QUAERITUR: Communion in the time of Swine Flu … again

Folks… people from all over the USA are sending me copies of notices from dioceses about the provisions for Mass during the Swine Flu outbreak.  Their questions tend to run along the same lines, so I will answer collectively.

All the copies of provisions have so far indicated a recommendation (at least) that Holy Communion is to be given only in the hand.

At this point, I do not think that it is unreasonable to remind people that they have the right in the USA (and most other places I believe) to receive Holy Communion in the hand if they so desire.

Keep in mind what the Holy See’s document Redemptionis Sacramentum 92 clearly states, namely:

Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

You may also receive in the hand if you so choose.

In some places/parishes someone who dislikes Communion on the tongue may try to take advantage of the situation and attempt to say that people are forbidden to receive on the tongue.

No one may be prohibited from receiving on the tongue. A lower authority (e.g., bishop, pastor) cannot amend the legislation issued by the Holy See.  They can recommend, but they cannot forbid. 

At the same time, people should carefully consider their circumstances and consider what is best to do in charity.  Try to determine if the recommendation is reasonable and don’t freak out.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Banjo Pickin' Girl says:

    I don’t think which method is used would make much difference. They both involve passing the Host from one person to another. One involves hands which may be unclean. The other involves possible droplet infection to the priest’s hands. I am not worrying about it.

    I will do what my priest and bishop tell me to.

  2. catholic college student says:

    I went to a different church for Mass this Sunday, which happened to give such an announcement. “Consider receiving in the hand…” etc. I went up to receive, hands folded, and the EMHC would not give me Holy Communion on the tongue. He held out the Host above my hands and refused to place the Host on my tongue. Since he had not even looked up from my hands, I politely said, “Excuse me, I would like to receive on the tongue.” He told me that he would give only in the hand. I did not want to make a large scene and already a few moments had passed, so I received in the hand… I was upset. But I didn’t know what else to do.

  3. Frank H. says:

    I wonder if any medical professionals might be reading and render an opinion on whether or not there are any genuine risks associated with either method of reception.

  4. Johnny Domer says:

    The fact that the swine flu is a respiratory virus, not an oral virus, means that the risks involved in receiving Communion on the tongue are essentially zilch. [We don’t know that.]

  5. Gleb says:

    Perhaps a catechesis on the practice of automatic reception would be in order. No doubt, in general, many fewer people should be receiving each Sunday than do, given the short confessional lines and general proclivity of human beings to sin.

  6. therese b says:

    “In some places/parishes someone who dislikes Communion on the tongue may try to take advantage of the situation and attempt to say that people are forbidden to receive on the tongue. ”

    They can’t have it both ways. If it is unhygienic to receive on the tongue, then it is unhygienic to drink directly from the chalice, except by intinction, which is not really feasible for Communion in the hand. If one goes – so must the other!

  7. Denise says:

    As a family practice physician, I have been curious about the recommendation to take Communion in the hand due to concerns about spreading the virus. The fact is the flu virus is not spread by ingesting it. It is spread by respiratory droplets that are inhaled or from the hands contaminated with the virus touching the mucosa of the nose and eyes. Therefore, the more you keep your hands out of the process the less likely you are to spread the virus. That is why hand-washing is so critical in controlling the spread. If this were an enteric virus like Hepatits A then maybe avoiding Communion on the tongue would make more sense.

  8. Jacob says:

    During the normal flu season, flu kills up to 500,000 people in the US each year. Judging by the death toll so far from the swine flu ‘pandemic,’ it’s just another late season flu strain floating around.

  9. Joseph says:

    Dear Fr

    I am in the Corpus Christi Diocese, and the Bishop has directed Priests to Give Holy Communion in the hand and not on the tongue. This was read at all masses, along with a few other directives.


    What am I supposed to do in this situation? Is it disobedient to receive in the mouth?

    What if I am refused Holy Communion in the hand, as was the case for someone I know.

