Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum
This Instruction is dated 25 March 2004 and was published at www.vatican.va on 23 April 2004.
It concludes with "All things to the contrary notwithstanding." This highlights that it is a document changing liturgical laws, not just explaining existing ones.
Here are the changes I have identified:
"The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling. [Footnote 180: CF. Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 118.]" It is true that this part of the Institutio Generalis listed the Communion-plate as required for Mass (as well as the larger paten). However the 2002 Roman Missal, n. 161, removed the reference to the Communion-plate when receiving Communion on the tongue, which was in the 1975 edition, n. 117: "The communicants reply: Amen and, holding the communion plate under their chin, receive the sacrament."
My interpretation of this removal was that the Communion-plate was only required for intinction, where the 2002 Roman Missal described its use:
"287. If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a communion-plate under the chin, approaches the priest, who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The priest takes a host, dips it partly into the chalice and, showing it, says, Corpus et Sanguis Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ). The communicant responds, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the priest, and then withdraws."
It is now clear that whenever anyone receives Communion on the tongue they should be holding a Communion-plate under their chin.
Monsignor Peter Elliott wrote: "It is more convenient for a server to be trained to hold it." (Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, Ignatius Press, 1995, page 43). I do not think that convenience justifies a departure from the instructions in the liturgical books.
Obviously people receiving Communion in the hand cannot be holding a Communion-plate. So where this is permitted there needs to be someone to hand the Communion-plate to. I think this will require an altar server standing next to every Communion Minister.
In 1973 the Instruction Immensae caritatis described the appointment of these "in a given instance or for a set period or even permanently". (Documents on the Liturgy, n. 2075). The new Instruction changes this to "one occasion or for a specified time".
A Rite of Commissioning was also published, with the instruction: "When the local Ordinary or his delegate deputes anyone in particular circumstances as a special minister of holy communion, that person should receive a mandate according to the following rite. This rite may take place either within or outside Mass, with a congregation present." (Documents on the Liturgy, n. 2949).
This rite was "advisable" rather than essential: "If there is time, it is advisable that the fit person chosen .... should receive a commission (mandatum) according to the rite annexed to this Instruction." (Documents on the Liturgy, n. 2080).
The new Instruction highlights this, in n. 155: "This act of appointment, however, does not necessarily take a liturgical form, nor, if it does take a liturgical form, should it resemble sacred Ordination in any way."
The appointments are no longer made by the more general "local Ordinary or his delegate" but "by the diocesan bishop".
So now to be properly appointed as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion I would say you need a document signed by the local bishop, including an expiry date for the appointment.
In 1973 the instructions were that an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion could be appointed "whenever it seems necessary for the pastoral benefit of the faithful and no priest, deacon, or acolyte is available." (Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, n. 17). The new instruction has: "If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed." (n. 157).
I find this part of the new Instruction confusing.
In n. 164 it sensibly points out that if the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible then "the diocesan Bishop should provide as far as he is able for some celebration to be held on Sundays for that community". But instead of using the existing liturgical books there seems to be encouragement to create new ceremonies:
"[165.] It is necessary to avoid any sort of confusion between this type of gathering and the celebration of the Eucharist. [Footnote 271: Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, Christi Ecclesia, n. 22: Notitiae 24 (1988) p. 371.] The diocesan Bishops, therefore, should prudently discern whether Holy Communion ought to be distributed in these gatherings. The matter would appropriately be determined in view of a more ample co-ordination in the Bishops’ Conference, to be put into effect after the recognitio of the acts by the Apostolic See through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It will be preferable, moreover, when both a Priest and a Deacon are absent, that the various parts be distributed among several faithful rather than having a single lay member of the faithful direct the whole celebration alone. Nor is it ever appropriate to refer to any member of the lay faithful as “presiding” over the celebration."
Normally the recognitio refers to the approval of a translation of a liturgical book. But for these ceremonies the translations were approved long ago: Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. I cannot think of any ceremony in the Roman Rite that does not have a single leader.
In the Liturgy of the Hours the approved translation describes the lay leader as the presider. The edition used in Australia has "258. When there is no priest or deacon, the person who presides is only one among equals; he does not enter the sanctuary, not does he greet or bless the people." The U.S.A. edition has "258. In the absence of a priest or deacon, the one who presides at the office is only one among equals and does not enter the sanctuary or greet and bless the people." So I have difficulty understanding why the approved translations should not be quoted in describing the role of the lay leader.
[Update 27 November 2005. The confusion over the recognitio seems widespread. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops asked for approval of a revised edition of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. Cardinal Arinze replied on 24 October 2004:
“It does not appear that in law at the present time there is strictly a need for the Bishops’ Conference to submit such a text for the recognitio. As to the substance, it would appear to the Congregation that the only procedural requirement at present is for the decision of the Bishops’ Conference regarding the question of whether or not Holy Communion should be distributed during Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest to receive the recognitio, in accordance with n. 165 of the recent Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum. The Congregation notes that the Conference has duly voted in favor of leaving an option in this matter and is happy to enclose a decree granting the recognitio for such a provision." See the February 2005 BCL Newsletter at www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/0205.shtml End of update].
"On the occasion of a feastday, sacred vestments of a gold or silver colour can be substituted as appropriate for others of various colours, but not for purple or black." (n. 127). This adds to the range in the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 346.
"138. Still, the Most Holy Sacrament, when exposed, must never be left unattended even for the briefest space of time. "
In exposition the consecrated host is displayed in a monstrance. This instruction is saying clearly that it is not to be left unattended.
I know places where there has been permanent exposition, but not permanent attendance. Previously there could be concerns about security, as Monsignor Peter Elliott wrote: "This lack of people present to adore Our Lord meant that anyone could have walked in and stolen the lunette containing the Sacred Host."
But in terms of liturgy, all he could say was: "I would argue that even in a locked chapel, to which people on a roster have access because they have received electronic keys, the practice of perpetual exposition is still illicit when no one is present, at least for considerable phases of time." (Liturgical Question Box, Ignatius Press, 1998, page 165).
Now the liturgical law is clear and it will mean difficult changes for some people.
By J.R. Lilburne, 23 April, 2004, updated 25 April 2004 and 27 November 2005. "Other Sites" updated 28 April 2004. Link updated 10 May 2004. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.