A number of people online have been promoting the idea that Canon 223 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law gives bishops the authority to deny the Catholic faithful communion on the tongue and to require communion in the hand for anyone receiving.
Let’s have a look at the canon.
Can. 223 §1. In exercising their rights, the Christian faithful, both as individuals and gathered together in associations, must take into account the common good of the Church, the rights of others, and their own duties toward others.
§2. In view of the common good, ecclesiastical authority can direct the exercise of rights which are proper to the Christian faithful.
As I mentioned in my last article, “Contempt for Communion and the Mechanization of Mass,” the notion of “the common good” can be too breezily invoked to cover a multitude of sins.
The first thing we need to consider is a theological fact that has more authority than any canon law or any interpretation thereof: that, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches , the common good of the entire universe is found in Christ, and Christ is really present in the Holy Eucharist, as the same saint memorably conveys in the Magnificat antiphon for Vespers of Corpus Christi:
O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis eius: mens impletur gratia: et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur. Alleluia. (O sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. Alleluia.)
This means the Holy Eucharist IS the common good of the entire universe. Therefore, when we are considering how Communion ought to be distributed, the first and last consideration must be what we owe to Godin loving Him above all others; we owe Him fitting reverence in all that we do and say. The Blessed Sacrament is not just “one more thing” over which a bishop has control, even if there is a limited sense in which he may establish norms for his diocese not contrary to universal norms (unless expressly permitted to do so; and even then, we should recall the statement of the Apostle: “all things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient,” 1 Cor. 6, 12).
If we take seriously the truth of which Aquinas reminds us, we will see that Can. 223 §1 is obliging us to “take into account the common good of the Church” — above all, Christ Himself in the Eucharist — and, in that light, “the rights of others, and their own duties toward others.” The faithful have the right to see the Eucharist properly treated by all; our duties include building up the Body of Christ in holiness, which is incompatible with any kind of irreverence or unworthy experimentation, such as the German methods of Coronacommunion depicted in my last article.
Inevitably, the question arises: What is and what is not reverent? It seems to me very dangerous to say that bishops, all by themselves, get to determine the answer to this question, in a positivist vacuum. That is an anti-traditional nominalism that Catholics should not abide. Meanwhile, it is clear that the current situation will show which bishops have a supernatural perspective and which ones have a merely natural perspective.
More interesting is Can. 223 §2: “In view of the common good, ecclesiastical authority can direct the exercise of rights which are proper to the Christian faithful.” This canon suffers more than usually from the vagueness that is a necessary fault (as it were) of any code of law, but it is clear that it must be interpreted in light of the general norms of the law. Thus, for instance, Can. 135 §2 states, in part: “A lower legislator cannot validly issue a law contrary to higher law.” Given no provision for overruling the liturgical norms in force — which norms are extremely clear, repeated numerous times, as I and others have demonstrated (most recently in this article) — any bishop’s attempt to deny the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue is unlawful on its face. 
Beyond this more theoretical consideration, we may note — as countless bloggers and online commenters have already done — that the USCCB has quasi-adopted a set of guidelines from the Thomistic Institute that state: “We believe that, with the precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.”  Although I do not agree with many of the Thomistic Institute’s precautions (for the reasons given in my last article), they at least recognize, as have various dioceses here and there (Portland being the best known), that there is no unreasonable risk in proceeding with the method that is still the Church’s universal norm.
|Archbishop Chaput giving Holy Communion:|
note optimal height relationship
Practical Issues with Communion on the Tongue
However, here I must speak plainly, and cut through the rigmarole. It is time for the hierarchy of the Church to recognize that the bishops themselves have caused the problem with sanitary communion on the tongue precisely by abolishing (or, at any rate, discouraging for decades) the traditional manner of receiving — namely, kneeling shoulder-to-shoulder along an altar rail, with a server holding a chin paten.  This method became universal for good reason. Quite apart from its superior reverence, it is highly practical, for three reasons:
First, it was normally done only by a priest, who had gained expertise from daily experience, as opposed to the rotating schedules of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who may or may not know how to place the host properly on the tongue, and who often come across as hesitant, embarrassed, perplexed, or irritated at having to do so.
Second, the priest walking along the communion rail stands at an optimal height at which to place the host easily on the communicant’s tongue. It is vastly more awkward to try to give communion on the tongue to someone standing in front of you, especially if he or she is taller. The traditional method makes it far more likely that a priest will not have any immediate physical contact with the faithful, as opposed to communion in the hand where he will touch many, many germy hands — unless he follows the proposal to drop the host into the hand like a payload from a bomber, which brings with it problems of its own.
