Communion on the tongue safer than Communion in the hand: Polish doctors
WARSAW, Poland, October 22, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A group of Polish doctors warned that reception of Holy Communion in the hand is dangerous.
The open letter to the Catholic Church in Poland, published in the most recent weekend edition of Catholic newspaper Nasz Dziennik (“Our Daily”) and addressed to “the bishops, priests, and brothers and sisters in the faith of the Catholic Church,” and signed by over 60 medical experts, the doctors say they are concerned by the new practice.
Receiving communion in the hand was not the norm in majority-Catholic Poland before the coronavirus crisis. However, in an October 6 statement, the bishops “recalled that people who, for various reasons, wished to receive Holy Communion in their hands with faith and veneration, cannot be accused of disrespecting the Eucharist. The Holy See accepts this way of giving the faithful the Lord’s Body as worthy.”
The doctors now wrote, “We are concerned about the fact that in recent months there has been encouragement on the part of priests (and even orders in some parishes) to receive communion on the hand as a more hygienic method that allegedly protects the faithful from SARS-CoV-2.”
“We don’t know on what basis, particularly on what scientific research, such a thesis was built, or which medical premises confirm it,” they added.
“We believe, from the medical point of view, that one can’t treat giving Holy Communion in the hand as a method much safer than receiving Holy Communion by mouth.”
The doctors pointed out that hands are the “point of contact” between human bodies and their surroundings. Many experts have emphasized the existence of multiple micro-organisms that could include pathogens on hands, they noted, and listed both the germs and their unpleasant effects on the human body.
“Even if we splash disinfectant on our hands before entering church, we have to remember that during Mass they touch things or places we haven’t disinfected: pews, clothing, glasses, hair and even money (the home of many germs) folded in the [offering basket],” they warned.
The doctors are also concerned by the modern practice of communicants standing face-to-face with the person administering the Blessed Sacrament.
“From the epidemiological point of view, we must warn that the standing position also encourages the spread of infection as it makes the priest and communicant more vulnerable to mutual infection,” they wrote.
They observe that either could infect the other with airborne droplets moving from one mouth or nose to the other’s, or even through the eyes. Therefore, they recommend that all communicants receive Communion as far as possible from the priest’s face: they suggest kneeling.
“It should be stated, from the medical point of view, that the giving of Holy Communion directly in the mouth and in the kneeling position is a decidedly safer and more appropriate method than receiving Holy Communion in the hand and standing,” they said and made a dramatic appeal:
“Out of concern for the health of the faithful, we wish to appeal strongly to the Polish Episcopate, to bishops and all priests, for a swift return to administering the Body of Christ on the tongue [to those] in a kneeling position.”
The lead signers of the document were three pathologists from the Medical University of Białystock: Dr. Marek Baltaziak, Dr. Maria Elżbieta Sobaniec-Łotowska, and Dr. Stanisław Sulkowski.
In September, 27 German doctors gave similar advice to the German bishops, declaring that there are “no medical reasons for a ban of Communion on the tongue.”
Like the Polish doctors, the Germans pointed out that hands are very easily contaminated and that face-to-face Communion is more dangerous that receiving Communion kneeling at a distance from the priest’s face. They noted also that if a priest should accidently touch a communicant’s tongue, he can disinfect his fingers immediately afterwards.