EMHC's: Extraordinary for a reason


I don’t think the use of EMHC is the problem. @JimG, WHY are EHMCs used so frequently? What is the alternative? These are questions to ask yourself to lead you to an understanding of the present situation as re: EMHC.


In RCIA and already questioning the authority of the Church?

That’s kind of alarming.

I encourage the OP to stop questioning Holy Mother Church and her priests. That’s what caused Protestantism.


On the contrary, the Holy See has clarified before that EMHCs are only to Ben used in extraordinary circumstances.


However, it’s not the meaning of the word extraordinary in this context. The rules governing use of EMHCs and the name aren’t connected in that way.


The Holy See has also delegated the decision making to bishops, who in turn usually delegate to their priests. A notation on usage doesn’t define. No matter how much you wish it, it doesn’t make it so.


Where is the definition you speak of found?


Where does the Church define that which is understood? Ordinary comes from ordered, just as ordained does. Extraordinary means outside the order. This is consistent with every other usage within the Church: ordinary/extraordinary form of Mass, Ordinary Time in the calendar, the Ordinary of a diocese, etc.


I would say that the 1997 document Ecclesia de mysterio is most pertinent. Article 8:

The non-ordained faithful already collaborate with the sacred ministers in diverse pastoral situations since “This wonderful gift of the Eucharist, which is the greatest gift of all, demands that such an important mystery should be increasingly better known and its saving power more fully shared”.(95)

Such liturgical service is a response to the objective needs of the faithful especially those of the sick and to those liturgical assemblies in which there are particularly large numbers of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion.

§ 1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the the Deacon.(96) Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3.(97)

A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan bishop, using the appropriate form of blessing for these situation, to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad actum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period. In exceptional cases or in un foreseen circumstances, the priest presiding at the liturgy may authorize such ad actum .(98)

§ 2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion.(99) They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion. (100)




This function is supplementary and extraordinary (101) and must be exercised in accordance with the norm of law. It is thus useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese. Such norms should provide, amongst other things, for matters such as the instruction in eucharistic doctrine of those chosen to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the meaning of the service they provide, the rubrics to be observed, the reverence to be shown for such an august Sacrament and instruction concerning the discipline on admission to Holy Communion.

To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:

— extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants;

— association with the renewal of promises made by priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, as well as other categories of faithful who renew religious vows or receive a mandate as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion;

— the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”.




I concede. However, my original point remains. They are only to be used in extraordinary circumstances.


Each one of those uses of “ordinary” means something different. First–most common, at least generally. Second–ordered/numbered (it isn’t called “ordinary time” in Latin but is called “tempus per annum” so it doesn’t really get into what the Latin might mean). Third–someone who possesses an office which entails (at least executive) jurisdiction.



As for the OP article: I can understand why scheduling EMHC’s might seem to take away the extraordinariness of the function but it’s just common sense to schedule such things, based on experience. At the same time, if a Mass has a congregation that is way smaller than typical and expected, the priest should feel free to give some of the scheduled EMHC-ers the week off.



And in the US, that’s 99.9% of the time.

My little parish has one priest and one deacon

At Mass, the Priest and Deacon distribute the Sacred Host at the center isle, while two EMHC’s distribute the precious blood. at each side of the church.

We also use Scheduler to let people know when they are scheduled and where they can request a substitute.

Even the larger parishes I’ve visited, it’s the same. One priest, one deacon and two ministers of the cup.

Yeah, I use the term, “ministers,” because at that time in the Mass, that’s their function



99.9% of the time is not “extraordinary circumstances.”


Yes, now I understand what he was trying to state. Omitting the comma changed the meaning of the sentence to me.


For those who wish to see less Extraordinary Ministers and more Ordinary Ministers distribute Holy Communion to the Faithful at Mass, I think the best action one can take, instead of whining about it on public forums or complaining to your pastor or local Ordinary about it, would be to pray incessantly for more vocations to the Holy Priesthood and to the Diaconate.

If the Church had a lot more priests and deacons, this would become a nonissue.


Determined by whom? It’s up to the celebrant to decide.


I wonder about this. Is the trend toward using many EMHC’s primarily driven by lack of priests, or is it driven mainly by a push for more lay participation in the liturgy? I see some very large parishes with a lot of EMHC’s and some very large parishes with not many EMHC’s.


The problem I have with the phrase “extraordinary ministers are to be used in extraordinary circumstances” is that it creates a problem in which everyone becomes so fixated on semantics that a larger point is missed. Regardless of what “extraordinary ministers” are called, the fact remains that the Holy See has expressly stated that their function is a limited one. The Code of Canon Law itself establishes canon 910.2 as an exception to canon 910.1, and exceptions to the law are meant to be interpreted strictly, according to canon 18 of the same Code. That means that the exceptions granted are to be made use of when there is a genuine necessity, implying limited, specific circumstances.

The authentic interpretation of this canon, which has as much force as the law itself (see canon 16.2), states the following (emphasis mine):

D. Whether the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, deputed in accordance with canons 910.2 and 230.33, can exercise his or her supplementary function even when ordinary ministers, who are not in any way impeded, are present in the church, though not taking part in the Eucharistic celebration.

R. Negative.

On various occasions, other decrees have upheld this authentic interpretation, such as the one cited by @acanonlawyer.


…staying within the guidelines laid out by the Holy See.

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