On Apr. 11, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison asked Catholics in his diocese to begin receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue.
In his sermon at the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, Bishop Morlino commented on Cardinal Sarah’s concern about a current “crisis of faith.” Reflecting on these words, the Bishop said, “The crisis is a crisis of prayer, because as we pray, so we believe. Faith and prayer can never be separated. And what is our most significant prayer? The Mass!”
The Bishop said that he felt one of the key ways to develop the Faith was reverence at Mass. He asked priests in his diocese to encourage people to receive Communion on the tongue, kneeling down.
According to Fr. Richard Heilman at the blog Roman Catholic Man, Bishop Morlino stated:
I’m going to ask that we move together towards greater reverence when receiving Holy Communion. I’m going to ask that people be encouraged to receive Communion on the tongue and kneeling….There is no question that Communion on the tongue is more reverent. And it doesn’t lend itself to a casual kind of behavior. I’m going to ask, beginning in the fall, that our students are taught to receive Communion on the tongue,”
Bishop Morlino was one of the first bishops who respond to Cardinal Sarah’s call for Mass to be said ad orientem. He also had the Tabernacle brought back to the main altar in his churches. Although he has unfortunately urged the faithful in his diocese not to attend Masses served by the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X for fear of absorbing what he called “a schismatic mentality,” he says the traditional Latin Mass frequently himself and has encouraged it in his diocese.
Communion on the Tongue is an Apostolic Tradition
As Fr. Richard Heilman points out elsewhere, Communion on the tongue is an Apostolic Tradition. He backs this up with the words of the Fathers of the Church, the Councils, and the Popes. At the 6th Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (680-681), for example, the faithful were explicitly forbidden to take the Sacred Host in their hand, and transgressors were threatened with excommunication. St. Thomas Aquinas said,
Out of reverence towards this Sacrament [the Holy Eucharist], nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this Sacrament”(Summa Theologica, Part III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8).
Communion in the Hand: Compromise for Abuses?
The practice of receiving Communion in the hand was not mandated by Vatican II, nor was it introduced in response to calls from the laity, Cardinal Ranjith wrote in 2008. Instead, he argued, an established practice of piety—receiving the Eucharist kneeling, on the tongue—was changed “improperly and hurriedly.”
In fact, this abusive practice began to spread in Catholic circles in the early 60s primarily in Holland. As it began to widespread after Vatican II in Holland, Belgium, France and Germany, Pope Paul VI took a survey of the world's bishops to ascertain their opinions on the subject. On May 28, 1969 the Congregation for Divine Worship published its conclusion after considering the bishops’ answers. “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful" (Memoriale Domini, May 28, 1969).
Paul VI, however, struck a compromise with the disobedient bishops and given “the gravity of the matter,” he did not authorize Communion in the hand, but he bestowed an indult (an exception to the law) under certain conditions:
- the indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice
- the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.”
The Holy See set down seven regulations concerning communion in the hand; failure to maintain these regulations could result in the loss of the indult. The first three regulations are:
- Respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue)
- Maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist
- Strengthening the laity’s faith in the Real Presence
Once the door was opened, however, the indult became the normative manner in which the laity received Communion.
Pressure in the United States
Communion in the hand was officially permitted in the United States in 1977 under the pressure and manipulation of Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, then president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), who, unable to gather the two-thirds majority, gathered “absentee votes” from any bishop he could find—including retired bishops who no longer administered any dioceses.
Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops makes it clear that Communion may be received in the hand or on the tongue, a decision that is to be made by the individual receiving Communion, not by the minister distributing it.
Loss of Respect toward the Eucharist
Paul VI’s regulations given as a condition for the indult have been mostly ignored. The abusive practice led to a habitual disrespect and blasphemies and therefore to a diminution (if not a loss) of right belief in the Eucharist because of the correlation between action and thought, lex orandi, lex credendi.
For the glory of God and the salvation of souls it is time that bishops take step to suppress this offensive and abusive practice which became the norm through an unenforced, weak indult.
Sources: Life Site News / NewLiturgicalMovement.org / RomanCatholicMan.org / sspx.org - 05/17/17