BIRMINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics are denouncing "systemic modernism" in the Church's hierarchy after the archbishop of Birmingham banned Communion on the tongue at St. John Henry Newman's world-famous oratory following complaints from two women.
On Sunday, priests at Birmingham Oratory told parishioners they were devastated and scandalized that Abp. Bernard Longley had ordered them to stop administering Communion on the tongue at the Tridentine Latin Mass.
"The Fathers are very distressed to have to tell you that His Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham has forbidden us to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue, for the present," a statement on the Oratory website, published Tuesday, announced.
"The Fathers will comply with this instruction, at the present time. The Fathers are praying and hoping that this instruction will be rescinded as soon as possible," the statement added.
Sources close to the Oratory told Church Militant that a female youth worker wearing a face mask put her hands forward to receive Holy Communion at the 8:30 a.m. Novus Ordo English Mass. The Oratory permits communion in hand at Masses celebrated in the Ordinary Form.
However, to prevent abuse of the Eucharistic species and to make sure the sacrament was consumed at the Communion rail, the priest told the communicant to remove her mask before he could administer Communion in hand.
The youth worker may have thought she was being refused Communion in hand and an argument ensued, the sources revealed.
A second complaint was filed by a woman visiting the Oratory from London who may not have known that Communion is administered exclusively on the tongue during the Tridentine Latin Mass.
The visitor was refused Communion in hand at the 10:30 a.m. Solemn High Mass celebrated according to the Extraordinary Form.
"It is extremely upsetting to hear that Abp. Longley, who has celebrated the Traditional Mass in the Birmingham Oratory, has been so badly advised as to attempt to prohibit the distribution of Communion on the tongue there," Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, told Church Militant.
"Anyone can read the official documents, which make it clear that he does not have the authority to do this; nor has it been demanded by the U.K. government," Shaw emphasized.
"This demand by the archbishop puts the fathers of the Oratory in a painful position, and we should remember them and their parishioners in our prayers," he urged.
Parishioners who spoke to Church Militant slammed the "lack of supernatural faith in some of the bishops" and the "systemic modernism" infiltrating the Church as the root causes for the archbishop's diktat.
"The bishop of Portsmouth has no problem authorizing Communion on the tongue provided that certain conditions are followed," Thompson, presenter of the Holy Smoke religion podcast observed.
"Archbishop Longley has revealed himself to be what we always feared he was — a company man. There is indeed distress at the Birmingham Oratory, and His Grace is to blame. He is a nice man, and I suspect this situation will cause him some sleepless nights. Well, he's earned them," Thompson remarked.
A source also disclosed that the order most likely originated from the archdiocese's vicar general Msgr. Timothy Menezes, who is in line for a bishop's miter.
The Oratory is encouraging faithful Catholics to write to the archbishop and vicar general in "the strongest possible terms," a source said.
As a last resort, the Oratory may decide to withhold its generous contributions to Birmingham archdiocese if the diktat is not withdrawn.
Parishioners are also planning to organize a "pray and protest" march to the archbishop's house, hoping they can speak to him in person.
Members of the congregation told Church Militant they will not receive Communion in hand under any circumstances and will refrain from the holy sacrament until they are "allowed to receive it reverently and in a manner canonically permitted by the Church."
A young worshipper at the Oratory said people were upset because the decision was not taken in consultation with the congregation. "All this Vatican II talk about the laity being the royal priesthood and dialogue is flushed down the drain when it comes to dealing with such issues," he lamented.
Sources said that the Oratory had gone the extra mile to comply with the Wuhan virus regulations and was one of the first churches in the archdiocese to open after assembly restrictions were lifted by the government.
A university student worshipping at the Oratory told Church Militant that numbers had exponentially grown as more and more Catholics were seeking out pastoral care and reverential liturgy as a result of the pandemic.
Church Militant contacted Abp. Longley's office for comment. A diocesan spokesperson said:
In light of public health guidance, since public Masses were permitted again, the CBCEW guidelines have provided a safe and reverent, temporary means of celebrating public Mass, including guidance on the distribution of Holy Communion. The guidelines are shared with all clergy and are to be followed by all clergy in the archdiocese of Birmingham at the celebration of public Mass, without exception, until further notice. The guidelines are regularly reviewed and amended in light of public health guidance. We all hope and pray the day will come soon when such temporary restrictions are no longer necessary for the common good."
Official guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) require Communion to be "given silently in the hand only, with the communicant standing and avoiding any physical contact."
"When they approach the priest, they should do so with arms at 'full stretch' so that there is a good distance between the priest and the communicant. Their hands, palms upwards, one of top of the other, should be extended as flatly as possible," the regulations insist.
The rules require the communicant to "unloop their face covering and consume the Sacred Host and then replace the face-covering before moving back to their pews in an orderly manner."
However, a CBCEW spokesperson told The Tablet that "bishops have the right to act as they fit in their own diocese and to accept the consequences of their actions."
In July, Anglican convert Fr. John Saward refused Communion to his congregation at the church of Ss. Gregory and Augustine in Oxford after the Birmingham archdiocese insisted that Communion had to be administered exclusively in hand.
"The current regulations surround the distribution of Communion with restrictions that will scandalize some and make others feel discomfort, the opposite of peace and rest," Saward preached.
A cleric told Church Militant that someone had informed on Fr. Saward after watching him online celebrating Mass.
Church Militant's Oratory source also confirmed that the archdiocese seemed to be sending spies to check if guidelines were being adhered to.
"But these people don't understand traditional Catholicism, and so they distort what we are doing when they report back," he complained.
"There is a pattern emerging here. Informers are complaining to the archbishop of Birmingham over Communion on the tongue, and the archbishop is punishing traditional priests and their parishes. It's like during the Tudor and Elizabethan persecution of the Church when informers attended Masses in order to report to the authorities," the cleric, speaking on condition of anonymity, observed.
"But this time the authorities punishing priests and the faithful are not the secular State but an archbishop acting as an agent of the State," he lamented.