    There has only been a few hundred cases out of a US population of 300,000,000, whilst the common flu kills thousands every year.

    This may set a precedent and other Bishops may say there is always a risk of the common cold or common flu being spread so no reception in the mouth, some will jump on the bandwagon where there is no need.

    Is it not the case that these liturgical norms are set by Rome, and cannot be undone by the local Bishops?

  10. Pseudomodo says:

    I taught an RCIA class during the last epidemic some years ago. We discussed at length communion issues regarding the chalice and communion on the tongue. We know that these bugs are transmitted by close human contact, like saliva.

    One of the candidates was an early thirties middle eastern Orthodox man.

    He pointed out that the eastern Orthodox (and eastern Catholic for that matter) alway take communion under both species and that the priest consumes whatever precious blood remains after everybody else.

    If it were the case that there is a cosiderable danger that one can become easily infected by sharing the precious blood, then we would expect to see priests dropping like flies in the eastern (Catholic and Orthodox) rites…BUT WE DON’T!

    His understanding of disease tells him that sharing the cup is dangerous. His faith tells him that a miracle is at work here due to the sacred species.


  11. Patrick says:


    Just to clarify…The Eastern Churches administer Holy Communion under both species by way of a “spoon” which drops the Eucharist into the communicant’s mouth. There is really only very occasional accidental contact between the “spoon” and the communicant. So, whatever is left over and consumed by the priest is most likely completely untainted by any germs through any physical contact.

  12. Sylvia says:

    Perhaps those administering Holy Communion can take a little more time when administering it on the tongue so that they place it without touching the person’s tongue. I received on Sunday from an EMHC, and I definitely felt his finger touch my tongue. Now, I was one of the first to receive and as far as I know am not sick, but a little more time and care could prevent this sort of thing from happening. I also received this morning from our parochial vicar and he seemed to be taking his time in doing it, but the Host fell cleanly in my mouth with no contact. It’s better to have longer communion lines for the purposes of safety, in my opinion.

    Also, I don’t know if there are guidelines on this, but I happened to notice that both my pastor and former parochial vicar would distribute Holy Communion holding the Host between their thumb and forefinger with their palm facing DOWN, and they are two of the best priests I have seen at doing this. They are both able to distribute Holy Communion both quickly and accurately. Maybe the palm down method is preferable to palm-up.

  13. Brian Mershon says:

    If it is hands we are worried about, then certainly we should eliminate all “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion” immediatelly and then simply let the priest administer Holy Communion to EVERYONE on the tongue.

    How is having a whole host of EMHCs distributing from the priests’ hands to their ciborium to their hands to another set of hands going to prevent the spreading of a virus?

  14. schoolman says:

    Denise: “Therefore, the more you keep your hands out of the process the less likely you are to spread the virus.”

    Thanks Denise…I wonder who is advising these Bishops. Restricting communion in the hand seems to make more sense — even from a medical point of view.

  15. Baronius says:

    Communion in the hand is an abomination.

    I would rather die in the most horrific manner imaginable than participate in such a disgusting practice as receiving communion in the hand.

  16. LowellCliburne says:

    Worrying about this flu is ridiculous. Of course everyone is upset over the people who have died, but the numbers are so small! How many people were murdered yesterday in this country? How many people died in car crashes? The media has created a monstrous threat, and now it is even going to shape how we take communion? This generation could not handle the stress of the depression or WWII, if a crisis this small and relatively insignificant can cause such panic for them..

  17. Andrew, medievalist says:

    I lived in Toronto through the SARS scare when many similar precautions were implemented. No priest that I know of took the opportunity to implement a liturgical abuse and things quickly returned to normal afterwards. Communion actually seems a highly unlikely time to catch anything but, a few things come to mind.

