Is eliminating communion in the hand the next change to the Mass?

Communion on the tongue

This is the title of an article which appeared at U.S. Catholic on 23th. Jan. It will be reproduced below. But before you read it first here is some background information concerning communion in the hand (from, by Fr. Markey) (Editorial Note: quoting this information here is not meant to cause turbulence or to implicate that these who are used to communion in the hand are “less Catholic”. It is only meant to provide information on the historic development of this form of communion, and try to encourage people to think anew about it instead of taking it for granted):

“Many people born prior to the Second Vatican Council will remember when everyone received Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. This has been the long held practice for thousands of years (although during certain periods of the early Church it did allow Communion in the hand). While many think that it was Vatican II that called for this change, it is important to note: Vatican II never called for Communion in the hand. Communion in the hand was the result of disobedience which forced the hand of the Church (no pun intended!).

After the Second Vatican Council some dioceses in the world started to make their own rules about receiving the Communion in the hand, disobeying the laws of the universal Church. Witnessing this practice without approval, the Vatican stated that it feared that this disobedience would lead to “…both the possibility of a lessening of reverence toward the august sacrament of the altar, its profanation, and the watering down of the true doctrine of the Eucharist” (Memoriale Domini).

Therefore in 1968 Pope Paul VI graciously sent out a questionnaire to all the bishops of the world asking if there should be a prudent change in the Church’s practice on how Communion would be distributed. The poll numbers came back overwhelming against Communion in the hand. Hence the Vatican concluded: “The answers given show that by far the greater number of bishops think that the discipline currently in force should not be changed. And if it were to be changed, it would be an offense to the sensibilities and spiritual outlook of these bishops and a great many of the faithful” (Memoriale Domini).

Nonetheless the disobedience continued and some of these dioceses petitioned Rome to officially permit Communion in the hand. A year later, in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave an indult to the French bishops permitting each bishop to decide the question in his own diocese (En réponse a la Demande). An indult is a special permission for a particular situation, rather than a universal norm. Nonetheless eventually the majority of dioceses in the world took advantage of the indult and simply permitted the practice.

Why did the Pope allow it? Perhaps it can be best summed up by the words of Our Lord about why divorce was allowed in the Old Testament: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives” (Matthew 19:8). Their disobedience had reached such a point that it would have been difficult to have them return to the traditional practice.

Nonetheless some countries like Sri Lanka did not use the indult, and maintained the long held tradition of receiving only on the tongue. Recently there have also been dioceses around the world such San Luis, Argentina and Lima, Peru that have returned to the traditional practice and no longer permit Communion in the hand. This is an option fully supported by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. ” (Read more)

Communion in the hand has now become the more common form of receiving communion in many industrialized countries, but perhaps now the tide is turning? Please read the following and tell us your opinion.

Is eliminating communion in the hand the next change to the Mass?

By Scott Alessi

If you haven’t had enough change with adapting to the new translation of the Roman Missal, two Australian priests are hoping to make another amendment to our current worship practices: mandatory reception of communion on the tongue.

Fathers Andrew Wise and John Speekman of the Diocese of Sale have started an online petition calling for Pope Benedict to change current communion practices to eliminate receiving the Eucharist in the hand. The petition is accompanied by a blog that details their case and some of the support they’ve received.

The petition cites “great spiritual harm inflicted on the Christian faithful” by the current practice and claims that receiving communion in the hand causes “the profanation of the Blessed Sacrament.” That sounds pretty serious. But is it actually true?

Granted, I’ve seen some problems with people receiving communion in the hand, which is most often that the person walks away with the host and doesn’t consume it right away (this seems to be a problem particularly with kids, but adults do it too). While on vacation last summer, I attended a parish where the extraordinary minister literally had to follow someone back to their seat to admonish them about not consuming the Eucharist.

But at the same time, communion on the tongue has its own share of problems. In this case, it is usually an awkwardness on the part of the person distributing communion, particularly when they are a lay extraordinary minister and haven’t had the proper training. This can create an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, which is just as likely to detract from the sacredness of receiving the Eucharist as receiving in the hand.

