White House concerned about spreading flu in churches

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WASHINGTON (RNS) The White House and federal health officials have released guidelines recommending that worshippers take precautions against spreading germs to reduce the risk of contracting swine flu. Marilyn Meyers, a 67-year-old member of Washington National Cathedral, already had thought about the health risks involved in her church’s services. On Sunday (Oct. 4), as she […]

  • thomas warner

    A person quoted on your report implies that one can dunk the ” wafer ” in the ” wine “.
    Not so in the Catholic church : self-intinction is expressly forbidden. A person may receive Jesus Christ under one species or both , depending on the circumstances and the regulations in a particular diocese. Obedience in this matter is essential.

  • lostrego



  • R. Brown

    I spend much more time at work than I do at church. Is the White House afraid of people getting ill from places of employment?

  • charlene

    The comment about money is great, perhaps the white house should put some directive about money. Oh I forgot they have all our money so we don’t need to be worried. Perhaps we need to alert all the private banks to be careful not to touch our money that they have now.

  • Louise

    Good grief! There are no germs on the Body of Christ.

  • Sharon


  • Carol in VA

    AHHHH! We see! There are NO germs in Madrassahs or islamic houses of prayer–where the worshippers all touch the ground with their hands & faces. Hmmmm. Another Straw in the Obama Winds of Change!

  • John

    Remember when the women all wore gloves. It’s time to return to gloved hands.

  • Ann

    This is yet another ploy by the liberals to keep people from receiving Our Lord with reverence; On the Tongue while kneeling. And, remember the SARS and the Bird flu? Whatever happened with those charades that were suppose to affect millions and millions of people? This H1N1 is another farce; listening to virologists they have said that the common flu will kill more people this year than the H1N1. Don’t buy it people, and keep receiving Our Lord on the tongue.
    And do they plan on stopping the administration of the Precious Blood too? Another Protestant invention just like Communion in the hand.

    These liberals have tried to refuse my family as well as otherS from receiving Our Lord while kneeling, when the Holy Fathers have always said we have that choice and RIGHT! So, you see, there is more to it than the excuse of this Pig flu story. STAND UP and FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT! OUR GOD COMES FIRST AND FOREMOST AND DESERVES ALL THE REVERENCE AND RESPECT WE UNWORTHY SINNERS CAN GIVE HIM. PEACE TO ALL!

  • Winkyb

    May this ignorance fall on the deaf ears of our priests and bishops.
    There is no and never has been any outbreaks identified by the CDC caused by the sacramentals and sacraments of the Catholic Mass or any church services. I don’t how an scientific agency such as CDC can draw such conclusions with an event or data. As a matter of fact Church History shows that diseases and plaques fled at the use and presence of sacraments and sacramentals where whole communities and towns were healed by use of them. This is unacceptable in the scientific realm to draw conclusions and formulate recommendations lacking evidence-based. It is known as quackery. Perhaps they should limit their concerns to shopping malls, movies houses, bars and airplanes, maybe doorknobs and handles. Rather than serve as a cheerleader for Satan in it’s feeble attempt to disarm the Catholic Church and the Fairhful of it’s most powerful weapons: the sacraments and its sacramentals. Fooey to you CDC!!! And straight to the Foot of the Cross Satan!!!

  • AJ

    I read the article, then I read some of these comments, and then I read the article again. Apparently our government has issued ‘guidelines,’ not rules.

    Since no one commenting here can remember the last time a major flu pandemic occurred (hmm, let’s see, 1918, 50-100 million people dead), and since SARs was such a ‘bust,’ we all ought to assume that this swine flu thing is just a government conspiracy, right?

    To R. Brown, lostrego and Charlene: This article covers guidelines from the White House Office for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which probably shouldn’t be issuing guidelines about workplaces or money. And the article is appearing on Religion News Service. So I think it’s meant to cover only the religion angle.

    To Carol: If you read the whole article, you get to this: ‘The federal guidelines also are relevant to Islam. Some Muslims ritually cleanse themselves using the same bowl of water before they are called to prayer. And in the Jewish tradition, congregants close the service by shaking hands and wishing each other a good Sabbath, or “Shabbat shalom.”’ No need to make a sly comment that implies the president is some shadow Islamist.

    To Ann: I’ll have to alert all my liberal conspirators that you’re on to us! We’ll try a new strategy soon.

    Come on folks! Reading is FUNdamental!

