the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass

I think some here are a bit confused about the Church’s condemnation of “the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass.” The first source of confusion is the word “habitual.”


  1. of the nature of a habit; fixed by or resulting from habit: habitual courtesy.
  2. being such by habit: a habitual gossip.
  3. commonly used, followed, observed, etc., as by a particular person; customary: She took her habitual place at the table.


  1. an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
  2. customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.
  3. a particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands…

If a parish uses EMsHC out of habit and not out of true need then there is a problem. I see that at my parish at weekday Masses. On the other hand there is true need at Sunday Masses at my parish and it will remain until we have more ordained men. One priest cannot cannot distribute Holy Communion under both species to 1200 people without taking too long.

Some people get upset that EMsHC are scheduled at my parish. Until we get more ordained men to distribute communion (or fewer people receiving communion) we need the services of EMsHC and it makes good sense to schedule them. That in no way makes them any less “extraordinary.”

Havent we had enough threads on here about EMHC’s?


I agree. I have not seen an abuse in any parish in my area. The parishes are large, with many Masses & communicants, and do need the help of EMHC to distribute HC.


Now, in my neck of the woods, it’s not the greatest of situations. It indeed is habitual to have an EMHC for daily Mass at one parish, even though the number of communicants is at 40 and it is a late-afternoon Mass.

The same parish has four EMHCs scheduled even though there is a deacon and the celebrant. However, the celebrant distributes Holy Communion to the EMHCs and then sits down (he is not impaired in any way).

Other parishes have them just to have them, I’m afraid. It is more out of habit than out of genuine need. My own parish sometimes suffers from this during the late afternoon Sunday Mass. We have about 150 communicants and the priest should be able to handle it on his own, but, he seems to feel the need to deputilze people on the spot. At least he has now stopped doing that for daily Mass ever since I pointed the document out to him. He is my best friend, but, sometimes we do disagree on things.

I view this example as delegating duties. He feels he needs some extra help at mass to reduce his overall workload. That is his judgement call.

If they’re scheduled, then I would say that it’s an abuse.


However 99% of Catholics do not realize that EMHCs are NOT the norm. In fact the vast majority of EMHCs think they are Eucharistic Ministers and they think their Job was created to make them extra special people that are given the honor to act as sort of a deputized extra special Catholic. Most Catholics I know think that EMHC is a mandated role to get folks up on the altar.

THe line between the Sacramental Priesthood and laity is drawn with a #8 drafting pencil…Its time to get the Sharpie out and blacken that line a tad.

Receiving under both species is not a requirement and if the numbers of communicants is too great it can easily be done away with. Is that 1200 at each Mass? What is the number registered at the Parish? It must be a huge parish if you have that many at each Mass… Also, I’m concerned that you apparently don’t have a Deacon there. I was under the impression that most Parishes nowadays have the services of a Deacon.

Besides that how long exactly is too long? Have you ever been to a Greek or Russian Orthodox Mass? They are generally a lot longer than ours are. and they don’t seem to suffer too much for the extra time spent there.

Having to schedule EMHCs doesn’t mean the parish is habitually short on priests and deacons. It means that the parish is chronically short on priests and deacons. That is a shortage that can be foreseen more than a month in advance. That the need for extraordinary ministers is chronic doesn’t automatically make their use an abuse. Why would anyone prefer that the laity to be chronically denied the Precious Blood?

Those big parishes with the “army” of EMHCs I keep hearing about from other posters? In our diocese, some parishes that used to have half or less of their current registered population also used to have three times the priests! We have small parishes who share one retired priest with three or four other small parishes. This is a real shortage.

The next thing you know, you’ll be saying that parishes that don’t have a priest to call their own shouldn’t be allowed to have scheduled Communion services, either.

