A look at Archbishop Conti’s pastoral letter which has stirred things up

Pursuant to the CNA article about the Glaswegian Archbishop Mario Conti’s exhortation to Catholics to stand for Holy Communion, there is now some considerable discussion out there in the blogosphere.

Some are saying that Archbishop Conti has “decreed” in his pastoral letter that people must stand.

Did he really issue a decree?

Shall we have a look with my emphases and comments? You can find Archbishop Conti’s pastoral letter here.

Pastoral Letter on the New Translation of the Roman Missal [So… it is about the new translation.  Take note.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

By now you will be aware that from the first Sunday of Advent, a new Missal will grace our altars, the text of which will, in some instances, be unfamiliar. This new Missal contains new translations into English of the original Latin texts. Every effort has been made to render them more faithful to those scriptural allusions which have sometimes been overlooked in the familiar texts to which we have become accustomed. There has also been an attempt to dignify the language we use at Mass by a return to words which might be judged as more literary, and thought by many to be more becoming for public prayer[“Thought by many”.  Okay.  Fair enough.  If His Grace isn’t one of them, at least he is not undercutting that opinion.  All in all the first paragraph, though hardly enthusiastic, isn’t bad at all. ]
My concern is to encourage you to accept these changes in language, to be patient in doing so and to share my conviction that this is a marvellous opportunity for us to revisit our celebration of the liturgy, to see its great beauty, to love it as an expression of our Catholic faith. [Nothing wrong with that!] Throughout the world and throughout time we have been prepared to make sacrifices in order to show not simply our unity of purpose in our worship, but also our harmony of expression.
I have looked to this Sunday?s liturgy to find some inspiration in addressing you and have not been disappointed. St Paul in his letter to the Romans, from which today?s epistle is taken, says: “Think of God?s mercy my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God”.
This immediately suggests to me that our worship not only be thoughtful – the result of our engaging our minds and hearts with the uplifting prayer of the Church – but that it should also engage our bodies, through the postures we adopt in the course of the Mass, [Okayyyy… he is moving from the text to the postures.  It is a jump but… let’s see where he goes.] by the reverence we show during it, and also before and after our celebrations, recalling that the church is the house of God, not a market or a place for idle conversation. [Good for him!   This is an excellent point and His Grace is to be commended for including it… even though he seems to be off topic.  A welcome digression.] As Jesus said: “My house is a house of prayer”.
Today?s psalm expresses beautifully my intentions in coming to Mass:
“O God, you are my God, for you I long;
For you my soul is thirsting…
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
To see your strength and your glory…
And so I will bless you all my life
In your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
My mouth shall praise you with joy”.

It is in that spirit that I as a priest will greet you at the beginning of Mass: “The Lord be with you,” and you will respond: “And with your spirit”.

What I want to say to you is summed up in the document of Pope Benedict published in February of 2007 at the conclusion of the gathering of bishops which addressed the subject of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Church:
“The Second Vatican Council,” wrote the Holy Father, “rightly emphasised the active, full and fruitful participation of the entire people of God in the Eucharistic celebration. The renewal carried out in these past decades has made considerable progress towards fulfilling the wishes of the Council Fathers… It should be made clear that the word „participation? does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration, in fact the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life… The faithful take part in the Eucharistic liturgy not „as strangers or silent spectators? but as participants „in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, actively and devoutly?… They should give thanks to God.” (cf Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, Feb 22 2007)  [I always enjoy quotes from Pope Benedict about these things… but the letter is supposed to be about the new translation, right?  Yes, I think the new translation will aid people in a deeper active participation, a fuller, a more conscious.  But I think His Grace may be straying a little from his theme.]

