Most Reverend Juan Rodolfo Laise

Bishop of San Luis, Argentina









San Luis



 Holiness should be the best disposition for reception of the Eucharist.


As the Father prepared the Blessed Virgin, in Her body and in Her soul, preserving Her from all sin and filling Her with the fullness of grace because She was going to be the receptacle of His divine Son, it is manifest that what is important to God is the purity of heart, of life, a sincere conversion, as the best daily preparation for a fruitful Communion.


May the purity of the Immaculate Conception be the best receptacle for us to receive Jesus Christ.


The pure and holy throne that God desires for each Communion is our heart.



Cover: Communion of the Apostles, Fra Angilico

(cell no. 25, San Marcos Convent, Florence, Italy)







DOCUMENTS (English translation) ... 5

Indult.. 6

Instruction  De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi 7

Attached  Pastoral Letter (En riponse) 12

Canon 455.. 14


DOCUMENTS (Latin and French)

Indult 15

Instruction  De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi.16

Attached  Pastoral Letter (En riponse, French).. 20



On the Indult... 23

On the Instruction  De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi.. 24

On the attached Pastoral Letter (En riponse) 46

On Canon 455, '2 49



Historical aspects. 56

Consultation with the Bishops.. 56

Observations and proposals.. 61

Results and reflections.. 63

The Instruction Memoriale Domini. 64

Attached testimonies 66



















Last April 26th (1996), the 71st Assembly of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference resolved to request from the Holy See the authorization to distribute the Holy Eucharist in the hand to those faithful who so desire it. The answer from Rome ratifying and confirming that decision arrived on June 19. On that same day, all of the bishops of the CEA (by its initials in Spanish) were notified by means of Protocol Letter N. 319/96 from the General Secretary of the Episcopate. As of that moment, the newspaper media made it understood that it was a matter of a modality automatically established throughout the country.


Priests and faithful asked me that it not be applied to the Diocese of San Luis. In view of not having received the official documentation, I specifically requested it and thus learned of the Decree of the Congregation for Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments of May 9, 1996, which remits to the Instruction De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi.


On August 8th I convened a meeting in the presbytery, and there handed the priests the Decree and Instruction. In a unanimous manner it was considered that for the faithful of the town, Communion in the mouth was preferable, and since there had not been any cases of abuse in the diocese, the application of the indult was not justified.


Keeping all of the above in mind, I decided not to accept the indult and to preserve the present law of the universal Church in all its fullness (as it is), without in so doing intending to cause a rupture of the communion with my fellow bishops. Nor has it been the intention of causing rupture of the communion with fellow bishops when the Church has conceded multiple dispensations, which for various reasons have been applied to some dioceses and not to others.


The repercussions of this decision (which I never intended to publish outside of the diocese) among the newspaper mediawritings, radio and televisionare of public knowledge. On repeated occasions it has been mentioned that I maintain a rebel attitude with respect to the dispositions of the Church. Furthermore, La Nacisn of September 23, 1996 (p. 11) published literally the words of Monsignor Sueldo, then president of the Liturgical Commission, who commented on my attitude: the norm is above the bishop and was accepted by the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, in conformity with the Holy See. From thereon, the decision belongs to the faithful, not the priest. All of this has contributed to the public opinions belief that I have really acted with a disobedient attitude, or at least one of rupture with the ecclesial.


For this reason I consulted with the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Commission for the Interpretation of the Laws of the Church, and they have not found anything reproachable in the attitude. Furthermore, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded saying: you are informed by this Dicastery that an attentive study of the documents of the Holy See in this matter shows clearly that you, in deciding to maintain immutable the tradition of distributing Holy Communion in the mouth, have acted in conformity with the law and therefore have not broken with ecclesial communion. In truth, Your Excellency has done no more than fulfill the duty demanded of every bishop by the instruction De Modo Sanctam Communionem Ministrandi (cf. Enchiridion Vaticanum III, 1284) of exercising discernment with regard to the consequences that an alternative to the current Eucharistic practice may occasion in the sacramental life of the faithful.


Unfortunately, the official documents of the Holy See and therefore the present legislation have not been made known, for which reason many express their opinions without being aware of the juridical setting that the Holy See has placed on this issue. As a result of it, we have received many requests for this material.


Lastly, I would like to say that my attitude has been, from the beginning, one of respect toward the instructions that other bishops have given in their dioceses, an attitude that although reciprocated in many cases1, it was not always so.


It is not my intention to herein question the decision of other bishops, or that of the Episcopal Conference, and much less that of the Holy See, but rather only to expound why, in my conscience, I have not believed it prudent or convenient to adopt the dispensation in my diocese.


The pages that follow have been inspired by the recommendation of the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Ecclesiae Imago, which tells us: With liberty of spirit and humility, the bishop sees that the works of the Conference develop according to the norms of the right and of the mandates of the Holy See; which is certainly not an insignificant sign of charity toward the Church and its brother bishops of the nation or of the region (Ench. Vat. IV, 2314).


A very special appreciation to the contribution made by Fr. Gabriel Diaz Patri, S.T.L. who, with dedication and a spirit of scientific investigation, inquired into all that has made this vision real in relation to this very important matter.


San Luis, December 20, 1996




Nine months after the publication of this book, we can confirm that the situation described in it has worsened. Not only is the real attitude of the Holy See unknown but also administering Communion in the hand is promoted as the best manner of receiving Communion although, on the other hand, the sensus Fidei of the people of God has seen to it that the practice be adopted with less frequency than what was feared, based on the promotional campaign.


Due to the numerous requests for copies of this work, we decided to print a new edition, convinced of the good that the spread of these documents has brought to many perplexed souls in the face of the growing process of desacralization. Today, more than ever before, we should reinforce once again the sacrum of the Eucharistic Mystery, before which we should confess our nothingness before the eternal, infinite, holy God, wholly a different One, before Whom we should prostrate ourselves to adore Him as God, the Redeemer of mankind and King of the world.


The sacrum of the Eucharist is inseparably united to Transubstantiation. The Eucharistic Mystery, detached from its own sacrificial and sacramental nature, stops being a Mystery. All programs of desacralization tend toward the negation of Transubstantiation.


As Pope John Paul II teaches in Dominicae Cenae, the Church has the special duty to assure and corroborate the sacrum of the Eucharist, especially in our times when one observes the tendency to erase the distinction between the sacrum and the profanum, which in some places tends to the desacralization of everything, and which so frequently is manifested in real liturgical aberrations where shoddiness replaces sacredness, (a condition) inherent to cultural action.


 San Luis, November 27, 1997


Juan Rodolfo Laise

Bishop of San Luis



We publish the English translation of the Spanish original. In the case of the Memoriale Domini Instruction, of great importance for being the norm presently in force on this subject, the text is numbered and titled to facilitate the reading and study of it. The bolded numbers (from 1273 to 1291) correspond to the numbering of Enchiridion Vaticanum (3rd volume). The numbers in brackets (from 1 to 19) are ours and serve as reference to the comments. The original text was published in AAS, 61 (1969), pp. 541-547.








Prot. 854/96




Upon the request of the Most Eminent Antonio Cardinal Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, President of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, in a letter dated April 29; in the use of the faculties attributed to this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, ratifies and confirms the decision of the Plenary Assembly of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference in which the practice is introduced of also distributing Holy Communion in the hand to the faithful, according to the norm of the instruction De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi and the norm of canon 455, '2 of the Code of Canon Law.


Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.


In the palace of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, May 9, 1996.



Antonio M. Card. Javierre, Prefect

Gerardo M. Angelo, Archbishop Secretary






[A preliminary explanation]


The instruction that follows, transmitted to the Episcopal Conferences to be further analyzed by them in a more thorough and attentive examination, is published so that the reasons and circumstances on which the Holy See bases itself will be clear in a more evident manner.





De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi (Memoriale Domini)



A)                  Introduction: presentation of the matter


The Eucharist and the rites of the Church


1273 [1] When the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Lord it affirms by the very rite itself its faith in Christ and its adoration of Him, Christ present in the Sacrifice and given as food to those who share the Eucharistic table.

[2] For this reason it is a matter of great concern to the Church that the Eucharist be celebrated and shared with the greatest dignity and fruitfulness. It preserves intact the previously developed tradition that has come down to us, its riches having passed into the usage and the life of the Church The pages of history show that the celebration and the receptions of the Eucharist have taken various forms.


The liturgical reform


[3] In our own day the rites for the celebration of the Eucharist have been changed in many and important ways, bringing them more into line with modern man's spiritual and psychological needs. Further, a change has taken place in the discipline governing the laity's participation in the Sacrament. Holy Communion under two kinds, bread and wine has been reintroduced. It had once been common in the Latin Church3 too, but had subsequently been progressively abandoned. This state of affairs[1] had become general by the time of the Council of Trent, which sanctioned and defended it by dogmatic teaching as being suited to the conditions of that time.


 Introduction concerning Communion in the hand without authorization


1274 [4] These changes have made of the Eucharistic banquet and the faithful fulfillment of Christ's command a clearer and more vital symbol. At the same time in recent years a fuller sharing in the Eucharistic celebration through sacramental communion has here and there evoked the desire to return to the ancient usage of depositing the Eucharistic bread in the hand of the communicant, he himself then communicating, placing it in his mouth.

Indeed, in certain communities and in certain places this practice has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See, and, at times, without any attempt to adequately prepare the faithful.

B)                  The rite of Communion in the mouth

The primitive practice

1275 [5] It is certainly true that ancient usage once allowed the faithful to take this Divine Food in their hands and to place it in their mouths themselves. It is also true that in very ancient times they were allowed to take the Blessed Sacrament with them from the place where the Holy Sacrifice was celebrated. This was principally so as to be able to give themselves Viaticum in case they had to face death for their faith.

However, the Church's prescriptions and the evidence of the Fathers make it abundantly clear that the greatest reverence was shown the Blessed Sacrament, and that people acted with the greatest prudence. Thus, "let nobody . . . eat that Flesh without first adoring It" As a person takes (the Blessed Sacrament) he is warned: " . . . receive It: be careful lest you lose any of It." "For it is the Body of Christ."

1276 [6] Further, the care and the ministry of the Body and Blood of Christ was specially committed to sacred ministers or to men especially designated for this purpose: "When the president has recited the prayers and all the people have uttered an acclamation, those whom we call deacons distribute to all those present the bread and wine for which thanks have been given, and they take them to those who are absent."

Soon the task of taking the Blessed Eucharist to those absent was confided to the sacred ministers alone, so as to better to ensure the respect due to the Sacrament and to meet the needs of the faithful.


The change of the primitive use and reasoning

[7] Later, with a deepening understanding of the truth of the Eucharistic mystery, of its efficacy[2] and of the presence of Christ in It, there came a greater feeling of reverence towards this Sacrament and a deeper humility was felt to be demanded when receiving It. Thus the custom was established of the minister placing a particle of consecrated bread on the tongue of the communicant.

Reasons for preserving Communion in the mouth

1277  [8] This method of distributing Holy Communion 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 faithfuls reverence for the Eucharist. The custom does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord.

[9] This reverence shows that it is not a sharing in "ordinary bread and wine" [(See Justin, Apologia 1 66)] that is involved, but in the Body and Blood of the Lord, through which "The people of God share the benefits of the Paschal Sacrifice, renew the New Covenant which God has made with man once for all through the Blood of Christ, and in faith and hope foreshadow and anticipate the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father.

1278  [10] Furthermore, the practice which must be considered traditional, more effectively ensures that Holy Communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species, in which "in a unique way, Christ, God and man, is present whole and entire, substantially and continually" [(Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium n. 9)]. Lastly, so that the care of the fragments of the Consecrated Bread themselves that the Church has always recommended be always preserved: "What you have allowed to drop, think of It as though you had lost one of your own members."


C)                  The Pope decides not to allow Communion in the hand

Consultation with the Latin episcopate

1279  [11] When therefore a small number of Episcopal Conferences and some individual bishops asked that the practice of placing the consecrated hosts in the people's hands be permitted in their territories, the Holy Father decided that all the bishops of the Latin Church should be asked if they thought it opportune to introduce this rite.


A warning of the dangers that a change can bring about

[12] A change in a matter of such importance, based on a most ancient and venerable tradition, does not merely affect discipline. It carries with it certain dangers that may arise from the new manner of administering Holy Communion: the danger of a loss of reverence for the August Sacrament of the altar, of profanation, of adulterating the true doctrine.

The results of the survey

1280  [13] For this reason three questions were proposed to the bishops, and the replies received by 12 March 1969 were as follows:

1.       Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving Holy Communion on the hand should be admitted? Placet: 597. Non placet: 1,233. Placet juxta modum: 315. Invalid votes: 20.

2.       Is it your wish that this new rite be first tried in small communities, with the consent of the bishop? Placet: 751. Non placet: 1,215. Invalid votes: 70.

3.       Do you think that the faithful will receive this new rite gladly, after a proper catechetical preparation? Placet: 835. Non placet: 1,185. Invalid votes: 128.

[14] Consequently, from the responses received it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline 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.

 The Holy Fathers definite decision

1281  [15] Therefore, taking into account the remarks and the advice of those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed to rule over" the churches, [(See Acts 20:28)] in view of the gravity of the matter and the force of the arguments put forward, the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering Holy Communion to the faithful.

 The disposition

[16] The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to carefully[3] obey the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed. It urges them to take into account the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, and of the common good of the Church.

 Attitude toward the irregular situations

1282  [17] Where the contrary usage, that of placing Holy Communion on the hand, already prevails, the Holy Seewishing to help them fulfill their task, often difficult as it is nowadaysplaces on those conferences the task of carefully weighing whatever special circumstances may exist there, taking care to avoid any risk of irreverence or of false opinions with regard to the Blessed Eucharist, and to avoid any other ill effects that may follow.

 Process for obtaining the indult

1283 [18] In such cases,[4] Episcopal Conferences should examine matters carefully and should make any decisions by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority, as needed to regulate matters. Their decisions should be sent to Rome to receive the necessary confirmation, accompanied with a detailed account of the reasons that led them to take those decisions. The Holy See will examine each case carefully, taking into account the unions between the different local churches and between each of them and the Universal Church, in order to promote the common good and the edification of all, and that mutual good example may increase faith and piety.

D)                  Conclusion

[19] This Instruction, which was composed by special mandate of the Holy Father Paul VI, has been duly approved by him with the force of the Apostolic authority on May 28, 1969. He also disposed that the bishops be notified of it through the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences.

Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

Rome, the 28th Day of May of the year 1969.

BENNO Card. Gut, Prefect

A.      Bugnini, Secretary



The instruction is completed, in the pastoral aspect, with the letter which concedes the indult to the Episcopal Conferences to distribute Holy Communion in the hand to the faithful, when all of the required conditions are met.



1284 In response to the petition presented by your Episcopal Conference on the permission to distribute Communion depositing the Host in the hand of the faithful, I transmit the following communication:

Having remitted on May 29, 1969, all that the attached Instruction pertains to on the traditional practice remaining in force, the Holy Father has taken into consideration the reasons invoked in support of your request and the results of the vote carried out on this matter. He concedes that, within the territory of your Episcopal Conference each bishop, according to his prudence and his conscience, may authorize in his dioceses the introduction of the new rite to distribute Communion, with the condition that all occasion of scandal to the faithful be avoided, and all danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist be avoided.

1285 For this, the following regulations will be taken into account: 1. The new manner of giving Communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice. It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted, every one of the faithful have the option to receive Communion on the tongue, even when others receive Communion in the hand. The two ways of receiving Communion can without question take place during the same liturgical service. There is a twofold purpose here: that none will find in the new rite anything disturbing to personal devotion toward the Eucharist; that this sacrament, the source and cause of unity by its very nature, will not become an occasion of discord between members of the faithful.

1286 2. The rite of Communion in the hand must not be put into practice indiscriminately. Since the question involves human attitudes, this manner of Communion is bound up with the perceptiveness and preparation of the one receiving. It is advisable, therefore, that the rite be introduced gradually and in the beginning, within small, better-prepared groups and in favorable settings. Above all it is necessary to have the introduction of the rite preceded by an effective catechesis, so that the people will clearly understand the meaning of receiving in the hand and will practice it with the reverence owed to the Sacrament. This catechesis must succeed in excluding any suggestion that in the mind of the Church there is a lessening of faith in the Eucharistic presence and in excluding as well any danger or hint of danger of profaning the Eucharist.


1287 3. The option offered to the faithful of receiving the Eucharistic Bread in their hand and putting it in their own mouth must not turn out to be the occasion for regarding It as ordinary bread or as just another religious article. Instead this option must increase in them a consciousness of the dignity of the members of Christ's Mystical Body, into which they are incorporated by Baptism and by the grace of the Eucharist. It must also increase their faith in the sublime reality of the Lord's Body and Blood, which they touch with their hand. Their attitude of reverence must measure up to what they are doing.


1288 4. As to the way to carry out the new rite: one possible model is the traditional usage, which expresses the ministerial functions, by having the priest or deacon place the Host in the hand of the communicant. Alternatively, it is permissible to adopt a simpler procedure, namely, allowing the faithful themselves to take the Host from the ciborium[5] or paten. The faithful should consume the Host before returning to their place; the minister's part will be brought out by use of the usual formulary, "The Body of Christ," to which the communicant replies: "Amen."


1289 5. Whatever procedure is adopted, care must be taken not to allow particles of the Eucharistic Bread to fall or be scattered. Care must also be taken that the communicants have clean hands and that their comportment is becoming and in keeping with the practices of the different peoples.

1290 6. In the case of Communion under both kinds by way of intinction, it is never permitted to place on the hand of the communicant the Host that has been dipped in the Lords Blood.

1291 7. Bishops allowing introduction of the new way of receiving Communion are requested to send this congregation after six months a report on the result of its concession.

I take this occasion to present to all of you, Eminences, my sentiments of profound esteem.

BENNO Card. Gut, Prefect

Bugnini, Secretary


CANON 455 '2

 '2 For the decrees mentioned in '1 validly to be enacted at a plenary meeting, they must receive two thirds of the votes of those who belong to the Conference with a deliberative vote. These decrees do not oblige until they have been reviewed by the Apostolic See and lawfully promulgated.



DOCUMENTS (Latin and French)  INDULT


Prot. 854/96





Instante Eminentissimo Domino Antonio Card. Quarrracino, Archiepiscopo Bonakrensi, Coetus Episcoporum Argentinae Praeside, litteris die 29 aprilis 1996 datis, vigore facultatum huic congregationi a Summo Pontifice IOANNE PAULO II tributarum, Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum decisionem a Coetu Episcoporum Argentinae statutum in Conventu Plenario, quo in diocesibus Argentinae usus introducitur distribuendi sacram Communionem etiam in manibus fidelium, ad normam Instructionis De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi et ad normam can. 455 '2, Codicis Iuris Canonici, ratum habuit et confirmat.


Contrariis quibuslibet minime obstantibus.


Ex aedibus Congregationis de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum, die 9 maii 1996.


 Antonius M. Card. Javierre, Praefectus

Gerardus M. Angelo Archiepiscopus a Secretis




 Instructio, quae sequitur, ad Conferentias Episcopales transmissa, ut eam profundiore et attento examine perpenderent, publici iuris fit, quo evidentius omnibus pateat fundamentum et adiuncta quibus nititur ratio agendi Apostolicae Sedis.




De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi


1273 Memoriale Domini celebrans, Ecclesia ipso ritu testatur fidem et adorationem Christi qui in sacrificio praesens est et iis, qui mensam Eucharisticam participant, ut cibus datur.