In both situations, the problems seem to lie more with our understanding of the Eucharist (and the training of our extraordinary ministers) than in the procedure itself.

Having had the experience of teaching second graders about receiving the Eucharist for the first time, I know how tricky it can be to make sure they understand not just how to go through the motions, but the importance of showing reverence for Christ’s presence. And I’ve also seen how easily they can forget by the next year without those lessons being reenforced. Perhaps what we need then isn’t a change in how we receive communion, but more refresher courses to remind us of the reasons why we receive it in the first place.

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34 Responses to Is eliminating communion in the hand the next change to the Mass?

  1. toadspittle says:


    OK. Toad will just have to ask:
    Why did “some dioceses in the world” decide to disobey orders?
    What did they expect to gain by defying the Vatican?
    Did they act in concert?
    What, if anything, did they gain?
    In short, what was their motive?


  2. Sixupman says:

    If it was not a premeditated conspiracy, then it was a virus which spread through Mother Church like wildfire.


  3. Laura Sedivy says:

    In short? Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

    When you water down the faith (in this case, throw reverence out the window) you water down the belief. I find that folks who are more likely to show their loyalty to the Packers at CHURCH than they are to the Lord. Actions speak louder than words and if the body makes visible the invisible, the lack of belief is RAMPANT.

    I get tired of people saying, “It’s what’s in my heart that matters.” REALLY? Maybe God can read your heart but the people around you can’t. The people/children who are not formed in their faith are going to mock you. Take your lead.

    Yes, many bishops that are/were not true to the Magisterium worked together to bring about this disobedience precisely to change the way people believe. To water down the faith. To “protestant-ize” the faith.

    I would say that nearly 50 years later, it’s obvious that they have gained exactly what they set out to: a lack of reverence and dis-belief in the true presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.


  4. toadspittle says:

    Thanks for your kind thought, Laura and for the foreign langwidge indication: (according to Google) “The law of prayer, the law of belief.” But that only seems to muddy the water.
    And poor old Toad is not a smigeon the wiser as to why “some dioceses in the world “ chose to act in this apparently cavalier fashion. Freemasons? Demons?
    Sure Jabba knows?
    Otherwise, we are fiddlesticked.


  5. teresa says:

    Toad, as far as I know it began with the Netherlands during the 1960s. They were also the first to rip out the kneeler and throw out the confessional. The reason why they did this is a mystery to me.


  6. Laura Sedivy says:

    The reason was to water down (a/k/a protestantize) the faith. Water down the faith, water down the belief. and the final variable in the equation is Lex Vivandi — the way we live. Therefore, stripping down the church and the sacredness in the liturgy will directly (eventually) change the way we live (as in contracepting, divorce, abortion, homosexuality).

    Bishop Sheen was quoted as saying that 1,200 communists had entered the Catholic church. You need to do your own reading and research to decide if you believe in the conspiracy (basically as Dietrich von Hildebrand stated) “The Trojan Horse in the City of God”.

    If you are out to win the biggest war of the universe, I would say infiltration (spies) would be pretty high on the list in order to take down your biggest obstacle. The Catholic church is $atan’s biggest obstacle. Therefore, take Her down (as best as is possible). Since the gates of hell will not prevail against Her, at least weaken Her as much as possible.

    Think about how ordinary the mass has become. When there is nothing “EXTRAordinary” in the sanctuary, all familiar (the way we dress, our gestures, the music, the language) then mass is nothing more than something we do one hour a week. Very ordinary. Wear your shorts and graphic Tees. Sandals? not a problem.

    Familiar and ordinary = nothing extraordinary. (loss of belief quickly follows)


  7. Popes have a good track record in NOT agreeing to things just because someo of the faithful are disobedient which is why divorce*, contraception and missing Mass on Sunday are still forbidden. The only reason that Pope Paul VI could have for allowing the practice was that he thought is was a good idea to allow it.
    Reverence for the Blessed Sacrament has declined. I am quite prepared to discuss whether returning to the former practice might redress the decline but I am not prepared to enter into a discussion about conspiracy theories which I consider to be daft.


