Friday, December 11, 2020

Vatican: No Communion on Hand During Pandemic


It is no shock to anyone that 2020 has been an interesting year.  The alleged Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has been the main headline in the news for months with the vaccine and elections in American trailing second. As expected, the Church was not left out. Since the closing of parishes and suspension of the Mass, Catholics have become divided. Some agreed with the suspension of the Mass and Sacraments while others protested.  When some churches were allowed to reopen prior to the recent Supreme Court decision, many bishops mandated that Holy Communion could only be received on the hand.  This, of course, angered those Catholics who label themselves as "traditionalists."

Bishop Richard F. Sika of the Diocese of Knoxville was one who early on made it clear that he would not allow Communion on the tongue. This prompted many replies to his social media accounts attacking him, calling him a heretic, modernist, and every name out there. Immediately, dissidents, such as Dr. Taylor Marshall and Steve Skojec of One Peter Five took to their social media to post videos and blog posts condemning the decisions by bishops to only allow reception via the hand. 

Being the self-proclaimed experts of Catholicism and the liturgy, they fiercely condemned the bishops, Pope Francis, and tied this all to some conspiracy entailing "Pachamama" and now the "great reset." They and their ilk also posted around a letter from 2009 from the Benedict XVI pontificate using it as a sort of validation that their view is correct. The letter was even used as a sort of PBA card or get out of jail card for Mass. Proponents of it claimed the letter would force a priest to give them Communion on the tongue. 


While the letter does state that Communion on the tongue is a "right," this letter was written in a normal time. Also, note that it says "who are not impeded by law.." this wording is important because it links it to Canon Law. Yes, Catholics have a right to receive on the tongue, but the law can change that.  As we know, the bishop or the ordinary is the one in charge of a diocese. He is the one who is the chief liturgist and canonist.  Canon Law is clear, it says:

Can.  838 §1. The direction of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, according to the norm of law, the diocesan bishop.

§4. Within the limits of his competence, it pertains to the diocesan bishop in the Church entrusted to him to issue liturgical norms which bind everyone.

So as you can see, the bishop has the authority and power to dictate liturgical norms which bind everyone.  These are the words of Canon Law, not mine or anyone else's. In light of this, it is absurd for some Catholics to claim they have a say over the bishop.  Being Catholic also means being obedient. 

Now Bishop Stika tweeted earlier that Cardinal Sarah sent him a letter vindicating him. Apparently, without his knowledge, someone in his diocese sent a letter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The petitioner apparently complained about Bishop Stika and his mandate prohibiting Communion on the tongue.   


The Congregation for Divine Worship replied to the petition rejecting his or her appeal against Bishop Stika's mandate that Communion on the tongue is banned temporarily due to the alleged coronavirus pandemic. Bishop Stika posted the letter on his diocese's website for all to see. The signer, Archbishop Roche cited Cardinal Sarah's letter from August which reads: “in times of difficulty (e.g. wars, pandemics), Bishops and Episcopal Conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed … These measures given by the Bishops and Episcopal Conferences expire when the situation returns to normal.” Note that these mandates expire. This is important to understand. The banning of Communion on the tongue is not a permanent thing. The 2004 instruction Redemptionis sacramentum clearly states that Communion on the tongue is a right. 

So why the ban? Well, the decision is obvious. There is an alleged pandemic going on with a virus that is very contagious. Despite the absence of science indicating Holy Communion is a conduit for the spread of viruses or disease, the bishops feel that Communion on the tongue is not the right form to receive during this time. Some may wonder why Communion on the tongue dangerous and not on the hand. 

Well, let us see the facts. It is true that hands are known to spread viruses and diseases. This is why handshakes were eventually replaced with elbow taps and namaste salutes. It takes about 20 seconds or more of washing with soap to really remove bacteria and viruses or break them apart to the point that they cannot infect. Unfortunately, not everyone is keen on washing for this long. Some do not wash at all! From personal experience witnessing mankind, I can tell you that humans are very nasty creatures! Some touch everything and never wash. They put their fingers up noses, in mouths to pick food out of their teeth, in other crevices to adjust clothing and many men adjust other things. Let us not go into bathroom use. I think you get the point. Humans are disgusting. In light of this, it makes sense that Communion on the hand would be worse than on the tongue. 

 However, we must remember this fact. Hand sanitizers are being enforced at Mass. Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist have to use it before handing out Holy Communion. Moreover, before entering into a parish, parishioners have to have their temperature taken and are given hand sanitizer. So if all goes well, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to get an infection from Communion on the hands. Let me make this clear: Holy Communion as an object does not transmit viruses. Jesus would never do this! What do spread viruses are the hands. So one will not get a virus from the Sacred Host. However, one can get the virus if the fingers touch a communicant by mistake and have a virus on them. This is where Communion on the tongue is a problem. This virus loves moisture and spreads via the air more than from surfaces. When we breathe, we release carbon dioxide and vapor. These contain whatever viruses may be living in our respiratory tract. This is why mask use is highly recommended and the suggestion to wear gloves has pretty much died down. So think about it. 

When a priest gives someone Communion on the tongue, as his hand approaches the mouth, the communicant's breath is coming onto his hand. Once that happens, the fingers (index, middle, and thumb) of the priest, deacon, or an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist become contaminated. So imagine what happens to the next person receiving on the tongue. He or she will get contaminated. As you may know, sometimes fingers touch the lips or tip of the tongue as some communicate sometimes move too forward messing up the timing and ultimately leading to contact between the fingers and mouth. This is a recipe for disaster. Remember, just because someone gets their temperature taken or hand sanitizer does not mean he or she does not have the virus. People can be asymptomatic and pass on the virus. So at Mass, there may be people with Covid 19 Coronavirus and you may never know. What is protecting you is the social distancing and mask. Hopefully, this will put into perspective why Communion on the tongue is cautioned against. This is not because Communion transmits viruses or the bishops are out to destroy Communion on the hand. Rather, it is to keep everyone safe. Better safe than sorry right!? Now I have made it clear that I would never deny Communion to those who want on the tongue unless ordered to. Here is my tweet from July 2020:

I love to receive on the tongue myself but have been receiving on the hand for obvious reasons. We have to be prudent and care for one another. We all are still subject to the rules of this universe. Also remember, Communion on the hand is the traditional form of reception. This is a fact. You can read this post: https://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/09/holy-communion-hand-vs-tongue-discussion.html. One is not more "worthy" than the other. Those who suggest Communion on the tongue is more worthy do not understand Catholicism or our history. They also do not understand that reception of Communion is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. The Church can and has altered these disciplines. 


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