SACRED SPECIES VS. CASUAL COMMUNION
God Be in My Hand -- or on My Tongue?

June 1999David Watt

The Rev. David Watt is a priest of the Archdiocese of Perth in Australia. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge University (England) and a licentiate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. This article appeared in a different form in the Australian newspaper Catholic.

Communion in the hand is almost everywhere the “done thing,” and it is possible that few Catholics are aware that they retain the option of receiving on the tongue.

Given that we do have two options, which is the better way of receiving Communion, and why? Or is the choice between them a matter of indifference? Let us review the arguments for putting Communion in the hand.

“Communion in the hand was done in the early Church.”

Perhaps it was. But in the early Church, women were veiled, segregated in church, and forbidden to speak there. In the early Church, penances for sin were public, lengthy, and severe. Shall we return to those usages? Unless proponents of “the primitive rite” are consistent in their support of a return to the practices of the early Church, this argument amounts to special pleading. “An argument is not like a cab,” as Schopenhauer memorably said. “You cannot pay it off when it has taken you as far as you wish to go.”


You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.



Back to June 1999 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Be the first to comment on this story!