In his 1931 essay on The New Paganism, the great Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc warned of the post-Christian Paganism that was to come. Though the entire essay will not be treated here, for the purpose of the subject at hand, it is necessary to point out the central aspect of it: the old paganism had deep respect for tradition, and the new post-Christian paganism has a revolutionary contempt for tradition. Belloc said:
The old paganism was profoundly traditional; indeed it had no roots except in tradition. Deep reverence for its own past and for the wisdom of its ancestry and the pride therein were the very soul of the Old Paganism; that is why it formed so solid a foundation on which to build the Catholic Church, and that is also why it offered so long a determined resistance to the growth of the Catholic Church. But the New Paganism has for its very essence contempt for tradition and contempt for ancestry. It respects perhaps nothing, but least of all does it respect the spirit of "Our fathers have told us."
Throughout the centuries, our fathers have told us about our Faith@ and about the Blessed Sacrament. Our fathers have told us that the Holy Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Fathers of the Council of Trent defined the Blessed Sacrament with precision and care. Father Thomas Aquinas taught us that out of reverence toward this Sacrament, the touching and administrating of this Sacrament belong only to the priest. Our Catholic fathers at home, as well as our teaching sisters in school, told us that it was sacrilegious for anyone but the priest to touch.the sacred host.
Throughout the centuries, the Popes, bishops and priests taught us this same telling, not so much by words, but by example - and especially by the celebration of the Old Latin Mass, where profound reverence for the Blessed Sacrament as the true Body of Christ was in every move the priest made. Our fathers told us these things not just for the sake of handing down a venerable but groundless tradition, they have told us these things through word and ex-ample to show fidelity to the Catholic Faith and reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament. Our fathers told us this because it was the truth.
But the introduction of Communion in the handand lay ministers of the Eucharist shows an arrogant disregard for what our fathers taught us. And though these practices have been introduced under the guise of being an "authentic" liturgical development mandated by Vatican II, the truth is Communion in the hand is not an authentic liturgical development, was not mandated by the Second Vatican Council, and shows complete defiance and contempt for centuries of Catholic teaching and practice before us, thus resembling the philosophy of the New Paganism and the philosophy of revolution.
Communion in the hand was introduced under a false ecumenism, allowed to grow due to weakness in authority, approved through compromise and a false sense of toleration, and has led to profound irreverence and indifference toward the Blessed Sacrament as the liturgical order of our day and the disgrace of our age.
Communion in the hand is not mentioned in a single document of the Second Vatican Council, nor was it mentioned during any of the debates during the Council. In all sixteen documents of Vatican II, there is no mention of Communion in the hand.
Before the Second Vatican Council, there is no historic record of bishops, priests or laity petitioning anyone for the introduction of Communion in the hand. Quite to the contrary, anyone who was raised in the pre-Vatican II Church will distinctly remember being taught that it was sacrilegious for anyone but the priest to touch the sacred host.
The teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his great Summa Theologica bears this out. He explains-
"The dispensing of Christ's Body belongs to the priest for three reasons."
"First, because he consecrates in the person of Christ. But as Christ consecrated His Body at the (Last) Supper, so also He gave It to others to be partaken of by them. Accordingly, as the consecration of Christ's Body belongs to the priest, so likewise does the dispensing belong to him."
"Second, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people's gifts to God, so it belongs.to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people."
"Third, because out of reverence for this Sacrament, nothing touches It but what is consecrated; hence the corp@ral and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands for touching this Sacrament. Hence, it is not lawful for anyone else to touch It, except from necessity, for instance, if It were to fall upon the ground or else in some other case of urgency." (ST, III, Q.82, Art. 13)
Saint Thomas, who is the prince of theologians in the Catholic Church, who towers above all the rest, whose Summa Theologica was placed on the altar next to the Scriptures during the Council of Trent, and whose teaching Saint Pius X said was the remedy for Modernism ... Saint Thomas clearly teaches that it belongs to the priest and only to the priest to touch and administer the Sacred Host, that "only that which is consecrated" (the hands of the priest) "should touch the Consecrated" (the Sacred Host).
