Sola Communion in the Tongue? What the Church Says and Why
By Guillermo Moreno
June 21, 2023
Introduction: Receiving Communion
The phrase ‘receiving Communion in the hands’ can give a misleading connotation, particularly in light of objections to that practice, because the alternative is to receive in the tongue, and thus the former seems to suggest that the end is other than eating the consecrated hosts; as if by being received in the hands, its end is precisely something other than to be eaten. But this is a false dichotomy because, in receiving in the hands, the host is placed in the hands of the communicants for them to consume immediately, not for them to do anything else with them. The communicants are not to take the hosts anywhere beyond the presence of the ordinary or the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
Even with this clarification, individuals within Catholic circles insist and even demand that Communion be received exclusively on the tongue. This is important because it fosters defiance at some level in opposition to what the Church says, effectively rejecting the Church’s authority, even if on this one issue. History shows, however, that dissent leads to individuals making themselves their own authority in matters of faith and how to apply it to one’s life. This article addresses how obedience to the Church is key as well as addressing the reasons for why the Church has permitted the reception of Communion in the hands.
Some Preliminary Points
The Church consists of the worldwide community of Catholics with a hierarchy. When the Church speaks authoritatively, its spokesperson is the Magisterium, which consists of the Pope and the bishops (c.f. CCC 2034). They are the successors of the Apostles, who Christ left in charge and who have a share in his authority. The Magisterium has its threefold office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. The office of governance is our focus, since the topic at hand is a matter of Church discipline or practice, not doctrine or theology.
Regarding what the Church says, Catholics are allowed to receive Communion in the hand in some places throughout the world. This is the result of Pope Paul VI publishing Memoriale Domini, which authorized an indult for bishops conferences to allow receiving Communion in the hands. Firstly, a conference of bishops is “a permanent organism which gathers together the bishops of an entire nation or territory, for the purpose of exercising together some pastoral functions and promoting a coordinated pastoral action in the service of the churches entrusted to them (cc. 447 and 448).” For example, the conference of bishops of the United States is the USCCB. Secondly, an indult is an administrative act by a legislator, that “[d]esignates a special favor for a definite period of time; it is distinguished from a privilege which is a special favor granted in perpetuity. Both indult and privilege comprise a positive and objective juridic norm… the term indult is applied also to the document granting the concession of the favor… ”
A final point is that receiving Communion in the tongue is the norm. Therefore, Communion in the hands serves as a kind of permission in some territories, including the dioceses of the United States. In those places, Catholics could receive either in the hands or in the tongue. The ordinary form of the Mass is the Novus Ordo, and the accompanying document to The Roman Missal, the liturgical text for the Novus Ordo, is The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (the GIRM). The “Overview” of the GIRM provides pertinent points about the GIRM’s authoritative weight:
The third edition of the Roman Missal was promulgated in Latin by Pope John Paul II in 2002 along with an updated revision of the GIRM. Provisional English translations of the GIRM were released in 2003 by the [USCCB] for use in the dioceses of the [U.S.], and in subsequent years by bishops’ conferences of various English-speaking countries. In 2010 an official translation became available…
As the praenotanda, or introduction, to the Roman Missal, the GIRM provides both a comprehensive description of the theological and spiritual meaning of the Mass and the official directives for its proper celebration… As such, it is an important document to be familiar with in order to have an in-depth understanding of the Church’s celebration of the Eucharist... In fact, since it applies to all who are involved in the liturgy, including those who participate as members of the assembly, an argument could be made that every Catholic who attends Mass should be familiar with the content of this document… It should be the first source consulted whenever questions arise concerning the celebration of the Eucharist.
In essence, the GIRM is the go-to source for the rubrics for how the Mass is to be celebrated. Given this, here are the rubrics from the GIRM about receiving Communion:
The priest then takes the paten or ciborium and approaches the communicants, who usually come up in procession.
It is not permitted for the faithful to take the consecrated Bread or the chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them from one to another among themselves. The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States… is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling…
When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.
The Church’s practice is clear: some dioceses have permission by the competent authority to practice Communion in the hands during the Mass. But regardless, numerous objections to this practice exist. We will address them here and provide further elaboration for why this practice is permitted.
A good place to begin is by asking whether or not receiving Communion in the hands is inherently wrong. Is it an intrinsically evil act? Such an act is something that natural law tells us is immoral, such as abortion or euthanasia, and it is something that would have been clear to the Apostles and the Early Church. Intrinsically evil acts would have been addressed had they been happening under the care of the Apostles and under that of their successors, including the Fathers of the Church. An interesting point is that patristic writings make no real distinction between doctrine and morals, for Christians are expected to put into practice the faith they profess.
