Yesterday evening I attended a regular Mass in the Extraordinary Form – technically a “private” Mass – and was very happy to find that the priest distributed Holy Communion on the tongue. I wondered if he had decided “Rome has spoken, so here goes!” But I have since learnt from Ttony, in a comment to my post of 11th October, How to restore Communion on the tongue in Clifton? that an Ad Clerum has just been issued by Bishop Lang of Clifton, lifting the restrictions.
Now, here is an interesting thing. I have read the text of the Bishop's message to all parishes, dated 25th November, available on the diocesan website. I am wondering if this is the Ad Clerum itself, or an exact reproduction of the text; and I ask this for a particular reason.
The Bishop's earlier message on 24th July (accessible via a link from the above), in which he originally called for the restrictions, said:
“It is now sensible for all churches in our diocese to offer communion under one form, and in the hand.”The Bishop's latest message, on 25th November, is introduced with these words:
“The Sign of Peace at this time should be given by a smile, a slight bow or some other appropriate gesture, but not by the shaking of hands.”
“In the past months due to the swine flu pandemic, it has been recommended that Holy Communion be received under one form and the Sign of Peace should be given by a smile, a slight bow or some other appropriate gesture, but not by the shaking of hands."
The earlier reference to Communion “in the hand” is not repeated here.
Bishop Lang then continues:
“ … I think we can amend the guidelines and return to the practice of receiving Holy Communion under both kinds and exchanging the Sign of Peace with a handshake or other suitable ways."No reference is made to the method of receiving the Host.
I have read the latest message with care, and cannot see anything about the restoration of the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. This is my reason for wondering whether this text is the same as that of the Ad Clerum.
It may be that the Bishop has spoken or written to his priests separately on this matter. I do not know. But it may not make any difference. Even if they are aware that Rome has ruled we can receive on the tongue, even if they know that this is a matter for Rome and not for the Bishops, Bishop Lang's message gives the local clergy the authority to decide whether to relax his own restrictions or to keep them in place. Here is the relevant passage:
“I believe that parish priests are best placed to know when it would be prudent to follow the previous guidelines and reintroduce them if necessary.”
Will the clergy distinguish between the Bishop's guidance and that of Rome? When we go to Mass this weekend, will we find there has been no change at all; or any combination of these things; or that everything is restored apart from Communion on the tongue? We shall see.