Sanity on the Cup from Archbishop Schnurr

Ed. note: Archbishop Dennis Schnurr sent this letter to priests of the archdiocese of Cincinnati on October 21, 2011.

Dear Brothers in Holy Orders,

Following the convocation yesterday, several priests asked me about the situation in the Dioceses of Phoenix and Madison where a decision was reached that Holy Communion under both kinds should be discontinued because it seemed that the indult allowing the practice in the United States had expired.

Having contacted the Secretariat for Divine Worship at the USCCB, I was informed that it is not a matter of the indult expiring. Rather the indult has been supplanted by The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (283) which states:

The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which are also to be observed in the churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest to whom a community has been entrusted as its own shepherd, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and that there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or for some other cause.

In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Communion under both kinds is permitted whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priests provided that the conditions in the aforementioned paragraph have been satisfied.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr
Archbishop of Cincinnati


  1. Bravo!
    The “excuse” that the indult has expired can no longer be used to limit the cup.
    The diocesan newspaper in Madison explicitly stated that the cup was limited because of the indult. So now that we know this will the diocese of Madison now reverse it’s decision? A test of honesty.

    1. Dr. Dale and others,

      The diocesan newspaper in Madison said no such thing. The only mention of the indult was in a parish bulletin – this is the hilarity of this whole matter in my mind!

      As I understand, at a priest gathering the bishop told pastors to start moving in the direction of catechizing and increased reverence in a whole slew of matters at Mass. With regard to Communion, he mentioned to them what had happened in Phoenix, and talked about the documents from V2 to the present GIRM with regard to communion under both kinds, then asked them to teach and move at their own pace at each parish, towards decreasing the frequency of both kinds.

      The result? One pastor wrote to his congregation about his interpretation of the bishop’s words and moved at the pace he believed his parishioners could handle. Suddenly a parish bulletin became an edict from an autocratic dolt of a bishop who just wants to keep communion from Grandma – so let the comment boxes go wild with condemnation! 😛

      It’s funny but sad to see the way Satan gets us working against each other. A bishop says to his pastors – be pastoral – and is judged to be just the opposite.

      Anyway, this would seem to be the one and only thing that the Madison Bishop or the diocese said:

      Jim Y – Madtown, WI

      1. Jim, the “one pastor” was the pastor of the cathedral parish.

        Yes, Dale was incorrect in saying it was in the diocesan newspaper. It was in the cathedral parish bulletin. The pastor got his information from a meeting of priests with the bishop. Presumably this cathedral pastor is pretty keen on representing fairly what the bishop was saying at that time, hm? About the mystery indult and all?

        Now, if the bishop didn’t mean that, I’m glad, and I’m glad he has clarified his position, but the report was made in good faith and is hardly a mean-spirited fantasy. Also I notice you agree that the request was to start moving in the direction of less frequent use of communion under both forms. Not more catechesis. Not improved practice. Not better piety. Less frequent use!

        Check it out here.

        BTW, I’d never say “it’s funny but sad the way Satan gets” people like you to whitewash things. Be careful. If you speak too confidently for Satan’s activities, people will think you have insider knowledge! 😉

      2. Rita,

        I was trying to find the truth in this matter since I’m actually a parishioner (admittedly not at the cathedral-less cathedral parish) affected by what the bishop teaches here and by all the misinformation that is floating about.

        Someone who knows I’ve been interested in this issue pointed me to this website and I thought it might be a place where people would be interested in reading what the bishop actually wrote (I linked to it above). Between writing my post above and this one I took a look around the site (including the comments on another story in which some even make claims that our bishop literally has mental impairments) and I’m thinking I’ll just leave the issue alone on this site. That’s what I get for speaking before listening.

        You can choose to read what the bishop actually said or not. I’m not going to get into an argument over what you want the bishop to have said. I read what Msgr. Holmes wrote and I don’t doubt that when he heard the bishop talk about the then-recent Phoenix thing, that’s what he decided to emphasize. If it were the case, then it would have been important. But from the priests I’ve talked to, the communion part was only one of several points the bishop made on reverence and the Mass. As my pastor said, the unfortunate thing is that Msgr’s bulletin somehow made big news before the priests could even get started (though at our parish on species was already the usual thing, with certain exceptions).

        If the way this whole matter has spun out based upon misunderstandings and half-truths, and some of the condemnations I read on this and other sites are not a result of original sin, then I simply can’t explain it – that’s all.

        Thanks for having me.