Nonetheless, immoral practices were prohibited somehow. Clear examples of this are in the Bible, such as the Ten Commandments in Exodus and the warning against the Works of the Flesh in Galatians. Are there instructions for celebrating the Mass? Yes, for St. Paul calls out abuses at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:17-21) and he speaks out against receiving of the Eucharist unworthily, that one must examine himself so as to eat the Body and drink the Cup, that anyone who does so without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29). There are no instructions to receive Communion on the tongue as a moral imperative in Scripture.
Nor are there any in the Church Fathers. On the contrary, there are various sources from early Christianity, including St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Ephrem the Syrian, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, that confirm this practice in the Early Church, and Cardinal Ratzinger attests to the practice of Communion in the hands in the first nine centuries of the Church. Historically, Communion in the hands was practiced, and not seen nor taught as intrinsically evil.
Resistance to What the Church Says Leads to Error
Proponents of Sola Communion in the tongue fall prey to a logical fallacy like one of Protestantism, which expresses that somehow Christianity got it wrong until someone arrived to show us all how to do it right. In this sense, Taylor Marshall notes that Popes St. Leo the Great and St. Gregory the Great are early witnesses to Communion in the tongue as normative. Marshall is most likely referring to the quotes in a separate article on his website, in which he quotes the ‘strict translation’ of Pope Leo: “This indeed is received by means of the mouth which we believe by means of faith.” But a critic on Reddit points out that ‘taken in the mouth’ means ‘eaten,’ which subsequently is besides the point of whether the consecrated host is placed in the hands before being eaten, or whether it is placed directly in the tongue. Then, Marshall refers to Pope Gregory’s story in his Dialogue III, which tells of how a lame man was brought to Pope Agapitus, who placed the consecrated host in the man’s tongue, and the lame man was miraculously healed. But this is just an anecdote. Just because Pope Agapitus merely took the liberty of placing the consecrated host in the lame man’s tongue, it does not necessitate that Communion in the tongue was normative or imperative, and it does not necessitate that Communion in the hands was not practiced or that it was considered immoral. Furthermore, the Redditor critic previously referred to further points out that the Dialogues are “a compilation of popular, in some cases fantastical, hagiographies of the time, not systematic accounts of church practice.” He also points out that it’s hard to imagine this account as any kind of witness to normative practice when the Pope is performing a Christ-like healing.
For the sake of argument, if Sola Communion in the tongue became a new doctrine at a point in time, like Sola Scriptura did, that means that the Christians beforehand had been doing it wrong, leaving the Church with centuries of ignorant and misguided Christians who had been wrongly receiving Communion in the hands until someone well after the time of the Apostles got it right. Ultimately, however, it is individuals who insist contrary to what the Church has authorized. The institution of the norm of receiving exclusively on the tongue was not due to an official theological teaching; no Pope or Council declared this as part of public revelation. Rather, this norm was due to a liturgical practice.
To insist on receiving Communion exclusively on the tongue effectively declares that the Church was wrong in practice and possibly even in theology or morality, if that be the case for some proponents of Sola Communion in the tongue. That is false, however, because just as the Church had been consistent in doctrine, liturgy, and morals before Luther, so it was, had it been the case, before the notion that Communion in the tongue was imperative. Sadly, some have indeed dissented from the Church and they try to use this topic as one of their weapons against the Church.
The Distinction between Church Doctrine and Church Discipline
Turning now to liturgical practices and norms, it is my opinion that Sola Communion in the tongue is a manifestation of the radical traditionalist idolatry for the Traditional Latin Mass. While radical traditionalists are not the only ones against receiving Communion in the hands, a fundamental point here is their bias against the Novus Ordo, more specifically: regardless of the essence of the Mass, which is the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, there is an attempt to point out accidental aspects of the Mass and to blame those on factors regarding the crisis of faith in the Church today, namely the so-called bad fruits of the Second Vatican Council. In the end, however, the TLM is one manifestation of the Mass among many.
But a favorite radical traditionalist point is the Quo Primum argument, based on Pope St. Pius V’s papal bull that supposedly authorizes the Traditional Latin Mass as the Mass for all time:
By these present (ordinances) and by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, We give and grant in perpetuity that for the singing or reading of Mass in any church whatsoever this Missal may be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment or censure, and may be freely and lawfully used…. We likewise order and declare that no one whosoever shall be forced or coerced into altering this Missal; and that this present Constitution can never be revoked or modified, but shall forever remain valid and have the force of law…
There is an apparent contradiction: no one can be forced to change this Missal, and yet, this is supposed to be the Mass for all time. Why mention that no one can be forced to change it? In so doing, it already implies that one can freely change it. Therefore, the TLM is not necessarily the Mass for all time. As with any Church document, this must be interpreted with hermeneutics of continuity and faith when there is an apparent contradiction. It must be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with what the Church says, and the Church has not only established the Novus Ordo as the ordinary form of the Mass, but she has also permitted and now permits receiving Communion in the hands. Rad Trads, however, have opted to interpret Quo Primum Temporeaccording to their agenda.