Hac de causa multum interest ipsius, ut Eucharistia modo quam dignissimo maximeque frugifero celebretur ac participetur, inviolate servando illam ad nos progressione quadam pertingentem traditionem, cuius divitiae in usum et vitam Ecclesiae sunt transfusae. Historiae enim documentis probatur modum celebrandi et sumendi Sacram Eucharistiam multiformem fuisse. His etiam temporibus nostris in celebrationem eiusdem Eucharistiae mutationes nec paucae nec leves, quoad ritum, sunt inductae quo magis congrueret hominum nunc viventium spiritualibus et psychologicis necessitatibus; atque in ipsam disciplinam, quae fidelium rationem divini Sacramenti participandi moderatur, iterum, ob quaedam rerum adiuncta, invecta est Communio sub utraque specie panis et vini, quae olim ritui quoque Latino communis paulatim in desuetudinem abiit. Qui quidem sic exortus status iam ubique invaluit tempore Concilii Tridentini, quod eum dogmatica doctrina comprobavit atque defendit ut condicionibus illius aetatis consentaneum.[6]


1274 His vero ipsis modis renovatis signum Convivii Eucharistici et omnimoda adimpletio mandati Christi magis perspeciua et vivida sunt effecta, simul tamen plenior participatio celebrationis Eucharisticae, per sacramentalem Communionem significata, hic et illic, per hos prsximos annos desiderium excitavit ad illum redeundi usum, ex quo panis Eucharisticus in fidelis manu deponitur, qui eum ipse ori suo, communicando, ingerat.


Quin etiam, in quibusdam communitatibus et locis, eiusmodi ritus est peractus, quamquam approbatio Sedis Apostolicae antea impetrata non erat, atque interdum ita, ut fidelibus opportuna praeparatio deesset.


1275 Est quidem verum ex vetere usu fidelibus quondam licuisse divinam hanc alimoniam in manum accipere atque per se ipsos ori inferre, atque etiam, aetate antiquissima, e loco, ubi sacra fiebant, Sanctissimum secum portare, propterea potissimum ut, si forte pro Fidei confessione iis esset dimicandum, eo tamquam viatico uterentur.


Verumtame praescripta Ecclesiae Patrumque documenta copiose testantur maximam reverentiam summaque prudentiam erga sacram Eucharistiam adhibitam. Etenim <<nemo illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit>>[7] atque in ea sumenda quisque admonetur: << illud percipe; advigilans ne quid ex ea tibi depereat>>[8]: <<Corpus enim est Christi>>[9].


1276 Praeterea cura et ministerium Corporis et Sanguinis Domini peculiari prorsus modo sacrorum administris vel hominibus ad hoc ipsum ascitis committebantur: <<Postquam vero is, qui praeest, preces absolvit, et populus omnis acclamavit, qui apud nos dicuntur diaconi panem et vinum et aquam, in quibus gratiae actae sunt inicuique praesentium participanda distribuunt, et ad absentes perferunt.[10]


Quare mox sacram Eucharistiam absentibus deferendi munus solis sacris administris concreditum est, hanc ob causam, ut reverentiae Corpori Christi debitae, simul ac fidelium necessitati, cautius consuleretur. Insequenti tempore, postquam eucharistici mysterii veritas, eius virtus ac praesentia Christi in eo altius explorata sunt, urgente sensu sive reverentiae erga hoc Sanctissimum Sacramentum sive humilitatis qua illud sumatur oportet, consuetudo inducta est, ut per se minister panis consecrati particulam in lingua Communionem suscipientium deponeret.


1277 Hic sanctam Communionem distribuendi modus hodierno Ecclesiae statu in universum considerato, servari debet, non solum quia in tradito plurium saeculorum more innititur, sed praesertim quia Christifidelium reverentiam erga Eucharistiam significat. Huiusmodi autem usus nihil de dignitate personae detrahit iis, qui ad tantum Sacramentum accedunt, atque ad eam praeparationem pertinet, quae requiritur, ut Corpus Domini modo maxime frugifero percipiatur.[11] Haec reverentia non <<panis et potus communis>>[12], sed Corporis et Sanguinis Domini communionem significat, vi cuius <<populus Dei bona sacrificii paschalis participat, renovat novum foedus semel in sanguine Christi a Deo cum hominibus factum, ac in fide et spe convivium eschatologicum in regno Patris praefigurat et praevenit.>>[13]


1278 Praeterea hac agendi ratione, quae translaticia iam censenda est, efficacius cavetur, ut sacra Communio qua par est reverentia, decore atque dignitate distribuatur, ut quodvis periculum arceatur species eucharisticas profanandi, in quibus <<modo singulari, adest totus et integer Christus, Deus et homo, substantialiter et continente>>[14], ut denique diligenter cura servetur, quam de ipsis panis consecrati fragmentis Ecclesia semper commendavit: Quod enim intercidere patieris, id tibi tamquam ex propriis membris deminutum puta>>.[15]


1279 Quapropter, cum paucae quaedam Conferentiae Episcopales atque nonnulli singulares Episcopi postulassent, ut in suis territoriis usus admitteretur consecratum panem in christifidelium manibus ponendi, Summus Pontifex statuit ut singuli universi Ecclesiae latinae Episcopi rogarentur quid censerent de opportunitate huiusmodi ritum introducendi. Mutatio enim in re tanti momenti, quae antiquissima et veneranda traditione innititur, praeterquam quod disciplinam pertingit, pericula etiam secumferre potest, quae timentur forte oritura ex novo modo sacram Communionem ministrandi, ne scilicet perveniatur sive ad minorem erga Augustum altaris Sacramentum reverentiam, sive ad eiusdem Sacramenti profanationem, sive ad rectae doctrinae adulterationem.


1280 Quam ob rem Episcopis tres quaestiones propositae sunt, quibus usque ad diem 12 superioris mensis Martii hoc, qui sequitur, modo responsum est:

  1. Videturne exaudiendum votum, ut praeter modum traditum, etiam ritus recipiendi sacram Communionem in manu permittatur? Placet: 567. Non placet: 1233. Pl. iuxta modum: 315. Suffragia invalida: 20.
  2. Placetne ut experimenta huius novi ritus in parvis communitatibus prius fiant, assentiente Ordinario loci? Placet: 751. Non placet: 1215. Suffragia invalida: 70.
  3. Putasne fideles, post praeparationem catecheticam bene ordinatam, hunc novum ritum libenter esse accepturos? Placet: 835. Non placet: 1185. Suffragia invalida: 128.


Ex redditis igitur responsis patet Episcopos longe plurimos censere hodeiernam disciplinam haudquaquam esse immutandam; quae immo si immutetur, id tum sensui tum spirituali cultui eorundem Episcoporum, plurimorumque fidelium offensioni fore.



1281 Itaque, attentis animadversionibus consiliisque eorum, quos <<Spiritus Sanctus posuit Episcopos regere>> Ecclesias[16], pro rei gravitate et allatorum argumentorum momento, Summo Pontifici non est visum modum iamdiu receptum sacrae Communionis fidelibus ministrandae immutare.

Quapropter Apostolica Sedes Episcopos et sacerdotes et fideles vehementer hortatur, ut validae iterumque confirmatae legi studiose obsequantur, sive ad iudicium a maiore catholici Episcopatus parte latum, sive ad formam qua hodiernus sacrae Liturgiae ritus utitur, sive denique ad commune ipsius Ecclesiae bonum respicientes.


1282 Sicubi vero contrarius usus, sanctam nempe Communionem in manibus ponendi, iam invaluerit, eadem Apostolica Sedes, ut Episcopales adiuvet Conferentias ad pastorale officium implendum, pro hodierno rerum statu saepe difficilius, iisdem Conferentiis committit onus ac munus peculiaria adiuncta, si quae sunt, expendendi, dummodo tamen et quodvis praecaveatur periculum, ne reverentiae defectus vel falsae de Ssma Eucharistia opiniones irrepant in animos, et alia etiam incommoda sedulo tollantur.


1283 Porro hisce in casibus, ad eiusmodi usum recte ordinandum, Episcopales Conferentiae opportunas, prudenti praemisso examine, deliberationes capient, quae secretis suffragiis duabusque e tribus partibus suffragiorum faventibus ferendae sunt; quas quidem deliberationes deinde Sanctae Sedi, necessariae confirmationis causa[17], proponent, adiecta accurata expositione causarum, quibus ad eas capiendas impulsi sunt. Sancta Sedes singulos casus accuarate perpendet, illius haud oblita coniunctionis, quae variis locorum Ecclesiis inter se vel earum unicuique cum Ecclesia universa intercedit, ad provehendum commune bonum communemque aedificationem, atque ad fidei pietatisque incrementum, quod mutuo ad exemplo profluit.

Haec Instructio, quae de speciali mandato Summi Pontificis Pauli VI composita est, Apostolicae vi auctoritatis die XXVIII mensis Maii, anno MCMLXIX, ab Eo est rite approbata, Qui etiam statuit, ut in sacrorum Antistitum notititiam per Praesides Conferentiarum Episcopalium perferretur.


Contrariis quibusvis nihil obstantibus.


Romae, die XXIX mensis Maii, anno MCMLXIX.


Benno Card. Gut, Praefectus

A.      Bugnini, a Secretis



Instructio completur, in re pastorali, Epistula qua conceditur Conferentiis Episcopalis indultum distribuendi fidelibus sacram Communionem in manu, cum omnes condiciones requisitae habeantur.









1284 En riponse ` la demande prisentie par Votre Confirence Episcopale sur la permission de distribuer la Communion en diposant lhostie dans la main des fidhles, je suis en mesure de vous transmettre la communication suivante:


Tout en rappellant ce quie fait lobject de lInstruction ci-jointe, en date du 29 mai 1969, sur le maintein en vigueur de lusage traditionnel, le Saint-Phre a pris en considiration les motifs invoquis ` lappui de Votre demande et les risultats du vote qui est intervenu ` ce sujet. Il accorde que, sur le territoire de Votre Confirence Episcopale, chaque Evjque, selon sa prudence et sa conscience, puisse autoriser dans son diochse lintroduction du nouveau rite pour distriubuer la Communion, ` condition que soient ivitis toute occasion de surprise de la part des fidhles et tout danger dirrivirence envers lEucharistie.


1285 Pour cela, on tiendra compte des normes suivantes:

1. La nouvelle manihre de communier ne devra pas jtre imposie dune manihre qui exclurait lusage traditionnel. Il importe notamment que chaque fidhle ait la possibilti de recevoir la Communion sur la langue, l` oy sera concidi ligitimement le nouvel usage et lorsque viendront communier en mjme temps dautres persones qui recevront lhostie dans la main. En effet, les deux manihres de communier peuvent coexister sans difficulti dans la mjme action liturgique. Cela, pour que personne ne trouve dans le nouveau rite une cause de trouble ` sa propre sensibiliti spirituelle envers lEucharistie et pour que ce Sacrement, de sa nature source et cause duniti, ne deviennve pas une occasion de disaccord entre les fidhles.


1286 2. Le rite de la Communion donnie dans la main du fidhle ne doit pas jtre appliqui sans discrition. En effet, puisquil sagit dune attitude humaine, elle est liie a la sensibiliti et ` la priparation de celui qui la prend. Il convient donc de lintroduire graduellement, en commengant par des groupes et des millieux qualifiis et plus priparis. Il est nicessaire surtout de faire pricider cette introduction par une catichhse adiquate, afin que les fidhles comprennent exactement la signification du geste et accomplissent celui-ci avec le respect d{ au Sacrement. Le risultat de cette catichhse doit jtre dexclure quelque apparence que ce soit de flichisement dans la conscience de lEglise sur la foi en la prisence eucharistique, et aussi quelque danger que ce soit ou simplemente apparence de danger de profanation.


1287 3. La possibiliti offerte au fidhle de recevoir dans la main et de porter ` la bouche le pain eucharistique ne doit pas lui offrir loccasion de le considirer comme un pain ordinaire ou une chose sacrie quelconque; elle doit, au contraire, augmenter en lui le sens de sa digniti de membre du Corps Mystique du Christ, dans lequel il est insiri par le Baptjme et par la grbce de lEucharistie, et aussi accrontre sa foi en la grande rialiti du Corps et du Sang du Seigneur quil touche de ses mains. Son attitude de respect sera proportionnie ` ce quil accomplit.


1288 4. Quant ` la manihre de faire, on pourra suivre les indications de la tradition ancienne, qui mettait en relief la fonction ministirielle du prjtre et du diacre, en faisant diposer lhostie par ceux-ci dans la main du communiant. On pourra cependant adopter aussi une manihre plus simple, en laissant le fidhle prendre directement lhostie dans le vase sacri. En tout, cas, le fidhle devra consommer lhostie avant de retourner ` sa place, et lassistance du ministre sera soulignie par la formule habituelle: <<Le Corps du Christ>>, ` laquelle le fidhle ripondra: <<Amen>>.


1289 5. Quelle que soit la forme adoptie, quon fasse attention ` ne pas laisser tomber ni se disperser des fragments du pain eucharistique, comme aussi ` la propreti convenable des mains et ` la bonne tenue des gestes selon les usages des divers peuples.


1290 6. Dans le cas de la Communion sous les deux esphces distribuie par intinction, il nest jamais permis de diposer dans la main du fidhle lhostie trempie dans le Sang du Seigneur.


1291 7. Les Evjques qui auront permis lintroduction du nouveau mode de communion son priis denvoyer a cette Sacrie Congrigation, dici six mois, un rapport sur le risultat de cette concession.

Je profite de loccasion pour Vous exprimer, Rivirendissime, mes sentiments de profonde estime.


Benno Card. Gut, Prifet

A. Bugnini, Secrhtaire





Comment on the




The decree from Rome ratifies and confirms the decision of the Plenary C.E.A. (Argentinean Episcopal Assembly by its initials in Spanish) Assembly, which states: It is resolved to request from the Holy See the authorization for the faithful to freely opt to receive the Holy Eucharist in the hand in those ecclesiastical jurisdictions that conform to the Argentinean Episcopal Conference. Likewise, it is established that before this resolution goes into effect, a religious catechesis on the referred manner of receiving the Eucharist be carried out.[18] But it fixes the boundaries of the qualification to function from two juridical instruments: the Instruction De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi, also known as Memoriale Domini, and the Code of Canon Law in its canon 455 '2, so that the juridical-pastoral comprehension of the document be implemented.





Comment on the



De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi

Memoriale Domini


As is expressed in decree 854/96, the norm on the manner of distributing Communion is given in the Memoriale Domini Instruction.[19] Although the text of the Instruction is clear, the interpretations that distort it in one way or another are frequent. That is why, before we begin the analysis of this document, we shall summarize the interpretation principles of the laws that the Code of Canon Law places in canon 17. These will help us to declare its genuine sense.[20]


The technical means that are used to interpret a law are all oriented toward discovering the mind of the legislator, which is the key to the interpretation of the law.[21]


The primary technical means is the attention to the correct meaning of the words, taking into consideration the text and the context. The words formulated in the law have been chosen studiose et diligenter and therefore cannot be undervalued. On the other hand, the meaning not only or basically bears its common sense, but its usual juridical sense, and has to be understood in consonance with the Codes and the doctrines definitions. The literal sense must also be proven by use of quotations so that, in virtue of excessive literacy, violence might not be done to the material that is being dealt with.


There are also other secondary technical means that should not be underrated because they are such.


1)       Parallel places: This subsidy indicates that, in case of obscurity in a determined passage of the law, it is convenient to recur to other texts that deal with the same theme (not a similar matter). They would have to be reconciled so that the resulting obscure texts be illuminated by the clearer ones.


2)       The end of the law: By end of the law or <<ratio legis>> is understood not to be the intrinsic end of the legal norm, but the extrinsic end, that is, the motives that have induced the legislator to give that law. Those motives, when they are expressly found in the same law (ratio scripta) are an important means of interpretation.

3)       The circumstances of the law: It is attempted to appraise the environment that accompanies the act of emanation (the giving) of the law as a technical means of interpretation. The occasion in which the law is given, the extremes relative to the time and the place, and the confection and elaboration process of the law can be considered pertinent circumstances. This issue (the preparation of the law and the discussions in relation to its formulation) is a specifically significant circumstance, especially if there exists access to the official documents, where the acts or their summaries are spread upon record, exists.[22]


Based on these criteria, we shall analyze the Instruction. We add explanatory comments of each of the texts, of the context and of the historic data at the moment in which they were made. We will make these comments paragraph by paragraph, indicating the number and the first words of the text commented upon.


[Previous explanation] (p. 7): The instruction that follows. The sense of this warning is completely understood, warning which is previous to the light of what is given by Bugnini[23]: The <<Consilium>> was against the publication of the two documents: I would have preferred that they be sent to the Conferences along with the indult when it was requested. But the Pope remained unmovable in his decision to publish them in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.[24]



[1] The Church  affirms by the very rite itself its faith in Christ and its adoration of Him. The beginning of the instruction places us in the scope of the classical principle of the liturgy legem credendi statuat lex supplicandi (the law of prayer establishes the law of faith), pursuant to this, liturgy is one of the loci theologici; that is, one of the sources from which it is licit to argue in theology in order to demonstrate a dogmatic thesis. Fittingly, the theological places are reduced to Scripture and Tradition, but liturgy is a privileged expression of tradition; therefore, it is a faithful witness of what the Church believes.


The Church prays as it believes; for this reason, from the manner of praying, norm and faith are deduced. This is reasonable since liturgy would not have been able to formulate its prayers and celebrate its mysteries in accordance to those precise contents (lex supplicandi), if the faith in those truths and in those mysteries (lex credendi) would not have previously existed in the Universal Church. It is the dogma that prevails on liturgy and not the contrary. The liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree, says Pius XII, precisely when using liturgical arguments to give testimony of the Churchs faith in the solemn circumstance of the proclamation of the dogma of the Holy Virgins Assumption (Papal Bull Munificentissimus Deus, A.A.S. 1950, p. 760).


Based on all this, when a dogmatic truth is defined, liturgy only has to strive to express it clearly: Liturgy, therefore, does not determine or constitute in an absolute sense and by virtue of the same Catholic faith, but rather, being a profession of divine truths, a profession which is subject to the supreme Magisterium of the Church, can provide arguments and testimonies of no small value to clarify a determined issue of Christian doctrine. From here, if we wish to distinguish and determine the general and absolute manner of the relationships that exist between Faith and Liturgy, it can be affirmed with reason that the law of faith must establish the law of prayer[25].


But to understand the entire range of this doctrine, it is necessary to review some fundamental concepts on liturgy which we will take from the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC):


 in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members. (SC 7, cf. 26).

It is the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ (SC 7) in effect, the liturgy, through which the work of our redemption is accomplished (SC 2), since in Christ the perfect achievement of our reconciliation came forth, and the fullness of divine worship was given to us (SC 5) but God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father (SC 7). In effect, He sent the Apostles not only preaching the Gospel but His purpose also was that they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves (SC 6).

Therefore, the purpose of liturgy and of all the other works of the Church cannot be other than that of redemption, that is to say: redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God (SC 5; cf. 7 and 10), performed by Christ principally by the paschal mystery of His blessed passion, resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension (SC 5), and renewed in the sacramental action of the Church, His Mystical Body. This is the consequence of the sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree (SC 7). That is why it is the font to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way (SC 10).


As a human action, liturgy is specified by its end. The main purpose as we saw is the glory of God, but there also exists a secondary purpose which is subordinated to it: Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful (SC 33; cf. 113), The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it (SC 59).


Liturgy is therefore pedagogic of dogma, and even though this is not its primary end, it is, however, its true end. Through actions, words, songs and gestures, the faithful daily see the truths of faith expressed: the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read which were written for our instruction (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace (SC 33). In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs (SC 7).


The frequent attendance at liturgical functions helps the faithful to gradually and firmly incorporate the doctrine which, although it should have been learned in catechism, is not frequently reinforced.


Finally, liturgy is the set of acts (e.g. recitation of formulas, actions, gestures) through which the rational creature offers glory to the Creator and each one of those acts, in its own manner, signifies lex credendi.


The liturgical texts conceptually express the Churchs dogmatic doctrine and are instruments of grace. The liturgical gestures are symbols of lex credendi because, as mans reason and will are manifested by means of the word in what it to be performed, they are also manifested through action (S. Th. I-IIae q. 97 a. 3). On the other hand, those symbols can be natural (universal or common for a specific culture) or customary with a meaning established by the Church.[26]



[2] For this reason, it (the Church) cares greatly that the Eucharist be celebrated in the most dignified manner possible and the participation be in the most fruitful manner. If all that is said about lex credendi and its relationship to lex orandi is valid for those dedicated to theology and the study of dogma, then with much more reason should it be for the faithful, since liturgy is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit (SC 14).