And in words which reflect St Paul?s words in today?s liturgy the Holy Father wrote: “Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also together with him, [the faithful] should learn to make an offering of themselves. Through Christ, the mediator, they should be drawn, day by day, into an ever more perfect union with God and each other.”  [Another nice quote.]
If this is what our liturgy intends for us – what indeed the Lord himself provided for us by the institution of the Holy Mass at the Last Supper and at Calvary – then we must take this opportunity, priests and people, to renew our devotion and to respond with generosity to what is now being offered to us, and to receive with open minds the instructions and explanations our pastors give us[Including his instruction.]
In the months which remain before the new Missals are placed on our altars, we have an opportunity, week by week, to become more familiar with the texts, particularly the common parts of the Mass in which there are changes.
[And here we go!  NB: ] Cards have been made available in each parish and it would be helpful to you in coming to Mass to make sure that you have a copy of them and can follow them in the recitation of the Gloria, the Creed and in your various responses.  [English priest friends of mine have noted on their own blogs something odd about these cards.  For example, His Hermeneuticalness, Fr. Tim Finigan had an excellent post about these new cards prepared by CTS and the “rubric” that people are to stand.  I recommend you read Fr. Finigan on this point.]
There are also new instructions with regard to our postures during Mass which reflect the universal custom of the Church as set down within the Missal itself. We have been more used to kneeling than standing during some parts of the Mass, whereas in most other countries, the tradition of standing has been adhered to more faithfully. [“tradition of standing”… that’s just tossed out there with the implication that those who don’t are not quite faithful.  Did I read that wrong?] Standing is of course a sign of respect in our Western culture, and it is from a standing position that we will kneel in adoration in the period following the Sanctus up until the Pater Noster[As I have remarked elsewhere, standing is indeed a sign of human respect.  But perhaps another sign is better for respect for the divine.]
It is also from a standing position that we should make our sign of reverence before we receive Holy Communion, approaching the altar in a dignified procession. [Back to that CTS card.] The option of genuflecting before receiving Holy Communion is also allowed, though we recommend the acceptance of the option which has become commonplace, namely of bowing our heads before receiving Communion, as this is less likely to interrupt the flow of people and is more sensitive to the fact that there are many in our congregations who would find it difficult to genuflect without having something to hold on to[First, if “flow” is important, return to Communion kneeling at a rail with the priest moving.  It is faster, if that is a prized value.  Also, it strikes me that for a very long time people who couldn’t kneel were going to Communion even before the Second Vatican Council and somehow they managed to survive the ordeal.  And if people don’t have something to hold on to, then perhaps we could install Communion rails.  They are useful for people who are infirm but not so infirm that they cannot kneel at all.]
This communion procession beautifully expresses the way in which we are a people journeying towards the Lord, for whose land and company, as the psalmist says, our “body pines, like a dry, weary land without water,” for us to be refreshed on that journey by the Holy Eucharist – Christ Himself.  [Hmmm… when people marching through the desert come to an oasis, they get down on the ground to drink from the spring, right?  Okay… okay… if it is a sophisticated and modern oasis, there may be a well or a Coke machine.]
When we return to our places after receiving Holy Communion we can sit or kneel [Hey!  I remember something now.  Wasn’t this about accepting the new translation?] but what we cannot fail to do, surely, is to address in the most intimate sanctuary of our hearts, the Lord, who through the sacrament, becomes our guest. [While remaining our GOD.  But it was a good reminder, no question.] With the centurion, whose faith the Lord commended, we will repeat what we have already said in answer to the priest: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
We should spend time after communion praying for what St Paul calls in our second reading a “new mind” on which our lives are to be “modelled”. [I believe the same St. Paul wrote something about knees bending.]
“This,” we are reminded, “is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.”
In all things we struggle for perfection. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” said Jesus to his disciples. In liturgy also we have the same endeavour.
With my warmest blessings,
Yours devotedly in Christ.
+Mario Conti
Archbishop of Glasgow

I was ready to find all sorts of strange things in this letter.  I didn’t.  I found only a few strange things.

It strikes me that His Grace used the opportunity to talk about the new translation to talk about something else entirely: the rubric on the CTS card which stirred some interest from English bloggers such as Fr. Finigan.

That said, much of what Archbishop Conti wrote was good.  For example, I was pleased to read his comments about decorum in church before and after Mass.  Our churches are not the market.  This ought to be said again and again and again.

Therefore, I choose to be selective and, for that excellent observation, thank Archbishop Conti for his comments about being quiet in church.

And I also thank the CDW for Redemptionis Sacramentum 90-91.

I may be a Crackit Gaberlunzie and a Puir Slow-witted Gowk, but from my wee glippit of the letter I dinna find any decree.  He exhorts, to be sure.  But he doesn’t exactly command.

Am I missing something?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’m reading this letter, and I’m not seeing what was reported earlier by CNA: that the Archbishop is telling Catholics to stand for Holy Communion. In fact, the CNA article that you had first mentioned, Father, gives a direct quote. “The Faithful should follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, namely coming to communion in procession and standing to receive Holy Communion.” I don’t see this anywhere in the letter as posted here and on the archdiocese’s website. Very odd.

