May 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Distributing Holy Communion with gloves amid the coronavirus pandemic is “sacrilegious,” according to Msgr. Nicola Bux, a theologian who worked as a consultor to the Vatican for many years.
While many dioceses across the world are slowly beginning to have some faithful present for public Masses again, the question of the sanitary distribution and reception of the Eucharist has been raised.
In his short statement published by Marco Tosatti, the theologian said that “the sacred ministers, especially priests, perhaps have no intention of profaning the Sacrament, but they do not know what it means to treat it worthily, that is in relation to the intrinsic value of the reality in question.”
Bux asked, “Who would bring a plate of soup to the table with latex gloves? It would create suspicion in the eaters. So why be surprised by the faithful who are outraged by such treatment of the Eucharist?”
Ideas such as wearing gloves to distribute Holy Communion indicate “a lack of human and Christian formation in this regard.” Bux argued that priests should simply follow the guidelines already in place in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
That text, as well as the rites of the traditional Latin Mass and the liturgies of the Eastern churches, aims to treat “with devout dignity the sacred vessels containing the Eucharist, which also implies the hygienic purity of the hands; and this since ancient times.”
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Bux, who was a consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, pointed to the fact that in the traditional liturgy, “after having consecrated the species, the priest keeps his thumbs and index fingers together, so as not to touch anything else until the Communion of the faithful is concluded.”
He also mentioned that “incense, which has sanitizing power,” is generously used by the Eastern churches. “This is also foreseen in the Roman and Ambrosian rites, but by some it is considered a sign of triumphalism,” he added.
In the Novus Ordo, putting the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal into practice would mean that “the Blessed Sacrament would be treated as it should be and the faithful would be reassured in spirit and body,” Bux claimed.
Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., who is vice president and academic dean at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., stressed on Twitter, “We don’t handle it with gloves and we certainly don’t put the Blessed Sacrament in a plastic baggie.”
Petri’s Pontifical Faculty, through its Thomistic Institute, was also responsible for writing the guidelines on the phased restoration of public Masses, which were subsequently recommended by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
According to the Thomistic Institute, even receiving Holy Communion directly on the tongue, which some consider to be the most dangerous thing to do amid the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.”
Three options for distributing Holy Communion were discussed in detail by the Thomistic Institute. “Option 1 provides for Mass without any distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful. Option 2 provides for Holy Communion immediately at the end of Mass, with additional precautions (our recommended option). Option 3 provides for Holy Communion during Mass, with more modest precautions.”
The Thomistic Institute went on to explain the benefits of the second option.
“This is our recommended option, because it respects the symbolic and liturgical integrity of the Mass (which should be celebrated without mask or gloves), avoids any practices in the Mass that could become sources of future liturgical abuse, gives a greater freedom to the faithful to determine whether or not they will come forward for Holy Communion (some may be nervous about doing so), and also provides for additional precautions to reduce risk,” the guidelines stated.
They added, “It also will permit the priest to remove his chasuble for the distribution of Holy Communion, given that it is difficult to launder if anyone should sneeze or cough on him.”