Yesterday, Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville, TN, posted on Twitter that he had “Received a letter from Cardinal Sarah informing me that, according to a circular letter issued on August 15th, with the approval of the Holy Father, the local bishop can prohibit the reception of Communion on the tongue in “times of pandemic, war etc., that must be obeyed by the faithful.”
The bishop went on to say, “So it seems, all those who think they are experts in Canon Law are misinformed. So, again my advice, is to listen to the magisterium and your local bishops, not some self-proclaimed website or YouTube actor.”
Today, three documents were posted on the diocesan website, including a letter to an unnamed petitioner, signed by Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) upholding the legitimacy of Bishop Stika’s pastoral decision. It states, “This Dicastery does hereby therefore act to confirm the decision of Bishop Stika and thereby rejects your petition seeking its modification.”
There was also a letter from Archbishop Roche addressed to Bishop Stika himself, restating the congregation’s rejection of the petition, and affirming that his decision reflects a valid interpretation of an August 15 statement from Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the CDW. The letter to Bishop Stika says, “‘Bishops and Episcopal Conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed,’ even to the point, as in this case, to suspend for whatever time might be required, reception of Holy Communion on the tongue at the public celebration of the Holy Mass.”
The third attachment is the August 15 statement from Cardinal Sarah.
Bishop Stika, who is active on social media, had come under fire from websites such as Church Militant for prohibiting communion on the tongue during the pandemic. In a July 10 tweet, he decried the media personalities who urged their followers to call his office and voice their displeasure with his decision. He wrote, “Many have attacked me and the result was their followers calling the chancery and directed vile and abusive comments to a saintly woman who answers the phone. They will feed hate and lead you to sin. They distort the teachings of Jesus.”
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.