The Problem Of Communion Under One Species

The Problem Of Communion Under One Species October 12, 2011

Two bishops, Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted and the Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino, the bishops of Phoenix, Arizona and Madison, Wisconsin, have recently decided it is time to limit the reception of the species of wine at the liturgies within their dioceses.  They have the authority to do this, and, when they enact such a discipline, the faithful in those dioceses should follow it. However, this does not mean the faithful under the guidance of these bishops cannot question whether or not such a discipline is needed, and explain why they think their bishop might want to reconsider their decision.

We are given a variety of reasons why this reservation of the chalice is seen as necessary (such as in this explanation by Bishop Morlino): it will prevent liturgical abuse, it will help normalize liturgical celebrations with celebrations outside of the United States, that the faithful are not being catechized well enough to understand eucharistic theology,  and that there is not a solid enough reverence to the eucharist.  Of course, the authority of the bishop to make this decision is also being reinforced, in case that was in question.

Now, what kinds of liturgical abuses are being considered as making it necessary for the elimination of the chalice from the people?


Some suggest it is the proliferation of eucharistic ministers, that they are supposed to be extraordinary ministers – however, the same people will look at the extraordinary use of the Latin Rite and want it to be used as much as possible. This shows that they really know that the term “extraordinary” does not, in itself, indicate the concept of “less is better.  Is there the possibility of some spilling going on? Perhaps, but is this the only way to deal with it? What about crumbling of the eucharistic bread? Since that, too, can happen, would we also suggest the reservation of the eucharist itself and return to infrequent communion (actually a case could be made for this, based upon history as well, but this is something which is not being considered, even if it would be the most logical answer to this problem). What about the claim of the normal, universal practice? Clearly, the bishops are looking only within the domain of the Latin Rite, because the Eastern Churches give both species to their communicants. And, when we have had Blessed John Paul II suggest the West needs to learn to learn from the East and gain from the Eastern practices, when exploring disciplines, the East should be examined and not ignored. As for catechesis, the elimination of the chalice could actually be detrimental to future theology, not to its benefit, because it encourages a “as little as necessary “ attitude towards spiritual gifts. What kind of spiritual life would that provide someone? Do as little as necessary to be saved? What about the promotion of extraordinary sanctity? Would that not be lost? This argument also ignores the symbolism inherent with the liturgical celebration, leading to a possible gnostic response (this point I think is the most significant criticism one can give; when there is no actual cultural-theological problem being addressed, the discipline can work contrary to its intention; historically, there was a specific theological problem addressed which led to the discipline in the middle ages, but do we see that problem today? Is it being identified today? No). Lastly, the issue of eucharistic devotion – once again, when the symbolism of the eucharist is lacking, how can the devotion improve? Proper devotion must include a proper understanding of the whole liturgical celebration, of the purpose of communion. Without it, such devotion ends up gnostic and divisive.

Let us look the eucharist, and why theology says Jesus established communion with two species, not one. Peter Lombard addresses this question in The Sentences:

But why is it taken under a double species, since the whole Christ is in either of them? In order to show that he took the whole human nature so that he might redeem it whole. For the bread is referred to the flesh, the wine to the soul; because wine becomes blood, in which the seal of the soul is said to be by the natural philosophers. And so it is celebrated in two species so as to signify the taking of soul and flesh in Christ, and the liberation of both of them in us.  [1]

The double species presents to us the fullness of the incarnation, that the Logos assumed the whole of the human nature and was man; he was not just God in a man-suit, he was fully man, with a human soul, so that the whole person, body and soul can be saved.  The eucharist, in its performance and reception, tells us Christ saves us body and soul, and indeed, protects us in body and soul:

And yet what is effective for both is received under either species because the whole Christ is received under either species. But if it were received only in one, its effectiveness as protection for both body and soul equally would not be signified, but only for one.[2]

Without some necessity for a discipline which runs counter to the way Jesus performed the mystical supper, the symbolism of the eucharistic celebration is meant to provide is lacking when only one species is offered to the laity. And symbolism is very important; proper symbolism is necessary for a proper understanding and appreciation of communion. Symbol is not some extra, but rather, it is part and parcel with the sacrament itself, and to disassociate the symbol from the sacrament is as antithetical to the sacrament as trying to separate the physical matter from the sacrament. It leads to a de-emphasis of the value of creation, and an imperfect understanding of Christ’s work in the world – a work which is cosmological and for the whole of creation, as Alexander Schmemann rightfully points out:

If, for the Fathers, symbol is a key to sacrament it is because sacrament is in continuity with the symbolic structure of the world in which “omnes . . .  creaturae sensibiles sunt signa rerum sacrum.” And the world is symbolical – “signum rei sacrae” – in virtue of its being created by God; to be “symbolical” belong thus to its ontology, the symbol being not only the way to perceive and understand reality, a means of cognition, but also a means of participation. It is then the “natural” symbolism of the world – one can almost say its “sacramentality” – that makes the sacrament possible and constitutes the key to its understanding and its apprehension. If the Christian sacrament is unique, it is not in the sense of being a miraculous exception to the natural order of things created by God and “proclaiming His glory.” Its absolute newness is not in its ontology as sacrament but in the specific “res” which it symbolize,” i.e., reveals, manifests, and communicates – which is Christ and His Kingdom. But even this absolute newness is to be understood in terms not of total discontinuity but in those of fulfillment. The “mysterion” of Christ reveals and fulfills the ultimate meaning and destiny of the world itself.[3]

