Reprinted with permission from The Fatima Crusader.
Regarding Communion In The Hand
It is noted that Father Gruner and other priests do not give Communion in the Hand. Further background to understand why is presented in this appendix.
Section 1: Why Communion in the Hand is Forbidden
Commentary by Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L., S.T.D. (Cand.)
The following is a commentary on the Regulations (See Section 3 of this appendix) allowing Communion in the hand under very restricted circumstances.
It must be remembered that Communion on the tongue is the law of the Church. Communion in the hand is an exception to the law (it is an “indult”) which is not commanded but only allowed if all the conditions outlined by the Vatican are present. If the conditions are not present then the permission is not granted and Communion on the tongue only is permitted.
The seven conditions are based on two principles as the official document points out. These two principles are not something that the Pope could change even if he wanted to because they are based on Divine Revelation itself.
Every Occasion of Scandal Must Be Avoided
The first condition is that every occasion of scandal is avoided. Obviously if this practice causes some of the Faithful to lose faith in “the Real Presence” then this practice is not good for the salvation of souls because faith in the “Real Presence” in the Eucharist is necessary for salvation.
If the luxury of being able to receive Communion in the hand is going to cause the loss of faith and thereby the loss of souls for all eternity, can anyone fail to see that Sacred Scripture (which tells us to avoid scandal) and charity for souls would demand that this practice be forbidden. And so the Vatican document also makes this lack of scandal an explicit condition for allowing Communion in the hand.
In other words, in places, parishes or communities where the Faithful, even only one of the Faithful, would lose his faith in the Real Presence then in that place, even if the bishop and the Vatican have given their permission, then by the very law and terms of the permission as well as by Divine Revelation itself, Communion in the hand in that place would be forbidden under grave obligation upon the minister of the Sacrament, the priest, the deacon and the extraordinary minister if there be one. It would bind the bishop, even the Pope himself in that place.
If some ministers do not follow this rule, their bad example does not change the rule, not even if the Pope were to give such example, this rule binds all, even the Pope.
The second principle which the Vatican document gives us is also based on Divine Revelation and cannot be changed by anyone not even the Pope himself because it is part of the unchanging Law of God.
All Danger of Irreverence Must Be Avoided
The second principle is that “All danger of irreverence towards the Eucharist is avoided.” Since the Eucharist is the Body of Jesus Christ Himself Who is true God and true Man we are bound by the First Commandment to reverence and adore Him. To do the opposite would be the sin of sacrilege. Thus if one prudently fears that by giving Communion in the hand that sins of sacrilege will be committed, then one must not give Communion in the hand.
Now as St. Paul explains it is the minister of the Sacraments who is personally responsible for their administration. He is responsible first of all not to the Pope, not to the bishop, not to the recipient of the Sacrament, but to God Himself Whose minister he is.
And it is for the minister to be found trustworthy as God's minister first.
Now it is precisely the minister, the priest, who gives out Communion who is personally responsible to assess the situation. It is not the Pope or bishop, who are not present, but the minister who administers.
This is the principle of subsidiarity and is acknowledged explicitly enough when we read Norm No. 3, for who is to judge the attitude of the recipient in Norm No. 3 except the priest who, on the spot, administers the Sacrament. By the very nature of this norm it is not up to the bishop or Pope or Chancery official or other priest nearby but only the priest who actually administers the sacrament to the Faithful at that place and time who is personally responsible to judge the external attitude of the recipient.
Now you might ask what are some of the dangers whereby Communion in the hand might cause irreverence to the Holy Eucharist.
There are several very common ones. Especially and namely this: When a person receives Communion in the hand there is a very high probability that some Fragment of the Host will break off or come loose and remain in the hand after the communicant has put the Host in his mouth. Whereas there is little or no danger of Fragments breaking off and falling to the ground if he receives on his tongue. Now after some time the Fragment will fall off his hand and onto the ground where It can be trampled underfoot.
