ecclesiasticallaw

Ecclesiastical law

Category: Holy Communion

In Persona Christi: Eucharistic Sacrifices

The author of this blog recently attended, for the first time, a service of Mass in the Extraordinary Form, also known as the Tridentine Mass or the Mass of Ages – i.e the traditional Latin Mass.  It was organised by the Latin Mass Society, with the permission of the genial local priest.  ‘Come along out of nostalgia!’, he winkingly encouraged his parishioners when announcing the event.  Almost none did.  There were only about six in the congregation.  The parish priest himself gave the Mass a miss.

As an aesthetic experience, the Mass was disappointing.  It was quickly over.  The sublime Latin of the Roman Canon was inaudible, as the celebrant dropped his voice to a near-whisper, ‘the blessed mutter of the Mass’.  It was only possible to follow the action by the elevation of the Host and the Chalice and the ringing of the bell.

And yet, from the 6th century (or even earlier) until as recently as the 1960s, this was the Mass of the Latin Church.  Untold millions of Catholics down the centuries knew no other.  Compared to it, the new Mass, which was only introduced in 1970, is a mere blink of the eye.  It inspired the Elizabethan martyrs of England and Wales to suffer hideous torture and death (and their fellow countrymen to inflict this on them).

Today the Eucharist is generally regarded as an ecumenical success story.  The Church of England has always agreed with the Catholic Church that the Eucharist is a sacrament ‘ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel’ (Article 25), by means of which ‘the Body and Blood of Christ … are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful’ (Catechism).  The Holy See acknowledged that, of all ecumenical issues, ‘it is in respect of Eucharistic doctrine that the [Anglican-Roman Catholic] Commission were able to achieve the most notable progress towards a consensus’ (Response to Final Report, 1991).

The principal ecumenical difficulty concerns the Eucharist as sacrifice rather than sacrament.  English ecclesiastical law at first seemed to reject any belief in a Eucharistic sacrifice.  Article 31 holds that ‘the sacrifices of Masses … were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits’.  All mediaeval references to the priest as sacrificer were removed from the reformed ordination rite.  (This was one reason why Anglican orders were held invalid by Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae (1896).)

Liturgical practices that suggested sacrifice were also suppressed.  Altars were replaced by ‘convenient and decent tables’ (canon 82 of 1603) placed in the chancel or in the centre of the church.  The east end, where Mass was formerly celebrated, was used to display the Ten Commandments instead.  Unleavened bread was replaced by ‘bread such as is usual to be eaten’.  And, of course, the Eucharist was celebrated in English, not Latin.

The case of Faulkner v Litchfield and Stearn(1845) 163 English Reports 1007 may be the first legally reported ritual case.  The Court of the Arches refused a faculty for a stone altar, described as a ‘table’, on the grounds that it was not a communion table within the meaning of the Prayer Book rubric and the 1603 canon.  In later cases the Privy Council held that Eucharistic vestments, unleavened bread and the eastward position were all unlawful (Hebbert v Purchas(1871) Law Reports 3 Privy Council 605), as were candles on the communion table ‘when [they] were not wanted for the purpose of giving light’ (Martin v Mackonochie (1868) Law Reports 2 Privy Council 365).  The Court of the Arches also held in Mackonochie that the elevation of paten and chalice was unlawful ((1868) 2 Admiralty and Ecclesiastical 116).

However, the Book of Common Prayer retained one phrase from the Latin Mass which describes the Eucharist as a ‘sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving’.  Citing this rather slender authority, the Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, held in St Stephen’s Walbrook (1987) 2 All England Reports 578 that ‘a doctrine of the Eurcharistic sacrifice which is not that of a repetition of the sacrifice of Calvary can lawfully be held in the Church of England …’ (p.583).

