Communion in the hand?

While researching an unrelated topic… I stumbled across this.

I don’t consider myself a “Traditional Catholic,” but rather a “conservative Catholic with traditional leanings.” But in any event, I found this and I am somewhat bewildered by these quotes in comparison to our current Liturgy of the Eucharist. Could anyone square these quotes away with what is practiced today?

ST. SIXTUS I (115-125). Prohibited the faithful from even
touching the Sacred Vessels: “Statutum est ut sacra vasa non ab aliis
quam a sacratis Dominoque dicatis contrectentur hominibus…” [It has
been decreed that the Sacred Vessels are not to be handled by others
than by those consecrated and dedicated to the Lord.]

    ST. BASIL THE GREAT, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH (330-379).  "The right 

to receive Holy Communion in the hand is permitted only in time of
persecution." St. Basil considered Communion in the hand so irregular
that he did not hesitate to consider it a grave fault.

    COUNCIL OF SARAGOSSA (380).  It was decided to punish with 

EXCOMMUNICATION anyone who dared to continue the practice of Holy
Communion in the hand. The Synod of Toledo confirmed this decree.

    POPE ST. LEO I THE GREAT (440-461).  Energetically defended and 

required faithful obedience to the practice of administering Holy
Communion on the tongue of the faithful.

    SYNOD OF ROUEN (650).  Condemned Communion in the hand to halt 

widespread abuses that occurred from this practice, and as a safeguard
against sacrilege.


faithful to take the Sacred Host in their hand, threatening the
transgressors with excommunication.

    ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274).  "Out of reverence towards this 

sacrament [the Holy Eucharist], nothing touches it, but what is
consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and
likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this sacrament." (Summa
Theologica, Pars III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8)

    COUNCIL OF TRENT (1545-1565).  "The fact that only the priest 

gives Holy Communion with his consecrated hands is an Apostolic

    POPE PAUL VI (1963-1978).  "This method [on the tongue] must 

be retained." (Apostolic Epistle “Memoriale Domini”)

    POPE JOHN PAUL II (1978-2005).  "To touch the sacred species 

and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained
(Dominicae Cenae, sec. 11)." “It is not permitted that the faithful should
themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less
that they should hand them from one to another” (Inaestimabile Donum, April
17, 1980, sec. 9)."

These seem like pretty reliable quotes and citations. Here is the website:

It seems to me that some pretty important figures in Church history vehemently condemned this practice. Even Paul VI and John Paul II!!! Given what I have read, why do we practice this?

I have noticed that you selectively left some stuff out from the 4th Century about receiving communion in the hand I don’t have a problem with it even though I receive on the tongue. I don’t think you’re making a very good argument.

Not a universal practice in early Church and here’s the proof:

  1. In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof ; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?

Personally, do not touch the host with my fingers. I lower my head and consume it directly from the palm.

Let me be clear - although I very much prefer the “traditional” way of receiving the holy Eucharist, I just want to know how one would “defend” receiving in the hand in light of this. Especially what Popes Paul VI and John Paul II are quoted as saying.

I have no axe to grind or point to make. I’m seeking some kind of “why do we do this” answer.

Protestants ask why Catholics do all kinds of things. They ask all the time. I’m a Catholic and want to know why we are allowed to receive “in the hand.” I have never asked that question before and genuinely like a reason. It’s that simple. I know why we confess our sins to a priest. I know why we have a pope. I do not know why we receive in the hand. :shrug:

I believe this brief but comprehensive article will answer most if not all of your questions:

I think we can assume JPII eventually changed his stance given I have always received in my hand and JPII was Pope when I did my First Communion.

“St. Cyril of Jerusalem encourages communicants to ‘make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King.’ St. Cyril goes on to say, echoing imagery of baptism and anointing, that after receiving Christ’s blood, ‘while the moisture is still upon your lips, touch it with your hands, and hallow your eyes and brow and the other organs of sense.’”

This is a discipline of the Church not doctrine. Disciplines can change doctrine cannot.

To add another layer I’ll offer this;

And This:

To say that Paul VI and John Paul II “vehemently condemned” reception of communion in the hand is a distortion of what they wrote in the documents you cite. In Memoriale domini, Paul – while asserting that reception on the tongue must not be abolished, as your quote demonstrates – nevertheless laid down norms under which reception in the hand was permissible to be instituted.

In the quote from Inaestimabile donum, John Paul II isn’t talking about reception of communion, but about distribution of communion. It’s a completely different subject, with a different standard.

And this document

Thank you for this.
I am so tired of this debate.
In the US, either way is allowed. Receive how you want and leave the rest of us alone! :mad:

Whether we receive on the tongue or in the hand is a matter of discipline, not doctrine and in matters of discipline a Pope cannot bind a future Pope.

The only things that cannot be changed at Mass is the Consecration and the priest receiving. Everything else can be changed.

See quotes from Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal):

He notes in God and the World (Ignatius Press):

“I wouldn’t be fussy about it. It was done in the early Church. A reverent manner of receiving Communion in the hand is in itself a perfectly reasonable way to receive Communion” (pg 410)

and from another work by him:

"…we know that until the ninth century Communion was received in the hand, standing. That does not of course mean that it should always do so. For what is fine, sublime, about the Church is that she is growing, maturing, understanding the mystery more profoundly. In the that sense the new development that began after the ninth century is quite justified, as an expression of reverence, and is well founded. But, on the other hand, we have to say that the Church could not possibly have been celebrating the Eucharist unworthily for nine hundred years. If we read what the Fathers say, we can see in what a spirit of reverence they received Communion…

We should be concerned only to argue in favor of what the Church’s efforts directed toward, both before and after the ninth century, that is a reverence in the heart, an inner submission before the mystery of God that puts himself into our hands…"

Cardinal Ratzinger “God Is Near Us” Ignatius Press Pg 70 2001

(also see Pope Benedict’s interview book as Pope)

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