Liturgy abuses

Need some help in finding citation sources and confirmation from those more knowledgable. I went to another parish a couple weeks ago and saw multiple abuses in the liturgy and need to write a letter to the Bishop about it so it can get corrected.

I would great appreciate help in references to the GIRM or other Church document so I can fully cite my letter. (or if I’m wrong and some aren’t abuses, I want to make sure I correct it before sending).

Here are the abuses I saw:

  1. As the Communion procession was ending, the Blood being distributed by EMHC were brought to the “prep” area (where all the instruments/tools used in Communion are stationed before Mass) and the Blood was poured into one chalice and then left there. It remained there until after the Mass was completed, and a group of parishioners, including several of the EMHC, gathered in a prayer circle. They then proceeded to pass around the chalice and they drank until it was completely gone and then the chalice was taken to be cleaned. I was simply stunned and waited to make sure that the Blood was properly disposed of and witnessed this. I know this is an egregious liturgical abuse since Christ is not being properly reposed of. Where in the GIRM does it address this?

  2. EMHC were grabbing the chalices and ciboriums from the altar after they had been given Communion.

  3. The gifts were brought up to the altar by the gift bearers who lifted them up (maybe said a quiet prayer, couldn’t tell), and then put them on the altar. After this had been done the priest then came up to the altar and the gifts. He did not receive them from the gift-bearers.

There were other problems I had with the Mass, especially the irreverence and the dress of the readers, altar servers, and EMHC. But I don’t think these are abuses like the above items.

If anyone can help with giving some reference to the appropriate parts of the GIRM or other documents, I would greatly appreciate it.

As far as I know, the Precious Blood cannot be reposed and must be finished. I have never seen this, however if there was a lot of Precious Blood left over this may be the Pastor’s way to ensure that neither he nor any single EMHC consumes too much. I don’t think it is an abuse (of course, others may be along to disagree - no problems, that is why I love this forum) but more a practical way to respectfully consume the Precious Blood. Now, why we would be consecrating that much in the first place…

At our parish the Priest gives the chalices and ciboriums to the EMHC however I have seen this done at other parishes. As long as they are not self-communicating, I don’t see the abuse.

I don’t know if the Priest has to take the gifts directly or if they need to be brought up only. I can imagine a Priest who suffers from a nervous disorder and is afraid of dropping the gifts to have them brought up this way. I don’t see the abuse.

This is not an abuse. Irreverence and improper attire is mostly in the eye of the beholder and in this case in the purvey of the pastor. We can disagree with it, we can not like it, however unless they were in thong swimsuits I am not sure it raises to the level of an abuse.

My $0.02. YMMV.

Here is a link to the GIRM.

I suggest that you read this first, then have a discussion with the Pastor of said parish before you even think about going to the Bishop, as that is the correct way to go about this.

I have been an EMHC in the past and none of what you are citing was against the training I received in the past to my memory. Honestly, nor do I see any attempt to be disrespectful here. As others have suggested here, I would take your concerns to the Pastor first.

Also as an aside, I’m married to a Lutheran Pastor so I’m exposed in a direct way to the issues and complaints a Minister/Pastor/Priest sees in a congregation. The Lutheran church has its share of tradition and even a fairly parallel understanding of the importance of Jesus’ last supper within the Liturgy. Respect for these rituals is important and integral to the experience of worship. But I also invite you to consider at what point attention to the exact execution of these rituals goes from furthering the message of Jesus towards smothering the message’s relevance to the humans taking part in that ritual. Such legalism does much more harm to the message of the church than it helps.

Without knowing why they choose to do things as they do we cannot say if they are right or wrong. Talking to the Priest about your concerns should be your first step.

Sometime, not particularly long after the OF was instituted, people started complaining about abuses.

Some complained to one another; some to the priest, some to the bishop, and some wrote to Rome.

And those complaints have been sent, in various dioceses about various priests, for better than 50 years.

Most bishops do not open their own mail. That is just a fact of life of a bishop who may have several hundred priests and tens of thousands of “souls”, several hundred parishes, and who knows what else he has to deal with administratively, not to mention trying to shepard all of them…

The net result is that a reasonable assumption is that the letters are filtered. Can I prove it? No, but I have been around long enough to figure a few things out. And among those are that anyone who has the administrative responsibility similar to a bishop simply does not have time to respond to every person who wants 5 minutes, an hour, or a day of their time.

