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From The Catholic Review:




The reform that no one wanted: Communion in the hand
by Dr. H. P. Bianchi


Within Catholic circles, the Second Vatican Council is a flashpoint for debate, but there is one point that all Catholics – traditionalists, progressives, liberals, conservatives – agree on: the unprecedented level of change. Consequently, most scholars would argue that the council was the defining event of the modern church, and that nothing had a greater impact on the church since the Reformation.

As an historian of religious rituals, I have been fascinated on how this religious revolution played out on the parish level and how Catholics in the 1960s and beyond reacted to it. There is no shortage of institutional histories of the council, focusing both on the events in Rome and the implementation in the United States. These works, however, concentrate on the hierarchy and their actions in developing and executing changes following the council. Even works that promise a history of the council “from below” emphasize parish priests or records composed by clerics about the laity. The voice of the majority of Catholics seems lost in the historical literature of the modern church.

My initial thought was to do an oral history of the post-conciliar church, interviewing people who lived in the 1960s and 1970s. This approach is limited, however, by the small number of people that could be sampled and also by the lack of accuracy when dealing with distant memories.

In reading about the history of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I began seeing references to the GIFT (Growth in Faith Together) program and an extensive survey that was part of the program. I discovered that upon returning from Rome, Cardinal Shehan developed a plan to visit every parish (either himself or an auxiliary bishop) in the diocese to discuss the changes that were taking place in the late 1960s. The meetings were contentious, and he described a heightened sense of “anxiety and confusion” in the parishes. He tasked the senate of priests to construct a program to address these issues, and the GIFT program was the result of their efforts.

It was a three stage program, including research, reflection, and response.  In the research phase, the entire parish would take a 60 question survey, and then in the reflection period, the parish would break up into small groups to discuss the results of the survey and pick a few topics to learn more about. Lastly, in the response time, experts would come in and deliver lectures on topics selected by the parish during the small groups phase.

The program was piloted in two parishes in the fall of 1970, and then the senate of priests voted to implement the program in all the parishes. A thorough reading of the GIFT program reveals that it increased tension, rather than diminished it. The response sessions turning into debates, and the Catholic Review saw an eruption of heated letters to the editor in favor and in opposition of the program. Furthermore, the senate of priests’ vote was close with 115 priests voting in favor of expanding the program and 101 voting against it, highlighting the divergent opinions of the program.

The GIFT program lasted from 1970 to 1975 and 21 parishes took part. An impressive 13,796 Catholics responded, and though I am not an expert in statistics, such a high number should provide enough data to make a definitive statement concerning the laity’s reactions to the changes following Vatican II.

Over the winter break, I spent several days shifting through the survey results in the diocese’s archive, located in the basement of St. Mary’s Seminary (It is a closed box and not accessible to the general public). The survey results could provide evidence for many articles, even books, but I was initially only interested in questions dealing with the liturgy.

The simple answer to the laity’s reception of the liturgical changes can be found in question 19: “Changes in the Mass have harmed rather than helped me to worship” and 27% agreed and 68% disagreed (with 5% not answering). These results confirm the standard narrative that the majority of Catholics preferred the new Mass with its use of English and more community oriented worship. Yet, a sizable minority, nearly a third, desired to go back to the old Mass. The traditional percentage is much higher than the often cited numbers compiled by Andrew Greeley, which claim that 85-87% preferred the new Mass. To this point, I was not overly surprised by the results.

Vox Wrote:A third wanted to go back to the old Mass --- but the ones being interviewed are the ones that stayed to begin with. What about all those who simply left? I know or know of a LOT of people who fit that group.

What piqued my interest was question 23. This question, unlike the other questions, changed several times, and I have not determined the reason behind the shift. Its three versions with survey results are: I like to participate actively at mass: 75% agree and 24% disagree; There should be more lay participation in Sunday Mass: 35% agree and 64% disagree; I would prefer to take Communion in my hands: 17% agree and 82% disagreed. The first two versions reveal that people wanted to be part of the Mass, but not front and center.

Vox Wrote:Even of those who stayed, fully 82% of them did NOT like Communion in the hand. There's a stat to float by the CAFers.

