The nation's Roman Catholic bishops yesterday voted down a proposal that would have given official approval to a liturgical practice used widely unofficially to give the consecrated wine as well as the bread to worshipers at Holy Communion services.
And in what one bishop privately grumbled was a "proposition 13 mood," the bishops also rejected a budget committee request to link future diocesan assessments for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' budget to rises in the consumer price index.
Also rejected was a proposal, under study for nearly two years, for a special collection to be taken on one Sunday of the year to finance expanded use of television, radio and other mass media.
Several hours after the results of the voting were announced, Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, president of the Conference, announced that the results on liturgical questions would be "vacated" and the voting repeated today.
A church spokesman said the action was taken for technical reasons, to facilitate polling absentee bishops on the questions. Because no record was kept of which bishops were present for the vote yesterday, it is impossible to know to whom the absentee ballots should be mailed.
While the proposed liturgical changes did win simple majority, conference rules require a two-thirds vote to adopt such changes.
Present regulations authorize use of both bread and wine for all worshipers only on special occasions, such as Holy Thursday or the Easter Vigil, funeral masses, and at masses on days of special religious significance.
Apart from the specified exceptions, according to the regulations now on the books, lay worshipers are given only the consecrated bread at communion services, with the wine reserved for the priests.
In actual practice, however, large numbers of priests offer both elements to communicants, as do virtually all Protestant clergy.
In the debate over the issue, opponents stressed possible health hazards when large numbers drink from a common chalice, and inconvenience, particularly in suburban parishes with large numbers of worshipers.
"It's a great expense without any spiritual advantage," complained Cardinal John Carberry of St. Louis, a determined traditionalist. "It's difficult to approximate the amount of wine needed in large parishes, and the necessity of the priests to drink the remainder of the precious blood could have ill effects on priests with alcohol problems." (Because Catholics believe the consecrated wine becomes in some way the blood of Christ, priests are required to consume the remaining consecrated wine after services.)
In other actions, Quinn read a letter from the Vatican expressing general approval of the catchetical directory tentatively adopted by the American bishops last year. But the Vatican's Sacred Congregation of the Clergy asked for several changes before the directory is published and distributed here.
One of the changes required was in a theological description of the priesthood. "In classical theological terminology, the ministerial priest acts not only in the name of Christ but in the person of Christ," the Vatican stated - description that would seem to discourage further any consideration of ordaining women.