Creation is symbolic and it is because it is symbolic it is able to merge with the grace of God and become sacramentalized. God works with nature, not against it. God works with the natural symbolic nature of creation in order to bring to us Christ in the eucharist.  The necessity of bread and wine comes from the symbolic nature of bread and wine, body and blood. The lack of understanding of the eucharist comes out of a lack of understanding the symbols; the solution is not to eliminate the symbols, but to help us return to a vision of the world where symbol has value. The solution is not to disconnect the world from grace, in a gnostic dualism, but to bring them together and show the way the two work together.  To appreciate the eucharist, the sacrament of sacraments, we must appreciate the symbols, not ignore them. We must also see how the eucharist is meant for communion; the symbolic nature of the bread and wine presents to us two forms of unity, the sharing of body and blood together which is necessary for us to be of one body, the Body of Christ.  Both symbols together bring us to better appreciate communion, not lessen it.  “The way of catholicity of the Church is revealed in the eucharistic community shows that the ultimate essence of catholicity lies in the transcendence of all divisions in Christ.”[4] How can this catholicity be shown, however, when we continue to try to find a way for eucharistic division? Disciplines, while being necessary for a time, can and do limit the symbolic value of liturgical celebrations, but when the discipline is not necessary, the richness of the original symbolism meant for communion by Christ himself is best to be brought forward and encouraged.

When a crisis is apparent, when eucharistic understanding is lacking, the worst thing one can do is to diminish the symbols, because that will reinforce such a misunderstanding.  And if the understanding is lacking, should we not be surprised devotion to the eucharist, proper reverence to communion is also lacking? There might be a legitimate crisis that the bishops are trying to curtail. However, the solution is a reinforcement of the symbols of the mass, not the diminishing of their use for the laity.  Anything else will just reinforce a gnostic, unincarnational theology, the kind of theology which ends with the elimination of the eucharist as a whole. Is this not what we saw once before in the West?

[1] Peter Lombard, The Sentences Book 4: On the Doctrine of Signs. Trans. Giulio Silano (Ontario: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2010), 58.

[2] Ibid., 58.

[3] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 140.

[4] John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 162.

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  • Kurt

    Morlino states “I have been told of, and have personally experienced, the reality that the provision … that there be no danger of profanation of the Sacrament, is not being met.”

    If the bishop has both first hand and reliable second hand information of the profanation of the Sacrament taking place udner the pastoral leadership of certain priests of the diocese, I think the lay faithful has the right to know their names. These are priests I would not want as a confessor or spiritual guide. Can we have the information we need to spiritually protect ourselves?

    • While he might pastorally be trying to work with said priests to stop such profanation, I would like concrete examples of what made him think there was a need for this change to take place, so as to know why this is the only (or best) way to deal with the problems he sees.

      • Kurt

        While he might pastorally be trying to work with said priests to stop such profanation,

        There are Madison priests engaging in on-going profantion of the Sacrament and Morlino is leaving them in their pastorates while “working with them pastorally”? They should be immediately suspended while the “pastoral work” goes on.

        I think the lay faithful have the right to know the names of these priests so we can avoid them.

        • Perhaps they have been? The fact is, we don’t seem to know the details — which is really what makes this difficult for the laity.

      • Kurt

        Perhaps? We have Bishop Morlino’s own word, his first hand observations and second hand reports that he attests as reliable. The Bishop needs to name names and suspend from pastoral work those ptiests who are Eucharistic abusers.

    • Liam

      Your elision obscures the fact that his statement is even more ambiguous. If you read the full sentence, you will realize that actual instances of profanation were not necessarily observed by the bishop. He’s merely asserting that a two-prong requirement wasn’t being met in his view. All that’s necessary is one of the prongs to be missing for that to be asserted, and the overall thrust seems to imply it that lack of sufficient understanding.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Well said Henry. I think that you touched on a key point when you noted, in passing, that

    “the authority of the bishop to make this decision is also being reinforced, in case that was in question.”

    It seems to me that neither of these bishops has given a very cogent rationale for their decisions and are therefore forced to fall back on their authority to make these decisions. I think it is a sad day when a bishop feels he needs to reinforce his authority in this fashion.

    • Right. Again, I have no problem with a bishop acting on their authority, and indeed, sometimes it is necessary. However, when a bishop is acting on authority and trying to explain why it is necessary, I would hope the explanation makes sense — and if not, some dialogue should happen — because there could be good reasons they are not explicating well and dialogue would bring it out.

  • Julian Barkin

    For me, as a lay Catholic, my issue isn’t so much that the Bishops did this, but rather that this points to a more underlying issue that needs to be addressed: basic catechesis and education of the faithful. One who is properly educated in their Catholic faith would know that both species contains the body, blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if we aren’t seeing the 2nd species more often, we are still getting one species every time we go to Mass in the Eucharist (post consecration of the altar bread). Proper education in the faith would reduce the overall reaction to these events by those bishops.
    Now if infrequent communion, like in past ages of BOTH species was happening, then I’d be more upset and we should be pounding on the Cathedral doors of dioceses.

    As a relevant side note, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s commentary on this issue here: states that plain and simple, there was an indult in his diocese for the both species’ frequency, and it ran out and wasn’t renewed in 2005. Also, Bishop Morlino in his diocesan response says: “…. There can be no doubt that the need for catechesis exists ….” with one or two slightly different re-iterations in the diocesan response. You can find it within Fr. Z’s posting as a link under the word “Here”.