The version relating to the reception of Communion in the hand is perplexing for a variety of reasons. First, the 1970s were not a traditional era. As seen above, most people approved of the main liturgical changes, and when it came to social issues, they were exceedingly liberal, with 68% disagreeing with the church’s teaching of contraception. Second, it is also curious that there has been nearly a universal switch. I have no statistics about current practices, but from my own personal experiences, almost everyone receives Communion in the hand.

Vox Wrote:Interesting. More people disliked Communion in the hand more than they disagreed with teachings about contraception.

Communion in the hand was not authorized by Vatican II; though in some countries, like Germany and the Netherlands, the practice became more commonplace after the council. To address the question, Paul VI surveyed the world’s bishops on the topic, and released a document, Memoriale Domini, to explain the church’s position. Below are the questions sent to the world’s bishops and their responses.

1. Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving holy communion on the hand should be admitted?

Yes: 597 No: 1,233 Yes, but with reservations: 315 Invalid votes: 20

Vox Wrote:Fascinating! The Bishops and priests didn't like it either, with 67% of those who voted EITHER straight out yes -- with no reservations -- OR no thinking Communion in the hand should not be admitted.

2. Is it your wish that this new rite be first tried in small communities, with the consent of the bishop?

Yes: 751 No: 1,215 Invalid votes, 70

3. Do you think that the faithful will receive this new rite gladly, after a proper catechetical preparation?

Yes: 835 No: 1,185 Invalid votes: 128

Vox Wrote:And 59%  thought the faithful would NOT dig it even after "proper" (ahem) catechetical preparation.

Since the majority of bishops opposed the vote, the pope issued a clear and poignant statement on Communion in the hand. “The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed. It urges them to take account of the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, of the common good of the Church.” He, however, left open the option of a local conference to continue the tradition of receiving Communion in the hand, if the practice was already in place.


[html]As an historian, I have two questions related to Communion in the hand. First, why was this reform the one that no group wanted? [/html] The pope and bishops, who a few years before passed sweeping liturgical reforms, came down on the opposite side on this issue. The laity also favored the majority of the liturgical changes, but not this one. What made the traditional practice of receiving communion, kneeling at a communion rail and on the tongue, so popular even with a progressive generation?


[html]Secondly, how did the shift happen so rapidly? [/html] My first memories of going to Mass come from the mid-1980s, only 15 years after Memorial Domini, and Communion in the hand had already become the norm. How did a practice go from being unpopular to the universal practice in 15 years or less?

Of course, these questions on the reception of Communion touch on more than one aspect of the liturgy. Its significance relates to the meaning of Communion, the role of laity, the changing of the liturgy in general, and much more. I am interested in hearing your thoughts, especially if you lived through these events in 1970s.   


this is a clear example of the effectiveness of the Council of the Media, that told people that Vatican II authorized communion in the hand.
(04-10-2014, 06:12 PM)winoblue1 Wrote: [ -> ]this is a clear example of the effectiveness of the Council of the Media, that told people that Vatican II authorized communion in the hand.

I have to agree with this. Same with the media twisting Pope Francis' statements

I know a good number of priests and deacons who say that Vatican II did this and that such as got rid of Latin and such
(04-10-2014, 07:24 PM)ArturoOrtiz Wrote: [ -> ]
(04-10-2014, 06:12 PM)winoblue1 Wrote: [ -> ]this is a clear example of the effectiveness of the Council of the Media, that told people that Vatican II authorized communion in the hand.

I have to agree with this. Same with the media twisting Pope Francis' statements

I know a good number of priests and deacons who say that Vatican II did this and that such as got rid of Latin and such

It's a sad time when priests and deacons get their catechesis from CNN and Bill Maher, et al. I fault RCIA classes, seminaries, and other means of priestly formation, etc. There is simply NO EXCUSE for a priest's, for ex., saying things like "Vatican II got rid of Latin." NO excuse whatsoever. Well, no justification anyway. Nothing makes it right. Nothing. And it's our hierarchs' own fault for not keeping people and seminaries in line, not dealing with evil "gatekeepers," and so forth.