  2. Keep in mind, however, the first part of that paragraph, namely that the Dioscean Bishop is allowed to establish “norms” for his diocese. Thus either of the two aforementioned bishops are perfectly within their rights to restrict the cup to the laity, and have done so. So don’t expect anything to change in Madison, or Phoenix, any time soon.

    1. Agreed, but the reason given in the Madison diocesan paper for restricting the cup was specifically because the indult had expired. Bp Morlino can restrict the cup but will he come up with another reason now?

      1. Such as “profanation” of the sacrament by liberals and others who have yet to establish their “orthodoxy” and fidelity to the “magisterium”? Perhaps,the next step will be for the bishops of Phoenix and Madison to issue Church of Scotland-style communion tokens to the “redeemed”.

      2. Whoa Dunstan. Take a deep breath.
        Is this what Bp Morlino stated as the reason for limiting the cup? No. Rather, that is your spin.
        Perhaps, the next step, as you say, is for you to apologize for judging others and making such scandalous claims.

        If you can’t then may I suggest blogging over at WDTPRS.

      3. Dr. Dale, you asked “will he come up with another reason now”, and Dunstan suggested one possible other reason. He didn’t say it was the bishop’s reason.

        Take a deep breath. 🙂

      4. Jeffery, am I to assume you accept profanation by liberals as a valid reason?: “profanation” of the sacrament by liberals and others who have yet to establish their “orthodoxy” and fidelity to the “magisterium”

        You see this same stuff at other sites like WDTPRS, etc.

        Rita, I hope he was just kidding and it was all tongue and cheek. I will wait to see if he responds but until then I will keep an open mind and heart because that is what liberals and others who have yet to establish their “orthodoxy” and fidelity to the “magisterium do :).

      5. Dr. Dale, calm down. Dunstan was being sarcastic, ironic, whatever you want to call it. It was black humor.

        Like Rita, I don’t think Dunstan was being serious. So no, you should not assume I think the “reason” he gave is valid; I don’t. He was sarcastically insinuating that the bishop might be the sort of person who thinks that it IS a valid reason, but no, I don’t think the bishop believes that.

        I apologize for the remark I made a few weeks back about where the skulls of doctors would be in Hell. It was unnecessary, inappropriate, and more aggressive than I intended it to be.

      6. No need to apologize Jeff, no offense taken at all. Did you see Rita’s Motivational Poster? It’s hilarious.

  3. As a parishioner in the diocese of Madison, I have heard from HIGHLY unofficial and unconfirmed sources that Bishop Morlino does not now intend to move forward with restrictions on the cup any time soon, perhaps because the matter of the supposed indult has been clarified for him. I don’t expect an official announcement to that effect, though.

    1. Or perhaps because of all the bad publicity?
      His letter talked about “moving in this direction” but didn’t give specifics, so he did leave himself some room to back up. It seems clear the cathedral will eliminate the cup, though. Or has that changed? As long as pastors can still exercise the option in Madison, this is good news.

      1. I should perhaps clarify that what I’m hearing (again, unofficially) is that there is “no deadline” for implementing the change.

  4. Why would any bishop in his right mind write a letter to the BCL requesting input on such a thing. Doesn’t he have the backbone to do the right thing on his own authority rather than hide behind the apron strings?

    1. Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      1. One of my favorite poems to use in history class. Very apt for current, mediocre episcopal personnel and their convulted decisions or non-decisions.

    2. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t? The two bishops who decide to restrict Communion under both kinds are blog-flogged, and now Archbishop Schnurr who decides to seek clarification from the USCCB has no backbone and is out of his mind?

      1. Yes. Damned if you do when you shouldn’t have.
        And damned when you don’t because you’ve already damned yourself.
        What was the point of your question mark? An absence of backbone?

      2. In response to Jeffrey’s claim that these bishops have been “blog flogged” — I feel I should answer, because I’ve written posts on both of these men’s decisions, both here and at Commonweal, and I must take exception to that characterization.

        First of all, in the comboxes there are always those who say intemperate things, both pro and con. It goes both ways. If you think these bishops haven’t had people applauding their decisions and praising them as well, you haven’t been reading.

        Second, reasons were given that were not sound. Erroneous claims were being made in support of the decision. And serious confusion was being introduced. If you don’t think so, consider the fact that priests have been asking their bishops for clarification precisely because of the MISINFORMATION or dare I say DISINFORMATION being disbursed as the rationale for a significant liturgical change.

