ASK FATHER: What to do when intransigent priests refuse Communion on the tongue.

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

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.

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.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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22 Responses to ASK FATHER: What to do when intransigent priests refuse Communion on the tongue.

  1. Philmont237 says:

    I went to Mass in Belgium one time where they were giving out Holy Communion via intinction AND on the hand (that’s an abuse if there ever was one). I went up and knelt, and stuck out my tongue. I didn’t say anything; I just stayed there quietly until the priest just sorta gave up and placed an intincted (is that a word?) Host on my tongue. I would suggest the same. Simply park yourself on your knees with your tongue out until the priest realizes you’re not going anywhere until you receive.

    It helps if this isn’t your home parish.

  2. Fr. Z. says: 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.

    We could easily address this problem, if we had the will to do so. Priests are expected to do a lot of jobs that are unrelated or tangentially related to their duties as priests. I bet a lot of this has to do with dioceses being run like secular bureaucracies. Why don’t we (a) stop trying to run the Church along worldly lines, and (b) have the laity step in and support priests by taking over non-priesthood-related jobs, instead of trying to shoe-horn the laity into priestly functions? Then priests will have time to think and read and research, and, above all, pray, and be the shepherds we need them to be.

  3. Fyrdman says:

    On the doors of the church where I attend weekday Mass, there was a letter from the our Bishop to the priests of the land indicating his desire for commonsense precautions against the spread of COVID19. However, he specifically indicated that reception of Holy Communion may be either in the hand, or on the tongue, at the discretion of the communicant. Vivat your Excellency!

  4. Southern Catholic says:

    Archdiocese of Mobile just released a statement that requested people refrain from receiving on the tongue. No ban on receiving from the Chalice and no ban on the sign of peace. Actually, there is a bizarre statement on the sign of peace being an ancient liturgical practice.

  5. ProfKwasniewski says:

    Communion in the hand was practiced so differently in ancient times (as I talked about here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/debunking-the-myth-that-todays-communion-in-the-hand-revives-an-ancient-custom), and besides, it’s hard for us to recapture the mentality of the first millennium. For us, kneeling and receiving on the tongue is how we express reverence.

    That being said, if one WERE to receive on the hand, one should receive on a clean RIGHT palm (not the left), and bend over profoundly to consume the host with one’s mouth, rather than picking it up with the other hand and self-communicating. This procedure would be like using your hand as a paten, and then taking up the host with your tongue. The fact that one has not moved the host and has used one’s tongue would mean that the danger of fragments is excluded.

    It would work — although by doing this, one might “stick out” in public. Yet Catholics who insist on communion on the tongue, kneeling, are accustomed to that, aren’t we?

    It seems to me, though, that Our Lord would not be grieved by one who, out of reverence and adoration, wishes to do Him the honor He deserves, in a spirit of reparation for the unworthy communions of others (and for a lack of reverence, even when it is not intentional).

    Also, it is always permissible to receive communion outside of Mass, and there might be a priest or deacon willing to give it on the tongue in that context.

  6. ProfKwasniewski says:

    Correction to the penultimate paragraph of the above comment:

    It seems to me, though, that Our Lord would not be grieved by one who, out of reverence and adoration, wishing to do Him the honor He deserves, in a spirit of reparation for the unworthy communions of others (and for a lack of reverence, even when it is not intentional), chose to forego sacramental communion and instead made a spiritual communion.

  7. Thomas S says:

    So many people receive in a sloppy manner in both ways. I know it’s impossible not to touch the hands of people who receive in the hand. Likewise, my fingers get licked constantly by those who receive on the tongue because they don’t just open wide, stick out their tongue, and be still without last second lunges, flicks, bites, etc.

    Speaking strictly about risk of contagion, do we have any hard facts about the dangers of one vs. the other? There’s so much conjecture, but it doesn’t usually seem very educated.

  8. BeautifulSavior says:

    Maybe related maybe not but, does anyone remember worship given to Pachamama these days?

  9. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thomas S: This sloppiness in receiving is greatly diminished if you use a communion rail or at least a kneeler.
    This gives the communicants a rail to lean on and steady themselves before receiving.

    In my own experience, I rarely, if ever, make contact with a tongue

  10. Matheus Alpoin says:

    Thomas S: Apparently, Archbishop Sample issued some guidelines on which it is mentioned that an expert from Oregon said the risk is more or less equal. Can’t find the link here, but I found it on the internet.

  11. JTH says:

    How about silently praying the rosary during Father’s homily that he’ll relent? Plus he might see you praying the rosary and wonder.

  12. mo7 says:

    BeautifulSavior you make a good point. Rome is even withholding Holy Mass. There is much to consider about the meaning of our times.

  13. Suburbanbanshee says:

    1. The government of Italy owns the Italian church buildings.

    2. Mass being said by priests without a congregation is still Mass being said. So the Mass is not being withheld – just the opportunity to assist by attendance. Worst has not come to worst, therefore.

