What receiving the whole Christ under the sign of wine can mean (Part II)

This second installment aims at providing yet more background from the Council of Trent about communion under both signs. Future installments will then focus on my proposals for answers to the chief question I am posing: What are the most likely meanings of receiving the whole Christ under the sign of wine? Like anything related to the Eucharist, there cannot be an exhaustive answer to the question, because the mystery of the Eucharist is unfathomable.

Trent’s canons on communion under both species and that of little children from Session XXI (July 16, 1562) conclude with a too-little-known promise:

The two articles proposed on another occasion but not yet discussed, namely, whether the reasons which moved the holy Catholic Church to decree that laymen and priests not celebrating are to communicate under the one species of bread only, are so stringent that under no circumstances is the use of the chalice to be permitted to anyone; and whether, in case it appears advisable and consonant with Christian charity that the use of the chalice be conceded to a person, nation or kingdom, it is to be conceded under certain conditions, and what are those conditions, the same holy council reserves for examination and definition to another time, at the earliest opportunity that shall present itself.

The Council “delivered” on this promise within the next two months, at Session XXII (September 17, 1562):

Decree Concerning the Petition for the Concession of the Chalice

Moreover, since the same holy council in the preceding session reserved to another and more convenient time the examination and definition of two articles which had been proposed on another occasion and had then not yet been discussed, namely, whether the reasons which induced the holy Catholic Church to decide that lay people and also priests when not celebrating are to communicate under the one species of bread, are so to be retained that under no condition is the use of the chalice to be permitted to anyone; and whether in case, for reasons befitting and consonant with Christian charity, it appears that the use of the chalice is to be conceded to any nation or kingdom, it is to be conceded under certain conditions, and what are those conditions; it has now, in its desire to provide for the salvation of those on whose behalf the petition is made, decreed that the entire matter be referred to our most holy Lord [the Pope], as in the present decree it does refer it, who in accordance with his singular prudence will do what he shall judge beneficial for the Christian commonwealth and salutary for those who petition for the use of the chalice.

Fifteen months later (April 16, 1564) Pope Pius IV “complied with the petition for the lay chalice by allowing it, with certain reservations, to the bishops of the six provinces of Germany, the provinces of Esztergom and Prague, and several exempt dioceses” (Erwin Iserloh, Joseph Glazik, and Hubert Jedin, History of the Church: V. 5. Reformation and Counter-Reformation (NY: Seabury, 1986), 497.

Does anyone know how long these concessions lasted? I am awaiting an interlibrary loan of Concession à l’Allemagne de la communion sous les deux espèces: Étude sur les débuts de la réforme catholique en Allemagne (1548-1621) by G[ustave] L[éon] M[arie] J[oseph] Constant (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1923).


  1. I’ve seem to have recalled reading somewhere the chalice/cup was extended in parts of southern France until well after the Revolution.

  2. If I remember rightly, Nathan Mitchell, in his magisterial work Cult and Controversy, mentions that Communion under both kinds was permitted under special indult for dioceses in Bavaria, as well as on other occasions (e.g. the King of France at his Coronation Mass).

  3. Prof. Ford,

    I had made a similar comment in the first installment of this series before your comment, re: #19 by Jordan Zarembo on October 18, 2011 – 2:00 am. I did not know, however, that the permissions extended beyond Bohemia. Thank you for the reference.

    This is general knowledge. However, I do think that there are greater doctrinal issues surrounding the disciplinary and discretionary uses of the cup in the Tridentine era.

  4. It’s probably worth remembering as a piece of context on the concept of exceptions that it wasn’t until Ne temere in 1908 that the Tridentine marriage legislation was put into effect everywhere (and then in modified form).

  5. Paul – fascinating article by John O’Malley on Trent that captures some of what you have researched here specifically on reception under both kinds.


    The part that seems pertinent to Olmsted and his decision:

    “The bishops at Trent were typical of the Catholic episcopacy at the time. They had little formal training in theology, even though they otherwise might be well educated according to the standards of the day. If they had university degrees, those decrees tended to be in canon law. The theologians at Trent, however, came exclusively from universities or comparable institutions, and some were men of great distinction. They were not hand-chosen to promote a particular perspective but represented a random sampling of theological “schools.” The bishops did well to hear them out before proceeding to their own deliberations.

    Since the beginning of the 20th century, virtually all bishops have had the basic theological training of the seminaries they attended. In that respect they are different from the bishops who participated at Trent. Nonetheless, few have advanced degrees in theology at a time when the Christian situation has become complex to an extent unimaginable in an earlier age. Now as never before, cooperation and mutual respect are important. In that regard, I believe, the Council of Trent may hold a lesson for both parties.”

    Olmsted in many ways is more like a bishop at Trent (not a theologian; degree in canon law; your points that he seems to not even know sacramental theology well). He would do well to consult with experts in various fields before “shooting from the hip”.

  6. Interesting piece on WDTPRS about Bishop Morlino saying All are welcome is not suitable for liturgical worship because, in fact, all are not welcome eg ‘the poor souls who are in hell by their own choosing. Therefore as the hymn is not true, it cannot be beauty and is therefore not appropriate for worship.

    I think such incredulous statement gives an insight into the poor understanding of theology which bishops like this make decisions about restricting communion under both kinds etc. Any thoughts?

  7. The song aptly welcomes all of the people who will be invited to call to mind their sins and who will offer God thanks and praise. I find the bishop’s objection embarrassing. Now I happen to be aware that this particular prelate is suffering from an affliction associated with faulty thinking. Let us pray for him even as we pray for all who are welcome to turn away from sin so as to live in the kingdom of God.

  8. The concession was given in 1564 to the German Bishops. It is my understanding that \the concession was withdrawn in 1565. I am not sure of the source of this information.

    1. It has also not taught that it is not occupied by any human being. So the Bishop is entitled to his theological opinions within the bounds of orthodoxy just as you are entitled to yours.

  9. Another non sequitur.

    Whether or not he is entitled to his opinion has nothing to do with what the church has taught on a particular subject. He is entitled to it. As are you to yours. Period.

    The real question is a different one: Where does the truth lie?

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