The old regime of public worship was finally abolished by the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974.  Liturgical practices that were formerly unlawful are now permitted, and many have indeed become almost universal.  Canon F2 of the revised canons continues to refer to the ‘holy table’ rather than the ‘altar’, but allows that a communion table may be made of stone, and hence indistinguishable from an altar.  In St Stephen’s Walbrook, the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved permitted the introduction of a stone altar by Henry Moore.  Bishop Kemp, who was one of the judges, held that ‘an altar falls within the wide bounds of what can reasonably be called a holy table’ (p.581)

Just as the Church of England began to rediscover the Eucharistic sacrifice, so the Catholic Church seemed to move towards the Anglican conception of the Eucharist as a communal celebration, a sacrament of unity and charity rather than a sacrifice.  The new Mass is almost always celebrated in the vernacular, it provides for active participation by the laity and it disdains the eastward position.  In this country, at least, High Mass now usually begins and ends with the singing of rousing Protestant hymns.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed 1998) noted that the Anglican-Roman Catholic ‘Agreed Statement’ on the Eucharist in 1971 (just after the introduction of the new Mass) ‘relegat[ed] the term transubstantiation to a footnote’.  Canon law also softened the emphasis on sacrifice.  A commentator relates that the original Code of Canon Law 1917 treated the sacrifice and the sacrament of the Eucharist in separate chapters.  The modern Code, promulgated in 1983, presents a more ‘integral’ treatment of the Eucharistic action (The Code of Canon Law. A Text and Commentary eds Coriden, Green and Heintschel 1985, Paulist Press, New York, p.643).  The author of this blog recalls a bright young Anglican theologian asserting, in 1985 or 1986, that the Catholic Church no longer believed in transubstantiation.

However, the 1983 Code is clear that ‘the Eucharistic Sacrifice [is] the memorial of the death and Resurrection of the Lord, in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is for ever perpetuated’ (canon 897).  The Code also provides explicitly that the priest (described as sacerdos in the definitive Latin text), acting in persona Christi, ‘bring[s] into being (conficere valet) the Sacrament of the Eucharist’ (900).

These provisions explain the Catholic Eucharistic Sacrifice.  As Bishop Kemp recognised in the Walbrook case, the Catholic sacrifice is not a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice (as the reformers may have erroneously concluded).  On the contrary, the sacrifice offered by the priest is one and the same as the sacrifice of Christ.  Hence the priest is acting, as the canon says, in persona Christi.

Today the structure and ceremonial of the Eucharist qua sacrament may be almost identical in the Catholic and Anglican Churches.  However, the Eucharistic sacrifices offered by the two Churches remain radically different.

Article 31 is entitled ‘the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross’. It asserts that ‘The offering of Christ once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world … and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone’. Hence its rejection of ‘the sacrifices of Masses’.  The Prayer Book liturgy follows Article 31 by asserting Christ’s ‘one oblation of himself once offered … a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice’.

Therefore, while the Catholic sacrifice is one and indivisible,  the Anglican Eucharist is concerned with 2 separate sacrifices:

(1) the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ offered in Palestine 2000 years ago and

(2) the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered by the Church in response to Christ’s sacrifice.

Modern Anglican liturgies may perhaps move (1) and (2) closer together than they are in the Prayer Book, but the distinction between them never disappears.

There is a metaphysical link or bridge between (1) and (2).  This enables those who receive the bread and wine in (2) thereby to receive the Body and Blood of Christ given in (1).  However, this is subject to the recipient’s piety of disposition.  Article 28 affirms that ‘The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten … only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.  And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten … is faith’.  Article 29 makes clear that ‘The wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press [the bread and wine] with their teeth … yet in nowise are they partakers of Christ’.

On this doctrine, the priest cannot act in persona Christi, because Christ’s sacrifice is once for all, finished.  Christ is the only true sacerdos.  So far from acting in persona Christi, the priest acts in persona ecclesiae.  He, or she, offers the Church’s sacrifice to Christ, but not vice versa.

The Anglican Eucharist, freed at last from all the restrictions imposed by the Privy Council, is often richly clothed in elaborate and colourful ritual that was originally inspired by the Catholic Eucharistic sacrifice.  This may serve to obscure the difference between the two.  The folksy informality of some modern Catholic worship may have the same effect, of course.  But the effect is superficial, not a truly ecumenical convergence.

Even though it was reduced to a footnote, the discussion of transubstantiation in the 1971 Agreed Statement is helpful: ‘The term [transubstantiation] should be seen as affirming the fact of Christ’s presence and of the mysterious and radical change which takes place … not … as explaining how the change takes place’.