  2. Brad says:

    “The flow” can kiss my booty! Can I and all others receiving have literally 3 or 5 seconds instead of 1? After all, if I even bow at the waist instead of the neck or genuflect prior to receiving, I will require those extra seconds. Is this a race? Sometimes it seems so with the many EMHCs and the constant pep talks to keep the Babbitty efficiency a flowin’. Apparently I am the only one who does not have to dine-n-dash because I have a brunch meeting with some vip.

  3. mike cliffson says:

    Fr tim’s blog:”I presume that they produced the card under the direction of the Liturgy Committee of the Bishops’ Conference” ie magisterium-related?

    This isn´t about me, if it were, I could say how enormously privelidged we are and I am to receive communion at all, let alone in countries where there ARE priests to go round, not like parts of Brazil where you can have months between mass and mass, or, again where the whole church is underground.
    A cosmos away is as I prefer.
    ( Which happens to be in the hand and under both kinds -but not as of right , less even of strident demand and imposing right.)
    But I suspect most of the Western rite will have to soon take up a precedent of perhaps only part of a country, Castille, during perhaps only ageneration, when Lutherism was abroad, in the 16th century .I understand the The Castille of St Teresa: if the priest celebrating didn’t recognize your face from confession, no communion.Probably kneeling, in the mouth, and one kind.

  4. Gail F says:

    It sounds to me as if he is explaining the norm and and the reasons for it. He says that genuflecting is allowed, but explains that standing is the norm. That’s not a command to stand or else. I don’t see the controversy here. Many people might like the norm to be changed to kneeling or genuflecting — me among them — but right now it is not. Now, I don’t know the bishop or the area in question, maybe the letter has different connotations to those from that area of the world. But on the face of it, he just seems to be explaining the actual current norm.

  5. Newminster says:

    The reference to standing as in “from a standing position that we will kneel in adoration in the period following the Sanctus up until the Pater Noster” is a reference to the practice in England whence the CTS card has no doubt come.
    It has long been the practice to stand at the ‘Orate fratres’ while the Scots get straight onto their knees at that point.
    Here in France one stands from the Orate fratres through to Communion which is a bit tough on my 70-year-old knees!
    I must say I don’t see any direct instruction regarding not taking communion kneeling. The idea that however you take it you mustn’t hold up the queue is laughable!

  6. Fr. A.M. says:

    Yes, the Archbishop of Glasgow has written quite a few beautiful and useful things in his letter. But although he has not formally ‘decreed’ that kneeling is forbidden, he nonetheless does appear to ‘inhibit’ it, just as he ‘inhibits’ the Usus Antiquior in his diocese. Indeed the ‘tradition’ of standing – after Vatican II ( though not actually related to the council) – has been adhered to most faithfully in a good number of European countries, where the faithful do not kneel at all at Mass, because they are ‘inhibited’ (actually ‘prevented’) from doing so by their more enlightened clergy. As my dear old father says, going up to Holy Communion now is a bit like standing in a queue in a well-known supermarket-chain. Ah well, thank God for Pope Benedict.

  7. cmm says:

    Of course people should be allowed to kneel even if it “holds up the queue”. After all, if Communion takes too long, one can always use the help of EMs.

  8. Cephas218 says:

    I pretty consistently kneel, and normally it doesn’t attract much attention. But recently in New Jersey a priest appeared somewhat shocked and scandalized. I can never figure out the big deal: am I not allowed to kneel? And what’s the issue with altar rails gone? Word is that in the Diocese of Arlington the Bishop won’t permit altar rails. Really? Will we outlaw altars next?

  9. scotus says:

    If you go to the homepage of the Archdiocese of Glasgow website (http://www.rcag.org.uk/) you will find this:
    “Until the early 1960s, Mass was celebrated in Latin throughout the world. At the Second Vatican Council, in the early 1960s, it was agreed that Mass could be said in the language of the country in which it was being celebrated.”
    (Although the content of the homepage is likely to change so it may not be there for long.)
    Just where was that agreed at the Second Vatican Council?

  10. pedantic_prof says:

    Many thanks to Fr. Z for providing this document in full and glossing it. While not an “ideal” instruction, it contains many insightful moments and no commandments about kneeling. The Internet can allow things to be blown out of proportion and sometimes, as is the case here, unfairly.

  11. Maltese says:

    Though of Scotch descent (not the drinking kind, though I might, ultimately be descended because of it), I find anything coming out of Glasgow after Vatican II suspect.

    Let’s see, how many TLMs are approved there or in Edinburgh or elsewhere in that beautiful country; err, I mean, part of the UK?