  8. teresa says:

    I know that the discussion around Communion on the hand or on the tongue is carried out with a lot of emotions, and that is the reason I hesitated a little before I decided to make this post.
    I think people identify themselves often with their habits and that is why they also feel in a quite understandable way themselves criticised when their habit is criticised, even the critique is not ad hominem. This is why the discussion about the liturgy of the Church is always so difficult.

    On the other hand our habits also shape our heart so the form of communion is not just a question of “fashion” or “choice” but it will also influence our attitude towards God, just like other questions concerning the liturgy.

    A thorough investigation would be a good subject for a Ph. D. thesis, 😉


  9. toadspittle says:

    “The reason was to water down (a/k/a protestantize) the faith.”

    Yes, Laura, but why would Catholics want to do that? Surely if the “conspiritors” wanted to be Protestants, they could simply sign up at the door marked “Episcopalian,” or “Quivering Brethren,” or “Lutheran” or whatever?

    “Bishop Sheen was quoted as saying that 1,200 communists had entered the Catholic church.”
    Why on earth would Communists want to be Catholics? They think Catholics are engaged in an evil conspiracy to dominate the world, or maybe, just silly.
    Or are we suggesting that 1,200 Commies became undercover Catholics in order to stop people kneeling down and receiving the host on their tongues?
    And that some Catholic bishops in the U.S. are really Communist spies?

    It seems that we are.

    (On the other hand, it’s plausible enough. Supposes Toad…)


  10. JabbaPapa says:

    There are causes where communion in the hand is a requirement, not an option, so that the notion that it might be abolished is a ridiculous one.

    The most common cause is in the presence of an infectious disease within the community, whereby priests are ordered to provide communion in the hand only.

    But the deeper and more Traditional cause is that communion with the two essences by intinction requires receiving the bread in the hand, and intinction by the communiand of the bread into the wine. This is the more symbolically satisfying form of the Communion, because it creates a powerful trinitarian link between the bread, the wine, and the communiand ; quite apart from being in obedience with Christ’s specific instructions about the sharing of bread and wine in His memory.


  11. Srdc says:

    Communion in the hand is older than communion on the tongue. The issue is that not everybody is going to be respectful. In my own parish, there have been cases, where people put the host in their pocket or leave it in the pews, and don’t consume it.


  12. toadspittle says:


    God knows, Toad detests a cliche as much as the other man (unless the other man is David Cameron, of course) but, when he reads the above comments, the weary old tag about, “rearranging the deckchairs on The Titanic,” springs inevitably to mind.
    (Although, perhaps today, we should re-phrase that as rearranging the deckchairs on The Costa Concordia.)


  13. Robert John Bennett says:

    To receive Communion in the hand trivializes the central element in our liturgy. That may not be the intention, but that is the result.


  14. Gertrude says:

    I will say little on this other than I agree with Laura. Communion on the tongue ensures there is no profanation of the Sacrament. It is irrelevant which ‘method’ is older. When Our Blessed Lord was on earth I do not doubt that he ‘passed bread’. In the Seder meal this is still done, and this, after all was what was being celebrated.
    Observe your average Sunday parish Mass. People will examine the Sacred Host in great detail, chew as though it were a toffee, and I once saw a man save his for later. This is profanation – pure and simple.
    I cannot imagine that Holy Church will ever eliminate receiving in the hand – the practice is so widespread, but I would encourage all Catholics (and have) to receive reverently and consider the purity of receiving on the tongue.


  15. kathleen says:

    I know I’m joining this debate rather late in the day, but I have been reading extensively the recent different articles and comments on this subject to try to understand both sides of the argument. Like Gertrude, I concur with Laura’s reasons for receiving on the tongue.

    My preference too has always been to receive Our Blessed Lord on the tongue, seeing this method as far more respectful and dignified. Handling the Precious Body of Christ with one’s hands seems unfit, unless – as has been pointed out – there are some temporary hygienic reasons against it. For this reason (health hazards) I do not think receiving in the hand should be abolished, only that it should become the exception rather than the rule.