Controversy surrounds the claim that Communion in the hand was practiced in the early Church. There are some that claim that it was practiced up until the sixth century and even cite a passage of St. Cyril to substantiate this assertion. Others maintain that it was never a-Catholic custom, but if Communion in the hand was practiced in the early Church, if was instituted by the Arians as a sign of their disbelief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ. This same school of thought also maintains that the quotation of Saint Cyril is of unsound Arian apocryphal origins. Whatever the case, it is clear that Communion on the tongue is of Apostolic origins (that is, taught by Christ Himself), Communion in the hand was condemned as an abuse at the Synod of Rouen in 650, and the practice of Communion in the Hand is never reflected in the artwork of any period whether it be in the East or West... that is, up until after the Second Vatican Council.
The teaching that only the priests may touch the .Sacred Host, that the priest's hands are consecrated for this purpose, and that no precaution was too great to safeguard reverence and prevent desecration had been incorporated in the Liturgy of the Church; that is the Old Latin Mass.
Priests were trained in the Old Latin Mass to celebrate Mass with precise rubrics that safeguarded the reverence the Blessed Sacrament deserves. These meticulous rubrics were carved in stone and were not optional. Each and every priest in the Roman Rite had to follow them with unyielding precision.
In the Pre-Vatican II Church, when the Latin Tridentine Mass was the norm, men training to be priests were not only taught, but DRILLED in these rubrics.
Some of the rubrics in the Old Latin Mass are as follows:
These are only some of the rubrics incorporated into the Old Mass. They were not just silly scruples, but showed the Church believed with certainty that at Mass, the bread and wine truly become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that no pains were too great to make sure that our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was treated with all the reverence and homage that His Majesty deserves.
Now, when it comes to showing reverence, is it possible for these rubrics to be improved upon? A true Catholic renewal would either leave these aestures of reverence intact, or enhance them. But obliterating these without apology and without convincing argument, as has been the case over the last 25 years with the introduction of the New Mass, is not the mark of genuine Catholic renewal, but resembles the New Paganism warned of by Belloc, in its arrogant contempt for tradition.
And to add insult to injury, the introduction of Communion in the hand makes all these crucial pre- Vatican II rubrics look like superstitious sentimentalism with no foundation in reality - again, contempt for what our fathers taught us and obvious corntempt for the Blessed Sacrament itself.
400 years ago, Communion in the hand was introduced into "Christian" worship by men whose motives were rooted in defiance of Catholicism. The 16th Century Protestant revolutionaries (more politely but undeservedly called Protestant "reformers") re-established Communion in the. hand as a means of showing two things:
The Protestant Minister, however, is just an ordinary man who leads the hymns, reads the lessons and gives sermons to stir up the convictions of the believers. He can't change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord, he can't bless, he can't forgive sins. He can't do anything a normal layman can't do. He is not a vehicle for sacramental grace.
The Protestant's establishment of Communion in the Hand was their way of showing their rejection of belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, rejection of the Sacramental Priesthood - in short, to show their rejection of Catholicism altogether.
From that point on, Communion in the hand received a distinctly anti- Catholic significance. It was a recognizably anti-Catholic practice rooted in disbelief in the real presence of Christ and the priesthood.
So, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is not unfair to ask why are our modern churchmen imitating self-proclaimed infidels who reject core sacramental teaching of Catholicism? This is a question that those Churchmen intoxicated by the liberal spirit of Vatican II have vet to answer satisfactorily.
