The Case in Phoenix

Pray Tell contributor Rita Ferrone has written wisely on the dotCommonweal blog about “The Case in Phoenix.”

I’ll soon be adding a few comments here about the matter.

39 comments

  1. I don’t have a dotComm account, so here’s my comment:

    The FAQs also assert that the need to “avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon by excessive use of extraordinary (lay) ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species. This is explained in the GIRM, paragraph 24.” (FAQ12).

    That was a typo on their part; they meant NDRHC 24:

    “In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary minister[s] might in some circumstances constitute a reason either for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species or for using intinction instead of distributing the Precious Blood from the chalice.”

      1. Yes it will be amusing to read their support for the U turn.
        An institutional figure says “Black” and they say “Yes black” Then the institutional sources says “No not black, white” And they say “Yes white”
        It would be simpler if they trusted their own vision.

  2. I see the “obscuring the roles of priest and deacon” argument as highly spurious. As someone recently quipped, “the guys in the albs and stoles are pretty easy to spot.” The People of God are not so ignorant of their liturgical tradition that they can’t distinguish the priest’s ministry of presidency and the deacon’s role assisting him, from the EMs who are but waiters at the Lord’s table. Whether it is the intent of the Phoenix policy or not, it is difficult not to perceive undertones of the clerical caste attitude at play.

  3. Wow! Great blog Rita that brings clarity to the muddying of the waters by the “FAQ’s of the diocese”. It’s clear, concise and difficult to argue w/ her facts.

    As an aside, I was under the impression that the deacon was the ordinary minister of the cup, that it was his role to minister the cup to the laity. Therefore, hasn’t Olmstead singlehandedly limited the deacons official ministry? I haven’t seen any comments on this.

    1. Traditionally, yes, when communion is offered under both kinds it is the deacon’s role to minister the cup. If offered under the single form, then he ministers the hosts as well.

      1. That, in fact, is not the common practice. Deacons are just as likely to be ministers of the Bread as of the cup.

  4. The question should not be: what is the minimum (for “validity”)?

    What is the full celebration, and how much of that can we do in this particular situation, all things considered?

    At the reformation the Protestants went for ” if the minimum asn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the ideal” with the big exception of not witholding the cup form the laity.

    The RC went for, grace is a matter of validity; the minumum gives all the grace there is.

    All too bad.

    1. The RC went for, grace is a matter of validity; the minumum gives all the grace there is.
      ——————————————————-
      It should also be noted here that giving the host only as the minimum for giving total grace is a peculiarity of the Roman Church. Some Anglo Catholics do so as well, even though the 39 Articles specifically calls for providing the chalice without exception.

      Lately, some priests have been writing “the Church” has ALWAYS regarded concomitance and the distribution of the host only as a practice from time immemorial. It depends upon your interpretation of “the Church”, but Eastern Orthodoxy and the Oriental Orthodox churches never accepted this Roman minimum. Principally,because it has never accepted the doctrine of concomitance. It still doesn’t.

      1. What to make of viaticum and Communion to the homebound or ill, given under the form of bread alone?

        What to make of first-millennium hermits who had reserved Eucharistic bread for days or weeks at a time?

      2. Jeffrey makes a good point. For reservation of Eucharist to receive after the liturgy – which was very common in early centuries – it was only under one form. But concomitant (tee hee) with this, both forms were always distributed to everyone at the liturgy itself.
        awr

    2. #11 by Anthony Ruff, OSB on October 7, 2011 – 8:25 pm

      In Private worship, public values, and religious change in late antiquity the classical archaeologist Kim Bowes has outlined the gradual extinction of home reservation of the Eucharist in Rome in her study of western Christian devotional practices in the 4th and 5th centuries. Bowes notes a inverse correlation between home reservation and the rise of Roman episcopal power. Rita’s observation that Bp. Olmsted’s concern over profanation might not be proportionate to actual profanation incidences echoes Bowes’ contrast of actual profanation instances with the manipulation of the fear of profanation for ideological gain.

      I know PTB isn’t Book TV. Still, and perhaps not surprisingly, recent late antique research closely resembles current contentions.

      1. Jordan – thanks much for this highly relevant comment and for the reference to a book I must get and read.
        I would only note this key difference: in late antiquity, episcopal power truly was in the ascendancy. Now it isn’t. Bishops’ efforts to pretend otherwise only diminishes their real power even more.
        So, what’s Book TV??
        awr

      2. Fr. Anthony, Book TV is the weekend programming on C-SPAN2. 48 hours of TV programming related to books! I rarely watch it myself since it would cut into my limited time for reading books, but the programs are interesting and they have archived many of the more recent programs as web videos.

