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I've seen similar questions like these:

but they do not cover what I want to ask here.

I've recently moved to Ireland from Russia, where I was attending a Catholic Church for some time. So I have never seen women there serving on the altar (I've heard about girls-ministrants who handle lights, giving the censer and so on - this is quite traditional, even in the Orthodox Church girls serve on the altar sometimes).

But, to be honest, I was quite shocked by seeing the local Irish Catholic tradition: women here mainly, without any liturgical vestements, are taking Communion on the altar from the Ciborium and then hand out Communion alongside the priests in the Church during mass.

It looks quite shocking and resembles the Protestant church more than something traditional (These women do not have any kind of vestements, but are dressed in regular clothes with make-up and perfume).

I've recently discussed this problem with my Russian Catholic friends and they said that this is some kind of malpractice, that Second Vatican Council wasn't intended to provide such a kind of extraordinary ministry where the use of laymen (here laywomen?) distributing Sacraments becomes regular practice.

What can you tell me about it? Is it really an abuse of Canon?

  • It seems you're asking a few questions that have already been asked here; e.g., see my answers here, here, and here. – Geremia Mar 14 '17 at 18:52
  • @Geremia I can not agree with you: this is absolutely different questions. I'm asking exactly about described practice. – Andremoniy Mar 14 '17 at 18:57
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    @Geremia The question, in a nutshell, appears to be, “are women allowed to distribute Communion in the Latin Rite,” which is not addressed in the other questions. (You might have touched on it in your answers, but the question asked is different.) – AthanasiusOfAlex Mar 14 '17 at 21:54
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The women are most likely extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, in which case there is no problem.

The current liturgical law for the Latin Rite, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) permits laypersons to distribute Communion:

The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion (GIRM 162).

Moreover, the Code of Canon Law stipulates

When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, lay persons [Latin: laici, which is distinguished from viri laici, that is, lay men; hence laici can be men or women], even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside offer liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law (Can. 230 §3).

Therefore, if those lay persons are properly deputed extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and there is an authentic need for them (e.g., to prevent the Mass from being excessively long; see Inaestimabile donum no. 10), then it is not a problem for them to distribute Communion.

Liturgical law does specify that there must be a true need for extraordinary ministers. The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum spells out the criteria:

  • In a Mass, the priests present should never delegate distribution of the Eucharist entirely to extraordinary ministers (no. 157).
  • “[T]he extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged” (no. 158).
  • So, in my nearest parish there are 5-6 lay extraordinary ministers (mainly women) always. Including 2 priests it becomes 7-8 "distribution" points around altar. Holy Communion distribution therefore takes 5 minutes, no more. The question is what is "unduly prolonged" celebration? I personally don't think that even 10 minutes will be long, which allows twice reduce number of ministers. – Andremoniy Mar 15 '17 at 4:48
  • @Andremoniy: That may be true, but it is up to the priest to decide how many Extraordinary Ministers will be necessary or not. My mother-in-law is an Extraordinary Minister, too, and she has a few times been told by her pastor that her services will no longer be required in the parish, then a few years later they are necessary again, and the cycle repeats. The point is, if the priest say "I need you to distribute communion," she will, otherwise she'll attend normally as a lay faithful, like I do. – Wtrmute Mar 15 '17 at 13:49
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    @Andremoniy Based on what you are describing, in my opinion, this use of extraordinary ministers is excessive, and it violates at least the spirit of the liturgical law. I am a priest, and if I had any say in the matter, I would not proceed in this way. – AthanasiusOfAlex Mar 15 '17 at 21:53

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