New Mass norms do not discourage communion under both kinds

By Benjamin Mann

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A woman receives the Precious Blood during Mass. Credit: Mazur

New guidelines for Mass celebration do not discourage lay persons’ reception of Holy Communion under the forms of both bread and wine, contrary to early reports about a change in practice.

“In recent weeks, there have been questions regarding current liturgical law for the United States in offering Holy Communion under both kinds to the faithful during Mass,” wrote Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Divine Worship, in an Oct. 26 letter to the country's Catholic hierarchy.

“In light of these questions,” he stated, “it is hoped that the following clarifications will prove helpful.”

The letter goes on to explain that the 2011 General Instruction of the Roman Missal does not restrict the circumstances under which the lay faithful may receive communion under both kinds. In fact, the new norms encourage the practice, while giving local bishops freedom to expand or restrict it.

“Each diocesan bishop may establish norms for Holy Communion under both kinds within his diocese,” Archbishop Aymond stated, explaining provision 283 of the Mass guidelines released in June 2011.

That provision states that “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.”

Numerous news articles incorrectly reported that the Third Edition of the Roman Missal had “reduced the number of times—14 down to 3—when the chalice could be offered during Mass within the U.S. Church.”

That reports claimed that the new Mass instructions would “allow the chalice to be offered during Mass in only three instances or at the discretion of a parish priest.”

In fact, the new edition of the Missal does encourage bishops and their priests to offer the chalice under three particular circumstances. However, its new norms do not “reduce” or restrict the circumstances under which the faithful may potentially receive communion under both kinds.

Rather, they offer bishops a set of guidelines to help them decide when this practice should occur in their dioceses.

Those guidelines state that the faithful should be “well-instructed” about the nature and meaning of the sacrament, in which Christ is fully present and received whether or not one partakes of the chalice.

Likewise, “there should be no danger of profanation of the sacrament,” and “no danger of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or for some other cause.”

“If the diocesan bishop discerns these minimum requirements are met,” Archbishop Aymond explained, “he may allow Holy Communion under both kinds at any celebration of the Eucharist in his diocese” on a “weekday, Sunday or Holy Day.”

The archbishop also corrected a misconception surrounding U.S. dioceses' permission to offer Holy Communion to the lay faithful under both kinds.

In its Sept. 21 announcement, the Diocese of Phoenix mentioned “experimental privileges for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds” in the U.S., U.K., and Oceania.

The diocese said those privileges “expired in 2005 and were not renewed by the Holy See.”

However, according to the chairman of the U.S. bishops' liturgical office, the “indult that was not renewed in 2005 … pertains only to the purification of sacred vessels by extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion,” and not to the distribution of the sacrament.

Archbishop Aymond stated that the U.S. Church's permission to expand access to both forms of the Eucharist, outlined a 1984 Vatican decree, “did not expire, but rather was superseded by ordinary liturgical law as now given in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.”

In those instructions, he said, “the circumstances in which Holy Communion under both kinds is allowed have actually been greatly expanded not only for the United States but for the Universal Church,” as long as the local bishop considers it appropriate.

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