Communion on the tongue is unsanitary. So authoritatively
stated an article published in the Australian Catholic Leader
by Elizabeth Harrington, the education official for the Liturgy
Commission of the Brisbane archdiocese:
…It is awkward
for ministers to give communion on the tongue to people who are
standing, which is the recommended posture for communion in
Australia, and it is unhygienic because it is difficult for
ministers to avoid passing saliva on to other communicants.
This statement (often made by in-the-hand proponents)
reveals an ignorance of the Roman Church’s traditional practice and
the rubrics for the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue.
In the first place, the communicant is supposed to kneel;
obviously exceptions are made for the handicapped, who usually wish
they could kneel. Not only does this show the communicants’ humility
in receiving their Divine Eucharistic Lord (i.e., God), but
this submissive posture also enables giving the Host on the tongue
more practically, safely and… hygienically
all three cases, much more so than Communion in the hand.
Another interesting aspect is that the traditional form of
receiving Communion kneeling and on the tongue demonstrates the Roman
character of practicality that pervades its namesake liturgical rite,
resulting in a reverent and dignified manner of receiving the Bread of
Angels, yet easily and efficiently.
The traditional rubrics of the Rituale Romanum
prescribe that the priest is to carefully pick up the Host by its edge
between his right thumb and index finger; no other digits may be used
to perform this action. As diligently taught in traditional First
Communion classes, the communicant is to tilt his head back slightly,
open his mouth and extend his tongue a little creating what is often
called “the pillow of the tongue”. The priest then easily places the
Host on this “pillow” without touching the communicant’s tongue,
mouth, or even lips - resulting
in an absence of physical contact between the administrator and the
But with Communion in the hand, full hand-to-hand contact
is made between the administrator (usually the ubiquitous Eucharistic
Minister) and the communicants, who often have not washed (or
sanitized) their hands prior to receiving. Hence with in-the-hand,
there is a very real danger of spreading unwanted germs.
The fact is, before the progressivists’ clamor for
Communion in the hand (something we might add episcopal conferences
did without the Holy See’s approval), the issue of hygiene was
never raised concerning the traditional manner of receiving Holy
Communion - and
this during an era when the hygienic advocates were in full swing to
make the world germ free.
The irony of this charge against Communion on the tongue is
that those who promote in-the-hand for non-existent hygienic reasons
simultaneously encourage the practice of “sharing the cup” (receiving
the Precious Blood communally from a chalice) which the Roman Church
ceased in ancient times precisely due to hygienic concerns (i.e.,
because of the backwash of saliva that inevitable occurs from a group
of people drinking from the same vessel)
in turn could lead to disdain of this Sacred Mystery.
This topic in fact provides just one more example of how
through Holy Mother Church’s traditional practices, she is solicitous
for both our spiritual and natural welfare. On the supernatural side,
she provides us with a reverential manner in which we poor and
unworthy sinners (“Domine non sum dignus” citing the sentiments
of the Centurion) may receive Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and
Divinity, yet in the natural sphere, in a way that does not jeopardize
our bodily health.
1 This is the
archdiocesan newspaper and the article was titled “Communion in the
Hand” was published on February 12, 2012, in the column, “Liturgy
Lines”. It is currently unavailable online without a subscription.
2 Three editions of the traditional
Roman Ritual are currently available from Angelus Press, two in
a pocket-size and
Fr. Philip Weller's The Roman Ritual set (which
he intended to also act as a catechism for the laity) and one
Cf. Bishop Juan Laise's groundbreaking book,
Communion in the Hand: Documents and History
webpage featuring a video extract from Cardinal Burke
which includes many pertinent links about Communion in the hand.