QUAERITUR: priest uses hand sanitizer at Mass, not water

From a reader:

 I am a reader from ___. Here the local franciscan priest who says mass at his franciscan center uses hand sanitizer when he washes his hands in the mass. Is this licit? I have a good idea because the other 3/4 of the mass was filled with abuses and a made up eucharistic prayer.


I believe the rubrics call for water.  Water.  Not "water, or something else".

I would ask the priest where in the rubrics it says "hand sanitizer".

Also, the washing of fingers, though practical and physical, is a spiritual event.  The priest asks for cleansing of sins (which water itself can’t do).

The rites of Mass require humility from the priest.  Obeying rubrics is a sign of humility.

Violating the rubrics at a moment when you are asking to be cleansed of sins is… what… ironic?

If the priest is making up a Eucharistic Prayer, and you can prove it, then contact your local bishop.  Soon.

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  1. priest up north says:

    Amen Father!

  2. hawkeye says:

    I have become almost numb to all the abuses in my diocese because there are so many. Here is the latest in regards to the bread used at Mass this past Sunday. Today, I asked for the recipe and was looked at rather curiously by the women in the parish office. The minimum recipe for 2 wafers (48 servings)is as follows: 1/2 cup white flour; 1/4 cup whole wheat flour; 1/8 tspn salt; 1/2 tspn baking soda; 1/4 cup canola oil; and 1/4 cup water. Multiply the ingredients to make more bread. They did say the bishop approved the recipe although he is no longer here. Does the bishop have the authority to do that? Is this, in your opinion, a recipe for valid matter? There are other grave abuses going on during the Mass, including pouring the Precious Blood from large metal carafes into the chalices and the EMHCs breaking the homemade hosts at the altar during the Agnus Dei. Curiously, regular hosts were also consecrated at the same Mass. So, if the bread recipe is invalid matter, does it negate the whole Mass, or is the wine and valid bread consecrated, and the invalid matter not consecrated? I was so confused when I left Mass.

  3. TJerome says:

    I doubt St. Francis would approve of this “Franciscan.”

  4. Hugh says:

    Depressing things I heard that have gone on recently in parishes here in Victoria , Australia.

    1. Sacred vessels were not purified during the Mass, but placed along with the cups and sauces in the washing up after morning tea.

    2. At a first confession, each confessor went up with his/her family to a priest at the front of the church. Each member of the family, including the person making their first confession, said aloud one sin to the priest.

    3. A priest venting his annoyance at some first communicant girls wearing white dresses to mass: “I don’t know why you bother.”

    Things are getting worse in some parts of the western Church, even as things improve in other parts.

  5. Hugh, The purification of the chalices after Mass is not an abuse :)

    hawkeye, I don’t believe a Bishop has the authority to do that :)

    I thought the swine flu was over, is there a need for the Purell?

  6. isabella says:

    I am SO glad our priests don’t do that nonsense. I attend the EF for Sundays, so it only affects me when I’m able to go to daily Mass, but I’d be willing to receive the Body of Christ behind sick, coughing people. It makes me wonder if the priest mentioned above really believes anything happened at the Consecration. Still, I sympathize a little with the priest using hand sanitizer.

    Priests are still people and I don’t think they can be blamed for being a little paranoid about disease. But if they really believe they are giving people the Body of Christ, then they should also believe they won’t catch or transmit the latest plague in doing so. At the risk of sounding naive, Jesus healed disease. He didn’t pass it along.

    I hope the OP prays for his priest and maybe talks to him privately before turning him in to the bishop. Will pray for both of them.

  7. hawkeye says:

    All of our EMHCs use hand sanitizer before distributing Communion. I think it makes us communicants feel better because we see them cleansing their hands. However, the washing of the priest’s hands during Mass isn’t meant to cleanse them as with soap and water. I guess he could sanitize his hands along with the EMHCs. Of course, our EMHCs also bless the little kids who can’t receive yet, so what’s the point of sanitizing their hands to begin with? Oh wait, isn’t that another abuse?