Furthermore, a critical point made by Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere in their book More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look and Extreme Traditionalism, is the distinction between the doctrine and the discipline of the Church. Their point is that matters of discipline canchange, while doctrine does not. That Pope Pius V is referring to discipline is apparent due to the clause in Quo Primum Tempore itself, which grants an exception to the declaration: All priests and bishops who said Mass using liturgical missals more than a hundred years old were not obliged to use this codified version of the Roman Missal. Therefore, Quo Primum Tempore is only disciplinary since, from the beginning of its promulgation, it included exceptions; it didn’t apply to every priest. And since it is disciplinary, what it promulgates can change.
In light of this vital distinction, since matters of discipline can change, they cannot become doctrinal. A doctrine is a teaching about a theological fact; a teaching about the truth. A theological truth cannot be true one day, and false on another, which is the only way that truth would possibly “change,” which it cannot. The truth is completely independent even of us, let alone our preferences. Preference is therefore the basis for Sola Communion in the tongue, somewhat like preferences over Scriptural interpretation in Sola Scriptura.
Furthermore, the Quo Primum argument, about the TLM being the Mass for all time, has an extremity with logical consequences. If rad trads want to absolutize the supposed dictates of this document, it would abolish all non-TLM Masses. Why use the Quo Primum argument exclusively against the Novus Ordo? Why not abolish the Eastern Rites? They are not the TLM, but any rationalization for why those are permissible would only display intellectual inconsistency for advocates of “the Mass for all time.” If the Eastern Rites are permissible, then the TLM is not in fact the Mass for all time. But if the Eastern Rites are impermissible, then Rad Trads will get very busy figuring out how to evangelize Eastern Catholics. Rad Trads will most likely resort to dissent within their own circles, however, paving the way for even more radical traditionalist denominations. Regardless, and as we have seen, Quo Primum Tempore is only disciplinary, and it does not apply to every rite.
A further point that Madrid and Vere make is the old canonical principle that, “equals have no power over one another.” In this case, anything that can be established by one pope can be changed or removed by another pope; every pope has authority over liturgical matters and can institute a new discipline. To suggest otherwise in favor of one pope over another would reflect a similar attitude as that of Christ’s critics who were so shocked that Jesus would dare to claim to have authority greater than that of Moses or David or any of the prophets (c.f. Matthew 7:28-29, Matthew 19:1-12, Mark 7:1-23, Luke 4:16-30, Luke 11:29-32, John 8:1-11, etc.). But Jesus was and is God and, crudely put, no pope is “divine enough” to authoritatively bind any practice over other popes, including Pope St. Pius V.
Liturgy and Liturgical Abuse
Having addressed liturgical practices and norms, this does lead to the topic of liturgical abuse. Given that Communion in the hands is not a moral impediment, it has been established as a practice in the Roman Rite. In Memoriale Domini, the Holy See granted the request to practice Communion in the hands on May 29, 1969. Bishops within their conferences were allowed to authorize the practice of Communion in the hands in their dioceses according to their judgment. An accompanying letter to Memoriale Domini provided specific norms to follow including providing proper catechesis on receiving Communion in the hands and with the reverence due to the Eucharist, taking care that no particles of the Eucharist fall or are scattered, that Communion in the hands is not permissible in the case of intinction, and that the practice of Communion in the tongue be continued to be practiced.
Admittedly, the reason for initially considering Communion in the hands is cause for concern. In several countries, Communion in the hands was being practiced when Communion in the tongue was the only authorized manner of receiving. In other words, liturgical abuse was happening. The Holy See, having failed to stop the abuse, sought to normalize this practice instead.
At this point, there are two things to consider. First, the Holy See disapproved of the liturgical abuse. But second, this begs the question of the authorization of Communion in the hands at all. Regarding the second point, we should refer to the basis of Communion in the hands as not intrinsically evil. Also, analogously, the Church has authorized certain practices that fall under ecclesiastical law. For example, eating meat on any given day is morally neutral. But having established certain days in which we abstain from eating meat, it would be sinful to do so otherwise contrary to established norms. Ecclesiastical laws can be modified and dispensed from. In like manner, Communion in the hands was once liturgical abuse, but its practice could still be authorized by the Church. And so it was. Overall, this case of what was liturgical abuse was, in a real way, about disobedience. The material or matter of the action of disobedience, though, can change so that it is no longer an act of disobedience. The issue that is stipulated is the disobedience itself.
In light of this, there is an attitude of disobedience with those who promote Sola Communion in the tongue, one which any faithful Catholic should be wary of. Critics of Paul VI’s decision must be mindful that, while it may have been imprudent or misguided to placate the liturgical abusers and to give them what they wanted, Communion in the hands is still not intrinsically evil and that we should maintain an attitude of acceptance of our pastor’s decision even if there is valid reason for disagreement.