    • Julian

      A few things: The GIRM allows it, and even the Bishop’s explanation suggests the Bishop can make the decision. Thus, it is not an issue of indult ( is a good discussion on that question). Second, I agree, we need to teach better, but that doesn’t mean lessening the symbols when there is no necessity for it, for as I showed the symbols were put in place for teaching! How can we do more teaching with less of the teaching Christ himself used? Third, this again goes to the Gnostic problem which develops, and from Gnosticism slowly develops a lack of sacraments as a whole (since matter will not be important). I could say more (like quote more from Lombard), but these are the main points to deal with.

  • This matter has troubled me. Today I opened my new issue of Pastoral Liturgy and read this, from the esteemed Paul Turner:

    The first article of this issue devoted to the NRM, begins on page 4. On this page I find, “Examining the Missal’s Contents.”

    To quote paragraph one, which addresses Additions: “Some sections are new to the third edition of The Roman Missal. The introductory material includes the pertinent decree from the Vatican authorizing the use of the book. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal for this edition, first published in English in 2003, reappears now in its proper context with a revised translation. The norms for Communion under both kinds, which were approved for the United States in 2002, are now included as well.

    • I wonder if this is one of the reason why some bishops are trying to go to one species right now: it would be more difficult once the new missal is out and people read those norms!

  • As Bishop Morlino pointed out, Vatican II envisioned communion under both species being offered in the following circumstances:

    “The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, Communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism (SC, 55).”


    Bishop Morlino also notes that the recently revised GIRM suggests some additional occasions when communion under both species might be appropriate: “Chrism Mass and Corpus Christi would be good occasions for distributing Communion under both species, as might be the distribution to wedding couples at their marriage, to children receiving their First Communion, to Confirmation candidates at their Confirmation, to consecrated religious at their conventual Mass, to women and men on retreat, and to deacons and seminarians at any Mass”.

    In other words, V2 and GIRM envision communion under both species being offered mainly on momentous occasions, or at least exceptional ones. Neither V2 nor GIRM authorizes regular, weekly (or for that matter daily) reception under both species.

    So, in my view, criticize V2 and GIRM all you want, but go easy on Bishops Morlino and Olmsted since they are just following what is authorized by V2 and GIRM.

    • GIRM 283:

      283. In addition to those cases given in the ritual books, Communion under both kinds is permitted for a. Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass; b. The deacon and others who perform some duty at the Mass; c. Members of communities at the conventual Mass or “community” Mass, along with seminarians, and all who are engaged in a retreat or are taking part in a spiritual or pastoral gathering.

      The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which are also to be observed in churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the priest to whom, as its own shepherd, a community has been entrusted, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason.

      In conclusion, GIRM allows it. It is not a criticism of GIRM, it is a misrepresentation of GIRM and you fail to address the problems I put forward.

      • Geez, I can’t get it right, sorry: I think it’s clear from V2 and GIRM that offering of both species is contemplated not regularly but only on special occasions.

        • Let me quote again: “The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the priest…”

          There you go.

      • Kurt

        As Bishop Morlino pointed out, Vatican II envisioned…

        Why do you pick the word “envisioned”? The text doesn’t say or suggest this. While the Council was meeting, the US Congress passed the very limited and modest Civil Rights Act and Medicare Act. But they envisioned racial justice and health care for all. Lincoln and the Republicans envisioned authentic freedom for enslaved Americans, but enacted the 13th Amendment which left Blacks in second class citizenship. Our Founding Fathers envisioned a government of the people, yet left most Americans disenfranchised. Pius X envisioned more frequent communion but simply relaxed the age and fasting requirements for Communion.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    It is well to remember that this whole question of one or two species for communion was at certain periods a matter of great state governmental concern, and huge ecclesialogical battles. The question of Utraquism was something that people were burnt at the stake for. Thus, the historical perspective may be useful here, but not necessarily. In history’s light the objection largely had the flavor of not allowing the non-clergy to get too uppity. That means the laity today. The battles over the “Conciliar Movement” are long dead, but that aspect of it –as is so often the case with this ancient institution — may be around in another form.

  • brettsalkeld

    “the solution is not to eliminate the symbols, but to help us return to a vision of the world where symbol has value.”

    Henry, I think this is exactly right.

    “Proper education in the faith would reduce the overall reaction to these events by those bishops.”

    Actually, Julian, I think the opposite is true. People’s reactions have not been based on the idea that they are somehow being denied the whole Christ. Lack of knowledge about Christ’s complete presence – body, blood, soul and divinity – in either of the two species does not seem to be a factor in the uproar at all. Rather, if people understood, as Henry points out, the full theology of the Eucharist as a liturgical event, they would be demanding communion in both kinds. It is a one-sided education in the faith that has even made this move by the bishops possible. A proper education in liturgical theology would make this unthinkable.

    To me this whole thing is really quite simple: Jesus himself gave us communion in two species. Basta.

