Prot. N. 655/09/L v. can. 223 and bishops restricting Communion on the tongue

Remember 2009?

H1N1 “Swine Flu” Pandemic.  Right?

Here’s some food for thought for bishops out there who think that they can simply run over the law – and people – via the excuse of can. 223.

Meanwhile, in a US diocese, these directives were sent out to the priests.  I note a couple of things.  My emphases and comments:


Several questions have been posed regarding how ministers should address situations in which communicants insist on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue at Mass.

First, it should be noted that the recent diocesan liturgical guidelines indicate that Holy Communion will be distributed in the hand. This is the ancient and reverent option that Bishop ___ is asking the faithful to adopt during this time. [It is true that it is “ancient”.  It is also true that distribution on the hand was NOT then as people do it now!] It is also noted that the Bishop is not forbidding anything permitted in Church law which does grant the faithful the right to receive Communion on the tongue.  [So, he’s is not forbidding something that he can’t forbid.]

Should person(s) insist [DING DING DING – Say the magic woid, and win a hunud dahluhs.   Those people who “insist”.  They are such a bother.] on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, this should take place after all in the congregation who are receiving in the hand have received per the directives. In other words, no one insisting on receiving on the tongue should precede those receiving in the hand.  [Separate and not equal.  But, as I mention below in a comment, since there is far greater chance that the priest will touch the grubby disease ridden hand of the communicant immediately before you, perhaps it’s better that all of those hand-sticker-outers be segregated away from those who desire to receive on the tongue.]

Additionally, Communion ministers must sanitize their hand if there is contact with the communicant’s tongue, face, hand, or breath before distributing Holy Communion to the next communicant. This can be arranged by having purification materials, e.g., disinfectant wipe/sanitizer, nearby in the event it is necessary as the possibility of transferring any contagion is to be mitigated for the benefit of everyone’s health.


See my solution.  HERE

Look.  In this case the bishop admits that he won’t forbid what he can’t forbid.  He doesn’t, as some have, say that those people – you know, those people who “insist” – have to receive Communion after Mass.

But was it really necessary to use that snarky tone?  Really?   It signals a great deal.  He would ban communion on the tongue if he could.   He’ll continue to allow those people who insist to receive as they choose.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. BCinAZ says:

    The bishop’s tone is passive aggressive at best, openly hostile at worst. I understand there are legitimate health concerns. Even if contact is never made with a tongue, there are plenty of droplets in a person’s breath. The risk is not zero.
    But, the risk is not zero no matter what you do. There are reasonable measures to take no matter how hosts are distributed.
    The problem I have is that the bishop puts forth the appearance of using a pandemic to drive a wedge between members of his own flock. Charity makes me want to believe that his words are generated from a subliminal place, but I’m not so sure.

  2. Pistis_Alethie says:

    What about the Eminent Dick Sticka of Knoxville? He has made it abundantly plain that he believes his “personal conscience” trumps the the Congregation for Divine Worship. Is he, or is he not, the ultimate arbiter of ecclesial norms within his diocese? Are laity under his watch supposed to simply pray and be bullied into submission?

  3. Pistis_Alethie says:

    P.S. I am hoping for you to say anything about the fact that 3 of 4 of SSPX bishops are bonafide coverup artists for predator-rapists. Are you still sympathetic to the SSPX organization even though its ‘episcopal’ nucleus is comprised 75% of decadent scum?

    [What a nasty piece of work you are. You are brand new here and now you are no longer welcome in my combox. Not because the nature of the question, but because of your aggressive tone and your attempt to drag this down a rabbit hole. Moreover, not only did you misspell Bp. Stika’s name, but you are factually WRONG about the SSPX bishops being the “nucleus” of the SSPX. By their own constitution the bishops are just members who also have the ability to ordain and administer confirmation. They have no special authority within the Society unless the members of the Society elect them to some position, as Bp. Fellay had been as their Superior. Most of the registered users of this blog are really great people. Most of the members of the SSPX are really good priests. Are there bad apples in the SSPX. So it seems. You, however, have proven the same point about this blog’s registrants.]

  4. veritas vincit says:

    And what, exactly, is the point of stigmatizing faithful Catholics who want to receive on the tongue?
    The tone of this directive implies that receiving on the tongue is an exception, which requires a special accommodation. [Right. Let’s it never be forgotten that Communion on the hand required an indult. THAT is the exception to the rule!] In point of fact, any reception of Holy Communion is going to require care and sanitary precautions.