Aquinas’s Quote Against Communion in the Hands
There are seemingly three more common objections to Communion in the hands: Aquinas’s quote against it, the possibility of losing particles of the host, and the possibility of profanation. Beginning with the first, Aquinas teaches against the dispensing of the consecrated hosts by anyone other than priests, where even deacons may not do so, unless there is a necessity, and at the bidding of a bishop or a priest.
The dispensing of Christ's body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because, as was said above (Article 1), he consecrates as in the person of Christ. But as Christ consecrated His body at the supper, so also He gave it to others to be partaken of by them. Accordingly, as the consecration of Christ's body belongs to the priest, so likewise does the dispensing belong to him. Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people; hence as it belongs to him to offer the people's gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency.
We should consider the above mentioned point about the difference between natural law and ecclesiastical law. This point by Aquinas cannot refer to natural law but rather to ecclesiastical law, since it regards doctrine and liturgy. Natural law cannot change, but ecclesiastical law can be changed by the ecclesiastical authority. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the early Church, which was obviously before Aquinas, practiced Communion in the hands. The Church now permits it to this day. But to address Aquinas’s point, we cannot absolutize what he says since reception of Communion is a matter of discipline. It should not be treated as a subject beyond discipline.
Also, a related point to Aquinas’s quote is that the Eucharist should only be touched by consecrated hands, for a priest’s hands are anointed to consecrate and to dispense the hosts. But in the end, consecrating and dispensing are two different acts which we cannot equivocate: one is necessary for the manifestation of Christ’s presence in the form of bread, and the other is not. And, to go on a brief semi-tangent, someone other than the priest touching the Eucharist is not some kind of post-Conciliar innovation. The 1917 Code of Canon Law states in canon 845.2 that deacons are allowed to dispense the hosts, despite that their hands are not anointed as priests’ hands are, and directly against what Aquinas says about only priests being able to touch consecrated hosts. This shows that this practice can change from only allowing priests to touch the Eucharist to allowing persons who are not priests to touch it, of course in the context of a liturgical act. Therefore, we can receive Communion in the hands if the competent authority allows it.
This brings us to the fact that, while Aquinas’s works can be of service in the development of doctrine, his teaching authorizes nothing. Regarding doctrine, it must be defined by a council or a pope. Even then, as we have seen, this is not a matter of doctrine but of discipline, which also falls under the responsibility of popes and bishops. Pope Paul VI allowed conferences of bishops to authorize Communion in the hands. Pope John Paul II noted this authorization in his apostolic letter, Dominicae Cenae, and Cardinal Ratzinger defended the practice of Communion in the hands in his book, God is Near Us. Then, as Pope Benedict XVI, he permitted the continuation of this practice, as does Pope Francis. The authorities themselves have indeed spoken.
I would like to furthermore provide some points by some Catholic personalities on Youtube about Communion in the hands. Firstly, Father Allen Alexander, M.I.C., emphasizes that the Church, with her authority, has permitted this practice, and he raises the point that our bodies are anointed at our baptism, in which we are anointed priest, prophet, and king, that we all share in some way in the priesthood of Christ. We must physically touch the host in some way to receive Communion. While our tongues do physically touch the Eucharist, we do not anoint our tongues for the sake of such physical contact. Father Alexander furthermore rhetorically asks whether our mouths are any more worthy than our hands for touching the Eucharist, the same thought-provoking point that Ratzinger makes in God Is Near Us. Father Alexander stresses that whatever way we receive ought to be reverent, and that “we should not get caught up in our own will, but rather that, in obedience to the Church, we follow what the Church prescribes.” Father Alexander charitably invites Catholics who desire to receive Communion in the tongue to pray for their obedience to the Church, that receiving Communion in the hands no longer be a concern, or to furthermore talk to their priests and hopefully receive accommodations for receiving in the tongue.
Secondly, Matt Fradd covers this issue with Father Mark Goring in a podcast episode of Pints With Aquinas. On the one hand, Father Goring states (at some level, jokingly), that bringing back the rails for Communion would solve all of the world’s problems. Bowing the knee and adoring Christ, he asks rhetorically, how could that not be the answer to the world’s problems? With that said, Father Goring expressed criticism about how some Catholics have refrained from receiving Communion altogether due to COVID protocols about receiving Communion exclusively in the hands. It is Our Lord Jesus, he says, who wants to come to us. While mentioning Aquinas’s quote, Father Goring furthermore expressed that the idea that the laity should absolutely never touch the Eucharist with their hands is not in the Church’s tradition and it is not what the Church officially teaches, and that we need to accept what the Church decides on liturgy. Fradd adds that he would never condemn what the Church has permitted, that despite that Communion in the hands arose out of an abuse, the Church ultimately permitted it, and that to condemn those who receive Communion in the hands would be to condemn something that the Church permits. Furthermore, he mentions intention. Paraphrasing what Fradd said, some Catholics may want to refrain due to their own prudential judgment, in which they want to follow their conscience and receive only in the tongue. At the same time, others may refrain from receiving Communion in the hands due to pride and defiance.