    • Right, I think there is a severe problem of symbology going on, and the response we have now is one which will make it worse, not better. In some of the medieval controversy, the situation was quite different, but people long for the glory days without understanding the cultural aspect of it is no longer there. I do think the norm in history should be with both species, of course, and I think the problems the west had with eucharist theology under the Reformation developed along the Gnostic-lines which comes with the elimination of symbols.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs


        The problem of “symbology” as you say, at the earlier period, was closely related to the vagaries of Nominalist metaphysics which the Church was forced to accept during the Avignon Papacy. To say that there should be a correspondence between the actual requirements of the institution of the Eucharist given in Scripture, and its ultimate efficacy or “reality” in the Platonic (Realist) sense, was deeply threatening to a Church besieged by would- be Hussite requirements. Thus the idea that ONLY one specie was needed, took on a renewed and reactionary meaning far beyond liturgical praxis. Utaquism meant potentially that there had to be some correspondence between the requirements of Scripture and the praxis of the church. This is what was vehemently denied, and in the opinion of many, forced the hand of the Fathers of Constance to utterly embrace the Nominalist position that had been anathematized in the 10th Century by another Council. Hus was in the strange position, and tragic of course, of being condemned for the very position the Church had once maintained. That the next great Council at Florence officially admitted an evolution in doctrine should be no surprise therefore. It took the vast reactionary political climate of Trent to turn all this on its head, and induce a sort of sacred amnesia to what had actually transpired. It continues, to an amazing extent, till today!

        • There are pastoral reasons why one species alone could be given and this goes back to the earliest period of the church — to demand someone take both was (I believe) the problem because not everyone could take both (infants received from the species of wine; now we know of celiacs who also only take of the wine; and sometimes alcoholics are best only to take the species of bread, etc). This is why I do think the church has the authority to limit to one species in times/places for disciplines, but it must understand the less symbolic value due to it (which the church teaches) and both must still be done in the mass itself. But I think discipline often becomes misunderstood for more than it should be, and that is the problem, and probably you are right, for some, the nominalist interpretation came with that. Though I don’t think it is always a nominalist response

      • Peter Paul Fuchs


        Well I agree with your last line. I doubt most people in Church at those periods had any idea what Nominalism was, as they had no idea of the intricacy of Realist metaphysics either. But a more general sense of Realist metaphysics seems almost explicit in a lot of popular spiritual beliefs from all periods in Roman Catholic church history, which says something potentially about the popular inapplicability of Thomism, and the utter weirdness of Nominalism. But there it is, as historical fact, Nominalism “saved” the Catholic Church from de facto dissolution at Constance.

        I would be curious to see where you got this notion that the early church communicated under one species. That is of great historical interest to me. Certainly at a later medieval period scholars believe that hardly anyone communicated regularly, so the point was a bit moot. As a broad matter, I think we can say safely that the current phenomenon of some laity receiving the Catholic Blessed Sacrament on an even daily basis was completely unknown for most of the Church’s history. Let the following, please, not be forgotten. (And I swear I am not trying to be blithely hyper-critical with this) Many of the sacraments that are taken for granted now, and offered by the Church without fee (to its credit now!) were, in one form or the other, a sort of fee for service with the local clergy. This was not the case with the eucharist. But it certainly was the case with marriage. Thus, many people were not actually married and lived “in sin”. In addition their relation to the local Church, by means of their relation to its benefice, was more often than not a financial one. If you did not pay in some way, you would be less likely to receive the ultimate approbation of the eucharistic communion. This is how it was for most of the Church’s history. It is not now, of course, and thus modern Catholics enjoy the great luxury of debating exactly how the sacrament will be received. There’s progress!

        • Communion was given under the species of wine alone (usually a drop or two) to infants receiving communion in the East (and it is still the practice today for those who have infant communion). It was pastoral, because the infant was not seen as capable of having the species of bread, but they were called (with everyone else) to the mystical supper. Of course, in the present circumstances, the chalice contains the two species together, but that was not always the case.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs


        Oh, I didn’t realize that you were just referring to infant communion. By the way, I haven’t read all the comments here thoroughly, but has anyone mentioned the simple matter of the health risks associated with everybody drinking from the same cup? When I was in seminary we always had communion under both species, and wow everybody always seemed to pass around colds and flus easily. I never had half as many in later life. I don’t believe that part of eucharistic theology has ever been that it some supersedes germ transmission. From that perspective, one species is the way to go.

        • During the Swine Flu epidemic, there was a restriction (in some places) due to health concerns; so it does get into play at times, and it is a good pastoral reason (at times).

          And yes, I was referring to infant communion — but that did show the practice could be done with only one species.. long before the controversies.

  • Also, while the word “extraordinary” per se may not imply that something should be rare, the competent Vatican authorities have made clear that extraordinary ministers should not be used on a regular basis, but only when the numbers of people receiving communion are extraordinarily large, such that mass would be unduly prolonged otherwise.

    Offering the chalice at every mass almost always requires extraordinary ministers because there are not enough priests to offer both Body and Blood simultaneously. Therefore you are left with “extraordinary” ministers being used in the ordinarily course, which is a direct violation of Vatican directives. GIRM paragraph 24 in facts makes clear that this is a valid reason for restricting the offering of communion under both kinds.

    • What defines “large”? You do realize the frequency of communion has made “large” an easy thing to happen, right? Churches with 2 or 3 masses on one day need the use of such ministers if most are taking communion. The lack of priests MAKES it an extraordinary situation.

      • Or alternatively, we could adjust our idea of what “unduly prolonging” a mass would consist of. I have attended masses without extraordinary ministers many times, and never have I felt that my time was being unreasonably imposed upon.

