My turn in asking about EMsHC

A recent thread got me thinking, and feeling a bit disturbed :o

In my parish we have two celebrations on a Sunday, I attend both. The morning Mass has about 50-70 people in attendance, and the evening Mass around 25-50. Both times we have 5 EMsHC - 4 with the Precious Blood and one giving out the Body right next to our Priest. Surely - surely this is too many? Surely this is the epitome of abuse. Here are some other things that might be needed or considered:

  • Our Parish has 3 Priests. However, our Parish serves 3 Parishes (if that makes sense - a lack of Priests in the Diocese) so I guess con-celebration isn’t an option.

  • The EMsHC go up right to the altar and stand. I am not sure if this is allowed or how to describe. There are 3 levels - level 1 where the pews are, then a ‘step’ where the altar starts then another step where the altar table is. The EMsHC stand on the third level along with the priest.

  • They recieve communion seperate to the rest of the congregation, sometimes our Priest gives them the Body before he has it, and they eat it together (which I know is not allowed) and sometimes he has first (body and blood) then gives out to them, then we get.

  • Members of the congregation freely intinction themselves, going from the Body, walking over to the Blood and dipping in and leaving.

  • The EMHC who that day was giving out the body takes from our priest (who then sits down) the (I guess its called) Ciborium and kinda just tilts his Paten and moves the Body into the Ciborium and then places it in the tabernacle.

I spoke to the “captain” EMHC a few weeks ago informally, actually he brought it up, and he said he knows its an abuse but “oh well”.

What can I do? Surely having 5 EMsHC for only 25 or even maximum 75 people is just ridiculous? At our weekday Mass, we have around 5 people in attendance and even then we have an EMHC with the Precious Blood!

I wouldn’t say that using too many EMHCs too often is “the epitome of abuse”, but it is imprudent and it can lead to other more serious abuses, and it might eventually lead to serious offenses against the Blessed Sacrament.

(I think you mean “sanctuary”. The altar is the actual table – the sanctuary is the space containing the altar.)

EMHCs are not to approach the altar until after the priest has received Communion.

Correct, they are not supposed to receive along with the priest, in the manner of concelebrants.

Absolutely not permitted. Only the minister of Holy Communion may perform intinction, and it’s all at one “station” – the minister giving you the Host first dips it in the Chalice and then places it on your tongue.

I really don’t like the “pouring the Hosts from one container to another” tactic. It can create a spill. It can look irreverent, like the Hosts are a breakfast cereal or something. It just doesn’t look dignified to me. It’s the priest or deacon’s job to place the Blessed Sacrament back in the tabernacle.

These are all issues which should be brought to the attention of the EMHCs and the priest. Perhaps if you can find an EMHC who is sympathetic to your concerns, he or she could help change the minds and turn the hearts of the others, and then they could talk to the pastor.

These things are difficult to judge in the abstract, but on facts stipulated, yes, that’s a needless number of EMHCs.

Think about how long it really takes to receive the precious blood: about ten seconds, tops. I know that doesn’t sound right, but try it with a friend: have them time you while you pick up a glass of water, take a sip, and place it back down, in the manner that you would receive communion. It’s about ten seconds. Double that to allow time for people to walk up to and away from the chalice, and what’s the math? With one chalice, if there are sixty communicants, twenty minutes. Two chalices, ten minutes. Four chalices, five minutes. That;s not the kind of delay that the authorization for EMHCs has in mind, even assuming a logjam receiving the body of Christ, which is unlikely.

Here’s a rule of themb: if the communion line is done in less than eight minutes, you could probably stand to lose an EMHC or two. EMHCs are authorized for cases of “true necessity,” RS151, when “the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged” without their assistance. RS158 (emphasis added). A “brief prolongation … is not at all a sufficient reason.” Ibid. (emphasis added). And if your usage of EMHCs doesn’t fluctuate with the number of people attending, the usage is probably habitual (which isn’t allowed) rather than pro re nata.

Of course it all depends on the priest. He decides how many are needed.

If your priest has to rush off across town to another parish to say Mass there, he needs help in distributing Holy Communion.

The priest is in charge, unless there is scandalous abuse, let him do the job he was ordained to do.


Yes, it’s too many. You can easily downsize to 2 EMsHC for the Precious Blood and the time for Communion will be about the same. Where you see a ratio like this, it’s probably for political reasons, for example the parish might used to have 500 people, but the people left and the ministers stayed. Alternatively, the priest may need the EMHCs to cover the nursing homes, and there may be a diocesan regulation that says that in order to bring Communion to the sick they need to also serve at Mass. However, this clearly contravenes RS.

Not even close, and I’m not going into any details.

The other things you discuss - self-Communion along with the priest, self-intinction, priest not distributing (unless handicapped), are more serious infractions which can be the subject of a letter to the bishop. Self-intinction, for example, is considered grave matter under RS 173. You should have low expectations about that letter, which may be shared with the priest.

Just so you know, that’s not specifically an abuse.

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