With regard to the question of Communion reception, government regulations merely suggest Communion in the hand; they do not mandate it.
Section 2 of the official guidance defines the difference between should and must.
Must: “Where the guidance states that an activity must take place this is because it is a requirement under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, and therefore is a requirement in law.”
Should: “Where the guidance states that an activity should take place this is not a legal requirement under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, however it is strongly advised that consideration is given to following the advice being given to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.”
The relevant sections about receiving communion read as follows:
“The sharing of food should be avoided, as should the use of communal vessels…
“If it is necessary to handle consumables as a part of a faith practice, those giving and receiving food items should wash their hands thoroughly before and after consumption, or wear gloves.
“The person distributing the consumable should release it, into the hand only, in such a way to avoid any contact between them and those receiving it, or wear gloves. If accidental contact does occur, both people should cleanse their hands immediately.”
This is all “should” not “must”.
One problem is that some of this is in legislation in the form of statutory instruments. Normally MPs are able to check these instruments, but that requirement has been lifted for the 800 or so Covid-related instruments. It is quite impossible to keep track of them all.
As to Communion in the hand, we are told to wash our hands at every opportunity. People will sanitise their hands on entering the church but will then be touching all sorts of other things such as the benches, their clothing etc, so there is no guarantee that when they come to Communion their hands will be Covid-free.
We are then told not to touch our faces with our hands but in taking Communion in our hands and putting it in our mouths we are doing just that. Further putting on and taking off one’s mask usually involves touching our faces with our hands.
It is very possible for a priest to sanitise his hands and then put the host on the communicant’s tongue. He can then sanitise his hands again before the next communicant. Apart from the business of taking off and putting on one’s mask, which presents the same risk as with Communion in the hand, this seems to be a safer procedure.
Horsted Keynes, West Sussex
Charles Coulombe notes that as far as can be determined by early sources, Robin Hood was “a devout Catholic, loyal to his God and his King” (“The movies ignore it, but Robin Hood was a very Catholic hero”, August).
Although film and TV presentations of Robin Hood tales have overlooked his Catholicism, a 2019 rollicking audio adaptation from the Augustine Institute (The Legends of Robin Hood) makes the legendary outlaw’s faith a significant part of the telling.
The production’s writer/director Paul McCusker stumbled across evidence of Robin Hood’s Catholicism several years ago and was perplexed. As he later wrote in an article at Faith & Culture, “How could he be a faithful son of the Church and a highwayman at the same time? Worse, how was it that he robbed Bishops and Abbots as part of his thievery?”
Thereby hangs a tale.
Along with a hefty helping of sword fights, rescues, and derring-do, the audio production explores a recurrent moral dilemma: “How does one fight for justice when the laws themselves are unjust?”
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Since the lockdown Catholics, like their fellow countrymen, have been systematically deprived of essential freedoms by a panicking and rudderless government. If very old and in care homes, they have been forced to die alone and in misery. If suffering from life-threatening ailments such as cancer or heart-disease, they have been condemned to suffer or die without medical help. If in work, they face the real possibility of losing their livelihoods. If this were not enough, their children have been excluded from school and denied their right to an education.
This has all happened without protest from our bishops. And now, having been grudgingly allowed back to Mass, we find ourselves in the equivalent of a hospital ward combined with a police station.
It is surely the duty of the bishops to discover the truth and act bravely and decisively in support of it. We now know that the disease is far less dangerous to the young than to the old or those with underlying conditions. It is unknown for a schoolchild to pass on the virus to a teacher. We also know that the figures for fatalities have been grossly inflated.
Why are our bishops not, therefore, demanding that the lockdown be lifted in order to get people back into work and their children back to school – no matter what the teachers’ unions demand? Why are they not demanding that those in care homes have the absolute right to be visited by their families? (Do they perhaps think that extending their lives by a few weeks or months makes their misery worthwhile?) Why are they not demanding that cancer and heart disease patients should be given the treatment they desperately need?
Some have argued that following government orders regarding the Covid outbreak could be seen as a matter of charity. But if these orders are not based on the truth where is the charity? Truth and charity are indivisible.
South Molton, Devon
We have endured the results of the crisis brought about by the pandemic for so long hoping for its end. But to my mind, we have been too slow in collectively appealing to Almighty God for his help.
We are asked to pray daily for the success of Vatican synods, for instance, so why no similar encouragement to look for help in coping with the enormity of the effects of the virus to persons and to worldwide economies?
As Christians we share the belief that there is no substitute for supplication.
Then why are we not called upon by our spiritual leaders to appeal for help?
On the advent of the lockdown, a few responses came from Rome in the form of a prayer to Our Blessed Lady, but little has been forthcoming since then.
Yes, we all pray individually, with our family or in other ways; but I do feel that with the many signs we have had from infernos, floods and so on in recent years we need to ask together for help from the Almighty.
Is this not the essence of faith?
J G McKenna
In troubled times people naturally gather together.
However, preventing the spread of the virus has separated us: in particular those living alone are now deprived of visits from priests or lay ministers.
For those perhaps lapsed who become ill it is a shock to find that they can only be visited if they are dying.
While appreciating the valiant work of Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the hierarchy to get the churches reopened, can they not now exert pressure to alter this ruling, as lockdown has begun to ease?
Perhaps priests could be allowed to use their discretion based on the prevalence of the virus in the area.
Ann Farrelly DSG
Due to health reasons I had been shielding from the start of lockdown and still am very cautious.
Where I live we are lucky we have webcam Mass from our local churches; it is not the same as going to Mass but it is the nearest thing.
I started to think “Do other places have this?” and went to Google. I was amazed at the range. Recently I have streamed Mass from Manila, Yonkers (New York) and Maghera.
If your interest in/at Mass has slackened recently, I recommend giving it a go. You will be surprised.
Honestly, it made a difference to my participation and that is no bad thing.
Lurghan, Co Armagh
We need not worry about whether or when science will find a solution to Covid-19. If we keep our thoughts on our home in Heaven and on doing our best with God’s grace at the present moment, all will be well.
Let us adore, praise, and thank God; honour the Blessed Virgin Mary; pray to our guardian angel; and pray for one another.
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
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