Two small but significant changes regarding Communion reception—UPDATED

Two small but significant changes regarding Communion reception—UPDATED April 27, 2013

A website calls attention to this item in a USCCB newsletter on the new Roman Missal, from January:

What does the Missal say about the posture of the faithful when receiving Holy Communion? What about Communion in the hand?

Both of these questions are covered in no. 160 of the GIRM. It states clearly there that the “norm” established for  the United States for reception of Holy Communion is standing. In the 2003 GIRM, it stated that no one should be refused Communion if they kneel, but that afterward they should be properly catechized. In the current edition, the exhortation to catechesis is removed and the exception to the norm of standing is left to the discretion of the faithful: “unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.” [emphasis mine] The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 91, is then cited.

With regard to receiving Communion in the hand, there is a significant development from the 1985 GIRM to the 2003/2011 edition. Whereas in 1985, Communion in the hand was granted by virtue of an indult received in 1977, in the Roman Missal, Third Edition, Communion in the hand is now ordinary liturgical law for the United States, [emphasis mine] though every communicant retains the equal right of receiving on the tongue.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

I just saw your blog post on communion in the hand and its relation to the GIRM and Redemptoris Sacramentum [sic]. I may be missing something, but I read the GIRM and haven’t been any mention of receiving in the hands, as the newsletter claims; the same goes for the RS. Am I missing something? I would appreciate if you could quote me the original documents to which they refer, so I can see for myself.


From Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.[177] Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. 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.

[92.] Although 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. However, 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.

From the GIRM:

161. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the Priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, The Body of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed, in the hand, the choice lying with the communicant. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes the whole of it.

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