Full Question

Recently I was attending Mass in another diocese, and when I approached the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist to receive on the tongue, I was denied Communion. Not wanting to make a scene, but fairly confident of my rights, I whispered that I can receive this way. The minister apologized but said that the bishop does not permit Communion on the tongue. How can this be?


The universal law of the Latin rite is that we receive Communion on the tongue. To receive in the hand is an indult or special permission that does not exist in most parts of the world. By law, it is a right of the faithful to receive on the tongue, and the faithful must not have their rights denied.
The Vatican promotes Communion on the tongue not only for its long tradition but because it “expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist” and “removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species” (Memorial Domini 1277).

Since the indult was granted, profanation of the sacred species does now occur. John Paul II states,

In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect toward the eucharistic species have been reported, cases that 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 toward the Eucharist. 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. (Dominicae Cenae 11.9)

The new GIRM, in its directives for distributing Communion, states,

The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. . . . The priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (the body of Christ). The communicant replies Amen and receives the sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. (160–161)

Notice that it says, “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant.” It does not say, “At the discretion of the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” or “at the discretion of the priest or bishop.”


  • Communion on the tongue has sanctity because it comes directly from the hand of the priest after he has performed special prayer at the altar. But the bread should be dipped in wine to show the significance of blood and flesh sacrificed by Lord Jesus for the redemption of mankind. In many churches wine is skipped to make it easy for the priest to distribute the sacred element. Communicants should insist to have wine also for the communion..

    • Jacob says:

      That’s not the norm for how communion is distributed in the Latin church, and never has been. It is certainly an option, and I’ve received by intinction before, but the norm has been to keep them separate, generally with the faithful very rarely receiving the chalice. In the East, this is not the case.

  • tlmmk says:

    Someone should really have sent this to the Bishop in Calgary back in 2009.

  • Marian says:

    I would like to know if one is allowed to receive in the hand in the countries where this practice is not common if one chooses so.

    • Catholic Say Staff says:

      No you cannot, if the Bishop of the diocese or the Bishops’ conference of the country prohibits the practice it would be wrong in that diocese or that country.

  • so does this still apply during flu season…. our bishop sends a letter to all parishes during flu season about no communion by tongue when this is my preference…. in addition i just feel it rude to touch the host after the collection and handling dirty money

    • Jacob says:

      Yes, it does. The Bishop cannot deny the faithful the right to receive on the tongue under any circumstance.

    • mando says:

      After making the sign of peace and touching dirty money, I think the tongue is appropriate to receive HC. During flu season, the ones who has it or other contagious ailments should be considerate enough to others, and receive on hand.

      • Luke says:

        Indeed, if you are truly ill and worried about spreading disease, it may be best to abstain from receiving at that Mass and make a spiritual communion instead. Because as you say, our hands have touched plenty of other dirty things just during Mass, communion in the hand may lessen the spread, but not much.

  • sarah cutter says:

    wat happened 2 the papal bulletins the popes used 2 issue 2 all the churches throughout the world concerning faith and morals and news about changes in the church. when did receiving the host on the hand come about was it after vatican 2 if it has caused havoc in the church why is it continuing

  • Sarah Cutter says:

    i see i did not hav an answer 2 my question so i will answer it myself i think some bishops r going 2 cause a schism in the chhurch with their relentless differences of opinion of how communion should b recived . for me it is a matter of what state ur soul is in when u approach the altar 2t recive the faithful should concentrate on who they r receiving and if they r spritually worthy and not the form in which they recieve the sacred spices after all jesus didnt ask the apostles 2 hold out their tongue at the last supper but when he broke the bread they probably took peices from his hand.and then he told them do this in memory of me . so it is wat state ur soul is in and not hoe u recive that jesus looks 4 it is spritual and not material.


    I was also denied once by a priest to receive communion by tongue. He whispered me to open my hands instead and I found this confusing! Receiving the Host by the tongue, I think, should be the norm as I witnessed several instances where the priest followed the communicant to the bench because she/he did not visibly consume the host after receiving it by the hand. I know that there are people who attempt and purposely do not consume the Host because they would make it as some sort of amulet..

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