Can priests validly consecrate the Elements outside of Mass?

Something prompted the following question in my mind earlier on. Are Bread and Wine consecrated validly (not licitly) only within Holy Mass, or could any priest – theoretically – pronounce the words “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” (if those short sentences suffice, that is) over valid matter in any other context?

Say, for example, a priest found himself walking through a deserted area, far away from any settlement. He had with him a few Hosts and some wine, nobody else and no altar. If he desired the Eucharist for his spiritual nourishment, could these be consecrated truly into the Body and Blood of Christ?

Someone with greater knowledge may correct me, but I’d say NO. Validly consecrating the elements is Mass. If the elements are validly consecrated (even without an altar, in the middle of the desert) then Mass was said. Any time the elements are consecrated validly, a Mass has been said. Therefore, no a priest can no more consecrate the Eucharist outside of Mass than he can draw a triangular circle. It’s a contradiction.

Canon 927 says that it is forbidden to do so, but does not say impossible, which leads me to think that it perhaps might be. And if it *is possible, then it certainly also is valid, though absolutely forbidden, and therefore illicit.

(* That is: What would it mean for it to be possible to confect the Eucharist but for it to be *invalid *all other things being equal?

Can. 927 It is absolutely forbidden, even in extreme urgent necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the eucharistic celebration.

:twocents:
tee
Who Is Not A Canon Lawyer

Techically, it would be possible for a priest to stand in bread aisle of a grocery store and recite the Eucharistic Prayer with the intent of confecting all valid matter to the Eucharist.

It would be grossly sacreligious (and thus, as tee notied, forbidden)

But not impossible.

And no, Pietro, it would not be a Mass, the Mass is an official prayer of the Church. And that would most certainly NOT be a prayer of the Church.

It still would be a valid confection of the Eucharist.

Personally, I tend to think it wouldn’t be “valid” (to use Western terminology). In addition to matter and form, there is also the matter of intention, that is, the priest must intend what the Church intends. In this circumstance, the Church has spoken clearly that such action is absolutely forbidden even in the case of “necessity” and ergo, it seems to me that makes the Church’s intent clear.

FrDavid96, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Hello,

Yes, that is what the Code says and so it does mean that it could be valid. To go into more depth would get into areas of Sacramental Theology and drilling into the intention of the priest. Nobody would question the validity of the consecration when the priest is in prison and only has time to say the words of consecration with his crust of bread and few drops of wine, before he’s led off to the execution about which he was just informed. He’s doing all he can to celebrate the Sacrifice and receive the Sacrament with devotion. It’s valid. But, if it’s a goofball, apostate, laicized priest walking past the bakery, his words will most likely be meaningless and without effect. In between those examples, there is a lot of room for variation. Sometimes, validity will be certain or at least likely. Other times, not.

For the OP’s scenario–that priest should attempt to place his consecration into as complete a Mass as he is able. It is for such situations that priests attempt to commit at least one complete Mass to memory. I would think that he should attempt this only if he considered it necessary and had the whole Mass in memory. (On that point, I don’t know why it would ever be necessary).

Dan

Necessary in China when priests are being hunted.

Necessary in the caves of Ireland when the…persecutors were following groups of Catholics who went for walks to caves in shifts, three or for people at a time.

Necessary in POW and concentration camps.

I can’t think of more…

As I said, someone with more knowledge could correct me, apparently you are that person. Although, your answer does lead to the question, when is a Mass not a Mass? IOW, if just consecrating the Eucharist isn’t enough to have a Mass, then how many of the prayers for the Mass must be said for a Mass to be said? If a priest says the whole Mass, but leaves off the Kyrie has he not said Mass? What if he says the first two lines of the Kyrie but not the third? At what point does it cease to be a Mass at all (rather than being a Mass, but an incomplete - and therefore illicit - Mass)?

There are 2 different issues of “intent” here.
One is the intent to actually consecrate; that means the intent to actually cause (really, God causes) the bread to become the Body.
the other is the intent to follow the ritual of the Church—to do what’s written in the Missal.

To answer the OPs question, the type of “intent” needed is that the priest intends to actually consecrate the Eucharist (“as the Church does”) but the intent to properly follow the ritual isn’t required for validity. It’s an obligation on the part of the priest, but not for validity.

