Welcome to our first installment of MythAnathamatizers. MythAnathamatizers will work in the following manner: first, there will be a segment "anathamatizing" certain myths regarding a theological viewpoint or practice of the Church. Soon after, there will be a second segment explaining why it was important to "anathamatize" those myths. This week we will be addressing myths associated with the reception of the Most Holy Sacrament in the hand.
Myth #1: The reception of communion in the hand is equally dignified with reception of communion in the tongue.
Actually, reception of communion in the hand is allowed because of an "indult" or, an exception to the norm. The indult has only been granted in some countries, so in many countries it is still only legal to receive on the tongue. Not only is communion in the hand an exception to the rule, but the Church actually teaches that reception on the tongue is "more reverent" and is even strongly encouraged. Finally, in the legislation that allowed for the indult, several directives are spelled out for those who opt to receive in the hand that have not truly been implemented. All relevant data can be found in Memoriale Domini and L'instruction "Memoriale Domini".
Myth #1- Anathamatized
Myth #2: The indult for reception of communion in the hand was a natural outgrowth of the Vatican II documents on the liturgy.
During the reign of Paul VI, disobedience was rampant in the Church. Certain bishops started to permit the practice of distribution of the Sacred Host in the hand without receiving the necessary authorization from Rome. Instead of suppress the practice and cause disunity within the Church, Paul VI granted the indult so that the practice would be allowed (a mistake that would be repeated by John Paul II on the issue of altar girls). Perhaps the indult was a natural outgrowth of Vatican II in the sense that the implementation of the council resulted in widespread disobedience, but the indult is certainly not an outgrowth in the sense of being a logical conclusion of the principles set forth in the documents on the liturgy.
Myth #2- Anathamatized
Myth #3: The early Christians received communion in the hand. The practice is a return to a more pure form of Christianity.
Pope Sixtus I (115-125) writes, "It is prohibited for the faithful to even touch the sacred vessels, or receive in the hand." Furthermore, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Doctor of the Church synthesized the thought of the early Church Fathers in a way that had never been done. St. Thomas knew the thought of the early Fathers more intimately than most of the Fathers themselves. Given this knowledge, he did not hesitate to write in the Summa, "Because out of reverence towards this sacrament, 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. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency" (Part 3, Question 82, Article 3) Thus, there is evidence dating from the second century stating that communion in the hand is to be shunned and that saint most familiar with the thought of the early Church Fathers would condemn the practice. The very, very early Christians received in the hand for reasons that are no longer applicable, but the practice was changed because Christians started to lose faith in the Real Presence. Now, we live in a time where it has been reported that 70% of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence. We think it is time that we took a queue from the early Christians, let's revoke the indult.
Myth #3- Anathamatized