Msgr. Mannion's stern reply to a critic

Question: I read with amusement Msgr. Mannion’s Jan. 1 column, “Communion Concerns,” where he lays to rest numerous straw men regarding the practice of receiving communion under both kinds. But my amusement turned to concern when his “Spirit of Vatican II” ideology quickly became apparent. Certain things need to be clarified regarding his article. 

Kim David Poletto, Englewood, Colo. 

Answer: Poletto makes many good points, and I take what he says very seriously — as I do all critics of my writings. 

I don’t believe I created any “straw men” — although we are all subject to that tendency. I am a firm believer in the “Spirit of Vatican II” — which is alive and well in the Church today, despite what some people may suggest. I happen to believe, however, that the “Spirit” of Vatican II coincides with the “Letter” of the Council — and with all proper interpretations since then. The Church has been quite consistent — as my three columns (Jan. 1, Dec. 25, Dec. 18) try to show — in the matter of Communion under both kinds. I am happy to offer further clarifications. 

First, Poletto questions my assertion that it is correct to have lay people in the sanctuary. I believe that this exclusion should never have happened. Even in recent Catholic history, altar servers were “lay” people; and lay women were allowed into the sanctuary to clean the church (one could comment on that, but I won’t!). I believe the gradual allowance of lay people to assume all kinds of roles in the Church is a consistent development of its “tradition.” Now we have lay people as Mass servers (I am, therefore, all for altar girls), extraordinary ministers of communion, and pastoral assistants in parishes, women holding high positions in dioceses — even in the Vatican curia — many roles formerly held only by clerics. 

I do not understand why Poletto questions my assertion that the proliferation of extraordinary ministers of Communion is “relativized” by my more basic assertion of the propriety of communion under both kinds. The documents of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium, in particular), highly promote the practice of giving the chalice to the people. Theologian Joseph Ratzinger wrote and spoke after the Council about his support for this development. He has not said anything that I know of in the meantime — including since he became pope, the one who has final discretion in all ecclesiastical matters — that would suggest that he has changed his mind. Indeed there should never be too many Communion ministers, but there should always be enough — and these days that means many. They should, of course, be well trained. 

Poletto states: “There exists no magisterial teaching which could in any way support” my interpretations. There are in fact lots — besides Vatican II, the various General Instructions on the Roman Missal and the new Roman Missal mentions the chalice for the people at every turn. 

He states: “There is no ‘value’ of receiving under both kinds unless you are Protestant.” Actually there is! All official documents of the Church state the value consistently. This is a great aspect of liturgical renewal — and it needs promotion by education and “cajoling” of priests and people. 

The writer asks for “some brief citations from” authority. They were all mentioned in great detail in the OSV columns I wrote at the end of last year. 

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.