    Holy Communion should also be received kneeling down, and ideally a paten should be held by an altar boy or deacon beneath the “communiand“…. (Jabba has taught me a new word here!) This would make it less difficult for a short priest having to administer Holy Communion to a tall person, and would of course help avoid the Sacred Host from falling onto the ground.


  16. JabbaPapa says:

    Holy Communion should also be received kneeling down, and ideally a paten should be held by an altar boy or deacon beneath the communiand

    Well, whether in hand or on the tongue, it should most certainly include some outwardly manifest figure of reverence.

    You make a good point about the paten, which is if anything highlighted by the fact that for Communion in the hand, and Communion by intinction, the cupped hand itself is the paten — the hand should itself be seen as not just an appendage and one of our main natural tools, but as the flesh of His Flesh, in the sanctification of the Eucharist. As such, the bread in the hand should be treated with the same holy reverence that it receives on the altar, in its vessel, and in the hands of the celebrant(s).

    Where this is not understood, abuses of the Communion in the hand can appear…


  17. toadspittle says:


    Does nobody consider the aesthetics involved here? To be greeted by a line of tongues stuck out at waist level must be disconcerting, to say the least, for priests with reasonable sensibilities?
    But one can get used to anything with time, Toad supposes.

    (Who was taught, as a toadpole, that sticking your tongue out was “rude”.)


  18. annem040359 says:

    The problem in “why” we have communion-the-hand goes all the way back to the thinking in that and I had remembered hearing this, the “early Christians” did allow for communion-in-the hand for the first 800 years or so. But heard as time when on, this was not the case. Would anyone who knows their Church history help me out on this one please. Thank-you. :)=^..^=


  19. Sixupman says:

    “Does nobody consider the aesthetics” Does nobody consider that the Celebrant’s hands are Consecrated and that the handle The Host only between forefinger and thumb, whilst the congregations hands may well be polluted!


  20. Laura Sedivy says:


    I think this 10-minute vid will answer your question.

    The practice of communion on the tongue was an organic development in the church. When the early Christians received in the hand it was always the right hand and never the left. The communicant also never touched Our Lord with their fingers. They consumed with the mouth directly out of their hand. Their hands were also washed so as not to profane Our Lord with dirty hands. As I have said to others, “You just got done shaking hands with every person in the church (practically), and now you want to put the Lord in your filthy, dirty paws?”

    Communion in the hand WAS NOT an organic development in the church. It was a practiced that took place without the pope’s knowledge and later “allowed”. It is not and never will be “the norm” but rather an exception that is allowed.

    Watch Most Rev Schneider in the above youtube and see if that answers your question.

    In addition, I will say that if we go back to the early Christians we would have no church buildings and would gather in people’s homes. That would be ridiculous.


  21. toadspittle says:

    “Does nobody consider that the Celebrant’s hands are Consecrated and that the handle The Host only between forefinger and thumb, whilst the congregations hands may well be polluted!”
    Asks Sixupman.

    Are the celebrant’s hands consecrated? If so, is this a guarantee they are also sterilised?
    Who knows what pollution may lurk between finger and thumb?
    Who knows, for that matter, what pollution may lurk on peoples’ tongues? (Have you looked at your tongue in the mirror recently? Can be quite scary!)

    Best, Toad thinks, to install a variation of “vending machine” that will dispense the host, neatly wrapped in hygenic cellophane, on the insertion of a coin.
    Nice little earner, too. You read it here first!


  22. toadspittle says:

    Curse the bold!


  23. Laura Sedivy says:

    The priest washes his hands (actually, supposed to be his forefinger and thumb since these are the only two that are “supposed to” touch the Holy Eucharist. Granted, he’s not scrubbing like a surgeon but it’s at least something even if just for ritual sake.

    A priest that is good at it does not touch a person’s tongue with his fingers. But the lay faithful should know the best way to open their mouth and expose their tongue, too. Since most are not used to this, we don’t do the best job. On top of that, it’s much easier for the priest to go down towards the mouth rather than have to reach up into someone’s mouth. So again, kneeling is much more efficient.


  24. toadspittle says:

    Yes Laura, but what has this got to do with Bishop Sheen’s 1,200 Communists infiltrating the Church to insinuate communicants into receiving the host by hand while standing up?

