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April 22, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Robert Sarah have both commended a book that was published earlier this month in France under the title Bref examen critique de la Communion dans la main, a “Short Critical Study of Communion in the Hand.” The theme has become more relevant because of the present COVID crisis that is being used to curb many religious, and in particular Catholic freedoms all over the world, including the right to receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Because yes, it is a right, as this book makes clear.

In his Foreword to the book, which features a number of authors, Cardinal Burke recalled the day of his own First Holy Communion, opening his remarks with these words: “There is nothing greater in the Christian life than to receive the Sacred Host, the Heavenly Bread which is the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important in the life of a Catholic than the Holy Eucharist.”

With touching memories of his own preparation for First Holy Communion in 1956, Cardinal Burke underscores that the “catechesis” he received “continues to serve” him well to this day.” Reflecting on the 1969 decision to give bishops’ conferences the option to permit reception of Holy Communion in the hand, he noted:

Sadly, in some places, the result of the accommodation of reception of Holy Communion in the hand contradicts completely the stated intention of the Instruction. In those places, reception of communion in the hand is seen as equivalent to receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and as even preferable to it. The prohibition of reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, unimaginable in the immemorial tradition of liturgical discipline but now universally mandated by many Bishops in response to the current international health crisis, is a clear indication of how the accommodation granted by the Instruction has led to its implementation in contradiction of its clearly stated intention, the intention of the Roman Pontiff who authorized it by his special mandate.

With permission from the books’ editor, the full text of Cardinal Burke’s Foreword, as originally written in English, is available below this article.

Shortly after the book was published, Cardinal Sarah sent a letter to Renaissance catholique thanking the editor and the authors for their contribution to a theme that is very dear to his heart. Cardinal Sarah has on various occasions upheld Communion on the tongue in very firm terms. In his letter, he quoted some of his own words on the subject:

We know that the rejection or abandonment of the experience and values of the past has not always produced good fruit in many of our contemporaries. It seems to me that communion in the hand is a practice that should be strongly discouraged, based on previous provisions of the Church. To abandon the Church’s heritage without discernment or out of a purely ideological attitude can cause great spiritual damage in souls. Communion in the hand involves great dangers of profanation and cases of regrettable lack of respect for the Holy Eucharist. Above all, there is the risk of exposing the Body of Christ to sacrilege.

Cardinal Sarah also forcefully commended the book: “Above all, I would like to emphasize the quality of the work accomplished: the three priests study this question from complementary angles: historical (Canon de Guillebon), liturgical (Abbé Barthe), and canonical (Father Rivoire). Their contributions are very valuable and irrefutable: for each of them, it is a precise, complete, well-documented work, with citations of sources in the notes.”

The full translation of his letter from the original French is also available below.

The book is a joint effort launched at the initiative of Jean-Pierre Maugendre, founder of Renaissance catholique, a French traditional Catholic lay organization which, by the way, is currently being sued by an LGBT activist group for having published the Catholic teaching on homosexual civil unions. Maugendre, following the example of the Short Critical Study of the New Order of Mass by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci in 1969, wanted to bring together under two covers a comprehensive study of all the aspects of the so-called reform of the way Catholics receive the consecrated Host.

Several books have been published about the subject, but the novelty here was to offer the public reflections and answers to all the common objections to those who wish to show their reverence to the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the Eucharist in using the traditional way of receiving Communion. At the same time the book presents historical, liturgical, and canonical reasons showing how and why Communion on the tongue is the common law of the Church, how Communion in the hand is a mere “indult” or permission and thus, legally, an exception that has been more or less imposed as a rule in so many places, and why it is incorrect to say that the present rite of Communion is a revival of ancient practices in the primitive Church.

This particular point was treated with extraordinary scholarship by Canon Grégoire de Guillebon of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, who looked back at history of the distribution of Holy Communion since Apostolic times up to the very end of the VIIIth century, when it was taken for granted that only consecrated ministers — priests and deacons — could touch the Eucharistic species with their hands.

Before that, Guillebon shows that reception on the tongue probably existed from the start of the Catholic Church, along with forms of reception in the hand that have absolutely nothing to do with the present-day practice of depositing the Host in the communicant’s left hand and letting them seize it and take it to their mouth as any morsel of food with the right hand. Instead, reception in the right hand involved particular ablutions and women would place an immaculate linen cloth over their hands; Communion was placed on the palm and the communicant, in a profound gesture of adoration and humility, would prosternate, bending over to take the Host directly from the right hand into the mouth. Other “methods” are described: all have in common the respect and adoration with which the Body of Christ was received.

