Parishioners Forbidden Communion on Tongue for Fear of Flu

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  March 7, 2016   

Canon law guarantees right of the faithful to receive on the tongue

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HOMER GLEN, Ill. (Church - Parishioners are concerned they'll be forbidden to receive Holy Communion on the tongue owing to fear of germs at Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish in the diocese of Joliet, Illinois.

Page 5 of Sunday's parish bulletin reads: "With the cold and flu season rapidly approaching ... [w]e ask that everyone receive the Eucharist in their hands rather than on their tongues." reached out to the parish for comment, but was told the pastor, Rev. John M. Ohner, O.S.A., was unavailable as it was his day off.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists peak flu activity as October through March. Yet the bulletin, published one week into March, the end of the flu season as per the CDC, says the flu season is "rapidly approaching."

Thus it appears to the faithful that the parish is using the flu as a pretext to ask communicants to receive the Sacred Host in their hands. The directives, per the bulletin, are in effect "until the Easter Vigil next Spring," three weeks away.

As recent as 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) published a binding instruction, "Redemptionis Sacramentum," regulating the rubrics at Mass. Paragraph 92 instructs that "each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice."

In an interview, Cdl. Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the CDW, speaking on this very topic, relates, "Some people, they insist you must receive on the hand. No priest has the right to demand that, and even no bishop has the right to demand you must receive on the hand. No. No. The faithful remain free to receive on the tongue."

In 2009, a lay Catholic in Britain, concerned about the parish's restricting of reception of Communion on the tongue because of the Swine Flu scare, wrote to the CDW, which responded,

This Dicastery observes that its Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (25 March 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.

To learn more about problems with Communion in the hand, watch this episode of "Sleight of Hand: Reception Deception—Where Faith Goes Actions Soon Follow."


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