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EXCLUSIVE: Irish bishop to investigate parish that let women carry Blessed Sacrament in procession – LifeSite

CASTLETOWNBERE, Ireland (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic bishop in the Diocese of Kerry told LifeSiteNews that he intends to investigate a Catholic parish in his diocese after two women carried the monstrance in a Corpus Christi procession in an apparent violation of Canon law.

In early June, local media in Casltetownbere in southwest Ireland reported on the “historic” occasion of a Corpus Christi procession held by the local Catholic parish. 

“The annual Corpus Christi procession was a historic one in Castletownbere as it was the first time that women, Maureen Power and Ellen Dunne, carried the Monstrance through the town,” Cork’s Southern Star wrote. 

As noted by the paper, local parish priests – Fathers Noel Spring, Liam O’Driscoll and John Kerin – officiated at the procession that went through the town.

When contacted by LifeSiteNews, Bishop Ray Browne stated that he had no knowledge of the incident and would investigate after being informed about it by an email from LifeSite. 

“Thank you for letting me know about this situation. I have no previous knowledge of it,” Browne wrote. “I will contact the Parish Priest and look into it.” 

The parish priests did not respond to an email by the time of publication.

The incident appears to violate the Catholic Church’s liturgical rubrics and also Canon Law.

The 1973 instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) explicitly addressed the issue of a procession with the Blessed Sacrament. The text – issued while notorious liberalizing Archbishop Annibale Bugnini was secretary – states that it is a priest who carries the Eucharist in procession: “(t)he priest who carries the blessed sacrament may wear the vestments used for the celebration of Mass if the procession takes place immediately afterward, or he may vest in a white cope.”

Canon 943 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law also states that “(t)he minister of exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament and of eucharistic benediction is a priest or deacon; in special circumstances, the minister of exposition and reposition alone without benediction is the acolyte, extraordinary minister of holy communion, or someone else designated by the local ordinary; the prescripts of the diocesan bishop are to be observed.”

“It must therefore never be the case that in parishes Priests alternate indiscriminately in shifts of pastoral service with Deacons or laypersons, thus confusing what is specific to each,” stipulates the 2004 Vatican instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum issued by the CDW.

The CDW also stipulated how “attention should be paid to ensuring that ‘pastoral assistants’ do not take upon themselves what is proper to the ministry of the sacred ministers.”

There are at least two priests visible in the photo, with the Southern Star reporting that three priests were present. Evidently, there was no shortage of priests at the ceremony. 

The current Canon Law and liturgical directives permit for the “extraordinary” use of laypeople to serve as “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.” This should take place in certain stringent circumstances, the CDW writes – circumstances that are almost never met in the current climate of liturgical laxity, though the practice of having such extraordinary ministers is widespread.

However, even with the CDW allowing for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the Vatican’s liturgical office warned in 2004 that priests should not simply renege on their duty with regards the Eucharist.  

Redemptionis Sacramentum further adds that “it is never licit for laypersons to assume the role or the vesture of a Priest or a Deacon or other clothing similar to such vesture.” In the image provided by the Southern Star, a woman is depicted wearing a humeral veil, which would contravene the Church’s liturgical rubrics.

A similar incident made waves last June when women carried the Blessed Sacrament in a Corpus Christi procession in Germany. The women also wore the humeral veil, while the bishop defended their participation in the ceremony when questioned by LifeSiteNews.

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