The Coronavirus (COVID-19) scare has brought confusing responses from many different sources. Bishop Steven Raica released a letter on March 5, 2020, outlining temporary practices to be implemented “effective immediately“. This has been published although no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Michigan as of this writing. What is also questioned is why these measures have not been used during the flu season. Concerns have been expressed that receiving communion on the tongue is banned. This is not the case. His letter states the following: “During all Masses and liturgies: The clergy and faithful should…Encourage the reception of Holy Communion (the Body of Christ) reverently in open hands for the time being, given the frequency of direct contact with saliva in the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue.”
It should be noted that if the priest is administering Holy Communion with appropriate technique and the parishioner is receiving Holy Communion with appropriate technique, the safety of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue from an infectious disease standpoint is considered by experts to be similar to that of receiving Holy Communion on the hand. Eating anything with your hands (especially after handling a door knob, missalette, stair railing, etc.) actually could increase your risks of transmitting communicable disease compared to simply receiving Holy Communion from a priest directly into one’s mouth. We believe our readers should be made aware of this.
Richard Brenz, MD
Martin Dubravec, MD
The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon released the following statement on March 2, 2020 regarding this issue.
Further Considerations on Liturgical Celebrations and Public Health Concerns
This office has received some calls from concerned parishioners stating that they
have been denied Holy Communion on the tongue or have been told that Holy
Communion on the tongue has been banned in certain parishes.
After consulting with the Archbishop this office would like to clearly communicate
that a parish cannot ban the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, nor may
an Ordinary or Extraordinary minister refuse a person requesting Holy Communion
on the tongue. [Cf: Redemptionis Sacramentum 92. “Each of the faithful always has
the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue at his choice.”]
This morning we consulted with two physicians regarding this issue, one of which
is a specialist in immunology for the State of Oregon. They agreed that done
properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand pose a
more or less equal risk. The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to
others is obviously a danger however the chance of touching someone’s hand is
equally probable and one’s hands have a greater exposure to germs.
Therefore, it is most important that Ordinary and Extraordinary ministers of Holy
Communion are able to distribute Holy Communion without risk of touching the
hands or the tongue. Parishioners should also be instructed how to receive Holy
Communion properly either on the tongue or in the hand.
If Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion feel uncomfortable distributing Holy
Communion either in the hand or on the tongue they should be excused from this
You may find the Bishop Raica’s letter at the following: http://www.dioceseofgaylord.org/
For information on proper reception of Holy Communion on the Tongue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnbuQhDH6v4