  • lisa

    Barack Hussein Beelzebub AND the CDC need to keep their noses out of my church. Remember, FEAR is satan’s greatest weapon. Shaking hands in church is a Protestant tradition also, like taking Communion in the hand. Come on people…this whole pig flu, aptly called, is nothing but a man made disease for the big drug companies to get rid of all the Tamiflu they couldn’t get rid of last year. Our church said we cannot dip our hand in the HOLY WATER FONT!! Gimme a break. May God forgive the priests who have given in to fear instead of having FAITH. In the immortal words of Pope John Paul II, FEAR NOT.

  • Kevin Eckstrom

    Hi folks, Kevin Eckstrom here, from Religion News Service. Just a reminder that we monitor this blog for comments that are offensive, unnecessarily incendiary or otherwise out of line. Referring to the president as “Barack Hussein Beelzebub” is close to the edge, so a gentle reminder to one and all to keep the conversation civil.

    Failure to abide by these rules will result in you being blocked from this site.

    That said, I have a question for John and his suggestion that it’s time to return to gloved ladies at Mass, and I mean this will all seriousness: don’t men also carry germs?

  • Winkyb

    AJ-baby you need to read the article again. What you do not understand is a misapplying of information and inappropiate conclusions drawns and then disseminated as factual utilizing a scientific agency, the CDc as the source. The Catholic Church, Synagoues, Mosques are not a faith-based initiatives neither have there been documented in any CDC a prevalence of this outbreaks by any of the faiths attacked in this article. You have listed several outbreaks: Flu, SARS, Avian, H1N1, however none of these outbreaks has been linked to any rites, practices, beliefs, services, teachings, sacraments, sacramentals! Again if you look at history and you looked at these 3 religions they have long standing practices that abate and prevent the outbreak of plaques and diseases. This article and those who are perpetuating these erroneous claims need to be ignored. Don’t make me sick Bill Donahue on you!



  • AJ

    Thanks Winky! You’ve opened my eyes about taking unnecessary precautions. I shan’t make that mistake again.

    (Though a doctor friend of mine, who happens to be an epidemiologist, might disagree. He’s under the misapprehension that taking precautions would be a good thing, and he’s also extremely nervous about this upcoming flu season. But that’s his problem, right. All that edumacation gone to waste…)

    I don’t think sacramental rites are being singled out–though maybe they appear to be in this article from a religion-based news organization. But it might be wise to be careful during flu season anywhere where you might inadvertantly swap saliva, or sneeze on someone in a group gathering, or…naw. Who cares?

  • Elaine D

    So let me get this straight the Government wants to set up guidelines for church attendance. Has there been any mention of guidelines for shopping in malls, grocery markets, pumping gas, public restrooms? Let’s not forget restaurants where waitresses and waiters touch plates, glasses, cups silverware etc when serving food. How many times a week are MOST people in church (not all people are daily communicants) as opposed to in the malls, grocery stores etc?

  • Faithful1

    I saw a sign in front of a church that read, “God answers knee-mail”. God also reads our hearts, feels our pain, embraces us with His love and peace, and blesses our country when God remains a part of our country. Who remembers the song, “God Bless America?”…”Land that I love, stand beside Her and guide Her through the night with a light from above”. Before we lose our freedom to voice our opinions, hold town hall meetings, practice our faith (Christian, Moslem, or Judaism), let us remember what OUR COUNTRY was founded on and why so many died to make this land, America, FREE! It is the freedom to practice our faith. The only way this can change is if and when someone dictates to us, American citizens, that the freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to hold elections, freedom to run and manage my own business, freedom to assemble in town hall meetings, that these freedoms no longer exist. The state cannot dictate what the religious communities can and cannot do, because it violates our constitution and bill of rights. BUT, if the government violates its own laws and states these changes are for the good of the people, who can stand up and legally challenge the government? The president sets the precedent. In the neantime, let us give God the reverence He is due, for we need Him now more than ever before…and that includes sharing the Body and Blood of Our Lord at Mass everyday.

  • David W. Kimble

    Listen, no one is made to shake hands or hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer, also if you don’t want to drink out of the chalice you don’t have to. I firmly believe that people are making more of this than needs to be.

  • AJ

    Elaine: Yes indeed, there are tons of flu guidelines out there. Check out the CDC site: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance/ There are guidelines for doctors and patients, pregnant women, employers, schools, travel professionals, day care providers and on and on.

