This post has been in the works for some time now in my mind, but its genesis can be pinpointed to two experiences I had at Gesu on Wisconsin Avenue. On the first occasion, I approached the priest for Communion and, once he realized that I planned to receive on the tongue, he gave me the most condescending smirk and facial contortion you could imagine. The second time, as I approached an aged “Eucharistic Minister” to receive Holy Communion (and it was clear by my posture that I intended to receive on the tongue) the E.M. gave me a look of shock and disgust. After trying twice to place the Host in my hand, an angry huff, and with a roll of the eyes, he glared at me and asked, “Oh, you want me to put IT up there…? Okay…” He was angry. No Catholic should be humiliated or treated with such abject disgust for opting to receive Holy Communion in the preferred manner.
Let’s see what some of the Church’s most revered and respected theologians across the centuries have said on the matter.
The dispensing of Christ’s body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because . . . he consecrates in the person of Christ . . . Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people’s gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence toward 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. ~St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (III, Q. 82, Art. 3).
Behind Communion in the hand — I wish to repeat and make as plain as I can — is a weakening, a conscious, deliberate weakening of faith in the Real Presence . . . Whatever you can do to stop Communion in the hand will be blessed by God. ~Father John Hardon, S.J., November 1, 1997, Call to Holiness Conference, Detroit Michigan
Dietrich von Hildebrand (October 12, 1889 – January 26, 1977) was a German Catholic philosopher and theologian who was called (informally) by Pope Pius XII “The 20th Century Doctor of the Church.”
Consider how St. Francis regarded the extraordinary dignity of the priest which consists exactly in the fact that he is allowed to touch the Body of Christ with his anointed hands. St. Francis said: “If I were to meet at the same time a saint from heaven and a poor priest, I would first show my respect to the priest and quickly kiss his hand, and then I would say: ‘O wait, St. Lawrence, for the hands of this man touch the Word of Life and possess a good far surpasses everything that is human.’…” It is evidently detrimental (communion in the hand) from a pastoral viewpoint, when it certainly does not increase our reverence, and when it exposes the Eucharist to the most terrible diabolical abuses? There are really no serious arguments for Communion in the hand. But there are the most gravely serious kinds of arguments against it. ~Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Communion in the hand should be rejected,” November 8, 1973.