A Few Catholic Conundrums – Part 1: The Case of the Abused Altar Linens

I listen to Catholic talk radio daily to collect fodder for this blog. Most of the chatter either isn’t very noteworthy or involves topics I’ve already addressed, but two consecutive shows from last month brought up topics that fit right into my “Catholic legalistic rabbit hole” category.

Called to Communion – EWTN Radio
Moderator: Thom Price, Host: David Anders
Podcast 4/23/19 – 24:58 mark

This first episode I’ll call “The Case of the Abused Altar Linens.” Let’s begin by noting that Catholicism teaches that at its masses, priests transform bread wafers and wine into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ to be offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the congregants. Mass-goers then consume the Jesus wafer (and Jesus wine by some), believing it imparts graces that help them to avoid temptation and sin. Because the Roman church teaches the bread wafers are actually changed into Jesus, they are worshiped by the congregants. Mass-goers bow to the wafer, bend their knee to the wafer, and pray to the wafer god. The Jesus wafer and Jesus wine must be handled with worshipful reverence. As a part of the mass’s liturgical ritual, the priest handles a large Jesus wafer and Jesus wine and there’s always a chance that small Jesus crumbs or Jesus droplets will land on the linens covering the altar. Therefore, when the altar linens are periodically washed, they must be handled with the utmost reverence. Let’s pick it up when an indignant Catholic listener calls in to the show complaining that reverential protocols aren’t being followed with regard to the altar linens at her parish:

Thom Price: Let’s go to Kitty, now, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, listening on St. Michael Catholic Radio. Hello, Kitty. What’s on your mind today?

Kitty: Oh, yes. I would like to know your thoughts about this. I’m very concerned about the presence of our lord in the precious blood that’s on the purificators and altar linens. At the church where I’m going the altar linens are just left in a basket on the counter and, shouldn’t they be in some sort of a container that has a lid with a light next to it to indicate that our lord is present? They don’t leave consecrated hosts just lying in an open basket!

The show’s host, Catholic apologist David Anders, then responds to Kitty’s inquiry, saying that he is aware that “there are liturgical laws that govern these things,” but it’s “not (his) particular area of expertise.” Anders defers to moderator, Thom Price, but Price pleads ignorance as well and suggests to Kitty that she should make inquiries to a particular priest radio host.

The Catholic teaching that its priests change bread wafers and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus leads to all kinds of legalistic rabbit holes involving such things as falling Jesus crumbs and spilt Jesus droplets and Jesus wine stains. Catholicism breaks my heart. Hundreds of millions of Catholic souls, like Kitty, get indignantly and scrupulously wrapped around the axle over the proper handling of altar cloths, but never hear the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Kitty mentioned “purificators” and altar linens that could possibly have Jesus particles and Jesus stains imbedded in them, but several other cloth items are also used by the priest during the eucharistic liturgical ritual including the “corporal,” “lavabo towels,” and the “pall” (see photo right)

To see the correct Catholic rubrics for the handling and cleaning of these “sacred” cloths, refer to the article below. Wow! The Catholic mass has more protocols than a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier! Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Friends, we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to all the rubrics involved in the Catholic mass. Whoops, I see we’ve already hit the 625-word mark so we’ll have to visit the second Catholic rabbit hole tomorrow. Remember, it’s the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone that’s important, NOT copious and complicated religious rituals and ceremonies that are alleged to help people merit their salvation.

The Proper Care and Cleansing of Altar Linens & Sacred Vessels in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend – Adapted from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship

Click to access 5c3aa66e5663b57ce646ed961423685c-Policy-on-Care-of-Altar-Linens-and-Sacred-Vessels.pdf

37 thoughts on “A Few Catholic Conundrums – Part 1: The Case of the Abused Altar Linens

  1. Your descriptions of some of the rabbit holes such as droplets, crumbs, and wine stains almost made me laugh, and were it not such a life-and-death situation, I would be chuckling, so silly is the whole thing. But it truly is sad that so many are deceived by an organization of humans who pretend to have the rules and regulations on how to MAYBE get to heaven.

    Your post reminds me of a Chick tract I read long ago called The Death Cookie. I have heard people say Jack Chick’s writings are controversial. Either way, at least he tried to expose error. He helped me by setting ideas before me I had never considered. I used to believe the Roman Catholic system was “just another denomination” in Christianity.

    I very much appreciate your exposition of error. I pray that people who need the truth will be turned toward the Bible and find the True Savior as a result of reading, and forsake the death cookie and its lying, corrupt, controlling organization of fake Christianity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Steeny, thank you for the encouraging words in the Lord! Yes, the ritualism of Catholicism leads to legalistic rabbit hole absurdities. RE: Chick – I read a lot of Chick’s information back in the day, and some of it was good, but much of it was irresponsible and tended to conspiracy-theory excess. Thanks for your prayers! That’s right, Catholicism is not “just another denomination” and Catholics need to hear the genuine Gospel because their church is teaching them a false one.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “Conspiracy theory excess”. Ah, yes. I have a family member who is guilty of that and it is so hard to be around them when they wax conspiratorial in their conversation.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I was big into conspiracy theories in my early twenties. It was one of the many things the Lord used to lead me to Him. Our oldest son is now also big into worldwide conspiracies and I hope he also accepts the Lord someday.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thank you for your prayers, sister! We slip in references to Jesus in conversation whenever we can with both of our unsaved sons and my wife sends them a short daily Bible passage via texting. I enjoy talking politics with my oldest son. He gets so riled up and I can always guide the conversation back to the ultimate bottom line, Jesus and the Gospel. Politics doesn’t save anyone.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Good for you, keeping that conversation flowing. And now I will also be praying for your other unsaved son, and will keep them both in prayer as I go about my day. I love talking to God in the silence of my mind.

