Cardinal Heenan said last Saturday that he deplored the decline in reverence for blessed things and criticised Catholics who no longer genuflected before the Blessed Sacrament.
Addressing almost 200 religious and laity from the Westminster Archdiocese at a ceremony in Westminster Cathedral authorising them to distribute Holy Communion, he said there had been "a progressive decline in reverence for blessed things".
Many of the outward signs of reverence had gone and there was now all the more reason for intensifying inner reverence, he said.
Some Catholics no longer genuflected before the Blessed Sacrament or knelt before it and yet this was contrary to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council he said. He counselled those about to be commissioned "not to lose their awe for the Sacrament".
This privilege has not been given for the convenience of the clergy but for the welfare of the people", he said. "It would cause a great scandal if word got round the hospitals that the priest had better things to do than take Holy Communion to the sick." The new authorisation did not excuse priests their normal responsibilities.
The Cardinal criticised two groups of Catholics as being no good to the Church: those who would reject change of any kind in administering Holy Communion and those who would welcome anything new, "and gleefully discard what was traditional".
A good Catholic accepted the teaching of the Church and the Pope, he said. He dismissed as "fanatic" those priests who abandoned vestments when saying Mass or administering sacraments. He ordered the men among those commissioned to distribute Communion to wear cassock and cotta when doing so and the women were to wear a veil and if possible, a The Cardinal advised those commissioned that they needed to be very tactful. Many Catholics might think there was no respect left for the sacrament, he said "You will have to be patient and tactful with misunderstandings." He asked them to proceed carefully, not giving scandal to the weak nor offence through careless behaviour. Those commissioned to distribute Holy Communion in the Diocese were each given a copy of the Diocesan Pastoral I.iturgy Centre's booklet on Communion for the sick.
Looking healthier than many of his congregation, Cardinal Heenan was carrying out his first public engagement after three weeks' con valescence.
His brief letter to The Times on Monday, announcing that he had sent a personal letter to the Prime Minister "to offer certain suggestion," about the present national crisis, received wide publicity.
He wrote that his action was encouraged by that of his predecessor, Cardinal Manning, who had helped settle the dock strike of 1889. The precise content of these suggestions he is not prepared to divulge.