Rorate Caeli

Fr. Cantalamessa and Communion Under Both Species

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, still preacher to the pontifical household, is a prolific author who has written many good pages inspired by patristic and other traditional sources. However, he easily goes off the rails from time to time, as in a Holy Week sermon in St. Peter’s Basilica several years ago when he denounced the Fathers of the Church en masse for their lack of charity to the Jewish people. Another instance is his treatment of communion under both species in The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Rev. ed., Liturgical Press: Collegeville, 1996).

There are two main scholarly faults he commits regarding this topic on which his enthusiasm for the laity’s communion under the species of wine seems to bias and limit his use of sources. First, and surprisingly for a university professor of early Christianity, he misleads his readers with a truncated version of the famous decree attributed to the late fifth century Pope Gelasius: “They should receive the whole sacrament or be deprived of it altogether. It is, in fact, sacrilegious to divide this mystery which is one and identical”. This is a key point in Cantalamessa’s grand narrative of how all the faithful used to fulfill the command of Jesus to drink his Blood, until the Middle Ages and especially Trent when a number of factors took the cup away from the laity until Vatican II and present legislation most happily restored it. But it turns out that the celebrated quote, known since the 12th century from its appearance in an anonymous addition to the Decretum of Gratian, is not to be found in the place Cantalamessa cites: volume 59, page 14 of the Latin Fathers in the still widely used Migne edition. This is nothing more than the first page of the letters of Pope Gelasius, and there is no reference to reception from the cup. One wonders whether Cantalamessa simply copied a reference from another writer without ever reading the quote himself in context. If he had consulted the article on Eucharistic communion in the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, for example, he would have found that just a few decades before Pope Gelasius, Pope Leo the Great had to denounce Manichean type heretics in the liturgical assembly who declined to receive the Blood of Christ, while receiving under the form of bread, as a way of avoiding contamination, in accord with their heresy which found some or all material things to be impure. Biographical sources on Gelasius say that as Pope he was himself still contending with Manicheans in the 490s, and here is where the part of the quote omitted by Cantalamessa is crucial for understanding: “by I know not what superstition”. Thus it is that Catholic writers have explained that Gelasius was only condemning abstention from the cup when the abstainer superstitiously considers its consecrated contents impure and illegitimate. It is such superstition which “divides the sacrament”; the sacrament is not divided as long as at least the priest drinks from the chalice. Furthermore the Decretum Gratiani itself referred the quote to the priest’s obligation to receive from the chalice, not the laity. Since the quote is only a fragment, we can speculate at this point that perhaps the context known to the interpolator (presuming the quote is authentic) was indeed capable of interpretation in this restricted sense: the Pope was condemning heretical priests who abstained from the cup. At any rate, the quote was a weapon in the arsenal of Protestants who maintained that Christ in the sixth chapter of John had commanded everyone indiscriminately to drink from the chalice; they used the Gelasian fragment from the early Church to back up their claim that the medieval Church was disobeying Christ. St. Robert Bellarmine provided a detailed response, and the great Bossuet used the Manichean connection to explain the quote in his masterful apologetic Treatise on communion under both species. The upshot is that the quote from Pope Gelasius has been explained by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, le grand Bossuet and countless other Catholic writers who have defended the legitimacy of not distributing the species of wine to all when there are good reasons for not doing so, but Fr. Cantalamessa only provides a truncated version of the quote which in reality provides no support for people like him who exaggerate the significance of communion under both species if they do not heretically imply that the laity are obligated to receive from the chalice.

