Dipping host into chalice

Q. Earlier this year, I saw a communicant take the host and proceed to dip it into the consecrated wine before consuming it. Is this acceptable? (I had never seen it before.) (Annandale, Virginia)

A. No. What you saw is not permissible -- unless the one receiving Communion happened to be a priest concelebrating the Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Church's "rulebook" on liturgy, does envision "intinction" but limits self-communicating to priest-concelebrants.

For others, the instruction indicates that "each communicant, holding a Communion plate under the mouth, approaches the priest. ... The priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says the body and blood of Christ," before placing the host in the communicant's mouth (No. 287).

The priests who are concelebrating, however, are permitted to dip the host into the precious blood and, holding a purificator under the mouth, self-communicate (No. 249). All of this is premised, of course, on the Church's reverence for the Eucharist, taking care that drops of the precious blood not be spilled.

In a 2002 document titled "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds," the U.S. bishops highlighted this caution saying, "The communicant, including the extraordinary minister, is never allowed to self-communicate, even by means of intinction. Communion under either form, bread or wine, must always be given by an ordinary or extraordinary minister of holy Communion" (No. 50).

Q. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the document "Lumen Gentium" from the Second Vatican Council, says: "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day" (No. 841).

Does this imply that Muslims and Catholics have the same fundamental belief in Jesus as the Son of God, second person of the blessed Trinity and redeemer of the human race? (As I recall, Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross.) (Iowa City, Iowa)

A. Jesus is mentioned some 25 times in the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, with ample accounts of his birth and miracles. He is regarded by Muslims as the son of man, born of a virgin, a prophet sent by God with a privileged role and a special message for the human race.

So, Christians and Muslims do have some common ideas about Jesus, but there are also stark and fundamental differences. To start with, Muslims do not accept that Christ was divine. He was instead, in their minds, a man created in time, neither Savior nor Son of God and certainly not "consubstantial with the Father." In fact, the Quran asks, "How could he (Allah) have a son?" (6:101). Muslims do not believe in original sin and therefore would see no need of a redeemer.

Moreover, as our writer points out, Muslims don't believe that Jesus died on the cross. For them, the cross was thought not to be fitting for someone like Christ, and so they teach that Jesus was spared a natural death and was instead assumed into heaven to return on the day of judgment.

- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service