  8. Sixupman says:

    A priest of my personal knowledge, in Cumbria, UK, invariably Celebrated Mass [I was tempted not to use capitals]using a loose-leaf folder. Further, I witnessed the closest thing you can get to a concelebration with the laity. He is a “liturgist” and makes it all up as he deigns appropriate and to hell with the pew fodder.

    As to Transubstantiation: I would question how many clergy, of all ranks, have unqualifieed belief.

  9. asperges says:

    A small dishwasher for the sacred vessels; a blow drier instead of the towel; a liberal use of cellophane for hygiene? How silly can you get?

    A total misunderstanding of ritual and what it’s about. The tragedy of the reforms: original good intentions, disastrous results.

  10. Philangelus says:

    I did see a movie a few years back, a parody of The Exorcist called “Repossessed,” where the main character was “a young, modern priest,” who after Communion reverently placed the sacred vessels in the dishwasher beneath the altar.

    That was funny because it was parody. In real life–not so much.

    Hand sanitizer in a plastic dispenser just loses the whole symbolic living waters of Baptism dimension. It made me laugh out loud when I first read the post, and then I realized, “Wait, this is serious, not a joke.”

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    Name of that movie sounds like the old joke – “What happens when you don’t pay your exorcist?” “You get repossessed.”

  12. Mitchell NY says:

    Priests need to realize that these abuses are what pushes souls from Mass one by one. They are killing the Novus Ordo Mass themselves, and that is many people seek the sanity the Tridentine Mass provides. If Priests do not get with the program, say the Novus Ordo in Latin, readings in vernacular as intended, and strictly observing the rubrics of the Pauline Missal they are going to have this Mass probably suppressed someday because it is just becoming linked with inherent abuses. Ironically it will not be the Missal itself that sinks it, but Priests who just refuse to provide the Novus Ordo as intended. Read the red ! Lay people are sick of this.

  13. dontex says:

    When I occasionally attend Mass at a neighboring parish, it is disruptive that at the time the EMHC’s come to the altar, someone comes out with hand sanitizer and proceeds to squirt each EMHC. This seems to say that it is not truly the body of Christ that is being distributed, just bread.
    Also at our local Carmelite monastery, the precious blood is not longer offered to communicants or the nuns. This seems to be a hangover from the swine flu scare.
    What does this say about our trust in the Lord?

  14. Nora says:

    On Maundy Thursday, I put a little hand sanitizer in a bowl on the table which holds the towels, pitcher and basins. After Father washes the feet of the 12 most senior (male) altar servers, it just seems prudent to make a little disinfectant unobtrusively available.

  15. AnAmericanMother says:

    Since I had a grandmother who was paranoid about germs (she was a bacteriologist during the ’18 ‘flu pandemic), I understand that some people are that way.

    But it seems to me that if the priest is truly worried about germs and not about being all modern and up-to-date, he could keep some hand sanitizer by his chair and unobtrusively use it before he approaches the altar. He is not going to touch anything germy in that short distance. And the same goes for that matter for the EMHCs . . . take care of that ahead of time and don’t disrupt the communion.

  16. becket1 says:

    The great Spirit of Vatican 2 taking place here. I wonder if they used Dove, since the bottle is reminiscent of the Holy Ghost. Of course this wouldn’t happen in the Extraordinary Form or the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. But according to the Church the Novus Ordo Mass is an equal opportunity “Valid” Mass. And they will still do it even after the new glorious Novus Ordo translation comes out. Not one bit surprised!!.

  17. Magpie says:

    Father – I think you should write a book about all these issues that you have written about on this blog. We could buy the book and give it to priests. ‘What should a priest really do?’ or ‘What is a priest really about?’ Or something like that.