Fr. Claude Barthe, a specialist on liturgical issues and symbolism, goes on in the book to describe how Communion in the hand was imposed in the 1960s by the most progressive countries and the modernist faction in the Church even before it was officially tolerated as a “concession” through the June 6, 1969, instruction Memoriale Domini. Reflecting on the “liturgical experiments” of the time, Barthe shows how an illegal practice was abusively imposed in very many countries through whirlwind procedures by which Rome approved requests by a number of bishops’ conferences. France was among the first to ask for the “indult” and received a positive answer from the Holy See in less than a week.

In a canonical study, Father Reginald-Marie Rivoire, of the traditional Dominican Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrer, assessed the juridical situation of Communion on the tongue under Church law: Is it always legal? Can it be suspended for sanitary reasons? Is it legal to impose Communion in the hand under any circumstance? His answer, rooted in canonical texts, is clear: Even in the Novus Ordo, a bishop may refuse to permit Communion in the hand in his diocese, and he may not refuse to permit Communion on the tongue. He then reflects on a possible “state of emergency” that might supersede these rules, and, notes that such a state is not a canonical notion. Only a state of necessity would allow a non-consecrated individual to touch the Host with his hands: for instance, when a Host is accidentally dropped and the “necessity” is for someone to pick it up, or in times of persecution when a lay person hides the Eucharist or distributes it because no-one else can do so.

He goes on to say that the present risk of contamination and gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as considerations on the actual risk of getting a virus through reception of Communion on the tongue, make clear that a “state of necessity” does not exist. Fr. Rivoire also assesses the most recent document by the Congregation for the Doctrine for Divine Worship which says that bishop’s orders forbidding Communion on the tongue should be complied with. He shows how such an order cannot legally apply to the traditional Latin Mass, and how, regarding the Novus Ordo, the status of the Congregation’s letter is not clear, and might even constitute an “abuse of law.”

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A senior Church prelate is strongly opposing a new Vatican proposal to ban private Masses and restrict traditional rite Masses at the world's premier church, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Cardinal Raymond Burke said that the new directions, issued by Pope Francis’ Secretariat of State, should be "rescinded" since they are "contrary to" and in "direct violation of" universal Church law.

Therefore, we ask you to SIGN and SHARE this petition, which is directed to Pope Francis and the current and just retired Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica (Cardinals Mauro Gambetti and Angelo Comastri, respectively), and which asks them to rescind the new directive banning private Masses and restricting traditional rite Masses at St. Peter's.

On March 12th, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State circulated a note with details of new dispositions restricting all “individual” Masses in Saint Peter’s, with special, even more restrictive measures for the traditional rite.

The note, which was unsigned, stated among other things that "individual celebrations are suppressed."

In response, Cardinal Burke said the new rules cause the faithful, and above all, priests, the "deepest concerns."

In particular, he addresses the celebration of private or "individual" Masses at the Basilica, something that the new document appears to target, writing:

The document imposes concelebration upon priests who wish to offer the Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, which is contrary to universal Church law and which unjustly conditions the primary duty of the individual priest to offer the Holy Mass daily for the salvation of the world (can. 902).

In what church more than in the Basilica of Saint Peter would a priest desire to offer the Holy Mass, which is the most perfect and fullest way in which he carries out his priestly mission? If an individual priest wishes to offer the Holy Mass in the Basilica, once the directives in question are in force, he will be constrained to concelebrate, in violation of his freedom to offer the Holy Mass individually.

Quoting from the Council of Trent, Burke then emphasized the fact that the whole Church benefits spiritually from every Mass that is said, whether with people attending or without, stating:

The holy council would certainly like the faithful present at every Mass to communicate in it not only by spiritual devotion but also by sacramental reception of the Eucharist, so that the fruits of this most holy sacrifice could be theirs more fully.

But, if this does not always happen, the council does not for that reason condemn as private and illicit Masses (can. 8) in which only the priest communicates. Rather, it approves and commends them, for they too should be considered truly communal Masses, partly because the people communicate spiritually in them and partly because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for his own good alone, but for all the faithful who belong to the body of Christ’ (Session XXII, Chapter 6).

