In Belleville, Bp. Braxton takes a stand on kneeling (POLL ALERT)

On the site of a newspaper in SW Illinois, St. Louis, there is an article about the Bishop of Belleville, Most Rev. Edward Braxton.

It seems that in one of the parishes in the diocese of Belleville, people are not kneeling as the rubrics of the Church indicate, for the consecration.

Bishop Braxton has taken a stand on kneeling.

My emphases and comments:

Taking a stand: Bishop tells parishioners to kneel
Braxton sends ‘high priority’ directive to Shiloh church

SHILOH — Belleville Catholic Bishop Edward Braxton has set a deadline of this weekend for all parishioners who attend Corpus Christi Church: You must kneel during the high point of the ceremony, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. [Otherwise known as Mass.]

Braxton sent a letter marked "high priority" to Monsignor James Margason, pastor of Corpus Christi, who posted the information for parishioners.

In the Catholic Church, the Eucharistic Prayer marks the central prayer of the Mass and is the moment when the "bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ," according to a directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. [Ummm… well… somewhat more than a directive of the USCCB, but let that pass.] The group advises that all should kneel at this time.  [Okay… remember that this is a secular report, right?]

But at the 91-year-old wood frame Shiloh church, about 50 of the approximately 90 to 150 people who attend any of four Masses [that many?] on the weekend sit in an annex, where there are rows of seats that have no kneelers — long, padded devices in a pew that can be folded down.

For years, many parishioners at Corpus Christi, including those in pews with kneelers and those without, have remained standing during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Margason said that Braxton’s Dec. 7 letter to him was posted prominently in the church and that parishioners in the main section equipped with kneelers now kneel during the reading of the Eucharistic Prayer. However in the annex, the people stand, Margason said. He declined further comment[I bet.]

The letter did not state whether there would be consequences for continued standing, even in the annex where there are no kneelers.

Dave Spotanski, the diocesan chancellor of administration, said he could not comment because the letter was a private communication between a bishop and a priest, even though it was posted publicly at Corpus Christi Church[You have to wonder what the priest was about when he posted the letter.   A public hand washing, perhaps?]

The parish, which has nearly doubled to 515 members since Margason took over in 2005, [getting the dynamic at work?] has approved construction of a new and much larger church that will be equipped with kneelers for all churchgoers. Construction will begin next year.

Braxton, who rarely comments to local reporters, could not be reached.

The letter made no reference to a lack of kneelers but pointed out that as the diocesan bishop, Braxton is "the chief steward of the mysteries of God in the particular church entrusted to my care and as the guardian of the whole of the liturgical life of this Diocese." It also stated that Braxton had been "informed" that when Margason was pastor of St. Luke’s Church in Belleville, parishioners sometimes remained standing during the Eucharistic Prayer.

"Now, however, the members of the congregation at St. Luke’s Parish kneel as they should," the letter stated.

Margason was the vicar general under former Bishops Wilton Gregory and James Keleher.

Braxton, who was installed as bishop in 2005, also wrote, "Please inform your parishioners that, at my instruction, they must begin following the liturgical norm of kneeling during the entire Eucharistic Prayer."

A publication titled "General Instruction of the Roman Missal," printed by the Catholic Order of St. Benedict in Collegeville, Minn., [sigh] states that those attending Mass should kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer when it is "reasonable." Situations where it might not be reasonable, according to the article, include reasons of health, lack of space and the number of persons present.

It is not uncommon to see elderly people sitting during the Eucharistic Prayer, or people standing on crowded Masses at Easter and Christmas.

I am glad the bishop stressed the importance of kneeling, even though reasonable accomodation must be made when it simply isn’t possible.

However, lack of a kneeler does not make kneeling impossible.

It just makes kneeling a little closer to the ground… like real kneeling.


This poll came with the story.   The good guys are winning.  Let’s keep an eye on it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I find it confusing that there is even a poll: has no-one told them that Bishop is in charge of liturgy is his Diocese?