This is why the changes in lex supplicandi can create doubts, confusions and even errors among the faithful. This is the reason why the Church cares greatly about dignity in the celebration of the Eucharist and its consequence: the fruitful participation.


 maintaining the tradition in an unprofaned manner which comes to us through a certain development Tradition should be kept intact, but at the same time it implies a certain development. This, which seems contradictory at first sight, is not so if it is taken into account that the divine deposit of revealed Tradition has to be distinguished from human ecclesiastical tradition. The first, because it is revealed by God, is immutable and common to the Church for all times and places, and only admits progress in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom [that] grow and advance mightily and strongly in individuals as well as in the community, in a single person as well as in the Church as a whole, and this gradually according to age and history. But they must progress within their own limits, that is, in accordance with the same kind of dogma, frame of mind, and intellectual approach (in eo dumtaxat genere, in eodem scilicet dogmate, eodem sensu eademque sentential).[27]


The second follows the laws of cultural tradition and demands progress: whoever receives a tradition can and should increase it in the measure of their abilities, many times leaving aside some of the elements received, to replace them with something more perfect. This is due to the natural way human reason proceeds, that is to say, through the gradual passing from imperfection to perfection.[28] Of course, the selection of elements in a tradition cannot be arbitrary, it must follow a homogenous development among its parts and that is how it is preserved in an unprofaned manner. Any modification to tradition must follow these laws of organic growth because otherwise it would fall into the danger of becoming an artificial creation, and a tradition is not fabricated.


That is why one should not believe that, because it comes from a human development, a traditional practice can be arbitrarily changed and even rejected. Even the purely cultural tradition cannot be abandoned without grave consequences: we would advise against the danger and damage of the blind rejection of the inheritance which the past, through a wise and selective tradition, transmits to new generations. If we did not hold this process of transmission in proper regard we could lose the treasure accrued by civilization (Paul VI, October 29, 1972). Tradition, taken in this sense, is the social and historic experience of humanity.


In what pertains to the liturgy, Pius XII said[29]: The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded[30], and speaking of the right to introduce those changes, From time immemorial the ecclesiastical hierarchy has exercised this right in matters liturgical. It has organized and regulated divine worship, enriching it constantly with new splendor and beauty, to the glory of God and the spiritual profit of Christians. What is more, it has not been slowkeeping the substance of the Mass and sacraments carefully intactto modify what it deemed not altogether fitting, and to add what appeared more likely to increase the honor paid to Jesus Christ and the august Trinity, and to instruct and stimulate the Christian people to greater advantage.[31]


In the light of all this is how the Vatican Council II norms are profoundly understood when disposing reforms in the liturgy: That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress  there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing (SC 23).


... the celebration and the receptions of the Eucharist have taken various forms. Tradition has not been the same during all times and places, and has given place to diverse traditions, both in the East as well as the West, which conformed the different rites of the Church.[32] It is in this manner that throughout history different traditions of liturgical rites, of pious practices, of disciplinary laws, of ways of teaching the doctrine, of theological systems, of canonical institutions, etc.


[3] In our own day. The multiformity in the manner of celebrating and consuming the Sacred Eucharist, mentioned in the previous paragraph, is herein illustrated. Furthermore, it gives an example of returning to a primitive practice (Communion under both Species), thus showing that the manner of giving Communion could have changed, as was the discipline of Communion under both Species; however, it was not done.[33] From this we can deduce that there are some convenient restorations and others that are not. In effect, His Holiness Pius XII warned that The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect. They, too, owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world. They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of man[34]; that is why it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device[35], and definitively no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas. No more can any Catholic in his right senses repudiate existing legislation of the Church to revert to prescriptions based on the earliest sources of canon law. Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.[36]


Although the Church recognizes legitimate change, it nonetheless considers that the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof[37]. We must keep in mind that reversing the course of a development and returning to a previous phase, is not a development but rather a corruption.


Therefore, to say that Communion in the hand is not a novelty, that we only do it as the Apostles, as the first disciples did, and as the Christians did for almost one thousand years (The Living Bread, p. 15) with the purpose of dispelling fears, is not a valid argument. It is not true that we will only do it as the Apostles did. As we have just seen, the return to an ancient manner is not in itself a reason for tranquility. Even less so when that manner was first abandoned and finally forbidden, due to its imperfection.


[4] With the indicated reforms  in certain communities and in certain places this practice has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See That the introduction of this practice has been illegal and abusive[38], is what one is given to understand in the Instructions words, in spite of its charitable tone.


Retired from his Vatican positions, Archbishop Bugnini, in his work The Liturgical Reform[39], gives us abundant data on the history of the introduction of that practice, of which we summarize the principal parts: starting with the liturgical reform, the practice of giving Communion in the hand of the faithful was abusively introduced in some nations (Germany, Holland, Belgium, France).[40] From the beginning there was a firm opposition from the Holy See. On October 12, 1965, the Consilium wrote to Cardinal Alfrink: preserve the traditional manner of distributing Holy Communion [] the Holy Father  does not consider it opportune that the sacred Particle be distributed in the hand and later consumed in different manners by the faithful, and therefore, he vehemently exhorts [that] the Conference offer the opportune resolutions so that the traditional manner of communicating be restored throughout the world. Butsays Bugninithese and other claims had no effect.[41]


Because the Bishops found it difficult to contain the introduced practice, the consultations continued. On May 8, 1968, the Sacred Congregation of Rites had answered non expedire [trans. note: it is not expedient]. But due to the insistent requests, the Holy Father decided that the concession be granted to the Episcopal Conferences that had requested it with the due cautions and under the care of the same. The letter from the Secretary of State dated June 3, 1968 reads: His Holiness considers, in effect, that the bishops must be reminded of their responsibility so that they may prevent, with opportune norms, the inconveniences and moderate the indiscriminate spread of this practice which is not contrary to the doctrine but, in practice, is very disputable and dangerous. That is why when similar requests are received, they must be put to the consideration of the Holy Father and the eventual concession will be made through the Sacred Congregation of Rites.


The Secretary of State communicated the concession to Germany in a letter dated June 27, and to Belgium in a letter dated July 3. Finally, the same Congregation of Rites conceded it on July 6 and 11 of the same month, respectively. Among the conditions indicated in the decree reads: the authority is given to the bishop.


But in view of the strong protests of some, the Pope spoke to Fr. Bugnini, who at that time was secretary of the Concilium, during an audience on July 25, 1968, and decided to suspend the concession, telling him to communicate to the cardinals who were presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Belgium and Germany, to temporarily suspend the publication and application of the indult. This communiqui was done that same day by telephone, and on the following day by letter, explaining the reasons and promising that a definitive decision would be made as soon as possible. Then the consultation of the Latin Episcopacy of the whole world was begun, of which we will treat later on in greater detail.


[5] It is true, certainly, that according to the ancient usage. Several ancient testimonies are quoted here that abundantly manifest the maximum reverence and greatest prudence which is shown to the Holy Eucharist.


[6] Furthermore, the care and ministry of the Body and Blood of the Lord was entrusted in a very peculiar manner. According to the Instruction, the reason why the Sacrament has been exclusively entrusted to the sacred ministers has been to more cautiously guard the Body of Christ because of the reverence due, and at the same time, because of the need of the faithful. For this reason, the argument that Communion in the mouth is due to growing clericalization[42] does not appear valid. Furthermore, it is evident that later, between the 13th and 15th Centuries, many priests received Communion by taking the Host directly from the paten with their tongue. Saint Bonaventure gives testimony of this practice, as well as the rubrics of various missals from 400[43], and this is understood as an exaggeration within the context of growing reverence.


[7] The passing of time We are here faced with a clear case of a change in human law that applies to doctrine: law is a dictate of reason by which human acts are directed. According to this there could be a double cause to justly change a human law: one on the part of reason because it seems to be natural for human reason to gradually go from imperfection to perfection. The other cause is on the part of man whose acts are regulated by law: the law can be mutated with rectitude by the mutation of mans conditions to whom diverse things are convenient according to their diverse conditions (cf. S. Thomas, S. Th., I-IIae, q. 97, a. 1).


Furthermore, in this paragraph of MD the motive of change produced during the 9th 10th Centuries is clearly expressed, and the Instruction here confirms the opinions of the best historians: Jungmann, for example, in sub-clause 552 of his famous work Missarum Sollemnia[44], under the title Exterior reverence increases, states: This custom of giving the Eucharist in the hand brought with it the danger of abuse In all, more than fear of abuses, the growing reverence towards the Sacrament influenced, no doubt, that the Sacred Species be later given directly in the mouth. Although there is evidence from previous eras, certain testimonies of the abolition of this custom [Communion in the hand] are mentioned only in the 9th Century Some time later, the purification of the fingers that the priests currently practice was introduced. The use of the Communion cloth and the paten, which were prescribed in 1929 for the Communion of the faithful, shows how the delicacy and reverent care of the Eucharist has meanwhile been increasing.[45]


Ones attention is truly drawn to the contrast of the clear affirmations of Memoriale Dominiin complete agreement with Jungmanns studieswith the affirmations that have been divulged in our environment. The Living Bread, itself, immediately after having enthusiastically recommended Jungmann as a classic, saying that his consultation is more than sufficient (The Living Bread, note 30), reads: It is not easy to explain why (the practice) of receiving Communion in the hand was stopped. Among the reasons, historians mention fear of profanation to the Eucharist by heretics or superstitious practices, or the idea that placing Communion in the mouth emphasized the respect and veneration of the Eucharist, etc. (The Living Bread, p. 15) It is hardly appropriate to refer to the argument which the Pope considered decisive as the idea that and put it in last place. And in Fundamentos presented at the Plenary Assembly of the Episcopal Conference of April, 1996, in the order of voting on the issue, it is said that the Instruction Memoriale Domini does not give an explanation of the motives which have led to the praxis of placing the Host on the tongue of the faithful.[46] Anyone who has read the mentioned Instruction, even just superficially, is cautioned that according to it, Communion in the mouth was introduced for two reasons: because of the reverence due this Most Holy Sacrament, and because a deeper humility was felt to be demanded when receiving it. And this after a more profound reflection on the truth of the Eucharistic Mystery, its efficaciousness and the presence of Christ in the same.


Lastly, it is necessary to remember that this change was produced in the universal Church (that is to say, in the East as well as in the West). The affirmation that in the East the rite of Communion in the hand has been preserved, and is still practiced, is frequently heard.[47] We do not know the source of such an affirmation. We have consulted with the authorities of the oriental rite that are present in the country [Argentina] (both those that are in communion with Rome and those that are not) and in all these rites, from immemorial times, Communion is received in the mouth and under both species. Moreover, in the Byzantine rite, the priest does not touch the Body of Christ with his hands but rather gives Communion with a golden spoon; and, according to Righetti (v. II, p. 459), among the Greeks it seems that Communion in the mouth was very common since the beginning of the 4th Century. When the consultation was made among the Latin bishops, the Catholic Ethiopians also expressed their way of thinking: Among our priests and all the members of the clergy, Communion in the hand is received inside the sanctuary, and everyone else receives It in the mouth outside the sanctuary, and we do not wish to change this practice.[48] We have not found a testimony of an oriental rite in which Communion is received in the hand.


There is no doubt that Paul VI considered the change from Communion in the hand to Communion in the mouth as a real progress, and the primitive practice as a surmounted phase, not as something forgotten that we should rediscover.


[8] This way of distributing Holy Communion... must be preserved. Before speaking to the Episcopate on the survey, the position of the Holy See is anticipated: the practice must be preserved for two reasons.


a)       Because it is based on a practice transmitted through a tradition of many centuries. This alludes to a principle that goes back to [the times] of Aristotle: For the law has no power to command obedience except that of custom, which can only be given by time, so that a readiness to change from old to new laws enfeebles the power of the law. (Politics, II, c. 5, 1269a); this same doctrine is later restored by Saint Thomas (cf. S. Th., I-IIae, q. 97, a. 2).

b)       But above all, because that liturgical gesture means the reverence of the faithful Christian toward the Eucharist. Note the force of this expression used after saying that the Church affirms by the very rite itself its faith in Christ and its adoration of Him (MD, [1]). This meaning of reverence was so well known that Protestant reformers, such as Martin Bucer, counsellor of the Anglican reform, strove to change the practice and introduce Communion in the hand so that their faithful would not think that Christ was present under the form of bread. [49]


In case the practice is changed, there would be danger of weakening the reverence of the faithful. Further on in [8], the Instruction expressly warns of such a danger.


this practice does not take away the dignity of the person It is a clear reference to the 4th argument of those who were in favor of Communion in the hand (cf. infra, Appendix, p. 58): The traditional manner of receiving the Host on the tongue appears to our contemporaries as a childish gesture; it reminds them too much of how to feed children, who are incapable of feeding themselves. Many adults today feel unwilling to make a gesture in public that does not have an exterior beauty and which compares them to children.


In view of the Instructions categorical affirmation, the argument of maturity has to be handled cautiously while, on the other hand, it does not have any foundation in Scripture or in Tradition, or in the Magisterium.


The expression it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord illustrates the one in [2]: it is of great interest that the Eucharist be participated of in the most fruitful manner possible (modo maxime frugifero). This fruitful preparation is repeatedly recommended by the Magisterium. For example, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium says: But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects (scienter, actuose et fructuose) (N 11). And the Eucharisticum mysterium Instruction: This sacrifice, like the passion of Christ itself, although it is offered for all, it however, <<does not produce its effect except in those that unite to the passion of Christ through faith and charity and is employed profitably in diverse degrees according to their devotion>> N 12.


[9] Reverence, indicated by Communion in the mouth [8] means, in turn, that Communion is not of common bread and wine, but rather the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is recorded that one of the greatest worries of the Pope was that, with the introduction of the practice, the Eucharist would end up being compared to ordinary bread, or to simply blessed bread (cf. Appendix, p. 59). This danger does not exist with Communion in the mouth.


[10] Furthermore, the practice which must be considered traditional... Throughout the entire Instruction, the traditional character of Communion in the mouth is emphasized, both for its uninterrupted multisecular use as well as because it has become a universal custom.


Now then, can Communion in the hand be considered a tradition? The Living Bread speaks of repossessing this genuine tradition (p. 16), but the documents of the Holy See call traditional the [practice of] Communion in the mouth (MD [8] [10] [12] [13]implicit in 15: traditional practice; PL, Beginning and 1). Communion in the hand is called an ancient usage once (MD [5]) but in general, it is designated as a new rite (PL, Introduction and 1).


We previously commented on MDs affirmation that tradition comes to us through a certain development (MD [2]). We have stopped there, above all in the development aspect. We will now say some words on another essential aspect of the tradition, implicit in the expression comes to us. Tradition is transmission, Paul VI commenting on the words of Saint Paul: If someone preaches another Gospel different from the one you have received, let him be anathema (Gal. 1: 9). He says, Here, accipere (to receive) indicates an essential moment of continuity and fecundity of the Christian message; that is to say, of tradition. The words of the Apostle... confirm it ego enim accepi a Domino quod et tradidi vobis (because I have received from the Lord what I have transmitted to you ) (1 Cor. 11, 23). To receive and to transmit: here is the tradition of which Saint Paul is so zealous () This receiving of the Lord, and therefore transmitting, and again receiving and continuing to transmit constitutes a chain that cannot be broken.[50] It is obvious that if this chain were broken there would no longer be tradition in the proper sense of the word.


In the light of these words, we understand why one can say that Communion in the mouth must be considered traditional by now, and at the same time we can ask ourselves: Can a practice that has undergone a ten-century interruption, both in the East as well as the West, be called a genuine tradition? We can then speak of two traditional manners as is done in Fundamentos.[51]


Additionally, one should take into account that the practice of Communion in the hand has not only been abandoned, but that it was expressly prohibited[52] and then taken by the Protestants[53] with a clear doctrinal meaning.


 the practice which must be considered traditional ensures, more effectively, that holy Communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. Here, also, one must remember the words of [2]: it is very important that the Eucharist be celebrated in the most dignified manner possible; this most dignified manner possible is, according to what is said here, Communion in the mouth.


so that it be kept with diligence Let us note that MD presents here the much quoted text of Saint Cyril only to illustrate the extreme care that the primitive Church had even with the smallest fragments of the Consecrated Bread.[54] Even more, the instruction clearly quotes him affirming that this care, desired by Saint Cyril, is seen to be much more effectively guaranteed by Communion in the mouth, as this assures more effectively that Holy Communion be distributed with the reverence, decorum and dignity due to it, so that every danger of profaning the Eucharistic species be removed and in order to guard with diligent carefulness as the Church has always recommended in relation to the fragments themselves of the Consecrated Bread.


When it says all danger of profaning, the material sacrileges that would be produced with the fall of the Hosts or of the fragments is also referred to.


The ancient testimonies in this sense are multiple. Tertullian, for example, says: let us scrupulously take care so nothing from the chalice or the Bread fall to the ground[55]; Saint Hippolytus recommends that each one be attentive that no fragment falls and gets lost, because it is the Body of Christ which is meant to be eaten, not to be treated with irreverence[56]; Saint Efrem: eat this bread and do not step on Its crumbs a particle of Its crumbs can sanctify thousands and thousands and is sufficient to give life to everyone who eats it[57]; and Origen: You who are wont to assist at the divine Mysteries, know how, when you receive the body of the Lord, you take reverent care, lest any particle of it should fall to the ground and a portion of the consecrated gift (consecrati muneris) escape you. You consider it a crime, and rightly so, if any particle thereof fell down through negligence.[58] Paul VI himself commented thus on this last text: In fact the faithful thought themselves guilty, and rightly so, as Origen recalls, if after they received the Body of the Lord in order to preserve it with all care and reverence, a small fragment of it fell off through negligence.[59]


Someone could, in conclusion, ask himself what should be understood here by fragments. In the face of doubts stated in this regard the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has clearly answered: After Holy Communion, not only the hosts that are left over and the particles of the hosts that have fallen from them and which maintain the exterior appearance of the bread must be respectfully preserved or consumed because of the respect due to the presence of the Eucharist of Christ, but also the other fragments of the host (quoad alia hostiarum fragmenta). What has been prescribed in the General Norms of the Roman Missal on the purification of the paten and the chalice must be observed (Declaration De Particulis et fragmentis hostiarum reverenter conservandis vel sumendis, May 2, 1972).


We could say without betraying Paul VIs manner of thinking that Communion in the hand is the way the holy Fathers received It, but Communion in the mouth is the way they would have wished to receive It.

In conclusion, Saint Cyril was no more than a witness to the practice in use during his time (the only one he ever knew), and to pretend to see a defense or recommendation there is to force things and to risk falling into an anachronism. Nevertheless, in The Living Bread he is quoted not only with the intention of showing the existence of the practice in ancient times, but also of supporting a return to the same. This not only goes against the interpretation of the text made by MD, but also in other documents of Paul VI himself. In effect, when this Pope quotes texts elsewhere that give testimony of the ancient practice of Communion in the hand, he clarifies: We say this not in order that there may be some change in the way of keeping the Eucharist and of receiving Holy Communion which was later on prescribed by Church laws and which now remain in force, but rather that we may rejoice over the faith of the Church which is always one and the same.[60] By the context in which these words are found, this faith of the Church which is always one and the same is the faith in the real, substantial and permanent presence, even in the Particles, that demands care and adoration. The authentic close bond that unites the patristic age with the present Church is the reverent care of the Body of Christ, even in the smallest Particles. It would be to deceive the faithful to make them think that receiving Communion in the hand would identify them more with the spirit of the primitive Church.

The Living Bread does not seem to coincide here either with the Instruction that Romes answer (Prot. 854/96) considers as a norm. In effect, The Living Bread says: We could perhaps ask ourselves which of the two manners of receiving Communion is best or preferable. Liturgy teaches us that one cannot affirm or prioritize that one way is better than another. The main issue is not so much to determine which is the best manner. Fundamental is the personal respect towards the Eucharist, and what each one of these manners of receiving Communion can express. The starting point for a reflection on the way of receiving Communion must be the faith in the Eucharist. And this is the primary issue in choosing either manner. It is about receiving the Body of the Lord. () The ancient perspective, which the Church allows us to rediscover, sets forth the matter in these terms: respect and adoration are in the first place in the human and spiritual attitude of those who receive the Body of Christ. The latter is certain (the contrary would be pharisaism), but it is not exclusive of the ancient perspective; unless one wants to say that the ancients did not see a decrease in respect and reverence in the act of receiving the Eucharist in the hand. And in this case, the phrase is not acceptable because it falls into an evident anachronism: the ancients did not know of another way of receiving Communion.


