Bishops Can’t Ban Communion on the Tongue

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 6, 2020   

Only pope has power to modify universal norm

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Cardinal Francis Arinze: "No priest has the right to demand that, and even no bishop has the right to demand you must receive on the hand."

Reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, a universal Catholic norm from time immemorial, is being set aside by many bishops owing to the possible spread of coronavirus.

On Monday, the vicar general of Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich told priests, "Every consideration should be given by each individual to receive Holy Communion reverently in open hands for the time being."

In Australia, the archdiocese of Perth said Wednesday, "Priests are to encourage communicants to receive the Sacred Host in the hand, not on the tongue."

Cardinal Arinze"No, no — the faithful remain free to receive on the tongue."

These directives are worded with the understanding that bishops cannot ban laity outright from receiving on the tongue.

A well-respected canonist in Rome confirmed to Church Militant, "Only the pope has the power to modify the universal norm."

In 2009, similar restrictions based on fear of spreading swine flu moved a Catholic in Britain to ask the Vatican's Congregation of Divine Worship if a ban of  Communion on the tongue was binding.

The Vatican responded, "Each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue."

While bishops seem concerned about the threat of bodily illness, they seem little-concerned about protecting Christ's Sacred Body from potential sacrilege owing to the loss of particles of consecrated Hosts.

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