The Swine flu and the Eucharist

In Ireland we have a lot of people in hospital with the swine flu. Its a killer apparantly.

Something strange occured in my parents local parish church known as ‘‘The Holy Family’’. Me and my Wife attended. The priest before getting on with the celebration said that the local cardinal ( Cardinal Sean Brady ) requested that we not shake hands at the sign of peace and that we not receive the Eucharist on the tongue but on the hand.

I have no problem with the shaking of hands being taken out. But… no Eucharist on the tongue? :eek: The Lords body is immaculate and Divine, there is no way one can catch swine flu from it. There is also no chance of Our Lords Body being contaminated by someone who carries the germ of swine flu either. Plus if that is their reason for it, then the Eucharistic ministers hand touches the Eucharist which touches our hands which go into our mouth. So the idea of not getting it on the tongue is ridiculous. Our Lords body is immaculate and Divine. Nothing which comes into contact with it can contaminate God himself.

That said, out of Holy Obedience I followed the instructions and took on the hand but it was a difficult one to follow I must admit.

Has this happened in your parish before?

This happened last year at my parish because of the swine flu.
However, most of the people there receive in the hand. I prefer receiving on the tongue, from the priest. But last week, in choir, a little schoolboy was giving out communion to the choir and I had to receive from him, reluctantly, but out of obedience and not wanting to make a spectacle of myself. so I received from him, but in the hand. Within 48 hours I became ill.:shrug: I’m still sick.

Hi Rosalie, thanks for your reply.

Out of obedience? were you directed to take on the hand by the Local priest, bishop or Cardinal? The reason I ask is because of the lack of that information in your previous reply to me.

Falling ill within 2 days has nothing to do with you receiving in the hand or if it was on the tongue. You would of - in that length of time - picked it up somewhere else. In fact it has nothing to do with the Eucharist at all. It is just another attack on the Eucharist by the modernists.

Last year it was directed by the bishop. this time it was because I was with the choir, in my choir robe and we were in the choir line. The little boy was assigned to our line instead of a priest, which we usually have because there are two people in choir who need to be blessed instead of receiving. If I were to insist on receiving on the tongue from a priest I would have to get out of the line, in my robe, and maneuver my way to a priest and make a spectacle of myself. So I considered it being obedient to receive with the choir. I had to receive in the hand because there was no way I was going to receive on the tongue from a school child instead of from the priest’s annointed hands.
Now as for falling ill, I began to feel the symptoms right away but it didn’t hit full force until two days later and it feels just like the illnesses I used to get when working with children.
I sometimes look around to see if I’m the only one in the whole parish who receives on the tongue; but then correct myself and stop looking around.:o

It is a heresy to believe that the Eucharist cannot be contaminated by ordinary germs. I believe this was decided at Trent.

I think the OP is saying there is less of a chance of contamination when the Eucharist is received on the tongue than when it is received in the hand.:shrug:

I think sharing the cup is much more risky; but that’s my opinion.

The OP did not say *less chance *-- He said *no chance *(twice).

I do not know if it is *heresy *but would not be surprised (and would be interested to learn one way or the other). I have always thought :twocents: it was evidence of weak faith to believe the eucharistic elements incorruptible. :twocents:


Can you provide me with documentative proof regarding your statement? otherwise it requires that I take you on faith.

So your saying that the incorrupt Body of Christ ( God ) can be corrupted?

The accidents of bread and wine remain. The accidents can be corrupted. Just last week people who received communion at a parish in NY all had to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A because it was found that someone who handled the communion hosts had the virus. If the Church believed that disease could not be spread through receiving communion they would not have gone to all the trouble to report it to authorities who in turn put it on the news so people would know to get vaccinated.

Also you can get drunk on the Precious Blood if you drink enough of it, so it makes sense that you could also pass disease that way.

The Church never teaches that you cannot get diseases from the Eucharist. Since the accidents remain, the way the accidents will interact with our physical bodies will be the same. That is why we have low gluten hosts for those who are allergic to gluten, and the Church allows for mustum should the priest not be able to ingest alcohol.

Also, even if the Host can defeat viruses and bacteria, if the virus and/or bacteria is on the priest’s fingers and comes into contact with your lips/tongue, then you still get it.

