Toronto Cardinal threatens to ‘shut down’ priests who give Communion on the tongue

'If we have a place, one of our parishes, if we have one parish where they’re loosey-goosey with the protocol...I will shut you down!'
Wed Dec 2, 2020 - 10:31 am EST
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Cardinal Thomas Collins LifeSiteNews / YouTube

TORONTO, Canada, December 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto has said that he will “shut down” priests who administer Communion on the tongue in contravention of his coronavirus regulations for the archdiocese.

In a November 13 webinar obtained by LifeSiteNews, Cardinal Thomas Collins emphasized that the archdiocese’s coronavirus procedures must be followed diligently. This includes the masked minister of Communion standing six feet away from the masked recipient and putting the Host “vertically” into the recipient’s hand. 

“But we cannot have Communion on the tongue,” Collins said. 

“We can’t. And we have to be effective in our protocol.” 

Moments afterwards Collins said that he would “shut down” any priests that didn’t comply with the archdiocese’s coronavirus regulations.

“I’ve dealt with cases, and I said to a priest, ‘I will shut you down. I will shut you down in a heartbeat!’” he said. 

“If we have a place, one of our parishes, if we have one parish where they’re loosey-goosey with the protocol...I will shut you down! Because I cannot have a parish, one parish or any parish, mess it up for us all, endanger the whole diocese, every church in the province for that matter.” 

Collins had noted that one of the issues medical authorities worry about in connection with Catholic worship is the distribution of Holy Communion. He said he had “gone through the whole thing” with the doctors. 

“We have six feet apart, the mask is on, [the Host administered] vertically in the hand, and so on,” he said. 

The cardinal stated that he was “very conscious, and sensitive to, and sad about” people who “for very good spiritual reasons do not want to touch the Host.” 

“I see the point,” he said. 

“It may well be that it has contributed to a lack of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. I see that’s a concern. […] This is not a frivolous thought; it’s a serious thought.”

However, Collins emphasized that Holy Communion must be placed in the hand, not on the tongue, because “the point is that we don’t put hands around mouths and noses.”

“That’s where the virus comes from,” he said. “That’s what they tell us. And the saliva, and so on.”

Some of the faithful have come up with creative ways to receive the Blessed Sacrament without touching it. One woman has been receiving the Host with the aid of a little plate. Two other Catholics have been receiving the Host on (cloth) purifiers before consuming them. 

“I don’t think that is a problem, so there is a way,” Collins said.

The Cardinal added that he was checking this “alternative method” of receiving Communion with doctors, but that he thought it would be all right. 

Apparently, a mask-less Catholic priest placing the Host on the tongue of a communicant was enough to spark an emergency meeting of Ontario’s “Worship Safe” committee. The incident had been witnessed by a government inspector, and the parish was, in Collins’ words, “slapped with a compliance order.” Although it was not said to have happened in the Toronto archdiocese, Collins was called to the meeting. 

The webinar, whose existence was first made public by the Vox Cantoris blog, it is clear that he has been under pressure from civil authorities to prove that keeping Catholic churches open is safe and that the archdiocesan hygienic measures meant to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus are “effective” and “enforceable.”

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Since delivering the webinar Collins has cancelled public Masses in the Toronto & Peel Region after government lockdown regulations said there could be no more than 10 people inside a church at one time.

Not all doctors believe that Communion in the hand, a practice dating to the 1960s, is in fact safer than receiving the Blessed Sacrament directly on the tongue. Twenty-seven Austrian doctors wrote a letter this summer asking their country’s Bishops’ Conference to lift the de facto ban on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, explaining that the historic practice is safer than receiving on the hand. In October, a number of Polish doctors wrote a similar letter to the Polish Bishops’ Conference. 

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has argued that “Communion in the mouth is certainly less dangerous and more hygienic compared to Communion in the hand.”

“From a hygienic point of view, the hand carries a huge amount of bacteria," Schneider said. 

“Many pathogens are transmitted through the hands. Whether by shaking other people’s hands or frequently touching objects, such as door handles or handrails and grab bars in public transport, germs can quickly pass from hand to hand; and with these unhygienic hands and fingers people then touch often their nose and mouth,” he continued. 

“Also, germs can sometimes survive on the surface of the touched objects for days. According to a 2006 study, published in the journal ‘BMC Infectious Diseases’, influenza viruses and similar viruses can persist on inanimate surfaces, such as e.g. door handles or handrails and handles in transport and public buildings for a few days.”  

He described any ban on Communion in the mouth as “unfounded compared to the great health risks of Communion in the hand in the time of a pandemic.”

According to the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), Catholics have the right to receive the Blessed Sacrament kneeling and on the tongue. The instruction makes it clear that administering the Host on the tongue is the norm, and receiving the Host on the hand is exceptional and can carry “a risk of profanation”:

“...[I]t is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing,” the instruction reads.

“Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitioof the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.” (RS 91-92).

Contacted by LifeSiteNews, aspokesman for the Archdiocese of Toronto stated: “We will use official archdiocesan communication vehicles to convey public statements and accurate information regarding the work of the Archdiocese of Toronto and our ongoing efforts during this time of pandemic.”

  archdiocese of toronto, catholic, church closures, coronavirus restrictions, thomas collins, toronto

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