      3. Thanks Jordan for this reference. I had come across Bowes work in an important issue of the Journal of Early Christian Studies dealing with the household & family in relationship to worship and monasticism.

        http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_early_christian_studies/toc/earl15.2.html

        I had been impressed by two sets of archeological data on early churches in Ramsay MacMullen’s The Second Church: Popular Christianity AD 200-400. 1) the small size of the “Cathedral” churches and the small number of urban churches , and 2) the very large space in these cathedral churches for clergy.

        The obvious question is “where were the laity?” MacMullen’s answer was in the large size and large numbers of suburban cemetery churches and the cult of the martyrs hence the title of his book.

        But there were two other locations of popular Christianity that MacMullen had neglected.

        The first other location of popular Christianity would have been in the household churches. These had existed since NT times. They would not have disappeared. A good guess is that the many clergy (presbyters and deacons) continued to meet with the vast majority of Christians in households.

        The second other location of popular Christianity was in asceticism & monasticism. This took many forms in the city as well as in the desert.

        This journal issue is very important because it discusses the household in relationship both to domestic religion and to asceticism. It is about the Christianization of the household, especially the elite households of the cities and the country villas.

        There were tensions and conflicts between rulers, bishops, martyrs and confessors, monks, and household heads in early Christianity. We tend to get a history which emphasizes the leadership role of the bishops with some acknowledgement of the leadership of rulers, martyrs, and monks. This issue provides a good balance of bringing in the unsung role of Christian households.

      4. While none of these journal articles deal specifically with reservation of the Eucharist, the article Christianity and the cubiculum: Spiritual Politics and Domestic Space in Late Antique Rome by Kristina Sessa provides important background.

        The cubiculum, a small narrow, enclosed room in a Roman house was used for sleep, sex, convalescence, high-level business meetings, and entertainment of important guests. It was associated with secrecy negatively and positively, e.g. study, reflection and writing.. Late antique writers could look back upon the fourth and early fifth centuries , the “golden age” of elite house asceticism in Rome, well aware of the household prominent past when Christians did not worship in large public basilicas.

        This article focuses on the Gesta martyrum a largely unexamined group of martyr narratives composed in Rome by anonymous authors between the fifth and seventh centuries, They portray the lives, last days and deaths of Rome’s every expanding familia of martyrs, generally set during the era of the persecutions before the reign of Constantine. They feature episodes that take place within a domus and the conversion of a large, elite pagan household. They take the viewpoint of the householder.

        Kristina Sessa includes a review of the important use of cubiculum in the works of the church fathers and monasticism.

        Jerome and John Cassian emphasized the space’s central place by describing it as a site of radical seclusion from worldly influences, and as the place where one would most likely encounter the divine. In his translation of the Book of Judith, Jerome used cubiculum to designate the roof top retreat where Judith prayed, fasted and held vigils. In his translation of Matt 6:5-6 Jerome rendered the Greek tamierion whose first meaning is “treasury” or “closet” with the Latin cubiculum, thereby concretely connecting the Roman domestic space with Christ’s chosen site of prayer

  5. Rita Ferrone’s article is well balanced and thoughful. The administration of the chalice should be left to a pastor or rector’s discretion. I do, however, partially agree with Bp. Olmstead that the administration of the Holy Communion should be reserved for clergy and not routinely deputized to laypersons. Yet Bp. Olmstead neglected to recognize that the GIRM clearly prefers instituted acolytes as extraordinary ministers of the chalice or assistants for intinction. (GIRM 100, 162, 191). This legislation must be rightfully recognized.

    I would rather see the institution of both men and women as acolytes rather than the now fashionable elevation of laypeople to the pseudo-ministry of “eucharistic minister”. Sadly, I doubt Bp. Olmstead would rally behind my call for an egalitarian ministry of acolyte.

    Still, it is better for a layperson to hold the chalice than for a bishop to arbitrarily deny the Sacrament.

  6. @Jordan: Women can’t be instituted acolytes, but I agree that perhaps there should be more acolytes (and lectors) instituted.

  7. I do think that it is a bit odd to legislate this change and to do so contrary to what most other dioceses in the USA do. Someone above though suggests allowing the pastor or rector to decide. Sometimes that has to be the case, but once a parish has the mechanism in place to have the chalice at all Masses, it happens rather easily. As everyone who reads me knows I’m not opposed to the common chalice but I don’t like the possibility of spreading contagion, and have seen and experienced it first hand, but I allow the common chalice (cup for diehards) at all our Masses Sunday and weekdays and let the person in the pew decide what they want to do. I would prefer intinction and I’d prefer it also for the EF Mass as a viable option. I know that is anathema to many, but it is allowed and it is codified in the GIRM. However, my bishop when I asked him about it during the time he banned the chalice because of the H1N1 epidemic would not allow me to do it on a regular basis as is his right as the chief liturgist of the diocese. So that element of the bishop’s role as the head of the diocese must be taken into account and the fact of the matter is that in Catholicism in the Latin Rite, dioceses usually are congregational rather than parishes as the bishop can legislate for parishes even if other diocesan bishops allow for other things liturgical or otherwise (even how priests live and how much they make, etc). I would wholeheartedly endorse opening the official ministry of acolyte and lector (as a permanent ministry as the diaconate can be) to the laity, men or women, with a minimum age requirement, a strict diocesan formation period and an official installation by the bishop either at the cathedral or local parish. In particular I think only those who are willing also to bring Holy Communion to the sick and housebound (and properly trained in the pastoral sense) should be chosen for this ministry. It should not be just something done at Mass.

