Norms for Communion Under Both Species in Latin Church

Author: CDW


Congregation for Divine Worship

It is useful to bring to the attention of our readers the norms for communion under both species that apply in the Latin Church. The Italian press commented on the extension of the norms in the new version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in April. Notitiae, 2001, vol 37, nn. 6-7, the bulletin of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, commented on the new norms. In fact in the United States, newly revised norms for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion under both species by Catholics in the United States have been approved by the Vatican and decreed by the President of the Bishops' Conference. They became effective 7 April. Last June the members approved the norms and on March 22 the Holy See confirmed them. The new norms replace the US Bishops' 1984 directory on the matter. Here is a translation of the commentary.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal approved by the Holy Father on 20 April 2000, contains in n. 283 various dispositions that extend, within the context of the Roman Rite, the possibilities for the distribution of Holy Communion under both species.

The goal of the present commentary is not to outline the history of this liturgical practice nor to go into the meaning of this way of receiving the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus; the goal is simply to endeavour to explain better the norms that are currently in force.

Text of the General Instruction

Here is the text of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 283:

"Communion under both species is permitted, over and above the occasions listed in the ritual books.

a) to priests who cannot celebrate or concelebrate Mass;

b) to the deacon and others who perform a service during the Mass;

c) to the members of communities during the Conventual Mass or in the Mass that is said to be of the community, to seminarians, to all who participate in a spiritual retreat or in a spiritual or pastoral conference.

The diocesan Bishop can define the norms for Communion under both species for his diocese, to be observed even in the churches of religious and in celebration with small groups. To the same Bishop the faculty is given to permit Communion under both species whenever it seems appropriate to the priest who has the pastoral responsibility for the community, provided the faithful are well instructed and there is no danger of the profanation of the sacrament or that the rite would be too difficult to carry out on account of the number of the participants or for some other reason.

The Bishops' Conferences can publish norms on the manner of distributing Holy Communion under both species to the faithful and on the extension of the faculty, with norms that have received the recognition of the Apostolic See".

General principles

These liturgical norms are a noteworthy extension of what was established till now and it might be timely to explain them.

The following are the general principles:

1. The numerous cases set forth in previous legislation and in the liturgical books heretofore promulgated allowing the possibility of the reception of communion under both species remain in force.

2. The occasions that were listed under letters a), b) and c) are the reformulation or revision of concessions previously admitted;

3. From now on, it is the competence of the diocesan Bishop to publish norms for his diocese on the distribution of communion under both species (and this is a legislative act that cannot be delegated, cf. cann. 135, § 2; 391). The competence of the Bishop is, in accord with the law, primary (cf. can. 381, § 1), and is not subject to a previous "authorization" of the Bishops' Conference.

4. The competence of the diocesan Bishop extends to granting to each priest as proper pastor of his community the judgment on the opportunity of distributing Communion under both species, except for the cases listed as not advisable.

5. The final paragraph of n. 283 grants to the Conference of Bishops the subsidiary faculty of legislating on this matter.

This faculty has to be correctly understood, namely:

Bishops' Conference

The Bishop members of the Assembly of the Conference may publish norms on the subject, but they do not necessarily have to do so. If they decide to issue norms, this should be because they judge it necessary and not for the simple desire of legislating. If they issue norms, they should be approved in a session of the Plenary Assembly of the Conference, with the necessary majority of 2/3 of the members who have the right to vote.

The norms approved must be submitted to the Apostolic See for its recognitio without which they do not have binding authority.

The substance of any norms could include these items:

—the manner of the distribution of Holy Communion under both species, namely, if it is to be by drinking from the chalice, or by using a small spoon or metal straw, or by intinction, and the extension of the faculty, establishing whatever restrictions may be required by the particular circumstances that are generally present in the territory of the dioceses that belong to the Conference. It is clear that the norms of the particular legislation by the Conference cannot annul the general concessions granted in liturgical law nor can they annul the faculty of the diocesan Bishop.

The general principle laid down by Vatican II applies here even if it was stated for another matter: "freedom is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as is necessary" (Dignitatis humanae, n. 7).

Diocesan Bishops

It would be appropriate for diocesan bishops to study what is set down in n. 283 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and publish a few simple norms on the distribution of Holy Communion under both species, above all, highlighting the pastoral criteria so that it may be the stimulus for a faith that is more conscious of the fact that Eucharistic Communion is a participation in the Sacrifice of Christ, made present in every celebration of the Mass. To receive Holy Communion worthily is certainly to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, truly and substantially present under the Eucharistic species, but it must be emphasized that this presence has a sacrificial dimension because, in the celebration of the Eucharist, Christ is present as offered in sacrifice and he is received as victim of the New Covenant: for this reason, whoever receives Holy Communion is incorporated into the course of Christ's self offering which is the substance of the Christian life (Rom 12,1).  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
1 May 2002, page 5

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