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Father Tommy ConwayFacebook / screenshot

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HATTIESBURG, Mississippi, July 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Because of the coronavirus, a pastor in the Diocese of Biloxi has distributed sacred vessels to the families in his parish. The heads of household are to hold hosts during the consecration and then distribute Communion to their families.   

Father Tommy Conway, pastor of Saint Fabian Catholic Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, announced the Communion scheme which challenges liturgical and canon norms in a Facebook video.

He explains:

  • Every family will be provided with a ziplock “Mass bag” which contains “everything you need for Mass except Holy Communion.”
  • “Every family will be issued a sacred vessel, and a husband and wife will be designated as Eucharistic ministers for your family.”
  • “When you come to church, you bring your sacred vessel and your Mass bag, and then you’ll pick up the appropriate number of hosts for your family, 2, 3, 4, so on.”   
  • “When it’s time for the offertory, you will take your hosts, unconsecrated, from your zip lock bag and place them into your sacred vessel.”  
  • “An adult member of your family will hold the sacred vessel for the consecration, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Lamb of God.”  
  • “At Communion time, you will then as adults give Communion to each other and one of the adults will give Communion to your children, and then you place your sacred vessel back into your Mass bag and you’ll have it ready for next week.” 

LifeSiteNews reached out to the Biloxi Bishop Louis Kihneman III for comment, but he did not respond by publication time.  

Experts on liturgy consulted by LifeSiteNews reacted with shock and dismay at the plan, which has already been executed at Saint Fabian’s.

“This is hardly to be distinguished from a Protestant communion service,” said Father John Zuhlsdorf, popularly known as “Fr. Z,” and an expert on the reverent celebration of Mass. 

“Communion in the hand was bad enough, but consecration in the hand and self Communication, having nothing to do with the priest, having nothing to do with the altar, is sacrilege at a new nadir,” declared Zuhlsdorf.

“I don’t in the least think that this priest intends for all of this to be so infra dignitatem, so tacky. I’m convinced he is well meaning,” said Zuhlsdorf.  “However, it could be that he is simply so deeply tuned into a modernist frequency that he doesn't realize how bad this looks, he doesn't contemplate the potential sacrileges both unintended and intended.”

Zuhlsdorf raised a series of serious questions about the practice instituted at Saint Fabian’s:

  • How are the “sacred vessels” to be purified? The priest says, “Place your sacred vessel back into your Mass bag and you’ll have it ready for next week.” Without purification. Are people just going to shake out particles onto the ground, or, unaware of them, haul them around in their ziplock baggies?   
  • What is to become of all these “sacred vessels” afterward, whatever they are, when COVID time passes and they are no longer needed? Will people keep them? What happens to them then?  
  • How are people to be designated as “Eucharistic ministers” without sound training?  
  • What’s to prevent people from taking a few extra hosts to be consecrated and then saved for later, at home? Or for that nice lady down the street, not Catholic, but really nice? Or even to be, quod Deus avertat, given or sold to satanists for ghastly rituals and desecration?

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, former Professor of Theology and Philosphy at Wyoming Catholic College, pointed to  Redemptionis Sacramentum 183:  

The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured” . . .  On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free reign to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved, and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God. The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of “secularization” as well.

“Perhaps more than in any other nation, Americans have simply chosen to be disobedient in regard to extraordinary ministers, creating their own rules as they go along,” Kwasniewski wrote in 2018. “I ask: Is this a truly Catholic attitude? Or is it just one more example of how far the Church in America has drifted into making up its own religion with its own homegrown rules?” 

“These crazy gyrations affirm the findings of the Pew Research survey which revealed plummeting belief in the Church's teachings about the Blessed Sacrament,” noted Zuhlsdorf. “And those findings may apply to priests, as well.”  

“It's like something from another religion,” he added.

Contact information for respectful communication:

Bishop Louis F. Kihneman, III 
Diocese of Biloxi
1790 Popps Ferry Road
Biloxi, MS 39532
+1 (228) 702-2100