Can You Pour out the Precious Blood?

October 8, 2013 | 8 comments

When the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at Mass, the change is permanent. It remains so long as the appearances of bread and wine do.

This has implications for how we treat the consecrated elements after Mass is over. Hosts that remain are stored in a Tabernacle, but what about the Precious Blood?

It cannot normally be reserved (the only exception being when it will be taken to the sick, and then special precautions have to be taken to keep it from spilling).

If there is a quantity of the Precious Blood left and it cannot be reserved, what are you supposed to do?


Pouring the Precious Blood into a Sacrarium?

Some have suggested pouring it out–not out on the ground or down an ordinary drain but down a special kind of sink known as a sacrarium.

Sacraria are typically found in the sacristy of a church, and they differ from an ordinary sink in a crucial respect: Instead of draining into the local sewer system, they drain down into the earth.

Sacraria are used for a variety of purposes, including these:

  1. To dispose of ashes from objects that have been blessed and then destroyed by fire
  2. To dispose of the water that has been used to wash the altar linens
  3. To dispose of water that has been used to dissolve small particles of the host
  4. To dispose of water that has been used to clean up places where the Precious Blood has spilled

Except for the first example, which deals with the ashes of former blessed objects, the other examples cited deal with water that is known to have or may have come into contact with the consecrated elements (since small particles of the host might be on the altar linens).

Given that, can you use the sacrarium to dispose of the Precious Blood itself? After all, it’s not like you’re pouring it into the sewer. You would be pouring it into something specially intended to deal with the remains of sacred things, right? So can you do this?

No. You can’t.


Throwing Away the Consecrated Species

It’s one thing to pour water into the sacrarium, even if that water has been used to dissolve the consecrated species. In that case, the appearances of bread and wine no longer remain, and so the Real Presence does not remain, either. It is another thing entirely to use it to throw away the consecrated species themselves.

According to the Code of Canon Law,

Canon 1367  A person who throws away the consecrated species or who takes them or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if a cleric, he can be punished with another penalty including dismissal from the clerical state.

 This offense is one of those graviora delicta (graver offenses) that is reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as noted in the instruction Redemptoinis Sacramentum, which provides:

[172.] Graviora delicta against the sanctity of the Most August Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist are to be handled in accordance with the ‘Norms concerning graviora delicta reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’, namely:

a) taking away or retaining the consecrated species for sacrilegious ends, or the throwing them away;

Pouring the Precious Blood into a sacrarium counts as throwing away the consecrated species, and so it cannot be done.


It Is Explicitly Forbidden

The fact that pouring the Precious Blood even into a sacrarium is not permitted is made explicit in Remptionis Sacramentum, which provides:

[107.] In accordance with what is laid down by the canons, “one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose, incurs a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state”.

To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species.

Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground, incurs the penalties laid down. 

The good news, for anyone who has done this innocently not knowing that they shouldn’t, is that the excommunication does not apply to them (CIC 1323, no. 2).

But the rule remains: No pouring the Precious Blood down a sacrarium.


What You Are Supposed to Do

The actual answer is that any remaining amount of the Precious Blood should be consumed. Section 107 of Redemptionis Sacramentum continues:

Furthermore all will remember that once the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of Mass has been completed, the prescriptions of the Roman Missal are to be observed, and in particular, whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ must be entirely and immediately consumed by the Priest or by another minister, according to the norms, while the consecrated hosts that are left are to be consumed by the Priest at the altar or carried to the place for the reservation of the Eucharist.

Want to learn more?

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Jimmy Akin is an internationally known author and speaker. As the senior apologist at Catholic Answers, he has more than twenty years of experiencing defending and explaining the Faith.

Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers,...

Comments by Members

#1  James Tavelli - Louisville, Kentucky

I am a Eucharistic minister and I am very careful to consume the Blood of Christ after communion has finished. But there is always a tiny amount in the cup that one cannot consume. I have been using a small amount of the water (that is poured into the wine prior to consecration) mixing it and then drinking that. But I am worried that is not the right thing. I've also seen ministers wipe the cup with the linen we use during communion. What is the proper method for this remnant in the cup?

October 9, 2013 at 7:11 am PST
#2  Yujia Zhai - Los Angeles, California

Thanks, Jimmy, for this helpful post. However, I find this very interesting: "if that water has been used to dissolve the consecrated species ... the appearances of bread and wine no longer remain, so the Real Presence does not remain, either." But I don't understand how "the appearances of bread and wine no longer remain". Simply consider this scenario: a person keeps adding water to a small drop of ordinary wine (or Precious Blood if you will) in order to dissolve it. At what moment the appearance of wine cease to remain? In other words, does the appearance remain only until sufficient amount of water has been added? If this is not the right approach, then how do we understand this philosophically?

October 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm PST
#3  Richard Bain - Rio Vista, California

Consecrated wine diluted by a greater amount of water no longer has the substance of wine. No longer having the the substance of wine, it is no longer Precious Blood. Thus, a piscina (sacrarium) should be an excellent place to disposed of it, or even the ground - which is part of God's creation and thus holy too.

Father Richard Bain

October 14, 2013 at 8:43 am PST
#4  R CH - flowery branch, Georgia

One time at mass, I found a host under a bench near the back of the church. At the end of mass I immediately returned it to the Deacon that was available then. there was no way of knowing how long the host had been there. Since that time I have always wanted to know how it should have been taken care of after I gave it to the Deacon. Did it need to be consumed? it was dirty because it was on a marble floor for awhile. It was still very much a host and most likely the Blessed Sacrament.

October 16, 2013 at 5:51 am PST
#5  Deb Brown - Orlando, Florida

I've found hosts (even had recipients drop a few). I pick them up immediately and hold on to them until I'm finished distributing the Eucharist. When I take them back to the priest at the tabernacle, I show them to him and ask if I should consume them myself, and that's what he has me do. I like distributing the cup, that way I can keep an eye on people walking away with host in hand - one lady would make a beeline out the door with Him until I stopped her. She looks at me like I have some kind of problem. Sad.

But we always consume any left over blood and were instructed not to wipe the inside of the cup. The priest, deacon or sacristan will take care of that.

October 16, 2013 at 7:11 am PST
#6  Gerard Colby - Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

Can our Church allow Mormans to hold service in the CHURCH?

April 29, 2014 at 12:06 pm PST
#7  Michael Rogala - Chicago, Illinois

"... If this is not the right approach, then how do we understand this philosophically?..." Excellent question Zhai . . . but this is a "pop-apologetics" site, so the requisite for authentic apologists of specializing in a given area as well as a solid grounding in analytic philosophy doesn't apply here.

Hence, you get some wild and crazy replies. Fortunately, the serious work of apologetics that influences the evolution of dogma is conducted in university and canonical settings. PhD's, ThD's and canonical degrees are the "norm".

BTW . . . philosophically you can't "dissolve" the Real Presence. Tho that is pretty funny.

August 15, 2014 at 8:18 pm PST
#8  emily sow - NY, Alabama

hi.. this is my firs t step..

November 14, 2014 at 10:16 am PST

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