You may think I’m over-stating the case, but that is the practical effect of this policy decision.
For a quarter century, Monsignor Ed Lofton has served as one of 86 volunteer chaplains at the Charleston County jail. Bringing calm to inmates and jailers alike is considered essential to his mission.
That endeavor includes Communion, and for Catholics, wine is a necessary component.
But carrying wine into a facility where alcohol is labeled as contraband hasn’t come without controversy. He has fought and won that battle before.
For 15 years, he has consumed 1 ounce of sacramental wine during Mass
without incident. Inmates partake only in the bread.
But this week he lost a fight.
Chief Deputy Mitch Lucas, the jail’s administrator, has told Lofton to replace the wine — brought to the jail in a TSA-approved container designed for holy water — with grape juice.
He booted the chaplain Tuesday after he refused to do so.
It is clear from this article that Lucas is not Catholic. While many Protestant denominations have no trouble with the use of grape juice for communion, Catholic sacramental theology and church law REQUIRES the use of wine.
Can. 924 §1. The most holy eucharistic sacrifice must be offered with bread and with wine in which a little water must be mixed.
§2. The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling.
§3. The wine must be natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled.
Monsignor Lofton may can no more comply with Lynch’s demand than he could with a demand that he use saltines instead of communion wafers. Doing so would be outside the boundaries of what may be used to celebrate a valid mass – and would be considered sacrilegious as well.
Interestingly enough, Lynch could follow the practices of his own state’s Department of Corrections and avoid the entire problem.
Eucharist or Mass: The celebration of Mass is the central act of worship for Catholics. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, body and soul, in the bread and wine received in the Holy Communion. This sacrament requires wine (required by church law) and bread (hosts).
A priest/bishop (the only ones to celebrate Mass) will be allowed to bring in bread and wine for Mass. Since wine is otherwise considered contraband in the SCDC, the priest/bishop will bring in only the amount necessary to meet the needs of the celebrant(s). (NOTE: This is usually about an ounce or two, since communicants will receive only the host at Communion.)
When this service is scheduled, the chaplain will notify security to ensure that the priest has necessary clearance.
Other items allowed for this service include vestments, altar and linen cloths, chalice, paten, pyx (host container), crucifix, and other items. A quiet room with adequate space for the service will be provided. If requested and available, a piano and hymn books will be provided.
But it sounds like Lynch has another agenda – evident in the fact that he lies about the monsignor’s previous practice – and chose not to follow what is a standard guideline in correctional facilities in his state and around the country. Hopefully he will come to his senses – or be replaced – before this becomes a major civil liberties case that costs the taxpayers a great deal of money.