Sunday, May 19, 2024

Texas bishops give guidelines for the use of wine at Mass in prison

In an effort to assist pastoral ministry staff, educate facility staff, and create better access to Mass for inmates, the Texas bishops have published new guidelines for the use of sacramental wine in state correctional institutions.

The guidelines, published May 14 through the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, essentially reads as an explainer to help non-Catholics understand what sacramental wine represents, and the reason for its necessary presence and use at a Mass.

Considering situations can exist where correctional institution staff – security guards, wardens, etc. – aren’t Catholic and therefore may not understand the need for the wine to enter the facility, Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the TCCB said publishing a singular set of guidelines will help all parties involved be on the same page.

“The Texas bishops wanted to provide these guidelines as support for pastoral ministry staff entering our criminal justice facilities to better educate facility staff to the sacramental importance of wine to create better access to Mass for inmates in Texas,” Allmon told Crux.

The guidelines also represent an opportunity to cut back on the need to re-educate correctional institution employees on the purpose of sacramental wine, given that the roles have high turnover rates across the state.

According to data published by the state, the position of juvenile correctional officer had a turnover rate of 71.8 percent in the fiscal year 2023, and the role of correctional officer had a turnover rate of 30.9 percent in the fiscal year 2023.

The guidelines state that valid celebration of the Mass requires the use of a small amount of wine that need only be consumed by the priest, under which circumstances it will not be considered consumption of alcohol or ingestion of an illegal substance.

The guidelines state that in cases where chaplaincy staff is responsible for providing wine to visiting priests, two ounces of sacramental wine will be provided in closed containers for each scheduled Mass. All wine brought into the institution by a visiting priest must be consumed prior to his leaving, according to the guidelines.

Whenever necessary, wine must be stored behind two locked doors in a secure area inaccessible to inmates, according to the guidelines. The guidelines close with an explanation of why the sacramental wine is necessary for the celebration of Mass.

“Catholics believe that Christ is truly present in the Consecrated Bread and Wine used at Mass,” the guidelines state. “All Consecrated Wine must be consumed by the priest at each Mass. Consecrated Wine cannot be stored after Mass.”

“The Consecrated Bread (communion hosts) should be consumed at Mass, but it may be reserved in an appropriate Tabernacle with a vigil light burning nearby,” the guidelines continue. “Under no circumstance should consecrated hosts be mixed with hosts that have not been consecrated.”