Which brings us to the second of Fr. Cantalamessa’s scholarly errors, which is one of omission: saying that the theological reason for not giving the chalice to the laity was in order to emphasize Christ’s full presence under both species, over against the Reformers, Cantalamessa fails to consider a different decree of the Council of Trent where it is solemnly taught that Christ’s command was never meant to obligate all of the faithful to receive the cup. In other words, the full presence of Christ under both species is not the only matter of belief which is involved with the question of the chalice: it also has to do with the true interpretation of several words of Christ himself about eating his body and drinking his blood. The Reformers claimed the plain sense of these words was the obligation of all to drink from the chalice, with the consequence that the Church was in error by reserving it to the priest. So there is a fundamental issue of faith and the Bible here: the Church’s authoritative discipline and teaching is the true interpretation of the Scriptures, and she has never understood Christ to have given a strict and universal command that everyone must drink from the chalice: it is sufficient as a minimum for the priest to do so, in the person of the apostles, as it were, and in the person of the whole Church whom he represents at the altar, as St. Thomas says.

Despite the greater sign-value of reception under both species from the standpoint of the symbolism of the chalice itself, there is therefore a value present in the Tridentine Mass where the priest alone receives from the chalice: in addition to considerations of hygiene, orderliness and ease of reverent distribution and reception, the Church perpetually implies that she, not the heretics of the sixteenth century, truly understands Christ’s words, even to the extent of knowing that he did not intend to bind everyone to receive from the chalice. And when today we hear or sense that many Catholics labor under the delusion that they do not receive the blood of Christ if they do not drink from a cup, then we have all the more reason to be grateful for the form of the Roman rite codified by St. Pius V.

25 comments:

Christopher said...

WOW-

Thanks for the insight.

Awesome information, and it will lead me to some good reading!

Anonymous said...

"until the Middle Ages and especially Trent when a number of factors took the cup away from the laity until Vatican II and present legislation most happily restored it."

Most happilly restored it? I don't think so. In my opinion...from the way I've seen it done, recieving Holy Communion from the "common cup" (UGH, a Protestant expression which found it's way into the Catholic Church), is a disgustingly disrespectful excercise which does nothin but promote the spread of communicable disease (Common colds, Influenza, Hepatitis, and even more deadly diseases.)
I've also seen priests, and also people take their consecrated Host, and dip it into the cup like one would a potato chip into dip. I've seen them walking away with the host dripping Precious Blood. I've seen people wiping the Precious Blood off their hands, or rubbing it onto their clothes when it dribbles onto their fingers.

Intinction is the only dignified way to recieve both the Body and Blood. You recieve on the tongue.....or should.

I think that Communion under both species should be banned in the Catholic Church once more for three reasons:

1). It is unsanitary and is proven to spread communicable disease.
2). It is disrespectfully administered by lay "eucharistic ministers", and by some priests leading to horrible abuses.
3). It was something immediatly re-introduced by Luther and other Protestant reformers at the time of the Reformation. The way it is done in most Catholic Churches today.....is exactly the same way it was/is done in many Lutheran and other Protestant Churches.

All the above reasons are good reasons for banning Communion under both species.

Éamonn said...

Your post was both informative and edifying but did have one tiny (and I do mean tiny) flaw: Migne goes by volume and column number, rather page number. Oddly, even the end matter which isn't in columns has two numbers per page! Anyway, grateful thanks for a very interesting post.

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"I think that Communion under both species should be banned in the Catholic Church once more for three reasons:

1). It is unsanitary and is proven to spread communicable disease.
2). It is disrespectfully administered by lay "eucharistic ministers", and by some priests leading to horrible abuses.
3). It was something immediatly re-introduced by Luther and other Protestant reformers at the time of the Reformation. The way it is done in most Catholic Churches today.....is exactly the same way it was/is done in many Lutheran and other Protestant Churches.

All the above reasons are good reasons for banning Communion under both species."

Are we also going to ban the Eastern Catholics from having communion under both species?

Upholding the venerable traditions of the Roman Rite does not mean universalizing these and condemning the equally venerable traditions of the East in the process.

Anonymous said...

Communion under both species, if it is done together, taht is to say, the Holy Eucharist embebed in the Holy Blood by the priest, makes people unable to receive communion in the hand. Do not forget this.