To go on another brief tangent, can the Church’s decisions be criticized? Tim Staples from Catholic Answers clearly expresses, in answering a caller who was asking about Communion in the hands, that the practice is within the Church’s authority, that it is licit, and that we don’t have to like it. In the same video, Staples admits, as I have above, that this matter arose due to an abuse. Also in the same video, Patrick Coffin then gives an analogy of a parent accommodating disobedient children, permitting the disobedient acts so that they are no longer acts disobedience. Such is what the Church did when she authorized Communion in the hands.
The Possibility of Losing Particles and the Greater Likelihood of Profanation
There is furthermore the objection of losing particles of the Eucharist during Communion in the hands, in which we risk dropping particles on the floor and thus walking over Our Lord’s Body. In fact, a Youtube channel called Modern Papist features a video by the content creator, in which he tests how particles are dropped during Communion in the hands in comparison to Communion in the tongue. He completes his test with a priest in a controlled setting, using unconsecrated hosts, by receiving one-hundred hosts in the hand, and then one-hundred again by receiving in the tongue, over a black poster-board. While receiving in the hands, he rubs his hands together over the poster-board to remove leftover particles of the host in his hands, allowing them to drop over the poster-board. At the end of his experiment, the poster-board clearly displays many dropped particles from receiving in the hands, as opposed to a couple of particles from receiving in the tongue.
The Church is not indifferent to this possibility, for she provides instructions to take care that no particles are lost, namely by being careful not to allow any fragment of the host to fall. Carelessness and indifference are grave matters, but distinct from physically touching the Eucharist with one’s hands. Nonetheless, the possibility of dropping particles must be addressed. Where Communion in the hands is permitted, the bishop should strive for proper instruction in his diocese for both extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to distribute the hosts and for the lay faithful to receive them, taking extra care that every particle is consumed, for each bishop is responsible for the celebration of the sacraments in his diocese (CIC 387, 835.1), and for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, being vigilant against abuses including the celebration of the sacraments (CIC 392). Of course, Catholics who are informed of the liturgical rubrics should strive to inform fellow parishioners who are not aware of such rubrics, perhaps even as a form of the spiritual work of mercy of instructing the ignorant or of fraternal correction.
Another point must be made, in light of an extremity of the argument about the possibility of losing particles of the consecrated hosts. Yes, care must be taken to save all particles, but this could lead to scrupulosity. Keeping in mind that bread is the necessary substance for the hosts, it is possible that particles are too small, to the point that the particles themselves are no longer bread in their substance because the molecules or atoms are not chemically bonded together to make the bread anymore. This is akin to what Aquinas states in Article 4 of Question 77 in Part III of the Summa Theologiae. Such is the case with microscopic particles that remain that lose their substance and are thus no longer bread and no longer the Eucharist. Therefore, prudence must be mentioned when catechizing on how to distribute and how to receive Communion in light of the argument of losing particles of the consecrated hosts; it is necessary to receive Communion without scrupulating if the concern is losing any particle that made up a consecrated host, including molecules and atoms. That worry would be irrelevant to the argument.
Lastly, the argument about the possibility of profanation, like that of the possibility of losing particles, is a different topic altogether than physically touching the consecrated hosts with one’s hands. Receiving in the hands is for immediate consumption. Along with proper catechesis, precautions and surveillance are unfortunately necessary in our world of fallen human beings. There is imprudence in making something unlawful just because some bad apples will abuse the object or action. Why punish Catholics who would reverently receive Communion in the hands just because some people, who probably aren’t even Catholic, would want to profane the sacred species? Furthermore, if the worry is about even profaning an atom or molecule, we refer back to what Aquinas taught in Article 4 mentioned above, that particles that are too small to make up the bread are no longer the Eucharist. Besides, a method of profanation is also to take the host out of one’s mouth and stick it under the pew. This is possible whether one receives it in the hands or on the tongue. What’s to stop anyone who wants to profane the Eucharist from receiving on the tongue and spitting it out later for other ways to profane it?
Admittedly, receiving in the tongue is less efficient for someone who wants to profane the Eucharist outside of the church. They may be less inclined to take the Eucharist to profane it if they had to carry and transport it filled with their saliva. An objection, therefore: is it not simply a small thing to restrict Communion reception in the tongue to help protect Our Lord in the Eucharist? I believe so. But in light of a main argument of this article, which is the authority of the Magisterium, all we can do is petition to our conferences of bishops for this restriction, and pray that they decide to take this measure to better protect Our Lord in the Eucharist. Let us also hope that no one proceeds to argue for Sola Communion in the hands.