    It seems, in charity, and since a bishop who recommends something should be presumed to do so for the good of his flock, there is nothing wrong receiving reverently in the hand. God and you know your reasons and it is only temporary. When it has been impossible to receive on the tongue I do not transfer the Host from one hand to another but bend to my hand to consume it, and kiss my palm afterwards in reverence and to consume any particles.

    Of course, since there is no obligation to receive Communion at every Mass, in charity one could always refrain from receiving. I have done this when ill.

    On a similar note, those distributing Communion, particularly EMHC might excuse themselves if they are ill.

  18. Andreas says:

    These past few days I’ve been suffering from a flu. Therefore I exercised a third option that everyone has: not to receive communion at all.

    Further, to avoid giving a handshake during the “sign of peace” I kneeled after the Our Father: I figured that would be enough to send out a message to others about me not wanting to shake hands: but lo, some lady from another pew rushed at me and gave me a hug as I was kneeling with my arms folded over in front of me. I had to muster heroic virtues at that moment.

    Why don’t they issue a directive to the clergy to skip the sign of peace? Would it kill’m to opt out of that for once?

  19. schoolman says:

    Andrew: “Of course, since there is no obligation to receive Communion at every Mass, in charity one could always refrain from receiving.”

    At least one TLM community did this yesterday. Rather than go against Diocesan directives, and rather than distributing in the hand, the community in charity opted to refrain — a sort of temporary Eucharistic fast…

  20. Geoffrey says:

    In my diocese, only the Host was given, in the hand, and the sign of peace was replaced with a “nod or bow of peace”. I noticed a few people receive on the tongue who had apparently not heard the announcement. I obeyed and received in the hand… that took me back to my youth!

  21. The restrictions in the San Diego Diocese was consistent.

    Host only no cups of the precious blood.
    Thus fewer EMHC
    Receive In the hand
    No hugging and shaking hands at the sign of peace.
    No holding hands during the Our Father

  22. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I find Denise’s comment quite helpful. Hand-to-hand contact seems as dangerous as any. Apparently the bishop of St Cloud is on top of this:

    From the Associated Press, 2 May 2009

    ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Churches are taking steps to limit the spread of germs amid fears about swine flu.

    The bishop of the 16-county Diocese of Saint Cloud sent a letter to pastors and other religious leaders Friday, saying parishioners should not shake or hold hands during worship.

    The Most Rev. John Kinney also has told pastors to use discretion in offering Communion.

    Kinney’s letter also suggests churches provide hand sanitizer and tissues for worshippers and reminds church leaders to follow precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  23. Clement says:

    “Communion in the hand is an abomination,
    I would rather die in the most horrific manner imaginable than participate in such a disgusting practice as receiving communion in the hand.”


    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    At the diocesan Mass we go to, Communion in the hand is forbidden.

  24. Dennis says:

    Have any of these Diocesan directives recommen not drinking from the chalice or is it just communion on the tongue?

  25. don Jeffry says:

    It is much easier to give Holy Communion to someone who is kneeling. don Jeffry

  26. Brendan says:

    I do not think my Diocese has said anything on this yet, but even if they do, I will continue to receive kneeling, on the tongue. Among other reasons for kneeling, one benefit is that it is easier on the ministers of Communion, especially when they are significantly shorter than me. This also means that their is less of a chance that they will touch my tongue, since they can clearly see their “target” and don’t have to reach up.

  27. Simon Platt says:

    My own diocese – Lancaster, England – has published guidelines. I quote from them without further comment:

    “Giving communion from the chalice may need to cease…”

    “…communion on the tongue should cease…”

  28. Karen says:


    In 1954 or 1955, the Asian Flu was supposedly taking the country by storm. The Latin Masss was still the only Mass in town, and Communion on the tongue wasn’t even questioned. I sure don’t remember any directives from the Archdiocese at that time concerning the reception of Holy Communion. I don’t think it would have entered anyone’s mind to receive Holy Communion in the hand. I was refused Holy Communion, on the tongue, a few years ago in San Francisco, at the University of San Francisco. Guess I didn’t get the memo.

