Major Liturgical Abuses In Catholic Parishes


I. Introduction.

Pope John Paul II, in his letter ON THE MYSTERY AND WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARIST (Dominicae cenae), 24 February, 1980, in item 13, writes "The Church not only acts but also expresses herself in the liturgy, lives by the liturgy and draws from the liturgy the strength for her life." (See Austin Flannery, O.P., [ed.], Vatican Council II, vol. 2, 1982, p. 86.) The Mass reflects not only the faith and doctrine of the Church, but also its center of life. The Catholic faithful live by and derive strength from the Mass. To destroy the Mass is to destroy the center of the life of the Church and to sap its strength. Yet, many innovations introduced in the name of the "spirit" of Vatican II, starting with Holy Communion in the hand in the Netherlands and Belgium in 1969 which subsequently spread around the world, have yielded fruits that are definitely harmful to the Church. Among the major innovations are the introduction of altar girls, lay Eucharistic Ministers, and Communion in the hand. Many countries implement these innovations without the approval of Vatican (in case of altar girls) or contrary to the norms set by the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship (in case of lay Eucharistic Ministers and Communion in the hand).

The widespread abuses threaten the unity of the Church as mentioned by Pope John Paul II in the above letter: "Above all I wish to emphasize that the problems of the liturgy and in particular of the Eucharistic Liturgy, must not be an occasion for dividing Catholics and for threatening the unity of the Church. This is demanded by an elementary understanding of that Sacrament which Christ has left us as the source of spiritual unity. And how could the Eucharist, which in the Church is the sacramentum pietatis, signum unitatis, vinculum caritatis, form between us at this time a point of division and a source of distortion of thought and of behavior, instead of being the focal point and constitutive center, which it truly is in its essence, of the unity of the Church herself?" (Dominicae cenae, in Flannery, op. cit., p. 87.) Thus when the Mass is changed to such an extent that, as in the new liturgy proposed by Cardinal Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in May 1997, the Mass will no longer be of the same Roman or Latin rite of the universal Church, but it would be of a strange rite belonging to some schismatic (Christian?) sect.

The abuses and scandals caused by the disobedience to the Holy Father concerning the directives on the liturgy and the Eucharist has led him to apologize publicly in his letter:

"As I bring these considerations to an end, I would like to ask forgiveness -- in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear Brothers in the Episcopate -- for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great Sacrament. And I pray the Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing with this sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any way the sense of reverence and love that exists in our faithful people." (See ON THE MYSTERY AND WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARIST (Dominicae cenae), 24 February, 1980, in item 12, in Flannery, op. cit., p. 85.)

Today in 1997, the abuses and scandals are widespread and much worse than in 1980. The Pope must have been very sad and feel helpless for a great many Bishops just ignore him. Let us pray for him and for those who cause him grief.

II. Altar Girls.

Widespread use of altar girls is reported in parishes in America in disobedience to the Holy Father.

INSTRUCTION CONCERNING WORSHIP of the EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY (Inaestimabile Donum), prepared by the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, approved and confirmed by His Holiness POPE JOHN PAUL II, April 17, 1980, states in item no. 18: "Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers." (Page 10 in Daughters of St. Paul edition).

In 1986, a letter from the same Congregation to Mrs. Diez further confirms that this prohibition has not been changed.









24 October 1986

Prot. N. 825/86

Dear Mrs. Diez,

This Congregation wishes to acknowledge the receipt of your letter and enclosed documentation concerning serving at the altar.

There has been no change in the Church's legislation concerning this subject.

The present norm is as stated in the Instruction Inaestimabile Donum, n. 18

Women and girls "are not permitted to act as altar servers."

With every prayerful good wish, I am,

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Virgilio Noe


Titular Archbishop of Voncaria



Mrs. Ph. Diez

4041 N. Parkside

Chicago, IL 60634



In the following analysis Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. explains why altar girls should not be used:

"Yet, we frequently see altar girls in many Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in America. Many American Bishops are openly disobeying the Holy Father in allowing women and girls act as altar servers in masses in their dioceses.

