Another Turn of the Tide?

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.

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23 Responses to Another Turn of the Tide?

  1. Rebrites says:

    You can boil this long screed down to one sentence, No. 6.
    “Never serve if you are a woman.”

    Unless, of course, you are serving at table at home, or scrubbing the sacristy floors.
    The Catholic church is so resolutely and arrogantly sexist, right down to its bones, It is sad and horrifying and disgraceful.

    This document is a glowing example.


  2. Umblepie says:

    Very, very encouraging. Thanks for the information.


  3. bwr47 says:


    To see this as a feminist issue is to be looking down the telescope from the wrong end. The whole point of the article is that the Mass should be about God being made present rather than about how involved the laity (male or female) can be.

    The Church is so far from being anti-women that it always amazes me that anyone can truly have that perception. Yes, the Church says that priests must be men, because Christ – who would happily have broken any conventions and often did just that – chose to appoint 12 men as his first disciple priests.

    The Church elevates a woman above all other human beings (apart, of course, from the Man God Himself). Mary is so clearly seen as the most perfect creature that the Church is criticised by outsiders for worshipping her (though in reality the Church is clear that Mary is merely “full of grace” whereas Christ is perfect by His very nature).

    On the questions of abortion and contraception, Catholic teaching is almost unique in standing up for the real rights of women. Abortion harms women. Internationally, abortion is statistically much more likely to kill an unborn girl than an unborn boy. Abortion is anti-women (and also, incidentally, fundamentally racist) and the Catholic Church has the strongest track record by far in speaking out against it.

    Catholic social teaching supports equal rights for women – in stark contrast to the teachings of some other faiths, incidentally.

    In summary, the Church teaches that male and female have complementary roles but share in the same human dignity.


  4. Regina says:

    Didn’t Jesus say something about those who cleanse the outside of the cup but neglect the inside? The Catholic Church is so beautiful for its history, traditions, and grwoth and matchless in its reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, but why create such chasms? Isn’t the Grace of God bigger for the individual than the importance of all the properly cleansed linens and those properly made genuflections in all the world?

    1 Sam 16: 7 But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”

    We can never be worthy enough to handle His Body and His Blood, but that’s why He died in the first place…


  5. Srdc says:


    The past two Popes have served Mass with Altar girls, in the Vatican, so this guy is just expressing his personal opinions.

    It’s true that women began to serve, because men were not willing to volunteer in church to begin with.


  6. Srdc says:


    Women will continue to serve, until the men start getting their act together and start volunteering more in church and actually start attending church to begin with.


  7. athanasius says:

    This article is, for me, rather like the proverbial curate’s egg: good in parts! (But not in most of its parts.)

    Surely no orthodox Catholic would oppose greater Eucharistic devotion – which is, too often, sadly lacking – so I am fully in sympathy with the underlying intention of the article, but I do think that some of the Laodicean ‘Commandments’ are rather hard to take (and I am no woolly liberal). In fact, numbers 3, 7 and 9 are the only ones I would fully embrace, whilst the remainder merit some discussion:

    1. Never become an extraordinary minister
    2. Never receive communion from an extraordinary minister

    But a shortage of clergy makes this a practical necessity, and such ministers are frequently used to administer communion to the housebound. The role of an extraordinary minister is not a priestly one, nor does it undermine that role, surely? The laity are not ritually unclean (nor is the priest ritually pure) in the levitical sense, so why may they not touch the blessed sacrament? If there are sufficient clergy to adminster the sacrament then that should be the norm, clearly, but circumstances do not always match the ideal.

    4. Never receive under both kinds

    Why not? The sacrament is consecrated in two kinds, and there is no logical reason to deny the faithful the chalice. Of course, the Body and Blood of Our Lord are received in their entirety in one kind, but Our Lord himself gave us the host and the chalice as the normative form of the sacrament.

    5. Never read unless you are a vested server

    The reading of lessons seem to me perfectly appropriate roles for the laity, and is not priestly in any sense. The particular solemnity of the Gospel reading makes it appropriate for the deacon (or priest in the deacon’s absence) to lend it due liturgical status.

    6. Never serve if you are a woman

    There is a widespread fear that the use of girl servers dissuades boys from serving, who might therefore not be allowed to develop a sense of priestly vocation; it is also considered by some to be the first dangerous step towards women priests. Yet boys and girls can serve together perfectly happily, whilst women are not ritually unclean and therefore unworthy to enter the sanctuary, are they? Furthermore, a server is not a priest – the roles do not equate.

    8. Never touch the Eucharist or the Sacred Vessels with your hands

    I prefer to receive on the tongue: for me it lends greater reverence to the act of receiving the sacrament; but I would not consider someone who received in the hand to be acting improperly or, by default, irreverently.

    10. Always double genuflect in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament

    Multiplication of genuflections is not a measure of true veneration: it is the inner devotion which matters, surely? One genuflection is a reasonable demonstration of one’s piety, and tends to avoid a pharisaical publicising of one’s own piety.