  2. greg the beachcomber says:

    The numbers in this story seem a little screwy. Ninety to 150 people attend Mass, and 50 of them have to sit in an annex? How tiny is this church? The parish has doubled in size to 515 members, and they’re building a new church? On whose dime?

    Where I live, new churches require years of fundraising, so that by the time the new church is built, most of the parishioners have fled to neighboring parishes.

    Fill the seats in the main church first, squeeze in a little if you have to, then sit in the annex. And please, Lord, don’t let them build another in-the-round monstrosity.

  3. ShihanRob says:

    Our Bishop has directed that the individual Pastors decide whether as a congretation we stand or kneel. It would seem that for most of the parishes in the San Jose Diocese (Ca) we stand. Even after all of these years, it still seems odd.

    His Excellency explains his rationalle here: It’s a little long, but here’s the money quote: “Therefore, I am asking each assembly to take a unified posture during the Eucharistic Prayer, whether it is kneeling or standing throughout. The posture would be determined by each parish and would be the normative posture for that parish. But this should not be rigidly mandated for those unable to participate in the parish’s normative posture because of bodily limitations caused by age, health, disability, or weakness.”

    So, I stand -in obedience to my Bishop and my Pastor, give reverent bows at the elevation of the Host and the Precious Blood and hope for the best.

  4. JohnMa says:

    At the parish I attended while in college (which covers a 1000 sq mile area) the choir director (and director of liturgy) hates it that all the college students kneel during the appropriate times because she says that “we don’t do that here.” They are currently fundraising for a new church and the students, who account for more than 1/2 the parishioners, convinced the priest that the new church should have kneelers. :)

  5. I find it plausible that the attendance has outgrown this church building. Shiloh, IL is in a part of the St. Louis metropolitan area that is growing dramatically. Shiloh was a very small town before suburbia caught up to it, and it’s possible that the parish was unwilling or unable to expand the building until now.

    Of course, that doesn’t excuse the entire community not kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer. The article doesn’t make clear if the chairs in the annex are folding chairs, which do make kneeling impossible, or the typical chairs that are found in chapels that allow for kneeling, even if kneelers weren’t attached to them.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    “Therefore, I am asking each assembly to take a unified posture during the Eucharistic Prayer, whether it is kneeling or standing throughout.”

    One might have thought that, as a member of the hierarchy, His Excellency would in some routine fashion have been provided with a copy of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal.

  7. youngcatholicstl says:

    As someone who lives in a neighboring commmunity of Shiloh, IL, and is a member of St. Luke’s in Belleville (although my wife and I moved in after Msgr. had been transferred), here’s the scoop. The area of Shiloh was a sleepy little town of less than a few thousand (other than the U.S. Air Force Base) up until a few years ago. As the Catholics moved out of East St. Louis and continued to push East, Shiloh has suddenly boomed. Corpus Christi literally holds no more than 50-70 people comfortably (which was more than enough for 50 years). The parish is in the process of remodeling its parish hall into a new church. Several other parishes in the area have just built mega-churches to hold the growing number of parishioners (see St. Claire, O’Fallon, IL or Trinity, Fairview Heights, IL). While I agree that people shouldn’t be standing during the consecration, the bigger issue here is the size of the church.

  8. Peter says:

    I was bemused/amused by the contention that kneelers ARE padded.

    This has rarely been the case in my experience.

    In fact in the church we attend, I choose to kneel on the floor because that is actually more comfortable than the (unpadded &) ergonomically weird kneeler. I’m probably soft, but for those in good health if you have something to kneel against, the floor generally isn’t that bad. It did say there were seats there …

  9. yatzer says:

    Not being snarky, but I don’t understand how folding chairs make kneeling impossible. While our church was being restored we met for Mass in the basement, using folding chairs, and most of us were able to kneel (on the floor) for the Consecration just fine. Some were not able, of course, but it was the exception, even for many of us entering geezertude.

