Tabernacle Safety

Recently we’ve heard the shocking news of the profanation of the Blessed Sacrament that took place in and around Ars, France. From the photos I’ve seen, many of the tabernacles involved were very old wooden ones that were hacked into. In other words, they were not removed from the church and later pried open, but vandalized on site so as to gain access.

From other stories that I’ve heard of things like this happening, there’s a certain sense in which, when someone with diabolical motives wants to get at the Blessed Sacrament, they’ll stop at nothing to get it. Even still, there is much that can be done to make it very difficult for such a tragedy and crime to happen, from having a properly secured church building to a properly secured and solid tabernacle.

What does Church law say about the tabernacle in this regard? Canon 938 § 3 of the Code of Canon Law indicates: “The tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved habitually is to be immovable, made of solid and opaque material, and locked in such a way that the danger of profanation is avoided as much as possible.”

Probably many of us have seen abuses over the years concerning this law; for example, I recall seeing a church with a glass tabernacle, in which the Holy Eucharist was displayed in a glass bowl with colored lighting shining underneath it. That is wrong on many levels…

In any case, what we can focus on here, perhaps, with regard to the above canon, is the immovability of the tabernacle. Back in the day when many altars had a reredos (vertical back part), many tabernacles were built into the altar. Thus they would be secured within a framework made of marble, some other stone, or wood, and only a locked door would be visible. That is the case with our tabernacle at Holy Rosary parish:

The tabernacle is secured inside the wooden high altar, and is itself made of metal with a special locking door that would be quite difficult to break into.

Nowadays, perhaps, it is more common for the tabernacle to be freestanding, positioned on top of an altar or some sort of stand. That is the case with ours here at St. Barnabas:

In this case, the tabernacle is bolted down in such a way that it would be quite a production to remove it once installed. And, since it’s made of metal and has a secure lock, it would be very hard to break into as well.

There is a fair amount more we could talk about with regard to security and precautions to take with the Blessed Sacrament, but we’ll leave it there. The Holy Eucharist is the greatest treasure we have, Christ himself present in our midst, and so it is due the highest possible respect and care.

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