Disposal of Sacred Vessels

At our church we just started using gold vessels, but we have a lot of old glass and ceramic. I know that we are supposed to burn or bury them, but I can't find anything official to back that up. If someone can help me out that would be great. One of the older women at our church want the old patens and wine curets to use in her home. I told our pastor we can't do that, but he wants to see something official about what we are supposed to do with them.

Cruets used in Mass aren’t “Sacred Vessels” because they don’t hold the Body/Blood of Christ, and since these things also don’t have any significant monetary value, the pastor can dispose of them anyway he pleases, but not in any profane way. I think it comes down to the pastor’s own judgment as to whether or not the intended use would be considered inappropriate. If someone said to me “I want that to store blessed salt at home” I’d quickly agree. If someone said “I think that would look nice in my fishtank” we’d have a little chat. If the cruets were formally blessed, that would be different, but this is very unlikely.

Patens are different. Patens are indeed Sacred Vessels because they did contain the Body of Christ. Patens should be blessed (and until recently, they were not just blessed but consecrated), although this doesn’t always happen. Once a vessel has become a “Sacred Vessel” it is forbidden to use it for any other purpose–even if it wasn’t blessed. For reference, see the new Book of Blessings, number 1360. Sacred Vessels are permanently designated for sacred use–which means they can’t be later put to some other use. Canon 1171 is your strongest position (I think)

Can. 1171 Sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently and are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use even if they are owned by private persons.

Thanks that helps a lot. Do you know if there is any official document that tells us how to dispose of the old vessels? I googled it and thats how I learned we need to burn or bury them, but there doesn’t seem to be any official word. What I saw on the forums here didn’t seem to have an answer to that. Just a few threads about having “accidents” with the glass or ceramic. I would much rather be able to say this is the proper way to dispose of them rather than have an “accident.”

Is there another parish, a chapel, a mission, etc that could use them? Call your diocese and ask, since they might know.

[quote="munch, post:3, topic:179418"]
Thanks that helps a lot. Do you know if there is any official document that tells us how to dispose of the old vessels? I googled it and thats how I learned we need to burn or bury them, but there doesn't seem to be any official word. What I saw on the forums here didn't seem to have an answer to that. Just a few threads about having "accidents" with the glass or ceramic. I would much rather be able to say this is the proper way to dispose of them rather than have an "accident."

[/quote]

I would hesitate on what you've already found. Those comments would apply to something like old altar linens that are worn beyond dignified use. Burn or bury doesn't do anything if the vessel is metal or glass or ceramic (unless you've got a very hot fire!).

The canon law, and the new Book of Blessings that I already cited are the most authoritative sources. They're both clear in saying that Sacred Vessels can't be put to any other purpose. I don't mean this to be difficult, but I'm not sure what more you might need--or what more someone else might need. If you want "proof" that somone can't take it home and use as a sandwich plate, there it is. On the other hand, if the old paten is simply going to be stored in someone's home, without being used for anything, there's no prohibition against this. A lot of people have old chalices in their homes, usually because they belonged to deceased priests who were relatives.

When it comes to glass or ceramic, I don't have experience with "accidents" since an accident is something unintentional. Once a thing that has been blessed ceases to be that-which-it-was, the blessing also ceases. That's why a consecrated chalice, when it's sent for restoration, has to be re-consecrated or re-blessed. When it's reduced to its component parts, it isn't a chalice anymore.

So a ceramic chalice (even if it was at one time blessed) once it is smashed with a hammer into tiny, unidentifiable shards, is no longer a chalice (if indeed, it ever was one--I'm of the opinion that it wasn't, since it never met the definition of a chalice in the first place), it's just a pile of sand.

I doubt the Church will have an answer for what to do with old ceramic/glass chalices because of the simple fact that since these materials can't be used to make chalices in the first place, there can't be a solution (disposal) if the problem (old ceramic chalice) can't exist.

To repeat, though, any vessel that held the Body and Blood of Christ can't be put to any other use. That comes from the BB and the canon law taken together.