Though Communion in the hand was not mandated by the Second Vatican Council, what was "canonized" by Vatican II was "Ecumenism" - this false spirit of counterfeit unity that had been previously condemned by the Church, particularly by Pope Pius XI in his 1926 encyclical Mortalium Animos - this movement of Catholics becoming more buddy-buddy and huggy-huggy with other religions, and especially with Protestants. This movement that supposedly plays up those things we have in common with other creeds, and hush-hushes those things that divide us. To celebrate our shared "values". (Values is a subjective term you won't see in pre-Vatican II theology manuals). No longer do we try to convert non-Catholics, instead we engage in useless and endless "dialogue" in which Catholicism always comes out the loser, because such dialogue gives the unmistakable impression that Catholicism no longer believes it is the sole possessor of theological truth.
Though Ecumenism, will not be treated within this article (see "The Problem with Modern Ecumenism", Catholic Family News - March 1995 Issue), suffice it to say that this novel ecumenical spirit which Deitrich von Hildebrand called ?????? became rampant during and after Vatican II. The ecumenical spirit became the primary formative principle in the whole range of the new liturgical forms established since the Council. This is why the new liturgy so closely resembles a Protestant service.
After Vatican II, some ecumenically-minded priests in Holland started giving Communion in the hand, in a monkey-see, monkey-do imitation of Protestant practice. But the bishops, rather than do their duty and condemn the abuse, tolerated it.
Because Church leaders allowed the abuse to go unchecked, the practice then spread to Germany, Belgium and France. But if the bishops seemed indifferent to this scandal, the laity were outraged. It was the indignation of large numbers of the Faithful which promoted Pope Paul VI to take some action. He polled the bishops of the world on this issue, and they voted overwhelmingly to retain the traditional practice of receiving Holy Communion only on the tongue. And it must be noted that at this time, the abuse was limited to a few European countries. It had not yet started in the United States.
The Pope then promulgated the May 28, 1969 Instruction Memoriale Domine. In summary, the document states:
The document further says "the Supreme Pontiff judged that the long received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the Faithful should not be changed. The Apostolic See therefore strongly urges bishops, priests and people to observe zealously this law."
It must be asked, then, if this instruction is on the books, why is Communion in the hand so prevalent? An illustration can be given by the story of the Canadian bishops' response to Humanae Vitae. Humanae Vitae rightly reaffirmed the Church's teaching against contraception. But when Humanae Vitae was issued, there was a tidal wave of scandalous opposition from Catholic priests and Ph.D.s. The Canadian bishops wrote a pastoral letter supposedly in support of Humanae Vitae, but within that document the bishops used the curious phrase "norms for licit dissent".
This phrase gives the impression that there could -be room for Catholics to legitimately reject Humanae Vitae. So, whether they realized it or not, the bishops sabotaged their own pastoral letter, by giving a simultaneous red light and green light to rejection of the Papal Encyclical. When vast numbers of Catholics, then, rejected Humanae Vitae based on the Canadian bishops' compromise, it was hardly surprising. Even the most ordinary parents are smart enough not to give their children the option to accept or reject parental commands. To do so would be a clear sign of weak and vacillating leadership. But unfortunately, this is precisely what happened with the supposedly anti-Communion in the hand document of 1969.
Now, this was the age of compromise, and the document contained the seed of its own destruction, because the Instruction went on to say that where the abuse had already become firmly established.. it could be legalized by a two-thirds majority in a secret ballot of the national bishops conference (providing the Holy See confirmed their decision.) This played right into the liberals' hands. And it must be noticed, the Instruction said "where the abuse had already become firmly established". So. countries in which the practice had not developed were obviously excluded from the concession and all English-speaking countries; including the United States, fell into this category.
Naturally, liberal clergy in other countries (including ours) concluded that if this rebellion could belegalized in Holland, it could be legalized anywhere. They figured that if they ignored Memoriale Domine and defied the liturgical law of the Chu rch, this rebellion -.would not only be tolerated, but eventually legalized. This is exactly what happened, and this is why we have Communion in the hand today.
