The Bishop of Peoria last week permitted priests in his diocese to distribute Communion on the tongue, as the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois have been doing.
“While…I still encourage the faithful to receive Holy Communion in the hand, out of respect for those who prefer to receive on the tongue, and in accord with what is now being allowed in other dioceses in Illinois, I am now permitting the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue to resume,” Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria wrote in a September 3 memo to priests of the diocese.
He added that “inasmuch as a number of you have legitimate health concerns, the practice of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue is at your discretion.”
Bishop Jenky noted that in July he had “insisted that Holy Communion only be received in the hand.”
His decision to permit reception on the tongue is linked to fact that the coronavirus situation “continues to evolve.”
The bishop did give guidelines for distribution on the tongue: either the station is to be separate from those where Communion is distributed on the hand, or those who receive on the tongue should do so after others, and the person distributing Communion is to sanitize their hands after each communicant.
“It is important that you wait for your hands to dry (at least twenty seconds),” Bishop Jenky wrote, calling it “an important safety precaution.”
He asked the priests to recall “that the very fact that we are resuming the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue will be unsettling to some parishioners because of their fears regarding safety,” and to “be sensitive to this.”
“It is important that both the appearance and reality of the way we do things show that we are responding to the demands of the present situation with all due seriousness,” he concluded.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois has been acknowledging the right of the faithful to receive Communion on the tongue.
The Springfield diocese’s guidelines for the restoration of public Masses state that “Given the Church’s existing guidance on this point (see Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 92), and recognizing the differing judgments and sensibilities of the experts involved, we believe that, with the additional precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.”’
The precautions recommended at this time by the Springfield diocese are those that Bishop Jenky adopted: a separate station for distribution on the tongue or distribution on the tongue following in the hand, and that the minister sanitize his hands after each communicant.
The Springfield diocese said its guidelines reflect the recommendations of the Thomistic Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and state and local policies.
In a May 13 letter, Bishop Paprocki said the diocese would be following the standards of the Thomistic Institute; portions of the Springfield guidelines, including those on the distribution of Communion on the tongue, are copied from the institute’s guidelines.
Among its reopening documents, the Archdiocese of Chicago notes that pastors are “urged to encourage the faithful to receive in the hand,” but that “out of respect for those who insist on receiving on the tongue and with the hope of avoiding conflicts at this most sacred time of the Holy Mass, an exception may be made in a given parish at the full discretion of the pastor.”
In such cases, there is to be a “dedicated station” for those receiving on the tongue; ministers are to wear a mask or face shield; communicants are to sanitize their hands; and the minister is to sanitize his hands after each communicant.
Guidelines for the Diocese of Joliet dated May 18 state that Communion is to be distributed “only in the hand.”
Redemptionis sacramentum, the Congregation for Divine Worship’s 2004 instruction on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, notes that “each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice.”
In July 2009, during the swine flu pandemic, the Congregation for Divine Worship responded to an inquiry regarding the right to receive Communion on the tongue, recalling that Redemptionis sacramentum “clearly stipulates” that each of the faithful always has the right to receive on the tongue, and that it is illicit to deny Communion to any of the faithful who are not impeded by law.
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