        • What kind of parish is it, how many people are in it, how many masses are there during the day, at what intervals, and how many priests? Do all the people go up for communion? Again, as I pointed out, one of the things which has changed everything is the frequency of communion, something new to the 20th century. And if you read the GIRM passage, it clearly allows for the chalice to be given by non-priests — and with the small number of priests, this is not surprising it will happen — so it does not justify elimination of both species as a discipline, for the full symbolism and teaching is lost. And that is what is odd — it’s said it is poor teaching which leads to this need — really? Poor teaching means teach less?

      • Kurt

        1. There is a misunderstanding of the term “extraordinary”. It does not mean infrequent, only when unavoidable, or not commonplace. Auxiliary bishops are extraordinary. It is the ordinary and proper ministry of a bishop to shepherd a diocese. It is not ordinary for a bishop to be an auxiliary to a diocesean bishop, eventhough it is common and widespread.

        2. “unduly prolonging” does not mean because you have nothing else to do on Sunday, take all the time you want. It disrupts the Mass to have in essense an intermission or half-time at communion. And spending the intermission in private devotions doesn’t cut it. The Mass is an act of corporate worship.

  • Let me quote further from the GIRM. 281, which reiterates what is in the Catechism, should be remembered as a starting point, which also goes with what I pointed out from Lombard and Schmemann. Note also 284.

    281. Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father.[104]

    282. Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it, are made aware by the most suitable means possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as laid down by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. Above all, they should instruct the Christian faithful that the Catholic faith teaches that Christ, whole and entire, and the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and hence that as regards the resulting fruits, those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any grace that is necessary for salvation.[105]

    Furthermore, they should teach that the Church, in her administration of the Sacraments, has the power to lay down or alter whatever provisions, apart from the substance of the Sacraments, that she judges to be more readily conducive to reverence for the Sacraments and the good of the recipients, in view of changing conditions, times, and places.[106] However, at the same time the faithful should be instructed to participate more readily in this sacred rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident.

    283. In addition to those cases given in the ritual books, Communion under both kinds is permitted for:

    a) Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass;

    b) the Deacon and others who perform some duty at the Mass;

    c) members of communities at the Conventual Mass or the “community” Mass, along with seminarians, and all those engaged in a retreat or taking part in a spiritual or pastoral gathering.

    The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which are also to be observed in churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest to whom a community has been entrusted as its own shepherd, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and that there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or for some other cause.

    In all that pertains to Communion under both kinds, the Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America are to be followed (particularly nos. 27-54).

    284. When Communion is distributed under both kinds:

    a) the chalice is usually administered by a Deacon or, in the absence
    of a Deacon, by a Priest, or even by a duly instituted acolyte or
    another extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, or by one of the faithful who, in a case of necessity, has been entrusted with this duty for a single occasion;

    b) whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ is consumed at the altar by the Priest or the Deacon or the duly instituted acolyte who ministered the chalice. The same then purifies, wipes, and arranges the sacred vessels in the usual way.

    Any of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion under the species of bread alone should be given Communion in this form.

  • Todd

    I missed the part where Jesus tells us to eat his body and drink his blood, but do it only one way, and the other rarely. Sounds like this issue orginates with V2 and the GIRM, and is made worse by over-zealous implementation by individual bishops who are disguising their concerns over an unruly laity with “profanation” and too many extraordinary ministers of holy communion (of which I am one in my parish) by hiding behind the norms. Just because bishops can do this, doesn’t mean they should do it.

  • Henry writes, ‘Let me quote again: “The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the priest…” There you go.’

    I saw that the first time. But nowhere do V2 or GIRM say that it may be done all the time, and they clearly imply that it should *not* be done all the time. The fact that the bishop may permit it when a priest thinks it appropriate, doesn’t change this fact. They have given examples of the types of occasions on which it would be appropriate, so that the bishop and priest may use those examples in deciding what other occasions may be appropriate.

    I think that to read V2 and GIRM as saying, “Bishops may authorize communion under both species at every mass”, is to egregiously disregard the context in which that statement appears.

    • The GIRM does not say it cannot happen all the time — I quoted the section, it is says quite clearly, the Bishop can make it possible. That is simple, that is direct. You are adding something it doesn’t say in it. It does give a caveat, which is clear, what Madison is using as justification — however, the question is whether or not this act will eliminate such problems, especially when we don’t know what the problems really are?

      • OK, so we disagree. But in any event, I think it’s perfectly reasonable of the bishops to read V2 and GIRM in the way I have done, and to use the guidelines thereof in setting their own guidelines.

        • Note I said, from the get go, the bishop has the authority to do this. Authority is not the same thing as prudence. I am dealing with the question if the prudence, especially based upon the reasons given for this change. When the Church tells us (as it does in the Catechism and the GIRM) that the rite “has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds,” this is something which is constantly lacking in the responses and it is something we need to explore more fully. The East has consistently kept this sign and never had the eucharistic crisis of the West — doesn’t this tell us this fuller form leads to better understanding of the eucharist?


    “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”.


    • I would note you are playing the normal Protestant passage out of context game, because if you read the rest of what you are quoting from, you will note: “It is thus useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese.” The diocese can make the norms. Moreover, what does “habitual use” mean in relation to the problem? It is about an arbitrary extension – without norms! However, when bishops have made norms, it is not arbitrary if followed.

  • Henry writes, “Note I said, from the get go, the bishop has the authority to do this. Authority is not the same thing as prudence.”

