Cardinal Robert Sarah has again spoken out about liturgical abuses, saying proposals for a “packaged,” take-away Eucharist are an “absurdity” and “madness”. He also warned against allowing live-streamed Masses to become the new normal because “God is not a virtual reality”.
Cardinal Sarah was responding to questions that regarded a report in Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, which raised the idea of packaging the sacred species and placing the packages on shelves in churches, for the faithful to take individually as they come, outside of Mass.
The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments told the Daily Compass – the English-language sister to the Italian web service, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana – that the faithful have rights to the sacraments, but only in a worthy manner.
“First of all, the Eucharist is not a right or a duty,” Cardinal Sarah said. “[I]t is a gift that we receive freely from God and that we must welcome with veneration and love,” Sarah went on to say. “The Lord is a person,” he added, “no one would welcome the person he loves in a bag or otherwise in an unworthy way.”
“The response to the privation of the Eucharist cannot be desecration,” Cardinal Sarah told The Daily Compass. “This really is a matter of faith, if we believe we cannot treat it unworthily.”
At the same time, Cardinal Sarah explained, “Nobody can prevent a priest from confessing and giving Communion, nobody has the right to stop him.” Those assertions come on the back of a pair of fine distinctions: between the duty of civil and ecclesiastical authority to guarantee health and safety, and the right of the faithful to seek the Sacraments; and, between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Holy Communion with the Sacrament. “The Sacrament must be respected,” Cardinal Sarah said. “So, even if it is not possible to attend Masses,” he continued, “the faithful can ask to be confessed and to receive Communion.”
Even so, the idea that one might wrap the Eucharistic species in paper and deliver it as though it were a take-away order is an “absurdity” and “madness” according to the cardinal-prefect. “We communicate in a dignified way, worthy of God who comes to us,” Cardinal Sarah said. “The Eucharist must be treated with faith: we cannot treat it as a trivial object; we are not at the supermarket,” he explained.
When the Daily Compass suggested that something like this was “already taking place in Germany,” Cardinal Sarah responded: “Unfortunately, many things are done in Germany that are not Catholic, but that doesn’t mean you have to imitate them.” Sarah went on to say he had heard a bishop say not long ago that liturgies of the Word will in future replace Eucharistic assemblies. “[T]his is Protestantism,” Cardinal Sarah said.
The interviewer mentioned that there was pressure in some quarters for the acceptance of practices such as intercommunion with Protestant communities, and Communion for the divorced-and-remarried who are in ongoing sexually-active relationships. “It should not surprise us,” Cardinal Sarah said. “The devil strongly attacks the Eucharist because it is the heart of the life of the Church,” he went on to say. At the heart of the problem, “is the crisis of faith in the priesthood,” Sarah said. “If priests are aware of what the Mass is and what the Eucharist is, certain ways of celebrating or certain hypotheses about Communion would not even come to mind.”
“Jesus,” Cardinal Sarah said, “cannot be treated like this.”
Asked about the practice of live-streaming liturgies, Cardinal Sarah warned against letting the emergency stopgap become the new normal: “We cannot get used to this,” he said. “God became incarnate, He is flesh and blood, He is not a virtual reality.”
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