  10. “A publication titled “General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” printed by the Catholic Order of St. Benedict in Collegeville, Minn., [sigh] states that those attending Mass should kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer when it is “reasonable.” Situations where it might not be reasonable, according to the article, include reasons of health, lack of space and the number of persons present.”
    ‘Sigh’ is exactly right, Fr Z.
    Believe me, I know. I spent thousands of dollars and years at that place (back in the early ’80s when I was well, stupid and uninformed) and standing at the Eucharisitic Prayer was (and may still be) the practice at the former “center of the liturgical movement”. Virgil Michel, OSB must be turning in his grave about the things that go on there.

  11. CarpeNoctem says:

    The bishop is absolutely in his rights and has the responsibility to communicate this discipline. I’m annoyed at this, however, because this will raise another stink in that poor diocese where there is already open hostility with laity and priests for their bishop where there is more than plenty of fault to go on all sides.

    The result will be that doing things the correct, “Catholic” way will be bound up in the negativity surrounding the bishop, where the disobedient way will have the allurement of popular vindication against a figure who appears disconnected, autocratic, and uninvested in the spiritual welfare of the people. (And I am NOT saying that I think he should be described in this way, but that is the widespread grumbling.)

    Am I suggesting that the bishop has lost control? Sadly in this situation, I wonder if he has. It would not be the first time something like this happens to a bishop or priest, and won’t be the last. I say this with all due respect and as an outsider looking in. The bishop is to be a visible sign of unity within the Church, but if any of his efforts to bring about that unity– especially in something as simple as this– bring about the opposite (an “anti-symbol”, perhaps?) then… well, I don’t know.

    These people need prayers. Even more so, some heroically humble folks in this parish, including and especially the pastor, need to take it on themselves to be obedient to the directive, make the bishop and his directive look as good as it can, swallow any indignity and pride, teach those who need to be taught, and take a major step on the road of reconciliation… otherwise all is lost.

    My hope is that ‘posting’ the letter on a bulletin board is not some passive-agressive thing that “informs” with the same force that a sign announcing the location of this week’s card party has. I don’t know this parish or priest and I intend no disrespect to any involved, but there is much more to this kurfuffle than one can glean from a casual reading of this article.

  12. CarpeNoctem says:

    I should qualify one thing I said above… my annoyance is not in the bishop doing what he is doing, but rather, my annoyance is with the article itself. There is no reason why this matter should ever appear in a public newspaper– and it probably would not unless someone was stirring the muck and tipping off a reporter, rather than working the solution I propose in the penultimate paragraph.

  13. CarpeNoctem says:

    Ugh, sorry one more qualification. THINK then POST. Right…

    My point is that this article is really not about kneeling at the Eucharistic Prayer, but about another more sinister dynamic in play in this local Church. Again, prayer and obedience is the first step.

    ’nuff said.

  14. Peggy R says:

    This is my diocese and bishop. The backstory is that the bishop was not welcome by the defiant priests and CTA-affiliated laity who thought they could choose their own bishop. [BND has a good archive of articles if available still–as do I on my blog.] Msgr. Margason, who was previously vicar general, was rumoured to be their chosen man. They’ve been ticked off and defiant toward Bp. Braxton. They supposedly ran the show even under Bp. Gregory. The media doesn’t help the bishop’s cause, of course. The bishop has had to make some communications to the people via the diocesan paper so as to avoid the priests and lay adminstrators mischaracterizing his motives and such.

    As youngstlcatholic noted, Shiloh has grown with suburban sprawl. Belleville, the seat of the diocese and SW IL economy, is on the decline and families are moving outward to communities like mine and Shiloh. A parish with one priest and 2 or more masses is not unusual. Some rural county priests serve 2-4 parishes on a circuit. Shiloh is also near the AFB which is growing as defense activities become consolidated and moved to secure locations, often from NoVa, where we used to live, but moved here for family reasons.

    This is an important step toward addressing liturgical abuses and irregularities in the diocese. I hope he pursues his responsibilities here.

    Thanks for noticing Bp. Braxton. He needs prayers and support.

  15. …printed by the Catholic Order of St. Benedict in Collegeville, Minn., [sigh]

    LOL. As a graduate of St. John’s in Collegeville, I sigh too. And not with longing.

  16. Peggy R says:

    This is the first time this journalist has actually consulted a church document!

