Handling the Precious Blood
This article is reprinted from the Questions Answered section of the 19 May 2019 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review, with the kind permission of the editor, Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ.
During Mass, wine is consecrated in a chalice and we believe it becomes the Precious Blood of Jesus.
I understand that it should not be poured out into any other vessel and given to Eucharistic ministers to administer to the faithful.
Kindly tell us what should be the right practice — including, can the communicants take the consecrated host, dip, and consume?
Thank you, Father.
The practice of the Church is clear in this regard and if it was not clear before it was reiterated by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments in Redemptionis Sacramentum, implemented on March 25, 2004.
This document seeks to standardize Eucharistic practice and reforms some abuses which had crept in since the renewal of the liturgy was undertaken in the late '60s.
Before addressing these clarifications, it is important to state that many of the abuses which have occurred are the result of a strange Eucharistic theology which has been abroad in the Church since the demise of Scholastic theology in the late '60s.
When I was studying at Berkeley, for example, about 1970, we attended common lectures given by important professors in the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of Protestant and Catholic seminaries adjacent to Cal (UC Berkeley).
One of these lectures was on the Eucharist.
It was delivered by a famous Franciscan theologian to a group of assembled Catholic seminarians from various religious orders.
In that lecture, the professor opined that, according to the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation, if one put the consecrated host under a microscope one should see the molecules of Jesus' body.
Since they did not have microscopes in the Middle Ages, but we do now, they did not know that this was not true.
So we had to change our explanation of the Eucharist to saying that the change which occurs was not one in substance (which apparently he took to be a chemical-molecular substance) but to a change in meaning and use.
The reaction of most of the assembled seminarians was one of unqualified agreement, which astonished me.
The sister who taught me in the fifth grade told me that was not true.
Substance in this case is a being which exists in its own right.
Accidents are beings which must exist in another being, including the molecular structure. In our doctrine we maintain that the accidents, including the chemical-molecular structure, remain the same, but what the being is completely changes into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.
The professor's teaching was a common one at the time, and wrong.
Part of the error included a complete lack of philosophical understanding.
This led in many cases to a new view of the priesthood and to a new interpretation of what went on at Mass.
If only the meaning or use changes, then the sacred species are not really a miraculous presence of Christ from heaven including his divinity, but just an expression of our common idea of need.
This has led to many abuses, not least of which are things like pouring the remaining Precious Blood down the sink, consecrating pitchers and then pouring them into chalices at the Agnus Dei, and self-communication, as the congregation is looked on as priestly in the same way as the ministerial priest.
Some were even teaching at that time that the priesthood no longer entails an indelible mark (called the character) but is merely temporary.
Redemptionis Sacramentum sought to remedy the mistaken practices which corresponded to this mistaken teaching.
Regarding the pouring of the Precious Blood, it clearly states this an abuse, whether at the Agnus Dei or down the sacrarium (the special sink in the sacristy).
The norms are very strict.
 However, the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery.
Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms.
 In accordance with what is laid down by the canons, "one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose, incurs a latæ sententiæ excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state."
To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species.
Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground, incurs the penalties laid down.
Furthermore all will remember that once the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of Mass has been completed, the prescriptions of the Roman Missal are to be observed, and in particular, whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ must be entirely and immediately consumed by the Priest or by another minister, according to the norms, while the consecrated hosts that are left are to be consumed by the Priest at the altar or carried to the place for the reservation of the Eucharist. [Redemptionis Sacramentum]
As to self-communication, the norms are very clear also.
 The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand.
As for the host to be used for the intinction, it should be made of valid matter, also consecrated; it is altogether forbidden to use non-consecrated bread or other matter. [Redemptionis Sacramentum]
Article written 19 May 2019
Copyright © 2019 Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Reprinted by permission of copyright owner.