ROME, JUNE 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I am a priest in a religious community. One of our confreres is an alcoholic and for many years has abstained from alcohol, even if there is just a little bit in pastry. He is really faithful to his promise and I admire him for that. When he presides over our Eucharist, he uses mustum and, of course, all the participants communicate with it. Some have doubts about that way of doing things and think it may be illicit for them. (When he concelebrates, he takes only the consecrated host.) What do you think? Perhaps might it be better to have a second chalice with wine, as it is done when there is a larger number of concelebrants. We are usually about five. — R.T., Quebec province
A: The question of the validity of the use of “mustum,” or grape juice, for priests suffering from alcoholism or for some other medical reason was finally resolved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1994 in a letter signed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Among other things this letter stated:
“A. The preferred solution continues to be communion ‘per intinctionem,’ or in concelebration under the species of bread alone.
“B. Nevertheless, the permission to use ‘mustum’ can be granted by ordinaries to priests affected by alcoholism or other conditions which prevent the ingestion of even the smallest quantity of alcohol, after presentation of a medical certificate.
“C. By ‘mustum’ is understood fresh juice from grapes or juice preserved by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods which do not alter its nature).
“D. In general, those who have received permission to use ‘mustum’ are prohibited from presiding at concelebrated Masses. There may be some exceptions however: in the case of a bishop or superior general; or, with prior approval of the ordinary, at the celebration of the anniversary of priestly ordination or other similar occasions. In these cases the one who presides is to communicate under both the species of bread and that of ‘mustum,’ while for the other concelebrants a chalice shall be provided in which normal wine is to be consecrated.”
The document required furthermore that the ordinary must ascertain that the matter used conforms to the above requirements; that he grant permission only for as long as the situation continues which motivated the request; and that scandal be avoided.
The precise question in hand is addressed in points A and D. The priest in question should therefore not normally preside at a concelebration except for very special occasions. When such a situation arises, two chalices must be provided: one with mustum and another with ordinary wine.
Likewise, if the priest presides alone at a religious community Mass where Communion under both kinds is habitual for religious seminarians, then a second chalice with ordinary wine should also be provided. A deacon or at least an instituted acolyte should also be present to assure that the Precious Blood is fully consumed after Communion.
The reason why the principal celebrant in a concelebration may not avail of the permission to receive only under the species of bread probably derives from the necessity to assure that the sacrifice is completed before Communion begins. The sacrifice is completed only after the presiding celebrant has consumed both species.
This is also why the individual priest must also consume both species before Communion begins. The faithful’s exercise of their baptismal priesthood is carried out with and through the priest. Thus, their full participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass through Communion would be incomplete if the priest fails to first complete the sacrifice by consuming both species.
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Follow-up: Episcopalian Eucharist
Some readers of our May 30 column, on communion at an Episcopalian ordination, asked why I did not simply affirm that the ordination was invalid.
A specific mention of this fact would have been moot as I assumed that both the original questioner, and ZENIT readers in general, are sufficiently well formed to know that the Church could never recognize the sacramental validity of the ordination of a woman to Anglican orders.
The question, therefore, had to do with why it was not correct to receive communion at such a service. Since Pope John Paul II had authoritatively answered this precise question, I considered it best to use his very words in reply.
Another reader, a priest from Winnipeg, Manitoba, broached another point: “You mentioned recently that ‘one may attend a relative’s ordination as an Episcopal minister.’ I’ve always appreciated the old practice of not attending an invalid marriage because of the witness value of attending. Since an Episcopal ordination does not produce a valid priest, would the attendance of a Catholic imply an approval of some sort? And if not, perhaps if the person submitting to the rite is a lapsed Catholic, it would be better if the Catholic did not attend.”
I do not believe the two situations are perfectly parallel. Attending a ceremony involving an invalid marriage can signify approval for a couple entering into an objectively sinful state.
Attending, for a just cause, an Episcopalian ordination or analogous installation ceremonies for Protestant ministers does not imply any recognition of their sacramental validity and is simply a gesture of friendship or family ties.
I agree, however, that some particular circumstances, such as the ordination of a lapsed Catholic, would make it inadvisable for a Catholic to attend such a ceremony. No matter how much respect we may have for the sincere faith of other Christians, no Catholic could approve or view positively a person’s publicly abandoning the Catholic faith, which we believe to be the fullness of Christ’s Church, by becoming a minister in another Christian community.
Finally, a reader from Paris asked: “I’d like to know whether a Protestant can receive Catholic Communion or not, especially if he/she accepts the Catholic meaning of Eucharistic Communion.”
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