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Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, May 11, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, has confirmed in a tweet that the priests of his diocese “will not give Communion on the tongue as per my instruction.” Taking it further, he says 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.”

In his May 6 decree on the resumption of public Masses, Stika described the “mandatory (non-negotiable)” procedure for distributing and receiving Holy Communion.

“Once you leave your pew/chair you will proceed single file (maintaining 6 feet apart) to the distribution point,” Stika wrote. “Immediately before you reach the distribution point you will remove your protective face mask placing it in your pocket and sanitize your hands with 70% alcohol-based sanitizing gel/solution (which will be on a small table directly in front of the distribution point).”

“Standing on the floor-marked X (or kneeling at the 6-foot marked locations along the communion rail), you will extend your arms and hands toward the priest/deacon with the palm of your non-writing hand facing up and completely flat supported by your writing hand,” he continued.

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The priest, in turn, is to wear “a protective face mask and safety glasses.”

Stika added a diagram illustrating the reception of the Eucharist according to coronavirus rules in the diocese of Knoxville.

Stika’s comments on Twitter came after a user sent him an article on the 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., and recommended by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

According to those guidelines, 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.”

The article sent to Stika, published by Church Militant, was titled, “US Bishops Approve Communion on the Tongue.”

Stika responded, “Actually, the bishops did not. A group made some recommends, actually three for the reception of the Eucharist. But bishops must follow their own conscience. The headline is a distortion of the reality of what a committee stated.”

“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.”

“These are very challenging times and my ministry is not to keep everyone happy but to do what I judge to be right. If I would do anything else, I would be violating my own conscience and the advice I seek from others,” Stika concluded.

The bishop of Knoxville was subsequently attacked on Twitter for his decision not to allow the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, as well as not permitting Catholics who insist on that manner of receiving the Eucharist to come back to Mass before the coronavirus pandemic is over.

“I have to make decisions based on my conscious [sic] and protecting my flock,” he said. “I prefer to side with caution. I make no decision arbitrarily, but seek advice and then bring it to prayer.”