Saturday, 21 January 2012

Petition to restore communion on the tongue (only)

Some friends have pointed out the petition started by two Australian priests.  It requests that the Holy Father personally intervene to restore the traditional practice of allowing reception of Holy Communion on the tongue only, not on the hand.

If you, like me, agree that this is a vital step in restoring Catholic Liturgy, please sign.

I include below the text of a letter, which was sent as part of the email telling me about this.  I do not know the authorship of the letter (UPDATE: see post script below), but think it may be of interest.

Dear friends,
Two Australian priests in the Victorian diocese of Sale have started a worldwide petition to the Holy Father, for going back to the older practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.
Both of these priests, Fr Speekman & Fr Wise are priests in good standing, and accept the current discipline of the Church.  Thus they would never refuse to give communion on the hands, to anyone who comes to them.  It is because of their pastoral ministries, that they are well aware of the terrible abuses and sacrileges that have crept in to the Church because of this practice, and are requesting the older discipline.
Communion on the hand has been allowed by many countries in the world, with the permission of the Holy See.  (In Australia it started on Pentecost Sunday 1976, for instance).  The Church says that if one chooses to receive Holy Communion in this manner to receive Our Lord in an reverent manner following the exhortation of St Cyril of Jerusalem, "When you approach, do not extend your hands with palms upwards and fingers apart, but make your left hand a throne for your right hand to receive the King of Kings".

The problem has been that these days, this is the exception rather than the rule, and fragments of hosts (occasionally even the whole ones) turn up in other places, instead of being consumed.  In addition to this, surveys have been done throughout the world which indicate that most Catholics have more of a Protestant conception of the Eucharist (in that they see this just as a symbol) instead of its reality as the Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus Christ.   Poor catecheses in both classes and homilies is very much responsible for this, but it has been reinforced by cavalier attitudes towards the Holy Eucharist.
Restoring the older discipline will go a long way towards solving these issues, if this is what the Church decides.  Should anyone think the petition is imprudent or lacking in respect towards the current directives of the Holy See, it is worth reminding us of this precept from the Code of Canon Law, "In accord with the knowledge, competence and pre-eminence which they possess, the Christian faithful have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence towards their pastors, and for consideration for the common good and dignity of persons."  (Canon 212:3)

Communion in the hand remains an option throughout the Latin Church presently, and one must respect the right of persons who choose to partake of this privilege, with the proper dispositions.
With the petition you will find that you can leave a comment.  My favourite one is by my friend Michael Hichborn of the American Life League (who I met in 2009 at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington DC to be interviewed by Raymond Arroyo on EWTN), a big issue in this American presidential election year.  
"Amen! Restoration of the Culture of Life MUST begin with TOTAL respect and reverence for Christ in the Eucharist [the Bread of Life] !"

Neither do I know the source of the accompanying photos, which I assume to be in the public domain as they were circulated with the email.  If anyone knows anything to the contrary about their copyright status, please let me know.

Oh, and there's an associated blog, too.

PS And the blog is the source of the letter, written by Andrew Rabel.  I really should follow things through before blogging...


blondpidge said...

One comment. I was always taught to receive in the hand, as was an entire generation.

I feel very self conscious receiving on the tongue never having been properly instructed and in a line of people all receiving by hand.

Whilst I appreciate communion should be administered on the tongue, obviously some instruction would be required for the generations of the last 40 years.

Ben Trovato said...


Yes you are absolutely correct. Any such change will need significant catechesis, and indeed charity, in its implementation if it is to have the desired effect.

One of the (many) problems with the abandonment of the traditional liturgy was the brutality with which the laity (and indeed many priests) were treated - mainly unintentionally, but the pain was very real and lasting. And in some quarteres has left a legacy of real bitterness.

We must learn from that.

Anonymous said...

I have signed the petition. Wish it was worldwide.
How sad that as soon as petition \was signed and accepted I was immediately asked to make a donation!

Ben Trovato said...


I think that's something the host site does, rather than those promoting the petition.

Patricius said...

Blondpidge has a point- and, I would say, more than one. I made my first Communion before the changes and was taught to receive on the tongue while kneeling at the altar rail. Depending upon the availability of servers one either had a plate held under one's chin or the plate was passed along from one communicant to the next. In such circumstances it is very easy to receive on the tongue- not least because while kneeling one's mouth is at a convenient level for the priest. I am not excessively tall but receiving on the tongue while standing can be a little tricky. On the other hand kneeling at the front of what is effectively a queue can be problematic (and so is getting back up again for some of us!) I back the call for a return to the traditional practice but cannot see it as really practical without a wholesale restoration of altar rails.

