Phoenix Restricts Communion Cup

Well, the times they are a'changin' in Phoenix. Like those in most US dioceses, Catholics in Phoenix have routinely received communion under both species, but now Bishop Olmsted is putting a stop to THAT. Announcing a forthcoming decree, the diocese's Communications Office indicates that the cup will be shared with hoi polloi only on the very limited occasions mandated by the new GIRM or specially permitted by the bishop (patronal feasts, e.g.), and sometimes not even then, depending on whether the appropriate conditions for doing so are met.Why? Several reasons are given for keeping the laity from the cup:1. The risk of profanation by, e.g., spillage or swilling. (Swilling? Really? Is this an issue in Phoenix?)2. It's not required for salvation to receive under both species. It's just a fuller sign of Holy Communion. (Um...isn't that a good thing?) 3. It will make special feast days more special, since only then will the cup be offered. (Of course, that's exactly what some Protestant churches say when explaining why they only have Communion monthly or quarterly...)4. Most Catholics in the world don't receive under both species, so it's an act of solidarity with the world Church. (odd--I'd think that a better approach might be to help see to it that other Catholics in the world DO have Communion under both species,)5."In normal circumstances, only priests and deacons are to distribute Holy Communion; when both forms of Communion are used frequently, "extraordinary" ministers of Holy Communion are disproportionately multiplied." Ah!! Now we're getting to it. The Q&A reiterates this point:

As highlighted in the GIRM, the practical 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 (or lay) ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species.

In fact, this is why the cup may not be offered to the laity even on the limited occasions mentioned in the GIRM:

For example, let's say a pastor deemed it appropriate to have Holy Communion under both species on the feast of Corpus Christi, but his particular situation would necessitate a dozen extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. While he and a deacon would be the only ordinary ministers, it is common sense that he would not be able to judge the necessary conditions as met.

Let me be clear--I've been at Masses where it was unwise to offer Communion under both species, and so we shared only the host. But to take the cup away from the laity of an entire diocese?The backstory goes like this: in 2001, an indult was granted that allowed for much wider reception of the Eucharist under both species in the US. That indult expired in 2005 and was not renewed. While the 2001 indult clearly recognized the bishop's authority in deciding how widespread the practice of receiving in both forms was to be, the language of the request made a clear and beautiful case for the cup being offered to the laity:

Since, however, by reason of the sign value, sharing in both eucharistic species reflects more fully the sacred realities that the Liturgy signifies, the Church in her wisdom has made provisions in recent years so that more frequent eucharistic participation from both the sacred host and the chalice of salvation might be made possible for the laity in the Latin Church....today the Church finds it salutary to restore a practice, when appropriate, that for various reasons was not opportune when the Council of Trent was convened in 1545. (32) But with the passing of time, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the reform of the Second Vatican Council has resulted in the restoration of a practice by which the faithful are again able to experience "a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet."

But not in Phoenix any more.

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

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