Tuesday, 27 November 2007


There have been quite a few interesting comments on the last post concerning the possible invalidity of consecrations when the consecrator cannot see the elements to be consecrated.
I haven't looked this up (not having much leisure at the moment) but there are a couple of further observations.
Some have remarked that the presence of the elements on the corporal is important. I think that the answer here is both yes and no. Priests are encouraged to make a general intention when saying Mass to consecrate whatever is on the corporal, but it is the intention that matters, not the corporal. That general intention is made in order to guard against an absent-minded moment during the words of consecration. However, the question of intention leads to the second point:
There has to be an intention to consecrate. Once (before the Council) Archbishop (then Bishop) Cyril Cowderoy, celebrating High Mass at the seminary, was alerted to the fact that, at Communion, the ciborium containing hosts for that Mass was still sitting on the credence, having been forgotten at the offertory. He said clearly 'I intended to consecrate enough hosts fot the Mass, therefore they are consecrated', and proceeded to distribute these hosts as Holy Communion.
That this event has been remembered means that even at the time his judgment was considered questionable but possibly correct.
If the Holy Father intends to consecrate all those hosts held in ciboria, then perhaps they are consecrated. But it seems to me that this is open to all sorts of abuse; to reduce it ad absurdum, a sick person could reserve 'blank' hosts at home, the priest making an intention to consecrate one with the morning Mass and, hey presto, it's done; the sick person's daughter, an extraordinary minister, simply gives Communion. Now, that's a very extreme version, but is it really different in kind from the Holy Father consecrating a host at an altar on the steps of St Peter's when the deacon carrying it is still inside the basilica on his way out?


ben whitworth said...

Similar thing happened in my parish once: the bowl of hosts was left on the credence table by the acolytes. One of the concelebrants said that his intention was always to consecrate all the hosts that had been prepared for the Mass, so therefore they were consecrated (though not by all the concelebrants, which raises other questions). In this case the hosts weren't actually consumed during the Mass, as too many had been put out; presumably, had Bishop Cowderoy been the only celebrant, they would *not* have been consecrated.

Interesting stuff, this sacramental theology. Can't seem to get my students to take quite the same level of interest in the minutiae ...

Anonymous said...

Surely the individual clergy carrying unconsecrated hosts at last Sunday's papal Mass, held hosts which were clearly intended to be consecrated by the pope (and the concelebrants), and therefore form part of the 'moral unity' of the intention to consecrate hosts for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice and the distribution of Holy Communion ? The clergy holding the ciboria surely weren't just happening to be 'passing through' the basilica ? It isn't helpful to sow such doubts, I think, and if you have any doubts about the validity of the consecration at last Sunday's Mass, dear Father, then you must raise them with the proper authorities in Rome. However I personally do not agree with the practice - the hosts should, as normal, rest on the altar - that more profoundly and clearly conveys the theology of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and indicates unmistakably that we partake of the fruits of the Mass -Jesus our saviour really and sacramentally present on the altar who offers us new life and His grace ? It also lessens worries about doubtful consecrations. Perhaps it should be one of the next items on the new papal MCs shopping list of things to change. And let us also thank God that things are changing in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Anon again ! I saw this comment on Fr. Ray Blake's website (comments) and have to say that I agree with him /

Fr Ray Blake said...
The priest consecrates that which he intends to consecrate. Most priests would intend to consecrate that which he had placed on the corporal, or on the mensa of the altar. The Pope obviously intends to consecrate all that is offered for consecration, therefore it is valid.

ADV said...

Perhaps an addition Father to the consecration discussion? The excerpt is from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The rite of Concelebration was modified at Rome (perhaps in the time of Pope Zephyrinus, 202-218) so that each priest should consecrate a separate host (the deacons holding these in patens or corporals); but they all consecrated the same chalice ("Ordo Rom. I", 48; see also Dechusne, "Liber Pont.", I, 139 and 246).

In the sixth century this rite was observed on all station days; by the eighth century it remained only for the greatest feasts, Easter, Christmas, Whitsunday, and St. Peter ("Ordo Rom. I", 48; Duchesne, "Origines", 167). On other days the priests assisted but did not concelebrate.

I have a particular interest in the Liturgy of the Early and High Middle Ages. I have sometimes wondered if the practice of sub-deacon holding the paten during the consecration at Solemn Mass in the pre-Novus Ordo liturgy might not be connected with this earlier practice too?

As to the corporal, it seems that through time liturgical practice tighten up 'wide' intentions by restricting the priests intention to something particular? Perhaps with good reason so as to avoid the abuses and just the reductio ad absurdam you refer to? Was this not one of the subjects ridiculed by some reformers in the 16th C?

Perhaps the problem is less with our liturgical practice and the growth in recent times of an overly familiar attitude towards the Blessed Sacrament and the Real Presence.