    This article isn’t about the government singling out religion. It’s an article that appears on a religion news site, with a religion angle on the story. I’m sure there are websites out there for employers or day care providers that might cover these guidelines without mentioning religious services at all.

  • Phil

    AJ – your arrogance is showing. Can we drop all the belittling comments intended to make people you disagree with appear to be stupid? Thanks.

  • AJ

    You’re right, Phil. I apologize.

  • Norman J. Adams

    Oh! Yea of little faith. How easy the evil one can enter our Church.
    Those who promote passing the flu through The Eucharist, should ask themselves if Jesus would ask them to get behind Him.

  • fiberangel

    It is interesting to note some thinking about receiving communion in the hand. If you think this is a newly invented tradition, it was ‘invented’ in medevial times. Early Christians did receive in the hand. It isn’t about ‘how’ we receive it is about the condition of our hearts and souls. Receive him with reverence and with confidence that He will protect you. Nothing will happen of course..remember in scripture it talks about poison? Poison won’t affect the faithful. Praise be God for His Mercy and Kindness. Too many of us don’t know our faith: break out the books and start studying.

  • fiberangel

    oops let me clarify: receiving on the tongue was invented in medival times. Thank you for your patience.

  • Patricia K

    I think this is much about nothing. You are in more danger if you go to grocery store and touch a shopping cart.

    On a lighter note, please read Our Lady of America’s messages at http://www.oltiv.org to learn of Her call to purity. It may save someone’s life (or at least their soul).

    Listen to WROL 950AM on Wednesday at 12 Noon EST http://www.wrolboston.com to hear about Our Lady of America


  • Minnesota Mary

    Isn’t it interesting that the Catholic Bishops will now suspend the annoying “shake and howdy” because Obama’s White House is concerned about germs and Swine Flu? I’ve always known that the “shake and howdy” is the biggest germ fest going, so I use hand sanitizer before receiving Communion. If only the clergy would suspend this hand shaking permanently!

  • prayerwarrior4Jesus

    The 10 most germ-laden places do not include churches and especially not the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (not “wine” and “wafer”-we do not have wine and wafers in the Roman Catholic Church). They are: kitchen sink, airplane bathrooms, wet laundry, public drinking fountains, shopping cart handles, ATM buttons, ladies’ purses (especially bottom), playgrounds, mats and machines at health clubs, your bathtub, office phones, hotel room remote. Shaking hands does spread germs, but money is the worst. Because I truly believe that I receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, I believe that I will not get sick by receiving Our Lord at Church. However, because I don’t know whether other people wash properly, and more importantly, because I believe the shaking of hands at the Sign of Peace should be abolished, I no longer shake hands–I just nod to those on either side of me or in front of me, should they offer to shake hands. Sometimes it’s awkward, but it’s getting easier and “more natural.”

  • Margaret

    The Roman Catholic Church does not have to give both kinds (species) to receive Holy Communion. The Holy Host is The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself and is a complete and full Holy Communion.
    All of the Saints got by very well with just receiving one kind.
    The Bishops of the United States could suspend with both species for Holy Communion and just give one species ,the Holy Host, and not the Holy Chalices.
    The Complete Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity is in each species, the Holy Host and the Holy Chalices. In essence we are receiving Holy Communion twice when we receive in both kinds.
    There would be less “spillage of the sacred Chalice” and there would be less need for all the Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers. It would also save time for the “correct cleaning” of the Chalices by the Deacon or Priest.(There would only be need for one Chalices)
    This would be a good time for the Catholic Bishops of America to suspend both kinds and just have one kind, the Holy Host, for Communion for the parishioners.

  • Please remember that the CDC has issued an official statement identifying Christianity as a threat to public health. This statement was about two years ago, and I am not kidding or being sarcastic. Look it up. The CDC is a political as well as “scientific” agency of the government.

