BALTIMORE, Maryland, May 28, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Archdiocese of Baltimore said it has “serious concerns” about a Howard County, Maryland executive order banning the reception of Holy Communion because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“For the Catholic community, the reception of Communion is central to our faith lives and to our public worship,” the archdiocese stated on Wednesday.
“Since learning of the concerns of Howard County officials, we have shared our guidelines for the distribution of Communion and express our own serious concerns about their recent guidance preventing Catholic churches in Howard County from distributing Communion.”
As several states are opening up again after the lockdown, Howard County, which is located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., issued a very restrictive executive order on Tuesday.
“There shall be no consumption of food or beverage of any kind before, during, or after religious services, including food or beverage that would typically be consumed as part of a religious service,” the local government ordered.
Religious gatherings are limited to ten people, but public outdoor Masses could accommodate up to 250 faithful, as long as “appropriate social distancing of six feet” is maintained. Even outside, everybody has to “wear face masks or facial coverings at all times.”
“Singing is permitted,” the executive order pointed out, “but not recommended. If singing takes place, only the choir or religious leaders may sing. Any person singing without a mask or facial covering must maintain a 12-foot distance from other persons, including religious leaders, other singers, or the congregation.”
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is one of the key members of the White House coronavirus task force, told America Magazine on May 26 that churches should adopt “common sense” measures to protect the faithful.
For Fauci, “common sense” includes prohibiting the reception of the Eucharist. “I think for the time being, you just gotta forestall that.”
“If the priest is on the altar, separated by 30, 40, 50 feet, you know, I wouldn’t think it was absolutely necessary to [use masks],” Fauci pointed out. “But the people who are within six, 10 feet of each other really need to.”
He also discouraged singing. “When you sing, the amount of droplets and aerosol that come out is really, in some respects, scary,” he said.
Fauci has also called for abolishing handshakes, but said sex with strangers from dating apps is fine “if you’re willing to take a risk.”
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore had just announced on Tuesday “that some of us, at least, will be able to return to Mass for the feast of Pentecost, though only at one-third the seating capacity of our churches.”
He already cautioned at the time that public Masses “must be allowed by each local jurisdiction, who [sic] have different timelines due to the uneven number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”
“Secondly, each parish must evaluate whether it is ready to open for public Masses,” he added.
“If you are vulnerable, sick or simply apprehensive about gathering with others at this time, consider staying at home,” the archbishop said. “The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will remain in effect through Phase II of our reopening. Many locations will continue to offer Masses online for the time being.”
In a video, titled “What to Expect When You Return to Mass,” the archdiocese of Baltimore only mentions the reception of Holy Communion in the hand, not on the tongue.
“After you have received the host in your hand and placed it in your mouth, please place your mask back in position over your mouth and nose before proceeding back to your pew,” the video instructs the faithful.
However, the official archdiocesan “Guidelines for Resuming Public Masses and the Sacraments of Initiation” allow for the traditional way of receiving the Eucharist.
“Ministers of Holy Communion may not deny Communion to those who insist on receiving on the tongue,” the guidelines emphasize. “Should anyone choose to do so, the Minister of Communion must sanitize his/her hands prior to distributing Communion to the next individual.”
Recommended by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, guidelines prepared by the Thomistic Institute for restarting public Masses made clear that receiving Holy Communion directly on the tongue is possible “without unreasonable risk.”
“Opinions on this point are varied within the medical and scientific community: some believe Communion on the tongue involves an elevated and, in the light of all the circumstances, an unreasonable risk; others disagree,” the document pointed out. “If Communion on the tongue is provided, one could consider using hand sanitizer after each communicant who receives on the tongue.”
The guidelines specifically referred to Redemptionis Sacramentum, an Instruction published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2004. According to the document, “each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.”