Wherein a Bishop bans Communion on the tongue until after Mass. A Response.

Here is a dictate from the Bishop of Little Rock, Most Rev. Anthony B. Taylor, dated 7 May 2020 to his flock about reception of Communion on the tongue during this COVID-1984 time.

We’ve seen Bp. Taylor before, in 2016, when he wanted to impose only versus populum celebration of Mass on the diocese.  He appealed to the inexcusable mis-translation of GIRM 299, which had been patiently explained by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS).  HERE

The Arkansan ecclesial document I cite below, of 7 May, is longer and covers various liturgical aspects.  I’ve pulled this part out.

My emphases and comments.


Suspension of Communion on the tongue.

• While in ordinary circumstances people can demand [“demand” … Interesting word choice for people who prefer Communion on the tongue, isn’t it?  It suggests that the person who wrote this doesn’t like those people.] that we accommodate their preference to receive Communion on the tongue and [NB:] there are those who cite pontifical and CDWDS documents to assert that not even a bishop can prevent this, [Okay, whoever you are who wrote this, you’ve now made this about (inter alios) me.] such provisions apply to normal times. It is my obligation as diocesan bishop to legislate in this matter for the duration of the pandemic due to legitimate public safety issues.
• Those who attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form continue to receive Communion on the tongue because in the traditional Latin Mass reception on the hand is not an option. [He got it right!]
The traditional Latin Mass is offered in 5 places in our diocese and attending the Latin Mass is an option for anyone who desires to receive the Eucharist on the tongue. [NB:] Priests may not initiate additional Latin Masses outside of these 5 locations [Ummm… Summorum Pontificum…. But look at that again and think about it.] — we are stretched beyond the limit in our effort to provide Mass for our people in English and Spanish in the Ordinary Form, which always takes precedence over Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  [Ehem. LATIN takes always precedence over English and Spanish.  As one of my canonist friends responded to me about this dictate: “‘Precedence?’  WOW!  Again, one can only hope this is some clueless low level chancery functionary writing this.”  Extraordinary does NOT necessarily mean “rare”.  Extraordinary does NOT necessarily mean “the exception”.  Moreover, the parameters for the employment of Extraordinary Ministers of Communion are actually laid out.  They are usually violated, but they are in writing.  There is no such precision for the “Extraordinary Form”. Remember: there had to be a special indult – after years of blatant violation of law – to allow the belief-corroding and now divisive practice of Communion in the hand.   Yes, Communion in the hand is the divisive practice.  The “ordinary” way to receive is on the tongue and the “extraordinary” way is in the hand.  Doesn’t the “ordinary” way have “precedence”?]
• If someone insists [There’s that snarky tone again.] on receiving the Eucharist on the tongue outside the traditional Latin Mass, you should tell them politely that in the interest of public safety and out of consideration for those who will receive after them, they can wait until after Mass and you will give them Communion on the tongue then.  [After Mass.  It’s a traditional practice for, for example, choirs. No problem. But choirs sing during Communion time, often in lofts.  These people, on the other hand, aren’t busy and aren’t segregated in a loft.  Speaking of segregated, given the tone above (“demand… insist”) this after Mass dictate smacks of separate seating in a different waiting room.  A separate but not equal waiting room.  Not at the end of Communion time during Mass.  After Mass.]


I appreciate that the Bishop respected the integrity of Traditional Latin Mass rubrics, although he seems to fear an increase of numbers TLMs.

Catholics with traditional preferences are quite simply the most marginalized in the Church today.

Look.  I think the Bishop of Little Rock’s Dictate is overly restrictive in this issue of Communion on the tongue.  I’m not alone.  So does the head of the USCCB’s Committee on Liturgy together with the panel of experts who collaborated with him.

According to – of all outlets – the Fishwrap, on 28 April 2020 (hence, over a week before the Little Rock Dictate), the head of the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship of the USCCB, Archbp. Leonard Blair, sent an interminable memo (“Guidelines on Sacraments and Pastoral Care – Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments & Pastoral Care”) to all the US dioceses about opening up Masses.  The Guidelines were prepared by the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC and sent out by the USCCB committee to the bishops.  There are to be “phases”.

According to the USCCB Guidelines, during the first phrase, this USCCB memo says, Communion may be received on the tongue!

The PDF is HEREEmphases mine.

“We believe that, with the precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.”

“Opinions on this point are varied within the medical and scientific community: some believe Communion on the tongue involves an elevated and, in the light of all the circumstances, an unreasonable risk; others disagree,” they state. “If Communion on the tongue is provided, one could consider using hand sanitizer after each communicant who receives on the tongue.”

