On Communion in the Hand (Here, Mr. Ed Peters, Is Why Cardinal Sarah is Absolutely Right)
Written by Hilary White
I’m going to start by saying that it seems generally like Ed Peters a good guy, an apparently faithful Catholic and conscientious canon lawyer. His blog always has interesting and useful – and factual – stuff in response to the incredible cascade of insanity coming lately out of Rome and the only-slightly less horrifying avalanche of confusion in response.
He’s certainly a go-to blogger for solid information on things canonical, whether you are a canon law expert or not. He’s got a significant voice in the Big Discussion because he’s earned our trust.
But there are times when even a smart guy is an idiot. There appears to be an Idiot Cycle where smart people do and say dumb things on a kind of rotation basis. Apparently today is Ed’s day.
This morning we heard from him on Twitter:
“If the Church wants to change, again, the manner of receiving holy Communion, fine by me. Meanwhile, please stop telling folks who receive IN ACCORD WITH CURRENT LITURGICAL LAW that they are helping the Devil do his damnest.” [ALL-CAPS all his.]
Let’s use Ed’s Twitter post as a starting point, since he has neatly encapsulated what may be some very common errors about this strange artefact of Communion in the hand that is such a universal tenet of Novusordoism.
First, his blatantly virtue-signalling display of indifference is very much a typical “conservative” attitude toward the liturgy.
How is Ed proving his “conservative” bona fides with this Tweet? For “conservatives”, liturgy is a kind of politically-inspired performance art. For them, the Church offers a delightful smorgasbord of liturgical “choices,” all available according to your own personal sense of style.
Snooty high-brows can have the Mass with the fiddlebacks and the Palestrina, if that’s what they like (and if they’re lucky enough to live in the right country and wealthy enough to live in the right conurbation).
For the LifeTeen enthusiasts, there’s electric guitar-strumming Eucharistic Adoration sessions with the monstrance perched on a wooden pyramid and the kids all sitting on mats, swaying and crooning.
For the Boomers, we still have plenty of the Star Trek-styled, hip’n’happnin’ bellbottom Masses with the grey-ponytail band playing the Peter Paul and Marytunes. Something for everyone! A comedy tonight!
So of course, to such a person, reception in the hand or reception kneeling and on the tongue is a matter of personal preference that has no effect on anything. Trads, therefore, who object more strenuously than a given “conservative” happens to like, are all insane weirdos shouting like Tourette’s patients at random passers-by because they happen to prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate.
What no “conservative” ever asks is, “What does God want in the way of Catholic worship? Did He give us anything in particular we should be doing?” And about the specific issue, “What does it mean that we receive in this way and not the other way? What is this really about? Because the way people go all crazy-wiggy about it certainly seems to indicate that it’s about something.”
The “conservative” pose of “I don’t care what you prefer, or what Rome does, I just want everyone to stop being such jerks all the time,” is intended as a kind of internet herding call. It’s a display of tribal colours intended to identify the caller as “Not-a-Trad,” which is pretty much all the distinction left to “conservatives” who have mostly woken up to the predicament we’re all in. They don’t want to be seen to be backing up the vampires and Morlocks who have invaded the Vatican, so that’s good. But whhoaaaahhh nelly! They don’t want to be mistaken for those Traddie weirdoes, either!
OK Ed, thanks. We got the message. I’m sure God reads your Twitter feed and knows you’re not like those mean Catholics over there.
But we modern and sophisticated Catholics know better, right?
Ed has been bombarded on Twitter with responses to this little bit of peevish sophistry. I won’t pile on (any more than I already have) except to say, isn’t Ed the one who has of late been excoriating … ahem… German interpretations of the law that are technically not illegal but actually harmful to souls?
Just because something is legal does not necessarily mean it is moral, Ed. This should not be difficult.
But here’s the real point: the people who have placidly gone along with this change in liturgical practice are in fact helping to do the Devil’s work in the Church. They may not know this – frankly they ought to – but whether they do or not, they are doing it. Communion in the hand has been one of the most destructive of the new liturgical practices to Catholic belief in the Real Presence, and every time you stick your hand out to receive you are perpetuating that corrosion, if nowhere else, at least in your own soul and in the soul of anyone who observes you who could be led astray. You might not be aware of this, you might not be personally culpable, but you are actually doing harm.
In the last 50 years, the practice has led to a long string of connected abuses and has paved the way for the degraded state we find ourselves in now. It’s arguable that it was the first door that was opened onto the long liturgical corridor that led directly to Amoris Laetitia. If the traditional practice had been maintained – if we still saw on the altars the meticulous care, the “liturgical digits,” the humeral veils, the patens and purificators, and the exclusivity of who does and does not touch the Sacred Species with their hands, or even the vessels they are carried in – would Catholics now be reacting with nearly universal indifference to the pope and his gang imposing a mandate of universal sacrilege? Catholics used to care – quite a lot – about desecration of the Holy Eucharist. Apparently now they don’t. How did that happen? You work it out.