Anonymous said...

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New Catholic said...

The "most happily restored it" is not an opinion of the author (our newest contributor, scholarly author Bonetus), but part of the depiction of Cantalamessa's opinion: "...Cantalamessa’s grand narrative of how all the faithful used to fulfill the command of Jesus to drink his Blood, until the Middle Ages and especially Trent when a number of factors took the cup away from the laity until Vatican II and present legislation most happily restored it".

New Catholic said...

"Fr. Paul", if you wish to give us your opinion on how to run a better blog, which does not cause any scandal among Traditional Catholics (though we believe we have never caused scandal), please e-mail me at newcatholic AT blogger DOT com.

It seems that is what Our Lord recommended as a first step, is it not (cf. St.Matthew xviii, 15-16)?

Fr John W Fenton said...

The original post is very informative. However, if I read it correctly, it seems that considerations of hygiene and banning the chalice because is unsanitary and is proven to spread communicable disease lean heavily toward the Manichaean error which Pope Leo the Great had to denounce.

Anonymous said...

Did Jesus command us to receive the chalice ? I think not. read what the Council of Trent said and defined on this issue.

arturovasquez said...

I think taking Communion from the chalice would be fine if there were a devout way to do it, as others have pointed out. In large churches, they will inevitably have to resort to lay ministers, and this in itself is a distortion of sacramental economy.

saint rafael said...

Besides hygiene, the Chalice should be banned for these main reasons:

1. The Church gives the impression that it has given into the demands of Protestants. Protestants want Communion under both species because of their rejection of the real presense, sacraficial Mass, and their theology of a communion meal.

2. Greater reverence for the Sacred Host. It would revive faith in the real presense and would lead to a revival of benediction, adoration, and processions.

3. The simple fact that the sacred Host contains the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. You don't need anything else.

Anonymous said...

!!!!!!!!NEWS FROM ROME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

During the Holy Father’s Corpus Christi Mass, the Holy Father gave Communion only to people kneeling at a kneeler set up before him.

poeta said...

Although I am no expert in Manichaeanism, I seem to recall that they viewed wine as somehow impure in a moral sense. If so, it might have followed that they considered it ritually impure to receive Christ under the appearance of wine.

I rather doubt that the Manichaeans' objections were concerned with the spread of communicable diseases.

Anonymous said...

Holy Father distributes to those kneeling, on the tongue.

http://angelqueen.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19776

Johnny Domer said...

Excellent post!

Personally, I think that when Communion is given under both species in the West, it should only be done via intinction--have the priest dip the Host into the Precious Blood, and then administer Our Lord to the communicant. This eliminates the problem of spreading diseases,and it also eliminates Communion in the hand. However, I'd be perfectly fine with only administering Communion under one species.

I agree with Carlos Antonio, however, that the Eastern practice of Communion under both species should be respected. I think they do it very well in Eastern churches; the manner in which they do it removes any risk of spreading disease, and it's quite reverent. My thought is that if there's no risk of profaning the Sacrament and it's sanitary, it's fine by me.

LeonG said...

This article is suggestive of wider issues.

Modern church scholarship is often quite adept at giving part truths and leaving out some important aspect of its fullness. The contemporary one about "God is love", only specifically cited twice in The New Testament & not in The Old at all, is indeed almost mistakenly emphasised at the expense of obedience to His Holy Will & His hate of certain sins and sinner-types which receive citations too numerous to mention in The Holy Bible.

It reminds me of the protestations by modernist liturgists in the late 1960s that the NO service was based on the liturgical praxis of the early church. Well..... that myth has finally been exploded.