So, USCCB: take precautions, but go ahead and communicate people on the tongue.

Little Rock is being more severe than the Guidelines of the USCCB.  I encourage you to look at the list of experts included in the Guidelines.

Let me try to be fair.  Let’s imagine that Arkansan Catholics are in large numbers desirous of Communion on the tongue.  Let’s imagine that Arkansan priests are supposed (unnecessarily) to sanitize their hands between each and every Communion on the tongue.  Let’s imagine that repetitious sanitizing would so lengthen the time for Communion that even “Extraordinary” (there’s that word again) Ministers would be justified.  Since we shouldn’t have so many “Extraordinary” Ministers of Communion – *cough* – because “Ordinary” Ministers are to be given preference – displace those people demanding to be accommodated until after Mass.

Nope.  Not buying it.  If that were the reason – time – the Dictate would have said so.  After all, it justifies other things, such as trying to forbid more TLMs because of lack of priests.

All of that aside, there is a deeper reason why I chose to respond – from the other waiting room.  After all, they involved (inter alios) me.

What rankles about the Little Rock Dictate is the contempt shown for people who prefer the Church’s traditional and, in fact, preferred way to receive Communion.

More and more often in these COVID-1984 days, as certain civil and ecclesial absolutists issue their fiats, we see an unattractive reality manifest itself.  Apart from the desire to impose their will through ultra vires dictates, it is clear that some people in the big chairs don’t like the people who desire the things of which they disapprove.

It’s not just that the bosses don’t like the preferences, they don’t like the people who have them.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kate says:

    Yeah, us too, except our bishop is going one additional step. Since he is not permitting Communion on the tongue, the TLM is suspended indefinitely. Our priest is backing him up on this out of “obedience”. I’m glad I’m already used to being treated as a 2nd class citizen.

  2. ewfielding says:

    I have been worrying about this, partly from the “permission” angle and partly from a different one, since the weeks approaching church closures. I attend Mass in a Novus Ordo parish—actually, in 3 such parishes. One on Sunday, one on weekdays when I telework, and one on weekdays when I am in the office in the Capitol Hill area of DC. All 3 were conveying the “strongly encouraged to receive on the hand” archdiocesan policy at that point, but would not refuse to give on the tongue. (An added wrinkle is that one of the regular celebrants at the downtown church does not give communion on the tongue correctly, and ALWAYS makes hand to tongue contact.) I am not sure what Archbishop Gregory will decide as the protocol when we get back, whenever that is. One of my concerns is the congregations. Almost everyone receives in the hand anyway, and I can understand that, to other people, we receiving on the tongue seem to be needlessly making problems. But also, some at least of those people will be honestly believing that we are creating a real, physical threat of virus transmission by “insisting” on receiving in the tongue. This weighs on me both for weak and personal reasons, and also for more charitable and less self-serving ones—I don’t want to further split parishes, create fear, or unintentionally but nevertheless truly be an occasion of sins against charity to others. And also I don’t want the meme of traditional-minded people as fanatics who always insist on their own way and make trouble even if it hurts the common good to be further disseminated by this.

    But I also don’t want to be receiving in the hand, for heaven knows how long. And I am moved by Fr. Z’s meditation earlier on how attending the sacrifice of the Mass rather than receiving communion is the obligation and should be the primary focus, and that we should not be greedy for the Lord at any costs. But it has already been a few months and will likely be at least another month or maybe a couple more before our diocese gets going with open Masses. I do practice spiritual communion, but the Catholic religion always involves the body too, and I do so miss communion! If it were a matter of waiting a month or two more—and if I knew communion in the hand would definitely return as a permitted and not marginalized option—I could wait it out more easily.

    My fear is that it will be put off and put off, that every illness and flu will cause the same urging to receive in the hand, and all the other Catholics, many of them faithful and good people, some even holy people, who have always received in the hand or have for many decades (like my own 93-year -old mother!) will find this both upsetting and off putting, peculiar in a way that decreases understanding and sympathy rather than in a way that teaches.

    I know communion in the hand is permitted and therefore not in itself sinful, if one could exercise great care. But I have always disliked its effects and the story line with which it was promoted, and it clearly promotes lack of belief and irreverence (though many believing, reverent people, including my mother, receive that way). It has been disastrous. And then Dan Burke’s recent testimony following his Coronavirus hospitalization was so strong about the horror of misuse and of particles of the host scattering. If this accommodation to illness ends up being a years-long or big chunk of each year’s experience henceforth, what should an individual do? (And I do know about the option of going to an EF Mass, but that’s not very workable for my particular situation currently. And that may be cut back too—hope not, but we don’t know yet how bad this Passion of the Church will get.)