    Didn’t Magdelene and Cassius and others fall on their knees to worship Our Lord? There are thousands of paintings of Saints kneeling before Christ or laypersons kneeling before Saints spanning many centuries. I have an Icon of Our Lady with a kneeler before her. Kneeling, in the Church, is the proper stance of reverence to Our Lord in His Body, not standing. You’re not going to mass to salute a General for bloody sake!

    This Cardinal is off his rocker; maybe he needs to get back on it!

  12. APX says:

    Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    See, this just makes me want to kneel even more. Please excuse this unholy and sacrilegious reference, but whenever the words, “not worthy” preceded by a pronoun I get the instant image from Wayne’s World when they meet Alice Cooper and drop to their knees repeating, “we’re not worthy”. Why? Because to them Alice Cooper was like a god whom they didn’t feel worthy to meet. Even pop-culture gets the notion of getting down on your knees to meet whomever you consider your god because you’re not worthy. Why can’t we, who actually meet the Lord and God, get down on our knees to receive
    Him? Seriously, if people actually believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, do you think they give two hoots about traffic flow?

  13. terryprest says:

    It certainly is a strange affair

    However there would appear to be two letters: one by the Archbishop sent to his priests dated 25th August 2011 (see CNA report); the other a Pastoral Letter to the Diocese (which according to the .pdf file properties section was made on 30th August 2011 at about 9 am)

    You are quoting from the Pastoral Letter which appears to be dated 30th August which would also appear to be the date that the CNA made enquiries of the Diocese

    Be that as it may. I have to say that the vituperative abuse heaped on Archbishop Conti is utterly without foundation and unmerited. He has served the Church well. He has been a loyal priest for over 53 years. He has been a bishop for over 35 years. There has never been any scandal about him. He is well respected and has always been so.

    Some of the personal comments about him and his Italian heritage on some blogs by Catholic writers are disgraceful and wholly undeserved for someone who has served the Church so faithfully.

  14. Corinne says:

    First Ecumenical Council Canon XX forbids kneeling on Sunday and feast days. The East still adheres to this for the most part (especially the Russian Orthodox Church). So in a sense Cardinal Conti is correct in stating that standing is a “tradition.” Mass/Liturgy is also believed in the East to involve bodily worship as well, not just the “mind and heart” hence the reason for all the bows and prostrations in the Eastern Liturgy. Again, something the early Church taught, the Orthodox (for the most part) still teach.

    It always puzzels me why the Western Church suddenly (i.e. after 1965ish) started following some of the early Church councils and canons. Hardcore traditional Catholics who think that the Roman Catholic Church only adopted changes beginning at Vatican II should think again. The Western Church has consistently changed and/or followed only the canons and Councils they deemed necessary or applicable. “Cafeteria Catholics” existed long before Vatican II. Sad but true.

  15. Federico says:

    I don’t know what how the new version of the GIRM approved for Scotland reads, but the USCCB committee on liturgy finally got the message and wrote that the new GIRM language “was altered to reinforce an individual’s right to kneel for the reception of Holy Communion” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Approved U.S. Adaptations to the Revised Roman Missal,” Newsletter of the Committee on Divine Worship 46 [August-September 2010]: 33).

    The US GIRM reads: “the norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.”

    A US bishop could not override this, this is the particular law approved by the Holy See for the United States.

    I hypothesize the same is true in Scotland….in which case abp. Contin would not have issued a particular law for his diocese because he would have lacked the power to do so.


  16. SMC-BC says:

    Cardinal Arinze explains things here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=Ap1KL2D5ae4

  17. ghp95134 says:

    A tapestry showing a highlander kneeling to Prince Charles Edward Stuart:
    “Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), Seeking Shelter In The House Of An Adherent”

    Gowan, yer Laridship! … emmm … Ifn bendin’ tae ane knee waes guid enow fa Oor Prince Chairley, isnae kneeling guid enow fa Oor Laird and God?

    Yours Aye,

  18. THREEHEARTS says:

    What a lame brain? Why does he worry about the flow of people? No worries about Christ being moved by a lack of respect from us. The kneeling position is the ancient Jewish act of awe and some fright in the presence of God among them. I think this prelate is disobedient, very disobedient almost bordering on apostasy. Certainly he is disobeying Rome instructions and shows no love for our Holy Father. Doesn’t it say some where if you love me you will keep my commandments. I think the the Archbishop signed it but neither wrote it or read it.

