From a reader…
I’m thinking we should all have a united voice on the question of reception of Holy Communion in a time of draconian policies forbidding Communion on the Tongue with the excuse of Coronavirus. You have a great presentation on this – which I put in my parish bulletin – but the rights of the faithful to always receive on the tongue. A question has arisen from Christ’s faithful because of the intransigence of pastors who refuse Communion on the tongue irregardless of anyone’s rights. In order to receive Holy Communion they must receive on the hand. They don’t want to do this. Should they abstain, or just go ahead and receive on the hand? Thanks for your very helpful blog.
This is a complicated matter.
Firstly, most priests are good men. They want to do the right thing. Often, they don’t read carefully when letters or documents come from chanceries or bishops. Sometimes they don’t catch that what a bishop is sending out is a suggestion or his own personal preference. Otherwise, even understanding that the bishop’s preference is for X, they fall in line without further discernment. That’s not what the diocesan priest’s promise of obedience is all about. Priests are not indentured servants, though they are often viewed that way. In any event, most priests are good men who want to do the right thing.
Next, being good men, and busy men, they are sometimes easy to bamboozle. Since they don’t often have a lot of time to think and to read and to research, they simply take at face value whatever claims are made by, for example, the chancery about Communion on the hand v. on the tongue. Thus, missing that it is only the suggestion of the bishop that they suspend Communion on the tongue, they take that as an imperative and, without additional reflection about how their own fingers are in constant contact with people’s hands when distributing, they tug their forelock and tell people that for the time being Communion on the tongue is “not allowed”, which is false. Cf. Redemptionis Sacrament 92.
Next, I sometimes am uneasy when matters having to do with specific practices are referred to as a “right”. Let’s be a little careful.
Also, I imagine that there are some bishops and priests who are actually glad to have the excuse of coronavirus to repress Communion on the tongue. They probably belong to a different religion than I do, but that hasn’t stopped men from being ordained before.
So, to the question. What to do about priests who are intransigent and refuse to distribute on the tongue, in time of contagion or not? Should people abstain? Receive in the hand, when that would be contrary to their consciences?
As I sit here with my coffee… now cool, as I have been weighing my response for some time… I have come up with the following. And this really isn’t a dodge.
It depends on your present circumstances.
Let’s make this clear clear clear: It is not obligatory to present yourself for Communion at every Mass. It is not necessary to receive Communion to fulfill your Mass obligation. It really is okay to choose not to receive Communion occasionally, especially if you find yourself in an attitude of routine.
The regular or daily Mass goer, whose life at the moment is fairly placid and normal, who is also practicing good devotions and attending to his state in life, could without too many spiritual ripples make a spiritual Communion at that Mass.
On the other hand, say a person is truly beset with cares, perhaps even suffering some spiritual oppression. That person would greatly benefit from reception of Communion frequently. If that person isn’t so determined never to receive on other than the tongue, then go ahead and receive on the hand (provided it is not a TLM – at which this scenario is nearly unthinkable). Hopefully, one day, all Catholics will choose on their own only to receive on the tongue.
Spiritual Communion, fueled by the additional suffering, could be meritorious. And, please, let’s avoid the errors of the Jansenists as well as the errors of laxists, etc.
That said, I can imagine a couple of additional scenarios that the faithful might present to an intransigent priest.
To begin, one or more people – who opted to make a spiritual Communion – might approach Father after Mass to tell him, politely, but concisely, “How very sad you have made us this morning. Have a nice day, Father.” After a couple repeats of this, perhaps with a larger group each time, present a collectively signed letter, copied to the bishop.
It could be helpful to have on video, perhaps with a discreet phone, one person after another being denied Communion on the tongue. On that note, here’s a clip from the 1981 movie about Gandhi. This is now I see some of these priests, like the guards “just following orders”.
And still it went on and on. This is how, by the way, most trads are treated… even those who are cheerful and less likely to bring on bad treatment from priests.
In a moment of rather dark thoughts about such a priest, I momentarily envisioned swaths of people in the congregation turning their backs to the priest as he made his way to the altar. Turning back, of course, as Mass begins. Harsh? Well… yes. But are reception of Communion and the respect of the priest for the lay faithful important? Yes. Deeply, so. It could be that Father is way up in the stratosphere when it comes to his schedule and his own liturgical preferences, etc. Sometimes it is hard to get through to priests. I know this from personal experience.