Above: From one of the many featured “Liturgies” offered at the 2020 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

On February 27, 2020, the Office of Worship in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese in the United States, released a “Memorandum” to “Active Clergy and Parish Life Directors.” Because of concerns due to the coronavirus, the Archdiocese recommends that the faithful use the Orans position during the “Our Father,” and that it is advisable to receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.

According to the Memorandum from Sister Rosanne Belpedio, CSJ, the Director of the Office for Worship:

The current situation presents an opportunity to implement the Orans position during the recitation of the Lord’s prayer. Explaining that during the recitation of the Lord’s prayer in the early church the posture was to raise one’s eyes and hands toward heaven in acknowledgement of our sole reliance on God.

While we wholeheartedly recognize the right of each communicant to receive Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue, during this time of heightened precaution, it might be prudent to receive communion in the hand. This would prevent the possibility of transmitting any germs from one communicant to another.

Belpedio is a holdover from Cardinal Roger Mahony’s tenure as Archbishop and “was part of the ‘formation days’ hosted in 2001 by the Los Angeles Archdiocese to implement Cardinal Mahony’s controversial pastoral ‘Gather Faithfully Together.’”

Writing for the “Southern Nebraska Register,” in the Diocese of Lincoln, Catholic family-man and attorney Bob Sullivan succinctly yet thoroughly described the current confusion over the Orans position in the Church; referencing the 1997 Vatican document: “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest” from Pope John Paul II, which stated:

Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi-preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity.

Sullivan added:

In a nutshell: The laity are not to assume the orans position during Holy Mass. I know this will make some people unhappy, but I think there is good reason for following this instruction. St. John Paul II stated, “…the particular gift of each of the Church’s members must be wisely and carefully acknowledged, safeguarded, promoted, discerned and co-ordinated, without confusing roles, functions, or theological and canonical status.”

Addressing the idea that Communion in the hand is more hygienic than on the tongue, Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently published an excellent article which answers that very question. He wrote:

Communion in the hand is no more hygienic than Communion in the mouth. Indeed, it can be dangerous for contagion. From a hygienic point of view, the hand carries a huge amount of bacteria. Many pathogens are transmitted through the hands.

He continued:

The ban on Communion in the mouth is unfounded compared to the great health risks of Communion in the hand in the time of a pandemic. Such a ban constitutes an abuse of authority.

From the Vatican website:

Saint Thomas Aquinas…refers to the practice of receiving Holy Communion only on the tongue. He affirms that touching the Body of the Lord is proper only to the ordained priest.

Therefore, for various reasons, among which the Angelic Doctor cites respect for the Sacrament, he writes: “…out of reverence towards 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” (Summa Theologiae, III, 82, 3).