  5. mcferran says:

    I normally receive Holy Communion on the tongue. The last time I received Holy Communion (just as the lockdown was beginning in my area), I did so in the hand (but kneeling). I know that I can receive reverently in the hand and that it is licit in my country. For me, it was an act of charity towards the priest who was ministering Holy Communion. I don’t want to be the cause of any distraction to him at such a time.

  6. rhig090v says:

    I wonder if there are any bishops out there that might suspend permission to receive in the hand and require only reception on the tongue. Would we then see the same bishops defend this emergency power?

  7. Cafea Fruor says:

    Happy to say that my diocese is allowing reception on the tongue. They’ve put out stipulations to minimize risk but still allow it: only clergy will distribute Communion (if only that were always the case!); one’s mask/face covering should only be lowered just in time for Father to place the host on the recipient’s tongue (to minimize time without the mask on); and Father will sanitize his hands after every person who receives on the tongue, after any time there’s contact between his hand and a person’s tongue or hand, and between every few communicants.

  8. Pistis_Alethie says:

    Mcferran says concerning receiving Communion on the hand: “It was an act of charity towards the priest who was ministering Holy Communion. I don’t want to be the cause of any distraction to him at such a time.” Your intention to be charitable, as nice as it is, presumes a non-truth. Namely: that the one who obeys Christ and His Church is the “cause” of disruption. This backward way of thinking parallels the often repeated claim that those who expose and reprove worldly, faithless prelates are “sowing division” in the Church. On the contrary, the “cause” of any rupture among Catholics is the one who goes beyond his own finite responsibilities to impose an anti-catholic agenda. This is always and everywhere the case.

  9. veritas vincit says:

    For comparison, I just received an email from a nearby parish about restarting public Mass, with this statement about reception of Communion:

    Holy Communion will be distributed at the normal time during mass. People will be asked to approach in sections, and row by row, to maintain social distancing. They will receive the Sacred Host and then return to their seat. Communion in the hand is recommended at the moment because of the virus. A communicant can still receive on the tongue but the person distributing will have to stop each time and cleanse their hands.

    Better, if not perfect.

  10. Should person(s) insist on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, this should take place after all in the congregation who are receiving in the hand have received per the directives. In other words, no one insisting on receiving on the tongue should precede those receiving in the hand.

    In other words, get to the back of the bus.

    [Yes… it is rather like that. However, think of it this way. Since there is a much higher probability that the priest will touch the hand of the communicant in front of you… maybe it’s better that they be segregated.  o{]:¬)   ]

  11. Anneliese says:

    Communion on the tongue won’t be permitted in my Archdiocese. However, the local Latin Mass Society started by Cardinal Burke when when he was Archbishop here will be distributing communion on the tongue. My presumption is that the other Oratory in the city will be also be doing the same. A lot of the parishes here are asking for parishioners to RSVP, which will be sent out via email. So, you have to be registered, with the exception of the main Cathedral, which will have a link on their website. In the local Jesuit parish ushers are required to escort attendees to their pews. One parish is going to have their nurse take temperatures before allowing individuals in. One parish is cutting back on masses, unless an additional one is necessary. Everyone is required to wear masks. In another parish, the council is asking parishioners to fill out a survey–those results will be interesting. Holy water will be replaced with hand sanitizer. The archdiocese still has the dispensation for the obligation in place.

    I don’t know what the states should have done in response to this whole situation. I’m not a political scientist and I’m not a healthcare worker. But I am disappointed with out the Church has handled this situation. I can’t imagine no one could have found other solutions for the faithful.

    In reading the previous post about JPII, I can’t help but think about what his first words were when became Pope, and those of the Blessed Mother when the angel appeared to her: “Be not afraid.” When did we become so afraid? When did we become so entitled in life that we now believe we are not entitled to either get sick or die? I hope this Holy Spirit will inject fortitude into the Church this Pentecost because it needs it desperately.

  12. ArthurH says:

    As a simple practical matter– as you raised in a post a while back: How WOULD a priest “sanitize” his hands between communicants and not easily commit a sacrilege in some/all cases… unless he is planning to drink the disinfectant…. (on which you also opined!)?

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  14. Elizium23 says:

    Our diocese has resumed public Masses. Among the precautions taken are:
    “Distribute under the species of bread alone.” (Never a problem in my parish.)
    “Require ministers to sanitize hands before and after distribution.” (Eww, alcohol taste.)
    Here’s the thing about reception on the tongue. The bishop has worded it so that the pastor has the discretion to permit/deny this method. He also directs it to be done in one specific line of the procession. Our parish is following this directive. Other parishes are simply directing parishioners to receive on the hand.