    1. Years ago, at the urging of our priest, the very same people who had organized the parish’s perpetual adoration society set up the parish’s first food pantry. At Thanksgiving they sponsored a dinner for the inner city’s needy and the Confirmation students assisted as part of their service project. It happened that the person in charge of the dinner, and therefore supervising the kids, was the parish’s permanent deacon, Jack, himself married with kids. After the dinner and cleanup, Deacon Jack diaconated at the parish Thanksgiving Mass. The following week in Confirmation Class, when the kids were asked for their reflections, one of the boys said, “I thought it was really cool that Deacon Jack, who set up the dinner and explained to us that we were really serving Jesus himself at that dinner in those people who came, was the one who was setting up the altar at Mass and gave us the Blood of Christ.” The 15 year old kid made all the right connections. I’ve never forgotten that.

    2. #18 by Fr. Allan J. McDonald on October 8, 2011 – 5:44 am

      Fr. Allan: I would wholeheartedly endorse opening the official ministry of acolyte and lector (as a permanent ministry as the diaconate can be) to the laity, men or women, with a minimum age requirement, a strict diocesan formation period and an official installation by the bishop either at the cathedral or local parish. In particular I think only those who are willing also to bring Holy Communion to the sick and housebound (and properly trained in the pastoral sense) should be chosen for this ministry. It should not be just something done at Mass.

      If a man or woman is called to institution as an acolyte, I would hope he or she would respond to this call regardless of their life circumstances. What I wouldn’t want to happen is the de facto restriction of the revived minor orders to retired persons or others who can spend whole days at a hospital, for example. It would be important to have a range of people in instituted ministry, from twentysomethings to retirees and everyone in between.

      An Anglican priest I admire greatly once told me that her first assignment after ordination involved the counseling of aspirants to the office of lector. Not all aspirants were chosen. Is this uncharitable? Perhaps not. I’m inclined to think that vocation is not only desire but also charism. One of the reasons why i would prefer a revival of permanent minor orders is to recognize that some persons have the calling and gift of “ambassadors of the Eucharist”. In all too many parishes, EMHC duty is like signing up for club baseball, and not a ministry undertaken after discernment and education.

  8. Gerry Davila :

    @Jordan: Women can’t be instituted acolytes, but I agree that perhaps there should be more acolytes (and lectors) instituted.

    Technically, Gerry, “aren’t,” not “can’t.” As Father Alan said, these are lay ministries. The sooner this happens, the better.

  9. While I understand that Father Allan was trying to make a theological point in saying that the diocese is the congregation, from a sociological viewpoint it is absurd. Sociologists see parishes as equivalent to a congregation. No one would think of comparing Protestant congregations with Catholic dioceses! In the last 20 years I have been in the same room as the Bishop of Cleveland on only 4 occasions and never met one personally. Now priests and a few staff members may experience other diocesan employees as somewhat like a big parish, but that world was completely different (in my experience) from the world of the parish, at least 20 plus years ago when I was a voluntary pastoral staff member in other diocese.

    The success of American religion in comparison to Europe is due to the strong role played by voluntarism in congregations and parishes. That is true not only for Catholic lay ministries but also for the deaconate which in mostly an unpaid ministry whose members are mostly chosen by a parish for service to that parish. There is, of course, a tension between the theological notion of deacons serving the bishop and the diocese and our current defacto voluntary parish deaconate. Some dioceses are trying to move their deaconates in the direction of being a ministry to diocese and bishop. It remains to be seen how that will work out, e.g. whether vocations to the deaconate will flourish more, fizzle, or change in desirable or undesirable ways.

    It would be wise to hold off on restoring the “minor orders” of lector and acolyte in our parishes (even if women were commissioned to these) until we see how the deaconate evolves. One possibility might be to use the “minor orders” for paid permanent ministers (e.g. pastoral associate for religious education, for liturgy) as a part of a “tenure” process that would make their jobs (at least at the diocesan level) secure. But keep time limited commissions at the parish level for voluntary and temporary paid ministry.

    1. And then it would be good to remember that most urban/suburban Catholic parishes have *several* congregations in effect, with modest overlap: groups of people who tend to celebrate Mass at the same time on a regular basis. That’s what can baffle Protestants and Orthodox who are used to the entire congregation gathering together at once.