Third, because the faithful come up to the altar rail in waves, they have a chance to settle themselves on their knees and can calmly prepare for the priest coming to them. By the time he arrives, the communicant can have his or her head tilted back and be ready. There’s no unseemly rushing. (In the traditional form of communion, the priest says the prayer: “Corpus Domini nostri…” and concludes with the “Amen”; the recipient does not have to move his lips and risk either discharging saliva or accidentally touching the priest’s hand. In other words, it works perfectly in a time of epidemic.)
|Bishop Ronald Gainer distributing Holy Communion in the traditional manner|
All Catholics should be aware that if they wish to receive on the tongue, they should kneel — regardless of which form of the Mass they are attending or whom they are receiving from. They should kneel, first, because it is the Lord God before whom the angels fall on their faces; and second, because, when they kneel, tilt back their head, and protrude their tongue, it will be very easy for the host to be placed on it.
A seasoned priest who celebrates both forms of the Mass, Fr. Allan J. McDonald, shares some excellent thoughts at his blog Southern Orders:
I know because I celebrate both forms of the one Roman Rite that kneeling for Holy Communion makes it easier for me not to touch the tongue of the communicant in the EF Mass if the communicant does what I was taught about receiving Holy Communion as a second grader. You tilt your head slightly back, stick out your tongue in a natural not exaggerated way and wait for the priest to withdraw his hand prior to retracting one’s tongue or moving one’s head forward.
In the EF Mass the priest responds amen for the communicant thus neutralizing any spittle from becoming aerosolized and attaching to the priest’s fingers while these are close to the communicant’s mouth.
Other temporal life-saving aspects of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass are these, which the Ordinary Form is recovering for the temporal health of the laity and priest(s):
1. Ad orientem, the priest’s aerosolized words go toward the wall not the congregation.
2. Hymn books are now deemed a deadly device if Coronavirus attaches to them and are being removed from pews. Thus the choir or cantor needs to chant the entrance chant, hopefully the official Introit and the laity actually participate by meditating on what is chanted rather than joining in and aerosolizing the air with their viruses.
3. The offertory gifts are not touched by anyone, similar to the EF Mass where only the priest touches the sacred vessels — except in the EF it is out of reverence, [while] in the OF it will be out of fear of contagion or viruses attaching to the vessels carried by the laity.
4. Kneeling for Holy Communion will finally be seen by bishops as the only healthy way to receive Holy Communion without hand-to-hand contact or hand-to-tongue contact, unfortunately not because it is more reverent to receive in the EF manner.
5. The Common Chalice will never return to the laity out an abundance of fear that Coronavirus will live on and in the chalice and the Precious Blood diluted with copious amounts of numerous communicants’ saliva. Unfortunately the concerning of profanation of the Precious Blood by contaminants or spilling it is not the major concern as it should be.
6. Priests will no longer be glad-handing the laity before and after Mass; although unlikely, this may lead to priests praying privately to God before and after Mass, which is a custom of the EF Mass.
7. To prevent aerosolizing of speech with Coronavirus in the floating spittle, silence will be demanded in the church before and after Mass and physical distancing amidst the silence not because the Blessed Sacrament is there and demands silent adoration, but out of a concern for temporal health.
8. Of course the handshake/hug of peace will disappear out of fear of offending social distancing civil law — not because it is a horrible distraction during the Communion Rite.
|Bishop Joseph Perry gives Holy Communion at St. John Cantius|
As Fr. McDonald frequently points out on his blog, the Extraordinary Form in fact has better customs in everything that concerns the Blessed Sacrament: its preparation, its consecration, its distribution, its reservation. Many of these will end up being adopted again in Coronatide, not (alas) because Catholics are awakening to the Real Presence and what is most fitting for our approach to the Lord, but out of fear of contamination or sickness. Sadly, this motive is even less noble than imperfect contrition — fear of hell — as a motivation for going to Confession. That, at least, is a concern for one’s immortal destiny after this life, rather than a fixation on this fleeting mortal life that we will all one day have to give up, whether from a virus or from one of ten thousand other natural or violent causes that threaten the poor, banished children of Eve.
