Episcopal Tweet Storm Turns Nasty

News: US News
by Joseph Enders  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 11, 2020   

Bishop threatens to toss Catholics for reception on the tongue

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A U.S. bishop is publicly saying he will throw any Catholics out of church who insist on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

Knoxville bishop Richard Stika posted the comment on his Twitter page and a firestorm against him ensued once Church Militant reposted his comment and asked people what they thought. He tweeted, "Yes. They will not give Communion on the tongue as per my instruction. And if the person makes a scene, they will be asked to leave and not permitted to return unlike this passes. Reception of the Eucharist is NOT to be used as a statement of personal piety."

The onslaught of hundreds of comments against his original post enraged Stika, driving him to start lashing out at Church Militant and its supporters. He said, "Yep. I did not know a person has a right to receive the Eucharist. I thought you had to be in a state of grace. Apparently the folks who follow CM blindly are not. Know them by their comments."

The bishop claims he is trying to limit the spread of the Wuhan virus with his ban. But a memorandum by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent on April 30, says otherwise:

We have carefully considered the question of Communion on the tongue vs. Communion in the hand. Given the Church's existing guidance on this point (see Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 92), and recognizing the differing judgments and sensibilities that are involved, we believe that, with the precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.

Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 92, is a universally binding instruction issued in 2004 by the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW). It explicitly lays out that reception of Holy Communion on the tongue cannot be restricted.

The bishop claims that he is trying to limit the spread of the Wuhan virus with his ban. But a USCCB memorandum sent on April 30, says otherwise.

It spells out: "Although each of the faithful always (emphasis added) 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 recognition of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred Host is to be administered to him or her."

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However, Bp. Stika, along with other U.S. bishops, completely dismisses the universal law of the Church, arguing the pandemic excuses his actions. In 2009, a lay Catholic in Britain facing restriction on receiving Communion on the tongue due to the swine flu epidemic wrote to the CDW prompting an authoritative response reading:

This dicastery observes that its Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (March 25, 2004) clearly stipulates that 'each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion of the tongue' (n. 92) nor is it licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ's faithful who are not impeded by law from receiving the Holy Eucharist.'"

Abp. Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon

In a March 2 statement, Abp. Alexander Sample of the Archdiocese of Portland weighed in on the issue as well, affirming that receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand posed equal health risks after he, "consulted with two physicians regarding this issue, one of which is a specialist in immunology for the state of Oregon. They agreed that done properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand pose a more or less equal risk."

The statement also said, "The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger, however, the chance of touching someone's hand is equally probable and one's hands have a greater exposure to germs," reaffirming the holding of Redemptionis Sacramentum in 2009.

Cdl. Robert Sarah, the Vatican prefect of the CDW and the Discipline of the Sacraments also cited the 2004 guidelines in an interview with Italian news site La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana in a May 2 phone interview saying, "There is already a rule in the Church and this must be respected: The faithful are free to receive Communion in the mouth or hand."

He followed the statement with a stern condemnation of profanations against the Eucharist.

The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger, however, the chance of touching someone's hand is equally probable and one's hands have a greater exposure to germs.

Despite Bp. Stika's attacks against the apostolate, the Church's teachings are quite clear on whether a bishop can bar parishioners from receiving Communion on the tongue. They cannot.

"The claim that the apostolate is not Catholic for pointing this out is patently absurd," said Michael Voris, Founder of St. Michael's Media/Church Militant. "It is no more than a reaffirmation of well-founded universal law of the Church that has been on the books for over 15 years, and practiced for time immemorial. No bishop, even one who does not like us, has the authority to dispense with universal law. His authority is restricted to his diocese and his diocese alone. He does not have authority over universal law."

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