Remember “artist” Abel Azcona from Pamplona, who, after stealing more than 240 consecrated Hosts, arranged them in a sacrilegious exhibition on the floor to spell the word “Pederastia”?
Why are we suddenly talking about this again? Apparently Cardinal Sarah opened this antique can of radioactive worms the other day when he was quoted in the Catholic Herald saying that the universal acceptance of reception of Holy Communion in the hand while standing is part of an “insidious” and “diabolical” deception going forward in the Church.
The Herald was quoting Card. Sarah’s preface in a new book (so far only in Italian) on the subject:
“The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favouring an unsuitable manner of receiving it,” the cardinal wrote.
“Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.
“Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?
“[Receiving kneeling and on the tongue] is much more suited to the sacrament itself. I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this manner. In my opinion and judgment, this is an important question on which the Church today must reflect. This is a further act of adoration and love that each of us can offer to Jesus Christ.”
“Why are we so proud and insensitive to the signs that God himself offers us for our spiritual growth and our intimate relationship with Him?” the cardinal asks. “Why do we not kneel down to receive Holy Communion on the example of the saints? Is it really too humiliating to bow down and kneel before the Lord Jesus Christ?”
And, sure enough, the topic is like a zombie dog-whistle; the people who like to be called “progressives” have come clawing and shrieking out of the internet woodwork to attack him for it. Which more or less demonstrates pretty neatly that he was not only correct, but has put his finger on one of the weakest and most tender spots of the New Paradigm.
We’ve heard from all the usual suspects; Austen Ivereigh and Massimo Faggioli have both had a go. I won’t bore you with the full recital, but today’s offering came from an OFM – and apparently a professional modernist Twitter-troll – named Daniel Horan, who offered, “Remember that time at the Last Supper when the disciples all knelt down at the upper room’s altar rail and received bread from Jesus on the tongue? Yeah, me neither.”
Don’t worry, he’s been thoroughly roasted for it, including by myself. But it did remind me of something I’ve thought about for years. These people always give away their own game. They love to ridicule, mock and generally lash out at Traditionalists, particularly on this issue, that they especially like to call trivial and silly. It reminded me of a conversation I once had with a bishop I knew. I brought it up and he snorted derisively and said something like, “Oh, people worry about the silliest stuff…”
I thought it was an odd thing to say at the time, and kept on thinking about it; the issue and this episcopal response. I myself had never received in the hand, even as a wayward and half-practicing NO-ist, having come from a parish in Vancouver where the altar rail never fell out of use. I thought it just looked extremely strange to see people lining up and sticking out their hands like they were getting a bagel at Subway. There was a fundamental contradiction here: if the Eucharist is what we say it is, how do we dare to treat it so casually?
Finally it dawned on me: “If it’s so trivial, if it’s so unimportant, if it means nothing how we receive, if, as we are told again and again that the important thing is thatwe receive, why was the practice ever changed?” I knew it had been because of course my NO parish in Vancouver was the only hold-out, possibly in the entire country.
Then I thought, “And if it’s so trivial an issue, if it’s so silly to get upset about it, why do the people who imposed the change fight like a pack of rabid dogs whenever it’s suggested we change back?”
It seemed funny that Communion in the hand is the keyhole issue. But it was the one that made me start asking the serious theological questions, one logical step after the other, that led me to my current position. I suppose that is why the “progressives” are so eager never to see a return to the traditional practice. It tends to raise questions, and questions lead to Googling.
If we really believe what we say we believe, we should be flat on our faces before the Blessed Sacrament. Once you start thinking about it, it seems astounding that we can receive the Sacrament at all. That we are able to stay on our feet at all in Its presence is a direct act of Divine mercy. It is completely mind-boggling that we can have our sins forgiven just by going to Confession. And then receive Holy Communion? The Body and Blood of Christ, that will give us everlasting life? It’s amazing, and terrifying.
And what a horror the very idea of descrating this, or even of trivializing this! Or of mocking and ridiculing those who have fought to maintain the Church’s Eucharistic piety. Do these people not fear God?
Every word said in the Old Paradigm about how and by whom the sacred vessels and the Sacred Species are to be handled, was intended to reinforce the absolutesanctity of the actions and the Object involved. While it is true that there is evidence that some Christians of the early Church were permitted to receive holy Communion in their hands, the documentary evidence shows that it was regarded by most Church Fathers as an abuse that had to be corrected. Extreme care – including exclusivity of use – has been shown the Sacred Species since the earliest times.
An excellent and well documented article defending the traditional practice both theologically and historically is here.
– Pope St. Sixtus I (c. AD 115) “The Sacred Vessels are not to be handled by others than those consecrated to the Lord.”
– Pope St. Eutychian (275-283) Forbade the faithful from taking the Sacred Host in their hand.
– St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church (330-379) “The right to receive Holy Communion in the hand is permitted only in times of persecution.” St. Basil considered Communion in the hand so irregular that he did not hesitate to consider it a grave fault.
– The Council of Saragossa (380) Excommunicated anyone who dared continue receiving Holy Communion by hand. This was confirmed by the Synod of Toledo.
– Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461) Energetically defended and required faithful obedience to the practice of administering Holy Communion on the tongue of the faithful.
– The Synod of Rouen (650) “Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywomen, but ONLY in their mouths.” Condemned Communion in the hand to halt widespread abuses that occurred from this practice, and as a safeguard against sacrilege.
– The Sixth Ecumenical Council, at Constantinople (680-681) Forbade the faithful to take the Sacred Host in their hand, threatening 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, Part III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8)
– The Council of Trent (1545-1565) “The fact that only the priest gives Holy Communion with his consecrated hands is an Apostolic Tradition.”
– Pope John Paul II, Inaestimabile Donum, April 17, 1980, sec. 9 “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.”
The last point in response to Ed Peters’ Tweet is a simple one of Canon Law that I would have thought he would know: The Church has not, in fact, changed the practice at all. In 1969, in response to pressure from certain elements in the episcopate Paul VI “reluctantly” granted an indult for certain places that, these elements told him, had already established the novel practice. This document, Memoriale Domini, insisted that the norm of the Church was reception kneeling and on the tongue, and that it must remain so. This indult – a special and exceptional permission for restricted cases – is still in effect, and can be reversed as abruptly as it was put in place.
The story is worth researching as one of the most infamous of those surrounding the liturgical nightmare we are currently still living in, and is certainly eye-opening for those who have never known it. It is worthy of a thriller film; complete with clandestine meetings, lies and intrigue at the highest levels of the Church. In short, an enormous effort was undertaken by the most faithless, most treacherous, most duplicitous of the episcopate of the day to change this one universal and timeless practice of the Catholic Faith, particularly this one that lies right at the centre of its beating heart.
If the difference is one of indifference, what was all the fuss about? Why all the effort expended on this one little trivial and unimportant thing? And why does the same faction now continue to insist that the old practice – that the entire Old Paradigm – must never, ever, ever be allowed to return?
And perhaps even more pertinently, what do they think would happen if it did? Let your imagination work on that for a minute.
What has changed? Putting it in the simplest possible terms, the Old Paradigm was about God. The New Paradigm is about us. Our concerns in the New Paradigm are about how we feel, whether we are being made to feel “included” or “adult”. Kneeling down to receive on the tongue has been compared to being fed like a child, and they’re right, it is. Old Paradigm Catholics knew they were forever children compared to the supreme adulthood, the fatherhood of God. New Paradigm Catholics want to demonstrate – like teenagers – how much more adult they are than their fathers in the Faith.
Since Francis, and especially since the Synods and Amoris Laetitia, we have all seen clearly that the New Paradigm is about downgrading Christ, downgrading the Eucharist and the priesthood and the Mass that gives us the Eucharist.
It’s about ignoring the actual words of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as they are recorded in the Gospels, to replace them with some invention that negates His intentions – using His own words against Him. He told the Pharisees that they were “hard of heart” – that is, lacking in mercy – for continuing to allow divorce, and that in reality – that is, in the universe He created – there really is no such thing as divorce. That divorce was part of the old merciless dispensation that made allowances for hardness-of-heart, because it was incurable without the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, an outcome He was about to affect.
We have the New Paradigm, in which Scripture is no longer a reliable source for knowing the will of God; in which the “gospel” that is preached is diametrically opposed to the actual Gospels as they are written. A New Paradigm in which the faithless, the obstinate sinners, the heretics, are all invited to receive Communion because, quite frankly, it’s a New Paradigm that simply doesn’t believe the Eucharist is what we have always held it to be, what saints have died rather than desecrate, what martyrs faced the rack, fire and wild beasts – and worse – rather than desecrate. The “New Paradigm” is the paradigm of apostasy, of faithlessness, of an empty, nihilistic and pointless betrayal of Christ.
For many years, I asked, “If these people are ‘progressives,’ what exactly are we ‘progressing toward?’… What is the end goal in all this?” Well, clearly, we have been given an answer.
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 I don’t know him personally, so I have to say “apparently,” but I’ve used his material a lot and it seems sound to me.
 I’ve recently begun to believe that there is such a thing as a culpable lack of curiosity, a kind of willful bovine readiness to just quietly follow the herd, no thought of the question, “What does this mean?” ever entering one’s mind. Why doesn’t the average Catholic ever ask these kinds of questions?
 (“…you traditionalists…”)
 Which of course is the answer to my question, “Why do ‘conservatives’ so often viciously lash out at Trads?” And isn’t it funny that their unpredictable little fits are always aimed at Traddies’ alleged propensity for being big nasty meanies? Nope, no irony under here.
 The Dutch bishops.
 As it happens, this was a lie.
 Fr. Richard Heilman writes about “An Indult Born Out of Disobedience” at New Liturgical Movement, March 16, 2014
BTW, a thousand blessings on Cardinal Parolin for finally coming out and admitting that what they’re really doing is imposing an entirely new, and radically opposed, religion to Catholicism, and for using the exact same wording that I’ve been using for the last five years to describe it. It makes my job SO much easier!
Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable LifeSiteNews.com, Miss While lives in Norcia, Italy.
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