Monday, March 2, 2020


I know, I know, the coronavirus is scary. It is highly contagious and spreads quickly. But do you know what, so does the influenza!

Here are some current statistics on the flu. However the media and politicians and country and worldwide, aren't creating mass hysteria and panic over the flu which has way more cases and way, way, way more deaths than the coronavirus has.

Here are actual statistics on the flu this season from the CDC and the coronavirus is no where near this in terms of severity! That virus is being promoted to harm the current administration during an election year:

Despite the projections that others place on me about being germ phobic, I am not, I am germ commonsensical. I have bitterly complained for years now, and yes since the Church allowed it in the early 1970's, that the common chalice is a disgusting liturgical custom, a little "t" tradition and a novelty for the Latin Rite that is unhygienic and if we came under the health department, we would be shut down for this public health breach.

I do not debate that more germs are gathered on our unwashed hands, especially after bathroom usuage, on doorknobs, railings, hymnals, the tops of pews and everywhere else, especially the air we breathe where people cough and sneeze.

But liturgically we have no control over those other factors of daily life. We do have control over the common chalice novelty.

Every year, the discontinuing of it during the flu season only exacerbates the fact that it shouldn't be used during non influenza times either. Anyone could be sick at any time of the year and cause someone else to get sick after the sick person has drunk from the chalice.

Ban the contaminated chalice! Period.

The same goes with the Sign of Peace, not only because of a concern of shaking hands, but others who take liberties in being overly friendly during the Sign of Peace, overly friendly strangers. We don't need that at Mass especially Catholicism where Sunday Mass is a dragnet of all kinds of people, not just a congregation of people who know each other well in informal circumstancnes.

The Sing of Peace is not needed prior to Holy Communion or anywhere else. The EF's Solemn High Mass "Kiss of Peace" is completely different in meaning and only exchanged in the Roman Way and amongst the clergy. The Solemn High form of the EF Mass is seldom celebrated in most parishes prior to Vatican II and even now after Summorum Pontificum.

And finally kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving on the tongue is a safeguard against hand to hand contact at Commuion when receiving in the hand or hand to tongue contact when receiving on the tongue while standing. Kneeling communicants who receive on the tongue helps prevent the priest from touching the tongue.

Priests and Communion Ministers in the OF Mass touch hands regularly when distributing Holy Communion to the hand! A simple observation of receiving Communion in the hand would prove it!


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"I do not debate that more germs are gathered on our unwashed hands, especially after bathroom usuage, on doorknobs, railings, hymnals, the tops of pews and everywhere else, especially the air we breathe where people cough and sneeze."

You have debated this for YEARS. If you are changing your tune now, good for you. The evidence I have presented has prevailed.

Or so I thought... Alas, you fall back into your baseless rant on the danger of the common cup, how it will cause pandemic and death, how it must be banned, how it makes children disobedient, how it causes lemmings to jump off cliffs, how it results in the dull wax buildup on our no-wax kitchen floors. (Sign)

Oh well, one step at a time.

qwikness said...

Don't forget holding hands during the Lord's Prayer.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all you say here FRAJM...
And then there’s the Holy Water Font that hundreds share on any given weekend; no one is addressing this vector yet (although I did see a quick reference yesterday on a priest’s blog).
In the average parish, the “Extraordinary Ministers” of Holy Communion are a particular concern to us. You and FRMJK spent a lot of time arguing about how well you priests administer communion, but neither of you discussed how well your EMHCs perform. Nor did Fr. Fox when he commented.
In a true pandemic, these things matter. During the severe 2017-2018 flu season (a true pandemic), vaccine efficacy was estimated at just 36%. This year’s vaccine thus far looks some better: According to a Feb. 21 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the current influenza vaccine has been 45% effective overall against 2019-2020 seasonal influenza A and B viruses. There is no vaccine yet of course for the COVID19.

Anonymous said...

FRMJK, you love quoting yourself as a scientist. OK, we have all (well, mostly all) learned to tolerate that. My husband who has a science field PhD and spent his professional life doing research at a medical university, says that science can “change its mind”— just look at the cholesterol controversy over the past 50 years as one example. There are so many other examples. Science is not the be-all and end-all that some would make it.

Anonymous said...

Well, our bishop here in Atlanta has wisely suspended distribution of the precious blood at communion in our 69-county Archdiocese, and one of our priests yesterday said it is OK (not anti-social) not to exchange the peace. Unfortunately, our parish's high school trip to Italy had to get the ax. Looks like Europe will not be the place to visit for a while...along obviously of course with East Asia.

Vatican Zero said...

Fr. McDonald:

You are right.

All of this 70's feel-good, "ordain the laity" and make em' feel useful nonsense from the 70's is WAY past due for a shutdown.


rcg said...

Anon at 8:53: I think the Holy Water font may be OK if the salt content is high enough and you don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with the same hand for a few minutes.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon 9:01 - Nope, wrong, uh-uh. Although I have far more training in science than most here, I do not consider myself a scientist. When I have posted on this matter I have repeatedly cited studies and research papers by scientists - people who are professional
epidemiologists, medical practitioners, and biomedical researchers.

No one who knows science thinks that scientists can't change their minds. THAT notion comes from those who have a poor understanding of how science and scientists work. That notion also comes from people who have done little or no reading in the history of scientific research.

As someone trained in science, I know that scientists use the best available data to form conclusions. But they do so knowing full well that better data may be coming and, therefore, a conclusion that was reached at one point may have to be adjusted, changed substantially, or jettisoned.

Victor said...

Anglicans still use the common cup because of Reformation influence on their theology. Here is an informative article on the health concerns of this:

It is interesting that communion by intinction may be a worse health hazard than drinking from the common cup. The Third Council of Braga (675) banned intinction, and as its popularty grew again later, it was banned again in the 13th century.

Bob said...

As someone surrounded by coughing, sniffling, snorting, sneezing near every Mass, and nearly 100% of those folk a)making a beeline for the chalice, and b)coughing or sneezing into hands and then wanting to shake my hand...

I am left with the feeling most Catholics do not give a tinker's damn about anyone but themselves.

And I get the same vibe from the ones with shrieking children, they just do not care about anyone else there, and especially do not care as to actual worship.

What is so hard as to common decency and charity to those who gather to actually worship? Today, nobody says nuthin' about nuthin', lest they be labeled a hater. And by doing so, they leave us with nuthin'.

Bob said...

And, not being conversant on how it came to be that priests invade each others blogs to argue and insult, all I can say is CUT IT OUT.

Father K, (and pals), it is common sense a common chalice is yuk, and why glasses are washed at restaurants before you get handed the thing. It is immaterial whether contamination comes from the inside or the outside. It is only a 50yr old poorly thought out alteration to ancient practice, and flies in the face of all science knows as to stopping transmissions of plagues. Why you must invade this blog to argue over such an obvious thing is utterly beyond me.

Православный физик said...


Although not my patriarch, a strong statement.

JR said...

I had spent some 25 years as an EMHC starting right from the beginning when first authorized. I found that the best way to hold the Host is with the forefinger on top and the thumb on the bottom, just at the edge. That allowed me to move my wrist at a greater angle with more control. When someone received on the tongue, all I had to do was place the other edge on their tongue and it stuck there. I can't count how many people received on the tongue, even without sticking it out, but holding the Host that way enabled me to never,ever, touch the communicant's lips or tongue. The same with intinction which we did at first until the liturgical "experts" said to use the cup. All we did was just dip the edge of the Host in the Precious Blood and that avoided our fingers from touching it.

Anonymous said...

Does it have to be wine? Can it be a higher alcohol content wine used? Something that will kill a virus. A brandy?