Its not about the Body of Christ being corrupted. The virus does not corrupt Christ’s body. Christ doesn’t get the H1N1. But the reality is the virus can be on the accidents of bread and wine.

I am saying the eucharistic elements can become corrupted.

Do you suppose that germs are capable of a metaphysical calculus, and can perceive the substantial eucharistic presence of Christ were you and I cannot?


But what part of those elements is not Christs body if not all of it?

If you take the Eucharist you take Christs body. So are you saying its half and half? Half Christs body and half the element?

Even so, if the disease can be transmitted from the hands of the Eucharistic ministers…then whats the difference of not giving it on the tongue and putting it in the hands of the communicant?

Thanks for all your replies so far.


P.S it would be nice to be put forth to the official church teaching with regards to your replies also, I’d like to see it and read it for myself.

The Church teaching is that the accidents of the bread and wine remain. If you tested the consecrated host and wine what you will find is bread and wine, not Christ’s body. Transubstantiation takes place on a metaphysical level not on a physical level. It is 100% Christ’s body but not on a molecular level.

The difference of giving it in the hand is that there is no contact with bodily fluids, saliva. Yes, germs can be transferred by hands, but a minister can place a host in someone’s hand without touching it, by mouth it is more difficult to avoid touching someone’s tongue or mouth.

Thats all well and good and I thank you for all your replies and goodness but…could you perhaps reference me to official Church teaching upon that subject?

But if the host is not changed on a physical level and the accidents remain, then it does not matter whether the Eucharistic ministers hands touch the communicants or not. :shrug:

Thanks again,


I often use hand sanitizer after giving the sign of peace, right before going to Communion. Also, our EMHC’s are directed to used hand sanitizer, which is located next to the altar. prior to giving out Communion.

I don’t know if there’s an official Church teaching about this, or not, but like I said, our EMHC’s are instructed to use hand sanitizer prior to handing out Holy Communion, in order to help prevent the spead of germs.
I have a cousin who thinks the way you do regarding this – could you reference us on official Church teaching that states that the Hosts and Wine cannot become contaminated?

In my parish, we’ve not been asked to receive in the hand only, and also the chalice hasn’t been withdrawn. But, at the time people were most concerned, the priest and EMHC’s made a point of wiping their hands with anti-bacterial hand cream, in the sanctuary, after the Sign of Peace. Also, the pastor asked that if someone was ill or had been in contact with someone who was ill, could they refrain from receiving from the chalice until they were sure they weren’t contagious.

One thing I did experience re. swine flu was a church (not mine) removing the holy water.

I got a letter from the local diocese of Armagh and this was the response I got.

Dear Stephen,

I attach below Cardinal Brady’s letter to clergy re the reappearance of swine flu.

As you can see the proposal not to receive Holy Communion on the tongue is a recommendation, not an ‘order’.

Obviously swine flu cannot be caught from the Eucharist itself, but from the transmission of saliva from one who receives on the tongue to another recipient. If you have ever distributed Holy Communion, you will know that is not only a possibility, but on occasion is a very distinct reality.

The threat of (cross) contamination therefore is not from the minister or the Eucharist, but from the recipient (who receives on the tongue), and more specifically from one recipient to another.

I hope this clarifies the matter for you.


John Connolly

Diocesan Secretary

7 January 2011

Re: Swine Flu

Dear Father,

I write concerning the Swine Flu threat which has reappeared. I wish to draw your attention to the Swine Flu Protocol on the diocesan website.

The Archdiocese of Armagh recommends the following:

  1. Those who have the flu or flu symptoms are requested not to attend Mass or other Church ceremonies.
  1. The handshake is to be discontinued as a means of offering the sign of peace. An appropriate alternative, e.g. a moment of silence, may be introduced.
  1. Sharing one chalice by concelebrating priests and Ministers of the Eucharist is to be discontinued. A possible alternative is intinction from a separate chalice.
  1. Clergy and Ministers of the Eucharist are required to wash their hands before and after distributing communion.
  1. It is highly recommended that receiving communion on the tongue be replaced by reception on the hand.
                    With good wishes,
                                Yours sincerely,
                                            Archbishop of Armagh
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