Sacramentally over the limit?
A zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving seems attractive to a growing number of people. But, as Fr Brian D'Arcy was suggesting on today's Good Morning Ulster, that kind of policy may have a detrimental effect on priests carrying out essential sacramental duties. Catholic priests often have to drive between services at which they have consumed small amounts of communion wine. Alcoholic wine is considered an essential eucharistic element in most cases -- a priest may be granted permission to use non-alcoholic wine if he presents a medical certificate to a superior indicating that he has struggled with alcoholism or related conditions, but this is rare.
Currently, the UK and Ireland permit higher blood alcohol levels than many other EU countries (compare levels here) at 80mg. Sweden, by comparison, sets the limit at 20mg. A zero tolerance strategy would certainly raise concerns for priests who have consumed some wine at Mass, but there is still clearly room for a significant reduction in the UK/Irish blood alcohol limit without producing that unintended consequence. On the other hand, this European-wide debate may now force a Vatican rethink of the current rules on alcoholic wine at the Eucharist.