The Ban on Communion in the Tongue During the COVID Pandemic
The COVID protocols about reception exclusively on the hands perhaps exacerbated the tension among Catholics regarding this topic, and what furthermore drove me to write this article. Since the Coronavirus was a new disease and people were dying from it throughout the world, it is understandable to establish ways to prevent its spread especially in the beginning. Caution called for avoiding the spread of germs, and Communion in the hands would decrease the likelihood of the ordinary and the extraordinary ministers taking germs from the mouths of some communicants and onto others. This was an act of prudence.
An interesting point is that the Holy See never banned Communion in the tongue. Rather, due to the circumstances, dioceses established procedures for the reception of Holy Communion, gradually relaxing the protocols as we learned more about COVID and as its severity was decreasing, until some dioceses have reinstated the reception of Communion in the tongue. This series of events came down to the apparent contention between a Catholic’s right to receive Communion in the tongue and a bishop’s authority over the celebration of the Eucharist in his diocese.
Opponents to the ban on Communion on the tongue during the pandemic resort to Catholic’s right to receive on the tongue, citing sources including Memoriale Domini, its accompanying letter, and Redemptionis Sacramentum, an instruction by the Congregation for Divine Worship on the celebration of the Mass, which is clear about the communicant’s right to receive Communion on the Tongue (92). By citing these sources, the opponents to this COVID protocol are also relying on the Supreme Authority of the Church. Since the Supreme Authority itself has guaranteed this right, it is not up to individual bishops nor conferences of bishops, apparently, to establish such practices because their authority does not trump the Supreme Authority. Therefore, bishops must not violate the universal law.
However, the Supreme Authority has also clearly established bishop’s rights over the celebration of the Mass in their dioceses. Canon 838.1 states, “The direction of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, according to the norm of law, the diocesan bishop.” This demonstrates that the ultimate authority when it comes to the liturgy is the hierarchy of the Church, and it simultaneously highlights a bishop’s role in liturgical authority; his authority is the norm of law. Furthermore, section 4 of the same canon states, “Within the limits of his competence, it pertains to the diocesan bishop in the Church entrusted to him to issue liturgical norms which bind everyone.” The temporary ban on Communion on the tongue during the pandemic is based on bishops’ authority within their dioceses on the celebration of the Eucharist, an authority specified by the Supreme Authority. To object to this COVID protocol is to object to the Supreme Authority. Proponents of Sola Communion in the tongue therefore unwittingly contradict themselves by depending on their universal law argument.
With all of this being said, emphasis on the Church’s authority and obedience to the Church is necessary.If the Church once again returned to receiving exclusively on the tongue, we would be obliged to obey. What is also perhaps necessary is, in a manner of speaking, a respectful disagreement with the Church’s decision on receiving Communion in the hands. To refrain from receiving at all unless exclusively on the tongue, to attend churches just because they distribute exclusively on the tongue, and to dictate to others to receive only on the tongue, displays defiance and disobedience to what the Church has decided. Furthermore, it is different from those who personally opt to receive exclusively on the tongue but accept either practice. In my opinion, the obstinacy of the former group who receive exclusively on the tongue is a gateway drug to radical traditionalism, that false kind of traditionalism that severs itself from the legitimate teaching authority of the Church. This is the crux of the matter. This is what first needs to be addressed.
 C.f. Avery Dulles SJ, Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith (Naples: Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2007). P. 1.
 Joseph T. Martín de Agar, A Handbook on Canon Law, 2nd ed. (2007; repr., Montreal: Wilson & Lafleur Ltée, 2007). P. 135.
 Eternal World Television Network and Edward McNamara, “All About Indults,” EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, July 20, 2010, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/all-about-indults-4536.
 Catholic Answers Staff, “Can I Receive on the Tongue?,” Catholic Answers, August 4, 2011, https://www.catholic.com/qa/can-i-receive-on-the-tongue.
 Rev. Msgr. Joseph DeGrocco, “Overview of The General Instruction of the Roman Missal” in The Liturgy Documents: Essential Documents for Parish Worship, 5th ed., vol 1 (United States of America: Liturgy Training Publications, 2012). P. 86. Emphasis mine.
 Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal in The Liturgy Documents: Essential Documents for Parish Worship, 5th ed., vol 1. (United States of America: Liturgy Training Publications, 2012). P. 133. Emphasis mine.
 David Bohr, Catholic Moral Tradition, Revised (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006). P. 58.
 C.f. Elizabeth Klein, “Early Christian Communion in the Hand,” Church Life Journal (McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, October 13, 2022), https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/early-christian-communion-in-the-hand/.
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003). P. 70. C.f. Matt Nelson, “Communion In The Hand?,” Reasonable Catholic, January 4, 2016, https://www.reasonablecatholic.com/communion-in-the-hand/.
 Taylor Marshall, “Did the Church Fathers Practice Communion in the Hand? (Not Exactly),” Taylor Marshall, January 7, 2011, https://taylormarshall.com/2011/01/did-church-fathers-practice-communion.html.
