Whether a Priest Celebrant may Communicate after the Faithful
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
In the November/December 2008 issue of the journal Notitiae, the Congregation issued an official interpretation of the liturgical norms in response to a question posed by a bishop.
Dubium: Whether it is permitted for the Priest celebrant to communicate only after he has distributed the Holy Eucharist to the faithful, or whether he may distribute the Holy Eucharist and then afterwards communicate together with the people.
Responsum: No, to both questions.
Certain practices of this kind in particular are being introduced, namely, where the Priest celebrant communicates only after he has distributed the Holy Eucharist to the faithful, or, by the same thinking, he waits until after the Holy Eucharist has already been distributed to communicate together with everyone else, namely, the faithful, as though feasting together at the Eucharistic table.
In all the Rites of the Church, an order is found which has been handed on for approaching Holy Communion: first, the Bishop or the Priest celebrant communicates, and then the other ministers according to their hierarchical rank, and finally, the people. The Priest communicates first, not because of any human superiority, but on account of the nature and dignity of his ministry. For, the Priest acts in the person of Christ on account of the integrity of the sacrament and because he presides over the assembled people: "So, as Priests join themselves with the action of Christ the High Priest, they daily offer themselves wholly to God, and as they are nourished by the Body of Christ, they partake of love from the heart of him who gives himself as food to the faithful" (Second Vatican Council, Presbyterium ordinis, no.13).
In the edition of the Missale Romanum promulgated by the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, the communion of the faithful follows immediately upon the communion of the Priest, establishing it in this way as a unique action, different from the form in the edition of the Missale Romanum which appeared in 1962, in which the communion of the Priest is separated from the communion of the faithful through the recitation of the Confiteor and of the prayers, the Misereatur, Indulgentiam, Agnus Dei and the Domine, non sum dignus.
The governing liturgical norm states: "A Priest must communicate at the altar at the moment laid down by the Missal each time he celebrates Holy Mass, and the concelebrants must communicate before they proceed with the distribution of Holy Communion. The Priest celebrant or a concelebrant is never to wait until the people's Communion is concluded before receiving Communion himself" (Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 97).
Notitiae 45 (Nov.-Dec. 2008), p. 609