I have already said pretty much everything I intend to say about H1N1/Swine Flu and restrictions issued by dioceses.
However, this note seems to me to be – so far – the best approach from a diocese I have yet seen.
At yesterday’s OF Mass, Father read a memo from Bishop [Kevin] Boland [of Savanna, GA], our Ordinary, relating to preventative measures to be adopted throughout the Diocese effective 9 November 2009, and until further notice.
To safe guard against the spread of swine flu we will [a] no longer be including the Sign of Peace during Mass; [b] Parishioners should refrain from holding hands during the Our Father; [c] Communion will not be distributed by the Chalice; and [d] Priests should take care when distributing Communion to avoid touching the tongue or the hands of the communicant, so we should be prepared for a more deliberate and slower distribution.
When Father started to read the memo (sorry I have no copy to provide) [It really is best to send actual texts, folks. Click HERE for the pdf from the D. of Savanna.] I was cringing because I could have seen this go another way, so was delighted when it came out the way it did.
My son (aged 16) stopped to greet Father on the way out of Mass and said to him; “I don’t particularly care if it’s the threat of Bubonic Plague that causes it; but anything that makes us more Orthodox is a good thing.”
This does not attempt to restrict the right of people to receive Holy Communion on the tongue as guaranteed by Redemptionis Sacramentum.
Therefore, this set of guidelines, in my opinion, strikes the right balance between concern about contagion and both the rights of the faithful as well as risk of profanation of the Eucharist.
The norms from the pdf on the website of the D. of Savanna (my emphases and comments):
Diocese of Savannah
Office of the Bishop
Guidelines for Parishes to Help Alleviate the Spread of the H1N1 Virus
1. Remind the parishioners that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does
not hold if they have the symptoms of the flu. The more charitable thing to
do would be to stay at home.
2. Distribution of Communion from the cup would be discontinued. Only the
celebrant would receive from the chalice.
3. Request everyone to receive Communion in the hand. The priest and/or
minister should drop the host on the hand and avoid, if possible, touching
4. Those who insist [I think a prejudice is revealed in this word. Nevertheless, it is a request. The diocese is not restricting rights, even though the language seems prejudicial.] on receiving on the tongue should be requested to go to
the end of the line. [Okay… but the let’s eliminate row by row Communion, too!] Communion on the tongue can be difficult for the
minister in attempting to avoid contact with saliva. [Only ht the communicant insists on doing something problematic, such as presenting a moving target. Using slightly larger communion hosts can help also.]
5. The handshake of peace would be discontinued. The best way to
implement this is not to offer “the sign of peace” which is an optional part
of the ritual. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]
6. Priests, Deacons and Communion Ministers should wash their hands with
alcohol-based sanitizer both before and after the distribution of
Allegedly the H1N1 virus remains alive up to eight hours on surfaces. One
church implemented the practice of having the parishioners wipe down the
leaning edges of the pews as they left Mass in preparation for the next group of
parishioners. This is certainly an optional procedure. [Good idea!]