I also have to put some blame on the priests themselves. Are they so unintelligent or unmotivated that they can't learn what just about everyone here has learned? And isn't it especially egregious since handing down Church teaching is one the three goals of their very vocations? Man alive!

(04-10-2014, 07:41 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: [ -> ]
(04-10-2014, 07:24 PM)ArturoOrtiz Wrote: [ -> ]
(04-10-2014, 06:12 PM)winoblue1 Wrote: [ -> ]this is a clear example of the effectiveness of the Council of the Media, that told people that Vatican II authorized communion in the hand.

I have to agree with this. Same with the media twisting Pope Francis' statements

I know a good number of priests and deacons who say that Vatican II did this and that such as got rid of Latin and such

It's a sad time when priests and deacons get their catechesis from CNN and Bill Maher, et al. I fault RCIA classes, seminaries, and other means of priestly formation, etc. There is simply NO EXCUSE for a priest's, for ex., saying things like "Vatican II got rid of Latin." NO excuse whatsoever. Well, no justification anyway. Nothing makes it right. Nothing. And it's our hierarchs' own fault for not keeping people and seminaries in line, not dealing with evil "gatekeepers," and so forth.

I also have to put some blame on the priests themselves. Are they so unintelligent or unmotivated that they can't learn what just about everyone here has learned? And isn't it especially egregious since handing down Church teaching is one the three goals of their very vocations? Man alive!

Yes I do think it starts specifically with the semenarians and the formation of the clergy. A good friend of mine stated that the seminary in the 1960s- 1980s was not a good place to be. It was probably the height of liberal theology. He stated that a lot of these priests which he personally called "a work of the devil" are dying out. He stated that we are slowly but steadily coming back on tract. This is primarly in my opinion why Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called last year the year of faith. He even talked about a crisis of faith, specifically in regards to people's interpretation of Vatican II. A lot of people used the council to further their liberal agenda in what is know as "The Spirit of Vatican II". A lot of other people have not even read Vatican II.

A friend of mine who teaches Catechism told me about an encounter with a man who was arguing with my friend the Catechist that we should not receive Holy Communion in the mouth because it was done away with in Vatican II. My friend asked the other person where in Vatican II does it say that because he had read the documents several times. The other person was dumbfounded and admitted that he had not read Vatican II but was simply told that.

This is why as Catholics we need to learn our faith thoroughly in various aspects as Saint Peter states in his Epistle 3:15
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
The media played a huge role in shaping what would come out Vatican II. What's scary is just how effective the media was. The Church quite literally collapsed like a house of cards in a matter of ten years or less. This is either diabolical, a testimony of the genius and power of the media to shape opinions and institutions or a little of both. Like it or not the liberals and modernists had a spectacular win; they toppled the Roman Catholic Church in a matter of decades after Vatican II and we are just now starting to slowly recover.
(04-10-2014, 09:11 PM)ArturoOrtiz Wrote: [ -> ]A friend of mine who teaches Catechism told me about an encounter with a man who was arguing with my friend the Catechist that we should not receive Holy Communion in the mouth because it was done away with in Vatican II. My friend asked the other person where in Vatican II does it say that because he had read the documents several times. The other person was dumbfounded and admitted that he had not read Vatican II but was simply told that.

KILLS me, Arturo! That sort of thing just slays me. But when a cleric does it, or a catechist, an RCIA teacher --- I get pissed. There's little that annoys me more than that "since Vatican II, the Church no longer (insert crap here)" stuff. Ggggrrrrrrrrrrrr!

(04-10-2014, 09:11 PM)ArturoOrtiz Wrote: [ -> ]This is why as Catholics we need to learn our faith thoroughly in various aspects as Saint Peter states in his Epistle 3:15

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

You SAID it, brother. And it's especially incumbent on trads, "to whom much is given," to lead the way, to teach and reach out, to take over RCIA classes, etc.

There is a very interesting new show on Churchmilitanttv called Sleight Of Hand-Reception- Deception.
It is about how receiving in the hand came about and much more.  This is the first show.  I hope the link works.  To watch it you might have to have a premiuim acct.  It is not on Youtube yet.

http://www.churchmilitant.tv/platform/in...2014-04-06