QUAERITUR: conflict with priest over receiving Communion kneeling

From a reader:

My pastor refuses to give me Holy Communion on my knees.  I approached him privately.  He claims that I am denying him his rights as a priest, destroying unity……he has tried to compromise with me by requiring me to sit in one pew where he can give me communion inconspicuously.  My family does not fit in this little pew.  So if I don’t arrive early enough to get into the right seat, I have no right to receive kneeling.  I have written our bishop, who is unlikely to be sympathetic to my desire for reverence.  Can you advise?  We live in a one parish town, and generally travel on Sundays for a TLM.  I am a daily communicant now, but I feel sick about all this.

First, Redemptionis Sacramentum says clearly:

[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.

The priest may wish to offer that there are "other grounds".  He would be wrong. 

If he argues that you are not acting in unity with his wishes… er um… the majority of the congregation at that parish, it must also be acknowledged that he is not acting in unity with the Church’s clear legislation and your rights as a member of the faithful.

If you brought this up with the local bishop or …. better, and… the Congregation for Divine Worship, they must back your right to receive kneeling.  It sounds as if you have not received an answer from your bishop yet.  You might wait for the bishop’s response. 

However, at any time you may write to the Congregation.

His Eminence
Antonio Card. Canizares Llovera
Prefect of the Congregation for
   Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
P.za Pio XII
00120 VATICAN CITY

Include copies of everything you have done or received.  Read this.

But do remember to examine your conscience. Be sure that you are not merely being stubborn, rather than being merely reverent.

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37 Responses to QUAERITUR: conflict with priest over receiving Communion kneeling

  1. dcs says:

    I used to be dogmatic about kneeling for Communion until I assisted at a TLM and the priest’s back seized up, leaving him unable to bend over to distribute Holy Communion to those who were kneeling.

  2. pandz_11 says:

    The norms for receiving communion is on tongue and kneeling. Vatican II gave us OPTION to receive on hand standing. It should always be remembered that receiving on hand and standing was just an option and not the ordinary.

  3. DavidJ says:

    I’m fairly sure the norm in the US is to receive standing, after making a reverent bow, on the tongue or optionally in the hand.

  4. Central Valley says:

    This story sound like something from the diocese of Fresno, Ca.. I have heard similar weak arguments from priests here.

  5. Hans says:

    I am puzzled about this statement:

    He claims that I am denying him his rights as a priest[.]

    What priestly right could be mean?

  6. Supertradmum says:

    I was told the same thing and the argument for “unity” of worship was given. I just bow or make the sign of the cross now. I cannot genuflect, as I have knee problems. I only kneel when we go to the EF in another city. Here, at the only Catholic Church in town, no one kneels.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    hmmmm makes me thankful that priests in my city are fine with me recieving kneeling and on the tounge

  8. robtbrown says:

    He claims that I am denying him his rights as a priest[.]
    What priestly right could be mean?
    Comment by Hans

    Actually, he is denying the rights of the communicant.

    Another example of Liberal Fascism.

  9. wolfeken says:

    At the same time, we all have options. For instance, I think taxpayer funding of abortion is contrary to natural law, but Washington, D.C. and Maryland fund abortions. Therefore, I choose to live in Virginia.

    Sometimes we have to vote with our feet. Kneeling for communion, received on the tongue, is the standard at a traditional Latin Mass. Isn’t it better to simply fill the pews of the TLM than to move toward a weekly heart attack by fighting and fighting the legalities of the novus ordo?

    Perhaps this is a sign to the communicant to start attending the TLM. When you do, make the reason known to the pastor and the bishop in writing.

  10. wolfeken says:

    (And by this, I mean exclusively, not just Sundays. I would rather attend nothing on a weekday than go through this.)

  11. Elly says:

    I tried to post this question a few minutes ago and it didn’t show up- hope it was due to internet problems and not that my comment got deleted. If it got deleted I’m sorry for re asking it.