        By the way, I noticed you mentioned having reached a 625 word count. I’ve always wanted to find an app or program that will give me a live word count as I write. Do you have one, or do you do a process of hitting buttons to get to that count?

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you for your prayers! I appreciate that! RE: word count. When I’m composing a new post on my laptop, WordPress continuously notes the expanding word count down at the bottom. Maybe it doesn’t do that when some other devices are being used?


      6. David King/William Webster’s three volume series on holy scripture, is a pretty good modern polemical work , defending Sola Scriptura and attacking Romanism. Have you read them?

        Liked by 2 people

    2. A Christian whose mind has been illuminated by the Holy Spirit, need only read Paul VI’s encyclical on indulgences and the treasury of merits to see how abhorrent Romanism is. I must confess that when I was done reading it, I felt so repulsed and disgusted.

      As for “ex-protestant” folks like Anders, I can only think of Jn 10:27-28 (My sheep hear my voice…..) and 1 Jn 2:19 (They went out from us, but they were not of us…..)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “Paul VI’s encyclical on indulgences and the treasury of merits”. Never heard of it, but I probably don’t know the half of what the Roman Catholic institution has in its libraries. I just did a quick search online to see if it is available to read but didn’t find it. I wonder if I were to go to the local RC building if they’d have a copy for me to view.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL! You’re welcome! The Lord puts it in my heart to listen to this stuff daily and I’m constantly debating Anders in my head. But when this type of excruciatingly legalistic rabbit hole quandary comes up, I have half the post written before I even touch the keyboard.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point! Both of those guys know more about Catholicism’s encyclopedic legalities and rituals than 99% of Catholics, but they still couldn’t answer the scrupulous woman’s question.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments, Sally! Your post from a few days ago, “Why Does Joan Attend Mass?,” caught my attention. It resonated with me because when I was reading the New Testament for the first time 36 years ago, I was torn between what God was showing me in Scripture compared to what I had been taught for 27 years in the RCC. I would definitely like to read your “Dueling Sacristans” post. I skimmed through several of your other postings and came across your “Obstacles to Christian Unity.” Although I wouldn’t consider myself an ultra-conservative Protestant, I’m sure some would view me as such. I do believe that the Good News of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is quite different from Catholicism’s gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Even Catholic apologists are quite adamant that the two gospels are not the same.


      Well, I don’t mean to come across as a steamroller at our introduction. I look forward to reading your posts in the future. Newfoundland strikes me as a beautiful area. I always wanted to take a trip to Nova Scotia (we’re located in Western New York).


      1. Hi Tom : I remember, as a new Catholic, asking a priest if he was born again. He almost chased me out of his office…
        NEWFOUNDLAND is a spectacular place. And our town is like stepping back into 1915….it is a slow pace. And, perhaps , since it is a sleepy fishing village, and isolated, it was the perfect place for Fr. Emilio and Fr. Jose to try to hide.They carried on some escapades here. I like your blog a lot ! Thanks for writing it. Sally

        Liked by 1 person

      2. RE: Asking a priest if he was born again

        I’m sure you’re aware but for the benefit of subsequent readers, the RCC didn’t use the term “born again” until relatively recently because it was so widespread- they adapted it for their purposes to mean when infants (or adult converts) are baptized. Yeah, I would love to visit the Maritime Provinces someday. Thanks for the kind words! Looking forward to more of your posts.


      3. Tom, in my opinion the Roman Church’s dogmas such as Papal Infallibility, Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction, the immaculate conception, assumption of Mary etc, are vehemently anti-catholic.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Your statement is a bit confusing without an explanation. Most people would consider those doctrines to be the bread and butter of Catholicism, but I realize you’re referring to the “catholic” as in “universal” church. Interesting how Roman Universal is an oxymoron.


      5. Tom, that’s right. I use “catholic” in the true sense of the word. There is nothing catholic about the dogmas that are unique to Rome.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what a sad thing to read, brother. Thank you for sharing this with us! Just to hear the pain this woman feels over these drops of wine, this is her savior. The true Savior is not in wine or bread, but is risen and ascended! I pray the Lord continues to use your posts to shed light on these dark places!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, sister! As a young Catholic I knew MANY such people as this woman who were extremely zealous in regards to the formulas and rituals. They were their idols. Thank you for your prays and encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Re: questioning their church’s system.

    Maybe they can start by studying the theology of Pope Gelasius LOL:

    Gelasius, Bishop of Rome (492-496): Surely the sacrament we take of the Lord’s body and blood is a divine thing, on account of which, and by the same we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance of the bread and wine does not cease to be. And certainly the image and similitude of Christ’s body and blood are celebrated in the action of the mysteries. (Tractatus de duabus naturis 14 [PL Sup.-III. 773])

    Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J.: According to Gelasius, the sacraments of the Eucharist communicate the grace of the principal mystery. His main concern, however, is to stress, as did Theodoret, the fact that after the consecration the elements remain what they were before the consecration. Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J., “The Eucharistic Theology of Pope Gelasius I: A Nontridentine View” in Studia Patristica, Vol. XXIX (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), p. 288.

    Liked by 1 person

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