More practically:

If a priest is at the dinner table, people are discussing the Last Supper. The priest says the words “This is My Body…” the bread is not consecrated, because the priest did not intend to do so, he merely intended to have a conversation. We say the same for many of the other typical examples: a priest in a bakery, or a priest who plays the part of a priest in a play/movie.

In the OPs scenario, the priest actually could consecrate the Eucharist. It would be valid, but it would also be a serious offense (canon 927).

Note: I’m typing this as I’m doing many other things in the office (going back and forth) so if I jump around or was ambiguous, get back to me.

Father,
Is it really sufficient intent to simply will bread and wine to be transformed into the body and blood of Christ if the intent is completely and utterly devoid of any intention to offer the holy sacrifice of the mass? I think that was Malphono’s point. It is not that a priest must follow all of the rubrics for a valid confection (though certainly he must for a licit confection!), but he must have the intent to do what the Church does, and to me it seems that the intent of the Church (and ultimately of Christ) is much more than simply transforming bread and wine in any context…it must be within the context of the august sacrifice. Brendan suggested that a priest muttering “this is my body” over bread at a grocery store could validly confect the Eucharist, but I would think such a priest would be 1) mentally ill to attempt such a thing and 2) intending to do something completely alien to the mind of the Church. Yes, Trent defined that “this is my body” and “this is my blood” are the necessary words, the necessary form, but isn’t that whole definition dependent upon the context of the holy sacrifice of the mass?

I know that our Eastern brothers and sisters would certainly struggle with this argument. As far as the Orthodox are concerned, if the divine liturgy is not celebrated, the Eucharist is not present. Period.

Thanks for all the helpful answers. :slight_smile: Someone brought up those scheduled for execution, those persecuted and prisoners of war. That is what I really meant by my admittedly rather unrealistic situation. I read stories of priests who smuggled hosts into Soviet Russia (I’m not quite sure if Fr Pacwa was among them, but his name comes to mind), and some who had a managed to get a few drops of wine into prison to consecrate them.

Another slightly more realistic example could be the case of a person caught in a car accident. A priest carrying unconsecrated hosts walks by and wants to give him the Viaticum. Canon Law would forbid him to consecrate the hosts, but he could still validly do so, from what I have read here?

That more-or-less covers what my intention was to say. :wink:

Understood about the “intent” but following on what twf said earlier, let’s look at it from a slightly different perspective. In CIC canon 927 (and elsewhere) the Church makes it abundantly clear that her intention is not confect (to use Western terminology) the Eucharist in such a circumstance and in such a way. As I read it, the circumstance cited was not in extremis (where accommodation for what constitutes a “Eucharistic liturgy” are made by the Church, and we needn’t visit that here) but merely of convenience or, if you will, fancy. Something of a case of the “magic words syndrome” that I’ve posted about before.

IOW, while the priest’s personal intent may be to confect the Eucharist, it seems to me that by virtue of the strong condemnation of such a practice in the given circumstances, the Church is saying that her intent is otherwise and that the Eucharist is not be confected that way. If the priest’s intent and the Church’s intent are not in sync it still seems to me that the action was invalid.

Actually, it is.
I know it sounds difficult to accept. What we have to keep in mind that the Church says very clearly “do NOT do this…” It’s like many things in secular life. There are plenty of things that we have the ability to do, but it’s still wrong to do them.

I think that was Malphono’s point. It is not that a priest must follow all of the rubrics for a valid confection (though certainly he must for a licit confection!), but he must have the intent to do what the Church does, and to me it seems that the intent of the Church (and ultimately of Christ) is much more than simply transforming bread and wine in any context…it must be within the context of the august sacrifice.

I see what you’re getting at, but the context isn’t required for validity. A priest is required to follow the Missal for a complete Mass. There’s no doubt about this. But still, if he attempts consecration outside of Mass, it still happens.

Brendan suggested that a priest muttering “this is my body” over bread at a grocery store could validly confect the Eucharist,

Yes, he could. But remember that just because he can do it, doesn’t mean he should do it. After all, someone could also go through the bread aisle, open every package and throw each loaf onto the floor. We all know that no one should do such a thing, but we likewise accept that a person has the ability to do it.

but I would think such a priest would be 1) mentally ill to attempt such a thing and 2) intending to do something completely alien to the mind of the Church. Yes, Trent defined that “this is my body” and “this is my blood” are the necessary words, the necessary form, but isn’t that whole definition dependent upon the context of the holy sacrifice of the mass?