Fr Justin said...

Anon: yes, indeed. My point was rather to ask whether there can be a point whereafter pure intention is insufficient, regardless of whether the celebrant be pope or curate. For instance, what happens if the hosts are on the credence? In the sacristy? In an extraordinary minister's pyx in her handbag? &c &c &c.
At any rate, I think we are agreed as to the unfittingness of the customary practice at Papal Masses. On the other hand, validity, as you say, is a matter for the proper authorities. I'd just like to hear how the proper authorities might want us to understand it.

ADV said...

Father, forgive another long post, but a reminder of what used to be in the front of every Roman Missal. The BULL OF POPE ST. PIUS V, QUO PRIMUM.

At Chapter VII it states:

VII - Defect of intention

1. The intention of consecrating is required. Therefore there is no consecration in the following cases:

when a priest does not intend to consecrate but only to make a pretence;
when some hosts remain on the altar forgotten by the priest, or when
some part of the wine or some host is hidden, since the priest
intends to consecrate only what is on the corporal;
when a priest has eleven hosts before him and intends to consecrate only ten, without determining which ten he means to consecrate. On the other hand, if he thinks there are ten, but intends to consecrate all that he has before him, then all will be

For that reason every priest should always have such an intention, namely, the intention of consecrating all the hosts that have been placed on the corporal before him for consecration.

2. If the priest thinks that he is holding one host but
discovers after the Consecration that there were two hosts
stuck together, he is to consume both when the time comes. If
after receiving the Body and Blood, or even after the ablution,
he finds other consecrated pieces, large or small, he is to
consume them, because they belong to the same sacrifice.

3. If, however, a whole consecrated host is left, he is
to put it into the tabernacle with the others that are there;
if this cannot be done, he is to consume it.

4. It may be that the intention is not actual at the time
of the Consecration because the priest lets his mind wander,
yet is still virtual, since he has come to the altar intending
to do what the Church does. In this case the Sacrament is
valid. A priest should be careful, however, to make his
intention actual also.

Fr John Boyle said...

A question: at concelebrations, is each concelebrant actually consecrating, or is there just one consecrator and the others acting as co-consecrators? If the celebrant for some reason failed to consecrate some of the elements, could the intention of one (or more) of one of the concelebrants bring about the consecration of those elements?

I'm not sure we are that clear about our role as concelebrants.

Cynic said...

Oh deary me. I hate to say this, because I really really don't want to offend anyone, but this entire exercise in reductio ad absurdum merely convinces me that one cannot meaningfully talk in terms of "objective" validity at all, such that if you can tick all the boxes then it has, in some absolute sense, "happened".

God bless Bishop Berkeley: "Esse est percipi" - if the elements are perceived as consecrated, then they are consecrated, and no need to fuss about whether they were on the corporal, or how many did Father intend to consecrate vs. how many there actually were, or could he see them, or how far away were they, or did he even know they were there in the first place, or was he actually at that precise moment thinking about what he was going to be getting for lunch, or anything else.

Please don't take this personally. I shall now retire from the scene while the rest of you list the several dozen heresies I have just committed ...

Anonymous said...

Fr. Justin,

Thank you for your answer,much appreciated, and 'adv' for what you say about the liturgy. In your second comment you refer to 'Quo Primum' of Pope St. Pius V - actually your quotation does not come from Quo Primum but from the rubrical section of the missal (I think the 'Ritus servandus...'). The Church has the authority to 'change' rubrical and liturgical practices but not the doctrinal substance. If we can reasonably presume that the pope intends to consecrate the hosts held by the clergy in their hands, then he can do so, and your reference to early practices was particularly revealing, though you refer to a different practice with what we had in St. Peter's basilica on Sunday. However many of the changes in the liturgy since Vatican II would suggest that we have regressed and not developed our understanding of the Holy Eucharist, giving them a flavour of antiquity/archaeologism (as if this was the only standard) which many of them clearly do not possess. Pope Benedict XVI is clearly addressing such issues.

ADV said...

Sorry Father a mistake! You are right Anon, bad copy and paste job I did there! Was meant to say ‘after’ The Bull Quo Primum and it is from the ‘De defectibus in celebratione Missarum occurrentibus’ of the ‘rubrical section’ as you say.

What I was pointing to by posting those quotes is to show that, while the situations are of course not the same, the past sometimes gives us a useful insight into the fact that things develop and change and we should not seek for practices to be ‘put back’ to some perceived ‘Golden Age’ of liturgical practice as tempting as that may be. This is exactly the problem with what was tried post-Vatican II, though completely erroneously, as the ‘ancient liturgies’ are arguably not even that, as you say. What we should look for is continuity and not wholesale invention, continuity and change with and for a reason.