    This is not a dealbreaker for me. I will just receive on the hand if circumstances require it, out of obedience to the local authority. Once in a parish not my own, I was directed to stand, so I stood to receive out of obedience. My priest-counselor said that is the right decision. I have since altogether stopped kneeling to receive. It is not a hill I want to die on, for love of the Eucharist, for love of Christ.

  15. KateD says:

    The RIGHT of the faithful to receive Communion is via the mouth. A PERMISSION (permissions may be revoked) has been given to the Church in the USA to receive in the hand. THE NORMATIVE WAY TO RECEIVE AND THE RIGHT REFERRED TO ARE THE RECEPTION ON THE TONGUE. If the right to receive on the tongue is revoked, then it is the right to receive that has been revoked, and therefore no one may receive via the resultant exception, either.

    Cum quid prohibetur, prohibentur omnia quae sequuntur ex illo.

    Regardless of the intentions of the bishops who have enacted such policies, this is what they have done.

    Further, Cannon 223 is a restrictive law and therefore requires strict interpretation.

    Odia restringi et favores convenit ampliari.

    Arguably, it is a broad interpretation that gets the “common good” to mean in this application what it does in the common parlance English definition: the benefit or interests of all.

    And it totally ignores the fact that c.223 references specifically “The Common Good of the Church” which is the mission of salvation of souls, not the protection of .018% of the population from getting sick and dying of an illness caused by a certain pathogen.

    This distinction in the definition of “Common Good” v. “Common Good of the Church” is one of the MANY sticking points of the current utilization of c.223.

    We are going from bad to worse with what is happening in the Church, and especially in the USA. Many of the bishops’ bad decisions are well intentioned; they are trying to protect their faithful from not only the dread CoVID-19 plague, but also from the greater threat from the state. Nonetheless, they must not do this for now and think “correcting” it later will be acceptable. You don’t accept a little evil now for more good later. This embracing of Consequentialism is setting a precedence that will be exploited by the enemies of the Church. It is these insidious small acts of complicity with the enemy that eventually lead to some of the most heinous betrayals of that which is valued and loved most and so must also be vigilantly guarded against.

  16. Hidden One says:

    The CDW seems to have chosen to be loudly silent on this issue this time around. Or has no one actually written to them on the subject?

  17. JabbaPapa says:

    I am at present, at Holy Mass, waiting ’til the end of the Communion line before taking it on the tongue, out of respect for all the others in the Congregation, and in obedience to the advice I was given by a priest on Day 1 of the reopening of public Mass here (praise God !!), given my position of being unable in practice to receive in the hand (from the large stick I need to assist my walking or standing), regardless all questions about this method of receiving Communion in the hand.

    And it went far better today than last week with the African priest who had last Sunday tried his best to “insist” that I take in the hand, whereas no problems at all today.

    But on that first Monday morning Mass two weeks ago (which was technically my Easter Mass of obligation, as I had been unable to attend any Mass at Easter proper or later until that one, not that most Catholics even know such detail of canonical requirements, oh well), I did actually see someone in the Congregation “insisting” rather rudely and IMO disrespectfully on Communion on the tongue … in that without having approached the priest earlier to ask how to proceed, as I had done and as is of course proper, traditionally, he chose instead to stick his tongue out as far as he could and point at it in an exaggerated manner with his index finger.

    Despite the right that he had (and has) to take Communion on the tongue, I did still find this aggressively insistive antic to be as rude as it was disrespectful (including toward our Lord in the Holy Eucharist) and unpleasant.

    The Holy Eucharistic Communion is a place of humility and gratitude, with no place for any pride.

  18. I have been informed by a FSSP pastor that public Masses will be resumed on 5/18 in the Diocese of Venice, Fl., but communion on the tongue is not allowed.

  19. Correction to my previous post. “Holy Communion can ONLY be received on the tongue in the Latin Mass.” Praise God.

  20. Cincture says:

    “Let’s it never be forgotten that Communion on the hand required an indult. THAT is the exception to the rule!”

  21. From Archbishop Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami (which will resume public Masses on may 18): “I am not mandating Communion only in the hand — as Communion on the tongue if done properly doesn’t involve touching the communicant or his/her tongue”.

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