The priests of the Birmingham Oratory have expressed “sadness and distress” after being prohibited from distributing Holy Communion on the tongue.
In a statement on their website, the Oratory Fathers said that the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, had forbidden them from giving Communion on the tongue. They added that they would comply with the requirement “at the present time”.
“The Fathers are praying and hoping that this instruction will be rescinded as soon as possible,” they added.
In a series of posts on their Facebook page, the Fathers also pointed to instructions from other dioceses allowing Communion on the tongue. They described guidelines from the Diocese of Portsmouth as “an example of charity and common sense”.
Speaking to the Catholic Herald, the Oratory’s Provost, Fr Ignatius Harrison, explained that Archbishop Longley had not singled out the Oratory and that the instruction had been sent to every parish across the archdiocese.
He also said that the Oratory had been aware of the instruction not to give Communion on the tongue when public Masses resumed in early July, but they decided to give Communion on the tongue anyway as it is prohibited to distribute Communion in the hand in the Extraordinary Form.
The Birmingham Oratory’s main Sunday Mass is in the Extraordinary Form.
“One problem is the conflict between government guidance, which the bishops have adopted, and the universal law of the Church,” Fr Harrison said.
“We had been very careful when distributing Communion on the tongue, especially in sanitising where necessary, however there had been two or three complaints to the archdiocese.”
These complaints, he said, led to the archdiocese reiterating its policy over the weekend. The Oratory responded to this by posting Tuesday’s statement on its website. “We are distressed because people will be distressed,” Fr Harrison said, explaining the statement.
Fr Harrison added that he hoped to meet Archbishop Longley to discuss the issues, and suggested a compromise where priests give Communion on the tongue to those who want it in an entirely separate rite after Mass, with priests taking necessary sanitary precautions.
“It’s not that we’re reluctant to give Communion in the hand. We are more than happy to give Communion in the hand in the New Rite,” Fr Harrison said. “But it is not permitted to give it in the Old Rite.”
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Birmingham told the Catholic Herald: “In light of public health guidance, since public Masses were permitted again, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Guidelines have provided a safe and reverent, temporary means of celebrating public Mass, including guidance on the distribution of Holy Communion.
“The Guidelines are shared with all clergy and are to be followed by all clergy in the Archdiocese of Birmingham at the celebration of Public Mass, without exception, until further notice. The Guidelines are regularly reviewed and amended in light of public health guidance.
“We all hope and pray the day will come soon when these temporary and distressing restrictions to the celebration of public Mass are no longer necessary for the common good.”