Bishop Morlino Supports New Missal's Communion Norms

Madison bishop joins Phoenix Diocese in instructing priests to limit Eucharist distribution under both species to specific occasions.

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MADISON, Wis. (EWTN News) — Citing a need for reverence, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., has asked priests to move in the direction of giving Communion only in the form of the Host and not the Precious Blood and to limit occasions when both kinds are distributed.

“What we say and do at the Mass, and what we do before the Lord present in the tabernacle, matters,” he said in an Oct. 10 letter to his diocese’s priests.

Bishop Morlino cited the new edition of the Roman Missal’s instruction on Communion under both species. It says the diocesan bishop may permit this whenever it seems appropriate to a pastor, provided that the faithful are “well instructed” and there is “no danger of profanation” of the sacrament.

“However, I have been told of, and have personally experienced, the reality that the provision both that the faithful be well instructed and that there be no danger of profanation of the sacrament is not being met,” he said.

“So many Catholics do not understand the Eucharist as the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, death and resurrection or the real presence of Christ under both species of bread and wine. They do not understand the role of the ordinary and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist,” he said.

“Most of all … so many of our people do not understand the kinds of reverence due at all times to the sacrament, whether within the Eucharistic liturgy or outside the celebration.”

This lack of understanding shows the need for the new translation of the Roman Missal, the bishop said.

His letter also comes at a time when the Catholic Church is reacting to the expiration of the permission the Vatican gave to the U.S. Church in 1975. It allowed American dioceses to experiment with Communion under both forms.

Bishop Morlino explained that the Second Vatican Council envisioned the provision of holy Communion under both kinds in situations like the ordination Mass for a newly ordained priest, at the Mass of religious profession for new Catholics, and at the post-baptismal Mass for the newly baptized.

Given these examples, the bishop said, “It would be hard to argue that Vatican II envisioned Communion under both forms every week.”

The new Roman Missal recommends that the chrism Mass and the feast of Corpus Christi as good occasions for Communion under both kinds. Other recommended times are to a couple at their wedding Mass, to children receiving their first Communion, to confirmation candidates or to people on retreat.

However, the new Missal also warns against the “excessive use” of extraordinary ministers because it could obscure the role of the priest or deacon.

The local bishop has the authority to allow Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate. Bishop Morlino said this permission has been “assumed,” and he understands that the practice is common at some parishes.

He asked priests to take “patient, prudent and practical steps” according to their situation in their individual parishes.

He also urged them to help their people know and understand the “beautiful gift” of the Eucharist and to know their obligations to prepare to receive it. He mentioned preparations like the sacrament of confession, the observance of the pre-Communion fast, proper attire and other matters.

“Our people know well the aspect of the Mass which is the Sacred Banquet, but help them to know the Eucharist at the memorial of Christ’s loving sacrifice for them,” he said. “Help them to understand your role in laying down your own life as the minister of Christ’s Body and Blood, present in the Host.”

On Sept. 21 the Diocese of Phoenix announced it intends to change its norms to conform to the new Missal’s instructions.

Msgr. Kevin Holmes, the rector of Madison’s cathedral parish Holy Redeemer Church, said in the parish’s Oct. 9 bulletin that Bishop Morlino has given pastors “considerable latitude” about the timetable to implement the changes. The bishop has suggested the beginning of Advent as one plausible date for the change.