  14. tho says:

    Just a casual reading of history will detail the many priests and sisters who administered to the stricken during the plagues, that our ancestors endured. Heroic priests, in our history, are commonplace, why, if you are not over 80, worry about a virus that an overwhelming people recover from. I have mentioned before, priests like Father Damien administered to lepers, with the full knowledge that it was an infectious disease, and which did eventually kill him. Why should any reasonably healthy cleric be so concerned about a virus, that normally is not fatal?

  15. Thomas S says:

    Fr. Kelly: Don’t I know it! I would kill for an altar rail. But I’m only a lowly parochial vicar. Distributing communion at my TLMs is a joy! And much drier.

    Matheus Alpoin: Thank you for the lead. I’ll do a search for it. It’s my suspicion that there’s little difference in risk.

  16. TonyO says:

    Very balanced, Fr. Z. Thank you.

    Many good suggestions in the comments too. While I agree that a spiritual communion is an excellent alternative when you can’t receive Communion, I would be worried about suggesting that it is “good enough” to be a replacement as such. Is there room for arguing that even though Rome should never have allowed Communion in the hand, it is not per se sacrilegious, it is (per se) only much less suitable than receiving on the tongue, all other things being equal. This would imply that in cases where not all other things are equal, it might not be much less suitable, wouldn’t it? (Would you be asking to receive on the tongue in a community of aids victims, where we know aids is transferred specifically by bodily fluids? I might think twice about that situation. And yes, I agree that coronavirus is not anything like aids.)

    Suburban, I would clarify that the Italian government may claim to own the churches, but that doesn’t mean that it really does own them. For one thing, it didn’t build them, a good many churches in Italy pre-date the existence of the modern Italian government. For another, the churches properly belong to the parishes (as Dr. Ed Peters says in references to canon law.) In any case, if this is one situation where I might be ready to defy the government and ignore the orders. Or go underground and have a priest do small masses in small groups.

    In any case, without a TON of preparation beforehand, it is inconceivable that an entire population can stay home for a month. What about groceries, medicine? What about your INCOME if you aren’t working? Maybe the gov. can say “all businesses must pay their employees,” but what if the business goes defunct doing that? Or if you are self-employed?

  17. Fr. Kelly says:

    TonyO: Would you be asking to receive on the tongue in a community of aids victims, where we know aids is transferred specifically by bodily fluids?

    Short answer: yes.
    There is no reason that with normal carefulness, the priest’s hand should make contact with the Communicant’s saliva when distributing Communion on the tongue.

  18. tzabiega says:

    The problem in the Archdioceses of Chicago, where Cardinal Cupich has stated that “every consideration should be given by each individual to receive Holy Communion reverently in open hands for the time being,” is that this is being interpreted as a complete ban on Communion on the tongue in many parishes, while in other parishes (the traditionally minded, but not necessarily having Latin Masses) Communion on the tongue is still the norm. The problem are the lies the priests are telling, especially in predominantly Latino parishes. One priest said that all the American bishops have decided to ban Communion on the tongue. Another priest said that Pope Francis had mandated this. A third one angrily told my wife to come before Mass if we wanted to receive Communion on the tongue as he was telling everyone it is banned by the Archdiocese. The adjacent Diocese of Joliet is more sensible, banning only the Chalice and handshakes at the Sign of Peace. I tell people I have received Communion on the tongue when kneeling in parishes where kneeling is the norm for almost 40 years and have never had a priest touch my tongue with his hands (though that has happened multiple times when I was standing).

  19. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    TonyO wrote: “I would clarify that the Italian government may claim to own the churches, but that doesn’t mean that it really does own them.”

    You’re right. However, for practical purposes, they who own weapons and prisons and have the power to seize your personal assets – house, car, paycheck, etc. – might as well own them, for all the good this does for the Church.

    As the tyrant Stalin once inquired, “How many divisions has the Pope?”

  20. Jeannie says:

    Perhaps if the placement of the Body of Christ on the tongue isn’t rushed and done more reverently it would be even better with virtually zero chance of hand to tongue contact. A good time for a refresher course on the giving and receiving for both sides I think.

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  22. I was deprived communion on my tongue on the Sunday of March 15 even though our archbishop had informed all parishes that “It is still left to the discretion of the communicant how they wish to receive the Host”. The pastor had made a brief comment before distribution began but I didn’t fully hear what he said. Afterward I learned he had said something like “if you are used to receiving on the tongue, offer it up for ??” and “open your hand flat”. I didn’t fully hear the first part so I approached for communion expecting to receive on my tongue. I had my hands clasped together in front of my waist. As Father moved his hand with the communion host toward mine I kept my hands clasped and softly said “no”. He then placed the host precariously on the side of my right forefinger which was at the top side of my clasped hands. I bowed down to my hands and picked up the host with my tongue. Fortunately, I had recalled part of the comment posted above by ProfKwasniewski (“… if one WERE to receive on the hand, one should receive on a clean RIGHT palm (not the left), and bend over profoundly to consume the host with one’s mouth, rather than picking it up with the other hand and self-communicating. This procedure would be like using your hand as a paten, and then taking up the host with your tongue. The fact that one has not moved the host and has used one’s tongue would mean that the danger of fragments is excluded.”). I’m grateful that I didn’t risk dropping the host by unclasping my hands in order to pick up the Host with the fingers of my other hand.