We know from the defined Dogma of the Catholic Faith that each and every Fragment which breaks off from the Host is “The Body of Jesus Christ — really present.” So to drop a Consecrated Fragment on the ground is the same as dropping the Consecrated Host on the ground. Even if only done through negligence, it is still a sin of sacrilege.
This danger of irreverence then is to be avoided by Divine Law. Not even the Pope can change this law. The Vatican document by including here the necessity of avoiding danger of irreverence is only reminding us of this Divine Law.
It is again the personal responsibility of the minister of the Sacrament be he the Pope, a bishop, a cardinal or a priest or deacon to see to it that all danger of irreverence towards the Holy Eucharist be avoided.
He cannot say the bishop commanded me or everyone else is doing it ... Before God he must answer for each and every act of administering the Holy Eucharist.
If he knows that the people receiving the Holy Eucharist in the hand do not look in their hands to see if there are any Fragments left after they consume the Host then he can be certain that some of the people will most likely have Fragments on their hands which will sooner or later be dropped. In which case for them their responsibility is clear. They cannot give Communion in the hand even if the bishop or Pope should order them to do so.
This is not to imply that Pope John Paul II has ever done such a thing. On the contrary, we are very grateful to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, for resisting Communion in the hand in Italy. As one Italian major religious Superior pointed out, if it were not for Pope John Paul II, Communion in the hand would have been fully introduced in Italy by now.
Eucharistic Minister is Bound to Avoid Sacrilege
In fact in North America and most likely anywhere else in the world where Communion in the hand is given, not 100% of the people look into their hands to see if there are any Fragments for them to consume and therefore the minister of the Holy Eucharist is bound in public churches to avoid the danger of sacrilege and irreverence by not giving anyone Communion in the hand because he can be morally certain that some; likely most (but even some is sufficient reason) will not look in their hands after Communion. Consequently there will be at least a few, if not many, who will drop Fragments on the ground, thereby committing sacrilege and irreverence, even though it is only through negligence as Pope Paul VI taught in his Encyclical (Mysterium Fidei 1965, Sept. 3).
Since the minister knows this will happen, he is not allowed by the very terms of this official document granting “the indult” of giving Communion in the hand. He is also bound by Divine Law in these circumstances to not give Communion in the hand even if his religious superior should command him.
With these two principles explained, the average reader should realize why Communion in the hand in practice is still forbidden by the current law of the Church even where the indult has “technically” been allowed. In other words the terms of the permission, both in Divine Law and in Church Law are so strict that almost never is it allowed in practice.
Before we finish we must recall that the person receiving Communion is also responsible to see that no irreverence is committed, but his responsibility does not excuse the minister from taking all the precautions necessary.
Section 2: Appeal To The Holy Father
The following correspondence further illustrates and illuminates the Church’s teaching and law forbidding Communion in the hand and the persecution priests endure, who for reasons of conscience do not follow this practice.
Dear Most Holy Father John Paul II,
We pray and hope that you, Most Holy Father, will help us.
Some Reflections on Certain Theological Points
Is it not true that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the priest? (C.J.C. 845, 1; Council of Trent 13 c.8, 22 c.1) St. Thomas tells us:
“Accordingly as the consecration of Christ's Body belongs to the priests, so likewise does the dispensing belong to him.” S.T. III, q. 82 a. 3.
And is it not true that the minister is responsible to God for the proper administration of the Sacraments that he personally administers? But some priests ask themselves, “How can a priest be held responsible by God, if God (and the Church) does not also give to us priests the authority to dispense this Most Holy Sacrament according to God's law and the universal law of the Church?”
And is not the universal law of the Latin Rite still that the Consecrated Host be placed on the tongue of the communicant as the document Memoriale Domini (1969) says:
“... the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering Holy Communion to the Faithful.
“The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests, and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed.”
The Rights and Obligations of the Priest as Minister of Holy Communion
It seems then to a number of Roman Catholic priests that a priest is not ever obligated by Divine or Ecclesiastical law to give Holy Communion in the hand, even in those dioceses where the bishop has licitly given permission for the priests to give Holy Communion in the hand. As the indult given by the Holy See only dispenses a minister from the law of Holy Communion on the tongue, it does not command a minister to give Holy Communion in the hand.