  17. Mickey says:

    Like Peggy, we used to live in that diocese and in the “Spirit of V2” is very much present…I have never in my life seen an entire diocese so rife with dissent and 70’s radicals.

    Even though we only lived there a year, I had the privilege of meeting Bishop Braxton on three occasions and was impressed with him…he is a good priest and a good bishop who has had nothing but rebellion to his presence since he arrived. Four priests actually spent 2 hours the day before his installation trying to convince him to reject his appointment…their reason? They weren’t “consulted” on his appointment!

    There are a few good priests, and +Braxton is one of them…if he’s acting in such a public manner, you can bet he’s exhausted every other alternative.

    Please pray for him…he needs your prayers!

  18. Hidden One says:

    Given what is here in the comments, I hope that His Excellency is making sure that his seminarians (Has he any?) are being properly formed.

    In any case, let us remember the following statement from St. John Vianney:

    “There are no bad priests, only priests for whom there has not been enough prayer.”

  19. twherge says:

    I admire this move in that there is a tendency to ignore norms altogether and with no kneeling at all it is easy for any focus on the reality of our Lord’s Presence to be forgotten. However, I am not totally comfortable with a total insistence on uniformity of posture. It is desireable, but also involves decisions on what posture is appropriate, and though kneeling for the entirety of the canon has long been common practice for catholics, it was not the rubrical norm except on penetential ferial masses. And now it is something required of people. At least people will be kneeling, though.

  20. kal says:

    In the Saginaw Diocese, Archbishop Carlson promulgated several years back that we were to discontinue the practice of standing during the Eucharistic Prayer and begin using the correct posture of kneeling, effective the first Sunday of Advent, 2009. I’m not sure if most parish priests thought that because we had a change in Bishops that the directive was null and void, but it doesn’t appear to have been put in practice in too many parishes, including the Cathedral. Granted, most of these parishes gutted their churches over the years and removed the kneelers, but kneelers aren’t required for kneeling. I attended a parish last week that still had kneelers intact and yet the congregation still was standing. I’m not sure where these priests get off ingoring the directive, but Bishop Cistone has made it known that he still considers it in effect. I can never understand why the priests continue to do their own thing and ignore their bishop.

  21. Lynne says:

    FYI The good guys are still leading in the poll, 80% (~ 1500 votes) said yes, the bishop has the right to insist on kneeling. Whew! ;-)

  22. boko fittleworth says:

    Are big hair and parachute pants popular there?

  23. Peggy R says:


    No, but I was surprised when I arrived at the prevalence of the Kate Gosselin bird nest.

  24. Dr. Eric says:

    Hidden One,

    We in the Diocese of Belleville have no native priests. We have Nigerian priests who are over here as missionaries.

    His Excellency has been under attack, as Peggy noted, even before he arrived. The priests are very heterodox, I’ve lived in the Diocese a total of 27 years and I can say that I only know of 3-4 priests in those 27 years that one could call orthodox.

    About 10 years ago, when I was discerning, I had decided that I didn’t want to become a priest for this Diocese and looked into the Archidiocesan priesthood of St. Louis instead, that’s how bad it is here in many places. Now, I’m discerning whether or not I should pursue the Diaconate in the Diocese of Belleville, so these issues really affect me.

  25. Dave N. says:

    Dr Eric,

    One reads such very wild things pro and con about this bishop and the diocese (presbytery vote of “no confidence”? bishop’s extravagant lifestyle? No, he’s fighting heterodoxy by bringing in good priests? No, he’s purchasing vestments with designated SPF funds? Papal nuncio is investigating? etc. etc. etc. etc.) Interested parties can google to your hearts’ content.

    it’s really hard for us outsiders to figure out what in the heck is going on over there.

  26. Hidden One says:

    Perhaps His Excellency shall have to bring in (I assume that he hasn’t) groups like the FSSP just to instill orthodoxy in the diocese.

    At least orthodox seminarians in the diocese would presumably have episcopal support. I know and know of (through friends) a number of orthodox (which is usually accompanied by ‘traditionalist’ in Canada) seminarians meandering through dioceses (and a Jesuit province) who do not have that support, to put it mildly. (God bless the Jesuit!)

