STOP Holy Communion in the hand Campaign in Poland. New developments and reactions

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STOP Holy Communion in the hand Campaign in Poland. New developments and reactions
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On October 1, 2020 the Piotr Skarga Association of Christian Culture started a new campaign expressing the concern of Catholic laity about the proper reverence due to the Most Holy Sacrament. There were many positive reactions coming from Catholic priests and the faithful, as well as some saddening but very telling comments made by some priests. In a few cases those reactions were quite shocking.


The aim of the “STOP Holy Communion in the hand” campaign was simple. The Piotr Skarga Association of Christian Culture sent a letter and a booklet about the proper reverence due to Our Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament to most of Polish parishes and to all of its supporters. The Association also conducted a billboard campaign in major Polish cities in order to focus the attention of the faithful on that issue. Why? Since the beginning of the SARS-2 epidemic the idea of receiving Communion in the hand was presented by some priests as the only acceptable, responsible and proper way of receiving it. Some priests tried to discourage laypeople from receiving the Eucharist in the traditional manner, others openly forced Communion in the hand which has never been a popular or common practice in the Catholic Church in Poland. In a few cases lay Catholics who didn’t want to follow those “guidelines” were publicly treated as a kind of “second-class” faithful. In other cases there were parish communities which suffered from the open and unjust division into “the responsible faithful” and those “stubborn” ones. In many cases priests stressed that receiving Communion in the hand was a question of fidelity to the Catholic bishops and anyone who didn’t do it disobeyed the will of the Church hierarchy.


The reasons why many faithful didn’t want to receive Communion in the hand were very clear. This practice is quite unpopular in Poland, in the past it sometimes took place in big cities although a typical way of receiving the Eucharist is on the tongue while standing or kneeling. The Piotr Skarga Association of Christian Culture raised arguments shared by many Catholics in Poland that receiving Communion in the hand is a novelty and no one should be forced to do it, that this practice shows less reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and there is a greater risk of abuses and desecration. Intuitively the argument that this “new” way of receiving Communion is safer seems false. Priests wash their hands before Mass and on the other hand during the Mass the faithful touch many objects (doors, church pews, prayer books, songbooks etc.). The faithful are neither required to disinfect their hands before receiving the Body of Christ, nor to purify them after receiving Communion in order to take proper care of Eucharistic particles. The Association also raised a historical argument. Although the practice of receiving Communion in the hand existed in the early ages of the Church in some areas, it was different from the modern practice. Now it introduces a new practice in a completely different context and it completely ignores the organic development of the liturgy, as well as laws and traditions of the Catholic Church. At the same time this hastily enforced practice decreases the faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.


In response to the campaign the liturgical commission of the Polish Bishops Conference issued a statement underlining that both the traditional and new way of receiving the Eucharist are approved by Church authorities. The commission also urged priests to handle Communion with special care and pay attention to Eucharistic particles. At the same time this campaign provoked a rather emotional response of some progressive priests. In a few very telling cases the boundaries of good taste and decency were breached.


Fr. Marek Radomski posted a very saddening tweet, “When will those creeping schismatics from the Skarga Association stop delivering their faeces to Catholic parishes in Poland?” Of course no one is obliged to like or support the Piotr Skarga Association of Christian Culture but at the same time all of its materials have a religious character. All published books, booklets, magazines or newsletters describe the traditional Catholic faith and morality, present encouragements to prayer and receiving the Sacraments. In some cases their readers are encouraged to participate in specific religious practices, especially as it comes to praying the rosary, practicing First Saturdays Devotion or making acts of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although the opinion expressed by Fr. Marek Radomski was unacceptable and deeply saddening it also wasn’t isolated. Another priest Father Marek Lis also published a very provoking comment on his Twitter account. “Are there any presbyteries that haven’t received this pseudo-theological gibberish sent by the Association of Anti-Christian Culture?” In another tweet he tried to explain why he considered the received letter and booklet as “pseudo-theological”, although it is still unknown why Fr. Lis called an organization created by the Catholic faithful “anti-Christian.”