I think that what you say about doctrine is more important. The liturgy (and its associated practices) must reflect the doctrine and in turn the liturgy will re-enforce the understanding of it. Doesn’t the problem arise when the two things no longer seem to coincide? It is obvious that at various points in history liturgical practices changed hand-in-hand with developments in theological understanding and sometimes reflect a type of visible expression of that in the face of heretical attack or innovation.

Maybe given all the Holy Father has written on the subject this is what he is seeking to do; the hermeneutic of continuity? We must be patient, trust and pray.
Cynic… the point is that the question here turns on the intention of the priest. Yes there is a bit of box ticking, and maybe that is because we cannot see into the heart of men? Maybe we are left to judge on actions to know intention?
It cannot be all about perception, as this leads one down a false path. Yes ‘the church supplies’ in terms of grace when there is serious defect in the administration of the sacraments, but the Blessed Sacrament is about more than that. Just because I perceive the host to be Christ will not make it so. It will remain spiritual and not actually the Body of Christ. This is why the intention of the priest ‘to do what the Church does’ matters, with all the elements needed to make the consecration valid. We need correct matter and form. The difficulty therefore arises when what we do liturgically starts to give room or reason for doubt.

gemoftheocean said...

"Once (before the Council) Archbishop (then Bishop) Cyril Cowderoy, celebrating High Mass at the seminary, was alerted to the fact that, at Communion, the ciborium containing hosts for that Mass was still sitting on the credence, having been forgotten at the offertory."

Ah, phooey. This sounds to me like a guy who wouldn't admit he made a mistake!!! It's one thing to perhaps have such a crowded altar that in sloppy practice a priest might say to himself "I'm consecrating everything on this altar, and oh, yeah, that one over there on the credence table I don't feel like asking the acolyte to bring over -- sloppy, but valid intent I should think -- but from what you say above -- it sounds like it was retroactive declaration. "well, if I had known they weren't all there I would have consecrated those over there." Shoulda, coulda, woulda doesn't count in my book. "Close" only counts in horseshoes, dancing and nuclear weapons. This is like a second baseman or shortstop not actually touching 2nd base in a double play because he's afraid of getting creamed by the runner coming down from 1st. Geez, Bishop, admit you were "defectibus" and not perfect and have to break some of those hosts in half or "do over" if you really haven't got enough.

" He said clearly 'I intended to consecrate enough hosts fot the Mass, therefore they are consecrated', and proceeded to distribute these hosts as Holy Communion."

When did he announce this? To himself? To his confessor? Is this an "in case 40 busloads of people sudden show up after the offertory I can grab all the altar breads in the sacristy I need?
Feh. As a rule of thumb if I'm at Mass I would expect the priest to consecrate what's on the altar, unless there is some special circumstance. I'd always assumed that the vast quantities of hosts used at papal functions were reserved and previously consecrated. If not, they've a sloppy way of doing things at these papal events.

"That this event has been remembered means that even at the time his judgment was considered questionable but possibly correct."

If he really did mentally think AT THE TIME he was consecrating "oh, yeah, and that one over there" I'd give it to him. But it sounds like he was just too embarrassed to admit he made a mistake!

I would HOPE if the altar breads in the ciboria aren't consecrated prior to the Mass - the pope would mentally intend something along the lines of -- "I intend to consecrate all on the altar AND the altar breads in the ciboria of *those specifically delegated to distribute Communion at this Mass." Because otherwise, as you say Mr. Intends-to-have-a-Black-Mass may be holding an altar bread -- and if the pope mentally says "I intend to consecrate all the altar breads in St. Peter's square" That's too loose of an intent!


Fr John Boyle said...

I think Karen should lecture in Sacramental Theology at the seminary. Her theology is as sound as a bell. I agree with her 100%. The late-Bishop's consecration was not valid! No question.

gemoftheocean said...

Fr. John, I can't tell if I just paid attention or I'm by nature a nitpicker. I expect a little of both. I've always found questions like these fascinating. For as "loose" as I sound on some things - I try to be persnickety about the "really important stuff." Whether the Eucharist is valid or not is "really important stuff!" The "how many candles do you use for a 21 gun salute" stuff is fun -- but "gravy." And some of this seems just good common sense. Although, that isn't so common, I hear!

Anyway, I can gather that a good many of you who have posted here teach in the seminary - keep their noses to the grindstone on this stuff. They SHOULD be interested! It will help them avoid hearing about nastygrams sent to the bishop's office.

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Fr Cyril Axelrod is a deaf blind Catholic priest. I think he has Ushers. I wonder where this could leave him. I also read recently that the words of consecration have to be 'spoken' and wonder how a Signed Mass would come under that-especially as I know there has been a move for some years to get the Vatican to recognise a British Sign Language translation of the Mass.