    I noticed a parish in the Twin Cities, St. Cecelia’s, recommended Holy Communion in the hand yesterday, but I don’t know if they offered the Chalice. It is all blown way out of proportion. It’s ridiculous.

  29. Baronius wrote, and Clement agreed, that:

    “Communion in the hand is an abomination. I would rather die in the most horrific manner imaginable than participate in such a disgusting practice as receiving communion in the hand.”

    This makes me curious. Recent popes, including John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have given communion in the hand to the faithful. How do you explain this? (1) These popes agree with you that this is an abomination, but they do it anyway. If so, why? (2) These popes don’t believe that communion in the hand is an abomination. If that’s the case, why are you so sure about this abomination thing when these great popes haven’t noticed this?

    Yes, Benedict XVI has shown a definite preference for communion on the tongue. But if he truly thought it was an abomination to give it out in the hand, then wouldn’t he have ordered the entire Church to stop this practice?

  30. AuroraChristina says:

    Come on, friends. In my parish the two priests are elderly. My concern is not to make THEM sick. “A priest- whoever he may be- is always another Christ.” Ask the poor fellow “How can I protect YOU while honoring the teachings of the Magisterium?”

    Charity with clarity.

  31. John Polhlamus says:

    “My concern is not to make THEM sick.”

    How exactly are they going to get sick by not touching you? This whole things revolves around the laity exchanging saliva by drinking from the Chalice, which should be supressed immediately, not by mandating hand contact, which WILL make your priests sick. As I’ve said before, they aren’t going to be slathering their knuckles on your tongue if you but stick if out far enough. Further, if you cough all over them while receiving, it won’t matter much whether you’re receiving on the tongue or in the hand. Try to fault the logic in that. Try to find it in mandating communion in the hand. You’ll have a hard time either way. This whole thing is a ploy. Don’t be a tool. :-) (sideways smiley-face).

  32. A Random Friar says:

    From the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia: “Up to the ninth century, it was usual for the priest to place the Sacred Host in the right hand of the recipient, who kissed it and then transferred it to his own mouth; women, from the fourth century onward, were required in this ceremony to have a cloth wrapped about their right hand.”

    While I prefer that folks receive communion on the tongue, generally for the reasons it was instituted on the tongue in the first place, and calling to mind that this is the preferred method in our Rite, nevertheless calling the reception of Most Holy Eucharist on the hand as an abomination is presumptuous, in light of Church approval, and historically myopic.

  33. A Random Friar says:

    I was remiss in not providing a citation: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05584a.htm

  34. LCB says:

    End to the precious cup?

    End to the sign of peace?

    I might be willing to consider Communion-in-the-Hand for these 2…

  35. QMJ says:

    Baronius and Clement,

    From St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s “Mystagogical Catechesis V: On the Eucharistic Rite”:
    “Approaching, therefore, come not with thy writsts extended, or thy fingers open;
    but make they left hand as if a throne for thy right, which is on the eve of
    receiving the King. And having hollowed thy palm, receive the Body of Christ,
    saying after it, Amen.” While this does not justify they reintroduction of this
    practice, it does show that it is a part of the Church’s tradition and, therefore,
    is not an abomination.

  36. LCB says:

    Just as a quick note, the Precious Blood itself is not the potential cause of infection and transmission. It’s actually all the different folks touching the chalice.

    Imagine if every person in the Church touched the same door knob, one after the other? That’s why the chalice becomes an issue in these circumstances.

  37. AuroraChristina says:

    John, unless Communion is a frisbee toss, sooner or later the priest likely will touch either the hand or the mouth of a person receiving. One of my priests does just that, either way, because he has tremors.

    Protect the priest. Just sayin’…

  38. JohnE says:

    Interesting article on the Swine Flu:

    My gut says this is being overblown or perhaps being taken advantage of. I haven’t figured out why this strain of the flu is getting so much more attention than other strains.

