Communion on the tongue discouraged

Our parish priest announced at all Sunday Masses last weekend that the preferred method of receiving communion was on the hand and advised parishoners that those wishing to receive communion on the tongue would be required to see him after Mass. I’m wondering what the Church teaches on this subject as it seems inappropriate to me.

I think what you may be looking for is the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, put out by the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome in March of 2004, especially these sections (boldface mine):

The entire document is posted by the Vatican at:

*[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.[177] Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice,[178] if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.[179]*

Be respectful and charitable, of course, but according to Rome not your pastor nor even your bishop is allowed to give you any grief about this, because Rome has recognized your right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states

  1. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ). The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes it entirely.

That seems a bit confrontational.

It is completely within your rights as a Catholic to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, even in those countries where there is permission to receive in the hand. If you experience scare tactics, bullying, and intimidation by the priest, contact to your bishop immediately.

I think the main reason for this is to keep the priest from getting others sick if he came into contact with another person’s saliva…but at the same time just touching their hand could do the same thing. I think its silly for your priest to be doing that and you should have a talk with him first and then the bishop.

I don’t know about “silly”.

There may be more to the story…sometimes priests don’t express themselves very well. I agree it’s worth a talk with the priest to see why he’s thinking that way…whether he’s just being arbitrary, in which case, yes, the next stop is the bishop, or if he has legitimate concerns about hygene.

Other dioceses have put a temporary “hold” on communion on the tongue. Think about it; what’s less likely to come in contact with viruses and bacteria, by close proximity or actually accidentally touching one’s tongue or hand? Either way, that’s a different issue, and a different argument, and let’s face it, we’re speculating on what this priest has in mind.

Our archdiocese strongly encouraged all persons to receive in the hand, due to H1N1, but as far as I know no one went so far as to say that the right to receive on the tongue was suspended. Still, you are right. Just as it is not wrong to ask that all of the faithful receive in the hand, when a serious reason exists, it would not be wrong for a priest with legitimate hygiene concerns to ask to speak privately to those who intend to assert their rights. He is allowed to ask them to freely reconsider. We ought not assume that he’s going to try to do anything more.

It actually seems to depend on the country.
In Germany, I have noticed that everybody receives communion in the hand.
In my home country, Cameroon, both methods (tongue and hand) are common.

However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciplne of the Sacraments issued a ruling that COTT cannot be denied due to H1N1. According to Rorate Caeli:

It is not licit to deny communion on the tongue due to H1N1
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments responded to a lay Catholic in Britain, in a diocese in which communion on the tongue had been restricted due to concerns related to the Influenza A virus, subtype H1N1 (“Swine flu”) epidemic.

Here is a link to the letter from the CDWDS:

Click on the image to make it bigger. The CDWDS has received complaints from the faithful throughout the world about this issue and, according to the Congregation’s response, they have had to contact the dioceses in question. The bottom line is that the priest in question is acting beyond the scope of his competency. Even the bishop cannot take this particular measure.


Which priest? The OP’s?

Is it beyond the scope of his competency to encourage reception in one manner or other? Could he have a legitimate reason to speak to those who wish to receive on the tongue?

I’m not sure he is prohibiting it – which would be overstepping the bounds.


OTOH, I don’t think he can canonically require them to “see him after Mass” for exercising a right accorded them by the Church.

He is still walking a fine line. The reception of Holy Communion is not about his personal preference. It is about what the Church allows, in this case, both COTT and CITH. Now, the only time that he can rescind CITH is when there is a risk of profaning the Sacred Host. RS certainly gives him that option. However, the norm is COTT, since CITH is an indult that can be rescinded at any time.


I don’t know, since I’m not a canon-lawyer. Maybe he just want to make sure they are properly prepared for reception in the manner? Or let them know to come directly to him for Holy Communion?

(Or, in my fantasy, maybe he wants to get a sense of the feasibility of starting the EF, and putting in an altar rail)


I’m just trying to imagine if it was the other way round. If a priest stated that the preferred method was COTT, and that those who wished to receive CITH should see him.

Sounds within the bounds to me?


No. He cannot tell people how he thinks they should receive Holy Communio. He is going beyond the bounds here. While I personally do not like CITH, as an EMHC, I cannot tell a communicant how to receive. Now, if there is a risk of profaning the Sacred Host by people who walk away without consumng Our Lord, then, I will intervene (and have done this). I told my former pastor about this and he saw nothing wrong with my making sure that the Sacred Host was consumed.

I’m just not sure Benedictgal. A pastor can’t tell his parishoners what his preference is or what “the preferred method is”? Even if he keeps both options open?

Anyone here regularly assist at the EF? Could they shed some light on this? Could a pastor of an exclusively EF parish say that COTT is the preferred method, and that those wishing to receive in the hand must come see him first?

Sure, it might not be prudent. He might risk offending, even alienating folks. But, is it clearly acting beyond the scope of his competency?


But, what you may not seem to understand is that it’s not about him; it’s about what the Church allows. Furthermore, in SP, Pope Benedict XVI made it perfectly clear that you cannot mix and match between the OF and the EF. The EF has its own rubrics and CITH is not a part of those. The only change that is allowed in the EF is that the Sunday OF readings can be used. That is it. Everything else stays proper to the given form of the Mass.

He is acting within the scope of his competency. He cannot impose his will on the faithful in the OF.

Thanks. So, can a priest in an EF parish say communion in the hand is not allowed?


He could state that he prefers to distribute on the tongue, sure. But to ask those who wish to receive in the hand to “see him” seems out of line to me. It sure doesn’t strike me as “pastoral”.

Thanks, japhy. That’s what I think too. Do you think benedictgirl agrees with you that he can state what his preference is?

Yes, I agree it does seem a bit out of line. It doesn’t seem pastoral or prudent.

But – clearly overstepping his bounds? I can imagine him wanting to make sure those who legitimately chose to receive in the hand understand what to do.


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