Ben Trovato said...


I agree. I find it awkward kneeling in the 'reverent procession' and increasingly difficult to get up again.

A proper restoration should include both the spiritual (catechesis) and the physical (altar rails) support necessary for success.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

I know this won’t convince you, Ben, but it would not be much of a blog if everyone agreed.
The letter seems illogical to me. The two problems identified are incorrect reception in the hand and incorrect understanding of the Eucharist. According to the letter:“Poor catecheses in both classes and homilies is very much responsible for this, but it has been reinforced by cavalier attitudes towards the Holy Eucharist.” I agree with the first part so point me in the direction of the “improve catechesis and homilies” petition. After all, it is this deficiency that is “very much responsible” for the problem.
I can’t accept the second half because it implies that reception in the hand involves a “cavalier” attitude to the Eucharist. As I, and millions, of other Catholics choose to receive communion in the hand with due reverence (I would claim “total respect and reverence for Christ in the Eucharist” if such an absolute didn’t represent a danger of spiritual pride) equating the two is false.
Praxis does inform belief as well as vice-versa but to improve the understanding of the nature of the Eucharist more effective changes to praxis would be to encourage Eucharistic Adoration, hold Benediction on Sunday evening, increase the numbers of Blessed Sacrament processions, re-enforce the requirement to genuflect in front of the tabernacle, ensure sanctuary lights and the tabernacle itself are prominent and remind the English at least to bow before receiving when they get to the end of the queue.
I won’t be signing the petition but if the Pope should remove the permission to receive in the hand, I will, of course, be obedient.

Ben Trovato said...

P-t P

I certainly wouldn't want everyone to agree with me: life would be very dull!

As it happens I agree with nearly everything you suggest - but think it's a matter of both.. and... not either... or...

There seems to me to be something about the symbolism of reception in the hand that is problematic, not least in terms of the historic rupture with our tradition which it represents.

But all your other suggestions are spot on.

Patricius said...


OK. I'll come clean. It is the getting back up again after kneeling down with me too!

Ben Trovato said...

For Mrs T and the kids, it is not wishing to draw attention to themselves (and thus distract others) at the time of communion that makes them receive standing (I think). A legitimate concern (at least the part about distraction - the part about embarrassment I sympathise with, but....)

For me, the fact I find it embarrassing is at least some reassurance that I'm not doing it for show...

Of course, Mrs T and the children never receive in the hand, despite their instruction (she was received and the kids educated long after the change).

twldr2002 said...

This is Jesus himself. As a Eucharistic Minister I tremble when I am serving Jesus in the Eucharist. Some churches in my area have brought back the altar rail. People who understand happily kneel to receive the Lord on tongue. I kneel as I am not worthy to be standing in front of the Lord and receive him on the tongue with or without a railing. Yes it can be difficult to be different in front of others but then doing the will of God in todays world is being different. The Holy Father will only serve the Eucharist to people on their tongue and kneeling. I take my clue from him by following his example. Paul

Anonymous said...

There are incongruities with receiving in the hand or on the tongue.

Our parochial vicar demonstrates by his reverence at the altar the preciousness of Jesus' Body. If the priest's three fingers that touch the Host are kept from any other purpose, then the congregation can follow his example.

Our parish priest, however, embraces the Host less discriminately, and the many extraordinary communion ministers touch the Host as well. The use of laymen to administer holy communion is a sad reality in many of our larger parishes where priests are becoming more rare. (We are so fortunate to still have two priests.)

It seems, then, that the necessities of the Church require ritual incongruity, and it would be almost impossible to return to communion received on the tongue without some breach of logic and leap of faith. I don't know how this can be overcome.

S said...

Lay distribution of communion is the problem. If only the celebrant priest distributes communion reverence will return. It may take a bit longer to receive, giving time for the faithful to do an examination of conscious. Quickly those not in a state of grace will grasp the sacrilege of receiving unworthily.

Perhaps the Church should develop a service to offer unconsecrated bread with the understanding that it lacks the sanctifying grace found in the valid sacrament. If that were done events like world youth day would not be occasion for abuse of the Blessed Sacrament.

Unknown said...

What we need desperately is an end to the protestantised novus ordo which is what is doing the real harm and has done since 1969. All the other horrors have followed it - including the blasphemous communion rite. It is also linguistically divisive and its vernacular focus makes it ever more vulnerable to constantly changing norms & values.
The church leaders do not set an example by it since they use illicit behaviours such as dancing, disguises, profane customs and a plethora of other invalidating attitudes by presbyters who no longer believe in transubstantiation.