      1. And then there are those parishes with priests who have their own ways of saying Mass. As one music director told me when I made a suggestion “I have enough problems trying to satisfy three very different priests.”

        And then there are the parishes that will not put in the bulletin which priest is going to celebrate the Mass. As one parish member said. “I have finally adjusted to the pastor, now if I could just go to his Mass all the time.”

        And then there is the repeated research evidence that Catholics experience less community in their parishes than they desire. And priests who try to create community by suggesting people move around and not sit in the same place, not realizing that those who sit in the same place at the same Mass have often done so just to have some community.

      2. The point about congregationalism is that my Baptist neighbors right next door to me have a lot more control over their pastor than my congregation has over me and they would never think of having a bishop from somewhere else tell them anything. They also have a a lot more control over how the congregation is organized and who does what. In a sence the Board of Deacons or the Vestry is the big bad “bishop” especially to the poor old pastor whom they can hire and fire as well as control and normally the pastor’s authority issues are with them unlike for Catholic priests and maybe even some laity the authority issues are with the mean old bishop so to speak, but certainly not my bishop. 🙂

  10. Jack Rakosky :

    < And priests who try to create community by suggesting people move around and not sit in the same place, not realizing that those who sit in the same place at the same Mass have often done so just to have some community.

    Maybe another way to foster community is to just do away with pews altogether. Retain benches , built-in seating or a few chairs along the walls, for the elderly and parents with small children. Have everyone else stand–in the nave and in the sanctuary too.

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    1. “Maybe another way to foster community is to just do away with pews altogether. Retain benches , built-in seating or a few chairs along the walls, for the elderly and parents with small children. Have everyone else stand–in the nave and in the sanctuary too.”

      Sorry, eliminating seating that way would definitely drive me out of a parish. It would be so inhospitable. And, yes, I understand the historical and current background of seating in churches. But imposing that kind of change so screams of someone putting concepts ahead of people that I could no longer trust the ministers who implemented without a consensus of the community, and I am pretty sure it would be a very rare community in our culture that would come to that consensus.

  11. Well here is one of those very rare communities. Saint Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic near Toronto

    http://www.saintelias.com/ca/church/sanctuary.php

    “The absence of pews also has great benefits for our children who are free to play quietly with toys, coloring books, or even each other. They can roam about a little if they get restless, knowing some helpful adult will watch out for them. They are free to kiss icons and help light and blow out candles, wandering up and getting close to “the action” of any ceremony. They learn by watching and doing…something that is more difficult if all they have to look at is the back of a pew.

    Of course for the elderly and infirm (or those who are just tired), there are benches along the wall, and people are quite welcome to sit if they need.”

    Oh! Yes they do give communion under both species. If you look at the photo section you can see a few baptism-chrismation-communions of infants.

    1. For those of you interested in more on children and the liturgy, check out this page: They have a married clergy.

      http://www.saintelias.com/ca/clergy/tibor.php

      “Tobias is a little Diak (Cantor in the making). He may be only 3 years old, but he can really belt out the Tropars (really!) His parents have been bringing him to Great Vespers, Matins, and Divine Liturgy since, since, well…since before he was born!

      The Turis say that Tobias’ music competency isn’t that unusual at our church. “Most of the older kids at St. Elias know at least as much as Tobias does. This gives me great hope for the future of our church. This is such a part of the kids, that they will always carry this with them, throughout their lives, where ever they go.”

    2. Jack

      When I wrote rare, I meant in the Western Catholic (specifically Anglospheric) context. I am very aware of the Eastern context. Adopting things from one context to the other, in a top-down “isn’t this a great idea” way, is a recipe for failure.

      1. I was sure that you knew about the Eastern context in Europe and Asia. However I have not found any other Eastern Churches in North America that do not have pews. Maybe there are some here, but I have not come across them.

        I wish I had know about this place when I last visited Toronto. I would like to experience it personally. The pictures give a strong sense of the congregation being right in the midst of the action, because the rug is where the elevated bema would have been placed traditionally. In most Eastern churches in the USA the pews force the action to be placed close to the icon screen near the front pews.

        In the very liturgical parish which the diocese closed, an ornate rug was placed in the midst of the nave. Flexible chairs in a choir stall formation surrounded it. It was used for the liturgy of the Word. Every one went to stand in the sanctuary for the Eucharist.

        The parish that is featured in the vignette has a large open square before the altar platform surrounded on three sides by flexible pews. The area can function like a bema at times.

        I like the un-raised, rug-defined bema concept. But I prefer flexible seating to going completely pew less. Let those who want to stand, stand. Those who want to sit, sit. And those who want to kneel, provide pillows, and prayer rugs for those who want to squat.

  12. I think at my next dinner with invited guests I’ll limit the wine to myself…that’ll keep ’em in their place!!

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