    In conclusion, to restore sacramental devotion in the the Church we need, above all, far more careful instruction from the clergy and a clear expectation of a certain manner of approaching the sacrament. The clergy have abrogated their responsibility to instruct the faithful – it is hardly surprising that the faithful don’t know what to do.


  8. athanasius says:

    @srdc Good to see you here!


  9. Srdc says:


    Good to see you too.


  10. kathleen says:

    Rebrites rages:

    “The Catholic church is so resolutely and arrogantly sexist, right down to its bones, It is sad and horrifying and disgraceful.”

    Wow! Do you really think that? Why not trot off to the Unitarian Church then, where I’ve heard they worship a female goddess (or goddesses)? In fact anything goes there.

    I disagree with you entirely. Guidelines for the different roles of women and men are necessary and good. Any woman who by choice ‘serves’ by say, cleaning the church or helping out in the church office/shop/library etc., is doing no more than following Our Saviour, Who came not be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45).
    Personally I think there is nothing so wonderful as being a woman in the Holy Catholic Church where femininity is treasured and respected. We have Our Blessed Lady raised above all other mortals as our Mother, and numerous and wonderful female saints as role models and ‘friends’ in Heaven to help us on our journey through life. Besides, there are many women doing amazing work in the Church right now who feel anything but hindered by their sex.

    Beautifully put!


  11. kathleen says:


    You raised some interesting points.
    What I think Laodicea is really getting at though is that the utmost must be done (within our limited human possibilities) so that awareness of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is made. Anything which COULD be used – and hence twisted – to diminish this is a danger. When he says, ‘only priests’ hands are anointed’, it is to emphasize the importance of the ordained priesthood.

    More frequent careful instructions from the pulpit on ‘rights and wrongs’ on general practices at Mass and when receiving the Holy Eucharist would certainly be welcome.


  12. athanasius says:


    I agree with both of your posts, to Rebrites and to me.

    Rebrites is taking the (now rather conventional) tack of seeing the life of faith through the prism of secular feminism, judging the Church on criteria we do not accept in the first place. Men and women have complementary but different roles in the Church, whilst women – supremely Our Lady – are respected and honoured in Catholic practice.

    I do understand Laodicea’s intention, and approve of it – I do, however, think that his/her ‘solution’ is negative and exclusive. Where we can all agree, surely, is that the faithful need more guidance so that they can be enabled to appreciate and venerate the blessed sacrament in a more fitting manner.

    I am firmly opposed to the ordination of women on the grounds not of misogyny but of authority: the Church has no authority to make such changes to an apostolic ministry instituted by Our Lord; girl servers are an entirely different issue, and are most welcome as far as I am concerned.


  13. ann says:

    This is a provocative discussion. I think we are long overdue for serious instruction from the pulpit on reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. We could start by making the Tabernacle visible. So often they hide our Lord away in some corner. I think genuflection is a wonderful outward witness of the True Presence both in receiving our Lord and in entering and leaving the sanctuary and in my neck of the woods more and more people are genuflecting or kneeling to receive the Eucharist and they are lining up to the priest rather than the EM’s. Many years ago I was asked to be an EM and I did it for short time (it was all the rage back then–no word at all about whether or not it should be allowed) but it just didn’t set well with me. A constant interior sense of the wrongness of it brought me to respectfully decline to do it. Also, receiving in the hand has become problematic for me. I certainly have no right to condemn others who do but for me, out of respect I try not to. As long as the Church allows both EMs and receiving in the hand (as well as female readers and servers) I think we have to be measured and charitable in our reactions to it. It is up to the Magisterium to clarify all these issues and may God grant that the clarification comes soon! In the mean time, I hope and pray that the tide is indeed turning.


  14. mmvc says:

    Had Aelianus attended today’s (Palm Sunday) High Mass at The Holy Name church in Manchester, every box of his liturgical do’s and don’ts list would have had a rosy tick. Six all-male servers, gospel and passion readings all sung by vested priest and deacon, not one EMHC, everyone kneeling for Holy Communion, and much prayerful reverence and genuflection all round. Add to that the beautiful outdoor ceremony of the blessing of palms, the dignified and totally Christ-centered (ad orientem) liturgy, superb choral music, stunning vestments, incense clouds catching long sunbeams… and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in heaven. Inspired and uplifted, the faithful were drawn deeply into the sacred mysteries.
    It can be done. It must be done. The tide will turn. For the greater glory of God.


  15. ann says:

    Holy Name Church in Manchester sounds like heaven indeed. You are truly blessed.


  16. mmvc says:

    The church is a fair distance from home, Ann, so unfortunately not our parish church. Still, it’s a blessing to be able to get there for Mass from time to time. It’s also heartening to see so many young people in its congregation.

    I agree entirely with your earlier comment, btw. My stint as EM was also very brief (a few weeks at most, I seem to remember, and for exactly the reasons you describe).

    Perhaps the ‘reform of the reform’ needs to happen slowly so as not to cause division. The Holy Father is certainly leading us by example. God bless him and grant him a long life!