  18. I will wash my hands among the inoculated; and will disinfect thy altar, O Lord: That I may fear the virus in my days: and tell of all the danger that lurks. I have loved, O Lord, the cleanliness of thy house; and the place where no contaminants dwelleth. Take not away my resistance, O God, with the sickly: nor my health with germy men: In whose hands are influenza: their right hand is filled with bacterium. But as for me, I have walked in my disinfectance: re-clean me, and have Purell on me. My foot hath stood in “I did it my way”: in the churches I will stress thee, still more.

  19. AnAmericanMother says:


    I laughed so hard the dogs turned around and stared at me!

    Have you ever run across this gem by Arthur Guiterman? My grandfather had the book – The Laughing Muse – I bet he read it to my grandmother when she got out of hand over germs . . .

    Strictly Germ-proof

    The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
    Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;
    They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;—
    It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t Sterilized.

    They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
    They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
    They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
    And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.

    In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
    They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
    They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
    And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band.

    There’s not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
    They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
    And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—
    The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

  20. That poem is a riot, AAM! One of my closest friends is an infection control nurse. I’m going to send it her. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. : )

  21. Will D. says:

    I have no problem with a priest using a hand sanitizer before he approaches the altar, providing he washes his hands and prays “Lord wash away my iniquity…” as specified in the missal.

    Just because we don’t have the big swine flu thing happening doesn’t mean that some other nasty little bug isn’t waiting in the wings.

  22. Father S. says:

    As Fr. Christensen over at http://whitearoundthecollar.blogspot.com said to me over the phone, “My question is, “How does he get hand sanitizer to come out of the cruet?””

  23. Elly says:

    AnAmericanMother- I wish I could hear your life and family story! Your comments indicate that you come from a very unique background.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:


    Just a typical Southern family! As Florence King said, “Put a fence around the South and you’d have one big madhouse.”

    But while I’ve known plenty of crazy Southerners, I don’t know very many who are dangerous. We tend to be harmlessly and genially eccentric. :-)

  25. Joel says:

    Isabella – I tend to agree with you and think the same way; that the perfect body, blood, soul, and divinity of The Lord would not pass on a virus. However, I think this is more of a philosophical attitude or belief not based in any particular cannon or doctrine. I think the reality is that because in fact it is flesh and blood, there is no reason it cannot pass on a virus. I think this was talked about another time in a WDTPRS post, and smarter people than me can probably clarify.

    As to the act of using the hand sanitizer, I have seen it myself in many parishes but not as a substitute to the washing of hands with water. (Thank goodness) However, when a priest does it,it is most annoying for three reasons.

    First, it is a point of confusion. It can lead people who are young, new, or weak in the faith to not understand what the washing of the hands is all about.

    Second is the disruption it causes. We are entering into the most sacred and glorious mystery of our faith. This is it, the center and pinnacle of our life, the Eucharistic celebration. And there in the sanctuary, in a sacred space we have a bottle of hand sanitizer. We have a priest and extraordinary Eucharistic ministers squirting their hands and rubbing and writhing them together. It becomes a ritual and attraction all of its own.

    Which leads to my last and biggest concern. Symbolically or subliminally we are saying that at this very moment , the most important thing to the handling, reception, or distributing of the Body of Jesus is that our hands are clean!?

    Of course our hands should be clean. Before Mass we all do everything we can to make ourselves as clean and presentable as possible or as our circumstances allow. Good sense should prevail.

    However the reception of the Eucharist and the graces received are not at all affected by the physical cleanliness of our body. The cleanliness of our soul however is what matters. What we are saying symbolically with the “writhing of the hands” is that this is no different than getting into the lunch line. It’s all about germs, health, and sanitization. Get in line and get your serving.

    Maybe we ought to just have a box of plastic gloves next to the altar. Oh, and we should probably have a license hanging of the altar saying the space has been approved by the food and health inspector saying we are certified to serve food.

