Sunday 21 August 2016

Manner of Receiving Holy Communion

In briefly reflecting upon the Novus Ordo Missae in my last post (and I shall reflect on it in more depth in a later post), and recalling the experience of a gentleman at a Novus Ordo Mass where Holy Communion on the tongue was refused by a Bishop who lifted the man from his knees to a standing position, I am brought to consider the moment of contention in the Mass: that moment wherein a celebrant is faced with a communicant who absolutely refuses to receive on the tongue, or becomes a priest who refuses to distribute on the tongue. It has happened to me only once that reception on the tongue was refused, and the lady in question had the charity and humility to telephone me later that day to say she was wrong and shouldn’t have refused to receive the Lord or put me in a such bad position publicly for simply following the liturgical law of the Church.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves that the Reception of Holy Communion on the tongue remains the Universal Norm (Redemptionis Sacramentum #92); it can be received in the hand only where the Bishops of a country have requested this from Rome and have been given Rome’s permission or ‘Recognatio’  (ibid, 92); thus there is no absolute right to receive in the hand. In the Ordinary (new) Form of Mass people may indeed choose between receiving in the hand or on the tongue, and the celebrant cannot refuse a person rightly disposed because of the method chosen (ibid, 91), but in the Extraordinary Form Rome has declared the bindingness, in celebrations of the Extraordinary Form, of the liturgical law in force in 1962, with Holy Communion distributed only on the tongue (cf. Universae Ecclesiae  2011  #24., 28). 

From Universae Ecclesiae:

24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they are. All those who wish to celebrate according to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite must know the pertinent rubrics and are obliged to follow them correctly…

28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.
                   (emphasis added)

Thus the priest has no choice about this. The people however, do: they can choose to receive on the tongue or not to receive at all. Obviously the former is to be preferred! Why refuse to receive Our Lord because we feel humbled (not humiliated) by the method? Why as priests would we refuse to distribute on the tongue? Are we more committed to affirming the laity in their dignity than affirming the Lord in His? Why would we demand that Our Lord be received in the hand as a common bus ticket or biscuit when before Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess?


  1. I was actually at the Mass when a bishop refused Communion on the tongue & kneeling to a friend of mine. The friend actually approached Rome & the bishop actually apologised to him. Further at the Reception of the body of a priest friend a senior officiating cleric actually offered to bless my hands when I explained that I could not receive in the hand as my hands were not anointed. He compromised by telling me to come up last & gave me Communion on the tongue. This of course made it blatantly obvious that I had "made difficulties". At the Requiem Mass on the following day the bishop gave me Communion on the tongue without any difficulty.
    One hopes that all clergy will (eventually) get the message that Communion on the tongue is normal at OF Masses & 'de rigeur' at EF Masses.

    1. Thank you David.
      I think it is unusual for a bishop to refuse to give Holy Communion on the tongue to someone who is kneeling; I doubt they would demonstrate such judgmentalism at the point of Holy Communion. I suspect such a refusal would be more commonly found among priests (who would probably have the support of their bishop, but we cannot know this).
      God Bless.

    2. Believe me Father, it was a past bishop of this diocese.

    3. David,
      Whichever Bishop or Diocese (whichever parish or priest) acts so, it demonstrates a hostility to their Catholic roots that cannot be good for the Church: without roots we wither and die... vocations will plummet, parishes will close, convents will close, Mass attendance will fall...

  2. Just to add, Father Gary, that lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament shows when genuflection is omitted - even by some priests & religious. A bow should only be acceptable if a genuflection is not physically possible, even a half genuflection is better than the nod sometimes given

  3. Thank you for posting this, Father. It's a very valuable message. I pray that more people may read this and consider receiving our Lord with the deference due to Him.

  4. Communion in the hand was illicitly introduced into the Church by Cardinal Suenens of Belgium. The abuse soon spread to neighbouring countries. It soon became so widespread that Pope Paul VI wrote the Instruction Memoriale Domini in an attempt to stem the abuse.

    While firm in its reiteration and confirmation of the Church's discipline that Holy Communion should be received on the tongue while kneeling, Memoriale Domini was nevertheless fatally flawed in that it legitimised "the contrary usage" with Indult in places where it had already been illegally established. It also further opened the way for the spread of the abuse by inviting applications from national Episcopal Conferences that desired to establish the practice in places where it was not then present. Before long, every Episcopal Conference in the world was applying for an Indult and the rest is history. The Pope was quite simply universally overruled by the Episcopal Conferences which made use of his tolerance to annul his Instruction. Very soon, and against the law of the Church and the express teaching of the Supreme Pontiff, the faithful everywhere were being denied reception of Holy Communion in the Traditional manner as though it, not the Indult, were the abuse.

    And the really tragic thing about it all is that the practice they introduced was not the strict and reverent practice of the early Christians, but the irreverent invention of the Reformation Protestants.

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider, a Patristics expert, deals with the subject at length in his book 'Dominus Est, It is the Lord'. I very much advise all to get a copy of this brilliant work.

    To think that it is the teaching of the Church that even the tiniest particle of the consecrated Host is the full body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord. How many billions of particles have dropped to the ground and been trodden underfoot since this abuse was introduced and legalised. It truly beggars belief that prelates and priests have universally adopted so irreverent and dangerous a method of administering the Blessed Sacrament. And I have even touched on the unprecedented sacrileges this practices has facilitated since its inception.

    What is really telling for me is that in the Gospels the only people recorded as laying hands on Our Lord where those who mistreated and crucified Him. I am shocked that this appalling practice was ever permitted even by Indult. We cannot protest enough against it for Our Saviour' sake.


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