  17. Robert John Bennett says:

    Even though I’m not exactly inexperienced when it comes to computers or the Internet, and I’ve seen what happens when Facebook and Twitter are used by people in North Africa and the Middle East, I’m still amazed when a blog leads me to discover, “So, I’m not the only one who thinks this way!”

    I had precisely that reaction when I read “Another Turn of the Tide?”

    I have never felt comfortable with “extraordinary ministers” distributing Holy Communion, but I thought such feelings were old-fashioned or reactionary, and I always felt a little guilty if I tried to avoid them.

    It is a tremendous relief to discover that there are many people who feel the same way as I do.


  18. joyfulpapist says:

    I’m with Athanasius on his analysis of and answer to the article above.

    There have been – and still are – many liturgical abuses. I think the pendulum is swinging back – certainly in my neck of the woods. In the last couple of years I’ve seen both people in the pews seeking more reverence and our NZ Bishops requiring certain actions to promote reverence. I agree with Aelianus and other commenters that there’s a long way to go.

    However, I’d hate to see the pendulum swinging all the way back out the other side again, to where people said their rosary right through Mass and the Eucharist was a private arrangement between God, the priest, the server, and a few people with Missals. I’d love to see a greater awareness of the miracle of Christ’s Real Presence. I’d hate to see us back in the state of holding the Holy Eucharist in such high regard that no-one ever felt able to receive it.

    I’m totally against the clericalisation of the laity. I’m also against the semi-deification of the clergy.

    Above all, I’m against a tone and style that puts up barriers.

    Just a couple of small personal notes. First, I’ve always refused to be an EM because – while I believe it can be a necessary job (particularly in our particular area where our priest is in his 80s and in very poor health, and the nearest other parishes are some distance away), it isn’t one I feel, as a woman, comfortable doing. My husband, however, is an EM, and a very careful and devout one. He has been trained and commissioned, and has sought specific guidance on a number of the issues noted above.

    Second, I don’t receive under both kinds.

    As I’ve stated before on this site, I’m a coeliac, and I can only receive my Lord in the Precious Blood. Even then, there is sufficient gluten contamination from the breaking of the Host to make me ill if I receive Holy Communion more than two or three times a week.

    Given the average numbers of coeliacs in the population, the chances are that in any congregation numbering several hundred, as discussed in the article above, up to a dozen could be likewise prevented from receiving Holy Communion if it is not offered under both kinds.


  19. kathleen says:

    athanasius, ann & mmvc,

    Thank you for your interesting and insightful comments, and for your truly beautiful description of the Palm Sunday Mass you attended mmvc (Maryla).
    (Yes, you’re right, the author of the article is Aelianus, not Laodicea.)

    The bringing in of Extraordinary Ministers does seem to be unavoidable in some parishes when one priest alone (especially if he is old) cannot cope with the overwhelming amount of work in distributing Holy Communion to all the congregation plus the housebound, but this is surely not as frequent as the current state of affairs would make us believe.
    I would prefer not to see girl altar servers; it is an innovation and seems to rather put boys off once girls join the ranks! Ann is right too that as long as the Magisterium permits these things, we do indeed have to be ‘measured and charitable’, so this is just a personal opinion.

    “The altar servers assist a male-only priesthood. As a group, even though most do not become priests, the altar boys are a foreshadowing and a reflection of the male-only priesthood. By example, the altar boys teach that only men can and should be priests and Bishops.

    Some may say that we should view the role of altar server as separate from the priesthood, since altar servers are not ordained. But those who serve at the altar serve along side ordained priests, assisting them closely throughout the holy Mass. The reduction of male-only roles to nothing other than those roles absolutely requiring ordination erodes the teaching of the Church on the male-only priesthood. Following this erroneous path would lead to a reduction in the role of the priest to nothing other than a dispenser of Sacraments. Such is not the will of God.”


  20. kathleen says:

    I’ve just seen your comment, after posting mine. Seems we said much the same about EMs! 😉

    I agree with you and Athanasius on the tone of the article above; it raises some very valid points of criticism, but it is rather fierce and dictatorial. Whatever the Magisterium of the Catholic Church permits, even if we dislike it ourselves (as many of the faithful did when the Novus Ordo was introduced) we have to accept with a spirit of humility and obedience. Our Blessed Lord Himself taught us this when He humbly accepted the Cross.


  21. joyfulpapist says:

    Regarding the boy/girl altar servers thing, Fr Longenecker wrote a good article on that recently:

    I very much like his points about different, but equal, roles.

    In our parish we have both boy and girl servers, and the co-ordinator for the roster is a woman. But boys make up more than 50% of the roster, and there are always new candidates keen to join. Why? I wonder if factors include that our roster co-ordinator is the mother of four boys and understands their needs, and also that we have a number of manly men who are actively involved in the parish and present, with their families, every Sunday in the pews at the front of the church, so Church is seen as something that ‘men do’.

    I think this helps.


  22. Brother Burrito says:

    Manly men attending Mass are a very good thing, JP.

    Do you think there is a place for unhealthy and dopey looking men too, ahem? 😉


  23. joyfulpapist says:

    I’m sure you’re an inspiring role model to the youthful male contingent, Burrito, dear.


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