When priests don’t want to give Communion to those who kneel – more thoughts

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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Doc Angelicus says:

    Believe me, I think that having choices in the norms breeds trouble, and would that a single, universal norm were manifest. Like kneeling.

    But Fr. Z, what about your correspondent’s last question? If the national council of bishops wants people to stand, and the Holy See permits this, and one who kneels is taken aside afterword and catechised charitably on standing–does this not in some way bind the conscience of the one who knelt? Not only when receiving Holy Communion from that priest, but also in general? Aren’t we looking for loopholes to circumvent appropriate legislation to act as we please: “Yeah, I know the norm is to stand but I want to kneel, and the Church has defined that standing is not disrespectful to our Eucharistic Lord, but I still want to kneel, and my bishop has said we should stand, but I don’t care I still want to kneel, so I’m gonna kneel, and even if you explain to me why I should stand, it doesn’t matter because you still have to give me Holy Communion if I kneel and there’s nothing you can do about it. So I’m gonna kneel.”

    In many places, the priest doesn’t make an issue and just gives Holy Communion, and lets people stand or kneel as they see fit. And some bishops have instructed their priests thus. And that seems to me the best situation (until kneeling is restored as the universal norm).

    But what about where the will of the bishop is otherwise and is explicitly made manifest to a communicant: What then? Should the communicant simply ignore it and kneel?

    I hope I didn’t open a can of worms…

  2. Calleva says:

    The idiot who stole the Host for the idiot professor did so at the London Oratory, at a Mass where communion was given on the tongue.

    I think the real solution is to ensure that congregations are catechised enough to realise that one should not present oneself for communion if in mortal sin, or without having been to confession in (at least) the past year. The ‘checkout line’ mentality really has to go. If fewer people received, then a potential sacrilege would be easier to spot. Someone in the pews would notice.

  3. Patrick T says:

    Doc makes a good point. It seems odd to have a local norm, but then the ability to disregard the norm if one feels like it. It would be better to have the norm be officially “both” since it basically is anyway.

    Also, how would we feel if this whole thing was reversed? What of the norm was kneeling, but we were told we could not be refused for standing, and could not be counseled either?

  4. TJM says:

    Didn’t “Bishop” Brown scream at a lady for kneeling? I think that man should be the test case because as I recall that was captured on video.
    Only a left-wing loon would refuse a communicant who kneels. Tom

  5. Deusdonat says:

    Father Z – But I would advise you to think a little less about “punishing” and more about “persuading”.

    Oh, BRA-VOOOO, Father Z! (that’s me standing and cheering). That’s one of the reasons I really enjoy this blog and your writing; you are unabashedly orthodox, but uniformly Christian in your approach to it. It’s one thing to march in and demand your rights, but quite another to try and bring the other party to understand your position. To many people (myself included) are so convinced that they are righteous in their/our cause, that this often leads to the sin of pride over the virtue of charity. Thank you again for this blog and specifically, thi thread.

  6. Atlanta says:

    I guess what confused me, Fr. John, is when you wrote “that man” in reference to the priest who would not serve communion to someone who was kneeling. Since I am not Catholic, I guess I don’t have any right commenting on this issue, but I do have contact with Catholics, and I do hear about these things, directly.

  7. TJM: Didn’t “Bishop” Brown scream at a lady for kneeling?

    There are several things I really don’t like about this comment.

    First, someone might not like His Excellency Most Reverend the Bishop of Orange, but he is in fact a bishop.

    Second, I saw the video and, from what I could tell, the Bishop didn’t “scream”. A while ago some people questioned me harshly for stating in another thread on this subject: “And pray that God may grant you mercy if you have even slightly exaggerated your story.” This is what happens.


    People exaggerate.

    That creates problems.

    When people’s rights are being violated, I think we should stick to the facts.

    I know that the lady to whom that sad encounter with Bp. Brown occurred reads the blog. Perhaps she will chime in and correct us all.

    Still… this sort of rhetoric is unhelpful.

  8. Deusdonat says:

    Didn’t “Bishop” Brown scream at a lady for kneeling?

    Well, I heard from a friend of someone who was actually there that he screamed at her while grabbing her by her mantilla and flinging her into the tabernacle, then jumped on top of the altar, kicked off the sacred vessels and pointed his finger at her saying, “I excommunicate you in the name of the new liberal church!”

    That’s what I heard, from my friend anyway.


  9. Mitch says:

    Seems to me, being in the US, that if someone kneels and a Priest were to take him aside later and explain the reason for this norm in the US I would be rather irked. It may be law but it wasn’t always and Rome still prefers kneeling. Do we US Catholics follow Rome or not, or sometimes.?, And I would be curious if these Priests are the same ones who commit various abuses. The norms say Latin is to be preserved in Mass with the introduction of some vernacular, do they enforce that? Maybe it is better to be reminded of the norms regarding kneeling in Latin. Then we could simply ignore it, because we’ve had no Cathesis and therefore probably wouldn’t understand it. Sorry but this issue pisses me off.

  10. Baron Korf says:

    and I thought I had an imagination…

  11. Deusdonat: Right before he commanded the altar girls to beat her with the poles from the macrame banners, I suppose.

  12. Andy says:

    In his first pastoral letter to the Venetians, Cardinal Sarto (Pope Pius X) argued that in matters pertaining to the Pope, “there should be no questions, no subtleties, no opposing of personal rights to his rights, but only obedience.” Why is this so difficult?

  13. mike says:

    “Deusdonat: Right before he commanded the altar girls to beat her with the poles from the macrame banners, I suppose.”

    Does someone have video of this? I’d be interested in communicating with anyone who saw this in person


  14. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “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?”

    Father Z., this really is an issue the “non-kneeling” types (and the “you MUST be obedient to the USCCB” types) zero in on. I have yet to see a good answer to this. Yes, we can keep on quoting Cardinal Arinze and Redemptionis Sacramentum — but the question still remains: Once one has been given instruction on the “norm” — is one being disobedient if he continues to kneel after given the “norm” of the local council of bishops?


  15. Deusdonat says:

    MIKE LOL! That was a good one. The video in question is HERE. I assure you it’s very anti-climactic, given our embellished accounts (what ours lack in accuracy, they make up for in integrity : P

    Be sure to read the text before you watch it, because if you don’t you’d never know what is going on.

  16. Deusdonat says:

    Father Z – LOL! Sorry, I didn’t see you had written that before Mike quoted it. It gets funnier every time I read it. I’m seriously laughing uncontrolably now.

  17. Ohio Annie says:

    Yes, it seems as if the reason the instruction on the norm is given is to make the person then be obedient to the norm set by the Bishops. What a mess. Now, mind you, I am just a convert and basically know nothing but it seems to me that these rules are written in such a way as to make you obedient to one group while being disobedient to another. What a mess.

  18. Ambrosius says:

    This thread is a good opportunity for answering a question I have long had about what the nature of the obligation that liturgical norms put laymen under. If I recall correctly, “norms” for the congregation are a new thing, canonically speaking; and this is for the obvious reason, pointed up well here, that enforcement among various acceptable possibilities leads to all manner of trouble.

    But, we have the situation before us: congregations now have norms to follow. What, then, are we to make of them, when multiple options are before us, but one picked out as preferred — as normative?

    Doc Angelicus’ view and the “I’m gonna kneel ’cause it’s RIGHT!” are both common, but both smack a bit of the wrong to me. On the one hand, these norms are more honored in the breach than in the practice — seen any congregations bowing their heads for the Incarnation during the Creed lately, for instance? — and a principle of law in general is that unenforced laws are made defunct by that non-enforcement (though whether this applies to canon law, Fr. Z or someone more knowledgeable than I will have to answer). On the other, it’s clearly true that choosing the more demonstrative pose of kneeling is an invitation for pride in some, which is unambiguously wrong. However, with all things pertaining to our holy religion, doing a difficult thing is ALWAYS a temptation to spiritual pride, and we would be ill advised to abandon our Rosaries just because we are occasionally tempted to think we’re a bit better than non-Rosary prayers.

