Questions pertaining to the Church’s public worship often come up when discussing the contours of ecumenical gatherings. One such question regards the prohibited celebration of Holy Mass by Catholic priests with ministers of other ecclesial communities.
The more grave delict of communicatio in sacris concerns the concelebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have apostolic succession and do not acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination. The reserved status of the delict is a particular species of the offense which is contemplated by CIC, c. 908 which prohibits eucharistic concelebration with all non-Catholic priests/ministers. The penalty for violating this prohibition is found in CIC, c. 1365 which states: “A person guilty of prohibited participation in sacred rites (communicatio in sacris) is to be punished with a just penalty.” Whereas the offense contemplated in the 1983 Code prohibits communicatio in sacris with all non-Catholics, Art. 3, 4° of the Normae of 2010 reserves to the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) only the delict of concelebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice/Divine Liturgy with ministers of ecclesial communities which lack apostolic succession and which do not acknowledge the sacramentality of the priesthood–e.g., “Protestant” ministers.
Thus, depending upon the circumstances of the alleged delict, the process to be followed in addressing the crime may or may not be handled at the diocesan level. This has important consequences for ensuring the integrity of the process and for effectively safeguarding the individual rights of the parties involved. In any case involving graviora delicta, the diocesan bishop must transmit the acta of the preliminary investigation, together with his votum (opinion), to the CDF. To do otherwise would be to usurp the jurisdiction of the CDF established by the Holy See.