 Taylor Marshall, “Communion on the Tongue and Pope St Leo the Great,” Taylor Marshall, November 10, 2011, https://taylormarshall.com/2011/11/communion-on-tongue-and-pope-st-leo.html.
 valegrete, “Taylor Marshall’s Disingenuousness Regarding Communion in the Hand,” Reddit, December 30, 2018, https://www.reddit.com/r/Catholicism/comments/aax1by/taylor_marshalls_disingenuousness_regarding/.
 Marshall, “Communion on the Tongue and Pope St Leo the Great.”
 valegrete, “Taylor Marshall’s Disingenuousness Regarding Communion in the Hand.” Emphasis mine.
 C.f. Ratzinger, God is Near Us, p. 70.
 Author’s note: I doubt that Rad Trads would partake in the Novus Ordo even if receiving Communion in the hands became prohibited. But a no-brainer point is that the Apostles did not celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, nor did the earliest Christians. Nor do the Eastern Rites.
 For an invaluable critique of the notion of the “Bad Fruits of Vatican II,” see Jeremy Hausotter’s case study here: https://www.lenouvelesprit.com/vatican-ii-articles/bad-fruit-vatican-ii
 Society of St. Pius X., Most Asked Questions about the Society of Saint Pius X (Angelus Press, 1997). Pg. 9.
 Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere, More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004). Pgs. 123-125.
 Ibid. Pgs. 124-125.
 Ibid. pg. 125.
 Austin Flannery OP, Vatican Council II, the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, 1996. P. 148-152.
 Edward McNamara LC, “Objecting to Communion in the Hand,” EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, October 2, 2018, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/objecting-to-communion-in-the-hand-4911.
Luisella Scrosati, “The True Story of Communion in the Hand Revealed,” OnePeterFive, August 11, 2020, https://onepeterfive.com/communion-hand-true-story/.
 Thomas Aquinas OP, “SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The Minister of This Sacrament (Tertia Pars, Q. 82),” New Advent, accessed February 24, 2023, https://www.newadvent.org/summa/4082.htm.
 To build on this point, the 1983 Code of Canon Law allows deacons to touch the Eucharist, according to canon 910, as ordinary ministers.
 Edward McNamara LC, “Objecting to Communion in the Hand,” EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, October 2, 2018, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/objecting-to-communion-in-the-hand-4911.
 Ratzinger, God Is Near Us, p. 70-71.
 Author’s note: While it is not mentioned in the video, Father Alexander is most likely addressing Communion in the hands due to the ban of receiving in the tongue due to the COVID pandemic, since the video was published in June of 2021 and the writer who asks about Communion in the hands mentions that receiving in the tongue is banned in California, presumably where she is from.
 Author’s note: Admittedly, Father Alexander is not referring to Aquinas’s quote here to try to refute it; his point about the laity having to physically touch the Eucharist somehow, and that our bodies are anointed, is what I want to emphasize here. Also, of course there is a difference between the universal priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of Holy Orders. The point here is to highlight the fact that Holy Orders are necessary for the manifestation of Christ’s presence in the form of bread, which is different from physically touching the Eucharist. As Catholics must share in the universal priesthood of Christ to eat his flesh and drink his blood, the point here is that such Catholics can also touch the Eucharist to achieve this end.
Ratzinger, God Is Near Us, p. 71. C.f. Nelson, “Communion In The Hand?,” https://www.reasonablecatholic.com/communion-in-the-hand/.
 Divine Mercy, “Eucharist on the Hand or on the Tongue? - Ask a Marian,” Video, YouTube, June 17, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKjozUfaGGM&list=TLPQMjYwMjIwMjML15sXVp4EsQ&index=5.
 Pints With Aquinas, “Is It a Sin to Receive the Eucharist in the Hand? W/ Fr. Mark Goring,” Video, YouTube, January 19, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLNZHeZzIkk&t=304s.
 Modern Papist, “Choosing Your Method for Receiving Communion: Hand or Tongue?,” Video, YouTube, May 25, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL8OP9CRR78. C.f. The Joy of Faith, “Communion In The Hand & On The Tongue - Are Particles Lost? (Performed By Statistician),” Video, YouTube, July 2, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DRI7CpZmXk&t=7s.
 Flannery, Vatican II. P. 152. C.f. “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America,” in The Liturgy Documents: Essential Documents for Parish Worship (Liturgy Training Publications, 2012). P. 198.
 For an account of the use of leavened and unleavened bread for the Mass, see https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/leavened-vs-unleavened-bread-4951https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/leavened-vs-unleavened-bread-4951
 Thomas Aquinas OP, “SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The Accidents Which Remain in This Sacrament (Tertia Pars, Q. 77),” New Advent, accessed April 20, 2023, https://www.newadvent.org/summa/4077.htm#article4.
