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US bishop reverses plan to ban Communion on tongue as churches reopen

Bp. Douglas Deshotel had 'discontinued' Communion on the tongue in his diocese but reversed course after a ruling from the U.S. bishops' conference.
Fri May 15, 2020 - 9:18 pm EST
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Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette, Lousiana. Catholic Diocese of Lafayette LA / YouTube

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana, May 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Douglas Deshotel has revised his decision to allow only reception of the Eucharist in the hand amid the coronavirus pandemic. He credited guidelines issued by the Thomistic Institute for correcting his previous decision.

“[I]f anyone desires to receive communion on the tongue they may certainly do so with every precaution taken not to make contact between the minister and the communicant,” the head of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, wrote on May 12.

Deshotel had previously sent directives to all parishes regarding the implementation of Phase I of Democratic governor John Bel Edwards’s plan to reopen the state of Louisiana. The diocesan directives allowed for indoor Masses at a “maximum 25% occupancy rate of each church, social distancing at all times, and hygiene precautions,” the diocese wrote on its website.

In his May 12 letter, the bishop told all priests and deacons of his diocese that he wanted “to make a clarification on the guidelines for the distribution of Holy Communion as we begin to implement Phase I of reopening the Churches of the Diocese.”

Whereas before, he had written, “Holy Communion on the tongue is discontinued until health conditions improve,” he now pointed out this was stated “out of an abundance of caution in preventing contamination and before the ruling of the [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] was issued.”

“Every Catholic has a right to receive Holy Communion in the most reverent way they deem, in the hand or on the tongue,” Bishop Deshotel emphasized.

On April 30, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, in his position as the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship, sent a memorandum to all bishops, suggesting they use guidelines prepared by the Thomistic Institute, which is part of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

According to the Thomistic Institute, 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 that 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.”

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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.”

Popular blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf praised Deshotel “for having the backbone to move from his previous position.”

Several other bishops in the United States, but also in other countries, continue to maintain that only the reception of Communion in the hand is possible.

Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee confirmed in a tweet that the priests of his diocese “will not give Communion on the tongue as per my instruction.” Beyond that, he said that if the person wanting to receive Holy Communion on the tongue “makes a scene,” then “they will be asked to leave and not permitted to return [until] this passes.”

“You are dispensed from Mass or you may attend Mass and not receive the Eucharist,” he wrote. “You have two options. You have not option to possibility [sic] spread the infection.”


  catholic, communion in the hand, communion on the tongue, coronavirus, douglas deshotel, eucharist, lafayette, louisiana, quarantine

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