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Communion in the Hand:
Documents and History
Some Reflections on Spiritual Communion and the State of Grace
Preface by Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Bp. Juan Rodolfo Laise, bishop emeritus of San Luis, Argentina
2018, 218 pages
Communion on the Tongue and the Coronavirus
The medical, political and economic consequences of the coronavirus continue to occupy the world’s attention. But as Catholics seeking to understand everything in the light of the Faith, we try above all to consider its religious significance. Without mentioning him by name, Italian Church historian Roberto de Mattei cites a bishop who denied that coronavirus can be seen as a punishment from God. But it is precisely as a historian that Prof. de Mattei cites various examples, showing how the Church throughout her history has reacted in a very different way to such crises, interpreting natural catastrophes as manifestations of God’s justice as well as His mercy.
Among the reactions of some members of the hierarchy was that of bishops who were recommending or even requiring that the faithful receive Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue, as a means of preventing the spread of the virus. But as explained by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who wrote a preface to Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise’s book on Communion in the hand, it is this latter form of receiving that is more conducive to spreading the disease. Bishop Schneider pointed out that “Communion in the mouth is certainly less dangerous and more hygienic compared to Communion in the hand,” and he described a ban against Communion on the tongue as “unfounded compared to the great health risks of Communion in the hand in the time of a pandemic.”
The Church has always instilled in the faithful a sense of their obligation to practice both the natural and supernatural virtues. Natural prudence and justice require that one avoid dangers to the health of oneself and others, but at the same time, supernatural faith and prudence lead us to a full confidence in the providence of God. There are times when the faithful and in particular the priests must risk their lives for the salvation of souls, while at other times they must take prudent measures to avoid unnecessary risks. In circumstances when it will be impossible to receive sacramental Communion, the Church already has a remedy, practiced for centuries, that of making a spiritual communion. In 2018, the year before his death on July 22, 2019, Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise added to his book – formerly titled Communion in the Hand: Documents and History – a new section with the subtitle, “Some Reflections on Spiritual Communion and the State of Grace.” Therefore this final edition of Bishop Laise’s book, with its new title Holy Communion, now has two sections. The first shows that the universal laws of the Church explicitly exclude today’s widespread practice of Communion in the hand. The second section was written in response to efforts that would allow those not living in conformity with the commandments to receive Communion. In responding to this unacceptable proposal, Bishop Laise explained not only the fundamental obligation to receive in the state of grace, but also the proper need for all the faithful to make an adequate preparation to receive the Sacrament worthily, and the Church’s practice throughout the centuries of encouraging spiritual communion when sacramental Communion is not possible.