Maybe you want the rural areas to get rid of their physician assistants and nurse practioners, too? I’m sure that’s why there aren’t enough doctors going into medicine in rural areas, and why there aren’t enough primary care physicians in general. (And hey…didn’t that situation really get bad after Vatican II, too!!! OH, MY! It’s worse than any of us imagined!! :eek: )

Actually, your line of thinking doesn’t necessarily match what the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has to say:

Well, the question of Eucharistic minister – you mean the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, that is, those who will help the priest and the deacon when the priest and the deacon are not [sufficient] to give Holy Communion to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds who are receiving Communion. That’s what we mean by Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Which means that if the priests and deacons are many and sufficient for those receiving Holy Communion, nobody else should dare to come near the altar and touch the sacred vessel to distribute Communion, because they were not ordained for that.

It’s very important to stress that, because some people do not understand the whole point of these Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Some people think that it is a power struggle for lay people to prove that what the priest can do, so can they. Which means if there are not many people to receive Communion – suppose there are three priests or two priests and one deacon and 100 people to receive Communion – then there is no need for even one single Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Furthermore, this is what Redemptionis Sacramentum has to say:

It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.173

…[157.] If*** there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it.*** The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.258

[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.259 This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

Therefore, it has nothing to do with a priest’s workload because he is the ordinary minister of Holy Communion. And, I wouldn’t even call it “workload”, since his first and foremost responsibility as a priest is to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That is the end all and be all of his ministry.

One priest can give out Holy Communion to *hundreds *of communicants if they’re on an altar rail kneeling and receiving on the tongue in about 15 minutes. Really sometimes people create more problems with their purported solutions.

Also, the Host contains the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. You do **not **need laymen to handle the consecrated wine. The communicants already receive the Precious Blood.

I can see that with some of the answers it is good that priests are allowed to act on thei own since of prudence. No, scheduling folks is not an abuse. :rolleyes: We have 1000 families, 5 Masses and one priest. Yes, he needs help every week. The Church allows this even if some here do not. But then being Catholic, we only need to follow our leaders.

That’s ludicrous.

We have about 1,200/Mass with one priest. We receive under both species (the Church has never said to go to one species to reduce the number of persons necessary to distribute communion) and it takes the help of EMsHC until we have enough priests and deacons.

Scheduling them ensures we have enough well-trained EMsHC at each Mass. Of course they defer to any priests, deacons or instituted acolytes that might appear at Mass time.

To suggest it’s abuse just because they are scheduled is just plain odd.


I might not know much about the Mass but I know a great deal about queuing theory. I have time-studied (NOT during the Mass!) the “process time” it takes to receive on the tongue/kneeling at rail versus standing/in-hand. The former take longer – almost 40% longer.

No. The Church recommends distributing communion under both kinds for the superior sign value. The Church has never suggested communion under one species to eliminate EMsHC. Quite the opposite.

Longer masses would mean that we would have LESS masses because our Bishop does not allow any Sunday masses beginning after 12 Noon. With 3000+ families in the parish, all except the 7am mass is packed to church capacity.

With longer masses, we would either be turning people away at the door or discouraging people from attending because they would not have a seat – neither of which I think is a good thing.

Actually, your line of thinking doesn’t necessarily match what the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has to say.

Who are you to judge what is a sufficient reason? or judge how a priest preceives his stamina? Your opinion is not withstanding, RS also tells us how to handle situations of perceived abuse:

  1. Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.290 It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

I do not see “badmouthing clergy on the internet” listed.

Some here really need to brush up on canon law regarding respect for the clergy.



Growing up, I was taught that we should NEVER criticize a priest because he stands in the place of Christ. Any wrong that he does, he will have to answer to Jesus for and we should pray for him.

And, I’ve also heard Father Larry Richards preach more than once that … “if you criticize a priest, you go to hell”.

The priest saying tha mass and/or the pastor of the parish are the ones who are best qualified to determine what is needed or not – they have the actual experience AND the professional training in these matters … not someone sitting in the pew.

That sounds a little extreme. Surely there’s more to his theory than that.:confused:

Pick up “What More Could He Do For You?” or “The Mass Explained” and you can hear it for yourself.

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