The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has left it to dioceses whether or not to allow priests to distribute Communion on the tongue.
The move comes after Fr. John Saward, a priest of the parish of Saints Gregory and Augustine, in Oxford, suspended the live-streaming of masses, explaining that security measures linked to the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult to receive the body of Christ “with reverence.”
Until then, the prescriptions issued by the Bishops’ Conference, scrupulously following the recommendations of the United Kingdom government, stipulated that communion should be given in silence (to avoid splashes of saliva) and in the hand (to avoid the transfer of saliva).
The Episcopal Conference wanted to remind everyone that prelates “are strongly recommended to adopt the guidance but bishops have the right to act as they see fit in their own diocese and to accept the consequences of their actions.”
The Archdiocese of Birmingham, to which Fr. Saward belongs, has issued assurances that these prophylactic measures are in no way irreverent, and indicated that it is in discussion with the priest and his superiors on the follow-up of this situation.
The Episcopal Conference reiterates that its sanitary prescriptions are only temporary, and that, as soon as the situation permits, it will again be possible to give Communion on the tongue. But clerics over the age of 70 are still advised to refrain from distributing Communion (because their old age makes them very vulnerable, no doubt).
We would like for prelates to be less attentive to the new prophylactic rubrics, and more concerned with rendering to God—really present in the Blessed Sacrament—the worship which is due to him.