  19. Devin says:

    I have to agree with you as well. On a semi-related tangent, I find it curious that so many insist of latin over the vernacular in most of the texts at Mass. The apostles used the local languages. Latin became used in the West instead of Greek precisely because it was understood and the people could respond at Liturgy. The East has always had a tradition of using the vernacular. The “Apostolic Tradition” is to use the vernacular. But why the Missal wasn’t just translated into the vernacular with little or no adjustments instead of being pruned (or gutted) into its current form, that is a different question entirely.


  20. Does it really matter to anyone if he did issue a decree? That’s the whole problem today from both left and right in the Church– no one really cares. Everyone will continue to do what he wants anyway. For once I want to see someone obey or at least respect a bishop when he disagrees with what the bishop is directing. We don’t all have to agree with everything we are being told to do. Is there no value whatsoever to the virtue of obedience? Let’s not forget the reason that we are told to bend our knees at the name of Jesus Christ– it is because He was obedient even to death. It’s too easy and too convenient to skip over verse 8 of Philippians 2 on the way to verse 10.

  21. Dalmiro says:

    They did the same hear in La Plata, and the Archbishop himself had to deny that false information… He stated “IT´S A RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE IF THEY WANT TO KNEEL TO RECEIVE COMMUNION”.

    Although he said that, many priests continue denieing Holy Communion by kneeling, but they are less as time passes… I personally denounce that to the Archbishop when it happens to me.

  22. Long-Skirts says:

    Archbishop Conti said:
    “The option of genuflecting before receiving Holy Communion is also allowed, though we recommend the acceptance of the option which has become commonplace, namely of bowing our heads before receiving Communion,”


    We are St. Joan,
    Philomena, Campion.
    The Faith in its whole
    Is what we do champion.

    We are St. Margaret
    Pearl of York
    Where the bowels of the Faith
    They tried to torque.

    We are Sir More
    That’s Thomas the Saint
    Whose reputation
    They could not taint.

    We are vocations
    True Catholics and kneeling
    Adoring His presence,
    It’s not just a feeling.

    We are descendents
    Of great Saints and beggin’
    To stop all the men
    Who are turning us pagan!

    We are the poor
    Uneducated ones
    But in faith well-informed
    The heretic shuns.

    And when we are told,
    “Don’t kneel anymore.”
    Since we don’t hold doctorates…
    We kneel and IGNORE!!

  23. catholicmc says:

    Fr Z I think your review of the letter is a very charitable and interesting view point on the ++’s so called ‘decree’ however the reason for me posting here is simply that I have been so entertained by your blog for so long I thought I’d start one of my own which I have been doing for a few weeks now finally remembering to do something I intended to do long ago…


    Hope you like it


  24. PaterAugustinus says:

    I will never understand why there’s so much brouhaha about this stand vs. kneel issue.

    Look, I’m Orthodox – I deeply understand the importance of outward and physical expressions of our interior disposition of reverence. I really do get it. But I think those zealous to defend “tradition” in the West, need to ask why this custom of kneeling is so important to traditional piety, if it’s also so unknown to so many centuries of East and West, and remains unknown in the former.

    First, on a general level, the posture alone is not the thing; the people should understand what the posture means, and should try to enter into that spirit. Obviously, people can receive well standing (like the Orthodox) or receive poorly kneeling.

    More particularly, yes, the posture should obviously reflect right piety; it’s not like bad postures can be made pious with nice sounding explanations. But here, Roman Catholics fond of Counter-Reformation piety may know less than they think they know, about the Holy Tradition of how to receive the Mysteries. I believe that the introduction of kneeling has actually confused the issue to an unnecessary degree, introducing subtle implications that, because some people kneel “out of reverence,” standing must be less reverent. Yes, whenever this topic comes up, no matter how much lip service is paid to the “viability” of the option to stand, it is always pretty clear that (small-t) traditional Roman Catholics recognize kneeling to be an indubitably “more appropriate” expression of respect for the Divinity.

    Well, none of the Church Fathers knelt to receive, and I’m pretty sure that they were genuine, pious Catholics, who truly understood the Eucharist. I think especially of St. Benedict’s blessed repose, receiving the Sacrament while standing with the support of his monks. Seriously, the idea that people who *really* get it will necessarily prefer kneeling, has got to go.