  3. JustaSinner says:

    Lived in North Little Rock for a year back in ’17-’18. Went to St. Augustine’s for Mass. Nigerian Catholic Church. Mass was usually not in English, but Communion on tongue was the norm, period. The Bishop wasn’t too well liked at that parish.

  4. CasaSanBruno says:

    Why doesn’t he just tell us to stay in the back of the bus. That was a practice in Arkansas till not too long ago.

  5. iamlucky13 says:

    I would like to add some additional observations distinct from those Father made:

    “there are those who cite pontifical and CDWDS documents to assert that not even a bishop can prevent this”

    And they are asserting as much because that is, in fact, what those documents explicitly say.

    “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. ” Redemptionis Sacramentum 92

    In other words, not only do we always have the right to receive on the tongue, but in that document, it was noted that even allowing the option to receive in the hand is based on the collective decision of a bishops Conference, with confirmation from Rome, not on any individual bishop’s discretion.

    “such provisions apply to normal times. “

    Is he having trouble understanding what the word “always” means? Is it less confusing if he is given the chance read it as, “omnis fidelis ius semper habeat pro libitu suo sacram Communionem ore accipendi?”

    “It is my obligation as diocesan bishop to legislate in this matter.”

    Yes, with limits. That same principle is likewise stated in Redemptionis Sacramentum 32, citing both Vatican II and Canon 838. Those two authoritative sources, however, both restrict his obligation to be within the norm of the law, subject to the authority of the Apostolic See, which for this matter in fact means the CDWDS. The exact wording in Canon 838, “within the limits of his [the diocesesan bishop’s] competence,” leaves no room to ignore the CDWDS.

    For full disclosure, despite my preference to receive on the tongue, I am currently accommodating the requests of those who are more comfortable if I receive in the hand, out of sensitivity towards their confusion about the situation.

  6. Hidden One says:

    Taking into account the explicit desires of the Bishop of Little Rock and the requirements of ecclesiastical laws maintained to this very day by the Bishop of Rome, a very simple solution presents itself immediately.

    During OF Masses, don’t distribute Communion to the faithful at all. After Mass, communicate all those eligible and desirous of being communicated.

  7. mthel says:

    I’m usually one to defend a bishop, especially in weird times like this, but this seems really unnecessary and simply a slap in the face to more traditional Catholics. Why not just simply have a separate line/location for communion on the tongue, or ask those who want to receive on the tongue to come forward before/after those receiving on the tongue? If the numbers are as few as the bishop seems to indicate they are, it should be of little bother to offer communion at the same time, while keeping things separate. Or is he afraid, by singling then out during Mass, rather than after, it makes them more noticeable and others might want to follow their lead?!

  8. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Sounds like this Bishop is paranoid of all the people wanting Communion on the tongue in Little Rock.

    Good for them.

    That he takes the time to try and forbid priests from offering more EF Masses speaks to the fact there is a demand AND enough young traddy priests who start doing it now in addition the the 5 locations the EF is already happening.

    Good for them.

    If the laity aren’t being fed at the OF liturgies, this bishop may just be pushing more and more families into his 5 local EF communities with his draconian dialog and mercy policy…

  9. Hugh says:

    I don’t understand the “hand sanitizer” logic, which even some blogging traddies seem happy with.

    At the end of distribution of Holy Communion, it is directed in both EF and OF rites that the celebrant remove the fragments of the Host from his fingers and consume them. It’s commonly called “purifying”, which idly leads to the thought that he, the celebrant, is purifying his fingers from the Host. That’s absurd, if we think about it. What’s actually being purified is not his fingers from the Host, but the divine Host from his fallen human fingers. The celebrant is ensuring that the Host – even the tiniest fragments thereof, which are one and all the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – are given the utmost respect, by being consumed in the human way ordained by Our Saviour: “Take, and eat.”

    In the “hand sanitizer” protocol, Fr. X puts the Host on the tongue of a communicant.
    He then “sanitizes” his fingers. Does he drink the mixture of corona virus, Sacred Host and alcohol at the end of the Communion of the Faithful?

    Of course not.

    So what happens to any fragments of the Host, which, the Rite assumes might be present and which the Rites (OF and EF) explicitly respects in the post-communion rituals?

    Chucked into the sink?

  10. TonyO says:

    @ewfielding: good comments and questions. I have similar worries.

    For years, now, we have repeatedly seen priests attempt to “follow” or even “create” some rule or other that is intended (with some thought) to facilitate some good or other, in the liturgy or in the parish … but is completely out of keeping with the traditional understanding of the Church. As just 3 examples: It was YEARS of priests completely ignoring the explicit rules by having girl altar boys, that the official rule was changed in 1994, and a bishop could submit a petition to Rome to make a change in his diocese; however, the change from the Vatican was (a) couched suchwise that it was available to a bishop who found that the practice was ALREADY widespread (i.e. which means that when he asked Rome for permission, he had to be admitting “I screwed up, I didn’t stamp it out like I should have”); and (b) the Vatican explicitly supported the view that male-only cadres of altar boys was “noble” and the preferential practice.

    Second example: when priests tried to prevent people from receiving Communion kneeling, claiming that “standing is now the ‘norm”. And third example: dis-orienting the priest so that he had his back to the tabernacle instead of facing WITH the people TOWARD God.

    In all of these, any ordinary, decent (not even especially devout, just regular Sunday-attending, confession several times a year Catholic) would have known, and probably would have said “gee, that doesn’t sound right! What the heck? Why would a priest (a priest!, with most of a decade of training under his belt) not know that X (whatever was being attempted or “imposed”) doesn’t fit with how we Catholics look at the Mass?” And sure enough, when the question gets back to Rome, the authorities there have come out and said: yes, people can receive kneeling even if the so-called “norm” is to receive standing, and people have a right to receive on the tongue.

    Now we get bishops doing it. And not just a rare instance, either. What gives? It should not be hard for bishops to figure out the right answer, if ordinary joes can. I tell you, I don’t know, but it seems like the people who are being picked for bishop’s miters are people who not actually in tune with the Catholic faith and practice. At least, not the Catholic faith and practice that I was raised in (and I am not old enough to have been raised lots earlier than the current horde of bishops). So, what the heck? Do we laity have to take bishops to task when they don’t even know their own Catholic faith? How do we do that, without sounding (or being) overbearing, uppity, and prideful?

    Maybe in 200 or 300 years (if we go on doing Communion in the hand), there will no longer remain any clear sensibility that receiving on the hand is less of a reverent act, or is an act less clear about Who we are receiving than it should be. But for now, with it being just over 40 years since it was allowed in the US, probably more than half of practicing Catholics can still remember growing up that “it wasn’t that way back then”, and can readily perceive that there is a difference in churches where Communion in the hand is the (nearly universal) practice, versus churches where it is not. They may not put the two together in the right way (i.e. they may hate the very distinction they perceive, as “denying” the “horizontalness” of the people of God), but they can darn well perceive the difference. Given that, it simply isn’t true that receiving on the hand or on the tongue has no effect on those around you. We cannot, at this time, pretend there is no worry about how we affect others’ perception of the reality of the Eucharist when we choose one way or the other.

    That said: if COVID were a much more serious disease, with much higher rates of transmission or or rates of death, and I were at a Novus Ordo Mass, I might well choose to either not receive Communion, or to receive on the hand. Although there are still a LOT of gaps in our knowledge about how well COVID is transmitted, it seems (relatively) clear enough that the virus in the mouth is more likely to be viable in communicating disease to a new host, than the virus on the hand – all OTHER things being equal. Although there are indeed ways of the priest handling the host to prevent touching the tongue or lips of the communicant, (a) they depend to a degree on the communicant cooperating by being sensible (like remaining a still target instead of moving around), (b) not all priests are adequately trained, and (c) there are almost certainly AS effective methods of preventing touching the communicant’s hand when he receives on the hand. So, for example, in the stated situation I might well choose not to receive at all if the priest or EM were a barely-trained rookie. And I might receive on the hand if – because everyone in that parish receives on the hand – the priest or EM gets flustered and is unpracticed at placing a host on the communicant’s tongue, given that the risk of causing scandal to those people is greatly lowered in such situation (and try not to be at such a parish often).

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    I attended a little tiny Mass 2 days in a row 2 weeks back where the Faithful were able to sign up in small numbers. The first day, the celebrant (who wasn’t the pastor) said at Communion time that those who wanted to receive Communion on the hand should come forward first, and then after the Communion on the tongue people could come. This is a good solution to respect everyone’s sensitivities. There was a pause and no one came forward wanting Communion on the hand, and then every single person came forward, knelt, and received on the tongue. On the second day, although the assortment of congregants was different, the priest didn’t actually ask and again I think everyone knelt and received on the tongue. The priest did not touch my tongue.

