A response to the concelebration question

A response to the concelebration question

I received several good comments in response to my inquiry about the hypothetical instance of invalid and valid consecrations by concelebrants at the same Mass. This response was too long for the combox, but is of such detail and is so worthwhile that I’m posting here with the permission of its author, who asked to remain anonymous. I think I can reveal that this contributor has done advanced studies in theological areas:

At the very least, I think we have to say that a Mass in which principal celebrant says the wrong words of consecration is of doubtful validity. The Holy See has never issued a responsium ad dubium to this question but I would tend to lean toward the idea that the Mass is not valid in the case you mention for the following reasons.

The concelebrants do not hold the species. The principal celebrant does. It’s his hands that are holding the species and connecting his words to the species in his hands.

First, we must remember that there is a distinction between the sacrament and the sacrifice of the Mass-—the sacrament is the Real Presence in the elements, the sacrifice the offering of Christ to the Father. Traditionally, the sacrifice is effected/consummated when the celebrant receives both species. Hence, a priest who consecrates both species but receives only one has validly confected the sacrament but has not consummated the sacrifice (and while this does not invalidate the sacrament itself, it does invalidate the Mass and the priest should not receive a stipend for it). The same is true if a priest consecrates one species but unintentionally not the other (e.g., speaking the words of consecration of the bread over both species). The properly consecrated species is validly confected, even if the other is not-—although now the sacrifice is not complete until the other species is confected and received by the priest. In the Middle Ages, there were questions of what to do when a priest dies in between consecrations. Universally, the answer was always that another priest should finish with the rest of Mass so that the sacrifice may be completed. The importance of this point is not to be underestimated. The Code of Canon Law Canon 927 says explicitly, “It is absolutely forbidden, in even extreme necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the Eucharistic celebration.” The Latin here for “absolutely forbidden” is actually nefas, which has no proper English translation but is an ancient word which is related to something like “against the divine will.” It’s used only six times in the Code, and this is one of them. Though the Canon does not mention the validity of such a consecration, the importance of the sacrifice is highlighted here.


The celebrant must hold the sacred species


  • That is interesting, and much to digest. I offer another link: http://www.catholicexchange.com/2008/02/22/81137/  Note that each concelebrant offers the Sacrifice of the Mass. Canon Law assumes that a sacrifice IS being offered by a concelebrant.  No Sacrifice = No licit possibility of Mass stipend.  And if Canon Law is tough on one thing, it’s Mass stipends.

    I think the physical holding of the species part is important, and should NEVER EVER be omitted, but in a concelebration, it’s not done by the concelebrants.  Yet, they are offering the Sacrifice of the Mass, each one of them.
    Note also that while it is soto voce, the concelebrants should still _speak_ the words.  Also, at the same time, it’s the same Eucharistic “event” (I used that to mean a specific time/place/objects).

    I agree with his suggestion that it would be best to gently remind the priest to go back and say the words, if he forgets.  However, this is not really, let’s say, practically possible if I’m “fighting” with the celebrant over the validity of the words at a Mass, if we know the priest would probably not question his own validity in the choice of words.  I should fraternally correct him, but at the Mass itself is a little awkward, and could prove confusing and cause other problems. Prudence is always key.

    An interesting thought problem:  two priests concelebrate a Mass, just the two of them.  There’s one host, and one cup.  One is distracted and forgets the words, and the other does not notice.  Is there confection? I would argue yes, and that would extend to a large Mass as well.
    However, I will state that my studies have not gone beyond the usual ratio of Master’s of Divinity level, and not focused on sacramental theology.

  • So let me ask this question.  Your commenter states the presider must hold the elements when speaking the words of consecration.  We have a visiting priest who gives a sign language Mass for the deaf once a month in our parish.  When he says the words of consecration he at most points to the host and chalice while he signs the words.  After completing the words of consecration he then elevates either the host or chalice.  Does the commenter suggest this is an invalid consecration?  That would be most disturbing.

  • Re: Mass for the deaf—

    You are talking about something different here, as I believe there are separate rubrics for signing the Mass.

  • Thanks, Maureen.  This priest is not exactly known for being particularly concerned with following proper rubrics so I wasn’t sure how that fit in with the rest of his, er, “style”.

  • I’m a religious and we get lots of crazy things at the masses we celebrate in our community – but 99.9% are valid as far as I can tell. In almost all cases, one priest puts on an alb and a stole and celebrates mass. Once in a while, other priests attending mass will move their lips at the words of consecration and sometimes extend a hand out from where they are standing, if they are standing. You have to watch for it. The chapel is so small, it’s hard to say who is “at the altar” and who isn’t and no one kneels, although I’m not overly bothered by that part since 8 out of 10 of them are so old I doubt they could kneel at all.

    So yesterday a visiting priest celebrated but paraphrased the Eucharistic prayer. Nothing terrible, but something along the lines of “And Jesus, while at the table with his friends divided up the bread and passed it out saying, ‘This is my body. Eat it. It will be offered for you because I love you. It fulfills the covenant of love between my Father and His people.’”

    Although I’d usually walk out at this point (and be branded rigid) I stuck around because I saw another priest quietly mumbling something I assumed was a real Eucharistic prayer.

    Don’t get the wrong impression. After being in my order for many years, I’ve only seen this sort of thing happen a couple of times. But I’m wondering, did I do the right thing? I certainly felt what I thought was the presence of Jesus, holding me back from clobbering the visiting old priest if nothing else!

    Thank God I’ll be ordained soon and I won’t have to worry about this for myself anymore.

    So the heart of my question is this: Does a concelebrating priest have to wear a stole and do anything other than mumble the right words if the celebrating priest goes off in the wrong direction?