Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the January AD 2003
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question:   We have heard about "invalid matter" used by Modernists -- altar breads made with honey or sugar or molasses, or whatever. Don't sulfites in altar wine make it similarly invalid?

    Answer: It is necessary to distinguish between "ingredients" and "preservatives." In making decisions about valid matter, the Church does not deal with the elements in a microscopic or overly analytical way. It insists that the bread and wine be made by reliable producers, but It relies on human perceptions. If reasonable people can agree that some hosts are made from wheaten bread, or that a certain fluid is grape wine, then these things are valid matter for Mass -- particularly if the people have some knowledge about who produced it and how. Tiny, accidental, additions do not change the overall nature of the product if they are not notable to the human observer.

    The invalidity comes about when different or additional ingredients are used and produce a product that is clearly different or ambiguous. Cake and cookies may be similar to bread, but reasonable people will agree that they are something else, just as they will agree about blueberry wine or unfermentable grape juice. If the thing looks like a cookie, smells like a cookie, and tastes like a cookie, it probably is a cookie!1

    A preservative, on the other hand, does nothing to significantly alter the taste or the appearance of the product, and in the common estimation of men the product remains unchanged. One might debate the usefulness of certain preservatives, or even their safety, but no one calls the bread on the store shelf or the wine in the jug by another name just because of these trace chemical additions.

    The Roman Missal codified by Pope Saint Pius X over 400 years ago does not mention preservatives, but gives the following rules:

    3. If the bread is not made of wheat flour, or if so much other grain is mixed with the wheat that it is no longer wheat bread, or if it is adulterated in some other way, there is no Sacrament.

    4. If the bread has been made with rose-water or some other distillation, the validity of the Sacrament is doubtful.

    11. If the wine has become mere vinegar, or is completely bad, or if it has been made from sour or unripe grapes, or if so much water has been mixed with it that the wine is adulterated, there is no Sacrament.

    12. If the wine has begun to turn to vinegar or to become corrupt, or if it is souring, or if it is unfermented, being made from newly pressed grapes, or if it has not been mixed with water, or if it has been mixed with rose-water or some other distillation, the Sacrament is valid, but the celebrant is guilty of grave sin.

1.  Cf. Summa Theologica, III Q. 74.


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