In the area of my understanding of Catholic teaching, I am very much the product of a pre-Vatican II mind-set. I received my first Holy Communion in what many might even consider prehistoric times - 1959. Indeed, the nuns who gave me instruction most likely received their first Holy Communion in the 1930's.
In those days, the only acceptable way of taking Communion was on the tongue. No one, other than a priest, was permitted to touch the Blessed Sacrament with his or her hand. Surprisingly, when I first encountered the, now acceptable, practice of taking of Communion in the hand, I adapted to the change rather easily. Obviously, I thought, if there was anything wrong with taking Communion in hand, the Church would not now be allowing the practice.
In addition to taking Communion by hand, another part of Holy Communion which those nuns of long ago would not recognize is the now common practice of taking Communion from the Cup. A logical step from Communion from the Cup necessitates the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC). Obviously, a priest could not manage this alone.
Unfortunately, this increased need for EMHC can - and has - lead to serious abuses. Sadly, I can use my own parish as an example of this abuse of the Blessed Sacrament. At the Mass we normally attend on Sundays, there are six EMHC scheduled to assist with Communion. For reasons which I cannot fathom, it is a rare Sunday when every scheduled EMHC attends Mass. More often two, three and sometimes four of the six do not bother to show.
If we were a Protestant denomination which viewed communion as simply a symbolic gesture, someone's not appearing at church on the day he had volunteered to assist with communion would be looked upon as unacceptable. Yet, in our Catholic parish where we understand that during Mass the bread and wine becomes the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, an EMHC can disrespect the Eucharist (by failing to assist as promised) and no one bats an eyelash. How could anyone who believes in the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist not view this as a scandal?
Being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is a sacred privilege....not a Right. In my opinion, any EMHC who displays such wanton disregard for the Eucharist should no longer be an EMHC. Will anyone be dropped from the roll in our parish? That's unlikely in these days when far too many people are afraid of hurting anyone's feelings.
There have been reports in the Catholic Press "......that approximately 70 percent of Catholics do not believe or do not know that by the action of the priest during Mass Jesus Christ becomes fully present in the Holy Eucharist."
Is there little wonder that this should be the situation when, by their example, EMHC are allowed to treat the Blessed Sacrament as if we are merely receiving bread and wine?