  39. Fr. Angel says:

    I believe that the Church has to be cautious in times of epidemic, but some guidelines seem to induce paranoia. I simply told parishioners to avoid Mass if they had the symptoms of the flu. It’s not like we are dealing with the beubonic plague.

    And our faith should lead us to trust in Divine Providence. I try to avoid contact with saliva at Communion and keep my hands washed throughout the Mass times (I don’t give the Precious Blood). However, if God wants me to get the flu, or even die from it, that will happen. If God does not permit it, it won’t happen.

  40. Fr. Angel says:

    Ooops. The above should read “bubonic plague.”

  41. LCB says:


    Fr. Z has written extensively on this topic. You might find reading some of his past blog posts helpful. Perhaps if someone could link them?

  42. “As a family practice physician, I have been curious about the recommendation to take Communion in the hand…

    “Comment by Denise — 4 May 2009 @ 2:55 pm”

    I’m not a doctor, and I’ve been curious too, especially when you consider the role that hands play in spreading germs. No one has ever explained to me — you know, using complete sentences, that sort of thing — how it is that the hand of a priest necessarily comes in contact with the tongue. I would also question how, especially in light of inconclusive medical evidence, any bishop can lawfully restrict anything that a higher authority allows.

    This kind of shenanigans is why I avoid receiving Communion from an EMHC if I can help it. Most in my experience, while sincere, are simply unaware of the significance of their involvement. I’d sooner refrain until the hysteria was over, or attend an Eastern church, where communion in the hand is mysteriously absent as a “magic bullet” solution.

    Show me the evidence.

  43. Dennis says:

    I do understand that generally speaking people have a right to request communion on the tongue, rather than in the hand, just as they have the right to expect the sacrament of penance through a gratis rather than face-to-face. But in the view of a possible pandemic, it seems to me that communion on the tongue is a luxury that we cannot afford. I am the only priest here and have great difficulty getting help if and when I am sick. We have about 5% of people here who receive the old-fashioned way on the tounge, and of them, about 1 out of 5 insist on licking my fingers. That is *NOT* right! Regardless of what the doctor said above about the flu not being transmitted this way, it is abhorant to have saliva on my fingers from the previous person, and have to distribute to many more people. What if that person DOES have Hep A? I have asked my people to forgo communion on the tongue for the time being . . . I have found that if I hold the host over their hands they will get the idea, and receive in that fashion. I do not agree that people’s “option” to recieve on the tongue requires me, the only priest in a 15-mile radius, to have their saliva on my hands while giving communion. It is not sanitary, and it is *NOT* right for them to expect this!

  44. Jill of the Amazing Wolverine Tribe says:

    David, I can’t understand how you DON’T understand how on occasion the priest’s hand (or Deacon or EM’s hand for that matter) could come into contact between someone and their tongue. You see, it so happens that it is slightly less than 100% of the time where the exchange is “perfect.” Shockingly enough, there are some people who receive on the tongue who insist on bobbing forward for the Host. Or they may have “lizard tongue” where they suddenly flick the tongue out in lick the finger…or any number of other ways. It happens once in a while, but often enough for even Fr. z to tell you, “yes, this happens.”

    Andreas: Let me get this right: You’re suffering from flu and you went to Mass anyway? Is everyone else supposed to be magic bullet proof from catching your cold? “It’s more important for me to get to Mass to receive Communion, and I don’t care how many other people I give the flu to?” What was the thought process. Do you send any sick children you may have to school too? I don’t get it.

  45. ssoldie says:

    I am 73 yrs and have been recieving Our Lord on the tongue, by the consecrated hands of the priest since I was 12 yrs old (First Holy Communion, late bloomer). There have been a lot of virses going around since then, I have never contacted as much as a cold from recieving Our Lord on the tongue, by the consecrated hands of the priest.