But the transcribed paragraph, which almost literally reproduces Fundamentos presented in Saint Michael44, has other inaccuracies. For example, it is precisely the history of the liturgy that, according to Memoriale Domini, teaches us that one way is better than the other; that it was the profound motive of change during the 9th and 10th centuries because with Communion in the mouth, the reverent, decorous and dignified distribution of the Eucharist is more effectively assured, is separated from all danger of profanation, and the care of the fragments of the Host is guarded more perfectly. As is explained at the beginning of the Instruction, liturgical signs express faith, and to introduce a subjective element such as personal respect or the human and spiritual attitude carries great danger. With the same criteria, there is bound to be someone who would pretend that he could be given the possibility of replacing Sunday Mass with the reading of a book or contemplating nature, or who might adduce that he feels more repentant being by himself alone in an empty church or in his room than with a confessor.


In relation to what each form can express, according to the Magisterium, Communion in the mouth expresses the reverence of the faithful and Communion not of common bread and wine but of the Body and Blood of the Lord[61], while Communion in the hand can come to express irreverence or erroneous doctrines toward the Real Presence or the priesthood.[62]


[11] When therefore a small number of Episcopal Conferences  asked. In the Appendix we transcribe the complete text of the consultation made by the Episcopate, with some details of the history of the same. We discuss this further in [14]. Of what has been said in this paragraph, we maintain that the consultation was made in order to give a response to the request of a few Episcopal Conferences and some bishops who had great and, according to them, insurmountable difficulties in returning to the traditional practice.


[12] A change in a matter of such importance. With these terms one is given to understand how delicate this subject was for the Pope. Therefore, the way we receive Communion is not an indifferent act.


does not merely affect discipline. The change in a law always affects discipline, that is why this mutation must not be easily permitted except where there is great usefulness or need. In effect, the mutation of law has, in itself, a certain detriment to the common good: custom avails much for the observance of laws, seeing that what is done contrary to general custom, even in slight matters, is looked upon as grave. Consequently, when a law is changed, the binding power of the law is diminished, in so far as custom is abolished. Wherefore human law should never be changed, unless, in some way or other, the common weal be compensated according to the extent of the harm done in this respect (Saint Thomas, S.Th., I-IIae, q. 97, a. 2 c.). Furthermore, in this specific case, Paul VI foresaw the damage that would occur to discipline when ceding to a change imposed from below (cf. infra pp. 56, 59, 64).


It carries with it certain dangers. This point shows with great logic the counterpart of what is affirmed in [8]. There it was indicated that the practice must be preserved due to the importance of the custom (traditional practice), because it signifies the reverence of the faithful, because it is removed from all danger of profanation (voluntary or involuntary), and because it signifies the substantial and permanent presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Here it is shown that the change of this tradition can bring the corresponding foreseeable dangers: the discipline, less reverence, profanation, adulteration of the doctrine.


[13] For this reason, three questions were proposed to the bishops The formulation of these questions is of great importance in order to comprehend what was being voted upon. In effect, Paul VI changed the original formula wishes that for: He believes the wish should be listened to, besides the way received by tradition, that it should also be permitted.[63] The first formulation could lend itself to confusion, since someone could have thought that the Pope was making the consultation on his own initiative, wanting to collect the Bishops opinion on the way of giving Communion. The definitive editing, modified by Paul VI himself, clearly shows that the Pope was consulting about how to solve the problem of those who wanted to introduce the practice, but were not willing to obey a negative answer. In light of that is the way one should interpret the answers. Of 2,136 voters, only 26.6% voted in favor; 57.8% voted against, and 41.3% voted in favor under certain conditions (juxta modum). But even among the votes in favor, there were many that did not agree with the introduction of the practice; however, they did not see another way of solving the rebellious situation.


[14] Consequently, from the responses received. The numbers and words of the Instruction are perfectly clear. However, the history of the consultation to the Latin Episcopate and its results have been referred to in a more than confusing manner in the documents which have been finally divulged. In Fundamentos presented to CEA, it says: By authority of Pope Paul VI, a consultation had been made among the bishops of the Latin Church around the world in relation to the opportunity of introducing the practice of Communion in the hand together with the traditional manner. Having evaluated the answer to the consultation, Paul VI decided that the traditional practice of Communion on the tongue should be preserved, but he declared that a permission for Communion in the hand could be conceded to those Episcopal Conferences that should request it.[64] Whoever reads this remains with the impression that the answer of the bishops would have been favorable to introducing the new practice, and that the Pope would have introduced it as a consequence of the voting. Furthermore, in the entire document (Fundamentos) the illegal beginning of the reintroduction of the practice and the resistance to the insistent directives from Rome are not mentioned, which were the cause of the consultation and the main focus of the Status quaestionis sent with the questionnaire.[65] For this reason there is also the impression given that this consultation was a spontaneous initiative of Paul VI in order to reform the rite, and not the search for a solution to a serious problem made with evident apprehension.[66] Neither is it exact to say with Fundamentos that the consultation was about the opportunity of introducing the practice of Communion in the hand together with the traditional manner. This formulation to the question was expressly rejected by Paul VI. The survey only sought to solve the problem of an abusive practice which each time became more extended.


But in The Living Bread, the confusion comes to a culminating point: By the end of 1968, the Holy See made a consultation to the bishops of the world with regards to the subject of Communion in the hand. More than a third saw the possibility with approval. In 1969, the Instruction Memoriale Domini established that, where deemed convenient by the Episcopal Conferences, the faithful could have the liberty to receive Communion in the hand (p. 16).


To say that more than a third saw the possibility with approval, when MD says from the responses received it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline should not be changed, is to adulterate the historic reality and Paul VIs way of thinking. But to affirm that the Instruction Memoriale Domini established that, where the Episcopal Conferences considered it convenient with more than two thirds of their Bishops votes, that the faithful could have the liberty to receive Communion in the hand, is to fall short of the truth. What MD established was that the law that determined that Communion should be given only in the mouth of the faithful continued in force and without changes. It is true that it conceded an indult, not where the Episcopal Conferences deemed convenient, but where the practice had already been rooted, under certain conditions (MD [17] and [18]).


It is not even true that the consultation was about the issue of Communion in the hand[67] but about how to solve the problem of the abusively introduced practice. In fact, without this introduction, or at least with the compliance to the first warnings and prohibitions from Rome, the consultation would never have been made. That circumstance is very important, since the placet was only 26% and not even these votes or those of the placet iuxta modum should be considered as coming from those who saw the possibility with approval. Many of them did not see any other solution in the face of a custom that was established de facto and with obstinancy. This can easily be proven by reading the summary of the modi that Bugnini presents.[68]


[15] taking into account the warnings and advice from those whom the Holy Spirit has placed as Bishops to rule the Church, the Supreme Pontiff has not considered it opportune to change the manner which was received a long time ago (), of administering Holy Communion. In synthesis, this is what the Instruction Memoriale Domini wants to communicate, that is to say, the purpose of the document; everything that comes before is arranged in order to explain the reasons and circumstances that support the manner in which the Apostolic See proceeds (MD [Previous clarification], p. 7). The consultation has done nothing more than confirm the Popes opinion already expressed in [8]. This is affirmed by Paul VI himself in the autographed draft in which he ordered that Memoriale Domini be written and in which he says that they give the results of the bishops consultation which confirm the thought of the Holy See concerning the inopportunity of the distribution of Holy Communion in the hand of the faithful, indicating the reasons (liturgical, pastoral, religious, etc.). Therefore, the norm in force remains confirmed.[69]


This decision agrees with the doctrine of Saint Thomas, who teaches that human law should never be changed, unless, in some way or other, the common weal be compensated according to the extent of the harm done in this respect and this occurs: 1) when a very great and evident benefit is provided by the new enactment; 2) when there is great necessity; 3) when the law in force contains a manifest iniquity; 4) when its observance is harmful to many (S. Th., I-IIae, q. 97, a. 2 c.). None of those motives were given to change the law on the manner of administering Communion.


Furthermore, in the status quaestionis sent to the bishops, they were warned: It seems that this new practice instituted here and there is the work of a small number of priests and lay persons who seek to impose their own point of view on the rest, and to force the hand of authority. To approve it would be to encourage these people who are never satisfied with the laws of the Church.[70]


[16] The consequence of all the preceding is the particularly dispositive part of the document: The Apostolic See vehemently exhorts the bishops, priests and faithful to diligently submit to the law already in force and once more confirmed. Here also resound, in the essential part as well as in the expression, the words that Pius XII addressed to the bishops in his famous encyclical letter on the Sacred Liturgy: In every measure taken, then, let proper contact with the ecclesiastical hierarchy be maintained. Let no one arrogate to himself the right to make regulations and impose them on others at will. Only the Sovereign Pontiff, as the successor of Saint Peter, charged by the divine Redeemer with the feeding of His entire flock, and with him, in obedience to the Apostolic See, the bishops whom the Holy Ghost has placed  to rule the Church of God (Acts 20:28), have the right and the duty to govern the Christian people. Consequently, Venerable Brethren, whenever you assert your authorityeven on occasion with wholesome severityyou are not merely acquitting yourselves of your duty; you are defending the very will of the Founder of the Church.


 [17] Where the contrary usage. The motive of the dispensation is clearly expressed: a practice contrary to the law already rooted and difficult to remove.


Wishing to help them . Here the purpose of the indult is manifested: to help the bishopswho increasingly encounter difficulties in being obeyedto fulfill their pastoral task. We must remember that in that same periodand sometimes in those same placesthe situations of systematic disobedience were more and more generalized. Leaving aside sadly famous cases like the rejection of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, we must remember the case of Nieuwe Kate-chismus (New Catechism) which was published in Holland in 1966 (a country where, already in 1965, Communion was given in the hand without complying with the express prohibitions of Rome). This Catechism, made by request of the Dutch Episcopate, was presented to the faithful by means of a Collective Pastoral of the same. Soon afterwards, the Holy See demanded the correction of 14 main points and 45 minor ones. A first attempt of arriving at a new formulation of those points so they would not endanger the integrity of the faith resulted in a failure, since the three theologians who were appointed by the Dutch Episcopate did not accept the suggestions of their representative colleagues of the Holy See. Paul VI then appointed a Commission of six Cardinals that was to solve the issue. This Commission then appointed a mixed commission formed by two theologians named by the Cardinal Commission and two named by the Dutch Episcopate. But one of the latter refused to cooperate before he attended any meeting. That commission elaborated a text that mended the ambiguities and omissions of the Catechism. Those corrections, in spite of having been rejected up front by the writers of the original text, were obligatorially incorporated into the new editions of the Dutch Catechism. The Cardinal Commission, on its part, wrote up a Declaration that was published in the A.A.S. 60 (1968), pp. 685-691 (Ench. Vat., 668-684). The following year (1969), the Catechetical Institute of Nimega, responsible for the writing of the Catechism, published the White Book on the Dutch Catechism, on whose cover is found the following explanatory phrase: Why the corrections made by Rome on the Catechism are unacceptable.


Up to this point stands the status of that period in relation to discipline-doctrine. In the Appendix (pp. 56-65) we transcribe testimonies of Archbishop Bugnini, the person in charge of editing Memoriale Domini, which illustrates the situation in the liturgical aspect. We now summarize the core: the first reclamations made to the Dutch Episcopate on Communion in the hand did not have any effect[71], the Letter sent by the Consilium on behalf of the Pope to all the bishops, jointly with the voting card, reads: In the countries and regions where the new practice of placing the Particle in the hand has been introduced, it seems more and more difficultif not directly impossibleto impede it.[72] Paul VI himself, on the autographed note in which he proposed MDs outline, says: one has to take into consideration that the useor abuseof the distribution of Holy Communion [in the hand] is already widely spread in some countries and that the bishops [for example Cardinal Suenens, etc.] do not believe it possible to repress.[73]


Cardinal Gut, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship who signed MD, in an interview published on July 20th, 1969 also gave testimony of those difficult times: Until now, bishops were allowed to authorize practices, but the limits have frequently been violated and many priests have simply done whatever they wanted to do. In this case, what has sometimes occurred is that they have imposed their own points of view. These initiatives, taken without authorization, frequently could not be suppressed because they had spread too widely. With his great kindness and prudence, the Holy Father has frequently ceded, and many times he has done so against his will.[74] When remembering the situation of the Church during those years, we understand why MD said that the pastoral work is much more difficult than ever because of the current situation.


prevent all danger, refers, without a doubt, to the dangers that Communion in the hand carries, enumerated in [12]. Those dangers were far from being imaginary, like in the Dutch Catechism, among other things, the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist was left in doubt[75], an inadmissible explanation was given of transubstantiation[76] and any type of presence of Christ in the host particles or fragments that detached after the consecration, was denied.[77] In relation to these doctrines, Paul VI had said in 1965: we feel the duty to warn of the great danger that these opinions constitute to the correct faith.[78] And he again rectifies those errors in the Solemn Profession of the Faith, known as The Credo of the People of God, on June 30th, 1968. Without a doubt, the answer of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which we transcribed on p. 36, also refers to these doctrines.


On the other hand, the Dutch Catechism does not distinguish clearly between the common priesthood of the faithful and the hierarchical priesthood, and in effect it says: The Christian priesthood is, first of all, something that we all have in common, based on baptism and confirmation. Through this general priesthood, the Church is in this world a peculiar people, <people acquired by God> []. It is a mission: at the same time to be priests within humanity []. The people of God is a priestly people because it is disposed to serve. It is called to offer the most spiritual of all sacrifices: ones own life (pp. 334-335); and adds, after speaking about the pastoral priesthood (that is to say, ministerial): Isnt the universal priesthood of the faithful relegated to a second place because of all we have just said? In fact, it seems that only a few exercise the office of mediators. That is not so. The relationship between the general priest and the pastoral priest is of another order. There is only one priesthood, which is that of Jesus Christ. All of Gods people participate in that priesthood. Therefore, one is speaking of that general priesthood (ibid., p. 348). That last phrase is stronger yet in the English translation (which seems to be more faithful to the original): the general priesthood is truly the central and important thing (A New Catechism, New York 1967, p. 363).


Later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith warns in the Sacerdotium ministeriale letter (August 6th, 1983) about the doctrines of Schillebeeckx[79] and Boff, in which a confusion between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood is found, denying the essential distinction between both.


If we take into consideration that this is the doctrinal climate in which Communion in the hand was introduced, we will understand the preoccupation of Paul VI to taking care to avoid any risk of false opinions about the Holy Eucharist, maintained precisely by the promoters of disobedience that introduced the rite.


[18] From now on in relation to these determined cases If the Churchs compliance had been as the Pope expected, the practice would have been restrained to cases where it was already rooted. One can object that, in fact, the practice changed in almost all the world and, as a result, already this restriction is not in force. It is true that the practice spread but this was due only to the fact that the Episcopal Conferences allowed its introduction without the demanded conditions being in existence and without taking into consideration the exhortation of Paul VI.[80] There does not exist a document from the Holy See after that of MD, where the possibility of introducing this new manner of Communion is enlarged upon. In relation to this, the following quoted lines of Bugninis work are illustrative: With the occasion of Immensae caritatis, the Congregation for the Sacraments wanted to introduce an issue that dealt with <<piety and reverence to the Holy Sacrament when the Eucharistic bread is placed on the hand of the faithful>>. It did not bring any new element but confirmed what had already been said by the Instruction Memoriale Domini. The Congregation for Divine Worship insisted that this part not be introduced. And not because it was not worried about piety and reverence toward the Eucharist but because, out of the context in which the problem of Communion in the hand was being dealt with, there was a risk of obtaining the contrary effect. And that is what effectively happened. Some, in effect, thought that with that document the Holy See wanted to spread the new manner of receiving Communion to the whole Church without need of later requests, abrogating the norms given in the previous Instruction. That is what made the Pope ask Archbishop Bugnini to prepare a clarifying document, which appeared in LOsservatore Romano on May 15th, 1973.[81]


Later, the Notification of Le Saint-Sihge, dated April 3rd, 1985, states that the faculty to authorize Communion in the hand is regulated by the instructions Memoriale Domini and Immensae Caritatis, as well as the Ritual De sacra communione of June 21st, 1973. Also, the answer that the Congregation for Divine Worship gave to the Argentinean Episcopal Conference on 9/5/95, confirms Memoriale Domini as the norm which is currently in force on this matter.


If the legislation did not change, the obvious conclusion is that the only reason for the extension of the rite is that the Bishops did not listen to the vehement exhortation of Paul VI to diligently submit to the law in force and again confirmed (MD[16]).


You will take opportune deliberations. One has to note that the emphasis is placed on the necessary confirmation; in relation to these words, Christus Dominus (38, 4) is quoted which reads: Decisions of the episcopal conference, provided they have been approved legitimately and by the votes of at least two-thirds of the prelates who have a deliberative vote in the conference, and have been recognized by the Apostolic See, are to have juridically binding force only in those cases prescribed by the common law or determined by a special mandate of the Apostolic See, given either spontaneously or in response to a petition of the conference itself. The words we wrote in bold seem to be the reason for the quote since the note does not refer to the whole paragraph but only to the words of the Instruction, necessariae confirmationis causa (for its necessary confirmation).


The project of the Decree Christus Dominus presented during the Council (on April 27, 1964, that is to say, one and a half years before its promulgation), summarizes the opinions expounded up to that moment: It has been widely discussed in the conciliar chamber if the decisions of the Conferences must be furnished of juridical obligation. On this matter three opinions have been declared: there are those who wish they can enjoy a true obligatory juridical force, others who are inclined to think they should only have a moral obligation character, and others that consider that they should not be attributed with any obligatory force at all. Thus, the conciliar Commission in charge of writing out and editing the Decrees project opted for a solution that would take into consideration that diversity of thoughts, clarifying the text and restrictively establishing the only cases in which the decision of an Episcopal Conference can have obligatory juridical force, as well as the requirements for its elaboration, among which the necessary recognitio emphasizes on behalf of the Holy See. Nevertheless, one has to note that, in all those cases, the <<recognitio>> of the Holy See did not have the effect that the norms considered to be given by this, but that it continues, in all of its effects, a law that comes from the Conference with the consequences that proceed from there in relation to its necessary agreement with the law established by the superior authority, etc. (cf. c. 135 '2)[82], that is to say, that step does not transform the decisions of the Conference into pontifical acts nor does it confer a binding force or greater authority but only permits that the Holy See verify, before its promulgation, its agreement with the good of the Church.[83]


Besides, this voting of the Conference is no more than the condition that Rome requests in order to consider the issue[84], not the final decision on the matter. Once the answer from Rome is received, the indult is not automatically applied. The request of the Episcopal Conference is only a previous requirement, it is not the manner of applying the indult but an obstacle, which matches with the restrictive tone of the Instruction. Its sense is: the bishops can permit it only where the Conference has requested it.


That obstacle, placed by Paul VI in order to make it difficult for the practice to spread, frequently satisfied this function. In Spain it could not be introduced in 1970 because it did not obtain the two thirds vote required. In Italy it could not achieve it during the 70s, and Argentina also impeded its introduction twice during the 90s.[85] We will extend this theme further in the comment on canon 455 '2 (pp. 49 ff.).



Comment on the



The norms of the letter also are restrictive, that is to say, they take precautions against the above mentioned dangers.


The instruction is complete The concession of the indult does not appear in the Instruction but rather the steps to request it.[86] This concession is found at the beginning of the attached letter, as it only concerns those who requested it: The Holy Father concedes that. As is clear, the indults concedes that each bishop (chaque Evjque) may authorize this practice in his diocese; that is to say, the authorized person to grant the indult is the bishop.


But this permission has at the same time a clear limit, each Bishop should decide this matter according to his prudence. Furthermore, he should take into account the circumstances and the consequences that a change of this nature will produce among his faithful. He should furthermore take into account the gravity of the matter that has been mentioned so many times. He should not forget, on the other hand, that the position of the Holy See in this matter is not a neutral one, but rather that it vehemently exhorts him to diligently submit to the law in force, and once again confirmed (MD [16]).