        Under such circumstances, it’s irresponsible NOT to question such rationales. Indeed, it’s valuable and important to call attention to them and to oppose them with such information and arguments as may be relevant.

        For the record, I do not blame Archbishop Snurr for checking with the USCCB before reiterating his decision based on what he believed to be the correct information. What he is doing, it seems to me, is attempting to demonstrate that he is not ignoring the “expiring indult” argument, but has investigated it.

        The readers of Pray Tell should know that this responds to people who have been reading other blogs that have hurrahed over the decision, and affirmed it. Surely you know that there is a cadre of people who will now call into question any bishop who continues to permit Communion under both forms, don’t you? Surely you know that Cincinnati has its full share of “police” who are eager to complain over any real or imagined infractions of the rules?

      3. Rita,

        FWIW, I read Jeffrey’s comment as largely address to the criticisms aimed at Bishop Schnurr. As you indicate, it does seem a bit silly to “flog” him for consulting the USCCB.

      4. Thanks, Rita – well said again.

        Example – Olmsted’s reasons stated that by restricting the cup (chalice), Phoenix would be more in conformity with the rest of the world and that this exception was ended in 2005.

        Facts – the indult ended because the “exception” for five english speaking nations has now become the norm in the GIRM for the whole word. (doesn’t sound much like a failed practice?).
        Many nations and conferences have allowed communion under both kinds (his generalization is just that) for wuite some time.
        So, what we now know through USCCB clarification is that most of the reasons Olmsted stated were based upon his misinterpretation; getting the basic facts backwards, etc.

        Some of his staff even responded to direct e-mail requests for clarifications with even more “extreme” justifications – example – this decision highlights the OT High Priest tradition.

      5. Gerard, I don’t understand how my use of a question mark evoked your question to me: “An absence of backbone?” I don’t see how the ? could stand for an absence of backbone on my part.

        The ? at the end of my post was part to capture the inflection in my voice as I mentally read what I was writing — perhaps I should have included a ! as well. It was to express my incredulity at saying the Bishop has no backbone and is not in his right mind for asking clarification about the “indult” issue.

        I had in my mind the construction, “First ‘a’, now ‘b’?” Perhaps I used the ? improperly. If so, my apologies.

      6. Rita, I’m aware people have praised the two bishops who have restricted Communion under both kinds. (I read WDTPRS, The Curt Jester, etc.)

        But my comment was addressed to the reception this issue has received here at Pray Tell, where the majority of the commenters have not praised those bishops’ decisions, and now where Schnurr is under fire from some commenters: thus, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Forgive me, if you will, for my rhyming flourish of “blog flog”, which was over-the-top.

        For my part, I’m glad you do not blame Schnurr for seeking clarification from the USCCB.

    3. Father Blue,

      I am surprised by your call for Bishops to use their authority without consultation. This is exactly what the bishops of Phoenix and Madison are doing. Of course in this case, they are not doing the right thing, but the right thing is in the eye of the beholder. We would be better off with a more collegial governance (actually, we will disappear if we do not build one). I say kudos to bishops who ask around before taking decisions.

  5. Before anyone gets too excited, the very next paragraph of the Norms for this in the USA of the paraphrase above states and this is a direct and literal quote:

    “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 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.

    Norms established by the diocesan bishop must be observed wherever the Eucharist is celebrated in the diocese, ‘which are also to be observed in churches or religious and at celebrations with small groups.'”

    So it seems that the pastor has an important role too from the quote in the article, more specifically:

    “The Diocesan Bishop also has the faculty to allow communion under both kinds, whenever it seems appropriate to the Priest to whom charge of a given community has been entrusted as [its] own pastor…”

    So who decides? Not only the common chalice, but what about intinction which is now a viable option as made clear in the “Norms for the Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds” Part II, page 81 of the new Roman Missal?

    BTW: my parish has the common chalice at every Mass for the congregation both on Sunday and weekdays which entails eight additional EM’s for Sunday and two to three for weekdays–while I prefer intinction for health reasons, I’ve not exercised what appears my right to request it from the bishop and he evidently can say no or can he?

    1. “In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the Priest and the Deacon …”

      It seems not enough to exalt Holy Orders with an ungrammatical capitalization, but also to obscure the importance of the Eucharist under a false choice in favor of those already vested for liturgy, and on the leading side of the dialogues to boot. It seems right and just to be critical of this instance of ritual overkill.

