Phoenix Rising

The Arizona Republic reported today that Bishop Thomas Olmsted is reversing his earlier decision to limit Communion under both forms in the diocese of Phoenix.

[I]n his letter to priests dated Monday, the bishop cited as the reason for his change of mind "two primary changes in my understanding" of three church documents that govern the new Mass translation and distribution of Communion.He said he had misunderstood that the church was not denying permission for laypeople to distribute Communion, only that it had withdrawn permission for them to officially prepare the cups used to offer wine to the congregation.A specific paragraph of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal governing Communion under both forms should be interpreted far more broadly than he had done."The bishop could permit Holy Communion under both kinds, and I am exercising this faculty to do so," Olmsted wrote.

Diocesan officials have promised to release full details on their website on Monday.

[Those who missed theearlier decision limiting Communion from the cup might want to read my post discussing the reasons that were put forwardby the Archdiocese of Phoenix at the time.]

Because the move to limit Communion under both forms was linked to supposed changes being introduced with the third edition of the Roman Missal,some priests andparishionershave been requesting policy clarifications from their bishops and from the Liturgy Secretariate of the Bishops' Conference.Among the bishops, support for sharingCommunion from the cup has not been lacking.Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati and Bishop McGrath of San Jose sent outletters clearlyreaffirming the practice fortheir dioceses.Many American dioceses are happy with the practice. The Archdiocese ofBaltimore and the DioceseSioux City, to name two that werecalled to my attention, have recent guidelines posted on theirwebsites thatshow apositive stance towardsharing Communion under both forms. The Baltimore guidelines even go so far as to say:

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Holy Communion under both kinds is to be considered normative. Parishes that do not currently offer Communion under the species of wine should implement this practice.

On October 26, Bishop Gregory Aymond, head of the USCCB Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, sent a letter to all the American bishops with information clarifying legislation on the subject -- no doubt in response to the volume of questions arising from what happened in Phoenix. This documentation explained that the"expired indult"did not concern Communion from the cup, but rather the permission for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to purify the vessels.On the Phoenix website, reference to the expired indult was removed on October 27, though the rest of the FAQs document remained.

The latest news from Phoenix, however, suggests that a more direct explanation and change of course is going to be made public on Monday. (The FAQs document has beenremoved.)

It takes humility to admit to having made a mistake, and it takes courage to reassess a situation that has gone astray and take appropriate steps to change things. It's too bad things went as far as they did before a mistake of such importance was caught and corrected, but I am happy for the church of Phoenix and for Bishop Olmsted himself that things will be set right again.

OK. Now how about those altar girls?

Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press). She is a contributing writer to Commonweal.

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