In synthesis, the matter is not left to his free decision but rather to a prudent decision, and this decision weighs on his conscience.[87]


No. 1 defends the traditional rite, moderating the introduction of the new manner; it is not indifferent to chose between one practice and the other. Whenever the freedom of the faithful is mentioned, here and in other documents[88], it is to defend their right to receive Communion on the tongue. In no case is it to defend the right to receive It in the hand.


No. 2 asks to exclude any appearance of weakness on the part of the conscience of the Church as to faith in the Eucharistic presence; also to any kind of danger or simple appearance of danger of profanation. These dangers were already warned of in n. [12] of the Instruction (cf. supra, p. 41).


Point 3 of the letter is a condition for receiving Communion in the hand, not an advantage that this brings of itself. In effect, Communion in the hand, as the instruction states, can in itself bring about a lesser reverence towards the august Sacrament of the altar or the adulteration of the true doctrine [12]; Communion on the tongue, while expressing the reverence of the Christian faithful to the Eucharist [8] means Communion, not ordinary bread and water, but rather the Body and Blood of Christ [9]. For this reason, in the case of adopting the indult care should be taken that the consequence which the Holy Father fears does not occur (e.g. allowing that It be considered ordinary bread or any sacred thing).


What is desired in this point is to make recommendations in order to avoid the consequences of Communion in the hand, and not to pretend to affirm that this practice will produce by itself the opposite consequences of those foreseen.


No. 4. This number anticipated the possibility that the faithful receive Communion by themselves, directly taking the Consecrated Bread from the ciborium, although always assisted by the minister. But the reactions against this suggestion were many and very ardent. Therefore, on the occasion of the publication of the ritual De sacra Communione et de cultu Mysterii Eucharistichi (n. 21), July 21, 1973, this possibility was eliminated, mainly because if the ciborium was placed so that each could serve himself, he who wished to take Communion in the mouth could not do so (cf. Notitiae 10, 1974, 308). Therefore, at the present time, it is absolutely illicit to do so.


No. 5 recommends the care of the fragments of the consecrated Host in either of the two manners of receiving Communion. This worry again appears in subsequent documents: It is recommended to guard that the fragments of the consecrated Bread not be lost (La Saint-Sihge, n. 6). Three years after the first dispensations, the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments made recommendations based on experience: Have assiduous diligence and care, especially as to the fragments that eventually fall from the hosts. This applies both to the minister as to the faithful, when the sacred Species is placed in the hand (Immensae caritatis, January 29, 1973, ch. 4). Undoubtedly, John Paul IIs words refer to this:  cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. (Dom. Cenae, 11).


It is because of this that it is very difficult to exactly follow the praxis recommended by The Living Bread. Furthermore, it alerts ones attention that the booklet gives so much importance to a totally secondary aspect (e.g. placing the hands as if they were a throne) of the ancient rite and that the care that the Church has always recommended as to the fragments themselves of the consecrated Bread is not mentioned at all (MD, 10). In effect, the patristic texts that are so often cited do not pretend to recommend Communion in the hand but rather they describe the only practice known to them, however, they notably insist on the gravity of taking care that the Particles do not fall, thus, St. Cyrils recommendation of not separating the fingers.


The convenient cleansing of the hands is also recommended. The Notification La Saint-Sihge especially mentions children, as was done by some bishops in the 1968 consultation, that it is very difficult to control the cleanliness of their hands.[89]


Lastly, since this is not seen as of major importance, it should be noted that the rite as it is practiced has enough differences with the testimonies of the ancient tradition (which in the Eastern rites are preserved for the clergys communion). In St. Cyrils testimonies as in those of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the Sacred Species was received in the right hand and with the left one a throne was formed, and Communion was received by lifting the palm to the mouth. The bread used for consecration was fermented and therefore crumbled. The form that is used today (unleavened bread in round wafers, received in the left hand and taken to the mouth with the right hand in order to receive Communion), does not have any historical precedent.


 Comment on

CANON 455 '2


In the first place, it should be noted that reference is not made to the entire canon but only to '2, which only concerns the proceeding. This reference seems to especially allude to the necessary revision on the part of the Apostolic See. The reference to canon 455 '2 would then only be the updating of the quote from Christus Dominus made in [18] of the Instruction to illustrate the words necessariae confirmationis causa (cf. supra, p. 44) and would have the purpose of reaffirming the necessity of the recognitio of the Holy See.[90]

However, there are persons who maintain that if a bishop does not adopt the new rite approved by the Episcopal Conference, he would be wanting concerning canon 455 and would thus be breaking with ecclesial unity. We will extend our analysis to the entire canon.

 A decision of the Conference can have obligatory juridical force in two circumstances exclusively (cf. c. 455 '1):[91]

 a)      When the universal law so prescribes it, when establishing, for example, that a determined norm will go into effect with the concrete specifications that the respective Episcopal Conference establishes for its territory. In CIC, we found abundant examples. Let us see some: to determine if baptism can be done by immersion or by pouring (c. 854), the approval of the translations of the liturgical books (c. 838 '3), the possibility of changing the manner of fulfilling Fridays penance (c. 1251, 1253), writing its own rite of marriage (c. 1120), suppress or transfer certain feast days to a Sunday (c. 1246 '2), give norms concerning the place for hearing confessions (c. 964 '2), determine the age for confirmation, marriage or the ministries of lector and acolyte (c. 891, 1083 '2, 230 '1).


b)       When a general decree of the Conference is established by a special mandate of the Holy See, be it given moto proprio or by petition of the interested Conference. A recent example of this is the Instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education of March 8, 1996, that is to say some three months before decree 854/96 that authorized Communion in the hand in our country (Argentina). Said instruction sought to solve certain irregularities in the application of c. 241 of CIC with respect to the seminaries. In point 2 of part II it reads: it seems fitting that the episcopal conferences themselves should assume this task. Accordingly, with this instruction the Apostolic See confers on them a special mandate, in conformity with Canon 455, Paragraph 1 and authorizes them, in conformity with Paragraphs 2 and 3, to publish the necessary <decreta generalia>. In the present case it would be a matter of publishing appropriate procedural norms suitable for promoting mutual collaboration in this field among the bishops and among the seminaries in the interests of a greater common good. These norms would need the recognition of the Apostolic See in order to have a binding character (cf. Paragraph 2 of the quoted canon) on all the bishops of the country.


The first case does not concern us, as the universal law, confirmed by Memoriale Domini, does not foresee another manner of giving Communion that is not in the mouth; neither is there a mandate similar to the above transcription that, as we can see, is as completely clear and precise.


Moreover, there does not exist any general decree given by the Episcopal Conference: in effect, resolution No. 14 of the 71st Plenary Assembly of the C.E.A. only states: It has been resolved to ask the Holy See for the authorization so that the faithful may freely opt to receive the Holy Eucharist in the hand in the ecclesiastical jurisdictions that conform to the Argentinean Episcopal Conference.[92] Decree Prot. 854/96 of the Congregation for Divine Worship does nothing more than to ratify and confirm such resolution according to the procedure of c. 455 '2. The promulgation decree of the President of the C.E.A. of June 19, 1996 states: We promulgate what is established in Resolution No. 14 of the 71st Plenary Assembly of the Argentinean Episcopate and establishes the date of when it goes into force. Lastly, the letter Prot. N. 319/96 signed by the Secretary of the C.E.A. is nothing more than a communication.[93]

There does not exist, therefore, any decree of those mentioned in '1 that has to be observed. Consequently, according to c. 455 '4, the competence of each diocesan Bishop remains intact. In such cases, neither the Conference nor its president can act in the name of all the Bishops unless each and every Bishop has given his consent. And, although it is true that according to what the Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (212, b), based on the reason of unity and charity with his brothers, the Bishop ordinarily makes his own the decisions and norms of the Conference that juridically do not have obligatory force[94], the same Directory recalls that this occurs unless serious reasons stand in the way, that he himself has considered in the presence of the Lord. This is a deliberation that in this concrete case obliges the bishop by the same Instruction which in its pastoral part says: each Bishop, according to his prudence and conscience, can authorize in his diocese (Enchiridion Vat. 1284; supra, p. 12).

But even whenby means of an extensive interpretation[95]it would be admitted that it deals with a general decree which is mentioned in c. 455 '1, it should be kept in mind that it would never be an autonomous or perfect decree emanating from the Conference, but rather a complex act integrated with the request of the Conference to Rome (that is to say, resolution No. 14 of the Plenary Assembly), the Roman authorization (decree 854/96), and the subsequent approval of the indult on the part of the benefited person. The legitimacy of the act and, therefore, its obligatory scope, would be limited by the authorizing background established by the Holy See in the authorization granted to the Conference. The scope and juridical tone should be in necessary conformity with the law established by the superior authority.

 Canon 135 '2 foresees the juridical regulations of the so-called delegated legislative authority and establishes to this respect that the delegated authority (in this case, the Argentinean Episcopal Conference) should adjust itself to three requisites, that is:


1)       Legality in legislating, that is to say, observance of the assigned procedure to legislate.

2)       Submitting to the supreme authority.

3)       Hierarchy in norms between those that proceed from legislators in different hierarchical order: A legislatore inferiore lex iuri superiori contraria valide ferri nequit [trans. note: A lower legislator cannot validly make a law which is contrary to that of a higher legislator].

 This canon 135 '2 goes beyond the light of c. 30 which establishes the conditions in which the general decrees of the executing authorities have force of law and to this respect establish the concrete guidelines:


1)       Express concession of the legislator: in this case it would be the supposed concession of c. 455 '1 and of MD.

2)       In conformity with the law: in this case the fulfillment of the procedural measures of MD [18] and c. 455 '2.

3)       Fulfillment of the established conditions in the act of the concession: in this case the conditions of application of the decree are established in the Pastoral Letter of the Memoriale Domini Instruction; which is assumed by decree 854/96 in the manner of a norm.

We could summarize all that has been said in this manner: the Holy See has universal and originating jurisdiction over the entire Church, but the universal law can admit, in certain cases, to the legislative delegation in the bishops and in the Episcopal Conferences. The foreseen delegation in the canon with its limits constitute the limit of validity of the dictated norm or of the power of dictating norms because, as has been said, the measure of the validity of the delegated norm is constituted by the measure of the delegation. When what is delegated is an authorizing norm[96] within the frame of an obligating general norm that conserves its validity[97], only the general delegated norm can be authorizing.

It remains to be seen who the individual is who is authorized, the one and only one who will hold the title of a subjective law: what is here conceded is the authorization to distribute Communion in a manner not foreseen by the universal law; the beneficiary, therefore, is the minister. Now, since the liturgist of the diocese is the bishop, it is he to whom the dispensation is conceded: he may accept it or not, and in the case of accepting it will authorize the other ministers of his diocese. This is expressly stated in the Pastoral Letter (En riponse) that accompanies MD: The Holy Father concedes that each bishop can authorize the introduction of the new rite in his diocese (cf. pp. 30, 62, 64, 72).

But the letter foresees not only the conditions that the bishops meeting in the assembly of the Episcopal Conference should evaluate at the time of making a decision, but also that it furthermore establishes conditions for each of the bishops, trusting their prudence and conscience when introducing the new rite. For this, it must be kept in mind that the decision of the legislator is restrictive and therefore should always be interpreted in the manner that least favors the spread of the rite.

In conclusion, even if there should exist a General Decree of the Conference of those spoken of in c. 455 '1, this decree could never modify the restriction placed by the Instruction but it should always be maintained within the frame placed by the delegating authority. But the case does not apply here because the Pastoral Letter (En riponse), by which the indult is conceded, does not give the faculty of applying it to the Episcopal Conference, but rather to the bishop for his diocese. Besides, if he does not do so, the universal law that forbids Communion in the hand remains in force. Therefore, when a diocese does not accept the indult, it is not the bishop who forbids Communion [in the hand], but rather the Pope. This is what is deduced from an attentive study of the documents.[98]







The consultation with the bishops


After the introduction of Communion in the hand without authorization and the refusal of those disobedient to obeying the orders from Rome, the Pope searched for a solution to the problem. In a Promemoria of July 30, 1968, the <<Consilium>> was informed about the execution of the mandate received and made a proposal of how to solve the problem.


The problem, it was said, was not only a liturgical one but also had a strong pastoral influence, and even more so a psychological one. The cult and veneration, and even faith itself toward the Blessed Sacrament would be very influenced [] and it concluded: since this matter touches the heart of the liturgy, the Eucharist, and the consequences are very important, it was proposed that the president of the <<Consilium>> send by decree of the Holy Father a letter amply exposing the status quaestionis and the pros and cons to all the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences. Each Episcopal Conference should discuss the problem and make a decision by means of a free and secret vote which results were to be transmitted to the <<Consilium>>, in this manner the Holy See would take into account the situation with more exactitude, and would have an orientation for the concession of the indult. Without this preliminary discussion of the problem the danger exists of creating a difficult situation for the bishops and one of weakening the faith of the people in the Eucharistic Presence.


On October 2, 1968, a meeting took place of the secretaries of the dicastery involved. The status quaestionis prepared by the <<Consilium>> was, in synthesis, the following: the practice has been introduced and it is difficult to prevent it; however, it appears that it would be better to regulate its practice; the dogma is not to be touched, only the discipline. The dangers: coexistence of two manners of distributing Communion, weakening of Eucharistic worship, danger of desecrations, giving in to an imposition coming from below. The proposal made by the <<Consilium>> of listening to the opinions of the Episcopal Conferences was judged to be opportune.


The <<Consilium>> prepared a first outline of a letter to be sent to the Episcopal Conferences that was sent to the Secretariat of State on October 18, 1968. The text was returned on the 22nd, corrected and personally annotated by the Pope. Archbishop Bugnini published the full text saying: The variations contributed by the Pope indicate how much attention and suffering participation have followed the question.[100]


Here is the text sent to all the Latin bishops of the world:[101]


Most Reverend Excellency,


The official documents, published in the last four years to carry out the liturgical reform according to the norms of Vatican Council II have contributed the first finishing touches to a eucharistic celebration in the rites and texts considered to be the easiest and most advantageous. The <<Consilium>> continues with its tasks in this sense so that the new liturgical books can be published in the shortest time possible.


However, new problems often arise,[102] of such importance and urgency that the solution to them cannot be put off until the conclusion of our tasks. One of the most delicate and urgent refers[103] to the distribution of Communion in the hand to the faithful. For some years now this[104] has been proposed, at least in some countries and regions. Recently, several bishops and also some Conferences have requested an official response from the Holy See to guide them on the direction to adopt with regard to this matter which, because of its reference to the ministry and eucharistic worship, requires particular attention.[105]


By explicit mandate of the Holy Father (who cannot refrain from considering the eventual innovation with evident apprehension)[106], I have the honor of asking the fraternal collaboration of the episcopacy presided by your Excellency. I propose in this letter to present to you the status quaestionis[107] of the arguments in favor and those against, some elements of solution and lastly, the manner of proceeding so that the thought[108] of the Episcopal Conference of said country can be made known to the Holy See.






On the manner of distributing Communion, the Eucharisticum Mysterium Instruction of May 25, 1967 limits itself to indicate the posture of the faithful, which can be kneeling or standing (n. 34); however, in diverse locations, at least since two or three years ago, some priests without due authorization[109] place the Eucharist in the hand of the faithful, who then places it in their mouths. It appears that this manner of acting is spreading rapidly, especially in the more cultured environments and in small groups, and finds favor among laypersons[110], priests and nuns.[111]



The arguments contributed by the defenders of giving Communion in the hand to the faithful are:


1.                   Communion in the hand does not touch the dogma of the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, it is only a question of sacramental discipline that the ecclesiastical authority can, for justifiable reasons, modify as it has recently done for Communion under two species.

2.                   This manner of receiving Communion is not a real[112] innovation. It has been the only one used throughout the Christian world since its origins up to the 9th  10th centuries. From that period on, the use of unleavened bread has been generalized in the Western world and it seems that the change has favored the manner of placing Communion on the tongue.

3.                   It cannot be said that receiving the Host in the hand is less respectful toward the Lord than receiving it on the tongue. On the other hand, the faithful, even children, will easily understand that they are receiving the Body of the Lord in their own hands and that they should treat the Consecrated Bread with the greatest respect.

4.                   The traditional manner of receiving the Host on the tongue appears to our contemporaries as a childish gesture; it reminds them too much of how to feed children, who are incapable of feeding themselves. Many adults today feel unwilling to make a gesture in public that does not have an exterior beauty and which compares them to children.

5.                   More so now than in the past, contemporary people are sensible to certain hygienic considerations. Some persons suffer anxiety to the point that it is difficult to give them Communion while trying to avoid contact with the tongue and the persons saliva. This creates in others a certain repugnance to receive Communion on the tongue.

6.                   In many places the faithful receive Communion standing and the priests who are of short stature have certain difficulty to place the Host in the mouth of taller persons. The danger also exists that it might fall on the ground, especially when Communion has to be distributed quickly because of the large public congregation.

7.                   In diverse dioceses laypersons have been given the faculty of distributing Communion. It does not seem opportune to place the Host on the tongue of the communicants.

8.                   In the countries and the regions where the new practice of placing the Host in the hand has been introduced it seems to be increasingly difficult, if not directly impossible, to impede it. Proof of this has been the efforts by some bishops. The authority of the Episcopate and the Holy See has been compromised. In these times of strong rebellion, it is recommended that the authority not be outwardly attacked by maintaining a difficult prohibition that would have had consensus in practice. On the contrary, the authority would see itself reinforced if the hierarchy would give very precise norms that regulate the use of the new manner of receiving Communion.



And now the reasons that militate against receiving Communion in the hand:


1.       It is an important disciplinary change that runs the risk of disorienting many of the faithful who do not see the need, and who have never met with this problem. There are already many changes in the field of liturgy and of the sacraments that have yet to be completely assimilated by all of the Christian community; the establishment of a new manner of receiving Communion would require a serious catechetical instruction that cannot be carried out at the same time all over.

2.       It appears that there is a new practice established here and that it is the work of a small number of priests and laypersons that look to impose their own point of view on others, and force the hand of authority. To approve it would be to encourage these persons who are never[113] satisfied with the laws of the Church.

3.       And above all a decrease of respect to the Eucharistic worship should be feared. To receive Communion in the hand would seem to many to be less dignified and less respectful. Will everyone who will receive Communion in the hand have clean hands? The children also?

4.       One should also ask oneself, with uneasiness, if the fragments of the Consecrated Bread will always be picked up and consumed with all the respect It deserves. If even now, when a paten is used, it is so easy that fragments fall and are dispersed, what will happen to the Particles in the hands of the faithful, of those who do not have the delicacy and the awareness[114] to quickly pick them up?

5.       Furthermore, should not an increase of desecrations and irreverences on the part of ill-intentioned persons be feared, or of those of little faith? Ill-prepared and poorly instructed people who receive the Eucharistic Bread in their hand, will they not end up equating It to ordinary bread, or to simply blessed bread?[115]

6.       By easily giving in to this very important point of Eucharistic worship, the danger exists that the audacity of the renovators will dare so much as to be directed towards other sectors, which would bring about an irreparable damage to the faith and worship of the Eucharist.




A serious reflection is imposed on this delicate situation, which the present communication wanted to raise in all the bishops of the world. The consequences of such a disciplinary mutation should be anticipated, along with its implications:


a)                   On the priests and Eucharistic ministers

b)                   On the faithful

c)                   On the manner of making the Eucharistic Bread (more compact bread in order to, as much as possible, avoid fragmentation)

d)                   On the adaptation of the churches (eventual disappearance of the Communion rail)




Dealing then with something so grave in itself and in its consequences, the Holy Father, Paul VI, wishes to know the thinking of each one of the bishops and of each Episcopal Conference.


