Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Minor Holidays, and Other False Assumptions

On the fifth of May, 1862, Mexican forces succeeded in driving back a superior French army at the city of Puebla. This only delayed the inevitable, unfortunately, and the French were able to invade Mexico City, and within a year occupy Mexico. They proclaimed one of their own as Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian I, with the help of Mexican monarchists. Under pressure from the USA, and Republican forces within Mexico, he was eventually removed from power.

The holiday known as "Cinco de Mayo," while a source of Mexican pride for expatriates throughout the world, is not an obligatory celebration in its country of origin, its remembrance limited largely to its home state of Puebla. So they won the battle, lost the war, and still walk away with an excuse for people the world over to get wasted.

Now, there are those who could successfully maintain, that we never treated Mexico particularly well, but more like a puppet state of ours. The main reason there is even a state of Texas, they would claim, is that enough of us moved there to help in blowing them off. They would also argue that the persecution of Catholics in the early 20th century, was due in no small part, to some back-door maneuvering from the White House, with the encouragement of anti-Catholic Masonic leaders in positions of influence.

So, you can remember the Alamo as one of the great heroic last-stands of American history, which it was. But history is usually more complicated.

Meanwhile, on this side of the border, life apparently isn't complicated enough for the faithful of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. There was recently a state of emergency in Mexico due to the prospect of a "swine flu" epidemic. Most of it has blown over. But not before a little child in Texas died from the illness. This, as well as the immediate reaction from other nations, including the USA, has caused the Most Reverend Edmond Carmody, Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, to issue a "pastoral" response regarding human contact at Mass.

Due to the seriousness of the Swine Flu, which recently took the life of a child here in Texas, let us take the following measures as a precaution until the danger has passed... Give Holy Communion in the hand and not on the tongue.

Now, bear in mind, that there has been nothing established, to maintain that the remote prospect of hand-to-tongue contact, is any more dangerous than the very likely prospect of hand-to-hand contact. And you certainly won't find any such hard data in the decree from which we just quoted. (No, that would require someone on the staff to actually look something up. Oh, the humanity...) That didn't stop the good Bishop from wanting to look like a real take-charge kinda guy. This has recently been the subject of our good Father Zuhlsdorf of What Does The Prayer Really Say?, who took the time to point out what should have been really, REALLY obvious to Bishop Carmody.

Keep in mind what the Holy See’s document Redemptionis Sacramentum 92 clearly states... No one may be prohibited from receiving on the tongue. A lower authority (e.g., bishop, pastor) cannot amend the legislation issued by the Holy See. They can recommend, but they cannot forbid.

You see, the multiple options notwithstanding, Catholics of the Latin rite are ENTITLED to communion on the tongue, but are merely permitted communion in the hand. This bishop's attempt to restrict it is illicit -- that is to say, it is unlawful. He has no authority to restrict that which a higher authority allows. Even if he has an excuse. Even if he likes the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from people blissfully following one's every official utterance.

That being said (and, as we also said, really, REALLY obvious), look what's coming from the peanut gallery that is the combox of WDTPRS...

[I]n the view of a possible pandemic, it seems to me that communion on the tongue is a luxury that we cannot afford. I am the only priest here and have great difficulty getting help if and when I am sick. We have about 5% of people here who receive the old-fashioned way on the tongue, and of them, about 1 out of 5 insist on licking my fingers. That is NOT right! Regardless of what the doctor said above about the flu not being transmitted this way, it is abhorrent to have saliva on my fingers from the previous person, and have to distribute to many more people. What if that person DOES have Hep A? I have asked my people to forgo communion on the tongue for the time being . . . I have found that if I hold the host over their hands they will get the idea, and receive in that fashion. I do not agree that people’s “option” to receive on the tongue requires me, the only priest in a 15-mile radius, to have their saliva on my hands while giving communion. It is not sanitary, and it is NOT right for them to expect this!

Now that's just brilliant! I can see the poster hanging in church vestibules now: "The Eucharist: It's Finger Lickin' Good!" Apparently it is not enough, that the Church has maintained a practice which outlasted both the Black Plague, and the Influenza pandemic of nearly a century ago. It is also not enough that a priest traditionally washes his hands (as opposed to his tongue) thoroughly before vesting. Fortunately, at least one person is using the sense God gave a duck.

The problem with priests touching the tongue is because the priests don’t know how to distribute communion on the tongue these days. Where I receive communicants have been instructed to open their mouth, rest their tongue on their bottom lip and the priest should take the host between thumb and forefinger (the forefinger underneath the host), as he places the host on the tongue, he slides his forefinger back pressing down with his thumb which is in the middle of the host. But anyway the Ministers touching someone’s unwashed hands, which have been in the holy water font; coughed and sneezed into their hands; taken coins out of their pockets and touched hand rails all before Mass, not to mention the numbers of people who do not wash their hands after using the toilet. We had a priest announce twice he would not distribute Communion on the tongue; then he proceeded to cough and blow on the altar, distributed communion in the hand and shook people’s hands after Mass – what a joke!

And, as we have said many times before, God did not give a duck very much sense. Which is to say that this is not rocket science.

But even if it were, we are only compounding a mistake if we begin to treat science as we have matters of the Faith. Science is not based upon feelings, for "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." Science is based upon the Truth. You draw your conclusions devoid of preconceptions, and based upon the evidence, or that which has otherwise been established by the appropriate means. That we can say this about the Catholic Faith has not stopped people (including more than a few bishops) from bending it and twisting it to their liking. Now they're doing it with science, which means the Powers That Pretend To Be now have the opportunity, to look really stupid in front of an even larger audience.

Don't believe me?

As this is published, the United States Center for Disease Control has just announced that all the schools in the country that closed down due to the previous warnings can now open again. The acting Surgeon General has already publicly downplayed the original scare. But you can bet dollars to donuts that, six months from now, some twit "communion minister" in Texas will refuse someone the Eucharist, because of something he/she heard while trying to stay awake during a workshop the previous spring.

After all, if the Bishop of Corpus Christi wants to jump off a cliff, why shouldn't the rest of his subjects follow?

(POSTSCRIPT: It should be mentioned, in all due fairness, that numerous parishes and jurisdictions, including the Diocese of Corpus Christi, have also used recent events to eliminate Communion from the chalice. After all, that drinking from a common cup was already linked to hepatitis types A and B, not to mention the common cold, is insufficient reason to panic.)

1 comment:

Kneeling Catholic said...


Good points! Since I live in the Corpus Christi Diocese, it hits home!