Anonymous said...

rcg, the salt water content in most fonts is not high enough to kill viruses. Here locally, I am sure of this as I used to volunteer in the Sacristy, (and I’m medically trained as a P.A).

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Bob, this is a public blog. There has been no invasion. When a person posts on a public blog, he or she should be prepared for agreement or disagreement from the readers.

As to the question of whether there is evidence - not "common sense," but evidence - that using the common cup for communion poses a significant risk, I look to the answers that those who are trained in such things for answers.

I find no evidence that the use of the common cup has resulted in the spread of, as you put it dramatically, "plague." And I have always said that, if anyone has evidence to the contrary, I would want to see it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Hmmm Try this: "I look to those who are trained in such things for answers."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Hmmm. I have always found common sense to Trump academics and their prognostications. Their air of infallibility fits in with the much hated clericalism.

James Ignatius McAuley said...

No method of communicating the Body and Blood of Lord is perfect. Germs will pass. Are there any scientific, empirical studies on germ transmission and the Eucharist? I do not know.

Anecdotal evidence, that is evidence of personal testimony and observation? Yes, and plenty of it. Of course, while anecdotal evidence has not been subjected to scientific scrutiny, that does not make it invalid. It may make the anecdotal evidence less persuasive for some parties.

In any event, this is one Orthodox viewpoint, that Byzantine and Greek Catholics would subscribe to:

The Press office of the Romanian Patriarchate published a communiqué on February 27, 2020, in the context of excessive media coverage of the epidemic caused by Coronavirus (Covid – 19) and following requests from some state institutions that the Church should take measures to prevent the spread of the virus and to reduce the population’s fear of this phenomenon.

For this reason, the communiqué addressed especially those who are too afraid of illness when they kiss the holy icons or when they take Communion from the same Holy Eucharistic Chalice, as the priest uses a collective spoon.

This attention given especially to those “whose faith is weak” (Romans 14: 1) has caused fear elsewhere, more precisely among clerics and believers who consider that an exceptional and temporary measure (economy) in favour of those more frightened and weaker in faith can be transformed into a new liturgical rule of receiving Holy Communion that applies to all believers.

In order to overcome polarization and polemics that weaken Orthodox unity, hasty judgments must be avoided, and we must firmly reaffirm the Orthodox belief that the Holy Eucharist is not and can never be a source of sickness and death, but a source of new life in Christ, of forgiveness of sins, for the healing of the soul and the body.

That is why, while believers receive Holy Communion, we chant: “Receive the Body of Christ,
taste the Fountain of Immortality.“

Therefore, the rule of distributing Holy Communion to the clergy and believers from the same Holy Chalice remains unchanged, and the priests will explain to all believers that this way of partaking of the Eucharist has never been for anyone a danger and will not be to them either.

The believers, who are still afraid of partaking of the same Holy Chalice with the same spoon, will ask the counsel of their spiritual father to strengthen their faith and increase in Church communion.

Dan said...

All I know is that I always feel embarrassed drinking from the common chalice when suffering an outbreak of all those herpes cold sores on my lips. Very nice to know that I'll be welcome at Fr. Kavanaugh's parish.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Dan, you will indeed be welcome! You will also be reminded that, if you are ill, including your herpes outbreak, it is your responsibility to abstain ftom drinking from the common cup.

The Egyptian said...

what I find so confusing is the whole communion conga line in the first place,

1, if people really understand being in the state of grace to receive there would be either A, a long line at confession or B, a short line at communion

2, some fire and brimstone preaching on the state of grace and the fact of "spiritual communion" might mean that the many "distributors" might not be necessary

3, far fewer "distributors" and communicants means less chance for "contamination"

4, reminding the congregation that the host itself is the "body, blood and divinity" in totality is a fact, after all the "original" wording for the use of the cup was for holy days and special occasions, funny how that became everyday so quickly, now it seems to be a demand and expected,funny how rules morph, like female servers

5, grow up you won't die and are not being discriminated against by not receiving your drink along with your snack (snark)

6, Frs do a count and see how many abstain from communion, are you doing your job?