    But what I have been arguing is that V2 and GIRM do not give the authority to offer under both species at every mass. I understand you don’t see it that way, but I do, and therefore obviously I think it would be reasonable of a bishop to read it that way as well.

    • I have quoted the GIRM. The GIRM makes it quite clear in the passages which you ignore that the bishop has this authority. The bishop has the authority — repeat after the GIRM — “. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest ”

      note the word: whenever — it is not a restriction. Your misreading of VII is also similar to the way “birthers” misread case law in the United States. “See, this case says this person born of two American citizen parents in the US is a natural born citizen” is turned to “this defines it.” Vatican II as you quoted gave examples of what a bishop might want to do, but it does not say they are limited to those examples.

      • I understand your point of view. I see it differently, and so, apparently, do some of the bishops.

  • Kurt

    But in any event, I think it’s perfectly reasonable of the bishops to read V2 and GIRM in the way I have done,

    I think it is horrid way for a bishop to read Vatican II. After 700 years of the chalice being withheld from the Latin laity, the Council found strong liturgical and pastoral reasons to reintroduce it. Wisely, the specially named particular instances where the practice had special merit. This is exactly how even the most wise initiatives should be re-introduced. The Council also suggested the bishops have wide discretion, as has been backed up by the popes and law.

    I would have more respect for the argument that pastoral experience in the decades since the Council have led to withholding the chalice from the Latin lay faithful than ignoring those decades and simply trying to cite the Council.

    • But even the council doesn’t limit as Agellius suggests, rather, he is misreading examples it was given as ways to promote this return as all it wanted to promote, which is clear it is not, especially when you have the GIRM, the CCC and other texts pointing out the fulness which is had with both species. Indeed, the text he quotes says “The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit” — when the bishops think fit — that is indeed a wide approval as you suggest.

  • M.Z.

    It seems like lack of catechesis should be more treated like lack of holiness rather than say lack of priests. While there is room to increase holiness or catechesis, that doesn’t mean we have a more pronounced problem of either today than we’ve had in the past. If someone came and said we needed our laity to be more holy, we would treat it as a throw away line. Sure we could use more holiness, but saying it doesn’t really address any problem. We should probably treat claims of the need of more catechesis similarly. This is especially true if people thinking Father spending one more homily saying that it is Jesus truly present in the bread and wine is solving any problems. Of course that proposed solution is a continuation of the therapeutic model so common today: all problems can be resolved if only the actor would adapt.

    As for the change itself, it is motivated by the worst aspects of paternalism. It is not a reaction to problem, but an arbitrary choice. These types of choices should typically be made at the parochial level. It is like the new translation of the mass: a whole series of arbitrary choices under the guise of necessity.

    • Ector de Maris

      I usually sit in the front pew at mass, so I get to observe most of the communicants as they file by in their jeans and flip flops. As an aside, I never see these fellow parishioners at Saturday 3:00 pm confession. I’m always on edge lest some extraodinary ministress lazily permit some form of profanation or operate under the mistaken impression that she is in any way conferred with some new form of holy orders. Talk about reverse clericalism. I aslo always suspected that many of my fellow parishioners were closet ultraquists, especially the ones in their mid-thirties and over with only one or two kids. These discussions only confirm my suspicions. I never receive from the Chalice because doing so has clearly been against GIRM since 2005 and to show my commitment to the Church’s teaching on concomitance.

      I can only hope my bishop will return the parishes of our diocese back to the Traditional, immemorial, universal practice of the Church. We docile, small “o” orthodox catholics support this.

      • It is not against the GIRM. And more important, the limitation of communion to one species as a discipline is not from “time immemorial.”

      • Ector:

        Not afraid to stir the pot, are you? : )

      • Kurt

        Can I ask those here who identify as conservative, orthodox or tradtionalist Catholics if I can use Ector’s post as a standard expression of those views?

        • I’m very traditionalist, very orthodox, and I think I am of the true right… 😉

      • Thales

        I’m someone that you would probably label “conservative” and Ector’s post reads like a moby to me. If Ector is sincere, he’s a little misguided.

      • Ector de Maris


        You may use my views on these matters as I think I speak for typical small “o” orthodox Catholics. I only request that you do so in the charitable manner I employed.

        I suspect Mr. Karlson is more big “O” “Orthodox” than small. That church was only founded in 1054. How traditional is that? I am a traditionalist to the extent that I obey and assent to the Magesterium and whatever disciplines, rules, directives, and rubrics Mother Church, through the office of the local ordinary, provides, unlike the manifestly unrepentent sinners who scandalize the faithful every Sunday in my parish at 10 o’clock mass when they line up for communion.

        • Several things.

          The Orthodox and the Catholics were founded at the same time. The Orthodox practices were the same practices before and after the schism. It is a schism, the Orthodox were not founded (and 1054, though given as a date, really does not account for the schism itself, and the schism was not seen or known for most of the East/West until much later). The Orthodox traditions go all the way back to the Apostles, though like the Latins, there was development which was had on both sides of the equation.

          Second, I’m Catholic. I’m Byzantine Catholic. If you obeyed and assented to the Magisterium, you would know that the Magisterium itself has discussed liturgical changes – West and East and points out to the more primitive reception of both species and infant communion in the West. Communion under only one species as a norm is late in the West.

          Third, you now sound like a troll.

