Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s recent clarification on the distribution of Communion is not him backing down but is rather an expression of his ultimate desire to bring people into intimacy with Christ, says the Phoenix diocese's liturgist.
“There was nothing to backtrack from,” Father John Muir emphasized in remarks to CNA on Nov. 15. Bishop Olmsted “never said he was going to restrict communion under both kinds.”
Fr. Muir made his comments after media reports depicted Bishop Olmsted as backpedaling when he released a Nov. 7 statement to clear up confusion over how the diocese is applying the Communion norms from the 2011 General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
Numerous news articles had incorrectly reported that the number of times the Precious Blood could be offered during Mass within the U.S. Church was being reduced from 14 occasions to only three.
“Bishop Olmsted's heart is to draw people into union with Christ—that's his heart, that's his passion and everything he does as a bishop has that as its goal,” Fr. Muir said.
“Generally people who would accuse him of anything besides that,” the priest added, “haven't carefully read what he's written on this subject.”
In his Nov. 7 final instructions, Bishop Olmsted stated that a diocesan bishop “may establish norms for Holy Communion under both kinds for his own diocese.”
He listed “Solemnities, Sundays, Holy Days of Obligation, weekday Masses and the occasions listed in the ritual books” as times when Communion can be offered under both forms.
The bishop also specified that he is allowing the pastor of each parish to make both species of Communion available “whenever it may seem appropriate … provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite's becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason.”
Fr. Muir said that “on this issue there was a lot of hearsay and a lot of ridiculous accusations, which is nothing new in the life of the Church.”
“But the bottom line is that Bishop Olmsted's decision is for the good of the faithful, just as everything he does is done out of pastoral charity.”
Fr. Muir explained that much of the confusion—“especially within blogs and media reports”—came from the missal's General Instruction 283, which addresses the issue of bishops establishing norms for their own dioceses.
“What the bishop decided to do was to fulfill what that paragraph gives him the faculty to do—which is the faculty to give priests … the permission to allow communion under both kinds on certain occasions,” he clarified.
“So when the bishop came out with the Nov. 7 document, he was simply laying out what those occasions are—and the bishop gave the widest possible permission.”
There was “a misunderstanding that the bishop was going to 'go beyond' or be more restrictive—but his intention from the beginning was to do what the documents say.”
Fr. Muir also said that the bishop sent a private letter apologizing to each priest in the diocese for the media confusion over the issue.
“He did write a letter to priests in which he apologized for some of the information that was communicated,” the priest said.
“It was a reasonable thing for him to do, and I think he wanted to express to his priests his apologies since many of them felt like they were in a difficult situation since they didn't have the information” they needed.