Fr. David Evans said...

To you list, Father, could I perhaps add: putting candlesticks and candles BACK on the Altar.

Brent said...

Father K,

It seems that the disagreement that emerges quite often is over the type of empiricism one should espouse. Your interlocutors are not “against” science, but instead hold to an Aristotelian view of empiricism whereby we can come to the knowledge of “natures” through observation. Hence, their claim that the common chalice is risky is not conjecture or by revelation, but through observation that the acts associated with this practice are consistent with the acts found in other settings that we would have evidence to support their claims. Hence, their knowledge derived from one set of facts makes its way into this case through the knowledge of “natures.” FDA regulations around cleaning dishes, for example, would be one such evidence that transposes from one case to another through this knowledge of natures (or more generally universals abstracted through sensible individuations).

Empiricism in the Humean tradition rejects this few of natures or even that we can come to know them. Your view of science, as best as I can gather, seems to hold to this view (presupposition). It is the presupposition of much of the social psychology and statistical methods that try to “prove” or “disprove” common ideas that in many cases we already knew through our knowledge of “natures.” In turn, we get studies that “prove” - finally as if we were all waiting - that ice cream taste good, that prayer is good for you etc. etc.

I submit this in an effort to try to referee the constant trolling back and forth between you and Father A and the incessant disagreement in the combox that leaves everyone reading exhausted. I think you disagree about what you can know, and thus, your claim that there is not evidence that the common chalice leads to plague is Humean, meaning, there is no study in that particular case that proves it leads to plague. However, I know you do not disagree with the idea that there are many studies in other cases that prove practices unhealthy and that those studies lead to the many recommendations that the CDC and other health organizations use to offer their recommended practices supported by science. What you seem to believe is that those two cases have no causal relationship (to the common chalice) and that it is a category mistake - in the Humean sense - to go from one case to another and claim the same applies because we cannot know natures (I am not convinced you think that explicitly).

I think Father A and those who agree with him believe you come to know natures, and thus are warranted in holding to their position about the common chalice.



Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brent.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Brent - A scientist is nothing more than a well-trained observer. He or she is instructed and then trained in how to "see." "Does the organism being studied have two, four, or six legs?" "Does it have hair, fur, feathers, or scales?" "Does it reproduce through sexual or asexual means?"

An untrained or sloppy observer is going to make a poor scientist. For example, he or she will look at a flamingo standing in a pond and conclude that this organism in unique in that it has only one leg. Or they may see a sausage-shaped organism washed up on the beach and conclude that it is could not be related to the starfish that washed up next to it since it does not have five "arms" like many other starfish. In fact, the sausage-shaped organism is a sea cucumber and, with the starfish, is a member of the phylum echinodermata. The sea cumber and star fish are close cousins.

Or, that person will hear one or two people claim that they were made ill by drinking the Precious Blood from the common cup at communion time. Or maybe that person will claim that he or she most certainly contracted anthrax by drinking after the shepherd who is a daily communicant at early mass after being out keeping watch over his flocks by night.

The issue for me is what means of knowing - what empirical method - is best for determining public policy, in this case, the use or non-use of the common cup for communion. I would, obviously, not be inclined to accept anecdotal evidence as the basis for policy. The "kinda-sorta" approach, "this is kinda-sorta like that" - transposing data from one case to what one supposes is a similar case is - in my estimation, very dicey. What we are currently becoming aware of is the inadequacies posed by such thinking when it comes to testing pharmaceuticals. An agent that works in a certain way in Caucasian men, it was thought, will work well in non-Caucasian women. Yes, that's how phase three trials on many drugs have been carried out. The assumption that the data from the all-white, all-male could be transposed to non-white, non-male populations is problematic.