Further, it seems that the indult to give Holy Communion in the hand allows this practice only under certain conditions, one of which is:
“Si deve fare attenzione a non lasciare cadere ne disperdere frammenti de Pane Eucharistico. Come pure si deve curare la conveniente mondezza delle mani ...” (A.A.S. 1969, p.547. Notiziae 1973, circa p. 295.) (One must pay attention to not let fall or disperse fragments of the Eucharistic Bread. As also care must be taken of the proper cleanness of hands ...”)
Therefore it would seem that the priest giving out Holy Communion must judge if in fact the conditions set down by the Holy See for this indult are in fact present at the time he is distributing Holy Communion.
And it would further seem that if the priest is to obey the law of the Catholic Church for the Latin Rite he must not give Holy Communion in the hand, if in fact the necessary conditions for using the indult are not present.
Further, it seems that when the priest finds that to give Holy Communion in the hand would be against the law of God and his conscience, he would be obligated to not give Holy Communion in the hand. (As for example would happen when he is morally certain that the Faithful through ignorance or negligence will cause Consecrated Fragments to drop on the ground after they consume the Host.)
It further seems then that if a priest chooses to not give Holy Communion in the hand on some or on all occasions, he should not, on this account, be punished or hindered in his apostolic works by anyone, even by one or more Roman Catholic bishops.
Therefore I respectfully appeal to you, Most Holy Father. A number of Roman Catholic priests chose not to give Holy Communion in the hand for serious personal and pastoral reasons. As a result of this they in fact suffer serious losses. In the name of these who suffer, I appeal to you, Most Holy Father.
If it is possible, could you, Most Holy Father, give us priests a public, authoritative declaration, which would be easily accessible to all priests and bishops, declaring that no priest is to be molested, punished, or hindered because he declines to give Holy Communion in the hand.
Yours in Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Father Nicholas Gruner
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, Vatican City, Rome, Italy.
January 2nd, 1985
In January, of 1980, I wrote you a three page letter, copy of which is herewith enclosed, regarding Communion in the Hand and persecution that priests endure, who, for reasons of conscience, do not follow this practice. At that time, I asked for a public statement from Your Holiness, to allow priests to continue their Sacred Ministry and not be subjected to persecution by their superiors (Parish priests and bishops) for following their conscience regarding this matter.
In 1982, application was made to serve the Diocese of ..., by Father Gruner. The bishop, Bishop ..., would have welcomed my services but he imposed as a condition of my coming, that I give Communion in the Hand. I explained to him in person as well as by letter, that this was against the Law of God and of the Catholic Church, and, therefore, against my conscience. I also indicated that, although an Indult had been given by the Vatican to go against the Letter of the Canon Law when certain conditions were met (which the Divine Law itself demand be fulfilled), these conditions, in fact, are not being met and both the Divine Law and Canon Law do not permit me to give Communion in the hand without committing a sin. Enclosed is a copy of my letter to the bishop in question. As a result, the bishop did not accept my services, even though he had a shortage of priests. He did acknowledge by telephone that I truly had a problem of conscience.
A few years ago, the Archbishop of Kingston confided to me that Sacred Consecrated Hosts were found in his Cathedral after the Sunday Masses, because of the practice of Communion in the hand. I believe he reported this to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, but he wondered if his report about this matter ever reached the Vatican. According to a report given to me, a priest who attended your Mass at Downsview, (Toronto, Ontario, September 1984) Father ..., reported to a cloistered Redemptoristine Nun, Sister Emmanuel, that several people were engaged with the task of collecting the numerous Hosts left on the ground after the Papal Mass was over. As I understand it, the Hosts were gathered into garbage bags, and subsequently burned. These are but a few of the many sacrilegious incidents that are occurring as a result of the practice of Communion in the hand. This shows, as well as by my own observation, that adequate Catechesis have not been given regarding Communion in the hand. Giving Communion in the hand without this adequate Catechesis is contrary to the Indult. A copy of our translation of this Indult is also enclosed. (See Section 3 of this Appendix.) Furthermore, the adequate care to see that the Host is not dropped on the ground as is commanded by Divine Law, as well as by Rule No. 5 of the Indult, has not been followed, as seen by the report of the Archbishop of Kingston, Archbishop Wilhelm, now retired.