On behalf of, and upon the request of the Holy Father, it is my duty[116] therefore to communicate the following to your Excellency:


1.       In the first meeting of bishops of your country, please be kind enough to inform your colleagues of the Episcopate of this circular (letter). After a profound investigation of the problem[117], each bishop will make it known through a secret vote if he is in favor or not of Communion in the hand. The results of this vote will be communicated to the secretary of the <<Consilium>> before January 31, 1969.[118]


2.       If the Episcopal Conference of your country does not convene before December 31[119] it will be kind enough to inform the bishops of this circular as soon as possible; each one will send his vote to the Episcopal Conference by mail. The results of this consultation should be sent to the secretary of the <<Consilium>> before January 31, 1969.[120]


 Only after this consultation will the Holy See communicate to the bishops the ultimate decisions with the opportune norms and the manner of proceeding in such a delicate and important matter.



This letter-exposition, dated October 28, 1968, translated into the main languages, was sent to the pontifical representatives, which were recommended to deliver the document, if possible, personally, to the Most Excellent President of the Episcopal Conference, explaining to him very well the purpose and the procedure. It is of great interest to the Holy See, in effect, to know the thought of each bishop and of the entire episcopate as expressed in a free and secret vote, and after a careful reflection as the seriousness of the proposed arguments requests.


The letter was accompanied by a questionnaire containing three questions on which the bishops were to vote[121], (and were given) three months time. The final time limit set by the Pope was January 31, 1969. But at that time forty percent had not responded. Therefore, in response to a communiqui from the Secretary of State that requested an extension of time due to the distances and the difficulties of some regions, the cardinal president of the <<Consilium>> decided to wait another month before tallying the votes. On March 19 it was possible to have a general relation with the presentation of the general information, a synthesis of the proposals, a collection of the most significant responses and some considerations on the results of the inquiry[122] [].


 Observations and proposals


At the same period of time several hundred letters arrived at the <<Consilium>>, some were individual letters and others were signed by several persons (specifically 237 letters with 419 signatories). Almost all of them came from France and Belgium, a kind of reaction it seems to the press conference that Msgr. Boillon held at the end of the plenary assembly of the French Episcopate in which he had the less-than-good idea of announcing publicly the initiative of the consultation on Communion in the hand, regardless of the clear indication that it should be dealt with in a sub secret manner. This announcement provoked the first reactions which became very numerous in the following months, in addition to the help of some associations that organized a campaign to collect signatures. The letters came from persons of all social levels, from humble people of the town to cultured personalities, people from the judgeship and people from the art world.


From the very abundant material collected, the <<Consilium>> sought to collect in a synthesis the observations, proposals and conditions set forth by the bishops also stating the complete texts.


This synthesis, collected under the title of Modi, is interesting in order to know the sensibility of the Episcopate. We transcribe only a few examples of the summary that accompanies Bugnini:


A)      Conditions set by those who were in favor of listening to the wish of introducing Communion in the hand:


One said: Probably the spirit of obedience in itself will not be enough to maintain the traditional practice of Communion in the Latin Church. Admit, then, the beginning of Communion in the hand.


The modi in general made reference to carrying out an extensive consultation of the faithful, asking also in some cases an almost universal consensus or at least of the majority of laymen. Some, for example, proposed that it be permitted only where all the motives in favor would be verified, and at the same time, all or almost all of the reported inconveniences. It was also insisted upon that the definite decision be left to the judgment of each bishop. Others said that children should not be allowed to receive in the hand; that they should receive It on the tongue until a certain age. Others also recommended that the sensibility of people with ancient Christian traditions be kept in mind, because their long education based on a profound respect toward the Eucharist could provoke a rejection to receive the Host in the hand. Others insisted that there be a washbasin at the entrance of the churches. Others, worried about how to avoid falling Particles, suggested the Host be placed on the fingers instead of the palms; others stated that after Communion, the communicants should clean their hands over a vessel with water. Others insisted that the faithful hold a corporal or a purificator in their hands; others suggested that after washing ones fingers in a vessel with water, they dry them with a towel imitating what the celebrants do. Others said that Communion should not be given indiscriminantly or during large Communions. The bishops of Canada said that this manner of each person taking the Host makes the respect for the sacrament more difficult. Others warned that this could degenerate quickly in such a manner that each person would serve himself from the tabernacle; others insisted that the Eucharistic bread should be made in a manner that would not leave fragments.


B)      Principal arguments supporting the vote against:


In England they warned that the change could be interpreted as a desire of the Church to respond to those who doubt the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; the bishops of Argentina asked themselves why carry out a survey over a disobedience, in this manner would not the same have to be done for the use of the breviary, celibacy, birth control, etc? To concede to this, said the bishops of Argentina and Colombia, is to cooperate with the policy of a consummated act, which by this means would receive a legislation. Others said that the desire to receive Communion in the hand was practically being suggested by the sentiment; it could also be cited as a childish gesture because it was so in ancient times and it is still a gesture of courtesy to offer a fellow guest a well-prepared morsel. And in an answer which arrived from Italy, it stated that to place the Host on the tongue is a sacred gesture that distinguishes this food from the others; another one, also from Italy, simply said: it would be a scandal.


 Results and reflections


What the <<Consilium>> exposed concluded with some considerations and proposals:


the consultation shows:

1)       that there is not a two-thirds majority, but that there is an absolute great majority against the new practice.

2)       that there is a disproportion among the various continents and the different levels of culture and religious faith. The contribution from Europe and America to the placet is more apparent than that of Asia and Africa; the English, Italian and Spanish are less inclined to Communion in the hand than are the French, German and Dutch.

3)       the problem of Communion in the hand, with the implications that it carries, cannot be considered by itself; it has a wider aspect that involves all of the Eucharistic worship. Suffice it to allude to the matter of fermented bread that would be easily introduced, with the related problem of the preservation of the Eucharist, of exposition and adoration, of Communion to the sick, etc. This requires that the problem be examined in all its aspects and consequences.


 Parting from this, a triple solution could be thought of:


1.                   Close the door to all concessions.

2.                   Admit the possibility of Communion in the hand along with the traditional manner.

3.                   Take a precise but not closed position as has been done with Communion under both species.


The first has the support of the absolute majority and would avoid negative consequences, which are feared because of the practice of Communion in the hand. Furthermore, it would have the support of a wide part of the clergy and faithful.


However, a violent reaction should be foreseen from some areas and a more diffused disobedience where the practice has already been introduced.


The second solution would be against the greater part of the bishops; it would reward disobedience and would open the door to serious inconveniences.


The third solution, that is to say the one of compromiseto concede in some cases (as has been done for example with the issue of Communion under both species, or in some regions because of Communion in the hand)would be in harmony with the line drawn by the Council, that the disciplinary sector foresees a plurality of forms and appeals to the responsibility of the Episcopal Conferences and of the bishops taken individually.


But it should be kept in mind that any concession would fatally open the door to generalization.


Lastly, in what refers to procedure, it would be desired that a decision in this respect be communicated to the episcopate through a pontifical act based on the consultation of the bishops and not only through an instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, because it already touches upon such an important point of the discipline of Eucharistic worship, because already the praxis of Communion in the hand has quickly spread in the last months. For this last reason, diverse bishops and papal ambassadors insistently request that a decision be taken as soon as possible so as not to grant a very tardy decree.


 The Instruction <<Memoriale Domini>>


After having carefully examined the documentation, the Pope wrote in an autographed notation:


said to Father Bugnini: to prepare a project of a pontifical document in which:


  1. A summary of the results of the consultation be given to the bishops;
  2. That it confirm the thoughts of the Holy See as to the inopportunity of the distribution of Holy Communion in the hand to the faithful, indicating the reasons (liturgical, pastoral, religious, etc). Therefore, the norm in force remains confirmed.
  3. If in spite of this some Episcopal Conferences were to believe that they should allow this innovation, please recur to the Holy See and later abide by, if the requested permission is agreed upon, the norms and instructions that would accompany it. And still later: March 27, 1969: that to advise the AA.PP. (sic) by knowledge and appearance it must be kept in mind that the useor abuseof the distribution of Holy Communion [in the hand] is already widely diffused in some countries and that the bishops (for example Cardinal Suenens, etc.) do not believe it possible to suppress.


The Secretary of State sent all of the documentation on March 25, 1969 repeating the same indications given by the Pope. In obedience to these decrees, the <<Consilium>> prepared a text of the Memoriale Domini[123] instruction, approved March 29, 1969.


The instruction above all emphasizes that the manner of celebrating the Eucharist and of receiving Communion has not always been uniform in the history of the Church. After recalling the new requests and requirements and the consultation of the episcopate, the mandated part is presented: the bishops, priests and faithful are exhorted to actively abide by the traditional practice in deference to the judgment of the greater part of the bishops, out of respect to the present liturgical legislation and in view of the common good of the Church.


Where the contrary practice is established, the Holy See, in order to help the Episcopal Conferences to fulfill their own pastoral mission in actual circumstances more difficult than ever, remits to the same conferences the responsibility and duty, etc





Until now, the testimony of Archbishop Bugnini was clear. As Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, he had the responsibility of elaborating Memoriale Domini. His testimony: Communion in the hand was introduced without authorization, Paul VI tenaciously opposed allowing it but decided to grant an indult only where its use was firmly established and this with the purpose of helping the Episcopal Conferences to comply with their pastoral work, frequently more difficult than ever because of the present situation.


Cardinal Benno Gut, on his part, who signed the Instruction as Prefect of the same Sacred Congregation, contributed a similar testimony in an interview reproduced by La documentation Catholique[124] two months after its promulgation, in response to a journalists question: There is practically no area in the Church where, with or without authorization, so many experiments take place as in that of the liturgy. You have spoken of calmer times,what are the measures that Rome is thinking of taking with respect to the practices that you speak of? To which Cardinal Gut responded:


We hope that, from here on, with the new decrees contained in the documents, this sickness of experimentation will reach its end. Until now, bishops were allowed to authorize practices, but the limits have frequently been violated and many priests have simply done whatever they wanted to do. In this case, what has sometimes occurred is that they have imposed their own points of view. These initiatives, taken without authorization, frequently could not be suppressed because they had spread too widely. With his great kindness and prudence, the Holy Father has frequently ceded, and many times he has done so against his will.


Some months later, Paul VI himself publicly had to lament that certain forms of proceedings in different parts of the Church are reasons for not a small amount of worry and pain. And the Pope continued:


We refer above all to this mentality according to which many receive with annoyance all that comes from the ecclesiastical authority, that is, what is pertaining to law. This being the reason that in liturgical matters even the Episcopal Conferences sometimes proceed on their own accord more than what is justified. It also occurs that arbitrary experiments are made and this introduces rites that openly contradict the norms of the Church. (Speech to the Consilium ad exequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, October 14, 1968. A.A.S., 1968, p. 735).


The three persons responsible for Memoriale Domini therefore recognize the state of disobedience and anarchy, and the sickness of experimentation, in which these acts were produced.


A few years later, after the death of Paul VI, a journalist asked John Paul II the following question:[125] Holy Father, what is your opinion with reference to Communion in the hand? To which the Pope responded: There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it. The permission was granted due to the insistence of some diocesan bishops.









CONGREGAZIONE 00120 Cita del Vaticano, October 7, 1996

PER LA DOTTIRINA Palazzo del S. Uffizio



Prot. No. 5411/56  02978

(Si prega citare il numero della risposta)


 Your Excellency,


This Dicastery has received your kind letters of 22 August and 16 September, regarding the recent permission granted by the Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to the Dioceses of Argentina, to distribute Eucharistic Communion also in the hands of the faithful.


Since you have judged unnecessary the application of the said permission for the territory of the Diocese of San Luis, Your Excellency has wished to consult this Congregation on whether by this decision you have acted in derogation of ecclesial communion with the dioceses that have received the indult.


As to this, you are informed by this Dicastery that an attentive study of the documents of the Holy See in this matter shows clearly that you, in deciding to maintain immutable the tradition of distributing Holy Communion in the mouth, have acted in conformity with the law and therefore have not broken with ecclesial communion. In truth, Your Excellency has done no more than fulfill the duty demanded of every bishop by the instruction De Modo Sanctam Communionem Ministrandi (cf. Enchiridion Vaticanum III, 1284) of exercising discernment with regard to the consequences that an alternative to the current Eucharistic practice may occasion in the sacramental life of the faithful.


Praying that the Lord may assist and strengthen you constantly in your episcopal ministry, I salute you cordially in Christ.


Tarcisio Bertone


Excia. Revma. Most Reverend Excellency

Msgr. Dr. Juan Rodolfo Laise

Bishop of San Luis

Avda. Pte. Illia 268

5700 SAN LUIS, Argentina






We will apply the rules of interpretation of the laws as in C 17, to Memoriale Domini [126], which we expounded in pp. 24-25. We find two laws in the Instruction: the first is an obliging law (cf. p. 52) but it was the law that was already in force so therefore it is not promulgated here, but only confirmed. The second is an indult (that is to say, an authorizing law, cf. p. 52), conceded by the Pastoral Letter (En riponse) that accompanies the MD (Ench. Vat., 9876 ff.). This is the one that will require our attention.


Proper significance of the words: In the first place, the Pope maintains in force the present law that forbids Communion in the hand, but concedes an indult. In the second place, the concession is made to each bishop. In the third place, the bishop should discern the consequences that could occur in the sacramental life of his faithful when this alternative is permitted. The judgment made will weigh upon his conscience.


It is a condition, for adopting this alternative, that all occasion and danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist be avoided. That is to say, it should not be adopted if he fears that he cannot avoid any of these things.


Context: To say that the traditional manner remains or is maintained can only mean that the other manner is not to be introduced, because the possibility of eliminating Communion in the mouth was never considered. The consultation with the bishops was to, while maintaining the traditional practice, also add (etiam) Communion in the hand, and this possibility was rejected.[127]


A good is not conceded but rather something that is, in itself, much more imperfect than the general law in force. This concession is due to the prudential decision of tolerating a dangerous practice in order to avoid a greater evil (generalized disobedience).


Parallel places: Concession of Communion under both species, at that time, required a permission given to the bishop by the Holy See.


The end of the law (confirmed in MD): To help the bishops to fulfill their pastoral work in the face of situations that are deeply rooted in contempt and difficult to remove (MD [17]).


The circumstances of the law: They are also explicitly explained in the same instruction[128]; furthermore, in the Appendix we have published more details concerning the circumstances of this indult, especially the preparation and modifications made by the Pope in the Letter to the universal episcopate.


As to the occasion of the granting of the law, the Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, from EUNSA, places Memoriale Domini exactly as a very characteristic example of law forced by an abuse.[129]


With all of this information we are able to know with clarity the mind of the legislator which we could express with the same words used by Paul VI (which he signed) and in which he ordered the writing of Memoriale Domini: give a summary notice of the results of the consultation of the bishops which confirms the thinking of the Holy See as to the inopportunity of distributing Holy Communion in the hand to the faithful, indicating the reasons (liturgical, pastoral, religious, etc.). Therefore, the norm in force remains confirmed.


If in this case, nevertheless, some episcopal conferences believe that they should be allowed this innovation, they should be kind enough to recur to the Holy See, and later abide by, if the requested permission is agreed upon, to the norms and instructions that would accompany it.


In the light of the texts of the Magisterium that we have analyzed, are the arguments commonly used to defend the practice of Communion in the hand valid?


Many of them were already present in the Status quaestionis[130] sent to the bishops when the survey was made, but have been implicitly rejected by Paul VI in Memoriale Domini. Let us see them:


1-       The practice does not affect the essence of the Sacrament but rather the changeable part of it. As we explained at length, even these changes cannot be carried out arbitrarily but rather in a homogenous manner.[131]

2-       It is only a return to the primitive manner. Communion in the hand does not bring us closer to the sources of the primitive Church, but rather to Protestantism and to many current doctrinal deviations.[132]

3-       It is more in agreement with the dignity of the Christian and corresponds to the stage of adulthood. MD [7] states that it is indispensable to receive the Eucharist with humility and that this was precisely one of the reasons for starting Communion in the mouth. The dignity of the Christian is already sufficiently emphasized by the fact of being able to receive in Communion the body and blood of Our Lord. The Living Bread gives the impression that Communion in the hand contributes, in a certain manner, an element that restores the dignity of the communicant: however, receiving in the mouth does not take away from the dignity of the person.[133]


On the other hand, the proud insistence of emphasizing the condition of adulthood appears to be in little agreement with the doctrine of He who made us to be like unto children as a condition to enter into the Kingdom of the Heaven. If, somehow, an opportunity has been given to the members of the Church to manifest their adulthood, it has been in the fact that the Holy See did not impose its mandate coercively, but rather waited in order that the practice not expand by the free adherence of pastors and faithful against the clear disposition of the Pope.


4-       A greater moral awareness of the common priesthood. The common priesthood is already sufficiently expressed by the possibility of participating in the liturgy and receiving Communion, something that only someone who has been baptized can do. An exaggerated conception of the common priesthood is very widespread that ignores the essential distinction between the ministerial priesthood.[134]


5-       In the matter of the importance of the body, the hand is as deserving as the mouth. Strictly speaking, all of the parts of the body have the same dignity and, however, no one doubts that in any culture there are parts of the body that are considered noble and others that are not, there are shameful parts and others that are not. No one would think of putting his feet upon or sitting in places that are considered holy. But basically we are not dealing here with comparing the hands of the faithful with the mouth, but rather the hands of the faithful with those of the priest that are specially anointed to touch the body of the Lord.[135]


6-       The significance of the gesture. We have already spoken of the importance of the gesture as a sign. The gesture of receiving the Eucharist in the hand, as in ancient times, did not have a special meaning. For the Protestant reform it meant that the presence of Christ was not real and substantial, and that the priest was not different from a layman. In the 60s it signified the rebellion again the Popes authority. After the concession of the indult, care must be taken that it does not signify any of these, but rather what is indicated by the Pastoral Letter (En riponse), n. 3.


7-       Active Participation. The Council states that part of the active participation is that a sacred silence be kept, at an appropriate time.[136] For this reason, the hands together could be said to be in silence, and far from being a useless gesture are an eloquent sign of the humility with which this Sacrament should be received.[137]


8-       With respect to the liberty of the faithful. This was not a reason to introduce the change; this liberty is only consequent to the already introduced change.


On the other hand, liberty cannot be restricted to the absence of physical coercion but rather it should exclude all manner of pressures (propaganda, catechism, etc.). The possibility of freely electing requires objective information. If we were to propose to the faithful the choice without warning them of the dangers this could bring about, and the resistance of the Pope to approve it and his absolute preference for the traditional practice but, on the contrary, we were to allow an enormous propaganda in favor of the new practice, we would not be giving them the opportunity of a free election; only the truth will set you free.[138]


9-       The rite is not as important, faith is what is important. The documents presented indicate to us that Paul VI did not consider the rite to be indifferent. The Pope considered the possibility of introducing Communion in the hand with evident apprehension and thought that the matter was a most delicate and urgent one. He said it was a thing so grave in itself and in its consequences; he asked mature reflection as the seriousness of the arguments asks for; he considered it to be a practice in itself not contrary to the doctrine but a very debatable and dangerous one in practice.[139] In Memoriale Domini he speaks of the gravity of the matter [15] or of a matter of great importance [12], and finally said that the common good of the Church was involved [16].


10-   It is more in agreement to the present sensibility concerning hygiene. It has no support in tradition or the magisterium; it appeared among the arguments of those that were in favor as mentioned in the Status quaestionis[140] sent to the bishops in 1968, but it is not even mentioned in MD, which proves that it was considered to be of little importance. In effect, because it is considered of little importance, it is warned that the presumed danger of transmitting sickness can only be avoided by forbidding Communion in the mouth (or allowing self-communicating). On the contrary, even by receiving Communion in the hand, the Host that is received is touched by the fingers of the minister who may have had contact with someone elses saliva who previously had received Communion in the mouth. However, in the rules on the manner of distributing Communion there is a special recommendation that no one, in any case, should be coerced in any manner, directly or indirectly, to receive Communion in the hand to the point that self-communicating was forbidden because it did not guarantee liberty to the faithful to receive Communion in the mouth.


