Questions Answered — September 2020

Explaining Intinction

Question: What is intinction? Why is it practiced? Is a concelebrating priest who does it celebrating Mass?

Answer: The practice of intinction involves the priest taking the Sacred Host from the paten or ciborium, dipping it in the Precious Blood in the chalice, and then placing it in the communicant’s mouth, saying: “The body and blood of Christ.” It is described thus in the Norms for the Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds published by the USCCB to implement the most recent General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “Holy Communion may be distributed by intinction in the following manner: Each communicant, while holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says: ‘The Body and Blood of Christ.’ The communicant replies, ‘Amen,’ receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws.” (n. 49)

This method is approved by both the General Instruction and the USCCB in the United States. It has become an issue for several reasons. Protestants generally do not like intinction because they reduce Holy Communion to the Lord’s Supper and do not hold it is a sacrifice. They also do not believe in transubstantiation and so would not hold that the whole substance of Christ is contained under each species. Thus it would not seem to fulfill the command of Christ to “Take and drink.” (Matt. 26:27) Many, as a result, do not condone the practice. In the Catholic Church, as is well known, the practice of giving communion under both kinds was suspended for many centuries. This was probably true for two reasons: Latin theology holds that the entire Christ is present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under each species (the appearances of bread and wine) and so, with the exception of the celebrant, who must receive both forms to complete the sacrifice, the communicant need not receive both, as there is no increase in reality when one receives both. Also, the danger of spillage and the cost of wine would seem to make communion under both kinds a rare thing or one for only small groups. The Eastern churches generally practice communion under both kinds, though they use small pieces of unleavened bread joined to the Precious Blood in the chalice and so use a golden spoon to spoon it into the mouth of the communicant.

In the Latin Church, intinction is sometimes used both for concelebration and for those who receive communion under both species. For concelebration, alcoholic priests cannot receive the Precious Blood in any great quantity, and intinction is thus an excellent option for them. For the laity this is often the result of desire to conserve the amount of wine consecrated and to avoid spillage and thus irreverence.

Since intinction is an option, it should generally be stated that there is nothing invalid in a Mass in which the priest celebrant or concelebrant receives communion by means of intinction. The faithful need not receive both species. The priest, however, must receive both species for the Mass to be valid because of the necessity of the completion of the sacramental sign. So there would be nothing either illegal or invalid about the priest receiving communion in this way.

Trouble With Religious Education

Question: Must I submit to the diocesan or parish confirmation programs to have my child confirmed? I find that they introduce difficulties into the life of the children, especially about sex education, which I, as a home schooler, find sometimes shocking and would prefer to do myself. Also, they seem characterized by exercises in pop psychology with which I do not agree and the two-day retreat can be co-ed in the worst possible sense.

Answer: Religious education is a serious and today, sadly, sometimes a controversial matter. First, it must be stated that the teaching of the Catholic Church is clear that the primary educators of children in both reason and faith are not education bureaucracies, either secular or ecclesiastical. The primary educators are the parents. The authority of the parents to determine what education their children receive, even in catechesis, is God-given and based in the natural law. The child is a fruit of their bodies and their love. Their bodies and their love are the means God uses to create the soul in divine providence.

Because the family is rooted in divine providence turning around the sexual act, the order of authority is rooted in the personal participation of the father and the mother in the act of procreation. The parents supply the matter, but God directly creates the form of the human soul. The diverse participation of the parents in the act determines the order of authority and responsibility in which each participates in authority. This includes the authority to teach the truth.

As is true of every human community, authority is primarily an application of the virtue of prudence. This prudence is different than the prudence connected to the authority of a civil or ecclesiastical community because it represents the unique good pursued in the family. That primary good is education. This education is primarily interested in inculcating virtues in all the members of the household, whether they are natural or Christian virtues. “The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and spiritual formation. ‘The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.’ The right and duty of parents to education their children are primordial and inalienable. […] The home is well-suited for education in the virtues.” (CCC 2221-2222)

The parents are also the primary apostles of their children, because of their share in Christ’s prophetic office by virtue of their baptism, and do not need to be licensed catechists to teach their children the faith. Though this is true, pastorally the clergy who admit people to the sacraments also have a duty to be certain that the person should be well prepared. This is usually accomplished by parish-sponsored catechesis for both children and adults. Though the adults have responsibility for their own instruction, the parents retain responsibility for their children’s formation. Most programs in sacramental preparation are well done and fairly thorough. Regrettably, though, there are some today who seek to inculcate popular movements from secular education in both psychology and sexual education which certainly could be offensive and in some cases are even in error. Parents have a duty to avoid these.

Also, for some reason this is especially true of group retreats which are co-ed in preparation for confirmation.

The best way to approach this is for the parent in consultation with the pastor to ask permission to instruct his own children. The pastor should submit the child to a test in private to be certain he knows all that is required. If this is not possible, many parents, especially homeschoolers, have bonded together in groups and sought to find a bishop who will confirm their children, always with the approval of the local diocese. This may be difficult to obtain, but I know of one case in which such a group imported a cardinal from Rome and things went forward. Confrontation should be avoided at all costs and cooperation encouraged. The weight of Church teaching is on the side of the parent.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, “Questions Answered.”

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