Coronavirus, Redemptionis Sacramentum 92, Communion on the Tongue and You

From Redemptionis Sacramentum. This 2004 Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments is in force now.

[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.[177] Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice,[178] 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.[179]

This document does NOT say, “the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice except in time of viruses“.   Bishops do not have, on their own authority, the ability to ignore RS, which established binding norms for the whole Latin Church.

There is greater risk of both profanation of the Eucharist and contagion via Communion on the hand, than there is through Communion on the tongue properly done.

Regarding Communion on the hand, the risk of contagion will be greatly reduced of the faithful are taught properly to hold their hands.  However, the risk of contact remains greater via Communion on the hand, because the possibility of hand to hand contact is greater.  It would be highly irreverent simply to drop the Sacred Host on someone’s palm.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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12 Responses to Coronavirus, Redemptionis Sacramentum 92, Communion on the Tongue and You

  1. We got this from the Dallas Diocese yesterday. I hope some of these instructions remain after all this virus thing is over with, like the hand holding and shaking of hands, which I never do anyway. Notice they ask you to “consider” Communion in the hand. NOT!

    Please stay home if you are sick or are experiencing symptoms. If you are ill, you are not bound by the obligation to attend Mass, including on Sunday. Out of charity to others, sick individuals should not attend Mass or other liturgical events.
    Distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice is suspended until further notice.
    The Sign of Peace is temporarily suspended. After the Our Father and Prayer of Peace by the priest, the Lamb of God will follow immediately.
    We do not encourage the holding of hands during Mass.
    If applicable, please strongly consider receiving Communion in your hand rather than on the tongue.
    The Diocese continues to be in touch with state and local health authorities and will alter these directives as needed. Please let us continue to pray for all who are sick and affected by this virus.

  2. rhhenry says:

    I receive on the tongue, standing. I believe I am doing it correctly (I’ve actually practiced my head and tongue position while looking in a mirror).

    Anytime there is contact with my tongue, the EMHC is always holding the Host with her index finger on top and her thumb below. She then tries to slide the Host as far back on my tongue as possible, as though my mouth were some sort of vending machine and she’s trying to slide a coin in the slot. Often, her heavily perfumed thumb touches my tongue (gagging me both from the contact and the overpowering perfume smell, and sometimes from how far back on my tongue the Host is).

    There is never contact with my tongue when the priest holds the Host with his thumb on top and index finger below. He then firmly “sticks” the Host on my tongue by withdrawing his index finger while pushing down with his thumb. The Host is far enough back that It won’t fall off my tongue, but not so far that It gags me. There is no gagging from cologne.

    I think EMHCs are mostly trained in the “choreography” of distributing Communion (come to the altar at this time, line up for your own reception in this way, go to the following stations in this order) and are rarely if ever trained in how to actually adMinister Holy Communion in Extraordinary circumstances.

    Rather than banning Communion on the tongue, can we please retrain (or ban) EMHCs?

  3. veritas vincit says:

    I used to go back and forth from receiving on the hand to receiving on the tongue. My fear in receiving on the tongue was the risk of dropped Hosts. Based largely on reading Father Z’s blog, I switched to receiving on the tongue and in 2 years have not had a single dropped Host. As to having the priest’s or EMHC’s hand touch my tongue, I think that has happened only a handful of times.

    I was formerly an EMHC, trained in 2 different dioceses. One diocese had a good centralized program, and included how to distribute Holy Communion on the hand or the tongue, with practice sessions. The other left it up to the parishes, and there they more emphasized the “choreography” as rhhenry states. So it varies.

  4. G1j says:

    Our pastor informed us that he will not distribute communion to anyone on the tongue at this time. He also wants to move our tabernacle to the side because it is a distraction, taking away from what is happening on the altar during the consecration. Oh brother… What next???

  5. Suudy says:

    From the Diocese of Boise yesterday (https://www.catholicidaho.org/420) dated 3/4/2020:

    Parishioners should avoid hand-to-hand contact during the “Our Father,” and during the Sign of Peace.
    Holy water should be removed from fonts.
    Communion should be received only in the hand, not on the tongue.
    Communion wine should not be distributed until further notice.
    Communion vessels should be thoroughly washed with warm, soapy water, and thoroughly dried, after each use, including between Masses.

    Well, one silver lining. No more glares for not holding hands during the Pater Noster!

  6. Regarding Boise:

    “Should… should… should…”

    “Should”, juridically meaningless. These are suggestions.

  7. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says: “Should”, juridically meaningless. These are suggestions.

    True. But they are being interpreted as requirements.

    These, by the way, are strictly worldly ways of dealing with the outbreak of disease. Some are prudent, others are merely an excuse to squelch traditional devotional practices. Why aren’t our bishops organizing processions, using the Rituale Romanum to produce more holy water and exorcised salt, and using deprecatory blessings and offering votive Masses against plagues? Our bishops have all these powers, and they won’t use them! It’s like Superman refusing to fly.

  8. Suudy says:

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says: “Should”, juridically meaningless. These are suggestions.
    As Anita rightly points out, they are indeed being implemented. Our parish has already drained the font, is no longer distributing on the tongue, is no longer making the precious blood available, and from what I hear, will be skipping the sign of peace.
    And there has been some uproar from some about the refusal to distribute on the tongue. Some have suggested the use of a personal pall so that only the sanctified hands of the priest touch the host. Though with EM’s still operating, this won’t be prevented.
    Fr Z, what do you think about getting a clean (white?) cloth for personal use, having it blessed, and reserving it for use only during reception of communion?

  9. carndt says:

    I do not receive the Eucharist Host from an EMHC.
    I only receive Communion from the priest. If I have to walk to another “line” from where I’m kneeling to receive from the priest I do.

  10. tho says:

    My feeling is that these Dioceses are over reacting. To go into sanitary convolutions when receiving the Holy Eucharist is, at the least disrespectful, as Catholics we should give our Savior the dignity that He deserves. We should also keep in mind, that at least 18,000 Americans die every year from the flu. The coronavirus doesn’t approach those numbers worldwide. I don’t think we are entering into a 1918 epidemic. Our modern medical facilities are far superior to anything in China, or the rest of the world.
    Not allowing communion on the tongue, and emptying Holy Water fonts, to me is silliness.

  11. billt says:

    I wonder if Church envelopes could carry cooties as well?

    Might be a good thing to “advise” against those as well until this all settles down.

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