"In the sacrament or the Holy Order, God, through the instrumentally of those whom He has authorized to speak. In the name of His Son confers upon the sacred ministers the power to act in the name of Christ and in certain sacramental acts to act in fact as extensions of the one mediator, Christ. While the entire Church is feminine and masculine and paternal. Because the Bishop, the priest (and by participation, the deacon) not only represent Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of sacrament and word, only the masculine sex can represent sacramentally in an adequate way the male Christ Who Himself as male represents God facing creation and the bridegroom facing his bride the Church.

"The Church only becomes the Body of Christ in the mystery of the two in one flesh by which, initially bride, by being joined to her Groom she becomes one body with the head. The Eucharist, the center and summit of the Sacraments, involves a sacred place, a sacred time and a sacred person both symbolically setting apart the orders of grace and redemption from the order of creation and making really present the Divine Person of Christ in Word and Sacrament. For this reason, many theologians (e.g., de Lubac, Von Balthasar, Bouyer) hold, in keeping with a long and unbroken ecclesiastical tradition, that there is an absolute prohibition of women as recipients of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

"Do any of these philosophical and theological principles apply also to the question of admission of women to either the ministry of Acolyte or Lector, or the exercise of these ministries? The following are some of the grounds for an affirmative response to this question.

"The sanctuary, and in particular the altar, is the sacred place, the Eucharist is the sacred act, its celebration the sacred time and the priest the sacred person in the most profound and rnysterious center of the entire Christian religion. The acolyte participates in this most Holy of Holies -- most holy of times, places and persons -- by being the immediate assistant at the altar of the Priest acting in persona Christi. This he does especially by helping to prepare the sacrificial gifts. In this role as a helper or assistant of the priest he becomes, as it were, the hands of the priest. For this reason, while it would not lead to the invalidity of the Sacrament of a woman to act as acolyte, it would be in serious disharmony with the very nature and character of the whole order of grace and redemption, the mediation of the priest and the symbolic character of men and women. In addition, it would be a confusion of the role which specifically that of the woman as representative of creation and the Church.

"Many Bishops and Priests now allow altar girls, contrary to the discipline of the Church. In some countries this is another step in a conscious tactic : force change by violating Church discipline and then agitating for official approval of the fait accompli. If the Pope then gives in on this point , the inevitable perception will be that the "first step" toward women's ordination has been achieved. The feminists will increase their demands for more concessions, and there will be further violations of Church discipline at the "next step." Now is the time to say NO."

III. Lay Eucharistic Ministers.

Another widespread abuse is the use of the extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers when conditions required are not met.

INSTRUCTION CONCERNING WORSHIP of the EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY (Inaestimabile Donum, 1980) mentioned above states in item no. 10 : "The faithful, whether religious or lay, who are authorized as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can distribute Communion only when there is no priest, deacon or acolyte, when the priest is impeded by illness or advanced age, or when the number of the faithful going to Communion is so large as to make the celebration of Mass excessively long. Accordingly, a reprehensible attitude is shown by those priests who, though present at the celebration, refrain from distributing Communion and leave this task to the laity." (Page 8 in Daughters of St. Paul edition).

Further Vatican Instruction on Extraordinary Ministers is given below:

(This article is taken from a Supplement to Apropos magazine; reprinted in The Fatima Crusader, Summer 1991).

What follows is the text of a letter sent from the Apostolic Nuncio to Cardinal Hume on September 22, 1987. We suspect that a similar letter has been sent to all Bishops' conferences. It appears to have remained a closely guarded secret.


Your Eminence,

The Congregation for the Sacraments has asked the Apostolic Nunciature to bring to your attention the following communication regarding the 'extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist'.

One of the most special forms of participation of the faithful laity in the liturgical activity of the Church is surely the faculty granted to them to distribute Holy Communion as 'extraordinary ministers'. (cfr. Can. 230, par.3; 910, par.2)

This faculty has been the means of real help to both the celebrant and the faithful, when a large number of people want to receive Holy Communion. But, unfortunately, in some cases it has led to serious abuses, either because the extraordinary nature of this faculty has been overlooked, or because the faculty itself has been considered as a kind of prize to some good lay people in recognition of their collaboration.

