NOTTINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bishop newly elevated to a pontifical council is violating Church law by threatening to ban priests from celebrating Mass if they are caught administering Holy Communion on the tongue.
Bishop Patrick Joseph McKinney of Nottingham, who on Wednesday was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, warned priests in his diocese they would be punished with immediate suspension if they disobeyed Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) guidelines, sources said.
The guidelines require Communion to "be given silently in the hand only, with the communicant standing, and avoiding any physical contact."
"When they approach the priest, they should do so with arms at 'full stretch' so that there is a good distance between the priest and the communicant. Their hands, palms upwards, one of top of the other, should be extended as flatly as possible," the guidelines state.
Sources in the diocese told Church Militant that orthodox priests who wish to administer Communion to Catholics asking for the sacrament to be placed on the tongue are terrified of being reported to the bishop and suspended.
Priests contacted were too afraid to speak to Church Militant on record. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said the Wuhan virus guidelines were creating a "Stalinist state of intimidation and terror."
A Rome-based canon lawyer told Church Militant that the law of the Church was clearly stated by Pope Paul VI in Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 160: "The consecrated Host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant."
The canonist also quoted from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instr. Redemptionis Sacramentum, AAS :
92. [O]mnis fidelis ius semper habeat pro libitu suo sacram Communionem ore accipendi ... ." or in English, "[E]ach of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice ... ."
Church Militant contacted Bp. McKinney inquiring if he had threatened to prevent priests from saying public Masses if they administer Communion on the tongue and if priests in his diocese would be able to administer Communion on the tongue without fear of reprisals. Bishop McKinney did not respond.
Meanwhile, churches in Leicester in the Nottingham diocese have been forced to remain shut because of a spike in Wuhan virus cases.
Poles in a number of English dioceses "are bemused at how easily the Church here has given into all of these tyrannical demands from the government, Polish Catholic researcher Adam Nowak told Church Militant.
"Polish Catholics are well aware that in their own country, Mass with worshippers restarted towards the end of April, while here, it's taken until July for services with limited congregations to resume," he said.
"The Polish church I attend in London hasn't been going along with some of these draconian rules," Dr. Nowak noted.
"While they are taking sensible precautions, there is no limit on how many can attend Mass, no patronizing signs on the floor or on pews instructing worshippers where they can stand or sit, and Communion is being given on the tongue."
Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern, clarified that almost all the regulations imposed on laity in many churches constitute "guidance," which is "strongly advised by the government, but not legally required."
"The legal demands within the guidance appear to have been heavily toned down and this appears to be an admission from the government, that it was wrong to legally prohibit worship in the first place," he notes.
The guidance distinguishes between activities that "must" take place — because it is required in law, and activities that "should" take place — these are not legal requirements, but advice.
"The only legal requirements in the guidance are to securely cover any consumables [e.g., Holy Communion] and to wash hands or use gloves when they are opened," Dieppe emphasizes.
In contrast, Catholics in England and Wales told Church Militant that the bishops' compulsory regulations "were reaching a high point of health and safety idolatry that was beyond common sense and not scientifically evidenced."
Clergy drew Church Militant's attention to a number of "stupid rules that make a mockery and parody of the sacraments."
Some traditionalist parishes are circumventing the rules by administering Holy Communion in a side chapel after Holy Mass — since the rules only cover the administration of Communion during Mass.
For confessions, priests are asked to "limit the number of confessions they hear each day to reduce their exposure risk" and to avoid "the use of traditional confessionals."
A number of churches are going the extra mile by installing plexiglass screens, even though the guidelines only recommend "a plastic or glass screen between the priest and the penitent, which would allow for a face-to-face encounter."
For weddings, the guidelines state that the priest "should not touch the couple" when "they take each other's hands."
The rings are to be "placed on a plate by the Best Man (or other person) before the marriage ceremony begins" and "should not be touched by this person."
The priest "should hold the plate and bless the ring (or rings) without touching them and then offer them, one at a time to the couple at arm's length, withdrawing immediately to a social distance, whilst the words are said by the ring-giver."
Further, "the couple should not kneel for the Nuptial Blessing; the minister should simply extend his hands over them and bless them in the usual way."
The priest "should not touch the child whilst praying the Prayer of Exorcism [for baptism] but should extend his hand towards the child," according to the guidelines.
For anointing during baptism, the priest "should pre-prepare a cotton bud infused with the Oil of Catechumens" using this "at arm's length to ensure a clear distance between the minister and the child."
"Only the parents and godparents should sign the child with the Sign of the Cross" and the priest and "the child to be baptized should be held by the parents only."
"The guidance has been compiled with detailed public health advice and scrutiny and complies with the principles established by government," CBCEW stated.