    Can a priest saying a Traditional Mass deny communion to someone who wants to receive standing and in the hand? I ask this because I worry about the consequences of inviting liberal people to a Traditional Mass.

    Thanks,
    Elly

  12. Fr. A.M. says:

    In a number of European countries kneeling and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is taboo – perhaps it reminds some of the priests from the swinging 60′s that Christ is REALLY present in Holy Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity, or that it appears too much like ‘the old Mass’… It is really important that we encourage kneeling(see J. Ratzinger, ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’). An abbey I know in a rather liberalised Catholic country, has bravely decided – despite some opposition – to follow the rubrics of the (Novus Ordo) Missale Romanum, and actually allow its brothers and non-concelebrating priests, the options of standing or kneeling, for communion on the tongue or the hand. Much suffering led to that important step.

  13. TJerome says:

    maybe in your letter you should include the photo Father Z has provided showing the Holy Father distributing Holy Communion to people kneeling. It sounds like your pastor would be happier in another Church, one without universal norms and inveterate tradition.

  14. Fr Z is absolutely right. Report this to Rome. As a priest, I would be HAPPY to have devout and reverent people at Mass whether the stood or knelt. I offer the choice by providing a kneeler (Prie Dieu) which the communicant MAY use to kneel or may choose to stand. They also may choose to receive on the tongue or in the hand. I still have an altar server with paten since either way a Host may accidentally drop. This priest in question should AT LEAST allow the legitimate option of kneeling since he already provides for standing. I found that the kneeler, whether used for kneeling or if still standing, does NOT congest the Communion line in any way. It DOES allow those who have weak knees and hips the option of not having to kneel on the floor. All in all, the introduction of the kneeler has made Communion more reverent in reception at Mass. I wish I had the means to bring back the altar rail but the kneeler works fine just as it does when Pope B16 employs it at his Masses.

  15. Re: back seizing up

    That’s when you get out the phone books and put them on the altar rail kneeler. Get people high enough, and Father won’t have to bend. Heh!

    Re: unity

    I’ve told this story before, but it might be useful for telling some pastors.

    Years ago, when a Jewish friend of mine was getting married, I ended up visiting a Conservative synagogue in Boston (they called it a shul, actually) for a pre-wedding service. (He was chanting a Torah reading. A very big deal.) Anyway, I noticed that not everybody at the shul was praying in the same position at the same time. Some people in the congregation would be saying little prayers at the same time others were silent. And so on.

    So I asked about it, and found out that the shul was attended by people whose families came from all over the Jewish world. Some prayed the majority way that was in the book. But some of them were the sole survivors of their villages, and thus the sole bearers of their village’s prayer tradition. So instead of allowing any of these living streams of tradition to be lost, everybody at the shul prayed the way he or she had been taught by their parents, and they taught their children to pray specifically as they did.

    The impression was not chaos. It was unity of intention and worship, but diverse exact and faithful acts of worship. Everybody was very careful not to discommode each other.

  16. Obviously I’m not suggesting that we go to that extent; but the structure of the Mass is such that the congregation does have a lot of individual options at various points. Also, people are used to seeing the sick, frail, injured, disabled, or just plain differently circumstanced, being accommodated in diverse ways, particularly at Communion when varying styles of reception and distribution are seen all the time.

    Therefore, it’s not anything disunifying if somebody kneels and receives on the tongue instead of standing and in the hand, unless it’s disunifying for a one-armed man to receive in a different hand, or for someone with a twisted neck to receive without straightening up her head, or for someone holding a baby to receive while holding a baby. I mean, honestly.

  17. Geoffrey says:

    “Vatican II gave us OPTION to receive on hand standing.”

    The documents of the Second Vatican Council said nothing about this. It was a special indult from the Holy See that granted the option to receive in the hand. Poor Vatican II… it gets blamed for everything!