    One more element has to be thrown into this mix: the practical development of local customs and the evolution of norms. We all know by now the sad story of altar girls (officially forbidden, selectively used anyway; eventually approved) and so many other cave-ins by officials to pervasive local practice. And while the Doc Angelicus’s of the catholic world, in their charity, will probably say we should refuse to avail ourselves of the devious and ill-advised practice of subverting liturgical law, I think the way in which kneelers are singled out, while altar-girl-pushers and other liturgical abusers are ignored or encouraged, tells us something substantive about what’s going on with these norms and their enforcement. What does it tell us? The selective enforcement of the “no kneeling” norm tells us that it’s not devotion to rubrics for congregations that is motivating those who fuss at the kneeling congregant, but something else.

    What that something else is, I won’t venture to say — no doubt it’s different in each case. But this kind of incident looks to me to be the canary in the mine for why enforced rubrics for congregations simply cannot work, long term. Favored norms will be pushed and unfavored norms, ignored. The pious will be tempted to pride and the lax and indifferent will go unmolested. This inversion, this encouragement of the worst and punishment of the best, is the sign of the worst kind of regulation and rule — the kind of rule that we might be obligated to subvert, lest it continue to grow worse.

    For myself, I determined that because I know that kneeling generate in my own mind a superior disposition for receiving communion, that I must therefore kneel, come what may. If I did not, then I would know, each and every time, that I was not kneeling because I feared the priest or feared making a scene — and thus would set my mind on the wrong track. Once made up, I can then do my best to focus on Christ, and turn away every thought of pride as best as I, a sinner, am able. A stream of thought that can always hold my own pride against the foil of my sinfulness and unworthiness as compared with Christ is a spiritual battle that God can win in me, through the grace of the Sacrament; distracting thoughts about Father So-and-so and how come he doesn’t want me to receive kneeling? are harder to quench. For me, at least — and I don’t mean this to sound prescriptive. Happily I can assist at an extraordinary Form Mass each week, or, when I don’t, go to a parish where everyone kneels at a communion rail to receive. But when traveling — and for years where I lived before this — I still return to these thoughts and justifications.

    Bottom line, in my understanding: norms are not strongly prescriptive for laymen, in the sense of being binding on consciences. Instead, they are meant to have an operative service: providing a normal way to behave, for the instruction of children and new members, and which will likely be followed by the majority. Because of the historical lack of such rules and the supremacy — in such things — of individual conscience, though, individual Catholics remain free to utilize other licit and non-disruptive variants on the norms if they feel constrained by conscience, strong positive desire, or force of habit. Any sin pertaining to such a variance with the norm would proceed only from a sinful interior disposition of pride or desire for disobedience, but not from the violation of the norm itself.

    Is this correct at all?

  19. Aelric says:

    One observation:

    I believe that “telling a story” is not hearsay (though I am not morally certain on this). My understanding is that hearsay by person C is giving evidence that person B told C that person A said/did such-and-such. A communicant telling the local ordinary that father blank said/did such-and-such directly to A is not hearsay. It is, of course, unsubstantiated evidence if lacking any corroboration so Father Z’s recommendations regarding documentation are important (though it is a sad commentary that one has to go to mass forearmed either with a recording device or a witness just to be taken seriously).

    One Question:

    Why should one have to persuade a priest to know and to do his job correctly? Are physician’s persuaded to give proper medications or are they sued and their licenses revoked should they fail to do so? Attorneys? Do we try to persuade teachers not to molest their students? Of course; but if they do, we expect them removed. Parents are not expected to amend the ways of such by persuasive argument.

    Deusdonat’s attempt to psychologize the issue – “To (sic) many people … righteous in their cause” appears to me to be nothing other than the old good-Catholic’s-keep-their-mouths-shut-and-take-abuse-for-fear-of-pride. Sorry, but after almost forty years of a liturgical and theological dark age, perhaps it is time to fight back a little and no longer take it. I am reminded of Thomas More’s comments to Meg in the screenplay of the Movie: A Man for All Season’s:

    “But look now. If we lived in a state
    where virtue was profitable…
    …common sense would make us saintly.
    But since we see that avarice, anger,
    pride and stupidity…
    …commonly profit far beyond charity,
    modesty, justice and thought…
    …perhaps we must stand fast a little…
    …even at the risk of being heroes.”