  46. Immaculatae says:

    If told I could on receive only in the hand I choose to make a spiritual communion instead
    in reparation for all liturgical abuses. I am not even comfortable touching the Chalice to receive the Precious Blood- so I rarely do. We may be permitted but I don’t feel right about it.
    My hands are not consecrated.

  47. Jill et al:

    I should note that my challenges remain unanswered. Be that as it may…

    I have occasion to assist a priest in administering Communion at an altar rail. That means I see hundreds — hundreds, mind you — of people receiving communion in a year. I have never — never, mind you — seen anyone lick a priest’s fingers. I suppose it happens, maybe, but I cannot imagine it occurs enough for a diocese to issue a policy statement, never mind one that could impede communion on the tongue (here comes the important part) with the force of law. There has been little if any conclusive evidence that communion in the hand is a viable remedy, as opposed to communion on the tongue. But there is a reason why a priest is supposed to always wash his hands immediately before vesting.

    I should point out then, again, that my original challenge remains unanswered: show me the evidence.

  48. David Kastel says:

    The thing to “not to freak out about” is this ridiculous flu story.

  49. MargaretC says:

    While my state has not yet reported a case of “swine flu”, enough people in our parish are worried about it that our pastor has set some guidelines:

    1) Anyone who really feels ill has a dispensation not to come to mass;
    2) We will temporarily suspend the sign of peace;
    3) Communion from the cup is temporarily suspended;
    4) Priest and deacon will both wash their hands thoroughly in the sacristy before mass.

    All these will be reviewed on a month-to-month basis. (Probably not no.4.) By the way, these are his own guidelines — alas, we are currently without a bishop.

    Now as to the manner of receiving communion — reading this blog finally convinced me, and I made the switch a few months back. And I agree with those who posted above that communion on the tongue is an unlikely vector for transmission of the virus. But I also remember what Saint Paul said about not scandalizing your weaker brother. So rather than further alarm people who are already frightened, I have decided to receive in the hand until the flu scare subsides.

  50. If I’m afraid of my own shadow, do I ask people to stay in the dark so as not to alarm me?

  51. A Random Friar says:

    I would almost every Mass someone who’s receiving on the tongue makes contact with my fingers. Part of the problem with some communicants is that they barely open their mouths, and I’m playing the old game of “Operation,” if anyone remembers that. Others sometimes try to help and so nudge forward as I’m placing the host. I wouldn’t say they’re “licking,” like a Tootsie Pope, but they *do* make contact with the mouth and/or tongue. It happens.

    A few on-the-hand folks have some of their own quirks; I don’t mean to seem to pick on on-the-tongue communicants. E.g., a few put their hands to receive so low that I have to squat, or they’re so far that I have to take a few steps forward. Someone invariably gives me mixed signals whether they are receiving or asking for a blessing.

  52. Patrick says:

    The only announcement at the parish that I visited last Sunday (two cousins receiving First Holy Communion), was that we were only to receive by species of the Host. The priest had to reiterate this, as we have seemed to contracted a form of neo-Hussitism.

    P.S. There was a reason why the chalices were made of silver way back when – the metal has some antiseptic properties if I remember correctly.

  53. Quanah Jeffries says:


    Thanks for the heads up. If anyone is able to provide links that would be greatly appreciated. The great
    volumne of posts is pretty overwhelming.

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  55. Jon says:

    The bishops who have recommended not receiving the Eucharist on the tongue . . . have they also recommended not passing the collection basket?

  56. Andreas says:

    The way communion is distributed at Novus Ordo masses (with the communicant not kneeling in front of the priest) is not designed for easy reception of communion on the tongue.

    Since we have people receiving in the hand and administering communion to themselves, perhaps we can also start having people baptize themselves: just hand them the cup and let THEM pour the water on their own head. Seems right to me.

  57. “Comment by A Random Friar — 4 May 2009 @ 11:04 pm”

    Come to think of it, I read somewhere once of the different types of people receiving Communion by the way they hold out their tongues. Can’t remember where.