 C.f. Caridi, Cathy. “Can We Be Required to Receive Communion in the Hand, Because of the Virus?” Canon Law Made Easy, March 12, 2020. https://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2020/03/12/communion-in-the-hand-virus/.
 Author’s note: Our salvation depends on our obedience to the Church. As my cohort, Jeremy Hausotter, shared, “It is not worth separating ourselves from the Ark of Salvation over a disciplinary matter.”
Aquinas, Thomas, O.P. “SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The Accidents Which Remain in This Sacrament (Tertia Pars, Q. 77).” New Advent. Accessed April 20, 2023. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/4077.htm#article4.
———. “SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The Minister of This Sacrament (Tertia Pars, Q. 82).” New Advent. Accessed February 24, 2023. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/4082.htm.
Bohr, David. Catholic Moral Tradition, Revised. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006.
Caridi, Cathy. “Can We Be Required to Receive Communion in the Hand, Because of the Virus?,” Canon Law Made Easy, March 12, 2020, https://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2020/03/12/communion-in-the-hand-virus/.
Catholic Answers. “Communion in the Hand.” Video. YouTube, January 29, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceQBv-Adk3U.
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal in The Liturgy Documents: Essential Documents for Parish Worship. 5th ed. Vol 1. United States of America: Liturgy Training Publications, 2012.
DeGrocco, Rev. Msgr. Joseph, “Overview of The General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” in The Liturgy Documents: Essential Documents for Parish Worship. 5th ed. Vol. 1. United States of America: Liturgy Training Publications, 2012.
Divine Mercy. “Eucharist on the Hand or on the Tongue? - Ask a Marian.” Video. YouTube, June 17, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKjozUfaGGM&list=TLPQMjYwMjIwMjML15sXVp4EsQ&index=5.
Dulles, Avery, SJ. Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith. Naples: Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2007.
Eternal World Television Network, and Edward McNamara. “All About Indults.” EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, July 20, 2010. https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/all-about-indults-4536.
Flannery, Austin, OP. Vatican Council II, the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Costello Publishing Company, 1996.
The Joy of Faith. “Communion In The Hand & On The Tongue - Are Particles Lost? (Performed By Statistician).” Video. YouTube, July 2, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DRI7CpZmXk&t=7s.
Klein, Elizabeth. “Early Christian Communion in the Hand.” Church Life Journal. McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, October 13, 2022. https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/early-christian-communion-in-the-hand/.
Laux, John Joseph. Church History: A Complete History of the Catholic Church to the Present Day : For High School, College, and Adult Reading. Tan Books & Pub, 1989.
Madrid, Patrick, and Pete Vere. More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism. Our Sunday Visitor, 2004.
Marshall, Taylor. “Communion on the Tongue and Pope St Leo the Great.” Taylor Marshall, November 10, 2011. https://taylormarshall.com/2011/11/communion-on-tongue-and-pope-st-leo.html.
———. “Did the Church Fathers Practice Communion in the Hand? (Not Exactly).” Taylor Marshall, January 7, 2011. https://taylormarshall.com/2011/01/did-church-fathers-practice-communion.html.
Martín de Agar, Joseph T. A Handbook on Canon Law. 2nd ed. 2007. Reprint, Montreal: Wilson & Lafleur Ltée, 2007.
McNamara, Edward, LC. “Objecting to Communion in the Hand.” EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, October 2, 2018. https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/objecting-to-communion-in-the-hand-4911.
Modern Papist. “Choosing Your Method for Receiving Communion: Hand or Tongue?” Video. YouTube, May 25, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL8OP9CRR78.
Nelson, Matt. “Communion In The Hand?” Reasonable Catholic, January 4, 2016. https://www.reasonablecatholic.com/communion-in-the-hand/.
“Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America,” in The Liturgy Documents: Essential Documents for Parish Worship. 5th ed. Vol 1. Liturgy Training Publications, 2012.
Pints With Aquinas. “Is It a Sin to Receive the Eucharist in the Hand? W/ Fr. Mark Goring.” Video. YouTube, January 19, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLNZHeZzIkk&t=304s.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. Ignatius Press, 2003.
Scrosati, Luisella. “The True Story of Communion in the Hand Revealed.” OnePeterFive, August 11, 2020. https://onepeterfive.com/communion-hand-true-story/.
Society of St. Pius X. Most Asked Questions about the Society of Saint Pius X. Angelus Press, 1997.
Staff, Catholic Answers. “Can I Receive on the Tongue?” Catholic Answers, August 4, 2011. https://www.catholic.com/qa/can-i-receive-on-the-tongue.
valegrete. “Taylor Marshall’s Disingenuousness Regarding Communion in the Hand.” Reddit, December 30, 2018. https://www.reddit.com/r/Catholicism/comments/aax1by/taylor_marshalls_disingenuousness_regarding/.
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