Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facing flu CDC, Catholics endorse communion restrictions

From the blog Ex occidente ad orientem, his take on the flu and communion. I'll agree that the issue is an important one, but I rarely, if ever, support "reporting" priests to their bishops as he advises at the end. Thoughts?

It's flu season and the CDC and the press are already saying that the sheer amount of flu cases this year has reached epidemic proportions. Now, I'm no pathologist nor epidemiologist so I'm willing to listen to their suggestions as to how to reduce my exposure to the flu for the sake of my own health and that of my family. However, one thing I will not do is abstain from the life giving body and blood of our Lord!

Now, I don't believe the CDC has actually made any suggestion for Christians communing during the flu season to stay away from receiving the Eucharist, but that's not stopping congregations and even Archdioceses from implementing policies to remove the blood of Christ from the lips of the faithful!

First of all, metallic surfaces do not transmit viruses or bacteria and particular metals like copper are well documented for their antimicrobial properties.

Secondly, those people who abstain from the Eucharist (and those who withdraw it) show what little faith they have in the sacraments. Such people, I'm assuming, regard the sacraments as something to be honored and done but that there is no real power behind them. I wonder why they receive the Eucharist at all! Is not the Eucharist for the healing of body and soul? I'm not suggesting that the Eucharist will cure you immediately of your ailment; you still need rest and fluids. But to stay away from the Eucharist for fear that you may contract or spread the flu shows a real distrust in God and His power as it is contained in the Eucharist.

It's also incredibly egocentric. The thought that one person (or even two or three or more) could somehow contaminate the body and blood of Christ for others is absolutely rooted in anthropocentrism--that man is the center of all things, that man affects God's will.

From the news reports, it seems that the Roman Catholics are the one who are leading the charge on this. Considering that the Roman Catholics for many years withheld the life-giving blood of the Lord from her faithful, this is just another reason for them to reinstitute that flawed Medieval practice. I'm sure some Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and other denominations are also withholding out of the same (irrational) health fears.

However, I have never noticed any Orthodox Church every sanctioning such a move. It could possibly be that there was no press (only the Catholics and Episcopalians and liberal Lutherans get attention from the media, it seems), but I have never seen any directive from any Metropolitan or Bishop in any Orthodox jurisdiction in this country telling parishioners to abstain from the Eucharist.

If you attend a church (I'm only speaking to Orthodox here) where the priest says that sick people should abstain, then you should report that priest immediately to the bishop. Unless you are under penance and/or excommunication or you have not observed the prayer and fasting prior to receiving, the Eucharist is to be given to you for the sake of the healing of both soul and body. Because the faithful receive the Body and Blood from the spoon (which is metallic), you will not transmit nor receive the flu. I'm so sick of these stories and the seemingly faithless people who propagate them.


  1. In one Roman Catholic church I go to they've got those giant bottles of hand sanitizer so that all those eucharistic ministers can wipe down their hands. This particular church still has the communion rail- I suppose it hasn't occured to anyone to time it; I suspect an old fashioned RC communion kneeling would be faster than the current circus of preparation necessary for our more recent innovation. I don't think there is much chance for disease to spread this way either. Whatever you are going to get, you get by breathing it in. Even kissing someone sick is remarkably less likely to get you sick than them sneezing.

  2. When the AIDS crisis first hit, I was on a committee established by Metropolitan Philip to study the issue of Communion. I found that there are actual scientific studies that show that the common Chalice does not transmit disease. Among other things the alcohol destroys most pathogens and silver or gold has an antiseptic quality. I once was asked to speak on the issue before a meeting at our Archdiocesan Convention. I believe that it was in Detroit. I could tell that some people were skeptical about what I was saying. At the end, a man stood up in the back and walked towards the front. He introduced himself as a physician and said, "everything that Fr. John has just said is absolutely correct." It is more dangerous to walk around a grocery store filled with other shoppers than it is to partake of Holy Communion from the common spoon. Besides, it is the Body and Blood of Christ not ordinary bread and wine.

  3. I think if someone has the flu they should stay home, but not because of communion. It's because they're going to cough and sneeze on the people around them in the church. It is horrible to suggest that partaking of the Gifts could cause spreading of infection.

    (And I concur on the grocery store. I try not to take my children to the store this time of year and I wash my hands constantly.)

  4. Have to agree with Matushka Anna above. Good advice and common sense.