In athletics, often there is cited a danger for players and coaches playing not to lose. That’s distinct from people who play to win.
In football, one sees this embodied in the combination of the two-minute drill and the prevent defense. For the former, a team trailing and needing to score, alters their planning rhythm. They hurry up; time’s almost run out in the game. So they need to score and if they make an error, the game would be lost anyway.
The defending team will play soft sometimes. They will prevent the other team from going ahead on one big play, but they will gladly bend, giving up intermediate yardage bit by bit. Sometimes that strategy backfires as the trailing team retains patience, and will gladly take whatever the “prevent defense” gives them.
When I was reading the dangers cited for Communion in the hand: easier for non-Catholics to receive, easier for consecrated hosts to be carried off, etc., I was thinking this is part of the mindset of playing (or worshipping) not to lose.
Outside of the circle of the initiated (however one wishes to define that) there is always a danger of sacrilege, abuse, irreverence, taking things less seriously, and the like. There was such concern about this at the Council of Trent that a serious proposal was surfaced to just have the celebration of Mass privately: no congregation, just the clergy.
The better one does liturgy, meaning with great music, preaching, art, architecture, various ministries, full participation, and all, the more likely liturgy will inspire people on the earthly plane and this lead them to the spiritual. Yet there are dangers involved. Musicians can get full of themselves, good preachers play entertainer-priest, liturgical ministers develop their own cults of exclusion or aristocracy, and people get duped into thinking the externals are the essentials, rather than the means to an end.
Like football teams defending a slim lead in the final seconds, it is tempting to play not to lose. And in so doing, such teams might find themselves suffering a catastrophic loss.
The metaphor fits some of the liturgical struggles of the Church today. Programming traditional music only, building in traditional styles only, and limiting mistakes or potential sacrilege–this exemplifies the mentality of praying not to lose. After all, what if God hates David Haas, and we did all that music? Safer to stick with Dufay or de Victoria or plainsong.
I wouldn’t expect all clerical-focused Catholics to understand the benefit of Communion in the hand. Despite the equal dignity of tongue and hand, there is a great value in mature Catholics receiving in the hand if they wish. It’s the way adults serve and feed. To me, the question comes down to this: do clergy want a Church of adults fulfilling their mission, or do they want to reinforce a Church of children and babies waiting to be serviced?
The yearning for some idealized good-ol-days drives some of this backtracking on liturgical reform. My sense is to respond simply, “No thanks. We don’t need to go back.”
Or in the parlance of today, sometimes it’s better to call a blitz, and expect the team to deliver a crushing sack to take the two-minute drillers out of field goal range.