Catholics demanding Communion on the tongue a threat to public health, says priest

Bishops advised ‘there must be limits to appeasement’ in dealings with alt-right views

A Waterford priest has criticised as selfish the behaviour of Catholics who demand Communion on the tongue despite Covid-19 restrictions.

Fr Liam Power, former communications officer with the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, said such people did not seem to "respect the danger this represented to others" and were a cause of "very serious embarrassment for priests, many of whom are elderly".

While the number making such demands was “not huge, reports were fairly consistent from parishes across the country”, he said. It was also the case that people involved were “not open to negotiation”.

Fr Power referred to an incident in a Waterford church recently.


“One member of the congregation crossed from one section of the church, climbing over a barrier separating the two pods of 50, and then demanded Holy Communion on the tongue.”

The priest refused.

“It was an embarrassing situation as the congregation witnessed this stand-off during a most sacred moment of the service. When challenged afterwards, the person refuted the constitutionality of the Covid-19 regulations, inferring that the right to religious liberty was being undermined.”

A similar incident happened involving an elderly priest with underlying health issues. He too refused.

“In neither of these incidents was any concern shown by the protesters for the health and safety of others. Priests and other communicants could have been exposed to Covid infection,” Fr Power said.


More generally, he referred to the "aggression" of such people and their growth across the Catholic world, with a seeming determination "to undermine Vatican II and remove Pope Francis. It's the first time in my lifetime I ever heard of a campaign to remove a Pope from within the Church. It's very unsettling for Catholics," he said.

He agreed with those who felt that attention given to such ultra-right groups by Church authorities in Ireland as elsewhere was now "reaping a bitter whirlwind".

Fr Power recalled how, when Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin attended Eid celebrations in Croke Park last July, "he was met with screaming protestors, his car surrounded and banged on, and people shouting traitor and other abuse".

There was also the recent "torrent of abuse hurled at Fr Stephen Farragher, parish priest of Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo, during protests at his decision to allow two members of the Muslim community to say the final blessing and prayer at a Sunday ceremony in the church".

“The blessing was planned to show solidarity with frontline workers and to pray for the eradication of Covid-19.”

It was the case that such people also “oppose vaccines and refuse to wear masks and they wantonly contravene other HSE guidelines”, he said.

Their “toxic politico-religious cocktail” was “symptomatic of what is happening on a more global level, particularly in the USA”.

"Extreme alt-right media groups claiming total fidelity to the Catholic church (such as Church Militant, Lifesite News, Breitbart and the most influential of all Catholic media, EWTN), are unabashedly partisan in their support for extreme right wing politics," Fr Power said.

Where Ireland’s Catholic bishops were concerned, Fr Power felt that “in their attempt to accommodate the alt-right Catholics the hierarchy need to appreciate the political implications of extreme views which, in my opinion, serve to undermine the pontificate of Pope Francis”.

“There must be limits to appeasement.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times