  18. DBuote says:

    “I tried to post this question a few minutes ago and it didn’t show up- hope it was due to internet problems and not that my comment got deleted. If it got deleted I’m sorry for re asking it.

    Can a priest saying a Traditional Mass deny communion to someone who wants to receive standing and in the hand? I ask this because I worry about the consequences of inviting liberal people to a Traditional Mass.”

    Elly, I believe that canonically speaking, he couldn’t deny communion to someone who is standing, in the same way that you you could technically have female servers, for a TLM. HOWEVER in the best interests of everyone involved have them kneel or not receive.

    Although I do know a priest who told one lady to wait after Mass and he gave her communion in the hand standing because she refused to kneel and receive on the tongue during the TLM.

  19. Clinton says:

    I’m sure most of the readers here are familiar with the directive #160 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, as adapted for the
    US, which states that the norm for receiving Holy Communion in this country is standing. It goes on, of course, to state that
    communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they choose to kneel. However, it also states that “(W)hen receiving Holy
    Communion standing, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of
    the Lord from the minister.”

    Redemptionis Sacramentum, as mentioned by Fr. Z above, also stresses that those receiving standing are to “give due reverence before
    the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”, i.e., such a communicant is to bow his head prior to receiving.

    In light of all that, shouldn’t those who cite the new US norms and the importance of ‘unity of gesture’ as they deny Communion to
    kneeling Catholics for the sake of consistency also deny Communion to those standing who do not bow their head prior to reception?
    While I’ve heard many reports of people denied Communion because they knelt, I’ve never heard of a “stander” refused because they
    omitted the reverence prescribed by the norms. Odd.

    I’m going to make a prediction: if (please, Lord) this new norm for reception in the USA is ever eliminated, those liturgists that are
    currently so gung-ho about imposing “unity of gesture” and rooting out kneeling will suddenly change attitude and cry out about the
    need to respect the diversity of religious expression.

  20. Thomas Francis says:

    What a crying shame.

    wolfeken,…your exactly right, there IS something we can ALL do about these problems.
    “Sometimes we have to vote with our feet. Kneeling for communion, received on the tongue, is the standard at a traditional Latin Mass. Isn’t it better to simply fill the pews of the TLM than to move toward a weekly heart attack by fighting and fighting the legalities of the novus ordo?”

    When I realized that I was actually spending more time during Mass being disgusted than reverent,…I was doing my soul more harm than good and therefore; it was time to go.

    Fellow Catholics,….if you’re tired of it all..MOVE! Spend as much time as you spend here reading and search the internet for a Mass offered either by the FSSP or SSPX and go!
    One of the very reasons the Holy Father has allowed the discussions between the SSPX and Rome is because of the number of people who now attend their Masses schools and seminaries.
    Because of that I arrived at a point several months ago at which I thought; “The best thing I can do for the Post Vatican Church is to subtract one person from it…and add that person back to the traditional Church.

  21. THREEHEARTS says:

    I have never stopped kneeling for HOLY communion. Many tricks have been tried to get me to stand. Google Roseanne Skokie and read about her fight to maintain her right to kneel. She went to the altar to receive and knelt. The priest never served her once. Rome got involved and the Local Ordinary and the Priest had to publicly apologize.
    Did she had to examine her conscience? Read her life as a Federal Member of the Canadian Parliament.

  22. Wolfeken and Thomas—It is easy to say “move” when one lives in a city. I live in rural Oklahoma where Catholic churches are rare. We drive 2 hours to a TLM Mass on Sunday. As much as I want to be a daily communicant–I have similar problems with my priest (and the laity) as the orginal writer. Daily Mass is held in a room in the old rectory (our priest comes from another town). During the “Our Father”, the lay people hold hands in a circle around the altar (it’s a small room). My husband has met with the priest several times to ask that Mass be said in the Church and that the rubrics be followed, but to no avail. Also, Mass is only said 3 days a week at our local parish. It is impossible to drive to OKC to assist at the TLM for daily Mass, but we make the effort every Sunday with our five kids in tow. We feel blessed that my husband has the job he does and we have tried to move closer, but there are no jobs in my husband’s field. So, we trust in God and continue to live here, and my husband continues to look for a job closer to OKC. What else can we do?