      • Ector de Maris

        I took the bad satire too far with the last one. Apologies. I want to stay out of troll territory. That was my attempt to make a composite of the kind of defense of these two bishops that I have been seeing in the threads on this issue.

        I think these initiatives are driven to some extent by a reflexive judgmentalism on the part of these bishops and their combox supporters. I know I’m being judgmental of their judgmentalism myself. How on earth do these bishops get the impression that people don’t understand concomitance? Was closet ultraquism really a problem? Confusion over concomitance only becomes an issue when you abruptly withhold one species from the laity who had become accostomed to receiving both. You’re almost guaranteed to spark the questioning of concomitance when you pull a stunt like this. I certainly never thought about it until the news out of Phoenix. I really hope this unteaching moment doesn’t spread beyond Phoenix and Madison.

        If profanation really is a problem, and I suspect this reason was mostly pretextual, I wholeheartedly endorse intinction, pace Henry. The Latin West ought to be looking to the East, where there seems to be a solid tradition of non-confusion on matters like this, to get over this Schoolmen nonsense.

      • Thales

        Ah, I was right about Ector!

  • Henry writes, “I would note you are playing the normal Protestant passage out of context game…”

    Which is more or less what I thought you were playing with the statement in GIRM allowing bishops to set norms (though I suppose I said it rather more gently than you did). I submit that in that case, you ignore the context which makes clear that communion under both kinds is only intended to take place occasionally.

    Henry writes, “Moreover, what does “habitual use” mean in relation to the problem?”

    I don’t think “habitual use” is in any way ambiguous. I think the document is saying that when you use extraordinary ministers all the time, then your expectation of how long it should “normally” take to distribute communion is reduced, thereby providing a cyclical self-justification for using extraordinary ministers. But howsoever that may be, it clearly states that extraordinary ministers should not be used habitually.

    • Actually, habitual use without context is vague; is it “habitual use of ministers” without a priest doing anything? Is it a habitual use of ministers where it is a small parish? Again, if you read beyond the “habitual” you see the context — “arbitrary.” That’s the point, the arbitrary use of EM’s. It is not saying what you just claimed.

  • It doesn’t mention “the arbitrary use of EMs”. It only uses “arbitrary” when talking about how habitual use of EMs leads to ‘arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”’.

    I note that this document allows EMs where there are “particularly” large numbers of the faithful; while also forbidding “habitual” use of EMs. It does not give as a justification for using EMs the desire to offer communion under both kinds. In fact, the “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America” says that *avoiding* excessive use of EMs is a valid reason for *not* offering communion under both kinds. (

    Thus it seems more important to the hierarchy to avoid habitual use of EMs, than to habitually offer communion under both kinds.

    • But that is because it is habitual without relation to some norm — that is what arbitrary means! It denies habitual which is arbitrary — you can’t ignore the arbitrary! You keep taking one word out of context.

  • Henry writes, “But that is because it is habitual without relation to some norm — that is what arbitrary means! It denies habitual which is arbitrary — you can’t ignore the arbitrary! You keep taking one word out of context.”

    I have already given my explanation of this passage in which I account for both the words, “habitual” and “arbitrary”. Therefore I don’t understand why you insist that I’m taking “habitual” out of context or isolating it from the word “arbitrary”. I’m not.

    In any event, I don’t agree that the word “habitual” changes meaning based on context. “Habitual” means “as a matter of habit”; something done “frequently and predictably”; something that is “characteristic”. If, in a given parish, EMs are used at every Sunday mass barring extraordinary circumstances, surely that qualifies as habitual use of EMs: frequent, predictable, and characteristic of Sunday masses. This is what the Instruction proscribes.

    I understand your argument that bishops are to set the “norms”. But since the Instruction gives guidelines for the universal Church, it seems to me that the norms set by individual bishops have to conform to the guidelines given in the Instruction. Therefore, bishops are not allowed to establish norms which require frequent, predictable and characteristic use of EMs.

    • The GIRM gives bishops power and authority — again — you keep ignoring this. The bishops have authority, therefore, how can they have authority if there is nothing they can do as you argue? That doesn’t work.

      • I don’t think it’s accurate to say there’s nothing they can do. They can decide when communion under both kinds may be offered, and set the norms for how it’s to be done. Some may decide it’s only to be done at weddings and First Communions; others may include funerals, parish feast days, etc. They just can’t do it all the time, that’s all. They can also decide when it’s appropriate to use EMs; but again, just not all the time.

        I can understand the argument that more people are receiving communion, and there’s a priest shortage. OK, then let a bishop decide exactly how much time distributing communion is excessive: 10 minutes? 15? Then, make a guideline that in any parish where it takes a priest longer than 15 minutes to distribute communion, EMs may be used; otherwise not. In my view this type of guideline would be allowed, whereas a blanket approval of the use of EMs throughout a diocese would not.

        • The text doesn’t say “they can’t do it all the time.” Indeed, you keep adding this restriction on them. This really shows a limited understanding of the bishopric.

      • Thales

        I hesitate to jump in the debate but: Henry, I don’t think Agellius is saying the bishop is restricted — no, the bishop has the authority to make the decision — but he is just pointing out that the guidelines seem to suggest or recommend that it not be done all the time with extraordinary ministers.

      • Kurt

        I hesitate to jump in the debate but: Henry, I don’t think Agellius is saying the bishop is restricted — no, the bishop has the authority to make the decision — but he is just pointing out that the guidelines seem to suggest or recommend that it not be done all the time with extraordinary ministers.