  20. Joseph Dylong says:

    Midwest Michael

    In my view the simple answer is no because the communicant is abiding by the Rubric of the Mass, and laws of the Church.

    If I am mistaken Fr Z please correct me.

    Moreover, we cannot ignore Cardinal Arinze who has stated if people want to kneel, let them kneel, if people want to stand, let them stand, if people want to stand or kneel after communion then let them.

    I attend a mass with altar rails, and the Parish Priest encourages people to kneel, and he is the local Dean.

    Also, please make an appointment and speak to a Priest if they refuse to give you communion if you kneel. This is always the best course of action, and you may actually come to an understanding of each others position, and then if he still refuses, write a letter to the Bishop.

    Also, how much authority do Bishops conferences have? I was under the impression your local Bishop had the authority.

  21. Joseph Dylong says:

    scrap that last question as I know the answer :)

  22. Nathan says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf: “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.”

    Has anyone heard of any person in the USA being counseled, upbraided or denied Holy Communion because they failed to follow the other part of the law, making a gesture of reverence such as bowing? When I attend the Ordinary Form, I’ve noticed the practice of making no gesture of reverence more prevalent than kneeling.

    Of course, I really shouldn’t be looking at other communicants and thinking about what they’re doing at that moment, should I?

    In Christ,

  23. Monica says:

    Walking is the official Communion Reception posture in my diocese:

    In my diocese (although there may be a couple of exceptions), the Diocese of Richmond,Virginia we follow the eat-on-the-go-drive-in-fast-food model of communion reception. Since almost everybody takes communion in the hand, almost everybody puts the host in their mouth as they are walking. So I guess you could say that the official Richmond Diocesan posture for receiving communion is walking. Besides, this also helps speed up the process for those who may want to leave before the final blessing. And don’t even think about kneeling for communion because you will be told to stand up. Genuflecting and kneeling are not tolerated. If you must show-off, then just bow (although you still might get some eye-rolling from the priest or communion distributor). Children and RCIA first communicants are instructed to take communion in the hand and not to genuflect. Furthermore, I have heard with my own ears that they are not to kneel or genuflect like a show-off. This is the truth. I heard it with my own ears in a Benedictine parish in Virginia Beach. This kind of nonsense must stop. It is ridiculous that the only crisis with which parish liturgists concern themselves is when a member of the community shows “too much” or “excessive” devotion. These are the very same liturgists responsible for the hiding of our tabernacles. Unfortunately, this is culture is embraced by the vast majority of Catholics in my diocese. I don’t believe the current situation will ever get better. There are not enough people who care.

  24. Joseph Dylong says:

    Oh, one last thing, I think we should be very careful not to comment on a Bishop by name in this or any blog. We must pray and do penance for our Priests and Bishops in order to strengthen them (yes do penance, seems to be a dirty word in many cicles).

    I suspect there is some canon law that protects Bishops from gossip. I have no problem with people drawing attention to a situation but language, context and evidence are important.

  25. Joseph Dylong says:


    The example you provide seems to be for one Parish and not the whole Diocese, and in that case, speak the the Parish Priest, if no movement, write to the Bishop, if no help, then write to Rome. Always provide evidence.

  26. Joseph Dylong says:

    I suspect that if one kneels to be soley defiant of the local norm then they are being disobedient. However, if one kneels for the right reason, love of God, reverance etc, then it is not disobedient.

    I personally geneflect.

  27. LCB says:

    If a pastor were to take someone aside to explain to them the norms what– exactly– would the explanation for such norms be?

    I’m rather confused why standing is the norm.

  28. 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.

    My $.02. In my experience, abuses like these are done repeatedly, and people run out of patience. Their complaints are delivered quietly and then ignored or dismissed by the offending priest, and so they turn up the volume. And if the abuses occur in a diocese with a bishop or diocesan worship office that countenances or encourages abuses (I grew up in Rochester and live in Cincinnati; trust me, such people exist ;-) ), things get noisy quickly.

