DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics are petitioning bishops to give them the Real Presence without forcing them to receive Holy Communion in the hand or to wear masks at Mass.
Frustrated with restrictions at Mass coming from bishops following the Wuhan virus, Catholics in the state of Washington and in Alberta, Canada are gathering support from like-minded faithful via petitions to move bishops to act. The launcher of the Alberta petition, David Rantucci, shared with Church Militant a letter he wrote to Edmonton's Abp. Richard Smith.
"Please your excellency, please bring back Communion on the tongue," Rantucci pleaded, "the longer this right is restricted, the more I fear that it may not come back at all."
And Rantucci is not alone. As Church Militant has reported, many Catholics share the same fears he expresses.
Rantucci related that Communion in the hand is the norm in his parish.
"People who receive on the tongue are considered weirdos so there's probably not going to be any rush to get back the practice of receiving on the tongue," he observed.
As a father of five children ranging in ages from 2–13, Rantucci is concerned how these and similar restrictions are affecting the faith formation of his children and their understanding of the Real Presence. Those concerns are the primary motivation behind Rantucci's petition.
"It was bad enough when Masses were closed entirely and families were being asked to kneel in front of computers or televisions as Mass was livestreamed," he said. "But even now, as Masses are open with restrictions, attending Mass is confusing — and ominous."
He provided a detailed description of what Mass is now like for his children:
We walk in the door and are met by a person in a mask who asks us questions about our travel, our health, our contacts with other people. Pews are blocked off; all the people in the pews are wearing masks; no one shakes hands; greetings are few. If we go to receive Communion, we are masked, the Host is placed in our hands, we are to walk to a designated area where we remove our masks and put the host in our mouths, then replace our masks. Now imagine this process for a 10-year-old, walking with the the body of our Lord in your hands and trying not to drop it as you remove your mask and put it in your mouth.
Given the circumstances and the ages of their children, the Rantuccis are currently opting for spiritual Communion.
In the state of Washington, Catholics are equally troubled. Weeping as she explained the state's requirement of mandatory masks, Kathleen Kennedy told Church Militant she too is "full of confusion."
Her sister and fellow Catholic, Sharon Baumgartner, believes Washington's bishops have ceded too much power to the governor. She wrote to Church Militant, "We are being told ... Communion only in the hand and parishioners must wear masks."
Baumgartner's concerns are not entirely spiritual. She went on to explain her discomfort.
"So far, in our county, we have not been able to reopen our Catholic Churches for public Masses, but we are being told that, when they do open, we'll be forced to register and be contact-traced, with our data being stored for 30 days," Baumgartner described.
Like the Rantucci family, the Kennedys, along with their sister, thought the times called for a petition with which to relate their concerns to Washington bishops.
"We the undersigned humbly and respectfully request that you allow pastors to make it possible for the faithful who desire it to receive the sacraments without face masks or any other government restrictions," stated the petition.
According to Church Militant's in-house theologian Bradley Eli, the debate over Communion on the tongue versus in the hand was raging amongst Protestant reformers who used it as a tool to diminish Catholic belief in Christ's Real Presence.
Given the decline in this belief so prevalent among Catholics today, the debate is not trivial. Even before the Wuhan virus outbreak, some priests were forbidding Communion on the tongue. Bolstered with the threat of a pandemic, the trend toward Communion in the hand is growing. Church and government officials are falsely claiming Communion in the hand poses less of a health risk. Doctors have stated otherwise.
Eli explains the origins of the myriad attacks on the Real Presence: "The Devil understands, perhaps better than any bishop, the power of Christ's Body and Blood," asserted Eli. "Anything he can do to decrease reverence for Christ's body is a victory."
He added, "The bishops, for their part, are overly concerned about the legal and, thus, the financial impact of someone contracting the virus while receiving on the tongue instead of making the spiritual health of their flocks the priority."
Decreased reverence for the Real Presence, for instance, hit a new low recently in Shaker Heights, Ohio when a parish proposed drive-thru distribution of the host in baggies. In fairly short order, the Cleveland chancery kiboshed the idea.