It is appropriate for us to ask how we can mitigate risks, but not with the secular mentality of agnostic utilitarians who do not remember and do not take to heart the Lord with Whom we are dealing in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Ironically, it is Catholic tradition, not postconciliar praxis, that holds an array of useful approaches in a time of epidemic. These are ready to be implemented — if anyone cares about the common good of the entire universe and our sacramental participation in it.
 See Super I ad Cor., cap. 12, lec. 3.
 As a side-note: since we know that canon law can, at times, be poorly formulated — criticisms have been freely made by canonists on certain points of both the 1917 and the 1983 codes — I will take this occasion to state that the formulation of Can. 223 §2 is disturbing. How far can it be taken? “Direct the exercise of rights which are proper to the Christian faithful.”Allsuch rights? For example, could a bishop say “I direct you not to get married” or “I direct you to enter religious life”? After all, those are rights proper to the faithful… Without a layman having committed a serious public fault, it is difficult to see how any such directive could be legitimate.
 The Thomistic Institute states: “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. If Communion on the tongue is provided, one could consider using hand sanitizer after each communicant who receives on the tongue.” This last is a deplorable suggestion, deservedly ridiculed by Fr. Zuhlsdorf.
 As demonstrated in “Why We Should Retain or Reintroduce the Communion Plate (‘Chin Paten’),” this practice is called for even by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that governs the Ordinary Form.
 See the article “‘Eat That Which I Will Give You’: Why We Receive Communion in the Mouth.”
 I have edited the text slightly.
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What are the Episcopal beliefs about Communion? ›
All baptized Christians, regardless of denomination, are welcome to take Communion in the Episcopal Church. If for any reason, you don't want to receive Communion, you are still invited to come forward, kneel, and cross your arms over your chest. The priest will say a prayer of blessing for you.What are the 3 things we need to do in order to receive Holy Communion properly? ›
- You must be born-again. “But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” – ...
- You must know your rights. ...
- You must Have a True Biblical Understanding of What Communion is.
If one receives on the tongue, the communicant approaches the Priest who lifts the Host and shows it to the communicant and says “The Body of Christ.” The communicant then says “Amen,” opens his/her mouth and extends his/her tongue (Please be sure to hold still until after the Host is placed on your tongue!).Why did people receive Holy Communion placed on the tongue and not in their hands as we do today? ›
The fear of dropping fragments of the consecrated bread, thereby desecrating the Eucharist, seems to have been the main reason for the custom of receiving Communion on the tongue.What are the core beliefs of Episcopalians? ›
We believe in following the teachings of Jesus Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection saved the world. We have a legacy of inclusion, aspiring to tell and exemplify God's love for every human being; women and men serve as bishops, priests, and deacons in our church.What is unique about the Episcopal Church? ›
The Episcopal Church describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic" and claims apostolic succession, tracing its bishops back to the apostles via holy orders. The Book of Common Prayer, a collection of rites, blessings, liturgies, and prayers used throughout the Anglican Communion, is central to Episcopal worship.What are the four parts of communion? ›
In addition, there are 2 more rites that open and conclude the celebration.
- Introductory Rites. ...
- Liturgy of the Word. ...
- Liturgy of the Eucharist. ...
- Concluding Rites.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist consists of three sections: the Preparation of the Gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Communion. We might describe these as setting the table for the meal, saying the blessing, and sharing the meal together.What are the two elements of the Holy Communion? ›
Symbolism and Elements of Holy Communion
There are two physical elements of communion, the bread (often unleavened matzoh) and the wine (sometimes grape juice). The bread used for communion signifies the body of Jesus, which was broken for us. He took on all sin, iniquity, rebellion, disease, grief and shame.
The Vatican promotes Communion on the tongue not only for its long tradition but because it “expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist” and “removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species” (Memorial Domini 1277).