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Suz,

    You do what you can.

    Have you tried writing the bishop?

  24. wolfeken says:

    I guess my point is that perhaps it is better to read the TLM propers of a weekday Mass with the children at home and make a spiritual communion than it is to go to a weekday novus ordo.

    It is, of course, sad — but those are the breaks if someone doesn’t have access to a parish with daily TLMs. Like being in mission territory.

    But what I don’t understand are the people who keep going to novus ordo liturgies they know are horrible (especially when they are not obligatory) and come back and complain about them.

  25. Thomas Francis says:

    I do understand your frustration Suz., believe me.
    I am so very blessed that my Sunday drive to Saint Michael’s in Bethany from our house east of OKC is only about forty miles.

    However I’m pretty sure that I would also, (as you do), drive two hours in order to be able to avoid whatI was experiencing at the churches close to my house….it was not only frustration…but something much worse.
    I found myself getting angry during mass! That’s wrong.
    So I figured for the sake of my own soul it was time for me to move on, even it meant being able to go to Mass only occasionally.

  26. DavidJ says:

    Why would someone keep going to a horrible liturgy? Because it’s _still_ the liturgy? Unless the abuse is grave enough to invalidate the Mass, isn’t it better to prayerfully and respectfully attend it rather than simply not attend at all? Sure, prayers at home are laudable, but is that a viable substitute for Mass?

  27. Maltese says:

    Speaking of destroying unity nothing was more unifying than saying the Mass in one voice, century upon century, one could pray the same mass in unity with the Saints, and even temporally could say the same mass, in one tongue, in the same act of unbloody Sacrifice; and who destroyed that unity?

  28. Ellen says:

    I am so blessed. I can go to Mass daily (when I don’t have to work) and it’s only about 14 miles from where I live. The Mass is reverently celebrated in English and we can kneel. There’s a TLM on Sunday about 35 miles away. I go sometimes when family pressures are not so great.

  29. Maltese says:

    Poor Vatican II… it gets blamed for everything!

    Well it IS to be blamed for much of it:

    “And if someone passed through that door to introduce into the Church a Liturgy subversive to the very nature and primary end of the Sacred Liturgy…the responsibility for this, in the final analysis, is none other than the conciliar text itself.” Msgr. Gherhardini; Vatican Council II, A Much Needed Discussion.

    http://hospitallers.blogspot.com/2010/06/ecumenical-vatican-council-ii-much.html

  30. Gwen says:

    I am blessed as well. I go to Mass daily, with a choice between 7:00 and 12:10, at our cathedral. Three conventual Franciscans run things and all three celebrate a holy and reverent Novus Ordo Mass. They are by the book; they sing many of their prayers, and often in Latin.

    Just a few weeks ago, I started kneeling for communion. I’d asked the rector and he thought it was great, just asked me to be at the end of the line to preclude anyone tripping over me. So I do that. Several other people have talked to me about it (in the vein of, “I really want to kneel also”) and one other has started kneeling also. Pretty soon we’ll have enough people to ask the priests to put a kneeler up front.

  31. benyanke says:

    Can a priest saying a Traditional Mass deny communion to someone who wants to receive standing and in the hand? I ask this because I worry about the consequences of inviting liberal people to a Traditional Mass.”

    Elly, I believe that canonically speaking, he couldn’t deny communion to someone who is standing, in the same way that you you could technically have female servers, for a TLM. HOWEVER in the best interests of everyone involved have them kneel or not receive.