  29. Vox Clamantis says:

    Flectamus genua!

    Happily I am able to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass under the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite on a regular basis and kneel for the reception of Holy Communion.

    My knees no longer allow me to kneel without some support with which to get up so at the typical Novus Ordo parish, I am not physically able to kneel, as much as I would prefer to do so. I have never received Communion in the hand or under both species from a chalice and never will.

    I applaud and am moved by those who from a sense of devotion feel moved to receive on their knees at Holy Mass under the ordinary form.

    As to the norm of the American bishops (approved by the Holy See), the Holy See’s directive clearly trumps this. Perhaps if enough Amerian Catholics demonstrated their preference, the bishops might be moved to change their arbitrary norm. Certainly they never consulted the laity in adopting it.

  30. avecrux says:

    This is a vital question too for DRE’s and CCD instructors who are preparing children for their First Holy Communion.
    I would assume the DRE has an obligation to teach the norm but allow the provision to kneel?

  31. TJM says:

    Father Z,

    It is not a question of “hating” Bishop Brown. But I do hate his actions. He is supposed to be a pastor, a pastor to all. And if a communicant presents himself or herself in a way honored from time immemorial there is something seriously wrong with the formation and character of the bishop. I suspect that if Bishop Brown were not already a bishop and this video surfaced while he was being considered by Pope Benedict for an appointment, I believe he would be passed over. I also recall that this is the same Bishop Brown who has publicly set himself above Summorum Pontificum. Out of respect for you, I will in the future not identify a bishop in question by name, but I will state the facts as they have been reported.



  32. I am sorry these things happen, and they really shock me, because one would think that priests, regardless of their liturgical views, would handle this better.

    When I was in the seminary, the buzz-phrase (with a threat against ordination imbedded in it) was “being pastoral”: more conservative seminarians were thus warned, don’t be too strict or rigid. And that is a peril, to be fair.

    That being said, we contemplate this mess.

    All I can offer to aggrieved readers is that this is not true everywhere, and if it ever happens in my parishes, let me know immediately. It won’t happen twice.

  33. Richard says:

    “the priest should explain to the person later why standing is the norm”

    Can anyone tell us what the official reason for the norm is?

  34. Doc Angelicus says:

    I was not taking a position, I was asking a question. I admire those who kneel. I prefer the Traditional Latin Mass whenever I have the choice. I like altar rails best. I like kneeling while I pray waiting for the priest to come to me, rather than wait my turn in line like a fast-food place. Where I am, no one is reprimanded for kneeling, no one is asked to take one position or the other. My daughter kneels to receive at an Ordinary Form Mass, while I stand, unless we’re using an altar rail (yes, sometimes also for the Ordinary Form), then I kneel although not everyone does. I know my daughter and her motives; I know myself and mine, and mine are not as pure as hers (I’d be doing it to make a statement); I don’t kneel except at the altar rail. I do not do it to obey any bishop. I do it because it is permitted and because I believe I call less attention to myself this way (at least at the present state of things). I certainly do not stand to make a statement.

    Someone asked about what would be said to a kneeling communicant in a calm discussion after Mass encouraging him to stand: I don’t think there is any good argument. But sometimes, obedience doesn’t require a good argument. And while those (bishops) who throw hissy-fits at a kneeling communicant possibly have a wider agenda that includes minimizing Eucharistic devotion or other nefarious things like altar girls (which even my daughters deplore), those fellows still have an office in this Church. Or does the overall agenda legitimize a kind of civil disobedience? Again, I’m just asking.

    While it is clear that a priest cannot deny Holy Communion to someone because of kneeling (Redemptionis Sacramentum 91, above), what is not so clear is what the communicant ought to do. Would that RS 90 said something like, “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as their consciences dictate.” It would then be clear.