Why do people take Communion in the mouth? ›
Communion on the tongue actualizes a more hierarchical understanding of Church and the position of the laity: Receiving the Host on the tongue conveys a sense of “being fed” with heavenly food, Christ's own body, that is offered up by the priest for the salvation of the laity.Can a priest deny Communion on the tongue? ›
Pursuant to the USCCB guidelines below, the option to receive Holy Communion on the tongue can never be denied. The guidelines also revealed that it is no unhealthier than receiving the Eucharist in the hand.Do you receive Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand? ›
Communion on the tongue remains the usual and common form of administering Holy Communion. Communion in the hand is legitimate only where permitted, and it remains in the realm of a permission. When permitted, the choice as to the form of reception falls upon the communicant and not upon the priest.What does the Catholic Church say about receiving Holy Communion by hand? ›
If Communion is received in the hand, the hands should first of all be clean. If one is right handed the left hand should rest upon the right. The host will then be laid in the palm of the left hand and then taken by the right hand to the mouth. If one is left-handed this is reversed.Can a priest refuse to give Communion in the hand? ›
There is no consensus among the U.S. bishops on the matter. In either of these situations, a priest can and sometimes must withhold communion. However, denying a Catholic communion should never be done without due prayer and discernment.What are the three pillars of the Episcopal Church? ›
In the Episcopal Church, we are called to live out our faith on a daily basis, whether we are at home, school, work or recreation. The cornerstones of our faith are Scripture, tradition and reason.Why do Episcopalians cross themselves? ›
Making the sign of the cross is a sacramental gesture in a… More. Liturgy means “The Work of the People”! It's a way to be actively engaged during the service and connect with others!Why are Episcopalians leaving the church? ›
The core issue for us is theological: the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. It is thus a matter of faithfulness to the lordship of Jesus, whom we worship and follow. The American Episcopal Church no longer believes the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers.Is the Episcopal Church growing or declining? ›
Nationally, the Episcopal Church's membership peaked at 3.44 million members in 1959. It has been declining since the 1960s. “As of 2019, it had about 1.8 million, the Episcopal News Service reported in 2020. “Membership is down 17.4% over the last 10 years.”Why do Episcopalians have red doors? ›
Some call it tradition; others think it's just a snappy-looking color. But the deeper reason is the firm belief that our churches are places of refuge. As is the case with many churches, Episcopal parishes use red to let the world know what we're about. Red is the color of Christ's blood.
What makes Episcopalians different? ›
There are some noticeable differences between The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church: In the Episcopal Church bishops and priests can be both genders and can be married; there is no centralized authority figure like the pope; lay people play a greater role in decision making; sacramental confession is ...What is the difference between first Communion and Holy Communion? ›
First Communion is an important tradition for Catholic families and individuals. For Latin Church Catholics, Holy Communion is usually the third of seven sacraments received; it occurs only after receiving Baptism, and once the person has reached the age of reason (usually, around the second grade).How many types of Communion are there? ›
There are three main ways: through a common cup from which all drink, through intinction (dipping the bread into the communal cup), or through the offering of individual cups and pieces of bread/wafers.Why is it called Communion? ›
The term Communion is derived from Latin communio ("sharing in common"), translated from the Greek κοινωνία (koinōnía) in 1 Corinthians 10:16: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?What is the difference between Holy Communion and the Eucharist? ›
The Holy Eucharist, then, refers to the whole action of the Mass, including its sacrificial nature. Holy Communion refers to one aspect of that action: the reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord.What are the words of communion? ›
The President elevates the bread with the words: The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you, preserve your bodies and souls unto everlasting life. In your hands or in your heart, receive the remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.What is the difference between Sacrament and communion? ›
Communion in the Catholic Church means the sacrament of the Eucharist, participation in the Lord's Supper. - The first Eucharist is received by a believer at his first communion. As a rule, this takes place at the age of nine after preparation for the reception of the sacrament, the communion class.What is the true meaning of communion? ›
: an act or instance of sharing. capitalized : a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ.What does communion literally mean? ›
The Latin root of communion is communionem, meaning "fellowship, mutual participation, or sharing."What does Jesus say about communion? ›
In fact, communion reminds us of the forgiveness we experience through Christ. But Paul urges us to “examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28 NLT), so that we are going to communion with a humble heart and not just “pretending” to be right with God.
