the 1997 Instruction Ecclesiae de mysterio Article 8 §2. They have to be appointed by the bishop, if they are appointed by a priest it can only be for the occasion itself and not for any period of time. Even the bishop can only appoint them “in cases of true necessity” and a priest may only do so “in exceptional cases or in unforeseen circumstances”. The document goes on to insist “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’”. These provisions, which are footnoted in the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, effectively exclude all the occasions on which extraordinary ministers are currently used in Great Britain. Rarely are they instituted by the Bishop, never out of genuine necessity, their use is universally habitual not exceptional and certainly not unforeseen. Most absurdly of all they are mostly used to administer the chalice, which is never necessary, by definition because administration under one kind is an ordinary method of administration so it is never necessary to take extraordinary measures to avoid it. Any attempt by a local ordinary to insist on communion under both kinds is null and void by virtue of the Decree of the Council of Constance that the contention that it is illicit to receive under only one species is a heresy.
The incident at Westminster Cathedral (and the growing number of similar occurrences) is edifying because it shows the sense of the faithful recovering from years of clericalist modernist bullying. More and more, faithful Catholics are instinctively uncomfortable with this practice and they instinctively avoid participating in it. There are a number of other practices, which if the laity simply adopted or avoided would help to turn the tide.
1. Never become an extraordinary minister
2. Never receive communion from an extraordinary minister
3. Always either receive kneeling or genuflect just before receiving
4. Never receive under both kinds
5. Never read unless you are a vested server
6. Never serve if you are a woman
7. Never cleanse the vessels unless you are Deacon
8. Never touch the Eucharist or the Sacred Vessels with your hands
9. Always genuflect when passing in front of the Tabernacle
10. Always double genuflect in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament
Having been an extraordinary minister (years ago when I was unaware of the dodgy status of this practice) and having worked as a sacristan for some time (and spoken to many others) I can tell you the Blessed Sacrament is almost always desecrated when communion is administered under both kinds. Very few priests or sacristans purify the linens and the vessels properly or immediately and they are very, very sensitive about it because they have often been acting wrongly their entire priestly lives and they don’t want to hear about it. It is very difficult to serve the Novus Ordo without being instructed by the Priest to break the rubrics or forbidden to genuflect in front the Blessed Sacrament. The failure of the Hierarchy to institute lectors and acolytes facilitates the use of female servers and readers, which makes an absurdity of the strictures of St Paul and the thundering condemnations of many Popes on this topic. The practice of bowing instead of genuflecting to the Blessed Sacrament is a cause of enormous scandal to the faithful, is not mandated by the GIRM and has greatly weakened belief in the real presence. It is up there with the Priest facing the people in terms of the damage it has done.
Vatican II was supposed to be the new dawn of the laity. It didn’t turn out that way. Things have now reached such a pass that the laity must indeed grow up. They must reject the attempts of Modernist to clericalise them, to make them co-operators in the de-sacralisation of the liturgy, the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, the subversion of the doctrine of the real presence and the creeping introduction of female clergy. The laity have had to learn to access Catholic Doctrine over the heads of the clergy (who either corrupt it or refuse to preach it) through the Catechism and other magisterial resources, now they must put a stop to the abuse of the sacraments by withdrawing their cooperation from the clerical abuse of the Mass.