Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Catholic layman reveals strategy he used to overcome priest’s Communion-on-tongue ban

'I want all Catholics to know that receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is their right, and what they can do to regain that right, because it works!'
Thu Jul 23, 2020 - 1:27 pm EST
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July 23, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – “I want all Catholics to know that receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is their right, and what they can do to regain that right, because it works!” A French reader told LifeSite of his personal experience of being refused Communion in his local parish because of COVID-19 guidelines, and of his successful fight, through an official appeal to the bishop, to reclaim the possibility of receiving Our Lord humbly and reverentially, kneeling and on the tongue.

His surname, as well as identifying elements, will be left out of this story, in the interests of peace and discretion: Guillaume is his Christian name, and that is how he shall be called hereafter.

Having obtained the capitulation of the bishop, pure and simple, for the parish he and his wife attend (somewhere in France) Guillaume is now faced with derogatory emails from the priest who officiates there; the couple were even asked to step down from various responsibilities they had been happy to accept in this Novus Ordo parish.

How did Guillaume obtain such success? On the basis of advice given by Fr Reginald-Marie Rivoire of the traditional Dominican community of Saint-Vincent-Ferrier in the Catholic bi-monthly L’Homme nouveau  at the beginning of the coronavirus restrictions, Guillaume decided to present a canonically-founded appeal to the local bishop, in which he quoted several texts from Rome that allow local indults for Communion to be given in the hand, but that have repeatedly confirmed that all faithful “always have the right to receive Communion on the tongue by their own choice.”

Fr Reginald-Marie Rivoire is a doctor in Canon law. 

The Catholic faithful’s right was made clear by the Redemptionis Sacramentum Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments dated March 25, 2004, clarifying Memoriale Domini of 1969 allowing Communion in the hand as an exception that bishops were able to concede as an “indult” in their own diocese.

Five years later, in the context of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, the same Congregation answered a query about Communion on the tongue in the new circumstances by letter on July 24, stating: “This Dicastery observes that its Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (…) clearly stipulates that ‘each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue’ (n. 92), nor is it licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful who are not impeded by law from receiving the Holy Eucharist.”

The same letter concluded with the words: “May you persevere in faith and in love for Our Lord and his Holy Church, and in continued devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Guillaume’s appeal did not end up on the desk of the Congregation for Divine Worship, perhaps because the Church’s laws and instructions are so clear that the bishop considered it would have been useless to resist. That is the lesson he would like to share with so many Catholics facing the same kind of difficulty – not to say persecution – on the part of Church authorities all over the world “because of” COVID-19.

The ordeal started on the first Sunday of March, when the priest of Guillaume’s parish – whose faithful had been used to receiving Communion on the tongue before his arrival – said during his homily that due to the epidemic, he would only give Communion in the hand for sanitary reasons.

When the time came, Guillaume went to Communion with his hands folded, knelt down and opened his mouth to receive the Host as he always had, directly on the tongue. The priest refused. Not wanting to make trouble in church, Guillaume silently returned to his pew, profoundly hurt, having been treated like a public sinner.

Shortly afterwards, France entered into lockdown on March 17, and public Masses were suspended by the civil authorities, with no resistance from the French ecclesiastical hierarchy. When the ban was lifted on May 25, Guillaume and his family decided to go to another parish where the local priest was continuing to give Communion on the tongue.

At this point, he began to receive angry letters from the priest who had refused to give him Communion before the lockdown. He was told he had chosen to go to a “disobeying” priest, and that he was “not on the right path towards sanctification.” He was accused of being “obstinate,” of “wanting God to submit to his personal desires” even though God’s Son gave His bishops authority over disciplinary matters. Guillaume was even asked whether he thought he was in the state of grace to go and receive Holy Communion elsewhere because of his lack of humility and his disobedience to the local bishop, who was presented as having made the decision that priests must give Communion in the hand. Another similar letter followed. Guillaume and his wife decided not to answer.

They did complain about the correspondence to the Catholic hierarchy and, on June 25, Guillaume lodged a formal appeal with the local bishop, politely but firmly invoking the Roman documents quoted above. In that letter, couched in courteous terms, he underscored the “great suffering” that was affecting his and his wife’s spiritual life.

“Regarding law, it is a great injustice, and regarding ecclesial communion, it constitutes a discrimination,” he wrote.

Counting on the bishop’s “pastoral goodwill,” the letter stated: “We have recourse to you, your Excellency, who are the guarantor of justice and communion in the parishes of the diocese, so that we may once again have the immense joy of receiving Our Lord, in our parish, following the humble inclination of our heart, that is, on the tongue, in accordance with the liturgical norms.”

Four days later, a registered letter from the bishop invited the couple to come and discuss the situation with him, but before that could happen, a week after Guillaume had sent his official appeal, his parish received informal notice from the bishop that Holy Communion could be distributed on the tongue. Since then, about half of the parishioners have resumed the traditional manner of receiving the Host, kneeling and on the tongue.

But Guillaume has since then received several letters from his parish priest questioning his knowledge of canon law and church affairs and accusing him of “stubbornness” and even of “fanatical pride.” 

In a presentation of his fight for the reverent reception of the Eucharist on Gloria.tv, Guillaume published the letter that has obliged a bishop to step back from a general prohibition of Communion on the tongue, even if it was only for one parish and as discreetly as possible.

He suggests that faithful in the same situation as he should first get in touch with the priest who refuses Communion on the tongue, invoking Redemptionis sacramentum and the 2009 letter applying to a sanitary situation. If that is impossible, they can also try humbly to receive our Lord on the tongue, with some hope of success. Guillaume himself was sent away with a curt: “I will not give you Communion.”

If the priest, as he probably will, opposes his duty to obey his bishop, Guillaume suggests that that is the time to appeal directly to that bishop, by registered letter, taking care to keep a copy.

The letter should give precisely the date, parish and circumstance in which a given priest has refused Communion on the tongue. It should recall the norms precisely and ask for the bishop to intervene in order to put an end to the abuse. It should also, “subtly,” Guillaume insisted, make clear that in case of a refusal, a recourse will be made to the Congregation for Divine Worship. Adding a copy of the latter’s response in 2009 may suffice.

Don’t forget to pray for your priest, your bishop and the success of your action, Guillaume added, and don’t have exaggerated hopes of seeing the bishop reinstate Communion on the tongue in his entire diocese. 

Also, don’t forget to thank your priest or your bishop if you are successful… and, “prepare to suffer.” Quoting the violent messages received from the local priest, Guillaume commented: “This incredible outburst of violence on the part of a priest, despite the fact that he is ‘classical’ (without being traditional) has made us aware of the capital importance of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. If it was of no importance, such passions would not be unleashed. Satan does not seem to like communion on the tongue at all…”


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