    Unfortunately, RS says that the universal norm is kneeling or standing depending on what the conference of bishops say, if that is approved by the Vatican. This would suggest, “Obey your bishop” rather than, “Kneel if you like.” Does or did Cardinal Arinze, who put out the document, have the power to dispense with that? What *exactly* did he say, and to whom, and does it really differ from RS? RS 91 can be seen to contravene RS 90: RS 91 says they cannot deny me Communion if I kneel, so I have a right to kneel, irrespective of any norms mentioned in RS 90.”

    Again, I’m not taking a position, although it seems it, but am only asking a question. And the best answer (so far) is: It depends on why one takes the less common posture, and how honestly pure those motives are. Still, it’s hard to be convinced one is sinning by standing, when Rome says it’s ok and it’s also the norm in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

    And again, would that it were a TLM world. One thing about the “rigidity” of the old Latin Mass is that there weren’t these kinds of questions or ambiguity.

    Gee, Fr. Z, straighten me out if I’m out of line. Please.

  35. Mitchell says:


    So well said. They never consulted people on an enormity of changes, and they count on our respect, silence and obedience in order to carry out these things and maintain them to this day. Those three things are what they use to bully tradition minded people into subservience. They would not attempt so much from a liberal because they know when they “flung open the windows” R. S. and O. went out tradition. If there is a statistical survey available from before this “norm” in the US was approved I would like to know about it. What happened, did word go out to people to stop kneeling? Did people all at once stand and refuse to kneel accross the vast country? When did the vast majority ask for this change along with so many others? Seems like the people in charge tried to INTERPRET what the people MIGHT want and so they made it so. And here we are now. All because of those three exact words…………..

  36. mpm says:

    “Yes, it seems as if the reason the instruction on the norm is given is to make the person then be obedient to the norm set by the Bishops. What a mess. Now, mind you, I am just a convert and basically know nothing but it seems to me that these rules are written in such a way as to make you obedient to one group while being disobedient to another. What a mess.

    Comment by Ohio Annie — 22 August 2008 @ 1:58 pm”

    Dear Ohio Annie,
    Your post is wonderful, and mind you, we are ALL “just converts”!

    To be a bishop you need to have an advanced degree; there is no canonical
    requirement for any common sense at all.

  37. avecrux says:

    Doc – I understand and appreciate your question. I too struggle with this, especially because I am a teacher.
    I see what Pope Benedict is doing regarding kneeling – I LOVE what Pope Benedict is doing – I want to do it, too. Yet I am an instructor… and I have been given guidelines by the US Bishops. I would love to hear if you have any words, Father.

  38. A Random Friar says:

    We fathers are every bit as much your brothers, and need fraternal correction like all fallen sons of Eve. Didn’t we just get the Matthean account of fraternal correction a few days ago? Step 1: approach him privately (just in case you misunderstood, might be wrong, etc). It’s shocking how many times I’ve had my motives questioned or been reproached, sharply, when I didn’t do something that someone likes in a liturgy, when a simple question would’ve resolved their worries, or I’d simply done something perfectly in line with norms — that they hadn’t known of. Step 2: involve other people to talk with him. Like anyone else, sometimes extra voices help us see the error of our ways. Part of the reason we have parish councils, financial councils, etc. Step 3: get the Church involved, if it’s warranted. Going to step 3 directly is not the best way to handle most human frailties, whether of priests or lay alike, unless it’s a grave matter.

    And during all steps, one through three, pray.

  39. Joseph Dylong says:



    Rome, February 26, 2003

    This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter dated December 1, 2002, related to the application of the norms approved by the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America, with the subsequent recognitio of this Congregation, as regards the question of the posture for receiving Holy Communion.

    As the authority by virtue of whose recognitio the norm in question has attained the force of law, this Dicastery is competent to specify the manner in which the norm is to be understood for the sake of a proper application. Having received more than a few letters regarding this matter from different locations in the United States of America, the Congregation wishes to ensure that its position on the matter is clear.

    To this end, it is perhaps useful to respond to your inquiry by repeating the content of a letter that the Congregation recently addressed to a Bishop in the United States of America from whose Diocese a number of pertinent letters had been received. The letter states: “…while this Congregation gave the recognitio to the norm desired by the Bishops’ Conference of your country that people stand for Holy Communion, this was done on the condition that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. Indeed, the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion”.