The doctrine of transubstantiation is often associated with St. Thomas Aquinas and with mediaeval scholastic philosophy.  However, Aquinas and his colleagues were merely offering a rational explanation, or model, of how bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.  They were not defining any religious belief.  As this footnote makes clear, the Catholic Church believes, and has always believed, that transubstantiation does occur, but it does not require acceptance of the Thomist explanation (or any other explanation) of how it occurs.

Exclusion from Holy Communion

The only remnant of ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the laity to survive the reforms of the 19th century is the power to exclude, or ‘repel’, a person from holy communion.

This power is now regulated by Canon B16, which provides that

‘if a minister be persuaded that anyone of his cure who presents himself to be a partaker of the Holy Communion ought not to be admitted thereunto by reason of malicious and open contention with his neighbours, or other grave and open sin without repentance, he shall give an account of the same to the bishop … and therein obey his order and direction …’.

Canon B16 makes clear that the bishop alone may order that a person be excluded from the Sacrament.  The minister’s function is merely to inform the bishop and obey him.

It is true that Canon B16 confers an emergency power on the minister ‘in case of grave and immediate scandal to the congregation’.  However, in these (rather unlikely) circumstances, the minister is required to report all to the bishop ‘within 7 days after at the furthest and therein obey his order and direction’.

Natural justice must be observed.  Before making any order the bishop must ‘afford to [the sinner] an opportunity for interview’, to hear his side of the story.  If the bishop orders exclusion from the Sacrament the sinner must first be advised of this by the minister and warned ‘that in any wise he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table’.

Canon B16 does not oblige the bishop to order exclusion, now matter how grave the sin.  The bishop may confine himself to exhorting or rebuking the sinner.  The wording of Canon B16 also suggests that any order excluding a person from the Sacrament must be confined to one church, or at most the area of one benefice.  It starts by saying that ‘If a minister be persuaded that anyone of his cure etc’.  A person excluded from the Sacrament within that cure may still be admitted to it elsewhere.

The grounds on which a person may be excluded from the Sacrament were examined by Sir Lewis Dibdin, Dean of the Arches, in Banister v Thompson (1908) Probate 362. 

This case was decided before Canon B16 was promulged.  The power to exclude was then conferred by the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, which had the statutory authority of the Act of Uniformity 1662, and by the canons of 1603.

The rubric was differently worded from Canon B16.  It provided that if any would-be communicant was ‘an open and notorious evil liver, so that the congregation by him is offended … the Curate having knowledge thereof shall warn him and advertise him … not to presume to come to the Lord’s Table until he have openly … repented’.  It did not expressly require the minister to refer the matter to the bishop.

Mr Banister was a parishioner of Canon Thompson.  He was a widower.  He married his deceased wife’s sister in Canada, because such a marriage was illegal in England.  Shortly afterwards, English law was changed to permit such marriages and retrospectively to legalise those already contracted.

This did not impress Canon Thompson, who refused to admit Mr Banister and his new wife to holy communion. Mr Banister complained to the ecclesiastical court.  Canon Thompson’s defence was that he had a lawful cause of refusal, because Mr Banister’s marriage conflicted with the Church’s teaching on marriage.

The case did indeed expose a tension between the Church’s teaching and the secular law.  Canon Thompson was correct that marriage with a deceased wife’s sister is contrary to the Church’s teaching.  The secular law acknowledged this by permitting a clergyman to refuse to solemnise such a marriage, and by making clear that it would not protect a clergyman who married his own deceased wife’s sister from ecclesiastical discipline.

The Court of the Arches admitted the difficulty: ‘the recent Act seems to recognise a distinction between the civil and ecclesiastical aspects of marriage, and to alter the law as to the one without purporting to affect the law as to the other … This … creates some difficulty for those who are concerned with its administration’ (p.700).

Nevertheless the Court rejected Mr Thompson’s defence.  It ruled that a priest has no inherent, ex officio power to exclude sinners from holy communion ‘in the absence of a judicial sentence of excommunication’ (p.383).  Canon B16 now makes this clear.

