Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Term "Extraordinary"

Many bloggers have commented on the obvious contradiction being made manifest by the Bishops of the world in their use of the term "Extraordinary." As we all know, there are two primary nouns that this adjective is applied to in the Church today: Form and Minister. We have Benedict XVI referring to the 1962 Missal as the "Extradordinary Form" of the Latin rite, the Ordinary Form of course being the Novus Ordo (for now). Then, we have the use of the phrase "Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist" to denote that army of lay people who are on call to help the priest distribute Holy Communion when for logistical reasons or time constraints the priest cannot reasonably distribute it on his own without assistance.

Now, how have the Bishops interpreted the word "extraordinary" in each case? Of course, in the situation with Extraordinary Ministers (who are not ministers at all), the word is given a very broad allowance. Originally, EMs were to be allowed only for extraordinary situations, as their name implies. Is there anything extraordinary about them today? My parish is relatively small, and we have at least three of them present at every Sunday Mass. Larger parishes have entire teams comprised of sometimes two dozen or more EM's. How frequently are EMs supposed to be used? Let's see what the GIRM says:

GIRM 162. 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, e.g., 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.

Notice that it says first that there must be a "very large number" of the faithful. How large is this? Well, the GIRM is ambiguous, but surely it must mean more than the 35 people that come to daily Mass in my hometown where there is nevertheless three EMs. But then again, the Bishops have always had a hard time determining where to draw the line of sufficient numbers of the faithful.

Second, the GIRM prefers "duly instituted acolytes" first and only concedes the use of other lay people if there are no acolytes (and when have we seen acolytes anywhere rceently?)

What about Redemptionis Sacramentum? It says concerning EMs:

RS 88.Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.

Again, this phrase is ambiguous. Both the GIRM and RS need interpretation by the Bishop. And how have the Bishops chosen to interpret these documents and the word "extraordinary?" Well, it seems that a "very large" number of the faithful need not be large at all, sometimes less than 30, to merit Extraordinary Ministers. Second, "necessity" is being interpreted rather lightly. I'd hardly call 95% of the times when EMs are used "necessities." It seems, therefore, that the Bishops intend that "extraordinary" and "necessity" be interpreted to mean "ordinary" and "normal," at least in the case of EMs.

Have they been consistent in interpreting Extraordinary in this light when referring to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite? Not a chance. In Steubenville, over 155 people wanting the TLM was not enough to constitute a stable group, though 30 people would constitute a "very large number" to justify using EMs. I personally don't mind at all of Benedict calls the 1962 Missal the Extraordinary Form as long as it becomes as extraordinary as Extraordinary Ministers! That should be our prayer: O Lord, please let the Extraordinary Form be as common as Extraordinary Ministers!


Anonymous said...

Oh now, now..... lay off the bishops. After all, they like lots and lots of extra folks, I mean extra, ordinary folks.

Make 'em happy. Make them some kind of "wanna-be's'

Then the collections go up.

So what if the faith act in a reciprocal manner.

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

I'm curious how many EMHCs actually look forward to the day when their services will no longer be required.

I witnessed a travesty at my parish last Holy Thursday, when a group of 8 or so concelebrating priests received Communion and then sat down as EMHCs came up to receive and then help my pastor distribute Communion. Luckily, that did not happen at my parish's 25th anniversary (which had an army of concelebrants). I'm hoping it doesn't happen on Holy Thursday again. I'll talk to my pastor beforehand just to be sure.

Staying in Balance said...

35? We have a LOT less than that at daily Mass and have at least 2 if not 3 EMs there. :(

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the well known joke opening line 'how many X does it take to change a lightbulb' forms its own punchline if X=extraordinary ministers.

As for the extrordinary form I await our PC-infused bishops to state that it is 'differently extraordinary'.