Questions like this about metal chalices have been posed to Rome before. I don't have access to those documents, but hopefully someone who does know where to look will read this thread and can post them.

This has been really helpful. The woman in question said as much in the sacristy that she intends to use them at her dinner table, and that has been one of my big concerns from the beginning. So I hope this will persuade our pastor that this is not an acceptable practice.

Fr. David one of your statements really piqued my interest.
"a ceramic chalice,… it ever was one–I’m of the opinion that it wasn’t, since it never met the definition of a chalice in the first place), it’s just a pile of sand."
What is the definition of chalice and why would ceramic chalices not meet that, and as a follow up would the same hold true for ceramic patens.
Thanks

This is one of those “can of worms” topics, and it’s very likely to get us off the subject of this thread, but since you’re the OP I suppose you get to decide what’s on or off topic.

The short answer is that earthenware and glass are not licit materials to use to make a chalice. That’s why I don’t think of something as being a “glass chalice” instead I think of it as a “wineglass that was used in place of a chalice.” As for patens, the same would apply, because both are something intended to holy the Eucharist.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum, the Church declared them to be “reprobate”

117…Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.

In any case, a vessel which has been used to hold the Eucharist, whether or not the vessel was licit to begin with, should not be put to any other purpose.

As a follow-up to Fr. David’s post, since glass and ceramic are reprobated materials, these vessels should not be used anywhere. We would not be doing he chapel, parish or mission a favor by sendng these ilicit items to them.

I would also assume that this would include the glass and ceramic “pitchers” that sometimes held the Precious Blood before it was poured into the glass chalices.

[quote="munch, post:1, topic:179418"]
At our church we just started using gold vessels, but we have a lot of old glass and ceramic. I know that we are supposed to burn or bury them, but I can't find anything official to back that up. If someone can help me out that would be great. One of the older women at our church want the old patens and wine curets to use in her home. I told our pastor we can't do that, but he wants to see something official about what we are supposed to do with them.

[/quote]

Hi munch,

It is a good question. I do not know anything about the responses from the Holy See which Fr. David mentioned. It would be good to see them.

What I can say, however, is that it apparently is possible for a competent ordinary to, in effect, de-consecrate sacred objects. I say this based on two canons from the Code:

c. 1269 "If sacred objects are privately owned, private persons can acquire them through prescription, but it is not permitted to employ them for profane uses unless they have lost their dedication or blessing..."

So, it is possible for a sacred object to lose its dedication or blessing. The other canon is:

c. 1212 "Sacred places lose their dedication or blessing if they have been destroyed in large part, or have been turned over permanently to profane use *by decree of the competent ordinary *or in fact."

This canon regards sacred places (churches, altars) but it seems you could apply this to sacred objects, by analogy.

Therefore, I would say that it would be possible for a diocesan bishop or maybe the vicar general to issue such a decree.

Again, if anyone has found any official answer, let me/us know. This is a very practical question...

Dan

Dan,
You’re on the right track, but “sacred vessels” are a particular subset of “sacred objects” and have their own rules. What sets these apart is the specific fact that they held the Body and/or Blood of Christ, and so their purpose is “permanent” Even if the blessing/consecration were to be “removed” the principle that they can’t be put to any other use would still apply.

We all know that there are chalices in places like private homes and even museums, but the difference here is that they aren’t being put to any actual “use” (it’s more of an absence of any use). So if a family had great-great-uncle Fr. Joe’s chalice on a mantle, that would be ok. But to use that chalice on the dinner table would be wholly inappropriate. In this case, the OP has shared with us that the parishioner wants the paten to use on her dinner table–that’s just going too far. Something which held the Body of Christ simply should never be used as a butter-dish or a cute plate to hold the pickles.

A sacred space, like a church building, can indeed be turned over to secular use by a decree of the bishop, but remember that before that can happen, sacred vessels, and the altar, and other things which specifically held the Eucharist must be removed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.