The priest’s function is limited to exhortation.  He ‘has authority to reprove, rebuke, exhort … He is to rebuke sin and to give warning of … ‘unworthy receiving’ of holy communion’ (p.387). 

The normal rule is therefore that ‘the responsibility of separating a man from communion is thus left … to the voluntary action of the man himself, whose conscience is to be informed … by the exhortations of the clergy’ (p.383).

However, the Court acknowledged that there was a power in the Church to refuse the Sacrament to an ‘open and notorious evil liver’.  It specified the conditions on which this power might be exercised:

(1) ‘By an evil liver is intended a person whose course of life, as distinguished from some particular action, is seen to conflict with the moral code of Christendom’ (p.385).  This suggests that one sin alone, however grave, does not warrant exclusion.  An objectionable course of conduct or lifestyle is required.

(2) ‘Open and notorious’ means ‘that the facts … of the evil living are so conspicuous and well known as to be indubitable’ (p.386).  Mere suspicion is not enough.  The wrongdoing must either be admitted by the sinner or be proved by incontrovertible evidence.

(3) ‘The evil living … must cause offence to the public conscience’ (p.387).  The sinful conduct must be offensive to the sinner’s fellow communicants.  Exclusion from holy communion will therefore be heavily influenced by cultural value judgement.  The same sin may justify exclusion in one parish, if it shocks the congregation there, but not in a neighbouring parish, if the congregation is not shocked.

The purpose of exclusion is the public order of the Church, not the reformation of the sinner: ‘the clergyman in repelling any one is not … exercising godly discipline on the person repelled, but he is acting as a public officer for the protection of the whole community’ (p.385). 

Applying this law to the facts of Canon Thompson’s case, the Court held that it was ‘impossible to say that [Mr and Mrs Banister], lawfully married … can … be so described [as evil livers] merely because they are living together as man and wife’ (p.390).

It might have added that Canon Thompson had not, apparently, produced any evidence that Mr Banister’s marriage had caused offence to the local congregation, as required by condition (3).

The Court of the Arches’ decision was supported by the secular courts in the subsequent Dibdin litigation, which is discussed elsewhere.  The case also clearly influenced the drafting of Canon B16.

However, Canon B16 does not have statutory authority.  Following the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974, the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer no longer has statutory authority either.  This raises the question whether the Church’s right to repel from holy communion has survived.

Mr Banister founded his right to receive holy communion on an ancient statute, the Sacrament Act 1547.  This Act provides that the minister ‘shall not without lawful cause deny the [Sacrament] to any person that would devoutly and humbly desire it’.

However, the reference in the 1547 Act to a ‘lawful cause’ of refusal clearly implies that persons may lawfully be denied the Sacrament.  There is overwhelming historical evidence that the Church has, from the earliest times, claimed and exercised the right exclude grave sinners from holy communion.  The Church courts continued to excommunicate offenders, with the support of the secular courts, until the 19th century.  Article 33 also affirms the Church’s right.

Refusal of the Sacrament was briefly discussed in Blunt v Park Lane Hotel (1942) 2 All England Reports 187.  A litigant in an action for slander sought unsuccessfully to avoid embarrassing questions about her sex life by pleading privilege against self-incrimination. 

Lord Goddard (then Lord Justice Goddard) acknowledged that a known adulteress might be liable to be repelled from holy communion, but held that this did not constitute a criminal penalty, and so could not attract the privilege.

The Sacrament Act provides that persons must ‘devoutly and humbly’ desire the Sacrament to qualify for admission.  This suggests that a priest is within his rights to refuse the Sacrament to someone who is drunk or disorderly (a fairly common occurrence at Christmas midnight masses) without first requiring the bishop’s decision.

Swine Flu and the Sacrament Act 1547

Section 8 of this ancient statute (1 Edw 6, c.1, therefore the very first Act of Parliament passed during the reign of King Edward VI) provides that holy communion shall ‘be hereafter delivered and ministered unto the people … under both the kinds … of bread and wine, except necessity otherwise require’.  The word ‘necessity’ is rendered ‘necessitie’ in the original spelling.

This reference to ‘necessitie’ was suggested as the legal justification for refusing to administer the wine during a ‘swine flu’ pandemic in 2009.  However, it is argued that this is a superficial and flawed interpretation of the 1547 Act.

