On December 11, Catholic News Agency published a story on the Vatican upholding Bishop Richard F. Stika decision “to suspend reception of Holy Communion on the tongue at public Masses throughout the Diocese of Knoxville for the duration of the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
In a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Arthur Roche refused to overturn Bishop Stika. Archbishop Roche referred to Cardinal Sarah’s circular letter from August which states that “in times of difficulty (e.g., wars, pandemics), Bishops and Episcopal Conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed.” At that time most took that to be a recognition of the legitimacy of local bishops banning Communion on the tongue during the pandemic. How Archbishop Roche has clarified that this is indeed a legitimate interpretation of the letter and that a bishop or bishops’ conference have the right “to suspend for whatever time might be required, reception of Holy Communion on the tongue at the public celebration of the Holy Mass. For your convenience, please find in attachment the full text of this letter.”
However, while I personally have a preference for Communion on the hand, I must point out that this latest letter should not be used as ammunition to ban Communion on the tongue once the pandemic is over. There is a clear controversy and I believer that confusion over the matter is growing. The solution is to be found in respectful debate and listening to different viewpoints. Those who want to promote Communion on the hand must do so by rational argument and catechesis rather than by diktat.