    But if we’re suddenly going to be so concerned about a condition for which there is so little information, where were all the chancery “experts” when it was already common knowledge, that drinking from a common cup was linked to cases of Hepititas types A and B, influenza, tuberculosis, the common cold…. I’m fairly certain that the American bishops have had access to this information for over twenty years. And now some of them are forcing people to do things beyond their authority, based on far less evidence???

    When you look at the whole issue, the big picture, you have to wonder if it’s people’s health that is the real concern, as opposed to the need to justify one’s existence by issuing decrees without cause. What bureaucracy is never tempted in this way?

    Thankfully, in my diocese, no one’s overreacting to anything.

    (Still waiting on that evidence….)

  58. Ken says:

    The modern notion of some kind of right to communion is the problem. Perhaps the priest alone should receive during a germ scare.

    Even after the reforms of Saint Pius X on communion, it was not a given that the people would receive at every Mass. For example, Cardinal Spellman’s Mass at Yankee Stadium only had him (the celebrant) receiving. Even Paul VI, also at Yankee Stadium, only distributed to a handful of diplomats — and that was the 1965 transitional Mass. It would be a mess to attempt communion to the people, as we have later witnessed with massive novus ordo festivals.

    There is a reason Catholics didn’t slurp from the chalice or put their grubby paws on the host, just as there is a reason communion was not distributed at each and every Mass. How that would fly with the JPII me-me-me generation is an open question, but the solution on this one is to simply let the celebrant alone communicate.

  59. LCB says:


    Here are some links. I’d like to preface all of those with a reference to “Archaeologism.” In essence, just because something was done in the past (no matter how rarely or commonly), doesn’t mean it’s appropriate today. Normally I don’t recommend Michael Davies, but this is a solid little link with a Papal quote condemning Archaeoligsm (which, btw, is one of the most difficult words to type!):


    The Church should always be in continuity with itself. If Communion in the hand is a good and acceptable practice, then what of the centuries of Church tradition of not receiving Communion in the hand?


    This podcast explores St. Cyril with some depth (if I recall correctly), and may provide you with some better context for understanding his words (may be too long for you to listen to)


    This link starts off with a reference to some activity at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis (a parish that really deserves its own blog tag by now!), but Fr. Z quickly elevates the discussion into a very detailed exploration of exactly what we are discussing now. HIGHLY recommend that you start here. In this Fr. Z also links to the entire text of St. Cyril, which can be a bit weighty but would certainly be beneficial for all to read.


    QMJ, I’d be glad to continue this discussion once you’ve had a chance to browse some of those links, and look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights.

    In Christ,

  60. raymond says:

    our bishop gave a directive: “no Communion on the tongue”
    It was not a suggestion. Father Z., what is a priest in good conscience to do?
    Force people against their consciences’ to receive in the hand?
    Apparently many priests within the Corpus Christi Diocese ignoring the
    Bishops’s directive

  61. raymond: People have the right to receive on the tongue. A priest cannot deny that method. If there is a conflict, one could have recourse to the Congregation.

  62. raymond says:

    Father Z: Thanks, that’s pretty clear!


  63. QMJ says:


    Archaeologism, what a word. :-o Thank you for the links; I thoroughly enjoyed them.

    I actually agree with everything Fr. Z said concerning this issue. In my above
    comment I was attempting to be as short and direct as possible. I am sorry for the
    confusion that I caused. My use of the quote from St. Cyril was simply to show that
    this is a part of the Church’s tradition and, therefore, is not an abomination.
    However, I definitely do not think that proof-texting St. Cyril is a good argument
    for communion in the hand. Actually, I don’t think there is any good argument for it.

    Thank you, again, for the links. I hope it didn’t take too long for you to find them.
    Peace be with you and God bless you.

