Diocese of Santa Rosa Presbyteral Bulletin Number 69

September 4 , 2020 Memo from Bishop Vasa regarding distribution of Holy Communion

DISTRIBUTION OF HOLY COMMUNION: Fathers / Brothers: I must confess that I am extremely weary of the continuing battle surrounding receiving Holy Communion and the concerns and fears about Communion on the tongue versus Communion in the hand. In July, I sent the following which is quoted from the State of California. While this is not a State Mandate it clearly manifests where the State stands on the matter of Holy Communion on the tongue.
Consider modifying practices that are specific to particular faith traditions that might encourage the spread of COVID-19. Examples are discontinuing kissing of ritual objects, allowing rites to be performed by fewer people, avoiding the use of a common cup, offering communion
in the hand instead of on the tongue, providing pre-packed communion items on chairs prior to service, etc., in accordance with CDC guidelines.
The link to the Guidance issued for places of worship is provided here:
Guidance for Places of Worship
DESPITE THAT GUIDANCE: There are a variety of practices which cause distress to some of the faithful and thus distress to me for these souls are more likely to contact me than to contact you. THEREFORE, I want to be extremely clear and hopefully FINAL in this regard.
First, be extremely patient with those souls who insist upon receiving on the tongue. If necessary designate one distributor of Holy Communion to distribute EXCLUSIVELY on the tongue. The latest concern comes from those who feel compromised because someone in the Communion line ahead of them received on the tongue and now they fear, while receiving in the hand, that their health concerns are not taken seriously. Therefore, there is to be NO MIXING of distribution on the tongue and in the hand. There must be separate stations or ministers for each.
Second, the battle over whether people have an unqualified ‘right’ to receive on the tongue is not one which will go away. It is necessary to make a suitable accommodation for these souls while not at all encouraging Communion on the tongue. There is not sufficient proof to verify that receiving on the tongue is any riskier than receiving in the hand but it certainly feels riskier to me! When I think of the healthcare workers who take swab samples, they wear gloves, masks, face shields and surgical gowns and change gloves after each person. When we distribute on the tongue, even without touching anyone, we are within ¼ inch of their nose and mouth and it is from the nose and mouth that the virus is spread. Thus, I can understand that someone with compromised immunity would be fearful of receiving, even in the hand, from someone who has just distributed to someone on the tongue. It is NOT a matter of touching the tongue or lips. Healthcare workers who take swabs never touch the person and yet exercise extreme care.
Third, no one, priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, should be forced to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue to anyone. The claimed ‘right’ to receive on the tongue is not an unqualified right. Accommodation needs to be made but no distributor of Holy Communion is obligated to act contrary to his or her own determined method of keeping themselves safe from infection. Since the science is vague, we must respect the ‘right’ of the distributor of Holy Communion to avoid close contact with the nose and mouth of the communicant.