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  • Heather Nolan | The Daily Knight

COVID-19 and the Denial of Our Rights as Catholics

Empty Catholic Church as Novus Ordo suspended Holy Mass and Sacraments during COVID-19 (South Bend Tribune)

On March 19, 2020, the unthinkable happened: All public Mass was banned throughout the United States, and this was well before many of the shelter-in-place laws were instituted throughout many US states. Millions of Catholics were left devastated and frightened, and wondered what had happened to the ones who were supposed to be their shepherds, many of whom folded like a deck of cards instead of fighting for the rights for their flock to be able to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We were going through the ravages of what was called a deadly pandemic, and we were being locked out of our own churches. Even parking lot Masses and outdoor Mass was banned, and there was briefly talk of even banning online streaming Mass by some bishops. However, after nearly two months of not being able to attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist, Catholics all over the county are feeling some hope again as Churches reopened on Pentecost Sunday. Many of us went through almost all of Lent and the Easter Season without being able to receive the Eucharist. Millions of people were deprived of not only the Eucharist, but all of the sacraments. Even with some crazy restrictions and limiting Mass attendance, we now have access to the sacraments again, which is a source of great joy for millions of Catholics.

However, we were soon to find out that if we preferred to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in a reverent way, (meaning on the tongue), we ran into some serious opposition from certain bishops and priests. Several prominent bishops spoke out and stated Holy Communion would only be given in the hand, and one even went so far as to say that he would have anyone who “made a scene” removed from Mass and not allowed to go back. In a comment on Facebook, this Bishop stated that he would consider someone refusing to move until they were given communion on the tongue a “scene.” A local metro Atlanta parish priest even put out a video advising that he would only give Communion in the hand, and for those who “must” be able to receive on the tongue were to “see him after Mass.”

This goes against both common sense hygiene practices as well as the ancient teachings of the Church. The practice was condemned during the council of Trent as shown by the following quote: "The fact that only the priest gives Holy Communion with his consecrated hands is an Apostolic Tradition." Thomas Aquinas, a formidable and oft quoted Doctor of the Church says the following in his Summa Theologiae, III, 82, 3: 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.

Even after Vatican II, reception on the tongue was supposed to be the norm and not the exception. Pope Paul VI wrote in the document Memoriale Domini: This method [on the tongue] must be retained. Pope John Paul II wrote in Dominicae Cenae: To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained. He also wrote in Inaestimabile Donum on April 17, 1980: "It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another." If you look at the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, towards the end of paragraph 160, it reads: 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.

Some will argue that Communion in the hand is a must while COVID is still a danger. First, let me say that, in my years of receiving Communion on the tongue, I have never had a priest touch my tongue. Never. Archbishop Schneider gives his opinion on this as well, saying, “Communion in the mouth is certainly less dangerous and more hygienic compared to Communion in the hand. In fact, the palm and the fingers of the hand, without intense washing, undeniably contain an accumulation of viruses. Truthfully, if you think about it, you do touch a lot of things with your hands, even without realizing it. The door to your church, possibly even the door to the sanctuary, the pew in front of you…the list goes on and on. And even with hand sanitizer, unless it is used properly, it is not as effective as one might think at destroying bacteria and viruses.

I fear that moving forward, bishops and priests will use this as the new norm for receiving Holy Communion at Mass. Those who wish to receive reverently will be ostracized and told that they are endangering others. We may very well see the day when those of us who refuse to receive Our Lord in the hand will no longer be able to receive the Eucharist at all. It seems that COVID was the excuse they needed to deny Communion on the tongue once and for all. I hope that I am wrong.

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