Communion in the Hand: A Test of Obedience

EDITED 6/26/2020
The Church has the authority of Christ over both doctrine and discipline. And She is indefectible by Her very nature, and in both Her types of authority, teaching and temporal. These are the two swords given by Christ to the Church, and both swords are sharp.

The Church has the help of the Holy Spirit so that Her infallible teachings cannot err, and so that Her non-infallible teachings cannot err gravely. Similarly, with the temporal authority, the infallible exercise of this authority in deciding dogmatic facts — such as which Ecumenical Councils and which Popes are valid — is entirely without error. No Ecumenical Council accepted by the Roman Pontiffs and the body of Bishops can in fact be a Council of heresy or of grave error. Then, finally, the disciplines of the Church, which may be considered to be in a similar category, under the temporal authority, as the non-infallible teachings are under the teaching authority, cannot err gravely.

The disciplines of the Church can never lead the faithful away from the path of salvation, nor into heresy, or idolatry, or in any way lead us away from Christ. There can be no grave errors in discipline of the Church approved by the Roman Pontiff or by the body of Bishops led by the Roman Pontiff.

Recently, some papal accusers, having rejected the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops, have begun to decide matters of discipline for themselves and for their followers, as if they were issuing dogmas or dogmatic facts. They claim that one should never receive Communion in the hand, but only on the tongue. The Magisterium has no such teaching. Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture have no such teaching. And the authority over discipline is given to the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops.

The Church has permitted Communion in the hand through all the recent Popes. Such permission cannot possibly be a grave error, as each Roman Pontiff and the Church in her doctrine and discipline are indefectible. She cannot lead us away from the path to Christ by false teaching, nor by harmful disciplines.

Recall that Christ touched the leper before healing him. He could have healed the leper first, and then touched him. Instead, he touched the leper while he was yet covered in sores. (So does Christ treat our sins, deigning to touch our souls with grace while we are yet sinners, before we repent and convert.)

The faithful may prefer Communion on the tongue, for whatever reason. Those Catholics are faithful also who prefer Communion in the hand, for whatever reason. If you believe that Communion on the tongue is a better discipline, you are permitted by the Church to hold that opinion.

[See Fr. Matthew’s comment below] The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, in a dubium on the H1N1 virus, reiterated the right to receive Communion in the hand. However, I would argue that Covid-19 is much more dangerous, and that perhaps those Bishops who restrict Communion to the hand are within their authority, esp. since they may have consulted the Holy See, and the Pontiff and CDW have not corrected them.

Even if your Bishop is wrong in restricting your right to receive Communion on the tongue, a right which is granted by the Church and can be modified (e.g. subjected to conditions) or revoked by that same authority, I suggest that the obedient and faithful response is to receive on the hand.
{5:40} And anyone who wishes to contend with you in judgment, and to take away your tunic, release to him your cloak also.
{5:41} And whoever will have compelled you for one thousand steps, go with him even for two thousand steps.
Since the Bishop is not asking you to sin, receive Communion on the hand.

If you treat reception on the hand as if it were a grave error, you falsely accuse the Church of having defected. I don’t believe the Church can teach grave error, even in non-infallible teachings which can err to a limited extent, and I don’t believe the Church can err gravely in discipline. If it is the case that refusing to receive Christ in the hand is a means that a person uses to rebel against the Church, it would be a grave error to so refuse.

Preferring Communion on the tongue is fine; there are good reasons for it. The Church permits Communion on the hand, and has done so widely, with papal approval for many years, so I don’t believe this can be a grave error.

It may be the case that individual Bishops exceed their authority (as Fr. Matt says below) by restricting a right granted by higher authority in the Church. Or it may be that they do so properly, because of grave circumstances. They should consult the Holy See on this topic.

The Holy See does have the right to restrict Communion to the hand. I’m not convinced it is necessary, but we don’t really know what the increase in risk may be (if at all). Very careful distribution on the tongue might not increase risk. On the other hand, no pun intended, spiritual risks of distribution on the hand are often cited to conclude on the tongue is better. Similarly, here, it is possible that not every minister of Communion will distributed on the tongue in the most prudent manner.

There is a deadly pandemic, causing much suffering and death. That is sufficient reason for the Church to exercise Her authority over discipline and require Communion in the hand.

Now, for the worst case scenario. John-Henry Westen states he will absolutely refuse to receive Communion on the hand, and will forgo receiving Communion indefinitely, until he can receive on the tongue. This type of attitude is schismatic. It is a rejection of Church authority. It takes rights granted by Church authority, and puts them above the authority which granted those rights.

John-Henry Westen: 5 Reasons…. …basically 5 reasons why Westen will never obey the Church unless the Church tells him to do something he was already going to do. And his LifeSiteNews has repeatedly supported the papal accusers and attacked the Pope, as if it had the role of judging the Vicar of Christ.

Sorry, I was too harsh in my original version of this post. The papal accusers are sinning gravely and doing grave harm to the flock of Jesus Christ. Many conservatives have simply not joined the conservative papal accusers in this type of sin.