    This Dicastery hopes that the citation given here will provide an adequate answer to your letter. At the same time, please be assured that the Congregation remains ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again.

    With every prayerful good wish, I am

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Mons. Mario Marini

  40. Joseph Dylong says:


    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

  41. Dennis says:

    Maybe I missed this some where, but what is the reason why the bishops decided that the posture for receiving holy communion is standing instead of kneeling.
    if anyone out there can answer this or point to a link somewhere. thanks

  42. When I was in the seminary, the buzz-phrase (with a threat against ordination imbedded in it) was “being pastoral”: more conservative seminarians were thus warned, don’t be too strict or rigid. And that is a peril, to be fair.

    Which turns a parish into a pit of dissent and division should a young priest take the buzz-phrase seriously. Sadly, some of them do.

  43. Malta says:

    why is there much thought needed re: “Priest’s who don’t give communion kneeling,”?

    Really, it’s like this: Most Priests are under the thumb of their modernist Bishop. So, they’ll comply with his modernistic directives, which, often, means one must take a “hard-line” towards those who “disobey” Pope Paul VI’s “new mass,” meaning all the shananagins after: altar girls, vernacular, communion in the hand, etc. Oh, YES, the Bishops take a very strong stance on these things!!! Even though they would have horrified the great majority of the Saints preceding them.

    You see, they know better, because they are Modernists–heretics among us; although they don’t know it, because the man next to them–who they travel with, have lunch with–believes the same way. But, if they would just use the great mind that God gave them, and read a little bit into history, they would, indeed, see that they are, indeed, heretics.

    It’s not hard really, to look at some of the dogmas of the Church and see where one is erstwhile: For instance: “Outside of the Church, there is no Salvation.”

    Well, that dogma is laughed at these days. But whoever said it was undogmatized? Yes, Bishops, I’m speaking to you. Where was this dogma abrogated? I’d love to know….

  44. Hidden One says:

    The streets of Hell may well be paved with the skulls of Bishops, but it must be remembered that to that level one must descend to beat upon them.

    Quit the Bishop-bashing, everyone. Humility is a good thing – I’m failing at it too.

  45. Levavi says:

    It is not true that the London Oratory Host profanation began at a Mass where communion was given onto the tongue. It is the custom at the London Oratory, as everywhere in Britain, to give Holy Communion in both ways (except that since this scandal, the Oratory has had some masses where they have not allowed reception onto the hand, for ‘risk of repetition’).

    Anyway, I have seen the video (until the profanation) and the culprit clearly received onto the hand. But more importantly, the priest did not watch well to see if it had been received (however, the culprit mimed his own communion…).

  46. Mary says:

    Fr. Z, please allow me to tell you of our experience. As we traveled south this summer, we stopped at one orthodox Church after the other (carefully planned by me in advance using web resources). My two daughters and I knelt to receive the Eucharist at each of these Masses – something we cannot do at our Church here in central PA. We were having a wonderful Catholic pilgrimage.

    When we arrived at our destination, we attended Mass at a beautiful cathedral in northern FL. When we walked up to receive Jesus, my youngest daughter (13) went first and knelt to receive Him. The priest would not give her Communion and made her stand up. Needless to say, my daughter was mortified. I’m afraid we all had to go to Confession after that Mass for the thoughts and words that day.

    Worse, I had to explain to my children why one of God’s anointed would act in such a way.

  47. Eric says:

    I’ll be honest, I’ve never knelt for Holy Communion at the Novus Ordo. I think the only time I did was when I made my First Holy Communion, where our old-fashioned, traditional-minded Monsignor gave us Communion kneeling and on the tongue. I realize that in and of itself is probably a rarity nowadays, even for a First Holy Communion, and I am grateful ours was so reverent. The only incident I have had is trying to receive on the tongue at a Novus Ordo a few years ago. The priest was older and it clearly could not be said that he had never administered Communion in that way, yet he looked stupefied as to why I would want to receive on the tongue. Although he didn’t say anything, he literally paused for what seemed like an eternity; finally, he raised the Host up enough as if he would be placing it in one’s hand but he continued to pause. Although it felt like forever, it was probably no more than a half a minute, but he made it quite obvious and awkward. Despite the production he was making, I didn’t offer to receive by the hand and instead had to lower my head and somewhat bow to the level he had raised the Host up to, and he finally acquiesced and placed it on my tongue. Since he never said anything to me and was simply being uncooperative, I don’t feel badly at all about not relenting. Even at the Novus Ordo I receive on the tongue, even at far more liberal parishes I’ve been to, yet never had this problem. On top of it all, I was the last person in the receiving line so I’m sure it was quite an awkward transaction.

