|ROME, 13 JUNE 2006 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I am a priest in a religious community. One of our confreres is an
alcoholic and for many years has abstained from alcohol, even if there
is just a little bit in pastry. He is really faithful to his promise and
I admire him for that. When he presides over our Eucharist, he uses
mustum and, of course, all the participants communicate with it. Some
have doubts about that way of doing things and think it may be illicit
for them. (When he concelebrates, he takes only the consecrated host.)
What do you think? Perhaps might it be better to have a second chalice
with wine, as it is done when there is a larger number of concelebrants.
We are usually about five. —
R.T., Quebec province
A: The question of the validity of the use of "mustum," or grape juice,
for priests suffering from alcoholism or for some other medical reason
was finally resolved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
in 1994 in a letter signed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Among
other things this letter stated:
"A. The preferred solution continues to be communion 'per intinctionem,'
or in concelebration under the species of bread alone.
"B. Nevertheless, the permission to use 'mustum' can be granted by
ordinaries to priests affected by alcoholism or other conditions which
prevent the ingestion of even the smallest quantity of alcohol, after
presentation of a medical certificate.
"C. By 'mustum' is understood fresh juice from grapes or juice preserved
by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods
which do not alter its nature).
"D. In general, those who have received permission to use 'mustum' are
prohibited from presiding at concelebrated Masses. There may be some
exceptions however: in the case of a bishop or superior general; or,
with prior approval of the ordinary, at the celebration of the
anniversary of priestly ordination or other similar occasions. In these
cases the one who presides is to communicate under both the species of
bread and that of 'mustum,' while for the other concelebrants a chalice
shall be provided in which normal wine is to be consecrated."
The document required furthermore that the ordinary must ascertain that
the matter used conforms to the above requirements; that he grant
permission only for as long as the situation continues which motivated
the request; and that scandal be avoided.
The precise question in hand is addressed in points A and D. The priest
in question should therefore not normally preside at a concelebration
except for very special occasions. When such a situation arises, two
chalices must be provided: one with mustum and another with ordinary
Likewise, if the priest presides alone at a religious community Mass
where Communion under both kinds is habitual for religious seminarians,
then a second chalice with ordinary wine should also be provided. A
deacon or at least an instituted acolyte should also be present to
assure that the Precious Blood is fully consumed after Communion.
The reason why the principal celebrant in a concelebration may not avail
of the permission to receive only under the species of bread probably
derives from the necessity to assure that the sacrifice is completed
before Communion begins. The sacrifice is completed only after the
presiding celebrant has consumed both species.
This is also why the individual priest must also consume both species
before Communion begins. The faithful's exercise of their baptismal
priesthood is carried out with and through the priest. Thus, their full
participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass through Communion would
be incomplete if the priest fails to first complete the sacrifice by
consuming both species. ZE06061322
* * *
Follow-up: Use of Mustum at Mass [06-27-2006]
Some readers expressed some perplexity regarding my remarks that the
sacrifice of the Mass is completed with the priest's communion (see June
One correspondent asked "how 'incompletely' did people participate and
did they or did they not 'fully' participate in the Eucharistic banquet
with all the graces and merits one gains from such participation?" when
the celebrant forgot to consume at a concelebration.
Another, a layman from Canada, asked: "I thought the Sacrifice of
Calvary is offered during and immediately following the words of
consecration. [...] Doesn't the priest receive Communion, strictly
speaking, in the same manner and purpose as we laymen do, as Christ
abiding physically in us, effectual to life everlasting?"
While Christ's action in the Mass would not be affected by the priest's
failure to receive Communion, it would impinge on the integrity of the
celebration as an act of the Church.
The question of the priest's obligation to receive Communion under both
species before distributing Communion, receives less attention today
than in former times when only the priest received from the chalice and
concelebration was almost nonexistent.
In earlier times, however, the ramifications of the question were
explored. St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this point in the Summa
Theologiae (III part q. 82 art. 4). Responding to the question, "Whether
the priest who consecrates is bound to receive this sacrament?" he
"I answer that, as stated above (Q79, AA 5,7), the Eucharist is not only
a sacrament, but also a sacrifice. Now whoever offers sacrifice must be
a sharer in the sacrifice, because the outward sacrifice he offers is a
sign of the inner sacrifice whereby he offers himself to God, as
Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x).
"Hence by partaking of the sacrifice he shows that the inner one is
likewise his. In the same way also, by dispensing the sacrifice to the
people he shows that he is the dispenser of divine gifts, of which he
ought himself to be the first to partake, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier.
"Consequently, he ought to receive before dispensing it to the people.
Accordingly we read in the chapter mentioned above (Twelfth Council of
Toledo, Can. v): 'What kind of sacrifice is that wherein not even the
sacrificer is known to have a share?' But it is by partaking of the
sacrifice that he has a share in it, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians
10:18): 'Are not they that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the
altar?' Therefore it is necessary for the priest, as often as he
consecrates, to receive this sacrament in its integrity."
Several readers asked questions regarding the validity of mustum
(natural unfermented grape juice) for consecration.
In the letter quoted in previous treatments of this theme, signed by the
then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, it is specifically stated that the
questions regarding the validity of mustum have been resolved by the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mustum is therefore valid
matter for transubstantiation even though the studies and minutes of the
debate that led to the decision are not matter of public record.
In order for mustum to be valid the process used for the suspension of
fermentation must not alter the nature of the juice in any way. For this
reason, pasteurized grape juice in which all alcohol has been evaporated
through high-temperature preparations is invalid matter for Mass.
We can be sure that the Church would never in any way approve the use of
mustum if any doubt remained regarding its validity.
According to traditional Catholic moral reasoning it is necessary to use
the strictest interpretations when dealing with the validity of the
sacraments. Certainty is required and it is never permitted to proceed
to celebrate a sacrament on the basis of probable validity.
Since mustum is barely within the range of legitimate matter and is
certainly far from the fullness of the sign desired by the Lord, its use
is licit only for those who have received proper authorization due to
The situation is similar for priests and faithful who are only able to
ingest special low-gluten bread. Thus if a priest who has received
authorization from his bishop to use low-gluten bread presides at a
concelebration, then ordinary hosts must be prepared for the other
priests and the faithful.
Since the priest must always receive under both species, those who
cannot take even low-gluten bread may no longer celebrate individually
but may receive permission to concelebrate and receive under one
species. The rule would be similar if a priest were also intolerant of
any grape product including mustum.
Finally, a reader asked if Church law required red wine alone. No such
law exists. We have addressed this question in the follow-up of July 13,