It is true that the ‘necessitie’ provision remains in force, but it is questionable whether it applies to any form of service now in use.  The first Book of Common Prayer (‘BCP’) was authorised by the Act of Uniformity 1548 (2 & 3 Edw 6, c.1).  The 1547 Act was, of course, enacted the previous year or so.  It could not therefore apply to the BCP, which was not then in use.  It could only apply to the mediaeval liturgies (Sarum, York, Bangor etc).  However, these mediaeval liturgies were all abolished by the 1548 Act.  Thus the ‘necessitie’ provision was not repealed, but it could have no application after 1548, since the liturgies to which it applied were no longer in use.

The 1547 and the 1548 Acts were both repealed under the Catholic Queen Mary I.  The 1547 Act, including s.8, was then revived under Elizabeth I, by the Act of Supremacy 1558 (1 Eliz 1, c.1, the first Elizabethan Act of Parliament).  The BCP was then amended and authorised by the later Act of Uniformity 1558 (1 Eliz 1, c.2, the second Elizabethan Act of Parliament).

Thus the chronology repeated itself.  When revived, the 1547 Act applied to the liturgy favoured by Queen Mary, which was then in use.  That liturgy was abolished by the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity and replaced by the amended BCP, so the ‘necessitie’ provision could, again, have no further application.

It is also unlikely that the ‘necessitie’ provision was intended to apply to a public health scare.  It probably referred only to cases of material want, that is, where there was no wine to be had, or not enough wine for all communicants, or where the communicant was in danger of death and there was no time to obtain wine.

Canon 71 of 1603 provides that no clergyman should officiate in a private house ‘except it be in times of necessity, when any being … so impotent as he cannot go to the Church, or very dangerously sick’.  Canon 71 was, of course, written more than half a century after the 1547 Act.  Also, the ‘necessity’ to which it refers is that of administering holy communion outside the church building.  It does not equate necessity with public health.

People in the 16th and 17th centuries were far more familiar with deadly infections and pandemics than we are, and the BCP rubrics refer to ‘the Plague, Sweat, or such other like contagious times of sickness or disease’.  It is therefore significant that the rubrics make no provision of refusing the wine on such occasions.  Nor did the abortive revised Prayer Book in the 1920s, even though this was compiled just after the influenza pandemic that followed the first world war (and apparently killed more people).

Even if the ‘necessitie’ provision does apply to the BCP and authorised modern liturgies and to public health scares, it certainly does not empower Archbishops and bishops to order communion under one kind only.  S.8 is addressed directly to all the clergy as ministers of the sacrament, not to bishops or Church courts.  If there is a necessity justifying refusal of the communion cup, this is for the officiating clergyman to decide.

Moreover, as a matter of law, necessity is a defence, not a basis of authority.  It is a shield, not a sword.  The courts may accept necessity as a defence to an otherwise illegal act.  However, it cannot order the commission of an illegal act on ground of necessity.  Thus the Church authorities cannot order a clergyman to refuse to administer the wine.  They can, at most, accept the clergyman’s defence of necessity if a disciplinary complaint is made against him. 

It is argued that a clergyman could not rely on the 1547 Act as a defence.  The relevant, post-1548 law is contained in Article 30, and in the regime of public worship established by the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974.  Article 30 provides that ‘both the parts of the Lord’s sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike’.  This wording suggests that communion under both kinds is a matter of divine law, not merely of liturgical discipline, in which case no human authority may dispense from it.  All authorised forms of service are clear that communion should be administered under both kinds.

Canon B5(1) permits individual clergy to ‘make and use variations which are not of substantial importance’ in forms of service, but refusal of the communion cup cannot be considered unimportant, in light of Article 30.  Nor does canon B5 empower bishops to order their clergy to make variations in services.  The wording of canon B5 is clear that minor variations are at the ‘discretion’ of the individual clergyman.

Refusal to administer the wine at holy communion, and any direction by bishops to their clergy not to administer the wine, therefore amounts to misconduct under s.8 of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.  Refusal is both a failure to do an act required by ecclesiastical law and neglect of the performance of the duties of office, since administration of the communion cup is a duty of office.  Any purported direction by the bishops to withhold the communion cup is also misconduct, being an act in contravention of ecclesiastical law.

