Use of Mustum at Mass

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Use of Mustum at Mass

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 wine.

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

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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 13).

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 states:

"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. iii).

"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 special needs.

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, 2004. ZE06062729

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