  48. Louis E. says:

    The USCCB needs to be reminded that being permitted to permit something (in this case standing communion) that has previously been forbidden does not equate to being permitted (let alone required) to require it.

    No faith’s credibility with its faithful can survive the transformation of a requirement to a prohibition or vice versa,as the faith can not claim continuous understanding of the will of God.
    How fast would you leave a Church that suddenly required abortions or prohibited males from Holy Orders?

  49. avecrux says:

    Standing for reception of the Eucharist cannot be compared to abortion (gravely evil) and women’s ordination (impossible).
    We need to be able to make distinctions or credibility is damaged.

  50. Patrick T says:


    Perhaps you could talk about the virtues of kneeling instead of attempting to label all the bishops as heretics.

  51. Levavi says:

    I have been a Catholic nearly 10 years now, have never received on the hand – it really doesn’t feel right to me – and have never experience anything of this sort (here in the UK). I should be interested to know people’s locations.

    If it is a particular national problem the situation must be addressed as such: perhaps the bishops there are particularly ill informed or ill willed?

    Finally, I would implore fellow-Catholic who experience this problem never ever to give in. Perhaps not even be scandalized… Those who want to show respect to Our Lord truly present in the Eucharist should never feel in the wrong.

  52. Malta says:

    dear Patrick,

    Where did I label “all the bishops as heretics?” For all I know, there might be some very traditional Bishops. I haven’t seen many outside of SSPX, but what do I know?

  53. Nathan says:

    To hopefully clarify a point I attempted to make earlier–this dicussion focuses on only one part of the U.S. norms–the standing. I would think it might help someone trying to defend one who kneels for Holy Communion in the Ordinary Form to point out that if a priest is going to correct a kneeler, he should equally correct those who fail to make a sign of reverence such as bowing. I think the omission of the bow is much more prevalent than people who kneel.

    In Christ,

  54. avecrux says:

    Good point, Nathan.

  55. Mike says:

    A friend of mine always carries his cellphone camera with him when he goes to Mass. He hasn’t used it yet but it just goes to show you to what extremes the laity need to go to secure their right to receive Holy Communion in a lawful and devout way. It’s a pitiful state of affairs which we find ourselves in when we need to show “proof” of the abuses going on all around us.

  56. Since His Holiness visited the USA some months ago, I have placed kneelers (prix dieu) in front of the sanctuary at Communion time. I informed my parishioners they still retain their option to receive Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand, kneeling or standing. However, they must stand behind the kneeler and if they do not genuflect or kneel, they are to bow. Guess what? An increase of 25-40% in those who KNEEL. Many of the elderly THANKED me because they wanted to kneel before but found it painful and difficult to do so on the floor (even though carpeted). With the kneelers, the option to kneel is more viable. I do deny anyone their legitimate option this way but I do notice a more reverent and prayerful Communion even among those who stand and receive in the hand (which is becoming a minority little by little). Young and old use the kneelers and after Communion they are moved back to their former position to allow the procession at the end of Mass. Since I have no altar rail, this is my only option to ensure options.

  57. Vox Clamantis says:

    God bless you, Father Trigilio!

    I wish your option was available at every Mass under the ordinary form.

    And where communion rails exist or could be restored or newly placed, there is no reason that those who prefer to stand couldn’t do so besides those who are kneeling.

  58. Richard says:

    Just checking back.

    Since “the priest should explain to the person later why standing is the norm”, I asked what the official explanation is.

    No-one has come up with an answer yet. Fr Z? Anyone?

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