But I still say this to the faithful: Humble yourself before Christ in the Eucharist and receive Him on the hand. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Even if your Bishops errs by refusing to allow Communion on the tongue, reception on the hand is not a sin.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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6 Responses to Communion in the Hand: A Test of Obedience

  1. Thomas Mazanec says:

    No Ecumenical Council accepted by the Roman Pontiffs and the body of Bishops can in fact be a Council of heresy or of grave error.

    Has there ever been an “Ecumenical Council” NOT accepted by the Pope most Bishops which taught grave error?

    • Ron Conte says:

      There have been emperors who tried to gather bishops and have them proclaim heresy, but the Pope and faithful Bishops resisted. There have been local Synods that taught heresy, e.g. Arianism, but were opposed by the Pope. An Ecumenical Council by definition must have the Pope as its head and must represent the body of Bishops.

  2. Alex says:

    In early centuries the Christians kept the Holy Eucharist in their homes, they didn’t have church buildings and tabernacles. The ultra conservatives’ claim of Communion “only on tongue” as a “right” or even as “commanded by Jesus or the apostles” is just as absurd as everything else of their bogus doctrine detached of the main Commandment that of Love.
    Jesus consecrated a normal bread (Jewish kind of bread) on the Last Supper and the apostles all ate in a pretty normal way. They didn’t kneel and Jesus didn’t put the bread-turned-to-Body on their tongues. Because if it was so much different from their normal eating, the Gospel certainly would write it in detail. And it didn’t. It just says Jesus said the words of the consecration that are so simple “TAKE AND EAT, TAKE AND DRINK”. Not “open your mouth” or so. What does the word “TAKE” mean? Doesn’t it mean to take in hand? At least I understand it in that way.
    Enough of pharisees/inquisitors! Jesus did not teach back then what they teach now, and Jesus does not support them now. As seen in so many approved apparitions where He said He accepts the ruling of the Church and wants the seers to obey them (ref. St Faustina and St Margaret Mary Alacoque). Why would the proponents of “Communion on tongue only” think of themselves higher than those seers-saints who humbled themselves instead and who tried very hard how better to obey both Jesus and His Church?

  3. Thank you for this post Ron. True love of Christ is obeying the Teaching Authority He left on earth. Jesus taught: “Whoever hears you, hears me. And whoever despises you, despises me. And whoever despises me, despises him who sent me.” And the Fourth Council of Constantinople, canon 21, taught that this teaching applies in the first place to the most holy Pope of Rome. Obeying the Pope and the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope is obeying Christ.

    I think places such as LifeSiteNews and others had Pharisees even before Pope Francis but they remained covered because their agendas were not clearly challenged by the Magisterium. They thought that their limited understanding (or misunderstandings) of Magisterial teachings were dogmatic facts. But now thanks to the Providence of God that chose Pope Francis, and now that this pandemic was permitted by Him, their true faces are coming afloat. As Simeon told our Blessed mother “…so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35). Their hearts were hidden before, but now their hearts are revealed by their actions. Now we realize that they had build their houses on sand, the sand of their own thinking, or the sand of people with their own thinking, not on the Rock.

  4. Fr. Matthew says:

    Dear Ron,
    You have in the past made good points regarding papal accusers.
    However, regarding Holy Communion you have, respectfully, proved too much, I believe.
    The universal law/norm of the Church regarding Holy Communion is General Instruction of the Roman Missal number 161 which says the faithful can receive Holy Communion on the tongue and also on the hand permitted; also from Redemptionis Sacramentum number 92 “ the Christian faithful ALWAYS (my emphasis in bold) have the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue etc.
    Universal Law in the Church therefore Universal Authority is the only as authority that can change it i. e. the Pope himself or the CDW which has discipline authority from him on matters of universal law on divine worship and discipline of the sacraments……no individual bishop or group of bishops (except Ecumenical Council with Pope has Head) has the authority to change without express, official, publicly known approval of the Universal Supreme Authority of the Church (Pope or Pope with Ecumenical Council) or the CDW which represents him and cannot send out any official Church document without his permission .
    Bishops who forbid Holy Communion on the tongue are
    exceeding their authority no matter the reason…..otherwise Redemptionis is in grave error to say always and the CDW in 2009, response to H1N1 dubium and Holy Communion on the hand only—they repeated 2004 document Redemptionis Sacramentum 92.
    God bless,
    Fr. Matt

    • Ron Conte says:

      Fr. Matt, You make some good points. The right to receive on the tongue is of Church authority, and can be changed by papal or conciliar authority. I wonder if any bishops or conferences have obtained permission from the Holy See for this restriction, or whether they imposed it on their own. I’m not sure if they would be exceeding their authority, as Bishops can dispense from canon law in some cases, which is the universal law of the Church (or of the particular Rite, though often the two Canon Law Codes agree). In cases of grave danger, e.g. of the spread of a deadly disease, a disease much more harmful than H1N1, I think individual Bishops, who have Apostolic authority, can dispense from a dispensable law.

      I think perhaps I was too harsh in the wording of my post. I might decide to edit it for that reason.

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