    In Christ through Mary,

  64. Ygnacia says:

    The Mass I went to this morning had a sign outside saying not only Communion only in the hand and no sign of peace, but also no Holy Water! That last one came from that local church, not our Bishop…

  65. Bob A says:

    I walk with a cane and therefore cannot receive communion in the hand safely. The only way I could receive communion in the hand would be while seated, no accomodations for that outside of the priest coming to my pew, which he would gladly do by the way.

    Fortunately our parish did not eliminate communion on the tongue during this fiasco but it did eliminate the communal cup.

  66. With the flu being used to push untraditional agendas, I wonder if there are priests also refusing to anoint or hear confessions!
    Concerning the Holy Water…I wonder if adding blessed salt would do anything to kill any viruses. Perhaps not, but just a thought. If not, perhaps a little chlorine or a few drops of bleach might even be put in the holy water font? [Tap water is usually chlorinated anyway.]

  67. Pat says:

    At our Sunday mass, a Tridentine missa cantata, we were told that distributing communion in the hand is not permitted therefore the Eucharist was not distributed. For a number of reasons it seemed to me that communion on the tongue is no less sanitary that communion in the hand and is probably more sanitary. However, since the Tridentine rite does not permit communion in the hand is there any reason communion in the hand cannot be accommodated either before or after mass? Would this not be preferable to having people be denied the Eucharist? Of course the other option is to insist on the traditional communion on the tongue, but if this is just a temporary measure rather than an attempt to discourage people from assisting at the Tridentine mass there is no reason not to comply with the request. It should be noted that our bishop “asked” that communion be distributed in the hand only.

  68. jan says:

    Fr Dennis, The problem with priests touching the tongue is because the priests don’t know how to distribute communion on the tongue these days. Where I receive communicants have been instructed to open their mouth, rest their tongue on their bottom lip and the priest should take the host between thumb and forefinger (the forefinger underneath the host), as he places the host on the tongue, he slides his forefinger back pressing down with his thumb which is in the middle of the host. But anyway the Ministers touching someone’s unwashed hands, which have been in the holy water font; coughed and sneezed into their hands; taken coins out of their pockets and touched hand rails all before Mass, not to mention the numbers of people who do not wash their hands after using the toilet. We had a priest announce twice he would not distribute Communion on the tongue; then he proceeded to cough and blow on the altar, distributed communion in the hand and shook people’s hands after Mass – what a joke! I didn’t receive for the reason that I don’t want to get germs from people’s hands.

  69. peregrinus says:

    Although I doubt it would happen where I go since 100% receive on the tongue while kneeling at both the OF and EF Mass (I go to the EF Mass and it is an Archdiocese Parish), I would refuse to accept in the hand.

  70. To me it seems the most sanitary way to receive Communion is the traditional way. Think about it. This was the wisdom of the Church that endured numerous plagues and influenzas. But, somehow this modern age thinks it knows better and seeks to reinvent the wheel.
    If a communicant is kneeling motionless with tongue extended it is highly unlikely a priest will touch the tongue. Moreover, he has the advantage of a Communion plate under the person’s chin so he doesn’t have to worry as much with trying to put the Host far back in the person’s mouth to avoid the Host falling on the floor (as happens even with Communion in the hand!).
    Finally, the traditional rite calls for the priest to wash his hands before Mass. In the novus Ordo, I believe this is only a suggestion and having been in many sacristies can tell it is not often done, especially when the celebrant is running from shaking hands at the back of the church after one Mass to offer the next Mass. And even if he did wash his hands, how many OF celebrants will then shake hands with altar servers and lectors, etc. (who may have coughed or sneezed etc.) immediately before distributing Communion? The OF is inherently unsanitary.
    If bishops and priests want to be truly sanitary, the best thing to do is promote the EF and use those options in the OF which best follow the wisdom of liturgical tradition.
    -priests wash hands
    -priests alone distriubte
    -commincants kneel at a rail and receive on the tongue
    -use a communion plate
    -no sign of peace

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