The Council of Trent
Twenty First Session, First Decree
Being the fifth under the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IV., celebrated on the sixteenth day of July, MDLXII.
The sacred and holy, ocecumenical and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same Legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein,-whereas, touching the tremendous and most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, there are in divers places, by the most wicked artifices of the devil, spread abroad certain monstrous errors, by reason of which, in some provinces, many are seen to have departed from the faith and obedience of the Catholic Church, It has thought fit, that what relates to communion under both species, and the com-munion of infants, be in this place set forth. Wherefore It forbids all the faithful in Christ to presume henceforth to believe, teach, or preach otherwise on these matters, than is in these decrees explained and defined.
That laymen and clerics, when not sacrifising, are not bound, of divine right, to communion under both species.
Wherefore, this holy Synod,--instructed by the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of godliness,(f) and following the judgment(g) and usage of the Church itself,--declares and teaches, that laymen, and clerics when not consecrating,(h) are not obliged, by any divine precept, to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species ; and that neither can it by any means be doubted, without injury to faith, (l) that communion under either species is sufficient for them unto salvation. For, although Christ, the Lord, in the last supper, instituted and delivered to the apostles, this venerable sacrament in the species of bread and wine; not therefore do that institution and delivery tend thereunto, that all the faithful of Church be bound, by the institution(k) of the Lord, to receive both species. But neither is it rightly gathered, from that discourse which is in the sixth of John,-however according to the various interpretations of holy Fathers and Doctors it be understood,--that the communion of both species was enjoined by the Lord : for He who said ; Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you (v. 54), also said ; He that eateth this bread shall live for ever (v. 59); and He who said, He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life (v. 55), also said; The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of (lie world (v. 52); and, in fine,- He who said; He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him (v. 57), said, nevertheless; He that eateth this bread shall live for ever (v. 59.)
The power of the Church as regards the dispensation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
It furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, (l) it may ordain,- or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places. And this the Apostle seems not obscurely to have intimated, when he says; Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. (m) And indeed it is sufficiently manifest that he himself exercised this power,- as in many other things, so in regard of this very sacrament; when, after having ordained certain things touching the use thereof, he says; The rest I will set in order when I come. (n) Wherefore, holy Mother Church, knowing this her authority in the administration of the sacraments, although the use of both species has,- from the beginning of the Christian religion, not been unfrequent, yet, in progress of time, that custom having been already very widely changed,- she, induced by weighty and just reasons,- has approved of this custom of communicating under one(o) species, (p) and decreed that it was to be held as a law; which it is not lawful to reprobate, or to change at plea sure, without the authority of the Church itself.
That Christ whole and entire, and a true Sacrament are received under either species.
It moreover declares, that although, as hath been already said, our Redeemer, in that last supper, instituted, and delivered to the apostles, this sacrament in two species, yet is to be acknowledged, that Christ whole and entire and a true sacrament are received under either species alone; and that therefore, as regards the fruit thereof, they, who receive one species alone, are not defrauded of any grace necessary to salvation.
That little Children are not bound to sacramental Communion.
Finally, this same holy Synod teaches, that little children, who have not attained to the use of reason, are not by any necessity obliged to the sacramental communion of the Eucharist: forasmuch as, having been regenerated by th by the laver of baptism, and being incorporated with Christ, they cannot, at that age, lose the grace which they have already acquired of being the sons of God. Not therefore, however, is antiquity to be condemned, if, in some places, it, at one time, observed that custom; for as those most holy Fathers had a probable(q) cause for what they did in respect of their times, so, assuredly, is it to be believed without controversy, that they did this without any necessity thereof unto salvation. (r)