ATLANTA - On Thursday, I posted an article about the 12:30pm weekday mass that I observed at St. Anna's Catholic Church in Monroe, GA, where the parish priest and deacon were absent and a layman led the congregation through the Liturgy of the Word and Distribution of Holy Communion.
Despite my views on the material heresy of the Novus Ordo, lack of reverence of modern priests and laity, primacy of traditional apostolic liturgy, and the unique privileges of the ordained, I wanted to dig deeper and illustrate how my observation not only violated my before-mentioned views, but also the current guidelines from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
I also questioned the parish priest today about the incident, but I'll get to that dialogue later in the article. For now, we will discuss extraordinary circumstances and how they can affect sacraments.
In extraordinary circumstances, when a sacrament must be administered and the presence of a ordained priest is not possible, some sacraments may be administered by the laity. For example, "where there is danger of death, Baptism may be lawfully administered by any person who observes the essential conditions," states The Prayer Book, The Catholic Press, 1954. It goes further to insist that "outside of danger of death, it would be wrong for a lay Catholic to presume to baptize."
It is important to state that the 1954 text doesn't discuss lay involvement in Holy Communion outside of Mass.
According to "Redemptionis Sacramentum" by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, promulgated in 2004, the "Particular Celebrations carried out in the Absence of a Priest" in Chapter VI are only authorized "if participation at the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible on account of the absence of a sacred minister or for some other grave cause." Moreover, the Congregation clearly states that the "diocesan Bishop...must not easily grant permission for such celebrations to be held on weekdays, especially in places where it was possible or would be possible to have the celebration of Mass on the preceding or the following Sunday."
St. Anna's Catholic Church held mass at 12:30pm on Friday, of which most of the same parishioners from Thursday attended and received Holy Communion, and will hold Sunday Mass. In short, Thursday's situation was not extraordinary.
But it's not just the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament that holds these guidelines. In "Redemptionis Sacramentum," the Congregation insists that "diocesan Bishops...should prudently discern whether Holy Communion ought to be distributed in these gatherings" and that "the matter would appropriately be determined in view of more ample co-ordination in the Bishops' Conference."
The USCCB upholds the guidelines from the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, stating on their webpage for Weekday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest that "the specialized provisions...are not appropriate to weekday celebrations" and the "rite is designed for those who are prevented from being present at the community's celebration" on Sunday Mass and other Holy Days of Obligation.
I reaffirm that, St. Anna's Catholic Church held mass at 12:30pm on Friday, of which most of the same parishioners from Thursday attended and received Holy Communion, and will hold Sunday Mass. In short, Thursday's situation was not extraordinary.
Catholics are required to attend Mass for all Holy Days of Obligation, but are only required to receive Holy Communion once a year during Easter, as affirmed by the Baltimore Catechism Vol. 3. I understand that the parishioners desired to receive our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, but they could have waited until the following day or Sunday to receive it from the parish priest. However, they chose to violate the guidelines from the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament and the USCCB.
Today, after praying the Holy Rosary and observing the 12:30pm Friday Mass, I was able to question the parish priest about the incident. I will only refer to him as "Father."
ME: "Hello Father, I wanted to speak with you about yesterday's mass. I felt uncomfortable with what happened...and so did another lady, who sat near me, also walked out."
FATHER: "I'm sorry that you felt uncomfortable. I had scheduled the local deacon to preside over the mass, but he had to take his mother to the hospital. I asked 'LAYMAN JOE' to help."
ME: "Very unfortunate. I understand you can't plan for everything or see into the future, but Holy Communion should have been postponed until the following mass."
FATHER: "Thank you for bringing this to my attention and for caring about the dignity of the Blessed Sacrament, but I have the responsibility to ensure I meet the needs of the congregation to receive the Blessed Sacrament."
ME: "Yes, but the same faithful received Holy Communion today and will likely receive again on Sunday. Unless one of them were near death and required Extreme Unction and Viaticum, there was no extraordinary circumstance that required a layman to administer the Liturgy of the Word and Distribution of Holy Communion. It is my understanding that the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament and the USCCB prohibit weekday celebrations by the laity without extraordinary circumstance for the purpose of waiting for the next Mass or Sunday."
FATHER: "I think I have the authority, as the parish priest, to give permission and recognize this as an extraordinary circumstance."
ME: "Ok, Father. I ask that in the future, proper preparations are made to illustrate greater reverence during the Liturgy of the Word and Distribution of Holy Communion. The layman needs to wear vestments, the alb, or conservative clothing. He was wearing shorts at the altar."
FATHER: "Thank you for bringing this to my attention and for being open with me."
The parish priest quickly identified what I wanted to discuss with him. He was very nice and calm, but became stronger when asserting that he had the "authority, as the parish priest, to give permission and recognize this as an extraordinary circumstance." This is not true, since the authority resides with the diocesan Bishop, as stated by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament. After my final comment, he quickly diverted to small talk and tried to get on with his day.
This incident highlights the lack of reverence in the Novus Ordo and how the lack of resilience and fortitude to adhere to Church teachings continues to spread deviation. In the modern Catholic Church, everything is an extraordinary circumstance, which is why it is used to argue for Eucharistic Ministers, women altar servers, Saturday afternoon mass, and after the Amazon Synod, married and women priests and deacons. As we slip further away from Apostolic Tradition, the snowball effect continues to magnify.
In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus. Amen.