The concern for public health may be understandable.  However, it cannot override the clergy’s duty to administer, and the communicant’s right to receive, communion under both the kinds.  Nor should the 1547 Act be used as a ‘figleaf’ to cover an arbitrary, illegal suspension of this fundamental duty and right.  If the communion cup is really a threat to public health, the proper course is to amend the law.

The Canons of 1603: Holy communion

The 1603 canons generally encourage the reception of holy communion. The faithful should receive the sacrament ‘oftentimes’ (canon 13). They are bound to receive it ‘at least thrice in a year’ (canon 21). Clergy should remind them of this duty (canon 23). Moreover, the incumbent of a benefice should not delegate all the responsibility to his curate, but should administer communion at least twice a year (canon 56). Members of the universities and cathedral foundations should receive at least four times a year (canons 23 and 24) or even weekly (BCP rubric of 1558).

The wording of the canons suggests that the evil they were intended to cure was popular neglect of communion, rather than excessive enthusiasm for it. It was noted that ‘many … do not receive that sacrament [even] once in a year’ (canon 22), let alone the required three occasions. The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) prescribes an exhortation for use by a priest whose parishioners are ‘negligent to come to the holy communion’. Those who neglected to receive communion at Easter were subject to ecclesiastical discipline (canon 112).

The canons follow the 39 Articles. The Articles deprecate as superstitious and unscriptural the adoration of the consecrated bread, but urge its consumption (cf. Articles 25 and 28).

Catholics refused to receive communion in the Church of England: ‘being popishly given … they come to the church, yet do refuse to receive the communion’ (canon 114). Strict protestants were also reluctant to receive it. Protestantism tended to emphasise word over sacrament. There was a reluctance to receive holy communion from non-preaching ‘dumb dog’ clergy (canon 57). (People may have thought that, if a clergyman was incapable of administering the word of God by preaching, he must also be incapable of administering the sacrament effectively.)

The device of occasional conformity, whereby dissenters received holy communion annually in order to comply with their legal obligations but otherwise practised their religion separately, may already have begun (cf canon 27). Thus catholics were prepared to hear the word of the Church of England, but refused its sacrament. With protestant dissenters it was the other way around.

The canons encourage the reception of holy communion, but only in the context of a strict discipline. ‘Notorious offenders’ were excluded, pending their repentance and reconciliation (canon 26). Communicants were required to kneel, a controversial practice in the Reformation era (canon 27). The link between word and sacrament was insisted on, hence communion was denied ‘to any that refuse to be present at Public Prayers according to the Orders of the Church of England’ (canon 27), a reference to dissent and occasional conformity.

There was a strong emphasis on holy communion as a collective, corporate act.  Communicants were expected to receive the sacrament in their parish church, and nowhere else. ‘Strangers’ were not to be admitted, but ‘[sent] home to their own parish churches and ministers there to receive the Communion with the rest of their own neighbours’ (canon 28). The sacrament was not to be administered in any private house ‘except it be in times of necessity’, that is, where a communicant was gravely ill (canon 71). The occupants of grand houses with their own private chapels were still expected to receive holy communion in the parish church at least once a year.

The general rule of communion in the communicant’s own parish church was reinforced by the rule that the priest should not administer communion alone, only in the company of lay communicants (BCP rubric). Private masses were not allowed. Again, the canons follow the 39 Articles, which insist that communion should be administered to priest and people alike (Article 30) and that word and sacrament should be administered in ‘a tongue … understanded of the people’ (Article 24).

If there was a rule of mediaeval canon law limiting reception of holy communion to once a day, it did not survive the Reformation. There would have been scant opportunity for receiving the sacrament more than once a day in the post-Reformation era. The monasteries had been dissolved, private masses forbidden and the sacrament was generally allowed only in the parish church.

The homilies are commended for their ‘godly and wholesome doctrine … to be read in Churches by the ministers’ (Article 35). Thus even if one of the homilies contained a ‘rule’ limiting the number of times for receiving holy communion, this would be a mere exhortation, without any binding effect.