Use of the chalice

Question: Please comment on the decisions of the dioceses of Phoenix, Ariz., and Madison, Wis., to restrict the use of the chalice for the people. Please comment also on the intentions of the Second Vatican Council on this matter. 

Name and City withheld, Wisconsin

Answer: Actually I am a little confused by the reports I heard. In fact, neither diocese restricts the use of the chalice for the people. If the bishop of Phoenix appeared to do so in the first place, he later reversed his decision. The norms Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted sets out are typical of those of most dioceses. They allow Communion from the chalice in all the usual circumstances. 

In response to the decisions of the Diocese of Madison (2007) and the Diocese of Phoenix (2011), a number of U.S. bishops have made it clear that they consider the use of the chalice for the people normative within their dioceses. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, stated in a December 2010 communiqué that the distribution of Communion under both species should be “normative” in his archdiocese, and that parishes that do not have the practice “should implement this practice.” Bishop Patrick McGrath of San José, Calif., stated similarly in last month that in his diocese, Communion from the chalice “is not only permitted but encouraged and expected to be the norm at every Sunday and feast day.” At the same time, the bishop of Salt Lake City took a similar stance, encouraging the use of the chalice in all parishes and communities. 

While the use of the chalice was the norm for the universal Church up to the 11th century, it was discontinued due to excessive reverence for the Eucharist. This as accompanied by a general decline in the reception of Holy Communion by the people. By excessive reverence, I mean the kind of reverence that prohibits going to Communion at all. This is a false reverence, an unholy fear. 

The Second Vatican Council stated, among other things, that “The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, Communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops see fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases 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” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 55). 

The number of occasions in the United States in which the chalice may be given to the people was extended almost indefinitely by the Holy See and reception under both kinds has become the virtual norm at all Masses. The exceptions are when the Mass group is so large that the chalice cannot be given reverently, where there is danger of spillage and when Mass would be unduly prolonged, also when Mass is celebrated outdoor, in a hotel ballroom, or a gymnasium, and where there is lack of proper formation. 

The 2003 General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the eschatological banquet is more clearly evident and clear expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as of the relationship of the Eucharistic banquet to the eschatological banquet in the Father’s Kingdom” (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 Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.