    These tiny little Masses are better than no Mass. But it’s still a problem because Mass is being rationed and those who aren’t properly registered active parishioners are turned away. I’ve been told another time when I can attend Mass this coming week and the only way I can help a friend of mine who’s been refused a Mass time is to let her come to my Mass slot. Wasn’t the point of the loaves and the fishes that the Lord’s gift of self is superabundant and we need not ration it?

    I’m a big fan of the Vigano/Muller/(Sarah) “Appeal For the Church and the World”.

    Communist China germ warfare should not be able to dictate that our own governments dictate that our bishops dictate that our pastors dictate that we have to ration the Eucharist.

  12. mpolo says:

    I talked to our general vicar when the directive that “Communion on the tongue SHOULD be avoided”. He had chosen the “should” specifically to allow exceptions. The reason for this idea that you should sanitize after each communicant is because of fear that the air breathed by the communicant could contain virus particles and stick to the hand of the priest and thus be transfered to the next. So I have been trying to use as little sanitizer as possible to sanitize just my fingertips, trying to brush particles onto the corporal in between.

  13. psalm 37:4-5 says:

    In all of this, what is it that the Church/Bishops/some priests are afraid of? We are Catholics citizens who have a right to go to church, if we choose. The right to receive Communion if we choose. The priest can distribute on the tongue if he chooses. If we choose to receive GOD on our tongue, wouldn’t that be our choice, our issue, our “risk”? What are the Shepherds afraid of so badly that they have to create all these rules and regulations that blatantly show their lack of faith in God, our Church and fellow Catholics? Is someone is going to sue them, or take away something, and if so, who would do that? Whomever would do that is someone (in my opinion…) they shouldn’t be afraid of… and if they are, there is the answer to my question, and perhaps the tell tale big red flag showing us where all of this stems from. If you are sick you do not have to go to Mass. If you’ve received Communion once in a year, you do not need to receive more often. If you are worried, or in a “high risk group” you do not need to go to Mass in person. There’s already many options. For the rest of us who realize it is of our own choice and free will, let us go to Mass like responsible humans, without the ridiculous rules.

  14. Ultrarunner says:

    My wife and I watched Bishop Taylor personally serve Holy Communion to a toddler wearing diapers years ago at the Cathedral of St Andrew’s in Little Rock. The little one received in hand, as did her non Catholic father, as did the vast majority of those who were attending the annual memorial mass conducted by Taylor in honor of Martin Luther King. The overwhelming majority in attendence were non Catholic African Americans. There was no “if you’re not Catholic, don’t receive” prior to communion. The wife and I were gobsmacked. The TLM priest at St Patrick’s in the downtown area was moved 25 miles away out to the boondocks years ago. As a scheduled co-speaker, Taylor rescinded his invitation and publicly boycotted the annual March for Life a couple of years ago for not being pro life enough. The other co-speaker was the state AG who supports the death penalty. He has demostrated no such similar qualms since then, having attended public immigration rallies on the steps of the state capitol featuring active pro abortion lobbyists and leaders speaking about the rights of immigrants. He served on the Board of the USCCB’s Migratory Relief Services in 2014 and 2015 which took in hundreds of millions in federal government payouts during those two years alone to import tens of thousands of Muslims to the US. He publicly called for the abolition of private property in an open letter to US Congressman when Obamacare was being legislated. He of course has authority over many large Catholic healthcare facilities in the state that he believes would benefit from a socialized, single payer, system. He proudly maintains a “preferential option for the poor”, which comports thoroughly with his special brand of Catholic social justice steeped in liberation theology. As a priest, on September 1, 2006, Father Taylor lambasted a St Monica’s congregation in Oklahoma during a requiem mass he provided for executed murderer Erik Allen Patton. In his homily, Father Taylor compared Patton to John the Baptist and the Good Thief, and Patton’s mother to St Monica, but he openly condemned those in attendence for being worse than Patton because they, the people of Oklahoma, killed Patton in cold blood as he put it. Following the homily, Taylor served Holy Communion to those gathered. Charlene Kauer, Patton’s victim, a woman he had done day work for previously, was found naked in a pool of blood by her husband in the couple’s kitchen with several broken kitchen knives in her body. Her wedding ring had been turned inward, stone facing palm, in a defensive gesture to prevent the ring from being stolen. That’s how her husband found her. Following the trial, the seasoned prosecutor described it as the most brutal murder scene he had ever witnessed. Charlene Kauer had taken the day off to go Christmas shopping.

    I could go on with the attricities committed by Anthony Taylor that cry out to heaven for vengence, but these few certainly serve to exemplify the man and his tenure as Bishop of Little Rock.

    He is hands down the most spiritually dangerous man in the state of Arkansas.

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