Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Below is an article from the National Catholic Register concerning the flu epidemic. It concerns the Diocese of Buffalo and their precautions during the flu season.

Interestingly enough, our very own bishop, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer is from Buffalo. However, his recommendation is somewhat left to each priest and communicant. We can elimiante the common chalice or we don't have to if we warn people. Holding hands or shaking them should not be foisted on anyone, etc.

I decided to simply warn my parishioners about the danger of germs and told them one can contract the flu or any other communicable diseases from the common chalice no matter the season but I was not going to eliminate the common chalice until there was a common sense year round policy concerning it. In other words, I'm leaving it to the communicant to decide.

But in the EF Mass all of this is so foreign as there is no common chalice, no extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the congregation glad handing everyone and no shaking of hands or holding hands during Mass. In other words the EF Mass is healthier (on many fronts I might add).

The only disagreement I have with the article below is that one diocese is telling communicants to receive on the hand rather than the tongue out of germ concerns.

However, when I distribute Holy Communion into someone's palm, my fingers or part of them always touches their hand in one way or antoher. I don't drop the Host into anyone's hand.

But when I distribute Holy Communion to kneeling communicants, the fact they are keeling, stick their tongue out, tilt their head back means that I never have to touch their tongue even accidentally. This is not true, though, when one receives on the tongue while standing, especially if the person is taller than me. It's the kneeling that prevents the tongue touching!


Feb. 12, 2018
Flu Season Prompts Dioceses to Take Measures at Mass
Preventive actions include skipping the sign of peace or exchanging only verbal greetings and offering the Eucharist only in the form of hosts — and advising sick parishioners to stay home.
As the nation deals with a severe flu outbreak, Catholics in some dioceses are being asked to abstain from shaking hands and drinking from a common Communion cup at Mass.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current flu season is approaching the peak of the 2009 pandemic, with a high hospitalization rate and more than 53 pediatric deaths so far. The CDC says all U.S. states, except Hawaii and Oregon, are reporting widespread flu, and the number with a high incidence of flu-like illness has risen to 42, plus New York City and the District of Columbia.

In response, some dioceses are directing parishes to temporarily skip the sign of peace or instruct parishioners to exchange only verbal greetings instead of handshakes. Other measures being implemented include offering the Eucharist only in the form of hosts and suspending the use of the common Communion cup.

Among the dioceses that have issued such directives is Buffalo, New York, which, besides suspending distribution of the Precious Blood during Communion, has reminded extraordinary ministers of Communion to wash their hands before Mass and to avoid touching the tongue or the hand of each communicant. The sign of peace is to be offered without any physical contact, and the diocese has suggested bowing in place of shaking hands.

Parishes in the western New York diocese also are being told to drain their holy water fonts regularly and clean them with disinfecting soap before refilling them. Finally, parishioners are being reminded that if they have a contagious illness, they are absolved from the Sunday Mass obligation and should stay home.

“We felt this was a commonsense response to some of the news we had been hearing about how serious the flu had become statewide,” said George Richert, director of communications for the Diocese of Buffalo. He added that the guidelines mirror some of those offered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and include a few of the diocese’s own.

Dioceses that have announced similar directives include Rochester, New York; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Sacramento, California; and Norwich, Connecticut. In addition to the other precautions, Sacramento has told parishioners not to hold hands during the Our Father, and Norwich is asking parishioners to receive the Communion host in their hand, instead of on the tongue.


Victor said...

Horrors!!! These dioceses are doing away with the post-VII reforms that corrected the corrupt liturgical practices of the Church for 1,500 years before.

TJM said...

1, 2, 3 ...... our resident scientist, Kavanaugh, chimes in!

ByzRC said...

"Holding hands or shaking them should not be foisted on anyone, etc."

This should never be foisted on anyone, period!

"This is not true, though, when one receives on the tongue while standing, especially if the person is taller than me. It's the kneeling that prevents the tongue touching!"

I don't quite agree. If you stand on the step (e.g. in the sanctuary) and distribute, distribution on the tongue should not be a problem. Also, when I attend the NO and, I'm much taller than the priest (which, isn't unusual), I bend my knees and tilt my head back so that I'm not making the priest struggle to reach up.

Rood Screen said...

Seriously, what is the point of the congregation receiving from the chalice, anyway?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Yes, we have suspended use of the common cup for the distribution of the Precious Blood in my parish. Yes, we will resume use of the common cup when the flu season passes.

No, I do not believe there is a significant health risk in using the common cup. My response was to the concern expressed by a number of members of the parish. Not wanting to allow communion to be a dividing issue, I made a wise, pastoral decision.

I continue to be critical not of your "germ concerns" but of your mysophobia, an irrational fear of contamination and germs.

TJM in 3...2....1

TJM said...

Kavanaugh, YOU are Comedy Gold. Are you an epidemiogist and a priest too? FYI, sharing the common cup certainly hasn't increased the congregation's faith in the Real Presence (Transubstantiation) but perhaps kneeling at the altar railing receiving on the tongue might just get that point across better

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Am I an epidemiologist? No, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night...

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, the river swamp below Macon is home to a large population of Water Moccasins. But, if you go stomping through the swamp in July, your chances of being bitten are very low. But, would you do it?

Rood Screen said...

Father Kavanaugh,

The way you describe it makes it sound like you're withholding something sacred from your flock for no other reason than to make your life easier. What sort of division over this issue are you afraid of, and how would it harm your parish? Wouldn't concerned members of your flock just avoid the chalice, or would they protest against you?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Yes, I would. I have been in many swamps all over south Georgia in fact.