  • Brigette

    I’m happy you guys have already clarified Myers’ ignorance in calling GOD, himself just “wafers and wine.” Unbelievable!!! The terrible catechesis of the past forty years. As the Pope is about to elevate to canonization Blessed Damien of Molokai on Oct. 11….we should all remember that he would never hesitate based on fear to catch leprosy in serving and saving souls, why would we worry EVER about receiving the Body and Blood of Christ without which we would have no spiritual strength– for fear of catching a flu. It isn’t always about our bodily health anyway….suffering is carrying our cross. If you should take all the precautions that you are able (by all means..DO) and still contract the flu–you will carry your cross and be carried by God. “Fiber Angel” is wrong on her history…..communion on the tongue was NOT introduced in medieval times and if you are watching your history unfold TODAY…..the Pope is setting the standard at his own private masses and ONLY gives Holy Communion on the tongue & kneeling, recommending this AS MOST REVEREND way for ALL Catholics. Many bishops too. Abuses and irreverence abound when receiving your Almighty God in your own unworthy hands. God Bless everyone….if you get sick anyway….offer it up for the salvation of souls!
    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

  • Carol in VA

    Dear Minnesota Mary: You are absolutely correct! Flu season or not, I consistently smile, wave & wish my pew-neighbors “The Peace of Jesus Christ–and Good Health” during what I call “The Rite of Contagion.”

  • kyle

    Men carry germs of the loin

  • rich

    a little caution is always a good precautionary measure !

  • There needs to be some balance here. I can understand public health authorities focusing on ways to limit the opportunity to spread disease. That’s their job. But others should be looking at things in a broader perspective, balancing the advisability of precautionary measures against other legitimate needs. I don’t think this would result in such extreme recommendations.

    Given that normal practices during religious services have never been demonstrated to be a major source of contagion, and the H1N1 virus is not a particular dangerous one, major changes in religious practices hardly seem justified. I’m sure there are some things which can be done which would reduce risk without disrupting important practices.

    I am disturbed by the recommendation to replace hand shaking with a nod. These are not equivalent. Physical touch is proven to have positive effects that a nod can not have. Physical contact among congregants is important in fostering a sense of unity in the body of Christ.

    There is one person in our church who does not shake hands. We touch elbows with him. As he is the only person in the church who always wears a suit, this means that his skin is not in contact with ours, but there is the warmth of physical contact that would not be present with a nod.

  • prayerwarrior4Jesus

    To Bill Samuel: Receiving the Holy Eucharist is how Catholics achieve true unity. We are united with every other person on earth who is receiving Our Lord in a state of grace, properly disposed, truly believing in His Real Presence. We are closer to each other in the reception of Holy Communion than when we shake hands or hug and for married couples even closer than in unitive conjugal love. Cardinal Arinze, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship has previously said the following, “Often the full meaning of this gesture (Sign of Peace) is not understood. People think it is a chance to shake their friends’ hands. Instead, it is a way of saying to someone near that the peace of Christ, truly present on the altar, is also with all men.” There are many ways to convey that peace, and nodding is certainly one way. It will bring quiet and solemnity and restore respect and attention to Our Lord Who is truly present upon the altar, waiting to come and live in each one of us. In one of my old missals, copyright date 1960, the priest would say, “The Peace of the Lord be always with you.” And the congregation would respond, “And with your spirit.” That was it. It was still the same in 1966 in my other missal. Then
    when they implemented Vatican II (in many ways erroneously) things changed and now we have a virtual circus right before Holy Communion, when we should be focused on Jesus and not on trying to catch up on things with people all around. Besides being so disrespectful of Our Lord, it is very disruptive for those people who prefer to pray during this time and not be accosted by people who become indignant because you don’t want to shake hands or chat. It is equally disrespectful of the place of worship. The closer we unite ourselves to Jesus during this time, the more respectful and loving we are with those around us everyday, wherever we are. The time for fellowship, (and I do think we should chat and visit and inquire after people’s health, etc.), is after Mass, outside or at the coffee and donuts time. I really object to the shaking of hands as a substitute for real love of neighbor. It’s almost as if people think they have done their good deed for the week. We are called to love worship God with our whole heart and soul and be kind and loving to others. The second flows from the first. Shaking hands is not the “loving gesture” that many make it out to be. Again, I am not against shaking hands, being neighborly, etc. But there is time and the place for that. In my humble opinion, that time is not right before I receive Our Lord in Holy Communion.

  • I am not Catholic, and I was trying to comment in a way that is beyond any particular faith tradition. In my church, the greeting of each other is done very early in the service, and communion quite a bit later.

  • Fred Stroman

    Why is this when the president does not attend and as far as I know has been in a church one time since He has taken office.

  • David Shaw


    Please see this recent post from the RNS blog: http://religionnews.com/index.php?/rnsblog/obamas_attend_walk_hom_from_church/


    David Shaw