The abuses may occur in the following situations:

If the 'extraordinary ministers' of the Eucharist distribute Holy Communion, together with the celebrant, when the number of communicants does not constitute a case of necessity;

If the 'extraordinary ministers' of the Eucharist distribute Holy Communion, together with the celebrant, to a large number of communicants, when there are other 'ordinary ministers' available, even if the latter are not taking part in the celebration;

If the 'extraordinary ministers' distribute Holy Communion to themselves and to the faithful, while the 'ordinary ministers' -- celebrant and concelebrants -- remain inactive.

Having received many complaints about such abuses from all over the world, the Congregation for the Sacraments has asked the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law for the exact interpretation of Code of Canon Law 910, par.2, and Canon 230, par.3, which refer precisely to the, extraordinary ministry' of the Eucharist The question was formulated as follows:

The answer given by the aforesaid Pontifical Commission in its Plenary session of February 20, 1987, was: Negative.

This authentic interpretation was approved by the Holy Father on June 15, 1987 , and the Congregation for the Sacraments was entrusted to communicate it to the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world.

As we can see, the answer of the Pontifical Commission shows clearly that, in the presence of 'ordinary ministers of the Eucharist' -- (bishops, priests, deacons -- cfr. Can.910, par.l), whether they are taking part in the celebration or not, provided they are sufficient in number and not engaged in other ministries, it is not permitted to the extraordinary ministers to distribute Holy Communion, either to themselves or to others.

In order to put an end to the abuses that may be taking place in this country, and to prevent others from taking place, the Congregation for the Sacraments has charged this Apostolic Nunciature to communicate the above mentioned, 'authentic interpretation' to you, and, through you, to all the other members of your Episcopal Conference.

Finally, the Holy See begs all the bishops to follow this matter with vigilant care, so that the clarification contained in this present communication may no longer be evaded, but may contribute to restore the exact observance of the liturgical discipline on an issue of such importance.

Msgr. Rino Passigato


"Utrum minister extraordinarius Sacrae Comnunionis ad normam cann. 910, par. 2, et 230, par. 3, deputatus suum munus suppletorium exercere possit etiam cum praesentes sint in ecclesia, etsi ad celebrationem eucharisticam non participantes, ministri ordinari qui non sint quoque modo impediti."

(English translation of Latin)

" Whether the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, appointed according to the norm of Canon 910, par.2, and Canon 230, par.3, may exercise his supplementary ministry when there are also ordinary ministers present in Church, even not participating in the Eucharistic celebration, who are not impeded in any way."


IV. Communion in the Hand.

This abuse which potentially leads to the desecration of the Body of Christ is also quite widespread. The author of this article witnessed a consecrated host being thrown to the ground beneath the pew in front of him. His friends also witnessed people going to Holy Communion without consuming the Host but putting It into their pockets. The desecration most likely would not have happened if the Communion were on the mouth.

We are going to show that communion in the hand is against the Tradition of the Church and constitutes a serious disobedience to Pope John Paul II's directives..

1. Pope St. Eutychian (275-283) severely warned the priests, exhorting them to themselves take the consecrated Host to the sick and not to entrust this obligation to a layman or a woman: "Nullus praesumat tradere communionem laico vel feminae ad deferendum infirme" (P. L. V.. col. 163-8).

2. One of the four Great Eastern Fathers, Bishop St. Basil the Great (330-379), mentions clearly that communicating with one's own hand is permitted only in time of persecution, or as happened with the monks in the desert when no priest or deacon was present to administer It. St. Basil considers Communion in the hand so irregular that he did not hesitate to consider it a grave fault, when there were no exceptional circumstances to justify it.

3. There is no doubt that the survival of this habit in some places was considered to be an abuse, which was not in harmony with the custom of the Apostles. This is proved by the measures taken in various regions to put an end to it. Thus the Council of Rouen, which met in 650, says: "Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywoman but only in their mouths."

4. The 19th Ecumenical Council of Trent, (1545-1563) declared: "Now as to the reception of the sacrament it has always been the custom in the Church of God for the laity to receive communion from the priests, but that the priests when celebrating should communicate themselves [can. 10]; this custom proceeding from an apostolical tradition should with reason and justice be retained." Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma, 30th edition, # 881, p. 269.) This implies that in the Apostolic Tradition only the priest giving Communion to himself with his own hands, not the laity giving communion to themselves.

