Saturday 18 June 2011

Forcing people to stand for Holy Communion is a grave pastoral abuse

Just one response from the Congregation of Divine Worship addressed to a diocese where it seems people were being denied the opportunity to kneel for Holy Communion and pressured to stand. The Congregation makes it abundantly clear that to deny people the opportunity to kneel to receive the Blessed Sacrament is not acceptable.

Responses to Questions on Kneeling for Communion

The following responses to questions were published in the November-December 2002 edition of Notitiae, the official publication of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. These responses represent the view of the Holy See on the questions of kneeling to receive Holy Communion and the right of Catholics to address concerns to the Holy See. More can be read on the Adoremus site.

Congregation de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum

Prot. n. 1322/02/L

Rome, 1 July 2002

Your Excellency,

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has recently received reports of members of the faithful in your Diocese being refused Holy Communion unless while standing to receive, as opposed to kneeling. The reports state that such a policy has been announced to parishioners. There were possible indications that such a phenomenon might be somewhat more widespread in the Diocese, but the Congregation is unable to verify whether such is the case. This Dicastery is confident that Your Excellency will be in a position to make a more reliable determination of the matter, and these complaints in any event provide an occasion for the Congregation to communicate the manner in which it habitually addresses this matter, with a request that you make this position known to any priests who may be in need of being thus informed.

The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful, namely that of being assisted by their Pastors by means of the Sacraments (Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 213). In view of the law that "sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them" (canon 843 ¶ 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.

In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.

Given the importance of this matter, the Congregation would request that Your Excellency inquire specifically whether this priest in fact has a regular practice of refusing Holy Communion to any member of the faithful in the circumstances described above and -- if the complaint is verified -- that you also firmly instruct him and any other priests who may have had such a practice to refrain from acting thus in the future. Priests should understand that the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if they are verified, it intends to seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.

Thanking Your Excellency for your attention to this matter and relying on your kind collaboration in its regard,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Jorge A. Cardinal Medina Estévez

+Francesco Pio Tamburrino
Archbishop Secretary


Leo Darroch said...

One of the stated objectives of the post Vatican II liturgists was that the people would play a greater role in Church activities, especially the liturgy. This is true only for those who toe the party line and accept without question what 'Father' tells them. The unquestioning sycophants now rule the roost in parish life and the great majority of rapidly diminishing faithful that remain have been pushed to the margins. Anyone who is not a minister of some kind, either 'extraordinary' or as a minister of the organ (as one person described himself in false humility), is a nobody. Before Vatican II, if one dares to mention 'the bad old days', the faithful at Communion time approached the altar and knelt upon the sanctuary at the altar rails. It was a special moment during the Mass in that they were able to kneel upon the sanctuary that contained the altar of sacrifice. It was a moment of special closeness, of deep spirituality, that many of the congregation looked forward to. Now, because everyone stands and receives the Body of Christ in their hands, the priests and extraordinary ministers commonly stand off the sanctuary. The net effect is that the faithful are pushed further away from the altar and the sanctuary. The sanctuary is now the domain of the priest and his helpers. They alone are allowed the privilege of sharing the sacred space of the altar of sacrifice and they appear determined that no one else will join their club. So much for removing the altar rails and 'opening up the sanctuaries for everyone'. This is another lie to be nailed as an empty promise to delude people into accepting the changes. So not only are we being pushed further away from the altar but now we are being ordered, officially, not to kneel. And our bishops wonder why their churches are empty?

Fr Gary Dickson said...

Our practice is to allow those who kneel (which I encourage) to do so, on the premise that it shows more faith in the Real Presence, more humility before God and more reverence for God. However, there is also the fact that for centuries the altar rails did what the Iconostasis does in the East, that is, delineate heaven (the sanctuary) from earth (the nave), therefore to kneel on the sanctuary is to ‘touch Heaven’, the best posture for ‘receiving Heaven’ (Holy Communion). Leaving the sanctuary to distribute Holy Communion was regarded as ‘incarnational’; a sign of God leaving heaven to dwell on earth, but it prevents the faithful from touching heaven, and the whole purpose of the Incarnation was to get man to heaven, not keep him earthbound. I truly believe that receiving on the hand while standing has done more damage to the faith of the people and to the celebration of liturgy than anything else, on a par of course with the loss of the ad-orientem posture (wherein the priest leads us to God) and of sacred chant, (which has been replaced by hymns with a folk or ‘pop’ inflection) when liturgy is meant to help us experience the Transcendent, not earth.

Simon Platt said...

It is indeed a grave pastoral abuse, Father, and not just where communion is absolutely refused, as sometimes sadly happens, but also where the faithful are discouraged from kneeling more or less forcefully. It causes scandal and confusion among the faithful. It's an absolute disgrace.