No, it’s not dependent on context; not for the sake of validity.

I know that our Eastern brothers and sisters would certainly struggle with this argument. As far as the Orthodox are concerned, if the divine liturgy is not celebrated, the Eucharist is not present. Period.

Let’s keep in mind that no one is actually suggesting that such a thing would be right and proper.

It’s just a hypothetical situation. Defending the possibility that it “could” be done is not in the least way defending any priest who might do it.

All I can do is explain what the words mean.

When the Church says “the intent to do at the Church does” those words do not refer to following the proper ritual. Yes, the Church demands that, but it’s dealt with elsewhere.

Matter is one thing. Form is one thing. Intent is one thing.

“Form” and “Intent” are 2 different criteria—and both are necessary for validity.
What’s happening here is that the 2 different criteria are being merged into requiring “intent to follow the form.”

Following the ritual is required for the form, but not for the intent.

And even when we do discuss form (because I anticipate that might be next), what’s necessary is the minimal or essential form (which the Church has already decided is “This is My Body”)

Sorry, FrDavid, but twf basically had it right: what I meant has nothing whatsoever to do with proper ritual. It is exactly and specifically the intent of the Church.

For example, we agree that the Church does not intend for the Eucharist to be confected in your dining room chat scenario. And suppose the priest, for whatever bizarre reason, does intend to confect it. The “form” (albeit minimal) is there. The “matter” is also there, along with a validly ordained priest. So it comes down to intent. Again, it strikes me that the intent of the priest must be in sync with the intent of the Church.

Father already explained this isn’t so. Do you have any documentation from the Church to back up your claim that more is needed than intent to consecrate?

What I’m trying to do here is explain the vocabulary. You’re confusing 2 different uses of the word “intent.” I realize that you say you aren’t doing that, in the beginning of your post, but then at the end that’s just what you are doing.

The intent to consecrate is not the same thing as the intent to follow the proper ritual (in its completeness).

If I, as a priest, am sitting at the dinner table and we’re discussing the Last Supper, and in the course of that, I just happen to say “This is my body” (intentionally not capitalized) the bread the just happens to be there is merely bread. My intention there is simply to converse, so there’s no chance that it’s consecrated.

On the other hand if I have some bread in front of me and I say those words, and I do have the intent to change that bread into the Body of Christ, then the consecration happens. I would be guilty of all kinds of things. I would be in the wrong. But the Body of Christ would be there nonetheless.

To “prove” this, all we need to do is look at the fact that the Church forbids such a consecration. Look at canon 927. The Church would not forbid something that’s impossible. Given that it’s forbidden, we know that it is at least possible for a priest do to this.
Can. 927 It is absolutely forbidden, even in extreme urgent necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the eucharistic celebration.
The Church doesn’t mention “simulated consecration” but instead “it is forbidden…to consecrate…outside the eucharistic celebration.”

Actually, I’m not, but never mind that. But then, as was expressed earlier

so perhaps its simply because I’m an Oriental and have never had much affinity for Western expression, whether theological or canonical.

Anyway, unfortunately it looks like we’re on the Merry-Go-Round here, and while I won’t use the “let’s agree to disagree” line, I will respectfully bow out of this thread now. :slight_smile:

I remember I once asked an FSSP priest why it is that faculties are required for a priest to validly absolve, yet any priest can, according to the Latin tradition, validly confect the Eucharist - even if he is suspended from ministry, excommunicated, doesn’t follow the proper ritual, etc. etc. The priest responded that the celebration of the Eucharist is fundamentally intrinsic to the very being of a priest…it is part of what he is, ontologically, by virtue of his ordination. As a priest he can confect the Eucharist just as surely as I, as a man, can think or speak or feel. In many contexts a priest doing so could be gravely wrong, a horrible affront to the Lord, but by Christ’s will he retains the power to do so. Is this what you’re getting at Father?
I share the same struggles that Malphono does, as outlined in my earlier post, but perhaps this helps shed some light on the traditional Latin understanding of the matter.

:thumbsup:

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