5. In the INSTRUCTION ON THR MANNER OF DISTRIBUTING HOLY COMMUNION (Memoriale Domini) issued on May 29, 1969 by Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, it says: "Thus the custom was established of the minister placing a particle of consecrated bread on the tongue of the communicant. This method of distributing holy communion must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist. The custom does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord ... the Holy Father does not think that the age-old accepted way of receiving Holy Communion ought to be changed ... The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed." (See Austin Flannery, O.P., [ed.], Vatican Council II, vol. 1, revised edition 1988, pp. 149-150, 1951),

6. Pope John Paul II, in his letter ON THE MYSTERY AND WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARIST (Dominicae cenae), 24 February, 1980, in item no. 11 states: "In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect toward the Eucharistic Species have been reported, respect toward the Eucharistic Species have been reported, such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful toward the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of Communion in the hand, has been authorized ..." (See Austin Flannery, O.P., [ed.], Vatican Council II, vol. 2, 1982, p. 82.)

Indeed, many faithful including this author, have been denied Holy Communion for daring to kneel in adoration of Our Lord and God before receiving It on the tongue. This is in direct opposition to the directive from the Holy Father in Inaestimabile Donum, 1980, item no. 11, which states:

"The Church has always required from the faithful respect and reverence for the Eucharist at the moment of receiving it. With regard to the manner of going to Communion, the faithful can receive it either kneeling or standing, in accordance with the norms laid down by the episcopal conference.

"When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration. When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people going to and from Communion is not disrupted." (Page 8 in the Daughters of St. Paul edition).

7. INSTRUCTION CONCERNING WORSHIP of the EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY (Inaestimabile Donum, 1980), in item 9 states: "Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for this purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another." (Page 8 in Daughters of St. Paul edition).

8. The Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy published a pamphlet entitled "The Body of Christ," which contains horrible errors. Only three will be mentioned:

  1. On the first cover, the pamphlet quotes what seems to be attributed to Bishop St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) as saying about Communion in the hand. In view of this unheard-of liberty, which is incompatible with the total veneration due to the Sacred Species, those who are more learned in these matters think of an interpolation in the Bishop's text as regards Communion in the hand. Even if St. Cyril did say what he is quoted to have said, in that point he was totally wrong. An educated Catholic should know that St. Cyril was only a bishop and not the Pope. As far as his authority was concerned, it was very much inferior to the authority of St. Eutychian, Pope, inferior to the authority of St. Basil the Great, inferior to the authority of the Council of Rouen, and inferior to the authority of the Council of Trent. When the bishops rely on poor St. Cyril to permit Communion in the hand a person with some common sense would realize that that argument is very weak.
  2. On page 2, the pamphlet says: "For almost 1,000 years the laity who received communion at Mass received it in their hands and placed the consecrated bread in their mouths."
  3. This quote represents a tremendous error in view of the Tradition of the Church confirmed by Pope John Paul II in his various letters above.
  4. On page 5, the pamphlet says: "The tongue is not more holy than the hand. The total person is holy; no part of one's being is less sacred than another."

If this is true then why the Church requires that when one is baptized, the water has to be poured on the head and not on the leg or any other part of the body? (cf. Baltimore Catechism, No. 3, Question 638 and 640.) And why did the Church require Holy Communion on the tongue for 2,000 years, except during persecution? Because nobody can hold the Body of Christ without fear of desecration except the consecrated hands of the Priest .

From reading the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy pamphlet, a good Catholic, who really has faith in.the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, can easily say that those clergymen who permit Communion in the hand, and the laity that receive It in their hands, either do not have faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Host, or that their faith is in agony. Indeed, these are the words of Pope John Paul II: "... In normal conditions to ignore the liturgical directives can be interpreted as a lack of respect towards the Eucharist, dictated perhaps by individualism or by an absence of a critical sense concerning current opinions, or by a certain lack of a spirit of faith." (see ON THE MYSTERY AND WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARIST (Dominicae cenae), 24 February, 1980, , item 12, in Flannery, op. cit., vol 2, page 85.)

The only ones to communicate always standing and with their hands outstretched were from the beginning the Arians, who obstinately denied the Divinity of Christ and who could not see in the Eucharist any more than a simple symbol of union, which can be taken and handled at will. Millions of present-day Catholics including many prelates and priests, have been practically converted to Arianism, a great heresy lasting from the fourth to the seventh century.

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