    DBuote, I’m not sure about this one. When we went to a teaching TLM with our bishop (the teaching was before and after, not during), the bishop said that “if you are physically able to kneel, you must”. I don’t know how they would handle it if someone tries not to kneel. I guess maybe communion after mass would be the best bet… Any ideas?

  32. tioedong says:

    in our church in the Philippines, Eucharistic ministers give out communion in six places…we receive it in the center aisle in the back. If it is really crowded, (e.g. fiesta time) they go to the side aisle so those standing outside can come in and receive.

    Either communion rails, or receive standing. Kneeling in a crowded church with 40 people behind you goes against charity.

    Communion rails allow reverence in receiving, but kneeling in a busy line means you are so busy getting up and down quickly it loses it’s reverence.

  33. wanda says:

    Wolfken @ 11:37 am, Are you sure there are no Planned Parenthood Clinics in VA? If there are, tax-payer dollars are paying for abortions. Sad and angry to say. Sorry if I am incorrect, perhaps yours is one of the lone states to cut-off funding.

  34. Hans says:

    Question by me (emended slightly):

    He claims that I am denying him his rights as a priest[.]
    What priestly right could he mean?

    Answer by robtbrown:

    Actually, he is denying the rights of the communicant.
    Another example of Liberal Fascism.

    Indeed, robtbrown, that much is clear, but in charity it might be best to assume that he is, er, confused. If he could be disabused of his confusion, unlikely as it seems, he might be convinced to amend his ways.

    If nothing else, asking him what right of his is being violated would call his bluff, but it would be helpful to have some idea what he might mean beforehand.

    Also, I’m remarkably curious about what harm is being done to him by this kneeling communicant that is violating this purported right.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    wolfeken, You are fortunate. Some of us live in very rural area with no TLM readily available and not enough money to travel two hours. We need to deal with the NO, as that is still the most common Liturgy most of us have to attend. That is why this question is so important. And, in some places, there are not diocesan Masses, but Masses said by religious orders, who are almost autonomous in most dioceses. And, I do not mean the fssp, or the Institute, sadly.

  36. Kate Asjes says:

    While I appreciate Fr. Z. encouraging us to contact our bishops and the proper cardinal in Rome, I am completely disparaged on this point. Last autumn, our parish priest posted on the church doors an announcement: receiving the Holy Eucharist on the tongue was to be forbidden. He then gave a homily in which he explained that those who normally receive on the tongue must now receive on the hand out of charity because of the flu.

    I corresponded back and forth with our priest (employing all of Fr. z.’s rules–charity, brevity…) to no avail. I finally wrote the bishop. Twice. No response. I paid $50 to Fedex all documentation to CDWDS, that was in January. I’ve heard nothing.

    We have 3 parishes within a reasonable distance, and, honestly so many wacky things going on during a “normal” Mass, that I would not even know where to begin. It is death by a thousand cuts. We have 6 young kids who love their Catholic Faith. These priests and their Masses deny it.

    I’m sorry Fr. Z., but in my experience, many priests and bishops are not at all interested in hearing the concerns of families who accept the teachings (even love the teachings, gasp!) of the beautiful Catholic Faith and are simply trying to be CATHOLIC. We receive NO “pastoral care.” We have nowhere to turn…

  37. Kate Asjes, I’m sorry to hear this. Speaking as laity, I don’t believe it is our duty to obey hand-Communion priests and bishops in this matter. It is clear they are defying the pope’s own humble example. I am trying to recall an old saying about actions and words….If anything is clear, the Holy Father invites all of us, everywhere to kneel for Jesus. How else can his own ‘actions’ be interpreted?

    what do we Catholics do when our clergy go against God Himself? We suffer. But just know, Kate “—better people than we have endured this very same tragedy! And believe it, … those people intercede for us now at God’s altar!”
    http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/search?q=altar

    Don’t be sorry you live in such a sad time! Rejoice! maybe you’ll get excommunicated. Such a condemnation from such ilk would be a badge of honor!

    k.c.