Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest news

Still nothing much to do with law – or at least, only marginally so – but…

On Monday we posted a link to the Diocese of London advice on coronavirus and on Wednesday issued an update following a revision by the Diocese. Also on Monday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued its own Guidance to Catholics on Coronavirus, including a 13-page downloadable document. As we noted on Monday, the issue appeared to have just about zero to do with law, but we thought that, in the circumstances, it was worth helping to disseminate it nevertheless.

In response to a question at General Synod, the Bishop of Carlisle said that specific advice from Church of England would only be provided if the situation escalated further and that if there was a real danger, “the legal advisory commission has said that good sense could mediate the necessity for a priest to celebrate Holy Communion on Sundays and major feast days. I sincerely hope we won’t be in that position.”

Which did make us wonder, Canon B14A and Choral Matins to the rescue, maybe? However, general advice was posted on the C of E website shortly afterwards, here: Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for parishes; this was last updated on 25 February to include advice to travellers who have returned to the UK from a number of countries including parts of Northern Italy. The advice recommends incorporating simple precautions into worship services, particularly during the celebration of the Eucharist. The situation is to be kept under close review and updated advice will be made available if necessary.

With regard to intinction, the guidance now states: “Intinction is not recommended (even by celebrants or communion-administrators) as this represents an infection transmission route as well as a risk to those with certain allergies”. With regard to the latter, advice is available in a document by the Diocese of Southwark dated September 2016.

Perhaps the most comprehensive advice has been issued by the Diocese of Peterborough in an Ad Clerum which inter alia warns against receiving the bread directly onto the tongue:

“People may have been taught that the consecrated bread is too holy to touch, or they may have learnt this habit for other reasons. The risk of the minister’s fingers touching the recipient’s lips or tongue, and passing germs to others, is very real”.

[Since this guidance was issued, there have been a number of updates within the Church of England and elsewhere, and these are now listed in a separate post, which itself is frequently updated.]

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest news" in Law & Religion UK, 14 February 2020, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2020/02/14/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-news/

6 thoughts on “Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest news

  1. Au contraire – it is a matter of law – the Sacrament Act 1547 permits Communion in one kind in cases of grave necessity.

    • Thank you Alan – an interesting comment, and one which provokes further consideration of the law in this area. Whilst Section VIII Sacrament Act 1547 remains in force, in his consideration of its relevance in the case of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, Swine Flu and the Sacrament Act 1547, Philip Jones suggested that:

      “reference to ‘necessitie’ was suggested as the legal justification for refusing to administer the wine during a ‘swine flu’ pandemic in 2009. However, it is argued that this is a superficial and flawed interpretation of the 1547 Act.”

      Whether or not you agree with Philip’s arguments, his post is well worth reading in the context of the coronavirus.

    • Touché – I wrote that bit and I meant it in the sense ‘nothing to do with the kind of law I normally deal with’.

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