Please SIGN now and support the call to Pope Francis and the current and just retired Archpriest of St. Peter's to rescind the new directives which would severely restrict priests from offering private and traditional rite Holy Masses at St. Peter's Basilica.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Cardinal Burke: Vatican’s ban on private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica should be ‘rescinded’ - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cardinal-burke-vaticans-ban-on-private-masses-in-st-peters-basilica-should-be-rescinded

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In the last section of the book, which I was honored to author, the recent history of Communion in the hand was told in the context of ever-weakening faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, dwindling religious practice and the risks associated with the new practice. In particular, I noted the increasingly casual way in which Catholics receive the Host, failing to go to Confession when necessary, and showing no particular reverence for Our Lord and our King — much less than they would show to an immediate superior or the president of a secular state. I also tried to underscore the intimidation tactics used against Catholics who resisted against Communion in the hand. My own father, forty years ago in France, was kicked in the thighs by a priest when he knelt down to receive the Host: the priest wanted to force him to get up and take Communion in the hand.

I also underscored the risks associated with Communion in the hand which makes access to consecrated Hosts so much easier for Satanists and their “black masses,” as well as plain disdain for the reality of the greatest Sacrament given to us by Our Lord, at a time when so many Catholics do not know the tenets of their own faith: “If ever there was a period in time when Communion in the hand should not have been implemented, it is now.”

***

Here below is the full text of Cardinal Burke’s Foreword to the Bref examen critique de la Communion sur la main (Editions Contretemps, 2021, 170 pages):

Foreword

The day of First Holy Communion is the most important day in the life of a Catholic. There is nothing greater in the Christian life than to receive the Sacred Host, the Heavenly Bread which is the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important in the life of a Catholic than the Holy Eucharist. Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, teaches us: “[T]he common spiritual good of the whole Church is contained substantially in the sacrament itself of the Eucharist.” [1] The reception of First Holy Communion and every reception of Holy Communion thereafter is our fullest and most perfect encounter with Our Lord during the days of our earthly pilgrimage and the foretaste of the destiny of the pilgrimage, our eternal home with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Given the reality of Holy Communion and its significance for us, the Church has rightly disciplined very carefully the manner of receiving the Sacrament of Sacraments, “the source and the summit of all preaching of the Gospel” and the action by which Christ fully joins us to His Mystical Body. [2] For centuries, the normal manner of receiving Holy Communion was at the Communion Rail, which divided the sanctuary of the Church — in which the Eucharistic Sacrifice is accomplished — from the rest of the Church. The communicant, if possible, was to kneel with his hands placed under a white cloth which covered the length of the Communion Rail. He then received the Sacred Host directly on his tongue from the hands of the priest, acting in the person of Christ by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The disposition of the communicant — kneeling at the entrance to the sanctuary, with hands covered, so that the Sacred Host would be placed directly into his mouth by the priest who remained in the sanctuary, expressed in a beautiful way the wonder of Holy Communion.

I recall vividly my own preparation for First Holy Communion in 1956. My parents at home, the priests of my home parish, and the Benedictine Sisters who taught me in the parish school all assisted me, instructing me about the great mystery of the Holy Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith, and the reverence with which one must approach so great a gift of divine love. That catechesis continues to serve me well to this day. Although on May 13, 2021, it will be 65 years since my First Holy Communion, the wonder of that day has ever continued and increased. Indeed, I realize more and more that my entire spiritual good is contained in the Holy Eucharist.

In May of 1969, the Roman Pontiff, through the then Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, gave permission for the reception of Holy Communion in the hand, according to the judgment of the Conference of Bishops, in addition to the centuries-old practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. [3] While, on the one hand, the Instruction acknowledged that it was prompted by an abuse, [4] it also made clear that the plurisecular tradition of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue was to be preserved and indeed preferred. [5] While the Instruction makes it possible for the Conference of Bishops to permit reception of Holy Communion in the hand, it unequivocally declares: “[T]he Supreme Pontiff has decided that the long-received manner of distributing Holy Communion to the faithful is not to be changed.” [6]

Sadly, in some places, the result of the accommodation of reception of Holy Communion in the hand contradicts completely the stated intention of the Instruction. In those places, reception of communion in the hand is seen as equivalent to receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and as even preferable to it. The prohibition of reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, unimaginable in the immemorial tradition of liturgical discipline but now universally mandated by many Bishops in response to the current international health crisis, is a clear indication of how the accommodation granted by the Instruction has led to its implementation in contradiction of its clearly stated intention, the intention of the Roman Pontiff who authorized it by his special mandate.

Given the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and its fundamental and supreme importance in the life of every Catholic, it behooves us to study once again the question of the most reverent manner to receive Holy Communion and, in particular, to examine the practice of receiving the Sacred Host in the hand. For that reason, it pleases me very much to commend Bref examen critique de la Communion dans la main, which brings together essays by experts who examine the historical origin of the practice, its doctrinal and juridical aspects, and the actual experience of the practice over the past five decades. While the attentive study of the text helps us to understand how the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand has come about in our time, it also makes evident the profound reasons for the Church’s clear and constant preference of reception of Holy Communion on the tongue.

