I am writing in response to the Diocese of San Diego Pastoral Center Communication, dated April 15, 2021, which is attached below. As you may know, our law firm was successful in getting the United States Supreme Court to reopen the churches in California for indoor worship services. Among the evidence that we provided to the Court was the study cited in Real Clear Science involving over 1 million Masses at approximately 7,000 Catholic parishes .This study indicates that indoor church attendance is safe when reasonable precautions are taken.It is also worth noting that the rates of Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been in a steady and steep decline in San Diego County. The crisis has passed and, as a result, the County and State are relaxing their Covid-19 restrictions. As a faithful Catholic, and along with many other devout Catholics in the Diocese of San Diego, I welcomed the day when we could return to Mass in our churches. Moreover, like many of the devout Catholics in your Diocese, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to reverently receive the Holy Eucharist at Mass. For many of us, this means the receipt of the Holy Eucharist on the tongue, rather than in the hand. Moreover, this reverent practice is our right under Canon Law.As the article at the link provides, there is no exception in Canon Law to the right of the faithful to receive Holy Communion on the tongue during a pandemic. And, as this article further illustrates, past Church practice and precedent indicates otherwise. Nor is there any scientific or medical evidence that receiving Holy Communion in the hand is safer than on the tongue. For that reason, there is no government restriction on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.Furthermore, contact between the priest’s hand and the congregant’s tongue can be avoided by using a large Host which is divided in thirds. If there were any remaining concern, then the priest could even sanitize his fingers after the administration of the Holy Eucharist to each congregant, or after any inadvertent contact with a congregant’s tongue. I have experienced both methods of receiving a large Host, and having had the Host disinfected between congregants. Either method, separate or combined, would be preferable to depriving the faithful of their right to the reverent receipt of Holy Communion on the tongue.Finally, the Catholic “Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments and Pastoral Care” has concluded that Communion on the tongue can be safely administered when such safeguards are taken: . In light of the foregoing, it would be greatly appreciated if you would please reconsider your decision to deny Holy Communion on the tongue to the faithful in the Diocese of San Diego.Thank you, Your Excellency, for your kind attention to this urgently important matter.Sincerely,Charles S. LiMandriThe above was sent on April 17.
The following update on Policies Governing Liturgical Life in the Diocese of San Diego was sent By Bishop McElroy’s secretary on April 15.
In accord with extensive consultations with the deans, as well as recent Supreme Court Cases and actions by the governor, Bishop McElroy has issued the following policy changes:
- The only capacity restriction for indoor worship will be that six feet of social distance must be maintained for all. There is no percentage restriction or aggregate numerical limit. Family members may sit together.
- Choirs and multiple instrumentalists may return as long as they maintain twelve feet of social spacing from one another and from the congregation. Congregational singing is not encouraged indoors, and thus hymnals should not be in the pews nor the lyrics of songs highlighted on the wall.
- Communion may be after the priest’s communion or at the end of Mass. This is a choice of the local parish.
- Offertory collections may return, as well as presentation processions for the gifts. This is at the discretion of the local parish.
- The sign of peace must remain without contact.
- Reception of the Eucharist on the tongue and distribution of the Precious Blood remain prohibited.
- Parishes which have suspended altar servers may return this ministry, as long as servers maintain six feet of separation from each other and from all other persons.
- Masking for everyone remains mandatory, as well as hand-sanitizing for all those involved in ministries.
- Cry rooms shall remain closed.
In addition, it is important to begin to expand once again the Eucharistic outreach to the sick, which is such a vital ministry. This should be carried out by priests/deacons/ Eucharistic ministers who have been fully vaccinated. Those visited should also be vaccinated. Family members, of course can act as Eucharistic ministers to their loved ones.
Priests are encouraged to anoint those who are seriously ill, governed by pastoral prudence.
So many priests have heroically carried out the ministry of Reconciliation during the height of the pandemic and are encouraged to expand the availability of this sacrament when possible.
In the Fall, the parishes of the diocese will be asked to carry out a coordinated multi-week catechesis on the Eucharist. It is envisioned that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass will end on the first Sunday of Advent.