Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Our pastor has taken to using “high quality” paper towels instead of linen for purificators. This has some of the community very upset. Supposedly, the paper towels are burned once a week. At this point, the pastor is unwillingly to change this practice (both he and the priest responsible for the liturgy have been approached).
Is this practice licit? It seems, at the very least, to be insulting to Our Lord and, at the worst, not only wrong,but sending an incorrect message as to the value of the Eucharist. — T.A., New York
A: Although the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) does not give detailed instructions regarding the composition of altar linens, it enunciates the general principle involved in No. 348: “Besides sacred vessels and sacred vestments for which some special material is prescribed, other furnishings that either are intended for strictly liturgical use or are in any other way admitted into a church should be worthy and suited to their particular purpose.”
It is debatable, to say the least, that paper towels are “worthy and suited” to the purpose of touching the Lord’s body or that they could be blessed according to the Church’s rites. (Read or download the entire Paper Towel Purificators.)