As well you must take into account two things. Fr. McDonald is very opposed to the use of the common cup, ab initio, and very much in favor of intinction. Second, Fr. McDonald, as he has admitted, has a germ phobia. I'm not sure whether it is the Aristotelian methodology or the Humean methodology that takes these essential elements of the discussion into account. But be accounted for they must.

I will continue to make my position in the matter known in the face of what is, I believe, deficient reasoning. As always, I am desirous of seeing scientific evidence that supports Fr. McDonald's position.

Brent said...

Fr. K,

The case you gave proves that the Humean method doesn’t work. It really is a form of Platonism. An over reliance on statistical modeling, as has been the case in pharma, has resulted in over confidence. This over confidence has led to the kinds of approaches where treatments for one situation are used in another and the side effects are ignored. That is why medicine is in the middle of a genomic revolution. Also, just like someone might be over confident from their “kinda-sorta” methodology, they might also be over confident with their pseudo-empirical approach. I recommend the new book called Medical Nihilism published in Cambridge that exposes the over confidence in the medical profession due to just this methodological error.

Harvard has an entire department now focused on personalized, individualized approaches to all ares of study. The idea is to analyze first and then aggregate. You don’t aggregate and then analyze. That is the old model. That is the Humean, Platonic, over-confident, model. The analyze and then aggregate approach is Aristotelian/Thomistic, and I find it fascinating that modern science has taken so long to rediscover it. In the case of your dispute with Fr. Allan, he seems to have just as much warrant to hold his position given his analysis as you do. The absence of evidence is not the same as the evidence of absence. And the common cup is not analogous to medicines designed for white males not working for women. Surprise - genomic research has discovered that men and women have different natures that are essential and not accidental. But didn’t we already know that a long time ago?

Epistemic humility? Yes! That would include the notion that both science can tell us very much about the world and that there are other ways we come to know things. I recommend Gerd Gigerenzer’s book Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (Bounded Rationality is online). Even as a materialist, atheist, scientist, he can see the error in thinking that Fr. Allan’s “gut” thinking is somehow to be dismissed easily out of hand.

Most importantly, rather than disagree over conclusions let’s go back to the premises. Do you disagree that we can come to know natures through abstraction of a sensible individual?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Brent - Statistical modelling isn't how "pharma" works.

There are four clinical, not statistical, stages that "pharma" uses to determine if drugs are effective and safe. Phase 0 studies are exploratory studies that often use only a few small doses of a new drug in a few patients. Phase I studies of a new drug are usually the first that involve a larger, but still limited, number of people. The main reason for doing phase I studies is to find the highest dose of the new treatment that can be given safely without serious side effects. If a new treatment is found to be reasonably safe in phase I clinical trials, it can then be tested in a phase II clinical trial to find out if it works. The type of benefit or response the doctors look for depends on the goal of the treatment. Phase III studies, often called "double-blind" studies, are then carried out on, usually, hundreds of patients, to compare the effectiveness of the drug being tested with other drugs already available. (Source - American Cancer Society)

The error you suggest - "An over reliance on statistical modeling, as has been the case in pharma, has resulted in over confidence." - doesn't arise from a weakness in the statistical method, per se. It arises from a misuse of the statistical method.

You suggest Fr. McDonald has done some kind of analysis ("In the case of your dispute with Fr. Allan, he seems to have just as much warrant to hold his position given his analysis as you do.") of the question of the advisability of the continued use of the common cup for communion. I would respond that he has done ZERO analysis. He has seen a flamingo standing in a pond and concluded, without analysis, that is it a unique, one-legged organism. That kind of absence of analysis is not a good basis for establishing public policy. I would suggest that it is, in fact, a terrible basis for forming public policy.

JR said...

Oh, and priests, deacons and EMHC (yes, they're not supposed to but do), who touch the heads of people who go up in the Communion line for their "participation trophy blessing": PLEASE STOP! You don't know how clean their hair is, and it may have been sneezed on from somebody in the pew behind them. Germs from a sneeze easily travel 20 feet or so, or over several pews in front of the sneezer.