    In fact, here’s the crux of the matter: the historic understanding – which the Fathers demonstrate, as St. Benedict did – is that a man, in being united directly to the Divine Nature in the reception of the Eucharist, and becoming a rational tabernacle of the Divine presence, *shows grave disrespect to the Sacrament, of Which he has himself physically become a participant,* if he physically humiliates the body in gestures or postures of self-abasement. He shows reverence for the Sacrament, and for his own involvement in that Sacrament, precisely by not humbling his physical body – for in that moment he is spiritually and physically become not only the Lord’s tabernacle, but is also intimately joined, enhypostatically and immediately, to the Lord Himself. In awe of the Mystery, of the gift of the indwelling spiritual and material presence of the Lord, and in recognition of the great dignity of sonship bestowed upon him beyond all thought of merit, he holds his body upright in holy fear of what he is become, through God’s flabbergasting largesse.

    I’m sure a moment’s reflection will reveal how any man paying attention to these realities, will actually feel more humbled and terrified by being asked to stand, than by kneeling. Standing is a shocking witness to the staggering “poor taste” God shows in His works, which are folly to the worldly-wise. But, God’s way has always seemed like folly, and is a scandal. Here He comes, abasing Himself even to death on the Cross. Who can endure the idea? What a scandal! But… what’s this? Now He is deifying the peasant riff-raff that crucified Him? He’s making them princes of the realm? It staggers the mind. Sensible entities with some self-respect, like Lucifer, get up and leave the party; someone’s got to keep things classy!

    It’s like the holy Orthodox bishop, who explained that only false humility would deny the faithful the blessing of kissing a cleric’s hand by withdrawing it (a problem with some modernist priests); rather, genuine humility grows with each kiss of the faithful’s hands, as the humble priest feels more and more self-reproach, as his sense of unworthiness grows with each such sign of respect. If Holy Tradition didn’t ask the priest to offer his hand, humility could withdraw it. But, Sacred Tradition asks this of him, and so he has to ignore his first impulse, rejecting that as a false path to real humility. He must endure the more difficult torment of being treated like he deserves respect, when he knows he doesn’t! It’s the same way with the reception of the Mysteries: our instinct tells us to kneel, to fall down, to never lift up our face… but, God has chosen to “torment” us with the far more difficult task of standing and accepting the inexpressible surfeit of favour, which He lavishes upon us. In the end, that is the more crushing terror (and perfect joy) to the sensitive soul.

    To be sure, a bad priest may like having his hand kissed, and so miss out on the greater opportunity for humility. And likewise, hippy-dippy Roman Catholics who can say “Lord, I AM worthy that you should come under my roof,” are doing themselves most serious harm by standing and receiving the Eucharist with a casual sense of “grown-up” entitlement. But, “abusus non tollit usus,” right? The Sacred Tradition is to stand, and to use the opportunity to contemplate the terrifying grandeur of our inheritance, the merest conception of which “neither eye hath seen nor ear heard, nor hath it even entered into the mind of man.”

    It is for this reason that the Fathers and the Saints who keep up the Patristic mindset, have always forbidden communicants from kneeling or prostrating themselves when receiving, and for the rest of the day thereafter. How’s that for an external expression of an interior piety?

    Even if people still prefer to kneel, I hope they can at least see that kneeling is not essentially or necessarily a “more appropriate” sign of respect to the Divinity. It may be more decorous, but sometimes a king chooses not to stand on ceremony – and often, when he sets ceremony aside, he makes his point the more strongly therefore. In the Orthodox Church, we stand, and we tremble.

    That’s the idea, anyway. God forgive me for my many negligences.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Z,

    You are correct in that he doesn’t command, he exhorts or rather, admonishes. Sort of.

    It’s unclear to me, reading this, whether he really has writing skills that are as poor as they appear, or whether he is trying to pull off some sort of ideological dodge from the intent of the new translation and consequently it makes his writing in this piece appear as it does, or whether he is making a grudging peace with the new translations and this is the best he can manage.

    It’s difficult to believe that for someone in a position like archbishop, this could only be an indication that the man can’t think well enough to make sentences that logically flow from one to the next and then get them onto paper in the right order, so I expect it’s one or a combination of the other two.

  26. Craigmaddie says:

    Also, Abp Conti has refused to do anything about a dissenting magazine, Open House, run by a Glasgow priest that, as I said in the other thread, promotes ‘freedom of conscience’ when it comes to abortion.

  27. IMHO I believe that His Grace is majoring on a minor here. It seems to me in a world were less and less people come to church at all, one would be grateful to have people come to communion, standing or kneeling.

