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Dear Father Rutler: How can a priest and recovering alcoholic consume the Precious Blood?


Dear Fr Rutler: how can a priest and recovering alcoholic consume the Precious Blood? Are the conclusions of episcopal conferences binding on the faithful?, etc.

mass2I'm a priest and a recovering alcoholic, and I dread the day I have to drink a large amount of Christ's Sacred Blood left over after a Mass. What should I do?  Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Congratulations on your recovering. The word itself is a gerund, or verbal noun. Think of the rarer gerundive in Latin. Cato the Elder used it (eg delenda) to rally the Senators. There are two newly elected Congresswomen with vulgar vocatives and intemperate glottal fricatives, who obviously are ignorant of this. Everyone is recovering from something by God's grace. To persist in that recovering is what St John (John 1:16) calls "grace upon grace ".

In as much as the priest-celebrant may use just a small drop of wine at the preparation, one assumes that you are taking about the problem caused by administering Communion in both species to large numbers. This has to be one of the reasons the practice was discontinued long ago, but don't tell that to those liturgists whose pedantic "historicism" was condemned by Pius XII.

Pouring the Precious Blood even into a "sacrarium" (with a drain that enters the soil) incurs a severe penalty latae sententiae, ie automatic excommunication, if done with deliberate irreverence, and only ignorance of this would mitigate the guilt. You could have the consecrated species consumed by other sacred ministers or by designated lay people. Common sense would eliminate administration of both species. And spare a prayer for those who twisted the rubrics to allow what is at least impractical and at worst is courting (to invoke a gerund) sacrilege.


I converted to Catholicism to marry my second wife, only to find out that my previous marriage prevented us from receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church. I sought to get my first marriage annulled but there was nothing doing. Eventually, we were married in a civil ceremony. We have a wonderful life and three beautiful children together, but as we grow older we'd both like to "get right" with God. What should we do? - Joseph B. from Racine, WI

Dear Joseph,

Graces can issue from making sacrifices to conform to God's demands. A "spiritual communion" which consists in assisting at Mass while not receiving Communion is its own sacrifice and is preferable to the nonchalant attitude of some who receive Communion while not having confessed serious sins. The Lord will work his purposes out if you oblige him: "… his commandments are not difficult, because anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world; this is the victory over the world – our faith" (1 John 5:4).


My husband and I have just moved to the DC area. There's a thriving Latin Mass parish (which both my husband and I prefer) about an hour from our home, but my husband feels we should attend the local Ordinary Form parish (which is also well attended) so that we can be more a part of the local community. What do you advise?  - Agnes R. from Alexandria, VA

Dear Agnes,

As an Anglo-Saxon, I have a soft spot for Pope Gregory I, who thought that my pallid people look like angels. He instructed his missionary bishop Augustine: "For things are to be lived not for the sake of places but places for the sake of good things. Choose, therefore, from every Church those things that are pious, religious and right, and when you have as it were made them up into one bundle, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto".

In your case, there need be no division of loyalties and you might cultivate friends in both places, hoping that eventually what is good in each might become "one bundle".


I voted for Trump in 2016 and plan to do so again in 2020. However, the US bishops seem to think his border policy is un-Christian. How morally binding are their statements? Many of them, I'm sorry to say, just strike me as naïve. - Magdalia H from San Diego, CA

Dear Magdalia,

Cardinal Ratzinger explained that, since episcopal conferences have "no theological basis", their documents "have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops". One is not morally bound to accept a prudential opinion on the subject you describe.

Metastasized episcopal conferences confirm a maxim of Honoré de Balzac: "Bureaucracy: the giant power wielded by pigmies". The United States bishops' conference in 1983 published a pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Peace", which, if adopted by the civil government, would have delayed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its pastoral letter on the US economy in 1986, whose archepiscopal chairman of the draft committee later retired amid accusations of financial and sexual turpitude, would have turned the Reagan economic recovery inside out.

Some public episcopal statements on President Trump's border policy are more Pelosi than Aquinas. You are not naïve, but there are some with mitres who are.




spiesFather George W. Rutler. "Dear Fr Rutler: how can a priest and recovering alcoholic consume the Precious Blood? Are the conclusions of episcopal conferences binding on the faithful?, etc." Catholic Herald (January 17, 2019).

To seek Father Rutler's advice write to

Reprinted with permission of the Catholic HeraldThe Catholic Herald is a London-based magazine, established as a newspaper in 1888 and published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

The Author

witwisdomrFather George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City.  He has written many books, including: The Wit and Wisdom of Father George Rutler, The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Bestand Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

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