        The guidelines suggest certain situations where it has the most merit to be done, but say nothing about situations that it not be done.

        No one in a Third grade class of inner city schoolkids has ever had the joy of riding a bike. A foundation buys a bike for every kid and says they can only use it as authorized by the teacher and suggests they ride in the school playground and on a short bikepath from the school to park. Three years later the new 6th grade teacher says they have to put back on their training wheels and stop riding the places their 4th and 5th grade teacher let them, other than of course the original suggestions.

  • Francisco

    Why is this issue so controversial?

    Is there a subtext I am missing here?

    • Francisco:

      An excellent question! I don’t claim to have full knowledge of the ideas of all who disagree on this issue. But if I were to guess at the subtext, I would say that the more “progressive” elements in the Church don’t like having things denied to the laity which are allowed to the clergy, except where absolutely necessary; and the more conservative elements object to perceived attempts to blur the lines between clergy and laity.

      • Kurt

        I think Agellius starts a fair begining of the “subtext”. Progressives would hold that while there are legitimate lines between clergy and laity, withholding the chalice is not an appropriate means of drawing a line between clergy and laity.

        I think no progressive denies the eucharist is fully received in one form. And many or maybe almost all conservatives admit the reception in both forms is “a fuller sign” of the Eucharist.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs


      The “subtext” is precisely the continuation of the very fraught character of this issue throughout Catholic history. These ancient debates do not go away, unless they are subjected to real critical scrutiny. Something always in short supply with the Roman Catholic Church. The see-saw between clergy-laity is just a newer version of the Papal-Conciliar axis, writ small, so to speak.

  • Henry writes, “The text doesn’t say “they can’t do it all the time.” Indeed, you keep adding this restriction on them. This really shows a limited understanding of the bishopric.”

    That’s fine, Henry. We see it differently. As always I appreciate the free flow of ideas in your threads. God bless.

  • Very fair, Kurt.

  • Kurt writes, “Can I ask those here who identify as conservative, orthodox or tradtionalist Catholics if I can use Ector’s post as a standard expression of those views?”

    Nice try, Kurt! lol ; )

    I identify as conservative and orthodox, and as traditionalist too, so long as that is distinguished from “Radical Traditionalism”, e.g. I don’t reject the validity of the OF or of the current Pope.

    But I decline to say whether Ector’s views are a “standard expression” of conservative, orthodox or traditionalist views, unless you specify what specific statements you mean. Most of the things he says don’t constitute “views” at all.

  • catholic

    I think that most of you people are sounding like Miriam and Aaron when they spoke against Moses. You are all not being obedient and trying to understand the very basic teachings of the Bishops or what is writen in the GIRM> your only want to make your own rules.

    • Where is the disobedience?

      • catholic

        Apparently my opinion is not going to matter on this blog but when there is negative and what sounds to me as contemptful language towards a Bishop is in my opinion disrespectful and in disobedience. This type of discussion seems to lead to discord and not to unity of the Holy Spirit. Many people may be lead astray from the Apostolic teaching and knowlege of the Apostolic teaching, especially when they think they know more and have more knowledge than a Bishop. I will no longer bother you or those who blog here but I will pray for you.

        • You have not explained where the disobedience is. It makes me wonder if this is another joke.

    • Ector de Maris

      Are you being facetious? If so, I commend your sendup of pharasaical finger wagging at the combox publicans. It’s far better than my clumsy attempt.

      If you are serious, who has questioned a basic teaching of the bishops? I concede that the two bishops have taken an action that is within their authority. However, the rationales for the action are not reasonable. You don’t need EMs to offer the blood of Christ. A priest or deacon can do it if EMs crowding the alter (not a fan, btw) is such a scandal. Profanation may be minimized as well if the ordained do the distributing, although I maintain that profanation is rare and dispute that EMs are any more likely to spill or permit sacrilege than a priest. As I noted above, ultraquism is unlikely a problem in the 21st century Church. As a side note, I don’t think it is appropriate at all to speculate about whether one’s fellow parishioner has some miscomprehension about the nature of the Eucharist unless that parishioner has actually said something clearly heretical. I’m seeing that a lot in this debate.

      Perhaps the only rational reason for reserving the cup from the laity in the absence of rampant ultraquism and profanation is that it will shorten Sunday mass. This would at least be consistent with the truly immemorial Western tradition of periodically shortening the liturgy. But diminishing the mystery for the sake of saving time is shameful. Additionally, I contend that if one adopts the bishops’ reasoning as it applies to distributing Christ’s blood to the laity on only a handful of feast days, one only creates even more opportunity to confuse the mind of the poorly catechized. I can hear those half-formed thoughts of the theoretical undercatechized pew warmer now — “If Christ’s blood is only offered to me on special occasions, I must be receiving even more grace than I usually get on normal Sundays.” Thus, this action has the potential to create some form of ultraquist mindset where there was none before.

      I conclude that this decision is arbitrary and capricious because there is no rational basis for it. Must one assent to an arbitrary and capricious command of his local ordinary on a matter over which he has discretion? Yes, but for the good order of the Church, one should in good conscience appeal to a higher authority.

  • Kurt

    I am still waiting for the names of the Madison priests who engage in or allow in their parishes the rampant profanation of the Eucharist.

  • Thales writes, “Ah, I was right about Ector!”

    You’re good! I just took him for a crank.