Contested practice

Question: What are the theoretical objections regarding Communion under both kinds? 

Name and city withheld, Wisconsin

Answer: There are three main theoretical objections to the practice of Communion under both kinds.

1. The Holy See does not really approve of the practice. I don’t think this is true. The mind of the Holy See has not changed so radically as to wish to discourage something so frequently promoted since the Second Vatican Council. Certainly, there exists some confusion on what the Holy See thinks about the matter, given the fact that the 30-year indult for communion under both kinds in the United States was not renewed in 2005 — when it ran out. My reading of things is that the Holy See no longer wants to place the matter under an indult, but leaves it up to individual bishops to decide the matter for their own dioceses. Father Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — was a member of the post-Vatican II commission that promoted the use of the chalice for the people, and he expressed his approval of the practice. He has since then said nothing that would suggest that he has changed his mind. 

2. The use of the chalice for the people should be kept for special and extraordinary occasions, and should not become a routine practice. Certainly, the chalice should never become routine in the sense that it taken for granted and thoughtlessly administered and received. However, every Mass is a special event. There are no ordinary Masses: The Mass is the most extraordinary event that can occur in the human world. The use of the chalice flows from the very nature of the eucharistic liturgy. At the preparation of the gifts, the priest prays: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness, we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.” At the consecration, the priest says: “Take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.” One of the acclamations after the consecration reads: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” Clearly, receiving from the chalice stands at the very heart of the Mass, and should not be regarded as icing on the cake. 

3. The promotion of drinking from the chalice promotes confusion regarding the Catholic doctrine on concomitance. The doctrine of concomitance holds that we receive the whole Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity, under the form of bread alone. Thus the chalice (despite what the Protestant reformers held) is not necessary for Communion. This principle is in no way compromised by the actual use of the chalice. While proper catechesis on this matter is necessary, it is important to point out the fundamental reason why Communion from the chalice is promoted. 

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “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” (No. 281). 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.