The result is that someone else filters what gets to the bishop.

And after 50 years or so, it should be patently clear that little attention has been paid to abuses be they small, non-existent, or large. One diocese in the Midwest (OK, somewhere the other side of the Rockies) hired a Canon lawyer, took videos, went through the process by the numbers, and included the videos to Rome. That one got addressed. It was not the only one, and the abuses were egregious, but one should get the picture.

Many issues which are alleged to be abuses are minor infractions at best, and simply are not going to be addressed by the bishop - or , for that matter, by Rome. Most priests nowadays do their best to follow the rubrics. Some vary, but the experimentation and the wooley-headedness of the 70s and into the 80s is 25, 30, 35 or more years behind us, and the priests who were so loose with the rules and so experimental are either retired or have gone on to their reward.

I can appreciate anyone who wants the rubrics followed - I have no problem with that at all. What I do question on occasion is where our focus is. Personally, mine, after Communion, is not watching what is going on as I have drawn inward in meditation. I would highly suggest it; it resolves the issue of seeing something and getting upset about it, and keeps the primary focus on Jesus, not on others.

With all due respect:
If you do not see anything wrong or disrespectful in the first item describe by the OP, your training was very faulty. Not your fault, but a EMC should be taught these things.

From “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America”

  1. When more of the Precious Blood remains than was necessary for Communion, and if not consumed by the bishop or Priest celebrant, the Deacon, standing at the altar, "**immediately and reverently consumes **all of the Blood of Christ that remains, assisted, if the case requires, by other Deacons and Priests."55 When there are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, they may consume what remains of the Precious Blood from their chalice of distribution with permission of the Diocesan Bishop.

(boldness added by me)


  1. The chalice may never be left on the altar or another place **to be picked up by the communicant for self-communication **(except in the case of concelebrating bishops or Priests), nor may the chalice be passed from one communicant to another. There shall always be a minister of the chalice.

The abuse describe in item 1 is very serious IMO. It should, respectfully be brought to the attention of the pastor. If that does not change, it should go to the diocese.

BTW: I am not a "liturgical warrior’, so I would normally not make this suggestion. But the OP is describing both the mishandling of the precious blood after communion, and then is describing the sacrilege of self-communication.

The ONLY problem with what the OP describes is the “pouring” of all of the remaining precious blood into one chalice, rather than immediately consumed. The precious blood should NEVER be poured from one vessel to another.

The remaining items are not necessarily prudent nor the best practice, but are not prohibited.

That’s cool. Like I said, it has been a while, so I might have missed something. I can respect a desire to keep the norms and too much fuzziness on them can lead to issues later on. It’s the tone of the OP’s observations that struck me, which to my experience, act as a road block to people caring to even come to church and participate in communion.

It may be poor practice, but it is hardly a sacrilege.

Most parishes have a fairly consistent number of people at any given Mass. And after a few months at the most, most parishes should be able to reasonably estimate how much wine is needed. If I recall correctly, the OP was visiting the parish, and without knowing a lot more, it is hard to say why there was so much wine left over. It may have been an unusual circumstance, or it may have been poor planning, and not knowing which, one should not make judgments but rather presume the best instead of the worst.

They should have consumed it at the altar, but at the very worst this appears to be a minor infraction rather than an “abuse”. And the OP referred to the additional people who came up as “parishioners”; for all we know, they all may have been EMHCs. Again, definitely not best practices, but to allege this as a sacrilege is way out of line. Perhaps contemplating some synonyms of sacrilege might help: desecration, profanity, blasphemy, impiety, irreligion, unholiness, irreverence, disrespect, profanation - none of which are correct descriptions of what the OP observed. As far as self - communication, it is debatable if that term would apply. It is not self communication when the EMHC hands the cup to a communicant during Communion; and again, poor practice, but most likely not intentional self-communication.

The short of it is that we simply do not have enough information to know why what happened, happened.

There is not only one problem. Even your post points to two problems: pouring from one vessel to another and not being immediately consumed. The latter is much more problematic. But the OP also describes self-communication explicitly, which is a major problem: it is considered a sacrilege.