Not only was Communion in the hand started in disobedience, it was perpetuated by deceit. Space doesn't allow all the details, but the propaganda in the 1970s that was used to sell Communion in the hand to a trusting, vulnerable people was a campaign of calculated half-truths that didn't tell the whole story.
A quick example will be found in the writings of Monsignor Champlin. His writings:
Now we are at the point where Communion in the hand is viewed as a superior way of receiving the Eucharist and the vast majority of our little children are being misinstructed to receive First Communion in the hand. The Faithful are told that it is an optional practice, and if they don't like it, they can receive it on the tongue. The tragedy of it all is, if it is optional for the laity, in practice it is not optional for the clergy. Priests are falsely instructed that they must administer Communion in the hand, whether they like it or not, to anyone who requests it, thereby throwing man a od priests into an agonizing crisis of conscience.
After the Second Vatican Council a very wise Archbishop shrewdly observed that the masterstroke of satan was to sow disobedience to Catholic tradition through obedience.
It is obvious that no priest can be lawfully forced to administer Communion in the hand, and we must pray Ithat more priests will have the courage to safeguard the reverence due to this Sacrament, and not be trapped into a false obedience that causes them to cooperate in the degradation of Christ in the Eucharist. They must find the courage for opposing this novel practice by remembering that even Pope Paul VI, despite his weaknesses, correctly predicted that Communion in the hand would lead to irreverence and profanation of the Eucharist, and a gradual erosion of correct doctrine -and we have seen this prophecy come to pass. And, if the priest's opposition to Communion in the hand should be fierce and firm, their opposition to "Extraordinary Ministers" should be even more adamant.
In his best-selling book, The Last Roman Catholic?, James W. Demers said "Of those responsible for the lack of beauty in the Church, no one is more culpable than today's lay ministers. The mindless behavior of this superficially trained laity brings to the sanctuary a pomposity that is both embarrassing and saddening to watch."
Lay people giving out Holy Communion during Mass was rightly considered an unthinkable act of sacrilege and irreverence only 30 years ago, and for centuries preceding. But now, lay people administering the Blessed Sacrament is an ordinary sight in the average Novus Ordo parish church, and most Catholics think nothing of it - proving that men can become desensitized to desecration.
It seems like they came from nowhere. All of a sudden, there they were! And where they were, they were for keeps! But if you think about it, there were some necessary steps that we sat in the pew and watched develop that laid the foundation for this plague of unconsecrated hands corn- missioned by pastors to degrade the Eucharist, usurp the duty of those in Holy Orders, undermine the priesthood, and rob the altar of God of its sacred rights.
Bishop Sheen once wrote that both men and women are slaves to fashion, but with this difference he said if women are slaves to fashions of clothing, men are slaves to fashions of thought. And the fad and fashion that was the pride and joy of many post-Vatican II Churchmen, in the name of making the Church more "relevant" was the idea of lay-involvement in the liturgy. Lay people started reading the Epistle, and the new responsorial psalms. They conducted the tedious "Let us pray to the Lord - Lord hear our prayer" - "Prayers of the Faithful", and even greeted us over the microphone before Mass - wishing us "good morning" telling us what hymns we'll be singing and what Eucharistic Prayer Father fancies today.
The sanctuary became a stage. and a weekly one-man-monologue would no longer do. The bigger the cast, the better, and the gripping drama of the Mass became an amateur show. The priest, a man who had been called by God and who had been specifically trained in the study and dispensing of the sacred mysteries had to step aside, either willingly or reluctantly, to allow unqualified, out-of-place, part-time dabblers to trespass and profane His sacred domain of sanctuary and altar.
But lay-readers within the New Mass was not the only necessary step. Lay ministers of the Blessed Sacrament would not have been possible without the revolution in rubrics that preceded it: the practice and widespread acceptance of lay-people receiving the Holy Eucharist in their palms. The office of Eucharistic minister is therefore the illegitimate offspring from the union of the New Liturgy's "lay involvement" and Communion in the hand living together in the modern Church. It is a love-child of the 1960s revolution.
