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Communion Under Both Species

Webmaster note: The following response is based on our understanding of the documents relating to this topic. There is still much debate about this issue and a definitive answer does not appear to have been given yet.

Question What are the current rules about communion under both species? It appears that the chalice can be offered to all communicants at any and every mass -is this allowed by current legislation?

Answer According to the document This Holy and Living Sacrifice published by the National Council of Catholic Bishops in 1984, Holy Communion may be distributed to the faithful under both species in 19 specific circumstances. (n. 20) These include family members at baptisms, the bride and groom at their wedding Mass, and at weekday Masses. What must be remembered is that this list is an expansion of a list in the General Instruction (n. 242) which applies only to groups that are "specific, well-ordered, and homogeneous," not to normal parishes. Specific examples would include monastic communities and groups on retreat.

That this permission does not extend to parishes in general is found in n. 21 of This Holy and Living Sacrifice. It reads "Communion under both kinds is also permitted at parish and community Masses celebrated on Sundays and holy days of obligation in the dioceses of the United States." Why would such permission be listed separately from the previous list? It is because the previous list does not apply to parishes, only to special groups.

Further restrictions follow: "Communion under both kinds, however, is not permitted in the following cases:

a. at Masses celebrated in the open with a great number of communicants (e.g., in a stadium);

b. at other Masses where the number of communicants is so great as to make it difficult for Communion under both kinds to be given in an orderly and reverent way (e.g., Masses celebrated in a civic square or building that would involve the carrying of the sacred species up and down a number of steps);

c. at Masses where the assembled congregation is of such a diverse nature that it is difficult to ascertain whether those present have been sufficiently instructed about receiving Communion under both kinds;

d. when circumstances do not permit the assurance that due reverence can be maintained towards the consecrated wine both during and after the celebration (cf. Inaestimabile donum, 13-14)."

The bishop is allowed to make exceptions for specific events only if all the norms are followed and he has personally reviewed the preparations

Based on these norms, Holy Communion under both species is permitted in parishes on Sundays and holy days of obligation. But there are further considerations now that the document On Certain Questions . . . has been published.

Article eight provides several clear rules concerning the use of extraordinary ministers. First, they are only to be used in extraordinary circumstances, (hence the name). Second, the use of extraordinary ministers is not to be habitual. It must always be remembered that distribution under both kinds is not mandatory so Sunday Masses do not "require" extraordinary ministers. If there is always a shortage of ordinary ministers, distribution under both kinds just does not occur. The bishop might set aside a particular day of special importance where extraordinary ministers are used so that distribution under both species may occur. Reservation of the Precious Blood for such occurences would emphasize the importance of the celebration, and with proper catechesis, bring the faithful to a greater understanding of the doctrines of the Holy Eucharist.

Related Documents

  1. General Instruction of the Roman Missal (4th Edition)

  2. Instruction extending the practice of communion under both kinds

  3. Instruction on Certain Norms Concerning the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery

  4. On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest

You are here: Rubrics & Law > Ministers > Communion Under Both Species  Back one page.

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You are here: Rubrics & Law > Ministers > Communion Under Both Species  Back one page.

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All contents © copyright, 1998-2018
The Catholic Liturgical Library