Truthiness in Phoenix about communion from the cup

Just when I thought the liturgical news couldn't get any worse, the diocese of Phoenix has announced plans to "expand" opportunities to offer the cup to the whole assembly by restricting the cup in most cases. Citing a 25-year "experiment" in the English-speaking world, which ended in 2005, Bishop Thomas Olmsted will issue new directives that, according to a q&a on the diocesan website, will allow for communion from the cup only in the following instances: "That Holy Communion may be offered 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, as well as community members at a conventual Mass or those on a retreat or at a spiritual gathering."

What should be clear is that the cup will be used to separate some members of the assembly from others, notably the ordained (priests and deacons whether they are functioning in their liturgical roles or not), and seminarians and servers. Anyone starting to feel like a second-class citizen? Why not nuns in habits?

The deeply dishonest q&a provided by the diocese–basically a collection of half-truths–provides an incredibly narrow reading of church law on this matter, utterly disregarding the universal practice of the ancient church (still the practice of the Eastern Catholic churches), which was that the entire assembly received the eucharist under both kinds at every celebration of the eucharist. The q&a even suggests that communion under the form of bread alone is a greater sign of Catholic unity because most Catholics in the rest of the world don't get to receive from it. So because the faithful of the rest of the world are robbed of the fullness of the eucharistic symbol, the diocese of Phoenix should be too? Such logic is patently absurd in the extreme, as is the claim that communion from the cup has resulted in massive spillage of the Precious Blood, also cited as a reason for denying the cup to the assembly.

This decision is no less than an abuse of power by the bishop, a withdrawal from the faithful what they have a right to by their baptism. (Yes, baptized people have a right, in canon law, to the eucharist in its fullest form.) It may be that reception of the bread alone is "sufficient," but I haven't the foggiest idea why we should settle for "sufficient" when we can have the fullness of the eucharistic symbol.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.