Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Extraordinary Ministers to Disappear?

Well, it would be a good thing, considering the nature of the Sacrament (thus, its administration.) Benedict XVI understands that, and apparently is insisting on making EEMs (EHMCs) an extinct species, with very few exceptions.

Karl Keating's periodical has an article, here partially excerpted by Phil Blosser:

The discussion of EMHCs [Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion] in the Catholic Answers Report comes under the subtitle: "Role of Extraordinary Ministers Trimmed."

"Rome has been concerned about the widespread overuse of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in many countries and particularly in the U.S., where extraordinary ministers are often treated as an ordinary part of Mass," states the article.

The ordinary ministers, of course, are "priests, deacons, and instituted acolytes." (What's the last time you've spotted an instituted acolyte around your suburban parish?) Canon law permits the use of EMHCs when there are too many communicants present to be served in a "reasonable period of time" by the ordinary ministers. To its credit, the Report is straight up about this:

But in recent years, many liturgists adopted an ideology that tries to blur the line between clergy and laity at Mass, and extraordinary ministers became one of the key ways used to advance their agenda. Large numbers of extraordinary ministers were used on a regular basis -- far more than were actually needed. In some places, extraordinary ministers were used to distribute Communion while a perfectly healthy priest simply sat down and waited out the Communion rite.

An attempt was also made to gloss over the extraordinary character of their service. In many places they came to be referred to as simply "special ministers" or even "eucharistic ministers" -- hiding the fact that they are to be used only in extraordinary circumstances.

The good news is that the Holy See appears to be reining in these abuses. In a series of recent documents, the Vatican has emphasized that EMHCs should be used only when there are too many communicants for the ordinary ministers to "reasonably serve." There is some evidence that the Vatican is going beyond repeating earlier instructions with their implicit escape clauses, however. In October 2006 it was announced that Pope Benedict had decided not to renew the United States indult that allowed EMHCs to purify the vessels after Mass. From now on, Americans will have the same rule that applies throughout the world, and vessels are to be purified only by ordinary ministers -- "priests, deacons, and instituted acolytes."

Going back to the 'alter Christi' nature of the ordained priest, this is not real difficult to place in context. Christ fed the 12 at the Last Supper; with his Apostles He fed the 5,000. This "feeding" was a corporeal symbol for spiritual nourishment. If the command "Feed my lambs..." has any meaning, it should be most evident at Communion.

And, as Blosser points out, if it is to be demeaned, this is the very best place to start.

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