I have gotten a lot of mail about how some priest harass people who kneel for Holy Communion.
The notes I have gotten break down in several categories.
First, there are those who think I somehow don’t know about this problem. They will write along the lines: "I assure you this really does happen! Don’t you care that they are trying to make us show disrespect to the Lord?"
To which I respond. Don’t be silly. Of course I know. And I care. Read the blog lately?
Second, there are those who urge me to do what I can to make "the Vatican" start to "punish" priests who do this.
To which I respond. If there are liturgical abuses of rights, then proofs must be gathered and sent to the proper authority. See this. But I would advise you to think a little less about "punishing" and more about "persuading". What is it with some people anyway? They leap to the "punishment" option so very eagerly.
Third, there are simply e-mails letting me know what experiences people have had.
Here is a typical note to exemplify what I mean (edited):
Dear Fr. Z,
Thank you for your blog and all that you do. I began grad school at the University of ____ in mid June and have been attending daily Mass. I wear a mantilla to Mass and receive communion kneeling and until yesterday I had not encountered any opposition. However, yesterday, as I knelt, the priest (I believe the director of Campus Ministry) told me something along the lines of: "Don’t Kneel. You aren’t supposed to kneel. The Bishops say just to bow. Don’t kneel." Taken aback, I didn’t say anything but I also didn’t get up. He did give me Jesus, albeit reluctantly. Am I correct that a priest cannot deny someone communion for kneeling? I read in the GIRM that this is true, but I think it also says that the priest should explain to the person later why standing is the norm? Does this mean that if he were to talk to me later and give me some reasons why I’m supposed to stand that he does have the right to deny me communion in the future?
I respond saying that, yes, in the United States the Bishops have determined that the proper position to receive Communion is standing, with a gesture of reverence such as bowing before receiving. Sad but true. Still, its the law for the USA.
That said, in 2004 the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a very strong Instruction called Redemptionis Sacramentum. In this document we read:
[90.] “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined”, with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”.
[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.
[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.
After several incidents of Hosts being taken this last year, such as was the case with a student in Florida and also with the idiot who stole the Host for the purpose of profanation by the idiot professor in Minnesota, I would say that the risk of profanation is much much higher than previously assumed and norms about Communion in the Hand should be rethought. There are also the well-thought through explanations by Archbp. Ranjith, Bp. Schneider, and others. But I digress.
You can kneel to receive Communion. If a priest upbraids or admonishes you, publicly, at the time of Communion, he has seriously violated both your rights as well as decorum.
You do have recourse if these things happen. If this goes on all the time, you have a duty to do something about it. Here again is Redemptionis Sacramentum:
6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters
[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.
[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See [important point] on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.
If you ever think you need to have recourse to higher authority because of liturgical abuses, etc., which are not corrected after you have calmly and charitably made your concerns known, here are some tips. I warmly suggest that you read and follow them if you are going to write to bishops or the Holy See.
Remember: if you tell a story, it is hearsay. It really helps to have proofs. If something happens to you personally, it would help your cause if other people also wrote letters in which they describe what they saw and heard. These would then be included with your own letter.
Vatican offices generally can’t do much more than make a simple inquiry unless they are presented with some sort of evidence. This also goes for writing to bishops, though in that case local bishops can more easily make inquiries.
This is why it is always good to work your way UP the chain of authority: pastor first, then bishop, and finally the Holy See, remember that every Catholic always and at any time has the right to go directly to the Holy See.
But if you work your way up the chain, you have more of a paper trail and, perhaps, more proofs to offer that the Holy See should take interest. This is common sense.