    Toad supposes we might also ask what all this has to do with pedophile priests?

    “In addition, I will say that if we go back to the early Christians we would have no church buildings and would gather in people’s homes. That would be ridiculous.” says Laura.

    Toad can’t see anything the least ridiculous about it.
    It happened in Spain during the Civil War, and was not thought ridiculous.
    Might, in fact, be an excellent thing.


  25. Laura Sedivy says:

    Without getting into what may be considered “conspiracy theory” (how I hate that term), I only wanted to bring that comment of Bishop Sheen’s out. I’m sure others have read that and know what I’m talking about. I would recommend Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book, “Trojan Horse in the City of God”.

    All I can say, is if you want to take down your enemy, do it from within. That’s a very good tactic. Change the way the Catholic word worships and you change the way they believe. Change the way they believe and you change the way they live. Water down the worship, water down the belief. Next thing you know, Catholics are completely secular. We are living it.

    They changed the way we worship not just by communion in the hand while standing, but the entire mass. How much different is a Catholic mass from a protestant “service”? I came upon a woman in the parking lot at church. She was in her car and rolled down the window to ask me what time “service” was!! I said, “MASS is at 10:30”. SHEESH. People don’t even know we have mass and not service!

    Other ways our mass has been protestantized:

    Old way – beautifu and ornate……fit for a king
    New way – drabby rags …….fit for a peasant

    Old way – very non-secular, beautiful with only the finest and trained voices. Sounds from heaven
    New way – modern rhythms, modern/secular instruments like that of secular music

    Old way – priest, in persona Christe, leads us all in the VERTICAL prayer TO God. Our attention is on the altar and the sacrifice of the mass.
    New way – priest turns to face congregation and our attention is on the celebrant and becomes HORIZONTAL prayer; a “community”.

    Old way – Latin, very unfamiliar, very different. Obviously, something different IS happening here.
    New way – vernacular, familiar language; a back-and-forth conversation between Priest and laity.

    While dress code is not dictated in the mass, it would seem common sense would come into play here. So this is my observation BASED ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE (where I’ve been to both types of mass)
    Old way – People dress for the occasion where something special IS happening
    New way – People dress in FAMILIAR clothing; what they would normally wear in any CASUAL circumstance.


  26. Laura Sedivy says:

    By the way, I don’t know how to edit but I meant to say Catholic WORLD and not WORD in the 2nd paragraph above.


  27. JabbaPapa says:

    My dear Laura, the Latin of the traditional Mass is also a vernacular ; albeit a nearly dead one.

    I doubt that Latin is the language of the Father.

    It is a delightfully beautiful language, but let’s not fetishise it ??


  28. Laura Sedivy says:

    I have been questioning certain things about the sacredness of the mass. It seems every time I prayed for an understanding, I was shown answers to my questions.

    The last thing I didn’t understand was Latin. As much as I was drawn to the Extraordinary form of the mass, I really had a hard time understanding Latin. Kept asking God, “Why Latin? What’s the significance of Latin?” Because it was hard for me to be engaged in the extraordinary form of the mass. I wanted to be there but couldn’t understand why Latin was still being used. Why couldn’t there be a mix of English AND Latin?

    A few days later, I had opportunity to meet a man who was a practicing satanist for 26 years and who, 4 years ago, had a conversion to Catholicism via the Miraculous Medal.

    As we were driving to a destination, he was talking with my GF who was driving ….can’t remember what the conversation was about but I heard him say, “Satan hates Latin”. My ears perked up and I asked him to repeat himself. After he did, my GF said, “Yeah, but he speaks Latin, right?”

    He replied, “Only to a priest and that’s as a mockery of Christ. Everything Satan does is to mock God.”

    This man was not only a practising satanist, but he was a high wizard which is the highest level you can achieve. At any given point in time there are only 2-6……MAYBE 8….in the whole world. It is amazing that he was saved from the clutches of the enemy. Anyone who wants to hear his story can find it here:

    In addition, I’ll add that there is great power in ritual. Satanists know this and everything in the black mass is extremely precise. Much like the Extraordinary form of the mass, WHICH (by the way) is the form the satanists perform BACKWARDS ……not the ordinary form. (I assume in English, however.)