Other Twitter users responded to those remarks. “That someone used the contemptuous term schismatics to describe the laity who make a sincere appeal for the radical reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is something surprising. It is equally surprising how someone could describe this booklet as faeces. And how can I run cases against LGBT activists because of similar insults against the Catholic faithful?,” Jerzy Kwaśniewski, the president of the Ordo Iuris Institute, wrote on Twitter. “Creeping schismatics? Unbelievable! I didn’t expect such words,” Paweł Ozdoba, the president of the Family and Life Center, wrote.


“Write to a priest with a request concerning Holy Communion. You will hear him saying that you are sending him faeces. There was an image of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance on the cover of that brochure,” Krystian Kratiuk, the editor-in-chief of news website, wrote ironically on his Twitter account. “Do you really think that a call for the worship due to the Most Blessed Sacrament is equal to pouring out faeces? Shouldn’t priests be fostering the zeal of the faithful? After all Holy Communion can be administered in a hygienic way,” Michał Urbaniak, a Member of Parliament, wrote. In response Fr. Radomski banned some of the users who didn’t share his views on the Father Skarga Association or the proper reverence for the Most Blessed Eucharist. “I wonder, maybe it’s the long-awaited getting off the couch? A sincere and radical call for exceptional devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament made at a time of disbelief. This campaign is more moderate than the statements presented by cardinal Sarah which were rather not gibberish, but debatable at most,” Kwaśniewski wrote.


The Polish writer, journalist and commentator Witold Gadowski also took the floor on that matter, “Father, you should really think about your language and presented arguments”. Fr. Lis reacted by writing that he definitely wouldn’t follow Mr. Gadowski’s example because of his comments concerning the president of the Polish national public-service radio broadcasting company and the US ambassador to Poland. The writer replied that as a Catholic priest Fr. Lis should be following and imitating Christ and “not him.”


Fr. Grzegorz Kramer, SJ, known for his rather progressive statements, published a surprising entry. A few months ago his Jesuit superior forbade him to make any public statements and now Fr. Kramer returned to his online activity. Referring to the “STOP Holy Communion in the hand” Campaign he wrote, “Talking about the well-known banner. I have belonged to the Catholic Church for 44 years and I believe, as well as bishops and the pope, that everyone should have the right to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion in a way that seems appropriate to them. While kneeling, on the tongue or in the hand. In a procession or at the altar rails. Everyone is different and has a different way of experiencing his relationship with God, so it’s natural that they have a different way of experiencing it in their bodies. It’s clear that the liturgy if full of signs and one of those signs is the unity of attitudes, but as we know life has its own scenario and while we stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, some people kneel because it better expresses their spiritual state. After all the liturgy is not a perfectly presented theatrical play but a meeting with God, a meeting during which we give glory to God. The liturgy is the last place where we should scramble and quarrel. During the pandemic as a parish priest I have always strongly insisted that people receiving the Eucharist in the hand should approach first and then those who would like to receive Holy Communion on the tongue. It wasn’t a display of superiority but something that made sense in terms of hygiene. As it seems to me we managed to get along with each other. When I see what some clergymen write about this banner campaign and how they compete with each other in insulting its authors as sectarians, etc., I don’t see here any reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament or seeking the unity of the Church. I’m not a supporter of those banners for the simple reason that they present a big simplification and it’s bad when we take our liturgical disputes to the streets. But I cannot consent to shutting someone’s mouth or forbidding something. Not long time ago I was in that same position and I know that this is the worst way of dialoguing in the Church. And we need that dialogue badly.”


Kajetan Rajski, the editor-in-chief of the quarterly “Wyklęci” (which presents the history of Polish anti-Communist underground), wrote a pretty interesting comment. “Reactions to the ‘Stop Communion in the hand’ campaign presented by some priests show one thing. All those stories about the involvement of the Catholic faithful in the life of the Church (postulated by the Second Vatican Council) are not worth much,” he wrote. “When the faithful are organized and they speak up (not about dogmatic matters and not in order to lessen the discipline) they are quickly pacified with statements and scolding remarks in the social media.” “So you are valued as a lay Catholic as long as you follow the simple principle: pray, pay and obey,” the publicist and writer Kajetan Rajski added.


Mwl, mat

DATA: 2020-10-21 14:48
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