What is the purpose of speaking in tongues in Church? ›
The Bible says, “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” —Jude 20. Speaking in tongues stimulates faith and helps us learn how to trust God more fully. For example, faith must be exercised to speak with tongues because the Holy Spirit specifically directs the words we speak.What is the purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues? ›
The gift of tongues is a way to bring glory to God and bring believers closer together. Rather than being primarily evangelistic in nature, the gift of speaking in tongues is a way to give God the glory while bringing believers closer together (Acts 2:11, Acts 10:46).Why do we take communion in left hand? ›
St. Cyril of Jerusalem in 348 gave this instruction to his congregation: “When you approach Holy Communion, make the left hand into a throne for the right, which will receive the King. With your hand hollowed, receive the Body of Christ and answer 'Amen'.Did the apostles receive communion in the hand? ›
 Moreover, an early illuminated gospel, the Rosanno Gospels, depicts the last supper as a communion line, where the disciples receive in cupped hands while bowed.What sins Cannot be forgiven by a priest? ›
And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come." The same idea that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable is found in Luke 12:10 and Mark 3:29.What disqualifies you from receiving Communion? ›
Anyone aware of having committed a grave sin is obliged to refrain from receiving Communion without first obtaining absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation.What sins prevent you from taking Communion? ›
If we are conscious of mortal sin, then we must receive the Sacrament of Confession. Until we have done so, we must refrain from receiving Communion. Indeed, to receive Communion while conscious of having committed a mortal sin is to receive Communion unworthily—which is another mortal sin.What do Episcopalians say when receiving Communion? ›
Once you have arrived at a communion station, you may hold out your hands, with one hand supporting the other. The sacramental bread will be placed in your hands with words such as “The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven.” The usual response is, “Amen.” Having received the bread, you may consume it immediately.How often do Episcopalians take Communion? ›
All baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion in Episcopal churches. Episcopalians typically have Eucharist every Sunday, some even daily.What is the difference between Catholic and Episcopal Communion? ›
Catholic churches only give communion to those who are members of the Church. This means that one has to be a Catholic first in order to receive the Holy Communion. Conversely, in the Episcopalian Church, anyone can receive communion even if they are not Episcopalian.
How do Catholics and Episcopalians differ? ›
Today the noticeable differences are these: In The Episcopal Church bishops and priests can be married; there is no centralized authority figure like the pope; lay people play a greater role in decision making; sacramental confession is optional not required; married couples are permitted to use responsible means of ...Why do Episcopalians have communion every Sunday? ›
Every Sunday is a mini-Easter. At the inn at Emmaus, the Risen Christ reveals himself to the disciples in the breaking of the bread. Of course, this was after he had shown them how the Christ was prophesied in the Scriptures. This same risen Christ reveals himself to us every Sunday in the breaking of bread.Can a Catholic take Communion at an Episcopal church? ›
So the long and the sort of it is no, you should not. When a Catholic receives “Communion” or “the Lord's Supper” at a Protestant church, they are saying with their body, “I believe as you believe.” But they don't. So, for the Catholic to receive in a non-Catholic church is a lie.How do Episcopalians cross themselves? ›
Making the sign of the cross is typically done with the right hand because Jesus sits at the right hand of God. However, the left hand is okay too! Making the sign of the cross is a sacramental gesture in a…Why are Episcopalians leaving the Church? ›
The core issue for us is theological: the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. It is thus a matter of faithfulness to the lordship of Jesus, whom we worship and follow. The American Episcopal Church no longer believes the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers.Does the Episcopal Church practice open communion? ›
The official policy of the Episcopal Church is to only invite baptized persons to receive communion. However, many parishes do not insist on this and practise open communion. Among Gnostic churches, both the Ecclesia Gnostica and the Apostolic Johannite Church practise open communion.Do Episcopalians believe in the real presence in the Eucharist? ›
The short answer is that Episcopalians believe in the real presence, meaning that the risen Christ is “really present” with us in the sacrament of Communion.Are Episcopalians and Anglicans the same? ›
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports. TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The U.S. Episcopal Church has always been part of the worldwide Anglican Communion tied to the Church of England. But U.S. Episcopalians are generally liberal on matters of sexuality, marriage and the role of women, in contrast to Anglicans in Africa, for example.How do you address an Episcopal priest? ›
- How to Address an Episcopal Priest. ...
- The proper, written title of an Episcopal priest is, The Reverend (The Rev.) ...
- Many priests are perfectly fine in being addressed, by adults, by his or her Christian (given, first) name.
- Some priests wish to be called Reverend, followed by a first or last name.
The Gospel side is the other side of the chancel, where the Gospel is read. Facing the altar from the nave, it is the left-hand side. In some places, especially if a comment is based on a romance language source, the Gospel side will be cited as the Evangelist side.
What version of the Bible does the Episcopal Church use? ›
The translations of the Bible authorized for use in the worship of the Episcopal Church are the King James (Authorized Version), together with the Marginal Readings authorized for use by the General Convention of 1901, the English Revision of 1881, the American Revision of 1901, the Revised Standard Version of 1952, ...