  28. Corinne says:

    Bravo PaterAugustinus and thank you for that beautiful explanation of true orthodox (small “o”) worship from the Orthodox (big “o”). :-)

  29. Andy Milam says:

    Nothing new. What I see is simple. It is more of the same from the world of subjective theology, where the individual is more important than the Church.

    What do I mean? Well, with the new translation coming out, the rubrics and the theology behind the rubrics have remained the same. There is nothing definitive in what is behind the words which have changed. So, we still stand if we’re liberal, we still kneel if we’re conservative. Both are acceptable. Since when in the history of the Church has this been the case? It started with the Consiliar reformists after the Council. This idea of “both/and…either/or” has done irreparable harm to the Church. Harm, because it has brought the subjective to the forefront as authoritative. Isn’t that what Pope St. Pius X fought against, with Pascendi? Isn’t that what Pius XII fought against with both Mediator Dei and Humani Generis?

    But that is all ignored now. What we have is a dichotomy which is the new normal when it comes to the Mass, her rubrics and theology. On the one hand, it’s ok to stand to receive Holy Communion, but on the other it is ok to kneel. And the interpretation comes from the very same rubric. Who is right? The answer….both, but with the liberal mindset, the conservative view (kneeling) is suppressed.

    The Eucharistic theology has changed with the reforms after the Council. The idea of adoration has been replaced with the notion of reverence. When we kneel to receive Holy Communion, it is to adore the Blessed Sacrament (for it is exposed, is it not?) When we simply bow (albeit profoundly) or genuflect we are reverencing the Blessed Sacrament. This is a parenthetical shift in theology which takes the focus away from the true end of the Mass. We genuflect to the bishop. We genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament veiled in the tabernacle. That is reverence. We adore the Blessed Sacrament when exposed. We adore the Blessed Sacrament at the consecration. That is not what the liturgical reformers wanted though. They didn’t want adoration, they wanted reverence. They wanted the focus to leave the Sacred Species and wanted it to extend to all of the congregation. It is sad.

    Not until the Church supports the rubrics with the force of law once again, as opposed to being a mere directive, will we see anything remotely close to the traditional practices. So, while it’s all good that people are coming back to church, the Church must be clear and definitive in what she expects of the faithful who assist. What they have now is hardly definitive. It is duplicitous at best and that simply isn’t going to cut the mustard. The expectation should be threefold with regard to the Mass…catechesis (Mass of the Catechumens/Liturgy of the Word); adoration (Mass of the Faithful/Liturgy of the Eucharist); reception (Holy Communion). There is reverence paid throughout, but that reverence is always subordinate to the true end, which is adoration found in the consecration.

  30. Sixupman says:

    That which ++Conti’s ‘Letter’ does not demonstrate is the extent to which Scotland has become a Catholic cultural desert, a veritable wasteland. However the Scottish Bishops camouflage the position, with ‘weasel-word’ documents implyimg their adherence to Rome, they are in fact a million miles apart.

    God preserve us from such episcopates.

  31. oledocfarmer says:

    Is there not something rude with a lame-duck bishop speaking and writing so prolifically on this subject? Seems that he should perhaps remain silent out of respect for his successor.

    [Well… he is still the local bishop… until he isn’t. And this pastoral letter isn’t on the same level as, for example, starting a wreckovation of the cathedral just before retiring. The pastoral letter is an exhortation. People will be persuaded or they won’t. The next guy can offer his views on the Church’s laws.]

  32. sfinaldi says:

    Dear Fr Z,

    I can tell you that the CTS Mass card has now been re-printed WITHOUT the rubric about standing to receive Communion, this was part of the text we had from the Bishops’ Conference and as soon as it became clear that it was causing confusion we started work to rectify things. On the current card, there is no longer any instruction about what position to assume when taking Communion.

    Hope that clears things up a little.


  33. Craigmaddie says:


    Most Catholics know who will (almost certainly) be his successor. That bishop is fully ‘on message’ and has fought doggedly to keep the traditional liturgy out of his own diocese.

    The great fear is that the “bread watching” Monsignor I spoke of will receive a mitre…

  34. DisturbedMary says:

    The hierarchy has to be very careful in every word, instruction, change of course…but as a daily Communicant, I pray to become smaller each time I approach and that in my heart I am crawling on my hands and knees to this ineffable moment.