11-   The truth of the sign of the liturgy, for which the mandate of the Lord is better obeyed: take and eat, this is My Body[141]. It is to force the text if one wants to see expressed therein the action of take. In the manner of semitic expression it is most frequent that a preceding or concommitant action be explicit. That, however, in the great majority of the cases goes without saying. It frequently deals with the movement or the posture of the body. In this manner, according to the semitic manner of speaking constantly reflected in the Greek of the New Testament, whoever does something in another part, does it arriving; whoever leaves, does it getting up[142], leaving; whoever teaches solemnly does it opening his mouth; whoever touches, touches extending his hand[143]; whoever teaches, writes, counts, judges, it is said that he does all of this sitting down; whoever gives something, does it taking it[144]  These expressions are frequently converted into fixed formulas that should not be forced to say more than what they say in reality.[145]


12-   The fundamental sense of the ecclesiastical. It is said in Fundamentos[146]: we find ourselves surrounded by countries which have already accepted the use of the two praxis. To limit ourselves to Communion in the mouth attracts attention and generates confusion. If that fundamental sense of the ecclesiastical would have always been kept in mind, and by all, the Episcopal Conferences would have heard the vehement exhortation of Paul VI to diligently submit to the law in force and again confirmed keeping in mind the common good of the Church (MD [16]) and the practice would not have spread. Knowing the history of this clandestinely reintroduced rite, and spread based on equivocations and confirmed through incessant disobediences, we cannot doubt that the fundamental sense of the ecclesiastical is what was lacking in those who, throughout twenty-seven years, have been imposing a practice that the Pope did not want to authorize because he considered it dangerous for the good of the Church (MD [12]), until they finally achieved the spreading of it throughout the world.


The only argument sustained in Memoriale Domini, for not admitting this form of receiving Communion but rather to concede the indult, was the deeply-rooted practice, difficult to eradicate[147], although many of the other arguments were taken into account, they were rejected by the Holy See. In strict logic, to accept them now would be to implicitly believe that the Holy See committed an error when it rejected them.


Furthermore, to accept these arguments as valid, very questionable in themselves, would be to open the doors to a future application of them in other areas.[148] We should not be surprised, for example, to hear these same arguments asking for a change in the discipline of celibacy, presently in force in the Latin Church; we could be told that it is only a question of ecclesiastical discipline which in itself does not affect dogma, we would hear that it is not a novelty because we would only be doing it like the apostles, the first disciples and, for almost one thousand years, all of the Church; besides, it could also be adduced, and this time with reason, that it is still practiced in the East even in our times. It is also probable that we be invited to overcome a conception that leads us to think of a lesser corporal dignity and undoubtedly it would be a solution put into effect for many situations.






If the introduction of Communion in the hand is without a doubt a sign of growth in the ecclesiastical life[149], if it is a motive for joy to return to this genuine tradition[150] or if it cannot[151] be affirmed or prioritized that one manner is better than the other, it is not understood why in 1968 Paul VI did not think it opportune to change the manner received and used for a long time of how to give Communion and he vehemently exhorted to submit to this disposition; and much less is it understood why John Paul II in 1996 maintains the said dispositions as a norm. If the affirmation of El Pan vivo (The Living Bread) and Fundamentos are true, then Paul VI committed a grave mistake in not allowing the richness of this rite to be rediscovered. Furthermore, the strict forbiddance of the 10th Century which was maintained for almost a millennium was an error as it pretended to eradicate forever something valuable that we have just recently rediscovered, and this only, thankfully, to the indult.


The answer is that the new practice has not been desired by the Holy See, nor is it part of the post-council liturgical reform but rather has only been permitted due to the unyielding insistence of some episcopal conferences (especially in Protestant countries); and this only after a completely abusive introduction which was not possible to resist, in spite of the complaints and prohibitions from Rome.


Therefore, the habitual reading of the document is false according to which, in face of the diverse petitions and the results of the consultation to the bishops, the Pope decided to concede the practice of both rites to the Episcopal Conferences that requested it. In reality, the purpose of MD was not to be instrumental for the adoption of Communion in the hand but rather to maintain its prohibition. All of the reasons adduced to by the Pope for this are of great weight; they have a solid basis and enjoy permanent validity as they confirm the preoccupation to avoid all that has the appearance of irreverence towards God, really present in the Eucharist. The introduction of this change is of enormous importance because, given that the treatment of the Eucharist is pedagogic[152], the lack of preoccupation for the Particles damages the doctrine. Communion in the mouth, on the other hand, is a sign of the real and substantial presence of the Lord and of the essential distinction between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood.


The danger of desecration is frequently minimized, saying that it always existed.


Concerning involuntary profanations of Communion in the mouth, the risk is practically nonexistent with the use of the Communion paten, the prescribed purifications in the missal and the natural care when giving and receiving the sacred Species. With Communion in the hand, a miracle would be required during each distribution of Communion to avoid some Particles from falling to the ground or remaining in the hand of the faithful.


As to the voluntary profanations no one can deny that the circumstances are considerably facilitated for whoever wishes to steal a consecrated Host. It is said that during all epochs inevitable sacrileges were committed and this is true, but in such a scarce number that it did not motivate a special legislation on the part of the Holy See, because the manner itself of giving Communion impeded removal of the Hosts. Whereas now, as prior to the 10th Century, special recommendations from the ecclesiastical authorities are necessary to avoid it.


Let us speak clearly: whoever receives Communion in the mouth not only follows exactly the tradition handed down but also the wish expressed by the last Popes and thus avoids placing himself in the occasion of committing a sin by negligently dropping a fragment of the Body of Christ. He who receives Communion in the hand does not in this manner sin or commits an act of disobedience but chooses a form, ill-advised by the Popes, in itself less reverent and more prone to desecrations, and its concession being the fruit of a consummated act policy.


The Pope does not accept the practice, but gives the possibility of disagreeing: those who do not follow (it) do so legally but against the wish of the Holy Father. We do not recriminate against anyone who chooses the contrary to what the Pope recommends, since he himself allows it, but we do not believe it to be loyal to hide this situation pretending that it is another possibility that the Church offers. For this reason, we cannot refrain from disapproving of the manner in which the facts are presented in our country, hiding the true story from the faithful, the true wish of Rome, the distinct value of one rite to another, the dangers that Communion in the hand brings with it, and the benefits that the faithful are deprived of by not receiving Communion in the mouth.[153] If we truly consider the faithful population to be adult and mature, we cannot hide this from them.


The Argentinean Episcopal Conference has made a request to Rome and the Holy See remitting itself to the Memoriale Domini Instruction, which states: In response to the petition presented by your Episcopal Conference we transmit the following communication: Referring to the basis of what is the purpose of the attached Instruction on the permanency in force of the traditional practice, the Holy Father has taken into consideration the motives invoked in support of your demand and the results of the vote carried out on this topic. He concedes that, within the territory of your Episcopal Conference, each bishop according to his prudence and his conscience, can authorize the introduction of the new rite to distribute Communion in his diocese, on the condition that all occasion of scandal on the part of the faithful and all danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist be avoided.


Given that a manner is in practice that not only is better but is recommended and praised by the Holy See, and asking me if I want to introduce another that carries with it serious dangers and which the Holy See does not recommend but rather only allows with displeasure[154], not existing in my diocese any abusive introduction or an expectation of the faithful in this respect, and having received manifestations of serious worries on the part of priests, religious and faithful; and since the decision has remained placed on my prudence with the compromise of my conscience, keeping in mind that all dispensation produces a certain social damage that is only justified in order to avoid a greater damage or to obtain a greater public or private benefit, remembering that the Church recommends to the priests not only to abide by the licit but also to look for the most profitable[155], I have not doubted in submitting myself diligently to the law already in force and once more confirmed.[156]


The request of the indult, without sufficient reason, would imply on my part a disdainful spirit to this law in force. The Holy Father decided to perform an act of condescension towards those responsible for the local churches expressed by the respective Episcopal Conferences[157] hoping that responsible desire will guide them to ask for the indult only where it would be indispensable.


On my part I have done nothing more than to listen to the words of the Holy Father in the Instruction that the authorization given by Rome in June of 1996 to the Argentinean Episcopal Conference sets as a norm: the Apostolic See warmly exhorts the bishops, priests and faithful to diligently submit to the law already in force and once more confirmed.[158]














Prot. 1978/96/L


 Rome, January 17, 1997


Most Reverend:


I wish to reply by this means, as I indicated to you during your visit, to the numerous letters and faxes sent to this Congregation on the matter of applying the indult requested by the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, and accepted by this Dicastery, accorded to by law, of the possibility of extending to the Dioceses of that country the practice for distributing Sacred Communion; the faithful also being able to receive It in the hand.


It is regrettable that due to a forgetfulness on the part of this Congregation, misunderstandings have arisen as to the form of the indult granted. If we had included, as was done in the first years after 1969, the copy of the letter En riponse, everything could have been clear and much more simple for everyone.


It is not of our competence to enter into eventual questions with regard to the relationship between a Bishop and the Episcopal Conference itself, but we do not doubt that in this case the old juridical axiom can apply: Qui utitur iure suo, nemini facit iniuriam.


As Your Excellency had the right to grant dispositions according to his conscience and pastoral prudence, it cannot be affirmed that by so doing you have offended the Episcopal Conference, which does not have the faculties to impose a determined practice on the Bishops in the matter that is being dealt with.


This reply does not go into the various arguments contained in their letters, as they would require an extensive and detailed analysis, with the proper nuances. Allow me to recall the words of Saint Augustine: in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.


I take this occasion to greet you respectfully and to reiterate to Your Excellency my esteem and consideration.

Very devotedly yours in the Lord,


 + (illegible signature)



To His Most Excellent Reverend



Avda. Presidente Illia, 268 +(illegible signature)


5700 SAN LUIS Secretary





As can be recalled, when it was permitted that the faithful receive Communion in the hand, the bishop of San Luis, in common agreement with his presbytery, resolved not to use this exemption for the reasons he exposed at that time. In San Luis, Communion is received only, as before, in the mouth.


The book signed by Bishop Laise, Communion in the Hand: Documents and History, is a response given as an endorsement to the aforementioned resolution. Of a slightly larger size than the previous one and 144 pages, the reader, by reading it, will obtain more than sufficient elements to evaluate the Bishops resolution for not giving Communion in the hand. The prelate supports his criteria on documents of the Holy See, which he regrets were not propagated at all, for which reason many express their opinion without being aware of the juridical setting that the Holy See has placed on this issue. For this reasonhe addswe have received abundant requests for this material.


What follows deserves to be transcribed: I wish to say, lastly, that from the start my attitude has been one of respect towards what the other bishops disposed in their respective dioceses, an attitude that although reciprocated in many cases, it was not always so.


It is not my intention to question here the decisions of the other bishops, or that of the Episcopal Conference, and much less that of the Holy See, but only to expound why in conscience I have not believed it prudent or convenient to adopt the indult in my diocese (Juan Bautista Magaldi).


AICA Bulletin, no. 2103, 4-9-97





In May 1996, the Congregation for Divine Worship ratified a decision of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference to introduce the practice of Communion in the hand. Now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has confirmed that, as a last resort, it is the diocesan bishop who decides the matter.


The Congregation responds in this manner to a doubt presented by Most Reverend Juan Rodolfo Laise, who at that time decided not to introduce Communion in the hand in his territory, taking into account that the Holy Father has decided not to change the manner of administering Holy Communion.


In order to proceed in this manner, the Bishop of San Luis based himself on the fact that in the Instruction De modo Sanctam Communionem ministrandi, Communion in the hand is not desired by the Holy See, but rather only permitted, because of the insistence of the Episcopal conferences, and after an abusive practice.


The disposition of Most Reverend Laise was misinterpreted in some sectors of Argentina and Spain, for which reason he consulted with the Holy See. The reply from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by the Secretary, Msgr. Bertone, states: you, in deciding to maintain immutable the tradition of distributing Holy Communion in the mouth, have acted in conformity with the law and therefore have not broken with ecclesial communion. The reply continues: In truth, Your Excellency has done no more than fulfill the duty demanded of every bishop by the instruction De Modo Sanctam Communionem Ministrandi (cf. Enchiridion Vaticanum III, 1284) of exercising discernment with regard to the consequences that an alternative to the current Eucharistic practice may occasion in the sacramental life of the faithful.


The letter attached to the Instruction literally recalls that the Pope concedes that () each Bishop in accordance with his prudence and his conscience can authorize the new rite in his diocese, with the condition that all occasion of scandal to the faithful be avoided, and all danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist (Josi Marma Navalpotro).


Palabra Magazine (Spain), no. 387, I-97



Other testimonies

 The book, this being the third edition, has been magnificently received. Bishops, priests and laymen have expressed gratitude for what they have been informed of, expressing their opinion verbally, by phone and in writing. Some written testimonies:


I wish to deeply thank yousaid one priestfor the book Communion in the Hand: Documents and History. I thank you for your courage, your parrhesia, and the charity and clarity of making known documents of such difficult access but, however, documents of such clarity. I learned of the abuse in Europe and naovely participated in it. It was introduced abusively in South America twenty years ago. In my opinion, the balance is a negative one. Reverence has not increased; the faithful tend to want to catch the Host in the air, as if It were any other object. And desecrations take place.


Frankly, each word of the book Communion in the Hand is invaluable. I congratulate you not only for the decision adopted by Your Excellency in your Diocese with respect to this practice of how to receive Holy Communion, but also for the excellent doctrinal clarity and precision which the reader obtains by reading it. It is as if to say that what one has always suspected in reference to this matter, is (herein) sufficiently reasoned, demonstrated and affirmed by the Magisterium there exposed and his illustrious explanations, wrote another priest.


It is a spiritual delight for the very solid foundation that it places on the life of Eucharistic piety and on the liturgy, wrote a nun.


A bishop stated: I hope that, with the reading of these pages, many faithful will feel moved to always treat Our Lord in the Holy Sacrament with more reverence and devotion, and that we all learn to love the Holy Church more each day.


The reading of some of your paragraphs has left me with the impression that it deals with not only an opportune contribution, but also a necessary one to enlighten ones mind and open ones heart, with clear and precise orientations in matters that, many times, seem confusing and provoke uncertainties, wrote a layman.


Another layman: I can do nothing less than to congratulate Your Excellency for the contents of your small but fundamental book, Communion in the Hand. Reading it has brought me a great spiritual delight, and I was not able to put it down once I started it. In my humble criteria it amply exceeds its own objective, which without a doubt fully meets its goal.


From a religious: It seems brilliant and fitting to me. I appreciate your effort and generosity, and hope that it produces abundant fruits of fidelity to Christ and to the Church, safeguarding our unique treasure: Christ in the Eucharist.


Another religious: The testimonial value of the documents of Holy Mother Church gathered (in the book) is exceptional. And the fervent love for Jesus in the Sacrament that your soul as a jealous Priest and Pastor has adorned in these beautiful Eucharistic pages, is more than admirable.


A layman: It is an extraordinary, fundamental book because it defends with the authority of the hierarchy the correct doctrine of the most sublime of Sacraments: the Eucharist.





-          The abbreviation MD refers to the instruction (p. 7, ff.), PL refers to the attached Pastoral Letter (En riponse) (p. 12 ff.).


-          When we speak herein of El Pan Vivo (The Living Bread) (cf. supra pp. 29, 31, 32, 34, 36, 39, 48, 56, 75, 78), we refer to the Contributions for a catechism on the occasion of the introduction of the discipline of Communion in the hand published by the Episcopal Liturgical Commission of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference (Buenos Aires, June 1996), and widely distributed in all the parishes of the country as a text for said catechisms. This pamphlet coincides in many aspects with similarly prepared booklets in the same circumstances by other Episcopal Conferences; for example, in The Body of Christ, of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy (Publications Office, United States Catholic Conference, 1997). Several historic-liturgical inaccuracies are also found, and reference is omitted to the clear teachings of MD.


-          Fundamentos mentioned in pp. 31, 32, 35, 37, 38, 39, 76, and 78 are those presented during the meeting of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference that took place in San Miguel (province of Buenos Aires), in April 1996, with the purpose of informing the Argentinean bishops of the historic, juridical and liturgical antecedents of this practice and thus orientate them in the voting that was to take place. They were later published in the bulletin of the Argentinean Catholic Information Agency that depends on the Archbishopric of Buenos Aires. Numerous examples of grave distortions can be found in the presentation of the facts in the mentioned pages.


-          The oriental rites have been invoked. We will transcribe the purification rubrics (performed by the deacon) in the Byzantine rite of the sacred vessels after Communion: The deacon consumes the holy with fear and all care that nothing, not even the smallest Particle, falls or is left.







As of all the sacred mysteries bequeathed to us by our Lord and Saviour as most infallible instruments of divine grace, there is none comparable to the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; so, for no crime is there a heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by the faithful of that which is full of holiness, or rather which contains the very author and source of holiness. (Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, cap. 4)



1 For example, the Bishop of Oran, Monsignor Cargnello, at that time a member of the Liturgy Commission, stated to the Clarmn newspaper: the bishops are not obliged to obey the determination. And  as said newspaper continued  he avoided engaging in controversy with Laise by indicating that in the Church <<we should learn to live within a family, and to respect different decisions>> (Clarin, August 12, 1996, p. 42).



[2] We have translated virtus for efficacy in following the Italian, French, English and Spanish translations.

[3] The original term studiose means: with application, with care, with diligence, with fervor, with pleasure, with persistence, with love.

[4] hisce is a strengthened form of the demonstrative pronoun.

* The Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship sent this letter, translated into the corresponding languages, to those that requested the indult.


[5] Since 1973 the phrase <<On pourra vase sacri>> (<<It could Sacred Cup>>) is omitted from the letter. Cf. further down, our comment, p. 47.

[6] Cfr. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXI, Doctrina de communione sub utraque specie et parvulorum: Denz. 1726-1717 (930); Sess. XXII, Decretum super petitionem concessionis calicis: Denz. 1760.

[7] Augustini, Ennarrationes in Psalmos, 98, 9: PL 37, 1264.

[8] Cyrilli Hieros., Catecheses Mystagogicae, V, 21: PG 33, 1126.

[9] Hippolyti, Traditio Apostolica, n. 37: ed. B. Botte, 1963, p. 84.

[10] Iustini, Apologia, I, 65: PG 6, 427.

[11] Cfr. Augustini, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 98, 9: PL 37, 1264-1265.

[12] Cfr. Iustini, Apologia, I, 66: PG 6, 427; cfr. Irenaei, Adversus Haereses, 1, 4, C. 18, n. 5: PG 7, 1028-1029.

[13] Sacra Congregatio Rituum, Instructio Eucharisticum Mysterium, n. 3, AAS 59 (1967), p. 541.

[14] Cfr. ibid., n. 9, p. 547.

[15] Cyrilli Hieros., Catecheses Mystagogicae, V, 21: PG 33, 1126.

[16] Cfr. Act. 20, 28.

[17] Cfr. Conc. Oecum. Vat. II, Decr. Christus Dominus, n. 38, 4: AAS 58 (1966), p. 693.

* Hanc Epistulam S. Congregatio pro Cultu Divino sua cuiusque lingua exaratam Indultum petentibus misit.

[18] Resolution No. 14 of the 71st Plenary Assembly. Official Bulletin of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, August 1996, p. 21.

[19] In this manner the Instruction is not only a 1969 document which remains in force, but it is assumed by the Decree with which the Holy See responds to the CEAs request in 1996.

[20] This summary is made based on the doctrine of the Manual of Canon Law, EUNSA, pp. 246-249, and of the Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, EUNSA, Pamplona 1996.

[21] An interpretation that does not fall upon the legislators will is contrary to the Churchs constitution, New Canon Law, B.A.C., Madrid, 1983, p. 99.

[22] Manual of Canon Law, EUNSA, p. 248.

[23] A. Bugnini, La riforma litzrgica 1948-1975, Ed. Liturgiche, Rome 1983, p. 641, note 67. His direct testimony is of great value to know the legislators mind.

[24] Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) is the name of the Official Bulletin of the Catholic Church, and the universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated by means of their publication therein (Cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 8).

[25] Pius XII, Mediator Dei, n: 32.

[26] In the first case, the striking of ones chest, prostration; in the second, the sign of the cross, etc.

[27] Saint Vincent de Lerins, Commonitoria, 23 (PL, 50, 667).

