ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Faithful Catholics are accusing Italian bishops of promoting "fake news" for saying the government is ordering Holy Communion be distributed in the hand only.
The information regarded as "fake news" was published in the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) newspaper.
Catholics are also accusing bishops of capitulating to the state by allowing the leftwing Italian government to lay down liturgical rubrics for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments.
Masses will commence from May 18, but "everything will be regulated by the protocol for which the CEI obtained authorization from the Scientific Technical Committee which supports the decisions of Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte," eminent Catholic epidemiologist Dr. Paolo Gulisano told Church Militant.
"In reality, there is a historical precedent for a state authority to set the norms for liturgical celebrations — it is the Anglican schism of King Henry VIII. But in that case, the reasons were not for health and safety as we are facing today," the specialist in hygiene and preventive medicine said.
The four-page protocol, signed on May 7 between CEI president Cdl. Gualtiero Bassetti, Premier Giuseppe Conte and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese at the Palazzo Chigi, compels celebrants and congregations to adhere to stringent rules for the celebration of Holy Mass.
Holy Communion, according to the protocol, can only be distributed after "the celebrant and any extraordinary minister have taken care of the hygiene of their hands and put on disposable gloves" and worn masks "taking utmost care to cover their nose and mouth and maintaining an adequate safety distance — taking care to offer the Host without coming into contact with the hands of the faithful."
Nowhere does the protocol prohibit the administration of Communion directly on the tongue of the communicant.
Critics have slammed the CEI newspaper Avvenire for announcing in a misleading headline: "Masks, distance, no choirs. Communion only on the hands."
"For Communion, the priest, after having sanitized his hands and put on the gloves and with the mask on his face, will take care, says the protocol, 'to offer the host without coming into contact with the hands of the faithful,'" professor Gulisano explained to Church Militant.
"Why? Because the hands of the faithful may be contaminated," he stressed. "So this regulation can be interpreted in two ways: The celebrant drops the Host on the hands or on the tongue of the faithful, taking care not to come into contact with it."
"Therefore, Communion could be done in both ways, but many bishops already want to force their interpretation — Communion exclusively in the hand. This is a very dubious choice both from the liturgical and health point of view, given that the hands are the part of the body that can come into greater contact with microbes," the former professor of History of Medicine at the Bicocca State University of Milan warned.
In a column for La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, journalist and political scientist Riccardo Cascioli argued that the bishops were seeking to "take advantage of the coronavirus to definitively impose Communion in the hand."
"Even if it is not written in the protocol, we [bishops] order it anyway, so the practice becomes a norm," Cascioli writes. "We can be sure that in the coming weeks we will see further movements in this direction, despite the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cdl. Robert Sarah, who has reiterated in recent days that 'the rule of Church must be respected: The faithful are free to receive Communion in the mouth or in the hand.'"
Citing other examples of dissimulation by the bishops in Avvenire, Cascioli notes that "these fake news generators [the bishops] are the same ones who then come to teach us moral and professional lessons in ethics."
Professor Gulisano also told Church Militant the protocol will create "the spectacle of the faithful wearing masks at Mass, which will be quite grotesque."
"If the first concern of the government as well as of the bishops is safety, that is, the fact that a believer or a priest can attend Mass without this being an occasion of contagion, one can say that the protocol guarantees it sufficiently," observed Gulisano, who himself submitted a medical protocol for the safe celebration of the Eucharist to the CEI.
"Of course, the risk cannot be eliminated, just like participating in other activities. But a church is absolutely not a place more at risk than a supermarket, a shopping center and above all a hospital, a place of contagion par excellence," he stressed.
"In the name of these strict rules, the stoups will be empty, and in their place we will have the hand sanitizer dispenser. From a medical point of view, the 'no' to the stoup is unjustified: In fact, there is no scientific evidence that COVID-19 survives in water," he added.
"And finally a question: Will these measures be provisional for the epidemic emergency, or will they be destined to remain?" Gulisano asked.
"The protocol is the result of a profound collaboration and synergy between the government, the Scientific Technical Committee and the CEI, where each has done its part with responsibility," Cdl. Bassetti reiterated.
"The security measures provided for in the text," said Premier Conte, "express the most suitable contents and methods to ensure that the resumption of liturgical celebrations with the people takes place in the safest way. I thank the CEI for the moral and material support it is giving to the entire national community in this difficult moment for the country."
"From the moment we started work to draft this protocol," concluded Interior Minister Lamorgese, "the work done together has produced an excellent result. We have also undertaken a similar commitment with the other religious denominations."