31 January 2020

Ask Father: Suspension of Communion on the Tongue Because of #Coronavirus

I am reminded of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. I was attending Mass at the Minor Basilica of St Joseph, +Richard Smith's Cathedral. He ordered no Communion on the tongue. I ignored him, and was never refused Communion or had a 'talking to' after Mass.

From Fr Z's Blog

From a reader…


Father, in the Philippines a bishop told people to stop receiving Communion on the tongue and receive only in the hand because of Coronavirus and don’t have the chalice too.

What say you?

We have seen this movie before, with the outbreak of various strains of influenza and viruses.

Here are a few common sense observations.

Firstly, it is not allowed to distribute Communion in the hand during the Traditional Latin Mass or when using the Rite for Distribution of Communion outside of Mass, or during sick calls with the older Rituale Romanum. Also, in the older Rite, Communion is not distributed under both kinds. That takes care of that.

I don’t see a way around that. Distribution of Communion in the hand would be a serious liturgical abuse, precisely because it deals with the Eucharistic species.

If you are concerned about contagion, in a TLM, then don’t go to Communion. You are not obliged to receive. You can make a spiritual Communion.

That said, I would bend the rubrics so far as to have the priest rapidly purify his fingers again immediately before distribution of Communion using something like hand sanitizer or wipes of some sort.

That second purification is certainly extra-rubrical, but it is before handling the Eucharist, not a violation while handling the Eucharist.

Moreover, if a priest has to cough or sneeze during Mass, his momentary halt to handle a handkerchief is not described by the rubrics and is not treated in De defectibus. If a guy has to stop for a moment so that he can clear himself up, then he’s got to stop for a moment. Therefore, if Father, immediately before – and after for his own sake – distribution, uses a sanitizer, I say tolleratur. He doesn’t have to be burned and his ashes put down the sacrarium.

As far as the Novus Ordo is concerned, this is less of an issue.

In most places, sad to say, there is juridical permission (I don’t think it’s moral) to receive directly in the hand. I am not sure how that reduces the risk of contagion. Maybe it does. Certain suspending distribution of the Precious Blood would reduce the risk. Given the options, a person has to decide what to do. If the local bishop has said don’t receive on the tongue (contrary to your right) and the priest takes a hard position and refuses to distribute on the tongue (contrary to your right), then you have to decide what to do.

If you are dead set against receiving on the tongue, period, then don’t even go forward. Don’t make a scene at the Communion rail. Make a spiritual Communion.

And, people, if you know that you are sick and probably shedding virus left and right, stay home. Stay home. If you are ill or infectious or contagious then you don’t have an obligation to go to Sunday Mass. While it might be laudable from your perspective to offer up the discomfort and make the effort, it might be a violation of both prudence and charity.

Lastly, while I fully endorse the praiseworthy desire to receive the Eucharist in Communion, and I wholeheartedly embrace the spiritual benefits of frequent reception, something has to be done about that near mania about Communion.

First, there is the promotion of Communion at every Mass such that people think they haven’t been to Mass unless they have received. NO. There is the psychological pressure to go, especially promoted by row by row Communion. It winds up that people go forward when they know they should not. Sacrilege results. There is the problem of people not having a clue about what the Eucharist is: “That’s the white thing we get before we sing the song. It means that people like me.” Sacrilege results. But there is an overwhelming notion that if you, in the state of grace, go to Mass then you must receive. NO. If you wish to, you can. You are not obliged.

I say, get rid of row by row Communion. Will it be a little messier? Sure. Who cares?

I say, bring back the longer Eucharistic fast. That will provide also – in addition to spiritual benefits – an apparent reason for why you choose not to go forward: maybe you ate something within the period.

Two things that could help.

Also, we need catechesis, catechesis and also catechesis about the Eucharist and about Holy Communion.

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