    Dr. Eric, may you do as the Lord wills.


  27. Dr. Eric says:

    Off the top of my head, at the last ordination there were only 5 Deacons- no priests. 4 of them were Nigerians and one was a native Illinoisan who is married and therefore will not be ordained to the presbyterate.

  28. Hidden One says:

    Yet, anyway.

    May God bless your diocese.

  29. bookworm says:

    Someone on this forum recently said that the Diocese of Springfield (currently vacant) better not get Bishop Perry (Chicago auxiliary) because Belleville might need him when Bishop Braxton gets “promoted” somewhere else.

    In light of what’s been going on in Belleville, how likely or unlikely is that scenario?

  30. Peggy R says:

    The various allegations of mis-use of funds and extravagant lifestyle are lies and exaggerations and ignoring of underlying facts by the FOSIL/CTA crowd. The chancery was in bad need of repairs/updating. The bishop obtained funds from private donors. He did not use diocesan money. The vestments purchase were for the Cathedral, not himself. There may have been some confusion about one of the funds’ scopes. But a diocesan fund at issue had a broad definition of permitted uses which would include diocesan office furniture–not for himself but for a conference room. Now,that said, the bishop strikes me as being socially standoffish and talks about himself a lot in some settings. He loves his recently (about 2 yrs now) deceased mother dearly. He talks of her often as well. But he is the rightful bishop, and we all have character flaws.

  31. Julia says:

    The story continues in today’s Belleville News Democrat on the front page!

    “Controversy continues as more Belleville churchgoers are told to get on their knees – U.S. practice differs from other countries”

    There are already 40+ comments. Our area just loves the on-going battle between the priests, parishioners and Bishop. The Letters to the Editor are frequently about diocesan matters.

    Here’s the website of a group called Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity which is a big part of the lay opposition to the Bishop. Note all the stuff about the church oppressing women, the announcement of the Mary Magdalen Event and the theology commentaries from Fr McBrien of Notre Dame.

  32. pelerin says:

    Interesting to read in the link mentioned by Julia that despite the American Bishops advocating kneeling at the Consecration some time ago, for some reason this parish decided to carry on standing. Very strange – what about obedience to Bishops?

    The latest article mentions that it is the norm to stand at this point in Europe. The writer has obviously not been to England (which although many here don’t like to admit it) is in Europe and kneeling here for the Consecration is the norm.

    France is different and there standing is the norm although I have noticed that those of African descent usually kneel at this point. When I asked what ‘one should do’ I received the reply ‘whatever you feel is right.’ When attending Mass in Notre-Dame you can always tell the English there as they try and kneel in adoration but this is not easy with very limited space! And in England French visitors always stand out by their tradition of standing through the Consecration.

    Perhaps ‘do as you feel is right’ is the best advice. After all we should be there in awe of the Consecration in the way we ourselves think fit and not wondering what others are doing.

  33. Henry Edwards says:

    pelerin: The universal norm of the Roman rite is to kneel for the consecration (in every country). Perhaps you’re simply saying that the French are even worse (in flouting norms) than Americans.

    Actually, the American bishops adaption (of the universal norm) is to require kneeling for the entire Eucharistic prayer, rather than only for the rite of consecration.

  34. patrick_f says:

    The fact he led with the “Law”, rather then teaching about who we are kneeling to, will make this fail

    Why do people not kneel for the consecration? Because they dont truly know this is GOD IMMORTAL come down to us. I would much rather see a bishop teach to that effect, and then point out why kneeling is appropriate, rather then simply leading with “the law” and coming across as the “Big Mean Bishop”, which you know the cafeteria folk will do

  35. Nathan says:

    Per Julia’s comment: I certainly sympathize with the bishop and the faithful of the diocese who have to suffer through this. With that in mind, I found no small measure of irony in the self-styled acronym for some of the “progressives” there: FOSIL. Just another word beginning with “S” and they’ll have the correct spelling as well.

    In Christ,

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