LIMA, Peru (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic bishop is refusing to give parishioners Holy Communion on the tongue.
When Abp. Carlos Castillo celebrated Mass on Sunday at his cathedral in Lima, Peru, a video broadcast live by his diocese captured him audibly denying requests from a couple to receive the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue — a right afforded by the Church's universal Code of Canon Law.
The event took place as follows: A young man dressed in a red puffer jacket took his place in a queue of communicants. When it was his turn to receive the Eucharist, the young man knelt reverently before the archbishop, opening his mouth to receive the Host. However, Abp. Castillo, who was wearing a mask, withheld the Sacrament and audibly told the young man, "Only in the hand."
The young man was followed by a young woman, dressed in black, who approached the prelate. What the archbishop and the young woman said to each other was not audible. However, she shook her head, turned away from the archbishop and knelt next to the young man, who was also kneeling at the steps leading to the altar. Reportedly, she requested Communion on the tongue. Other persons followed, accepting the Eucharist in their outstretched hands.
The communicants had a right to receive on the tongue. According to canon 843, "Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them." Canon 213 says, "The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors ... the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the Word of God and the sacraments."
Canon 915 makes clear that it's a punishment to be denied the Holy Eucharist: "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion." Whether Castillo imposed this punishment on the two young people because they requested Communion on the tongue remains unclear.
A discussion is currently underway within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding an appropriate response to Catholic politicians (such as President Joseph Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) who support manifestly sinful practices such as abortion yet continue to present themselves for the Eucharist.
The government of Peru ruled in October 2020 that churches may distribute Communion in the hand only. Only recently has daily Mass has been made available by the Church, which has been assiduously following government guidelines.
Castillo was named to the archbishopric by Pope Francis in 2019. He was preceded by Cdl. Juan Cipriani, who had banned reception of Communion in the hand. Cipriani is notable for calling for the death penalty for the leader of the murderous Marxist Shining Path terrorist organization. Observers have noted that Castillo's appointment has been a counterpoint to Cipriani's time in office.
Castillo has long been associated with liberation theology, a widespread movement in Latin America that seeks to splice together Marxism and Catholic social teaching. At the investiture by the papal nuncio, Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P., spoke as an official representative of the Church in Lima to call for Castillo's ordination as archbishop.
Father Gutiérrez is considered a luminary of liberation theology. He is the author of many books, including, A Theology of Liberation and On the Side of the Poor: The Theology of Liberation. His writings were criticized by Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.
According to Cdl. Pedro Barreto, Castillo "brings the Peruvian conference of bishops much closer to the reality of the Church of which we all dream, a Church that is poor and for the poor, a Church that reaches out, a Church that is closer to those who are suffering now."
Luciano Revoredo of Peru commented about the controversy over Castillo's refusal to give Communion to the couple on Sunday. On YouTube, Revoredo stated:
Because of diverse reasons, the Church has conceded to Communion in the hand, but it has always been seen as an exception. These pressures came long ago from progressive bishops of Germany and the Netherlands. The progressive, liberationist Church has always sought "new liturgical expressions" that are closer to heresy than the eternal Faith.
Referring to Castillo as "indolent," Reveredo opined the COVID-19 pandemic presented an "ideal pretext" for closing churches and banning Communion on the tongue.
He commented, "Clearly, the faithful may request Communion in the traditional manner while kneeling and on the tongue,” adding that there is "nothing that may oblige them to commit what in conscience they believe is a sacrilege." Revoredo went on: "The archbishop's indifference and disdain are outrageous. No one has the right to deny Communion to a member of the faithful."
Archbishop Castillo's snub of the young couple during Sunday Mass appeared to violate his bishops' own directives. In March 2020, the Peruvian bishops' conference called on Catholics to abide by the directives of Peru's Ministry of Health. However, in so doing, they quoted Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), which provides:
Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, 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 ... . However, special care should be taken to ensure that the Host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.
In the May 2021 edition of the Journal of Religion and Health, author Sergei Budaev advocated several measures for Catholics to limit COVID-19 contagion. Noting the controversies arising over the Eucharist, he showed that reception of the Host on the tongue while kneeling may provide better social distancing than the practice of distribution in the hand while standing. Budaev wrote:
Traditional reverent practice of the Catholic Church incorporates additional elements making it even less risky in the current COVID-19 pandemic. The kneeling position of the faithful while receiving the Host would provide spatial distancing about 50 cm [20 in.]: The communicant's face is located at the level of the chest of the eucharistic minister. Provided the communicant stays silent, uses nasal breathing and the duration of the interaction is short (very few seconds), this would not incur a high risk to the eucharistic minister (usually the priest whose safety is prioritized). Furthermore, reduced verbal response of the communicant directs the droplets and aerosol towards the chest of the minister, which is by far a lower risk than in the face.