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Liturgical Abuses

Communion abuse, grave

Among the grave abuses, or "grave matter," described in Redemptionis Sacramentum are several abuses associated with the reception of Holy Communion. Each of the abuses listed below has further implications and associated abuses. Read the sections and the original text in Redemptionis Sacramentum carefully. Click on the underlined text in the list below to skip to that section. 

In Church Ceremony of Holy Communion, Eucharist or Last Supper_ Christian Minister Breakin

Holy Communion on the tongue is "normative" in the Church, meaning it is the normal, or standard way of receiving communion. It can never be  prohibited as a way of receiving communion.

a couple of people that are holding a sm

Holy Communion in the hand began as an abuse, eventually allowed in some places through an indult, or exemption from the law. If there is danger of sacrilege (desecration, profanation, misuse or theft), priests may prohibit it. 

1. Denying those rightly disposed Holy Communion​


Redemptionis Sacramentum, par. 91 addresses denying those rightly disposed Holy Communion. The paragraph ends with the following: "Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing."



Redemptionis Sacramentum, par. 92: "[...] each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, [178] if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her."


Footnote 178 refers to GIRM 161: "The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant." 


Also see the letter from the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and an article by a canon lawyer, both linked in "Communion on the Tongue" in Church Documents

In 1999, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, published a dubium, or question, about denying communion on the tongue: Notitiae 35 (1999). You can read the entry in Latin here: There is also a link to a pdf copy of the pages. Fr. Zuhlsdorg has translated the dubium into English on his blog post, "ASK FATHER: Can bishops or priests forbid Communion on the tongue?" His translation:


Q: Whether in dioceses where distributing Communion in the hands of the faithful is allowed, it is permitted to a priest or to extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to restrict communicants with the obligation that they receive the Holy [Communion] only in the hands, but not upon the tongue.

R. Certainly it is clear from the documents of the Holy See themselves that in dioceses, where the Eucharistic bread is put into the hands of the faithful, nevertheless the right for them to receive on the tongue remains undiminished. Therefore, they act against the norms who either restrict communicants with the obligation to receive Holy Communion only on the hands or who refuse to the faithful to receive Communion in the hand in dioceses which enjoy this indult. [....]


What this dubium mean, is that communion can never be denied to those, rightly disposed, who wish to receive on the tongue. For more on this subject see the next section. Also see section 3 below.

2. Communion​ not consumed by the communicant

Redemptionis Sacramentum par. 92: " [...] special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful. [179]"


Footnote 179 refers to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dubium: Notitiae 35 (1999) referred to in the previous section. The relevant portion reads (Fr. Zuhlsdorg's translation):

Attention being paid to the norms concerning the distribution of Holy Communion, ordinary and extraordinary ministers should take care in a particular way that the host is consumed immediately by the faithful, in such a way that no one leaves with the Eucharistic species in his hand. However, let all remember that the centuries-long tradition is to receive the host on the tongue. Let the priest celebrant, if there is a danger of sacrilege, not give the faithful Communion in the hand, and let him inform them about this way of proceeding.

Therefore, the priest may inform the faithful that communion on the tongue is the tradition, and, due to the danger of sacrilege, he will not be giving communion in the hand. 

3. Taking or handing to one another Holy Communion

Redemptionis Sacramentum par. 94,  "It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . and, still less, to hand . . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice. [181] Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass."

The footnote is to GIRM 160. "The faithful are not permitted to take the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them from one to another." 

In 1974, Notitiae published the following (unofficial translation from 

[Q] The practice has sometimes crept [in] on the part of the communicant of taking by his own hand the sacred Particle directly from the ciborium, vessel, or paten, or the chalice with the precious Blood from the altar like the priest celebrant; or the minister who by mandate of the Ordinary has distributed Communion also then gives Communion to himself.

Is this « self service » allowed?

℟. Absolutely not. The gesture performed by Christ in the institution of the Eucharist is more fittingly and worthily expressed when the consecrated bread is truly given to the faithful. [Scripture passages given.] [....]

Moreover, even when a certain Episcopal Conference has asked and obtained from the Apostolic See the faculty of permitting that holy Communion be distributed in the hand of the faithful (cf. Instr. Memoriale Domini, 29 May 1969), this manner of receiving Communion can in no way be imposed, but the freedom and possibility of receiving Communion in the traditional manner must be granted, which would not arise if the faithful had to take the consecrated particle directly from the sacred vessel.

Therefore, the faculty of taking by one's own hand the consecrated Bread is not granted and will not be granted. The practice, if it has slipped in, with the appropriate catechesis and, if necessary, the intervention of local authority, must be abolished.

The Instruction Memoriale Domini (also linked in Church Documents) was released by the Congregation for Divine Worship in response to the abuse of communion in the hand without the permission of the Holy See.  The Instruction gave reasons why communion on the tongue was to be retained. It included a tally of votes by the Bishops who overwhelmingly voted "no" to communion in the hand. The Instruction ended with a sample letter which Bishop's Conferences could use to be granted permission for communion in the hand. 

4. Communicants cannot intict the host themselves 

Redemptionis Sacramentum par. 104, "The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand. As for the host to be used for the intinction, it should be made of valid matter, also consecrated; it is altogether forbidden to use non-consecrated bread or other matter."

This paragraph means that if a parish runs out of consecrated host, they may not intinct the Precious Blood with unconsecrated hosts or with anything else. 

5. No one can carry the Most Holy Eucharist home or to another place contrary to the norm of law 

Redemptionis Sacramentum par. 132: "No one may carry the Most Holy Eucharist to his or her home, or to any other place contrary to the norm of law. It should also be borne in mind that removing or retaining the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose or casting them away are graviora delicta, the absolution of which is reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

This paragraph means that on one's own initiative, no one may carry the Eucharist home to give to someone else, nor to adore. 

6. Ministers taking Communion to the sick must go there directly 

Redemptionis Sacramentum par. 133, "A Priest or Deacon, or an extraordinary minister who takes the Most Holy Eucharist when an ordained minister is absent or impeded in order to administer it as Communion for a sick person, should go insofar as possible directly from the place where the Sacrament is reserved to the sick person’s home, leaving aside any profane business so that any danger of profanation may be avoided and the greatest reverence for the Body of Christ may be ensured. Furthermore the Rite for the administration of Communion to the sick, as prescribed in the Roman Ritual, is always to be used. [226]"

Footnote 226 says, "Cf. Roman Ritual, Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, nn. 26-78." This document  can be found here:

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