Earlier this year, Fr. Richard Heilman, the designer of my beautifully masculine Combat Rosary, wrote a guest post for the New Liturgical Movement on the dubious origins of communion in the hand. Cincinnati’s own Cardinal Bernardin played a disappointing but unsurprisingly pivotal role. The post received some renewed circulation this week on facebook. Here’s a key excerpt of local interest:
So how did Communion in the hand come to America?
In 1975 and again in 1976, Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) attempted in vain to garner two-thirds of the bishops to vote in favor of receiving Communion in the hand. The following year – which coincided with the end of Bernardin’s term as president – brought one final attempt. Bernadin appointed Archbishop Quinn, who became Bernardin’s immediate successor as NCCB president, to be the chief lobbyist for Communion in the hand. During the proceedings a brave bishop requested a survey of the bishops be taken – this survey would ask each bishop whether or not Communion in the hand was widely practiced in his diocese, for without the practice’s current wide-use the first condition of the indult would not be satisfied.
*Of course, everyone knew that Communion in the hand was not a previously established practice in the United States.
Though his request was seconded and supported in writing by five other bishops, Bernardin had the motion dismissed as “out of order.” The bishops then voted … only to once more fall short of the two-thirds majority. This, however, did not end the matter. Bernardin decided to (unlawfully) begin gathering “absentee votes” from any bishop he could find – including retired bishops who no longer administered any dioceses. Consequently, the number was adjusted to meet the two-thirds majority.