      “while I prefer intinction for health reasons …”


      But for reasons of gravity in most of the Catholic world, particles from fingertips, even consecrated ones, tend to fall downward into the cup. Perhaps we need a new brand of purificator–a skimmer that takes into account grubby fingers. A multiplication of clerics or pseudo-clerics (acolytes) should be able to cover it: two or maybe three to every OMHC. Unless, we can arrange for a suspension of Newton’s First Law.

      Then again, maybe there’s something to the Judas gesture that casts intinction appropriately in this instance.

      There’s nothing like obscuring the centrality of the Eucharist into a fussy ritualization. Just what we need: another subtle message from the upper crust that the laity are just an obstacle to “liturgiam authenticam” and they’re better off staying home on Sunday and not muddying up the fine distinctions of ritual.

      Oh wait … we’re already getting that, aren’t we?

    2. Intinction has nothing to recommend it. It’s a bastardization of liturgical actions. There’s no need for it since body, blood, soul and divinity of the Lord are received in either form and it doesn’t fulfill the command of the Lord to take and drink.

      1. Just to be clear, if you were bishop, you’d put a stop to intinction if a congregation was already doing it or you would forbid it from being done? Or if you became a pastor of a parish that was doing it and for a long time, you would end it?

      2. Fr. Allan – with proper consultation and education over a period of time; yes, as bishop, I would move to the fullness of the Western Rite – which is not intinction.

        Pastoral decisions can be made that “change” minimulist practices and can be successful. Decrees ala Olmsted or Morlino will not do it.

      3. Bill, just to be clear, as bishop you would exercise your authority in a pastoral way to remove the option of intinction which is allowed now for certain reasons in the new Roman Missal because this is your understanding of the Western Rite?

      4. Fr. Allan – my read and opinion on VII and the renewal pointed to communion under both kinds. My guess is that 80% of all US liturgies have been doing that for 30+ years. In those few and rare parishes/masses that had one spieces or intinction, I, as a bishop, would have worked with that pastor and his team to begin a process of education years ago.

        Sorry – what really grates in my memory is my parent’s very large urban parish in a large diocese whose “old” monsignor refused to educate or implement communin under both kinds based upon his own weird ideology and excuses (not enough time and limited parking). BTW – that man is now facing jail time for sexual abuse which occurred over many years dating back to right after VII and before he was made monsignor. Cases records now indicate that the chancellor and a couple of other monsignors knew about this – if not participated (alleged).

        Realize that this is one instance but I rarely found a pastor who resisted renewal that did so based upon valid, well-thought out reasons. It was almost always some type of personal piety, hang up, etc.

      5. Fr. Allan:

        Which type of intinction do you use?

        There is one where the host is dipped into the consecrated wine and placed on the tongue.

        There is another,
        at a progressive and very large Episcopal church, to communicate everyone in a timely manner the host is placed in the hand of the recipient, he/she can either consume it immediately or walk over to their “chalice bearer” and the chalice bearer takes the host, intincts it and places it on the tongue.
        This way the recipient can receive in the hand and have it intincted receiving both without drinking from a common chalice.

      6. Dale

        Self-intinction is majorly verboten in the Catholic church, so I seriously doubt Fr Allen permits it….

      7. Hello Karl,
        no, the chalice bearer (their chalice extraordinary eucharistic minister) does the intincting.

        …and the chalice bearer takes the host, intincts it and places it on the tongue.

        It seems that everybody is happy w/ it there. Interesting, in the Episcopal church only the priest communicates the host and the laity serve the chalice.

      8. Dale, I don’t intinct, our parish uses the common cup, I mean chalice and people go at their own risk. 🙂

        We did intinct maybe four times at two host (out of four) stations when our bishop banned the common chalice during the H1N1 epidemic. I explained to the people that if they wished to recieve in the hand they would not get an intincted host. The majority in my parish recieve in the hand, but when we had intinction at the two center aisle host stations, almost everyone received the intincted host on the tongue some receiving on the tongue for the first time in their lives. I asked for comments afterward and no one was negative about it, even those who receive normally in the hand and the majority thought that it was more sanitary way to receive the Precious Blood.

        It is not legislated for the laity to self-intinct or self-communicate. In addition, you would have multiple people with hands that may not have been sanitized getting their fingers into the consecrated Wine. When the Eucharistic Minister, either ordinary or extraordinary intincts, one would hope they have washed their hands or used sanitizer prior to doing so.