  26. dcs says:

    A priest of my personal knowledge, in Cumbria, UK, invariably Celebrated Mass [I was tempted not to use capitals]using a loose-leaf folder.

    I know a priest who does that too, but he does it because he is visually-impaired and can’t read pages out of an altar missal (not even a large-print one).

  27. Tradster says:

    The priest should use the sanitizer before the Mass begins, then refrain from shaking hands at the sign of peace.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    My pastor at my old parish used to do this-wierd interpretation of flu germs as sin…symbolism of the water is completely lost. He is in Rome now and maybe he will learn what is correct.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Uh, for years the priests in our diocese have used loose-leaf binders for the readings, made up or
    translated by whom? One reason I never was a lector at the NO in that diocese. I questioned this once and
    was told that the language of the official translations was “too hard” for the people in the pew. I hope the new bishop will
    correct this abuse. As to the sanitizer, I have also seen kleenex boxes in the sanctuary.

  30. pelerin says:

    Tradster suggests the Priest should avoid shaking hands at the sign of peace. I attended a Mass – Novus Ordo – on Corpus Christi Sunday where to my surprise nobody shook hands at all! I was actually very pleasantly surprised and wondered how the Priest had managed to give this up.

  31. pandz_11 says:

    If he waNTS his hands to be clean then he could have washed his hands with sanitizer in the sacristy. The washing of hands at the offertory is more of a symbolic. The water is being used as a symbol of purity to wash away the sin of the priest.

  32. isabella says:


    Yes, it is flesh and blood after the Consecration, but it is *Christ’s* flesh and blood, which is why I don’t worry about catching a virus.

    And LOL about the license saying we are certified to serve food. What next?

  33. Kate says:

    In a neighboring town where I sometimes attend daily Mass, there are two “linked” churches.

    In both churches – on the altar of sacrifice at all times – is a hand sanitizer dispenser.

    The priest does wash his hands according to the rubrics, but then, when it is time to receive Communion, a Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist comes up from the pews, takes a good pump of hand sanitizer, sanitizes, walks to the tabernacle, retrieves the Blessed Sacrament, returns to the altar where the priest is waiting for him/her. The priest sanitizes his hands before proceeding with the Mass as usual. (The priest used to walk up and down the main aisle, shaking everyone’s handsat the sign of peace (This may be why the hand sanitizer was originally introduced…), but that practice has,thankfully, stopped.)

    The sanitizing is all very ritiualistic and annoying. I’m told (by another lay person) that this is for the benefit of the elderly people who are afraid of getting germs, but the hand sanitizer is ALWAYS ON THE ALTAR. If I were a non-Catholic visiting theses churhces, I would think this was part of “being Catholic”.

    Father – any direction on this situation?

  34. pandz_11 says:

    with regards on making up Euharistic Prayers this is something to be addressed immediately. Last sunday i watched a televised mass here in my country and just before the consecration the priest said this phrase ” He took bread and gave it to His disciples and WITNESSES” and he also include the word WITNESSES at the consecration of the wine.

    Just after the doxology the priest said ” Lord Jesus Christ, you have said to your apostles, SERVANTS AND WITNESSES. I give you peace…..”

  35. AnAmericanMother says:

    Absolutely the looniest liberal parish that I attend on any kind of regular basis (it’s right next to my job so on a workday, there you are) has no handshaking etc. at the Peace.

    Instead, after the final blessing the priest asks everyone to ‘greet the person next to you’.

    Everything else about the Mass is a little off kilter (ad libbing in the Eucharistic Prayers, goofy Prayers of the People, almost always a screaming left wing political homily with lots of ‘ecumenical’ stuff), don’t know why he insists on no handshaking at the Peace.

    To add insult to injury, it’s a beautiful old historic church with a splendid marble High Altar, complete with gorgeous statues of saints, that is completely ignored. You couldn’t find the Tabernacle if your life depended on it (I had to ASK).

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