  29. Laura Sedivy says:

    I did email Zachary and got the specs from the former high-wizard, himself. My email to him:

    It is my understanding…….through reading interviews with the late Fr. Malachi Martin……..that the black mass is the extraordinary form of the Catholic mass said backwards. Since you said that $atan hates Latin, could you tell me if this is in fact the case? That the black mass is the extraordinary form said backwards and if so, do they do it in English?

    and his response (cut and paste):

    generally the entire mass isnt done backwards. prayers like the Our Father or Rosary are backwards. The entire mass however is usually forwards. Some of the black masses are done in Latin but they change the words so they don’t mean the same as they do in a Catholic Mass. For example there’s a Latin phrase telling the devil to go away but in a black mass the phrase would be changed to ask the devil to come to the mass.

    Satan and demons hate and fear Latin. The Latin Mass is a very powerful tool against evil. Having said that it doesnt seem to bother satanists hearing or speaking Latin and thus satan probably has people say it to try to insult or “slap” God.


  30. toadspittle says:

    Other people lead such colourful and exciting lives, don’t they?
    Toad would adore to meet a Satanist. Especially one that could talk Latin backwards.
    Quite an accomplishment!
    Guaranteed to stop any boring dinner party conversation dead in its tracks!

    (Laura would have enjoyed Pablo, I bet.)


  31. geoffkiernan says:

    How’s this from a Catholic writer just a day or so ago…….


  32. Robert says:

    I distinctly remember the introduction of Communion in the hand and the lesson quoting St Cyril of Jerusalem.
    Nobody had asked for it. There were no placards and demos clamouring for communion in the hand. Kneeling at the altar and receiving on the tongue was what Our Fathers had done for centuries.
    In the time of Pius XII it was know for people to kneel at their phones when speaking to the Pope.
    The Mass was in Latin.
    Now we can place communion in the hand with the modernity of the Papacy and the Babel anathema of multiply languages replacing the single one of Latin.

    The Papacy, the eight sacrament bestowed by God (not Man) and its for Eternity, a mark on the soul, once a Pope always a Pope. There is one Man on this Earth who speaks with Gods Authority on matters of Faith and Morals. Now there are two Popes one retired (confused?)
    Now we have the unrequested Communion in the hand (this was a concession decreed, not requested).
    The Pope without a crown and frankly a Constitutional Papacy.
    We have the Mass of Babel and no longer in a universal language.

    Familiarity breeds contempt and if the Shepherds introduce novelties is it surprising that the sheep have strayed (Apostacised)?


  33. kathleen says:

    Geoff @ 6:37

    Hi Geoff – it’s good to hear from you again.

    I read your link, and although I agree with most of what the author of the article says at the beginning, I really think he doesn’t ‘get it’ when he discusses the controversy about receiving Holy Communion.

    Yes, both methods are valid in the post-V2 Church, but they are not the same! It is not a question of whether the hand or the tongue is a more important part of the body – a silly thing to even say (IMO) – but of REVERENCE. To receive whilst kneeling (if possible) and on the tongue, has no comparison to moving up in a file with one’s hand stuck out as though one is being handed a sweet, or a ticket, or whatever! The body language here says it all.

    The method of receiving directly onto the tongue is favoured by all the more traditional members of the hierarchy and laity, for only the ordained priesthood, who has received the sacrament of Holy Orders, should have the privilege of holding Our Lord’s Sacred Body. A truly holy priest will do just that, take the Sacred Host into his hands with awe and wonder at the miracle of Transubstantiation he has, through the grace of God, just performed at the altar.

    Of course I am not saying that those who prefer to receive in the hand cannot do so with prayerful reverence – many do – but only that this method, so uninspiring and lacking in piety, has been the gateway for an enormous increase in abuse of the Holy Sacrament since it was officially permitted…. (And permitted only because it had already become a widespread practice that had started up as just one more part of the crazy mundane “spirit of Vatican II”!)

    I doubt the author of that article would agree with me, sorry to say.


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