You can be sure there were many Catholics willing to become part of this "lay-elite" who distribute Holy Communion, but there were also Catholics whose good Catholic sense was initially opposed to this practice, but who eventually allowed themselves to be talked into it by persuasive clergymen, and the biggest ploy used by modern clergy was to resort to flattery ... to approach good Catholic men and women saying "You're a good parish member, an exemplary Christian, a good father or mother, so we want to bestow upon you the "honor" of being a Eucharistic minister."
So what have they done? They've taken the distribution of Christ's body, something so sacred that it belongs to the priest alone and turned it into a childish reward for good behavior: like a merit badge that would be given to a cub-scout for swimming a mile or building a wigwam, or like a star that would be placed on the forehead of a third-grade girl because she's the only one in class who could correctly-spell "Czechoslovakia".
It's been disguised as a reward that the good and humble in the parish accept reluctantly, and then get used to. Or it's a position that the proud and pompous in the parish lust after, thereby showing themselves incapable of recognizing a false and petty prestige.
The terms "lay minister" and "Eucharistic minister" have been used rather loosely up until this point.. because this is the terminologgy often found in parish bulletins. In actuality. there is no I suchterminology as "Eucharistic minister", the proper term is "Extraordinary minister".
When it comes to the sacraments, "extraordinary minister" is classic terminology. For example, the 4C ordinary minister' of Confirmation in the Roman Rite is the bishop, and the "extraordinary minister" is the priest, specifically delegated by the bishop in extraordinary circumstances. So, if words mean anything, as Michael Davies pointed out, an extraordinary minister should be an extraordinary sight. Not only should we rarely see one, but there should be many Catholics who go through their entire life without once seeing an extraordinary minister. But today, there's nothing extraordinary about extraordinary ministers. They are as ordinary and part'n'parcel of the modern Church as missalettes and collection baskets. This is clearly a calculated abuse of classic Catholic terminology used to introduce a novelty into the New Mass that li@s no foundation in Church History or Catholic practice.
On January 29, 1973, an Instruction was issued by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship that authorized the introduction of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist called Immense Caritatis. This document does not grant some revolutionary indult for any and every parish to permit lay-people to administer Communion, it authorizes the use of extraordinary ministers in "Cases of genuine necessity" which are listed as:
The Instruction stipulates that:
"Since these faculties are granted only for the spiritual good of the Faithful and for cases of genuine necessity, priests are to remember that they are not thereby excused from the task of distributing the Eucharist to the Faithful who legitimately request it, and especially from taking and giving it to the sick."
First of all, it is not an act of disloyalty or disobedience to question the wisdom of the document in the first place, particularly when this permission is a revolution against all the pre-Vatican II rubrics that - existed for centuries - rubrics that existed for reasons of reverence, to safeguard against desecration and that were a matter of Catholic common sense. But even taking this document at face value, it is difficult to envisage circumstances that would justify the use of Extraordinary-Ministers outside of mission lands.
Today's "Eucharistic Ministers" actually operate in defiance of existing Vatican norms.
The term "taken at face value" was used because, as some astute readers will have already noticed, the document just quoted from was loosely worded. The document had that ambiguity, imprecision and elasticity that has characterized many of the Vatican II and post-Vatican II documents. Though there is no hard proof that the loose wording of Immensae Caritatis was done on purpose, there is ample proof that the ambiguity in the Vatican II documents was deliberate. Father Edward Schillebeeckx, an influential liberal theologian at Vatican II, admitted that placing deliberate ambiguity in the Council documents was a key strategy of the Progressives. He said, "We have used ambiguous phrases during the Council and we (the liberal theologians) know how we shall interpret them after."