In thanking the authors and editors of Bref examen critique de la Communion dans la main, I pray that their labors may strengthen for many the knowledge and love of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Through the renewed and strengthened knowledge and love of the Holy Eucharist, may the practice of reception of Holy Communion give strong witness to the reality of the Most Blessed Sacrament: Christ, God the Son Incarnate, present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — in our midst to be the spiritual food by which our minds and hearts are filled with divine grace for our earthly pilgrimage, and we anticipate the destiny of our pilgrimage, eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, before the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, may we ever pray in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi: “O sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.” [7]

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

19 March 2021 — Feast of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

[1] “[B]onum commune spirituale totius Ecclesiae continetur substantialiter in ipso Eucharistiae sacramento.” Summa Theologiae, III, q. 65, art. 3, ad 1. English translation: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Complete English Edition in Five Volumes, tr. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1981), p. 2372.

[2] “… fons et culmen totius evangelizationis.” Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum II, Decretum Presbyterorum Ordinis, “De Presbyterorum ministerio et vita,” 7 Decembris 1965, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 58 (1966), 997, n. 5. English version: Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, new rev. ed. (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1992), p. 871, no. 5.

[3] Cf. Sacra Congregatio pro Cultu Divino, Instructio Memoriale Domini celebrans, “De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi,” 29 Maii 1969, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 61 (1969), 541-547. [Memoriale Domini celebrans].

[4] Memoriale Domini celebrans, p. 542.

[5] Memoriale Domini celebrans, pp. 542-543.

[6] “… Summo Pontifici non est visum modum iamdiu receptum sacrae Communionis fidelibus ministrandae immutare.” Memoriale Domini celebrans, p. 545. English translation: James I. O’Connor, The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VII (Chicago, IL: Canon Law Digest, 1975), p. 656.

[7] “O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis eius, mens impletur gratia, et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.” Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. Normae et Concessiones, ed. 4ª (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999), p. 55. English translation: Manual of Indulgences. Norms and Grants, tr. USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy, 4ª ed (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006), p. 49.

***

Here below is LifeSiteNews’ translation of Cardinal Sarah’s letter commending the Bref examen critique de la Communion dans la main:

I thank you for giving me the book: Bref examen de la Communion dans la main … I read it carefully, because the authors address a question that is both essential and painful, about which I have spoken out on various occasions, including in a conference addressed to the members of Sacra Liturgia, in Milan, on June 6, 2017. In particular, I said: “On the subject of communion in the hand, I humbly suggest that this question be, in all serenity and honesty, examined by the bishops, individually or in a collegial manner. We know that the rejection or abandonment of the experience and values of the past has not always produced good fruit in many of our contemporaries. It seems to me that communion in the hand is a practice that should be strongly discouraged, based on previous provisions of the Church. To abandon the Church’s heritage without discernment or out of a purely ideological attitude can cause great spiritual damage in souls. Communion in the hand involves great dangers of profanation and cases of regrettable lack of respect for the Holy Eucharist. Above all, there is the risk of exposing the Body of Christ to sacrilege.”

As you can see, the concerns of the authors of this book are similar to mine. It is a pity that a priest who usually celebrates according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite was not associated with the composition of this book, even if some of them were quoted, such as Father Christophe Kruijen. Above all, I would like to emphasize the quality of the work accomplished: the three priests study this question from complementary angles: historical (Canon de Guillebon), liturgical (Abbé Barthe) and canonical (Father Rivoire). Their contributions are very valuable and irrefutable: for each of them, it is a precise, complete, well-documented work, with citations of sources in the notes. The conclusion of Jeanne Smits, in which she cites an impressive list of deplorable facts, might seem, at first glance, rather polemical, and yet she, speaking on behalf of many faithful, has the merit of showing the consequences at the universal level of this deleterious practice. In conclusion, I think that this book will be an important element in the reflection that I wish to make on this subject in view of a return to the traditional practice of communion on the lips, about which I said in this same conference in Milan: “Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta received Jesus … in her mouth, like a little child who humbly allows himself to be fed by his God.” She was pained and saddened to see Christians receiving Holy Communion in their hands. Here are her own words: “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.” When asked, “What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?” without pausing she gave this same reply. I wish you now a happy and holy Easter, praying for the intentions of your Community. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family and Protector of the Universal Church, in this year that is dedicated to him.

May God bless you!

Be assured of my most cordial sentiments in Corde Christi.

Robert Card. Sarah

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