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Human beings are strange creatures. I don't mean we are the only creatures with both an immortal soul and a body (although, of course, we are). But we ascribe the greatest importance to things that are, when considered objectively, trivial at best. What dress the inhabitants of the exotic land of Kardashia are wearing while standing on a red carpet is, frankly, not that important. Whether your team has sported harder than the other team, thus allowing it the privilege of sporting against another hard-sporting team, is irrelevant. Even things of supreme importance to our day-to-day life, such as health, food, shelter, even life itself. are distractions when compared to the singular important thing in the world.
And that thing, of course, is salvation.
(Look, I know it's obvious — but I also know you didn't come here for groundbreaking theology. Stick with me; I'm going somewhere.)
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is being saved. That is the central truth any kind of martyrdom orbits; no matter what you sacrifice (time, money, pleasure, even your life), if you win that imperishable crown, it was worth it.
But there is another truth that is perhaps even less palatable today than the notion of sacrifice—and that is the simple fact that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, that without Her sacraments we have no real, authentic encounter with Jesus Christ, Who is salvation. Without the Church, we have no sacraments. Without sacraments, we have no Christ. Without Christ, we have no salvation.
So, the Church and Her sacraments are supremely important. Few Catholics would actually disagree with that. They might not live it, but they would certainly give at least lip-service to it. But it is the next step in this sequence of "what-is-important" that many people reject.
I'm talking about Communion in the hand vs. Communion on the tongue. People — rightly! — say, "The Eucharist is still the Eucharist, no matter how you receive It! It is still Jesus, still His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!" And then they go on to — wrongly! — say, "So it doesn't matter how you receive It."
They're (you're?) missing the point.
As I remarked at the beginning, we are physical creatures with physical brains. We are not bloodless beings of mere thought, pure intellect and remorseless logic. What we do, and what we see others do, affects our belief, affects our attitude towards the Eucharist. If we receive the Eucharist in a manner (and there are many such manners) no different from how we might receive ordinary food, then the message we send to ourselves and others is that the Eucharist is ordinary food. We eat hot dogs while standing, we munch pretzels while walking back to our seats, we're handed tacos by a regular guy in shorts and a tee.
And, of course, we eat pretty much everything with our hands.
And that, ultimately, is why Communion in the hand is such a big deal and is not unimportant. It is a big deal because the chain of Church-sacrament-Jesus-salvation can easily be broken not by some cunning theological argument and exegesis of the original Greek in the Gospel of John together with a brain-bending discussion of substance theory, but by the simple action of treating the Eucharist as if it were ordinary food. We can say we believe — and maybe we even do believe — but if we don't act like it, sooner or later (most likely sooner) we are going to end up believing like we act.
That, of course, is why we've spent all the time and effort (literally hours of shooting and editing for just one single shot of the investigatrix sitting on a moonwashed bench!) creating "Case Files: Manhandling God." It is all about Communion in the hand — how it got started, why it's illegal, and what it means for the Church. This week's episode looks back at the Church's history, showing how promotion of Communion in the hand has always accompanied an explicit denial of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. When you see just who promoted this abuse, you will really begin to wonder about the motivations of anyone today who follows in their footsteps.
I make no judgments. I just make TV.