The main ambiguity which probably gave rise to today's proliferation of Extraordinary Ministers was the justification of their use if Mass would be (what was called) "unduly prolonged". Now, does this mean 5 minutes or 45 minutes "unduly prolonged"? It depends on who interprets it. And in instructions of this nature, lack of precision gives rise to wide interpretation, and wide interpretation gives rise to the establishment of an abuse under the appearance of fidelity to Church regulations. And once a fad like "Extraordinary Ministers" becomes widespread, and everybody's doing it simply because everybody's doing it, then even pays attention to existing guidelines anyway? It is a pattern we see over and over again in the modern Church: "Let's violate the law, and in the end we'll have the violation established as local custom."
This unlawful abuse is so well established as local custom that even Pope John Paul II, who made at least a paper attempt to curb the abuse was completely unsuccessful. In his letter Domincae Cenae of February 24, 1980, the Pope restated the Church's teaching that "to touch the sacred species and to administer them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained." But, for whatever reason, this 1980 document contained no threat of penalty to any laymen, priest or bishop who ignored the Pope's plea. A law without a penalty is not a law, it's a suggestion. And this 15-year-old letter of Pope John Paul II has been taken -as an unwelcome and unheeded suggestion by the hierarchy and clergy of Western countries.
On September 21, 1987, a letter was sent from the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of the Sacraments through the proper channels to a number of Episcopal Conferences, including ourAmerican Bishops.. on the subject of Extraordinary Ministers.
In summary,the letters (which can be found in Michael Davies' Priuilege of the Ordained) tated that Rome has received many complaints of abuses regarding Extraordinary Ministers. As a result, the Pontifical Commission officially ruled that "when ordinary ministers (bishops, priests) are present at the Eucharist whether celebrating or not, and are in sufficient number and are not prevented from doing so by other ministries, the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are not allowed to distribute Communion either to themselves or to the Faithful."
This ruling too, has been completely ignored, as will be all rulings providing a concession for this abuse is somewhere on the books. We can only pray that our Church leaders will finally come to the realization that when it comes to the Blessed Sacrament, you don't reform an abuse, you annihilate it. And in order not to continually play into the manipulating hands of the New Paganism of Modernism then a complete, formal, unambiguous condemnation of Communion in the hand and Extraordinary Ministers is our leaders only true Catholic option.
The Sacraments are the most precious gems the Church possesses, and the Holy Eucharist is the greatest of all the Sacraments. Because in all the other sacraments we receive sacramental grace, but in the Holy Eucharist, we receive Christ Himself. So, since it is obvious that the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest treasure the Church possesses, then It must be treated with all the reverence and homage It deserves. And all those pre-Vatican II barriers that prevented desecration are indispensable to the life of the Church and the holiness of the Faithful.
How often have we heard even our Church leaders lament that "we have lost the sense of the sacred." This is one of the most astounding statements a Churchman can utter ... as if it were some sort of mystery. Because the sense of the sacred is not lost, we know exactly where it is, and it could be recovered in every single parish church on earth tomorrow. The "sense of the sacred" is found wherever safeguarding the reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is put into practice of paramount importance. But the "sense of the sacred" has not been lost, it has been deliberately thrown away, run out of town on a rail, by the arrogant agents of the New Paganism of Modernism masquerading as Catholic reformers, who have introduced novel practices into the Church that demean the Eucharist, show contempt for tradition and for what our fathers taught us, and have led to a worldwide crisis of Faith of unprecedented proportions.
But for us, through the grace of God, it is no puzzle. We know exactly where "the sense of the sacred" is found, and we cling to with a fierce tenacity. It is found in the celebration of the Old Latin Tridentine Mass where profound reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is deeply ingrained into every moment of the Liturgy, and where Communion in the hand and "Eucharistic Ministers" are still looked upon in horror with Catholic eyes, and are clearly recognized as the out-of-place, sacrilegious, non-Catholic practices that they are.
This article was reprinted from the September 1995 issue of Catholic Family News - a Roman Catholic monthly published 12 times a year. Extra copies of this reprint may be obtained for $1.50 from:
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