It is not my place to judge what other priests or bishops do, however, I am responsible to God first of all in my administration of the Most Holy Sacrament, and, therefore, I cannot, in conscience give Communion in the Hand. Nevertheless, there is still widespread ignorance on the part of bishops and other religious superiors that somehow or other, I am ‘not Catholic' or ‘not obedient', because I follow the Law of God and of the Catholic Church in this matter.
Now, in 1985, a few years later, since the confusion regarding what a simple priest’s obligations and rights are concerning this matter, I appeal to you once more. This time, I would ask for a simple letter signed by Your Holiness, expressing that Father Gruner and any Catholic priest living and working in a country in which the Vatican has permitted the practice of Communion in the hand, may, and indeed, must, if the terms of the Indult are not met, refuse to give Communion in the hand, and that no religious superior may penalize Father Gruner or any other priest for following the dictates of his conscience and the Rule of the Church in this matter.
Thank you Holy Father, for giving this matter your kind consideration. I pray to Mary, Our Mother, that your reply will better enable me to fulfill Her requests at Fatima.
Yours sincerely in Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Father Nicholas Gruner, S.T.L.
The above blanked out names and places were, however, made explicit to the Pope.
At first the Following Acknowledgment of Father Gruner’s Letter Was Sent
Secretariat of State, Vatican City
February 4, 1985
Dear Father Gruner,
I am directed to acknowledge the letter of January 2, 1985 which you addressed to the Holy Father, and would inform you that it has been duly transmitted to the Congregation for the Clergy which is the competent office for attending to such matters.
Assuring you of my prayerful good wishes, I remain
Note: No other action has been taken other than calling a special Synod in 1985 which promised to correct the abuses following Vatican II but instead, in practice confirmed them and the persecution continues.
Section 3: The Official Post-Vatican II Regulations
The following are the official rules that must be followed if Communion in the hand is to be given. If these 7 conditions are not present in a location, then it is always forbidden for a priest to give Communion in the hand.
This is a translation of the letter which the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship1 sends to those Conferences of Catholic bishops which have petitioned the Pope and which have received permission from His Holiness to allow the practice of giving Holy Communion in the hand. It is then the responsibility of each Ordinary, that is the Bishop or Archbishop in charge of a diocese, to allow or not allow this practice within the confines of his territory. For those places where this practice is legitimately allowed, the Bishop Ordinary is advised that this practice be allowed only under the following conditions as set out by this letter of permission.
The instruction (in the preceding, “Memoriale Domini”)3 is completed in pastoral matters by this letter which concedes to Episcopal Conferences the indult4 of distributing Holy Communion in the hand of the Faithful. This letter has all the conditions necessary for allowing the use of this indult.
In reply to the request presented by Your Episcopal Conference asking for permission to distribute Holy Communion by giving the Host into the hand of the Faithful, I hereby transmit the following communication:
While recalling the subject of the enclosed instruction of May 29, 1969, by which the traditional practice is maintained, the Holy Father has taken into consideration the reasons in support of your request and the results of the vote taken in this matter. He grants that, in the territory of Your Episcopal Conference, each Bishop, according to his prudence and his conscience, may authorize in his own diocese the introduction of the new rite for the distribution of Holy Communion. This is granted on condition that every occasion of scandal on the part of the Faithful and all danger of irreverence towards the Eucharist is avoided.
In this matter, the following norms are to be followed:
I take this occasion to express to Your Excellency, my sentiments of profound esteem.
Signed by the Cardinal Prefect and the Archbishop Secretary
Footnotes to this Section of the Appendix.
In This Appendix: