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Arlington diocese deletes statement saying Communion on the hand not more sanitary than on tongue

Dioceses affirming Catholics' right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue consulted health experts. The Diocese of Arlington did so but then scrubbed that fact from its statement.
Fri Mar 13, 2020 - 4:31 pm EST
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March 13, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, released a statement this week saying public health experts “assisting the Diocese have advised that receiving Communion on the tongue does not pose a greater risk of spreading illness than receiving Communion on the hand.” However, an updated version of that diocesan statement, “Prevention and Response to the Coronavirus,” published by The Arlington Catholic Herald, no longer contains that sentence.

Instead, the article says, “With regard to reception of Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue (which is a decision left to each communicant) extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and clergy are encouraged to use reasonable caution to avoid physical contact with others.” 

Even though the sentence about the lack of increased risk of spreading illness by receiving the Eucharist directly on the tongue was removed by The Arlington Catholic Herald, other dioceses have identified the same facts.

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Screenshot of the Diocese of Arlington's original statement, released Wednesday, March 11, 2020, on Communion on the tongue

The Archdiocese of Edmonton in Canada had consulted experts in public health and was advised “that there is no greater risk of infection in receiving the host on the tongue than there is in receiving in the hand. Communicants are free to receive either way.”

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By Friday, March 13, 2020, the diocese deleted the original line about Communion on the hand not being any more sanitary than on the tongue.

“However, for people’s greater peace of mind, priests should offer a dedicated line for communicants who prefer to receive on the tongue,” the Canadian archdiocese conceded.

The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, declared that “a parish cannot ban the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue.”

The archdiocese, headed by Archbishop Alexander Sample, had consulted two doctors on the question of the manner of receiving Holy Communion. They “agreed that done properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand pose a more or less equal risk.”

“The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger however the chance of touching someone’s hand is equally probable and one’s hands have a greater exposure to germs,” the archdiocese’s statement pointed out.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, also emphasized the equal risk.

“The manner of receiving the host (in the hand or on the tongue) is the choice of each individual communicant. Both methods may risk the spread of disease, so it is important for ministers of Communion to exercise good hygiene,” the bishop wrote in his temporary regulations.

In the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki stated that the reception of Communion on the tongue “is very sanitary when done properly.”

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone emphasized that germs can be spread “just as easily by hand-to-hand contact as by hand-to-mouth contact.”

Accordingly, those distributing Holy Communion “should try to avoid physical contact with the communicant...Those who present themselves to receive Communion on the tongue should not be denied their right to receive Communion in this way.”

Various bishops have cited coronavirus to discourage or even Communion on the tongue, despite the Vatican affirming in 2009 during the swine flu pandemic that the Catholic faithful have a right to receive it that way.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said, “During this time of public health concerns we are temporarily suspending distribution of communion on the tongue and invite the faithful to reverently receive the Eucharist in their hand.”

“This directive is motivated by care and concern for the health of our people, especially those who are most vulnerable,” he claimed.

Just before canceling all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Archbishop Paul Etienne had also banned the reception of Communion on the tongue. While claiming not to refuse Communion to anyone, he stated that “to do our part to contain the spread of a new virus, while at the national epicenter of the outbreak, we are limiting the option at this time to receive Communion in the hand.”

“People are free to either receive Communion under this new temporary guideline or not,” the archbishop said.

The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, published in 2004 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, explicitly stated that “each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.”


  catholic, coronavirus, diocese of arlington, michael burbidge

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