[28] Hence, in speculative sciences, we see that the teaching of the early philosophers was imperfect, and that it was afterwards perfected by those who succeeded them. So also in practical matters: for those who first endeavored to discover something useful for the human community, not being able by themselves to take everything into consideration, set up certain institutions which were deficient in many ways; and these were changed by subsequent lawgivers who made institutions that might prove less frequently deficient in respect of the common weal. (Saint Thomas, S.Th., I-IIae q. 97 a. 1c).


[29] Pius XII, especially in his encyclical Mediator Dei, has prepared the way for numerous teachings of the Council says the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the Instruction on the worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (May 25, 1967), where he is quoted more than a half dozen times.

[30] Mediator Dei, n: 59.

[31] Mediator Dei, n: 49. His Holiness John Paul II gives an example of an addition of this kind in his encyclical Dominicae Cenae: We must reflect on it, mainly we, the priests of the Latin Roman Church whose ordination rites add during the passing of centuries, the use of anointing the priests hands [ ] That is why, however eloquent, although not primitive, it is in our Latin ordination rite of the anointing of the hands, as if precisely a special grace and strength of the Holy Spirit were necessary for these hands (Ench. Vat. 212 and 214).

[32] Cf. Mediator Dei, n: 34.

[33] This is precisely the first of the arguments cited in favor of the change that Paul VI rejected (cf. Appendix, p. 58).


[34] Mediator Dei, n: 61.

[35] Mediator Dei, n: 62.

[36] Mediator Dei, n: 63.

[37] Mediator Dei, n: 59.

[38] The term abuse has been used by Paul VI himself when giving the directives for the elaboration of the document (cf. Bugnini, op. cit., p. 639; cf. also p. 642; in our Appendix, pp. 57 and 64).


[39] Cf. pp. 623-643.

[40] Note that this practice has no support in the conciliar texts; its application began as a result of private initiatives after the Council.

[41] Op. cit., p. 623.

[42] Fundamentos presented at the Plenary Assembly in April, 1996, at San Miguel, AICA-DOC 373, Supplement to AICA information Bulletin n: 2068 on August 7th, 1996, p. 241.

[43] Cf. Righetti, History of Liturgy, B.A.C., Madrid, 1963, pp. 942 ff.

[44] The Sacrifice of Mass, B.A.C., Madrid 1963, pp. 942 ff.

[45] MD [6] and [7] illustrate this growing reverence: first, trust exclusively the sacred ministers...; then, when scrutinizing more profoundly the Mystery of the Eucharist, introduce Communion in the mouth.



[46] AICA-DOC 373, p. 239.


[48] Bugnini, op. cit., p. 637.

[49] In fact I have no doubt that the usage of not putting these sacraments in the hands of the faithful has been introduced out of a double superstition, firstly the false honour they wished to show to this sacrament, and secondly the wicked arrogance of priests claiming a greater holiness than that of the people in Christ, by virtue of the oil of consecration.

The Lord undoubtedly gave these, his sacred symbols, into the hands of the apostles, and no one who has read the records of the ancients can be in any doubt that this was the usage observed by the churches until the advent of the tyranny of the Roman Antichrist.

As, therefore, every superstition of the Roman Antichrist is to be detested, and the simplicity of Christ, and the Apostles, and the ancient churches is to be recalled, I should wish that pastors and teachers of the people should be commanded that each is faithfully to teach his people that it is superstitious and wicked to think that the hands of those who truly believe in Christ are less pure than their mouths, or that the hands of ministers are holier than the hands of the laity, so that it would be wicked, or less fitting, as was formerly wrongly believed by the ordinary folk, for the laity to receive these sacraments in the hand: and therefore that the indications of this wicked belief be removed, as that ministers may handle the sacraments, but not allow the laity to do so, and instead put the sacraments into the mouthwhich is not only foreign to what was instituted by the Lord but offenseive to human reason.

In that way good men will be easily brought to the point of all receiving the sacred symbols in the hand, conformity in receiving will be kept, and there will be safeguards against all furtive abuses of the sacraments.

For, although for a time concession can be made to some whose faith is weak, by giving them the sacraments in the mouth when they so desire, if they ar carefully taught they will soon conform themselves to the rest of the church and take the sacraments in the hand. quoted by D. Harrison, The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI, London, 1968, p. 392. Cf. E.C. Whitaker, Martin Bucer and the Book of Common Prayer, London, 1974.



[50] Speech to priests, religious men and women, September 16, 1972.

[51] AICA-DOC 373, p. 242.

[52] The Eucharist must not be given in the hand of any lay person, man or woman, but only in the mouth, Rouen Synod (878); similar testimonies are found in Reginon Pr|m, De eccles. disciplines, I 199, VII, and in Ordo Romanus (10th  11th centuries).

[53] Cf. Supra, p. 33.

[54] I had already quoted in [5] the words that immediately precede these, ... receive It taking care that no part of It be, and the quotes among other testimonies that make it abundantly clear that the greatest reverence was shown the Blessed Sacrament. This is still more evident in the words that follow in the text of Saint Cyril: Tell me, then: If someone were to give you gold dust, would not you guard it with every care and see to it that you would lose none of it nor suffer any loss? How much more carefully, then, will you see to it that you do not let a crumb fall from that which is far more valuable than gold or precious stones?

[55] De corona, 3 PL 2, 99.

[56] Trad. Ap. 32.

[57] Serm. in hebd. s., 4, 4.

[58] In Exod. Hom., hom. XIII, 3; Migne, PG 12, 391.

[59] Mysterium Fidei, 32.

[60] Mysterium Fidei, 33.


[61] Cf. MD [8] and [9].

[62] Cf. Infra, MD [12].

[63] Cf. Infra, p. 61, note 23.

[64] AICA-DOC 373, p. 239. At the beginning of the document that confusion is already present: On May 29th 1969, with the Instruction Memoriale Domini on the manner of distributing Communion, the Congregation for Divine Worship gave prior authorization to the Episcopal Conferences for the possibility of introducing the practice of Communion in the hand.

[65] Cf. Infra, p. 57.

[66] Cf. Infra, p. 57.

[67] El Pan Vivo (The Living Bread), p. 16.

[68] Op. cit., pp. 630 ff. One of them, for example, held that the beginning of Communion in the hand should be admitted since it was considered that the spirit of obedience in itself will not be sufficient to maintain the traditional practice of Communion in the Latin Church.


[69] Cf. Infra, p. 64-65.

[70] Cf. Infra, p. 59.

[71] Cf. Bugnini, op. cit., p. 623.

[72] Bugnini, op. cit., p. 627. Infra, p. 59.

[73] Bugnini, op. cit., p. 639. Infra, p. 64.


[74] Cf. Appendix, p. 65.

[75] The Catechism text appears to minimize the eucharistic presence of Jesus in that the bread is an effective sign of that interior presence [of Jesus in the faithful], that is to say, capable of producing it in those who eat it (The corrections of the Dutch Catechism, B.A.C., Minor, 1969, p. 83). In effect, the Catechism states, That presence so tangible among us, so accessible in our celebrations, make us experience that Jesus is among us by the Spirit; the real Jesus, the man Jesus who died and resurrected (New Catechism for Adults, Spanish Version of the Dutch Catechism, Herder, Barcelona, 1969, p. 331). After having spoken of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist it says that: One must not forget either the other ways in which the Lord wants to be among us: through His word and, above all, through His spirit in the hearts of men and through the mutual treatment of them. In a certain sense, one can say that this last manner of presence is the most important one, because through it Jesus is among us, in our lives, more than in any other way (ibid., p. 330).

[76] The proper or the being of things consists in what  each one in his own manner  each thing is and means to man. This principle being supposed, what changes during Mass would be the meaning and destination of that bread: <the essence of bread is to be an earthly food of men>; in Mass, <its being changes into something completely different: it is the Body of Christ, as a food for eternal life> (The Corrections p. 88). The bread is essentially destined to be eaten. If Christ is present under the <species> of bread, His presence would cease the very moment of Communion (when eaten). Because, according to the Catechism, <once the bread is eaten, nobody would call it bread> (New Catechism, p. 331).

[77] Reasonably, nobody would call bread what has been reduced to dust. For this reason, the particles that may stay on the altar tablecloths cease to be signs of the presence of Christ. In conclusion, as long as sane reason says: <Here there is bread>, there is a sign of the presence of Christ. In one word, <bread> is not a physical concept, but an anthropological one (New Catechism, p. 331). At the bottom of this whole question is the conception of corporal substance as an aggregate of sensible qualities, the breads entity is reduced to the set of its accidents or phenomenon, tangible appearances to the senses, and for this reason, subject to the extreme relativity of human judgments, situations, habits, cultures (Cf. Zoffoli, Communione sulla mano? Rome, 1990, p. 60): things are what they are to man.

[78] Mysterium Fidei, N 4.

[79] Schillebeeckx, as is known, had been one of the protagonists of the affaire of the Dutch Catechism.

[80] The solution that Paul VI gave to the problem appealed to the responsibility of the Episcopal Conferences and of each one of the bishops. Later, the Pope said: Who but the Episcopal Conferences were the responsible ones? (cf. Bugnini, op. cit., p. 638).


[81] La riforma liturgica, pp. 641-642.

[82] J.L. Gutiirrez, Hierarchical organization of the Church, Manual of Canon Law, EUNSA, p. 361.

[83] Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, EUNSA, 1996. Canon 455, p. 973.

[84] Bugnini comments on this paragraph saying: The concession, therefore, is always conditioned on the decision of the episcopal Conference (op. cit., p. 639, note 64).

[85] It does not seem that Paul VIs mind foresaw the revenge that permitted the indult in those countries in 1975, 1989 and 1996, respectively.


[86] In effect, if we carefully analyze the two paragraphs in which the places are mentioned where the practice was already established, it only reads that the Apostolic See entrusts to the conferences the obligation and office (onus ac munus) of evaluating (expendendi) the particular circumstances (peculiaria adiuncta), if there are any, with the condition of preventing etc. Further on in these cases, in order to justly establish the mentioned use, the Episcopal Conferences, after a prudent examination, will take the opportune deliberations that should obtain two thirds of the vote in a secret vote; deliberations that should later be presented to the Holy See for its necessary confirmation The Holy See will carefully ponder each case in particular, without forgetting, etc.

[87] John Paul II later said, when speaking of the deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species, that these offenses not only weigh upon the conscience of those responsible in this manner of acting, but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist (Domin. Cenae, 11).

[88] The faithful will never be obliged to adopt the practice of Communion in the hand. Each person will be given the liberty of receiving Communion in the hand or on the tongue (Notification La Sainte-Sihge, n. 7). It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of Communion in the hand has been authorized. It is therefore difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention the sad phenomena previously referred to (Domin. Cenae, 11).


[89] Cf. infra. p. 59.

[90] Let us remember that some thought that from the time of Immensae caritatis (January 29, 1973), the Holy See had extended the new manner of receiving Communion to all the Church without the necessity of subsequent requests, abrogating the norms given in the previous instruction (cf. supra, p. 43; Bugnini, op. cit., p. 641). On the other hand, the Council prescription received in this disposition of the Code had given place to notable doctrinal divergences: while some considered that the recognitio was required ad validitatem, others considered it only ad liceitatem. C. 455 '2 resolves the question, establishing that the decisions of the Conference lack obligating force if they have not been legitimately promulgated, and expressly indicates the recognitio as a requisite for legitimacy (Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, c. 455 '2, p. 973). This explains why Decree 854/96 mentions this paragraph of the canon, which did not yet exist in the time of MD, so as to therefore dispel the doubts.

[91] We transcribe here '1: The Episcopal Conference can make general decrees only in cases where the universal law has so prescribed, or by special mandate of the Apostolic See, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Conference itself. Cf. the same as is said above when commenting on [18].


[92] Official bulletin of the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, August 1996, p. 21 (the bold are ours). Already in Fundamentos, when the Steps to be followed from here on (AIDA-DOC 373, p. 242) it had been said: Request the Holy See for the authorization to distribute the Holy Eucharist in the hand to the faithful who so wish it. Elsewhere, The Living Bread states that the CEA resolved to request the Holy See that it see fit to allow, etc. (The Living Bread, p. 5).

[93] the Secretary President of the C.E.A. communicates that the Decree which authorizes that this form of giving Communion in the hand will begin to be in force as of next August 15.


[94] Anyway, even in this case, these decisions and norms are promulgated in the diocese by the Bishop, in his own name and with proper authority, as the Conference cannot limit the authority that each Bishop personally carries out in the name of Christ (ibid.).

[95] As it is known, the interpretation of all that is normatively enunciated, when the same is not in itself absolutely clear, can be extensive (when the sense of what is enunciated is extended beyond its literal meaning) or strict. In our case, the interpretation cannot be extensive because it would deal with an exception to the general law (cfr. C. 18) and what is more, to a law of divine origin, according to which the legislative power resides in the Pope and the Ordinaries. Furthermore, no interpretation is necessary because the law confirmed by MD [16] is only too abundantly clear and we know that in claris non fit interpretatio ["in what is clear, interpretation is unnecessary"].


[96] Laws can be of four kinds: 1) obliging, 2) forbidding, 3) authorizing, 4) penal (cf. Saint Thomas, S. Th., I-II, q. 92, a. 2; Suarez, De Legibus 1,3).

[97] It is said that a dispensation is the relaxation of a merely ecclesiastical law in a particular case (c. 85), for it [the dispensation] to exist it is necessary that the obliging universal law be in force in which the background is understood in the dispensation.


[98] Cf. Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, October 7, 1996. Cf. infra. p. 69.


[99] We have taken the following historical facts from A. Bugninis book, The Liturgical Reform (La riforma litzrgica 1948-1975, pp. 623-643). The author, who was not only an eyewitness to the facts but also a protagonist of them, is among the recommended persons mentioned in The Living Bread (El pan vivo, p. 15, note 30). The text in italics are our summaries of those by Bugnini; the remaining is a translation from the original Italian.

[100] Op. cit., p. 625. It also shows in an obvious manner how clear the personal position of Paul VI was, and how he took care that his preferences and dislikes be noted.

[101] We transcribe the final text. The words in bold are the handwritten annotations of the Holy Father. In note we write the original text before the corrections of the Pope, the words in italics are as in the original. Both the text as well as the variants are taken from Bugnini, op. cit. pp. 625-629.

[102] Original Text: while (new problems) arise

[103] Original Text: such is the question of the distribution

[104] Original Test: this problem

[105] Added by the Pope.

[106] Added by the Pope.

[107] Originally in Italian lo stato della questione. Changed by the Pope as in the text.

[108] Original Text: its position on this problem.

[109] Added by the Pope.

[110] The original text reads many lay persons; the Holy Father eliminated many.

[111] This sentence continued: Perhaps the evermore frequent practice of concelebrating has given rise to the desire to also extend to the lay persons the rite of Communion used for the Communion of the concelebrants. The Pope eliminated it, noting: The rite has come after the use in question.

[112] Added by the Pope.

[113] The Pope added non which reinforces the negation mai.

[114] Original text: to

[115] The original reads: to simply simple ordinary bread or blessed bread of some rites of Christian churches, not Catholic ones? The Pope corrected this to read as is in the text.

[116] The original text read it pleases me. When reading it to P. Bugnini, the Pope commented: Pleasing? It is not pleasing to me at all! (Non mi e grato per niente!).

[117] Added by the Pope.

[118] Original text: December 15, 1968.

[119] Original text: December 1.

[120] Original text: December 15, 1968.

[121] The card was the Popes idea, which the first question directly posed. The <<Consilium>> had proposed: 1. Placetne ut, praeter modum traditum, etiam ritus recipiendi sacream Communionem in manu permitatur? (Do (you) approve that, besides the traditional manner, the rite of receiving Sacred Communion in the hand be allowed?). The Pope modified: Estne exaudiendum votum ut (The desire of should be listened to). Later he noted: How will it remain secret? Who will record the votes?

[122] The answers from the Episcopate, synthesized in careful statistical data, were assembled in a 130-page volume and presented to the Pope on March 10, 1969.

[123] Three projects were made by the secretary of the <<Consilium>> with the aid of P. Luigi Vassalli, sacramentino (pertaining to the religious order of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), director of the magazine La nueva alianza (The New Alliance). The second outline was sent to the Pope on May 12, 1969. The Pope made some observations. This is how the final text was elaborated and sent May 28.

[124] (No. 1551) November 16, 1969 (page 1048). The original interview was published in Linzer Kirchenblatt on July 20, 1969.

[125] During an interview by the Stimme des glaubens magazine, during his visit to Fulda (Germany) in November 1980.

[126] Although C.17 states that secondary means of interpretation have been called upon when the text of the law has been found to be dubious and obscure, this does not mean that they cannot be used to confirm the presumption of certainty of the words (cf. Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, EUNSA, c. 17, p. 360).

[127] Let us remember that the admission of Communion in the hand along with the traditional manner was one of the solutions proposed by the <<Consilium>> but was rejected because it would be against the greater part of the bishops, it would reward disobedience and it would open the door to serious inconveniences (Appendix, p. 63).

[128] Let us remember the words that precede the text of the Instruction in AAS: The instruction that follows [] is published so that it is obvious in a more evident manner to all the foundation and the circumstances in which the Holy See bases its opinion in its manner of proceeding.

[129] Commentary on Canon 17, p. 369 note 24. Let us remember the words of Paul VI: it should be kept in mind that the use  or the abuse - of the distribution of holy Communion [in the hand] is already widely diffused in some countries and that the bishops do not believe it possible to repress (cf. Appendix, p. 64).

[130] Note that in enumerating the arguments, the document distances itself from arguments which sustain Communion in the hand, while it assumes the reasons that militate against (the script is original; cf. Appendix, pp. 58, 59).

[131] Cf. pp. 27-28.

[132] Cf. pp. 33, 40-43.

[133] MD [8]; supra, p. 33.

[134] Cf. pp. 33, 42.

[135] John Paul II expressed it in this manner: But one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their hands, like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments of Christ. Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is a total responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly who wish to receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings of the faithful and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute them. How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary!
To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist. (though it recognizes that in the case of a justified necessity, a layman can be authorized) Domin. Cenae, 11. St. Thomas had already stated in art. 3 of question 82 of the third part of Summa Theologica, in which he explains why the administering of the Eucharist pertains only to the priests: because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency.

[136] Sacrosanctum Concilium 30.

[137] MD [7].

[138] In this sense, El Pan Vivo (The Living Bread), exercises a considerable pressure on the faithful of good faith: the general tone of the work is to demonstrate the goodness of Communion in the hand without giving any warning against it or advise as to the foreseen danger in MD. On the other hand, no reason is emphasized in favor of Communion in the mouth that seems to be only permitted for the gentle and timid faithful who do not dare adopt a new rite based on their scruples or customs, missing out on the possibility of having a more mature and adult attitude.

[139] Cf. pp. 57, 60, 61.

[140] Cf. Appendix, p. 58.

[141] Fundamentos, AICA-DOC 373, p. 242.

[142] And rising from thence he went into (Mk. 7:24).

[143] And having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand and touched him (Mk. 1: 41).

[144] Pilate therefore said to them: Take him you, and judge him (Jn. 18: 31; cf. 19: 6); Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus and scourged him (Jn. 19:1); The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. (Mt. 13: 31); And taking the seven loaves and the fishes, and giving thanks, he brake (Mt. 15: 36).

[145] Cf. Zerwick, Graecitas biblica, Roma, 1965, pp. 363 ff.

[146] AICA-DOC 373, p. 242.

[147] Arguments in favor N 8 (Appendix, p. 59). Furthermore, the desired solution would have been to close the door to all concessions but it was not adopted fearing a violent reaction in some zones and a more diffused disobedience where the practice has already been introduced (Appendix, p. 63).

[148] Cf. Appendix, p. 59.

[149] El Pan Vivo (The Living Bread), p. 5.

[150] Ibid. p. 16.

[151] Ibid. p. 18.

[152] Cf. supra pp. 25 ff.

[153] Cf. supra, pp. 63-64. Paul VI says that Communion in the mouth is proper to the preparation that is required to receive the Body of the Lord in the most profitable manner possible (MD [8]).

[154] Cf. supra pp. 60, note 18.

[155] Sacrosanctum Concilium 11.

[156] Cf. MD [16].

[157] Op. cit., Bugnini, p. 642.

[158] Memoriali Domini [16].