When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he said This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” But does that “you” referexcept in special occasionsonly to priests? Some dioceses in the United States (such as Phoenix and Madison) are going back to the practice of denying the cup to laypeople , except on certain special occasions:
While Catholics across the United States are getting their tongues around the new translations of the Mass, Catholics in two U.S. dioceses will also be taste-testing another change: regular communion from the cup will be disappearing.
Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsteds new directives for communion from the cup, according to the diocesan website, will allow the assembly to receive the blood of Christ at the Chrism Mass and feast of Corpus Christi. Additionally it may be offered to a Catholic couple at their wedding Mass, to first communicants and their family members, confirmation candidates and their sponsors, as well as deacons, non-concelebrating priests, servers, and seminarians at any Mass, along with religious in their houses and retreatants. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin made a similar decision.
The effect of the change, intended or not, is that the blood of Christ will separate some members of the assembly from others, notably priests and deacons (whether they are functioning in their liturgical roles or not), and seminarians and servers.
A close reading of the Phoenix rationale for the decision quickly makes clear a primary purpose: to eliminate extraordinary (lay) ministers of the Eucharist, because too many of them result in obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers.
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The diocesan reasoning invokes the 2005 expiration of a Vatican permission granted in 1975 that allowed wide use of the cup but disregards the more general liturgical law that allows the diocesan bishop to make the cup widely available. The diocese even bizarrely argues that communion under the form of bread alone is a greater sign of Catholic unity because most Catholics in the world dont get to receive from the cup. Because the faithful of the rest of the world are robbed of the fullness of the eucharistic symbol, the reasoning goes, Catholics of the Diocese of Phoenix should be, too.
My first reaction as a Reformed evangelical is to wonder, “Who gives them the authority to deny the blood of Christ to the faithful?” Maybe I’m missing something but this doesn’t make any sense. As Gene Veith asks , “Could some of you Catholics explain why the laitynot just in these two dioceses but apparently in other places in the world would be denied the cup? I know about the priest/layperson distinction, but what is the rationale for manifesting that in this particular way?”