Friday, November 02, 2007

Priests fear sacramental wine could tip them over the driving limit

This is a story which properly belongs to the silly season, yet all the Irish media outlets seem to be taking it up. The version of the story presented on the website of Newstalk 106 (complete with spelling errors) is the most contemptible of all, but this coverage by Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times is not much better, at least from the perspective of Catholic theological acumen:

Priests fear altar wine may tip them over driving limit

Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Concerns have been expressed that priests celebrating more than one Mass in a day could soon find themselves over the legal limit for drink driving.

Enniskillen-based Fr Brian D'Arcy said the issue was already a concern among some priests in the North, which, like the Republic, is actively considering a reduction in the blood alcohol limit for drivers.

"The shortage of priests has resulted in those who are currently ministering having to say multiple Masses, and often drive from church to church to do so, having drunk from the chalice in each church," he said.

"Perhaps it [celebrating a number of Masses] could be enough for you to fail a drink driving test, and while I don't like to use the word wine, as it is the precious blood in the Eucharist, it still has all the characteristics of wine when in the blood stream," said Fr D'Arcy.

He pointed out that the use of non-alcoholic wine was not an option, as it was not allowed by the Vatican, even where alcoholic priests were concerned.

Fr D'Arcy said he always felt bad himself when getting into a car after celebrating a number of Masses. "As a pioneer myself I am conscious of the danger now that there is zero tolerance here in Northern Ireland of alcohol for people who are driving, and I assume the zero rule is due soon in the South as well," he said.

"Perhaps a small amount would not show up in blood tests but only medically qualified people can decide that. After doing several Masses I often have to drive off immediately to visit some person who may be very ill in hospital," said Fr D'Arcy.

Both the Republic and the North currently have the same blood alcohol limit for drivers of 80mg/100ml, but a reduction in the limit on both sides of the Border is expected within 18 months.

Fr D'Arcy was responding to a Tuam Herald report which quoted a north Galway priest as saying that, while he often had three ministers of the Eucharist at some Masses, he sometimes had to finish the wine left over in their chalices as well as his own.

This, he felt, could put him over the legal limit for driving.

"I would often have to read an evening Mass in the church as well as another one in a nearby nursing home and then drive to celebrate a neighbourhood Mass, all in one evening," he said.

"If I only took a mouthful of wine from the chalice at all three Masses I feel that this could put me over the legal limit for driving. But if a call comes in that somebody is nearing death, I have no choice but drive to where that person is and give him or her the last rites," he said.

© 2007 The Irish Times

Brian D’Arcy, for all his dissent from the teachings of the Catholic Church, actually presents us here with the authentic Catholic teaching on the eucharist; credit where credit is due.

The use of non-alcoholic wine is not permitted in the celebration of Mass since it would not constitute valid matter, and the sacrament would not therefore be confected.

Melancholicus wonders who this “north Galway priest” is, who apparently engages routinely in the doubtful and definitely-to-be-discouraged practice of offering holy communion to the laity under both kinds. What kind of priest entrusts an ‘extraordinary’ minister with the chalice anyway? But then, in these conciliar times...

If this priest is worried about his blood alcohol level, let him abolish this novel and un-traditional practice in his parish instead of complaining to the press about it.

Melancholicus was vexed most of all by the content of text messages sent to Newstalk 106, which he heard read over the radio while driving to the university. Without exception they displayed a total lack of comprehension of the Catholic doctrine of the eucharist and the Mass. One correspondent stated openly that she did not believe in orthodox eucharistic doctrine even though it is a central tenet of what she called “our faith”, and even seemed to believe that, since the clergy were worried about being intoxicated by the Precious Blood, this implied that the clergy did not believe in it either! Her logic is hardly any stronger than her faith. None of the correspondents seemed to know anything about transubstantiation; all, without exception, referred to the Precious Blood, post-consecration, as “wine”.

But we must not be surprised at such a state of affairs. Such has been the abysmal state of catechetics in Catholic schools since the 1970s, as well as the almost ubiqitous reluctance of the clergy to actually teach the Catholic faith that nobody, not even Catholics, knows what the Catholic faith is any more.

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