Catholicism Confuses Me: Sacred Vessels

Another thing I don’t understand about the Catholic church is the insistence on using expensive materials for the glasses and plate (chalices and patens) used in communion — the Roman Missal, Third Edition, issued by the Holy See in 2000, states, “Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside.” The Redemptionis Sacramentum issued by the Holy See in 2004 states,

Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books.[205]The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region,[206]so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.

When I was growing up, my church used pottery (it was very nice-looking; I liked the glaze). I thought it was fitting, actually: it seemed very Indiana Jones — you know, going along with the idea that Jesus would’ve used pottery or something similar (not a gold chalice). The precious metal chalices I saw at other churches seemed so ostentatious; our simple pottery chalices were elegant.

Following the Roman Missal, I think it’s absurd that precious metal are necessary for holding the consecrated hosts and wine. I believe that the money would better be used for helping people; I really think this is a stark example of how the Catholic church as an institution has veered sharply away from what it claims to be grounded in, the teachings of Jesus. The church should care more about its people than making up finicky rules.

The Church reasons that the materials need to honor God. However, I argue that the material worth of the item shouldn’t determine its “honor.” If they feel reverence, shouldn’t it be enough, regardless of the material used? If they don’t actually care, it could be carved out of a flawless diamond, and it wouldn’t show honor. Wouldn’t God be more honored by efforts to help those in need than by flashy containers?

Following the Redemptionis Sacramentum, I don’t know what exactly would be considered a noble material, although I would estimate that anything “noble” would also be expensive. However, the reason why a noble material must be used, I will repeat, is “so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided [emphasis added].” If they were to use less than noble materials in the vessels used to contain the consecrated bread and wine (body and blood), people might not believe that Jesus is really there. That strikes me as ridiculous. Perhaps people might argue that I shouldn’t apply logic to this situation, given that it’s a matter of faith, but if it’s really about faith, why would the materials used matter? If a person’s faith in Jesus’ presence in their communion wavers because the bread and wine is in something made of a common metal, perhaps the person should work on strengthening their faith, instead of the blame being put on the material of the vessel.

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