Currently, it is time to be sensible in a Catholic manner and let the priest fulfill his sacerdotal role and put the laity back where they belong off the sanctuary. The laity were for the most part quite happy to receive Holy Communion on their knees reverently from the priest and leave the alter Christus to drink from the chalice. That is happy until a few rebellious and disgruntled progressivists decided unknowingly on our behalf that we were no longer contented with such an arrangement. Fr Canatalamessa reminds me of one of those characters. The conciliar change in fact was only "approved" by default. Some impending liturgical changes to norms were already being practiced. For example, in France & USA standing at Communion and receiving it in the hand was being carried out without any sort of approval beforehand. What about Communion in both kinds? Would the progressives have continued to carry this out and enforce its customary use?

Now, what was that Jesus was saying about obedience to the Will of The Father in Heaven?

Anonymous said...

"The conciliar change in fact was only "approved" by default. Some impending liturgical changes to norms were already being practiced. For example, in France & USA standing at Communion and receiving it in the hand was being carried out without any sort of approval beforehand. What about Communion in both kinds? Would the progressives have continued to carry this out and enforce its customary use?"

Sad to say, but nearly all the "liturgical reforms" we have now from Vatican II started out as abuses which became so widespread that the Vatican AND THE POPE, rather than act as shepherds of the Faithful and crack down and ban these practices, caved in, capitulated, and allowed for the abuses to become common practice: They are:
Communion in the Hand
Communion Standing
Altar Girls
Communion from the "common cup"
Guitar and popular music at Mass
"Liturgical Dance"

I'm sure there are more. But all the above began principally in the USA and other liberal Catholic nations (France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany) and became so widespread as to be rubber-stamped by the Vatican with it's seal of approval.

Ad Orientem said...

I find it curious that some on this forum seem to be in favor of prohibiting an ancient practice of The Church on the basis that it was revived by Protestants. This strikes me as allowing them to dictate the discipline of your church.

I do concur that there are problems with the manner in which it is currently done in the Latin Rite. That said this is easily fixable by the method proposed by Johnny Domer, namely intinction. This is the method employed by the Orthodox of the Western Rite. It is very revereant and quite safe from sacrilige due to casual handling etc.

Christ is risen!
Ad Orientem

LeonG said...

I doubt if traditional Catholics would ultimately have too many problems with intincture reverently done, Ad Orientam, but the other practices are quite candidly the result of stimulating mass disobedience first becoming acceptable novel form by default later. This is how the mob rules in secular society in spite of whichever government is in power. If one can foment adequate rebellion then the cause can be achieved.

Intincture is already found in The Nuptial Mass, therefore it is not entirely foreign.

saint rafael said...

Is there anything in Canon law that forbids pastors of a parish from implementing Communion under one species under their own authority?

Do priests need the permission of bishops to have communion under one species?

Philip-Michael said...

No permission need be granted to have Communion under only one species. In fact the permission is given in the other way, to have under both. According to Sacrosanctum Concilium the times when the chalice should be offered are really special Solemnities, i.e. Easter, Corpus Christi, etc... which was already the practice way before 1970.

I agree that a certain, less "common" demeanor need be developed in regards the distribution of the Blood of Christ under the species of wine and water. The real issue is that this is universal, the demeanor and lack of reverence goes further than receiving the precious blood. If only people were reverent throughout the rest of Mass and respectful of the Mass reception from the Chalice really would not be such a big issue.

As far as pastors are concerned, lets face it, the parishioner want both forms of Communion these days and a pastor who refuses such is going to have a real nasty headache.

I agree that something has to be done. I also do not advocate the "common" practice of reception under both species. But, the issue is a lot harder to deal with than simply waving a magic wand on a blog and making everything better. The principle is the re-Catechesis of the people. Once they understand the Eucharist better than removing the option of the precious blood will come easy. But the average catholic has a kindergarten understanding of the faith.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

If we're to do both kinds, then intinction...(we REALLY need to get rid of the Eucharistic Monster Army (I mean EOMHC's)...

Gradually it can be phased to Communion under one kind.

I know several Parishes that only distribute under one kind.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this excellent and informative article!

Br. Alexis Bugnolo

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