        But let me be clear, we use the common chalice in my parish (and I have done so for the past 33 years in all my parishes) although I would prefer intinction–my previous bishop said no to that which I think, but am not certain, is his prerogative.

      9. Fr. Allan, it’s probably too late and you are onto other postings but is there a prohibition against extraordinary ministers intincting? In the example above at the Episcopal church the communicant receives the host in their hand, walks over to the chalice bearer (eucharistic minister), the minister takes the host from the hand of the communicant, intincts it then places in on the tongue of the communicant.
        It’s nice (I think) because:
        1. Both host and consecrated wine are received w/o drinking from the common cup.
        2. Laity still receive in the hand (or tongue) if they wish.
        3. Laity can receive the consecrated wine by intinction by the EOEM.
        4. The problems with the common cup ie possible illnesses, spills, are reduced.

        Those souls of the progressive wing (like me) still can receive in the hand, and also receive the P.B.via intinction, and those souls in the conservative wing can receive on the tongue and not participate in intinction if they choose not to.
        Everybody is happy!
        (Well, maybe not everybody, impossible to please all Catholics lately!).

      10. Bill, but it’s not self intinction. If I understand it, and I may be wrong, self intinction is when the communicant takes their host and intincts/dips into the chalice themselves then consumes the host.

        Rather, my question asks if is it possible to receive the host, walk over to the eucharistic minister w/ the cup, the minister takes the host from that persons hand, intincts it then places it on the tongue of the recipient. There is no self communing. The recipient receives from the minister in both cases.

      11. to make clearer:

        … walk over to the Eucharistic minister w/ the cup…

        I mean … walk over to the Eucharistic minister who is holding the cup…

        Hope that is clearer.

  6. The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese

    It seems not to matter where the mechanism of authority lay if the bishops real motivation is their self-perceived ability to judge the faithful worthy and unworthy of the sacraments en masse. For them removal of the cup is simply a fait accomplis and all they need to find is juridical justification.

    The irony of it all is that by ending the indult and placing the practice into the GIRM it seems that the “experimentation” was actually deemed successful – The counterpoint to bp. Morino. The practice is now provided for normally because the extension of the cup is a liturgically sound practice and one that bears fruit in the life of the church.

    Sadly, however, why the bishops are gilding their cups into chalices and rearranging the communion ware, the many (read, “all”) of the world who hunger and thirst for righteousness can’t seem to find it in the church. Gee, wonder why?

  7. The readers of Pray Tell should know that this responds to people who have been reading other blogs that have hurrahed over the decision, and affirmed it. Surely you know that there is a cadre of people who will now call into question any bishop who continues to permit Communion under both forms, don’t you?
    Yes, and they are legion. One especially from a certain blog selling coffee and Latin translations wrapped in the NCR , his fish wrap.

  8. In Seattle, our AB just clarified it on his own. Don’t change anything! And here the cup is REQUIRED at all Sunday celebrations (where practical).

  9. I think it is entirely appropriate for an ordinary (in this case +Schnurr or the archbishop of Seattle) to make such a clarification, not only in a time of receiving a new missal with its general instruction, but also in light of the communications from Phoenix and Madison. And especially when it regards such an important element of our Eucharistic liturgy.

    I will support a bishop’s right to legislate liturgically (within the bounds of the law) in his own diocese, but what is unfounded, IMHO, is to make such decisions under a false pretense, namely, that the indult had expired. That these bishops took a significant liturgical element (as if any could be insignificant, but I think we’d all agree that the reception of Holy Communion would be among the most significant) and suggested a bold change in diocesan policy, presumably without any consultation with the USCCB Committee for Divine Worship, an important tool for collegiality, is unacceptable.

    A simple request of the USCCB-CDW to clarify (with Rome, if necessary) what the legislation really meant would have been prudent. And then, if after receiving news that, in fact, a change in policy was not intended, and the bishop chose to legislate restrictively anyway, then at least he’d have exercised some collegiality in doing so.

    As a pastoral minister in Cincinnati, I can say that this news was greeted by most people as a relief. It, of course, doesn’t stop any individual pastor from regulating the availability of the chalice more strictly than in the past. BUT, I know personally of one parish who had never offered Communion under both kinds, that was planning to begin doing so this coming Advent. When the pastor saw the business in Phoenix and Madison, he was among those who queried +Schnurr last week, and was relieved that he could continue with plans – that the parish was eager to implement – for Communion under both kinds on a normal basis, which is the almost universal practice here in the…

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