I have canoed and tramped in bogs and marshes, having been a very keen student of my own south Georgia environment. (Canoochee River, Alatamaha River, Ogeechee River, Little Ebeneezer Creek, Savannah River, Alexander Run, FL, among others.)

I have collected "dangerous" water insects (hemipterans, the true bugs) while in Grad School studying fresh water biology with an emphasis on those insects.

I have spent weeks on Wassaw Island, Georgia, one of our most glorious Golden Isles, tagging loggerhead sea turtles. When we weren't on the beach looking for Caretta caretta, we were all over the snake and insect infested island exploring. Not only were there moccasins on Wassaw, there's also a serious population of wild boars - very dangerous, you know.

Having majored in biology I appreciate and trust the scientific method and understand that the danger of catching a life-threatening disease from the use of a common cup is incredibly small and not enough to warrant more than normal concern.

TJM said...


Kavanaugh might since he is such a risk taker!!!!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Rood - No, I have not suspended the use of the common cup to make my life easier. Please read AGAIN the reason I stated for making this decision.

Now, you can read into what I posted all you want, and I suspect you will. I have stated the reason and am leaving it at that.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I understand it perfectly well, a good shepherd's concern for the physical health of his parishioners with a scrupulous abundance of concern for germs, viruses and other illnesses caused by the common chalice. If only this healthy fear/phobia of contagion were Year round if only for that one poor soul who might be infected!

Henry said...

" Not wanting to allow communion to be a dividing issue, I made a wise, pastoral decision."

Pastorally wise, indeed. And since the common cup and communion in the hand are dividing issues--between those who for whom reverence for the Real Presence is a paramount concern, and those for whom it is not--it similarly would be a wise pastoral decision to terminate these practices permanently.

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, I wasn't asking for your academic pedigree. I have published articles on reptiles and amphibians in herpetological journals and have studied and collected them all my life. I've spent lots of time in the Everglades camping and collecting, and quite a bit of time in the Okeefeenokee. No, I would not go stomping through either swamp. Common sense is good. Try it some time.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Scrupulosity, in matters spiritual or matters microbial, is unhealthy.

Again, there is no evidence that illnesses are "caused by the common chalice."

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - I didn't give you an academic pedigree, I gave you my experience. Common sense does not demand a person stay out of swamps because there is a SMALL chance one might be harmed. If you followed that line of thinking, you'd never drive your car again, because there IS a small chance you will be harmed.

Henry - The use of the common cup and communion in the hand are not dividing issues in my parish.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. MJK you prefer being a person with no scruples? Of the two, no scruples and having scruples, give me the second.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Then if so, my good FRMJK, you in your scrupulosity should reinsitute the chalice this Sunday. Your fear of germs, not mine, caused you to ban it because someone asked you when in fact you should have educated them in person as you have me and countless others who disagree with your unscrupulous ways.

TJM said...

Father McDonald, Kavanaugh is just another one of those "do as I say, not as I do" guys. I can't see where giving people Holy Communion in their paws and allowing them to sip from the Chalice has done any good in terms of preserving Catholic belief in the Real Presence. In my mind, it's a way of reinforcing that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has become a "happy meal."

Henry said...

Fr. Kavanaugh: "Henry - The use of the common cup and communion in the hand are not dividing issues in my parish."

I'd suggest that any pastor may need to get in better touch with his parish--who is unaware of any division in it between those for whom reverence for the Real Presence is a paramount concern, and those for whom it is not. Because if indeed the parish still includes any of the former, then use of the common cup and communion in the hand are certainly concerns for them, and therefore are points of division between them and those who are unconcerned.

Rood Screen said...

Father Kavanaugh,

Thank you for your response. I do not wish to read anything into your comment, which is why I asked you for clarification. I do understand, however, if you prefer to say no more about the issue. You've made your decision, and that's your prerogative. Sadly, there are bishops who do not allow parish priests to make such decisions.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, yes, I prefer no scruples. They are symptoms of mental illness in many cases.

No, my fear of germs did NOT lead me to suspend use of the common cup. I don't fear germs any more than I fear being hit by a meteorite or being struck by lightening.

Like Rood, you may go back and read again why I suspended use of the Common cup.

Henry, I would suggest that, in my parish, there is no division over the Common cup or communion in the hand, despite your deep desire that there be such.

Henry said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

If indeed no one in your parish is all that much concerned about increased reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, it must be a quite unusual (and unfortunate) parish. I wonder why that is. Is it a question of pastoral leadership? Or is there some other reason? (E.g. perhaps historical.) In every parish I've attended--from conservative to very "progressive", from Georgia to Wisconsin and points between and afar--there have always been some (if only a small minority) who desired increased adoration, faith, and reverence in parish worship. Yours the unique exception? Strange. Though, of course, it took even St. John Vianney (patron saint of parish priests) many years to finally "reach" his parishioners. Good luck with yours.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Henry - I don't think it is unusual at all.

In every parish there are people who complain about the heat/AC temperatures, the lack of stalls in the bathrooms, the altar servers' hair, the times of the masses, parking, the cantors' voices, the volume of the organ, the color of the carpet, the pastor's or associate's preaching, the "constant" begs for money, the amount of time Father is away, the shoddy state of the old hymnals, etc., etc., etc.

No one here has approached me with complaints about communion in the hand. Those who wish to receive on the tongue - about 3 or 5 individuals at each weekend mass - do so. When we announced that we were suspending communion from the common cup during flu season, no one complained.

There's nothing unfortunate or strange about people being, apparently, satisfied with the current practices regarding communion.

Some people just get their kicks by complaining, and then complain some more when their complaints do not result in changes they want.

If you know the secret to making everyone happy about everything, please share.