All of this adds up to "egregious liturgical abuse " as the OP stated.

Oh really? Men or women with tank tops and short pants are OK for those serving at the altar according to you?

As I understand the facts, I don’t believe this is self communication. The EMHC have already recieved. The chalice is left on the credence table, not the altar. Mass is over. They are merely consuming the remaining precious blood, which they are permitted to do, but must be done immediately, not after mass.

Simply poor practice?
From “Redemptionis Sacramentum”

first a restatement of the principle:

[94.] It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . **and, still less, to hand **. . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice.[181] Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass.

(boldness added by me)

Then a statement on the gravity:

[173.] Although the gravity of a matter is to be judged in accordance with the common teaching of the Church and the norms established by her, objectively to be considered among grave matters is anything that puts at risk the validity and dignity of the Most Holy Eucharist: **namely, anything that contravenes what is set out above **in nn. 48-52, 56, 76-77, 79, 91-92, 94, 96, 101-102, 104, 106, 109, 111, 115, 117, 126, 131-133, 138, 153 and 168. Moreover, attention should be given to the other prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law, and especially what is laid down by canons 1364, 1369, 1373, 1376, 1380, 1384, 1385, 1386, and 1398.

It does not appear to me to be a minor infraction.

To expound on Item #1 (I should have been more descriptive), the process of pouring it into 1 chalice from 6 chalices was very routine behavior (i.e. no one looking around not knowing what to do). There was no attempt to consume the Blood. It was intentionally reserved for after Mass. Secondly, the prayer circle was not just out of blue. It was something you could tell was routine and organized. They knew where to group together, and when everything would happen. They began with the sign of the cross, and then had a quick speech/prayer by the leader (couldn’t hear what was said), and then they passed the chalice around to consume. They had all consumed during Mass.

It was not a few people coming up to clean up and consume the Blood. It was an organized prayer circle event with the Blood as a regular part of it.

Well maybe you could have some mercy and sympathy for me and forgive me for my foibles. Maybe I’m too concerned with proper, respectful worship of God. Mea culpa mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

I though I remembered somewhere in the GIRM that the gifts must be recevied by the priest and then placed on the altar?

All of which is not in keeping with the GIRM, but I believe the EMHC were attempting in a somewhat misguided way to be reverent, rather than to commit sacrelige. Again, the remaining precious blood should be immediately consumed, not left for after mass and NEVER poured from one vessel to another. However what happened AFTER mass does not, it seems to me, constitute “self communication” but rather is just a misguided way to purify the vessels (which also only clegy are supposed to do).

The Offertory procession and presentation of gifts is not mandatory i.e. the gifts can already be on the credence table/side altar at the beginning of Mass. To the best of my recollection the GIRM says that the presentation of the the gift is described as a “praiseworthy practice”, but not required. Accordingly the remaining statements are also not mandatory. Often, even when the faithful do bring the gifts forward, the priest recieves them and hands them off to an altar server to be placed on the altar. The preparation of the altar does not need to be done by the priest. A deacon or acolyte may do so. The priest MUST however recite the appropriate rite at the altar and place the gifts on the altar in connection with that rite. However this takes place after the gifts are already on the altar.

Nothing you alluded to appears to be disrespectful. Some of it may be improper, and not exactly according to the GIRM, but nothing you indicated appeared to be anything other than minor infractions, tafan’s opinion to the contrary. Ultimately in worship, it is not the actions of others but our interior disposition which is most critical. And if watching the actions of others and trying to sort out whether it is according to the GIRM exactly or not is upsetting your interior disposition, then I would respectfully suggest you find a way to celebrate Mass where you pay less attention to the rubrics and more to “what and why” that you are there for.

I am not trying to be dismissive of poorly done rubrics over well done rubrics. But pretty much unless you are at a minimum an effective member of the liturgy committee, a deacon, or related to the pastor or the bishop, it is fairly impossible to have any impact on changing what goes on.

And for all of us - you, me, and anyone else, “letting go and letting God” can do more for our inner disposition than focusing on whether or not those involved around the altar are precisely following the rubrics or imprecisely following them. Any more, out of the 17,000 some parishes in the US, most of it is being done properly. Not necessarily exactly. But properly.

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