At the 1999 Una Voce International meeting in Rome, the Polish delegate addressed the assembly and lamented that, ten years after the collapse of Communism, unmistakable signs of deterioration were appearing throughout the Church in Poland. He listed various indications for this contention, but among the most curious pieces of evidence he offered was this one: "Recently some of the Polish bishops made an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the practice of Communion in the hand." Evidently, Papa Wojtyla rejected the petition of the Polish episcopate. Remember, at the beginning of his papacy, the Pontiff would not permit Communion in the hand during any papal Mass anywhere in the world.Next, a bit of commentary: this editorial is not really about Communion in the hand, as such, although that is the foil used by Fr. McLucas to describe what he sees as a larger trend in the Church's liturgical discipline. Like the vast majority of the public, Fr. McLucas assumed when his editorial went to press on Jan. 9, 2007, that the expected motu proprio lifting the restrictions on the traditional Mass of Pius V was imminent. In his full editorial, he goes on to connect what he says here about incongruities concerning the Congregation for Divine Worship's declarations concerning Communion in the hand with the rubrics of the traditional rite, which (in contrast to those of the Novus Ordo) require the celebrant to keep the forefinger of each hand joined except when touching the consecrated Host. Moreover, he goes on to note that there was no clamoring among the majority of the laity for a change in the reception of Communion in Poland, but that the change sprang insistently from the ideological disposition of the Polish bishops and some members of the intelligentsia. Finally, in what he admits will be labeled by progressives as inclining toward conspiracy theories, he briefly discusses the recent resignation of the newly appointed Archbishop of Warsaw because of resignations that he had cooperated with the secret police of the communist regimes for most of his priesthood, along with the rector of the cathedral in Krakow, and a story on Radio Polonia reporting an account of the collaboration of twelve bishops with the communist secret police in the late 1970s. If you are interested in reading the entire editorial, you can do by following this link: "Still in the Dark" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, January 21, 2007).
John Paul was hardly cold in his tomb when on March 6, 2006 (11 months after his death) the Polish bishops again asked the Holy See for permission to distribute Holy Communion in the hand. In an official document dated April 21, just a little more than a month later, the president of the Polish Bishops Conference received notification that faculties for the change in the reception of Holy Communion had been granted by the Congregation of Divine Worship. Not only was authorization given, consent was offered according to the language of the official protocol, "with great pleasure" ("perlibenter" in the text).
This is continued proof that Roman Congregations tend to develop memory lapses regarding their very own paper trails. If one reads the original document which gave bishops the right to petition for an indult permitting Communion in the hand, it would be difficult to conclude that it radiated any sense of "great pleasure." Thirty seven years ago, the Congregation of Divine Worship which expressed such effusive glee to the Polish bishops published Memoriale Domini (May 29, 1969). The text was unequivocal (all emphases are mine): "This method of distributing holy communion [on the tongue] must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist."
Not being content with that plea for caution, it continued, "Further, the practice which must be considered traditional ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species...."
Memoriale Domini goes on to reveal that the Holy See actually polled the episcopate around the world on this issue, and reports: "From the returns it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline [reception of the Eucharist on the tongue] should not be changed, and that if it were, the change would be offensive to the sentiments and the spiritual culture of these bishops and of many of the faithful." It concludes with an ill-disguised slap-down of those who would have the temerity to petition for a change: "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. It urges them to take account of of the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, of the common good of the Church." I suppose, using the universal language of progressives who witness attitudinal and policy reversals favorable to their way of thinking, it could be said that the Congregation for Divine Worship "has grown": from unambiguous reluctance to permit Communion in the hand (precisely because it removed the protective tissue of tradition) to outright enthusiasm for the idea.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
First, the following excerpt from a recent editorial by Fr. James McLucas from the latest issue of Latin Mass: