Rorate Caeli

‘Our bishops themselves deprive us of the Body of Christ’: Communion and the Corona Virus

Saint Tarcisius

Several French bishops have used issued guidelines for preventing in the spread of the Corona Virus, in which they instruct priests to refuse to give communion on the tongue. Riposte Catholique has posted a letter from a young Catholic protesting against what amounts to an uncanonical interdict against traditional Catholics. We offer an English translation here.

Your Lordships,

With all of the filial respect that I owe to you as Successors of the Apostles and Princes of the Church, I write you this letter, in exercising my rights according to Canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law.

For several weeks, coronavirus (COVID-19) has been present on French territory, thus the bishops of several dioceses have taken precautions in order to limit the spread of the virus among the faithful gathered for the liturgical services, particularly the Mass, which poses a particular difficulty due to the distribution of communion.

Copied below are the instructions from the press release of your brother, the archbishop of Paris. 

   Offer communion only in the hands of the faithful, and refuse to give it in the mouth.
   Do not offer communion from the chalice to the faithful.
   Ask concelebrants to commune by intinction.
   Ask the faithful to not exchange the sign of peace.
   Empty the holy water fonts of the churches. 

On the one hand, the faithful ought to understand the reasons why His Grace, the Most Rev. Michel Aupetit, has acted to protect those who attend the liturgies in the churches of Paris, as a priest has already been in the midst of the other diocesan clergy, after catching the virus in Italy. Clearly, no one wishes that anyone else become sick because of contact with their priests during the celebration of the sacred liturgy.

On the other hand, in forbidding the reception of communion on the tongue, the bishops have created problems for the consciences of those faithful who only receive Holy Communion in this fashion. 

When I was seven years old, I made my First Holy Communion with a pious spirit, wearing a beautiful white shirt and tie, one beautiful Sunday morning in April. We learned to present our hands, the right above the left, like a little throne, to receive Our Lord in a reverent manner. Then, we would take the right hand and make the Sign of the Cross as usual, in an act of love and thanksgiving to Our Lord. Such is the manner in which I received Holy Communion until the age of twelve, when I discovered Christianity in its fullness, according to its tradition, that is, in the traditional liturgy celebrated in Latin according to the liturgical books in use before the Second Vatican Council. 

In order to benefit from the sacrament of confession, being an adolescent boy like all others, where changes to body and spirit make the task of controlling one’s passions more difficult (I speak not only of lust, but of all the passions: adolescents change greatly in all areas of life and pose a challenge at school, at home, and so on), my family searched for a spiritual solution to the combat between the spirit and the flesh that was found within me (and still is to be found, but was certainly there at the time, when I was twelve).

Since the territorial parish only offered confession for a marginal thirty minutes on Saturday afternoons, which was insufficient, we came into the abode of the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, where, beyond the generous hours of confession (daily, before all of the public Masses), I also appreciated the Mass in latin. It was, if not more reverent a priori, celebrated in a manner where one could find silence and interior peace, something that I had never seen before.

I also discovered the theology of Pope Benedict XVI, which has left a profound mark in my soul, thanks to his love for Jesus Christ, redeemer of all, and for the sacred liturgy, which reveals Christ on each altar, in every tabernacle, in every corner of the world, even until the end of time.

To make a long story short, after several years of faithful service in the Ordinary Form, where we could receive on the tongue, but not on the knees, in order to assure the unity of the assembly (which was perhaps a euphemism for avoiding a conflict with the archbishop), I switched to the traditional Mass, where there is no choice: Holy Communion is exclusively distributed on the tongue of each communicant, who is also kneeling. Here, we are all in agreement: according to the teaching of the church, the species of bread and wine (for those who suffer from celiac disease) suffice, each containing the Body and Blood of the Lord, his soul and divinity, whatever the arguments might be for the distribution, whether occasional or habitual, of both species during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (If you will allow a digression, I should note that during the first concelebrations in the 1960s, it was necessary for priests to have their own paten and chalice, with their own host and some wine. To put it another way, only those who were directly around the altar concelebrated at the beginning: you can even see this in the photos taken in St. Peter’s Basilica.) 

I will be twenty-five this summer, which means that I have not touched the Body of Christ with my own hands for thirteen years, as I was twelve when I made the decision to no longer receive the eucharist in the hand. This is no longer only a question of choice, but of habit and of thought, that is, I cannot imagine the possibility of touching the host, even in an emergency. I would prefer to lick the floor than take the eucharist in my hands if I find a fallen host, like in Communist China during the Maoist revolution or even in our churches in France today. It is entirely unthinkable that I do otherwise, at least if my hands are not anointed by the bishop according to the tradition of the Roman church during the celebration of priestly ordination.

We have just entered into the desert to spend forty days of fasting and prayer like Our Lord, and already we are with him in order to pass the hours of his Passion. That there is no longer holy water, like after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and, for those who celebrate according to the traditional rite, the Blessed Sacrament, as on Good Friday, does not escape me. But we are not prepared! This is why Lent is necessary, to prepare us to enter into the Passion. I would even say that it is better to have a world without public Masses following the orders of the government, hostile or not, than the one where our bishops themselves deprive us of sacramentals and even the Body of Christ himself without provocation.

Yes, you might respond to me, but what of Pope St. Pius X and the reform of the age of reason and of the frequency of reception? You would be right, in my opinion, if you asked me that question. Our situation is hardly very traditional, but one should not take this precious gift from the faithful, certainly without leaving them the possibility to discern their own rate of reception, taking into account all of the risks to their health, after having confessed and done penance.

I will not linger too long on canon law, but you have created a conflict, for there is not only a right to receive the Holy Sacrament if you present yourself to the priest (cf. canon 912) but to kneel and to receive on the tongue. In fact, the indult Memoriale Domini which authorizes the reception of the sacrament in the hand, envisions that the reception on the tongue always be preserved. Nothing has abrogated this document of Pope St. Paul VI. For the Americans, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments even corrected the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in order to preserve these two rights and prevent the correction of the faithful by the priest in favor of receiving standing and in the hands, a condemnation which is explicitly condemned by the same Roman congregation.

Thus, this is all I have to say to you, Your Lordships.

Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.

Be assured of my prayers. I kiss your sacred rings.

A young Catholic