    I think how the Angel of Fatima (on his third visit) presented the Blessed Sacrament to the children. Here is the description at opusangelorum.org:

    When the Angel appeared to them at the Loca do Cabeço he was “holding a chalice in his hands, with a host above it from which some drops of blood were falling into the Sacred vessel.” The Angel left the chalice and host suspended in the air, and prostrated himself upon the ground with the children and prayed the following prayer with them three times:

    Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.

    The Angel then rose, and taking the host he gave it to Lucy, and to Jacinta and Francisco he gave the contents of the chalice, saying as he did so: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God.” Then he prostrated himself once more with the children and repeated the prayer to the Most Holy Trinity three times, then disappeared.

    Interestingly, just this morning I was out at magnificat.org ordering their new “Roman Missal Companion” which they describe as “A step-by-step commentary for every change in the Order of Mass, including the four Eucharistic Prayers, with introductory essays about the background
    of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.

    There are preview pages, but nothing available yet on the reception of Communion.

  35. Pachomius says:

    It must be said that printing a card is, by the standards of the British bishops, a bold leap forward. Normally, their ‘teaching’ consists of pastoral letters and pamphlets.

    On tradition, it occurs to me that the altar rail of San Clemente in Rome, for instance, is high enough that a person would have to stand – possibly on tip-toes – to receive. Also, paintings of the old St Paul’s make clear that the bottom part of the rood screen was similarly of such height that receiving kneeling along its length would not be possible. Perhaps they received in a kneeling queue, or somesuch? Then again, canon XX of Nicaea I, as mentioned by Corinne. The bottom line is, though, that this is one of those areas where tradition isn’t terribly clear-cut.

    As for ++Conti, he has made every effort to keep Summorum Pontificum out of his diocese, but has also made loud if rather ill-thought-through and ineffective attempts to oppose things contra the Church’s position (such as denouncing the 2004 BBC documentary “Sex and the Holy City” as “grossly insensitive”, and accusing the BBC itself of “rudeness and prejudice” since it was the Silver Jubilee of JPII). Behold, the paradox of the British bishop.

  36. irishgirl says:

    Bravo to Andy Milam @ 9:03 and Long-Skirts! What you both said!
    Wish I were that eloquent, both in prose and verse!

  37. RichardT says:

    The Archbishop called for us to follow “the option which has become commonplace, namely of bowing our heads before receiving Communion”

    But is that the “commonplace” option? Priests may have a better idea than I, but from what I have seen of communion lines in various churches (in England and in Europe) it is very unusual to see anyone bow. A few (very few) genuflect, but I cannot remember the last time I saw anyone bow.

    The “commonplace” practice, indeed almost the only practice, is to walk up and take the Body of our Saviour, with no gesture of reverence whatsoever.

  38. Gail F says:

    Pater Augustinus: Let me explain it to you. Out in the Latin rite world, we do not have a continuous history of standing as a reverent gesture. It is not even considered polite anymore for young people to stand if adults enter the room — etiquette that was standard in my grandmother’s day. For most people in the west, standing has lost most of its associations with respect except on the most formal occasions — when a judge enters the courtroom, or when the President comes into a room. Kneeling has a different connotation, one familiar from movies and paintings and books. It is striking to us, and very different from our normal gestures. Many people (not just the “everything would be solved if we went to the TLM” folks” are longing for their liturgies to be more reverent. They feel VERY strongly that they would like to express reverence in many ways — but often those ways are up to the pastor, the music director, the liturgy planner, etc. What THEY can do is sing, respond, and gesture. So a great many of these people would like to demonstrate their reverence by kneeling. Do you see why this is inherently divisive? I do. I think they are right and I think they should be able to kneel, but because they want to do so to demonstrate something very concrete about their personal faith, it inherently says something (intentional or not) about people who choose to stand. The bishops, I think, have tried to end this divisivenss by discouraging people from kneeling and thus have everyone doing the same thing. The pope, I think, has tried to end it by saying either one is fine — you can pick what you like best — and thus take away the emotional charge around the choice.

    Sometimes you have to go beyond the practicalities of things to see what’s really going on. I’m sure that most people would agree, on an intellectual level, that it is perfectly possible to be reverent while standing and that the Orthodox and the Eastern rite Catholics do it all the time. So do Jews. But on an emotional level, many of these people associate kneeling with rejecting what they see as sterile, bland, and emotionless “reception of communion” that has little to do with worship. THAT’s what the fight is actually about. Kneeling is just a battleground in the overall struggle.

  39. Long-Skirts says:


    I think that I
    Shall never see,
    A monkey smoking
    In a tree.

    Or guzzlin’ beer
    At happy hour,
    Cannot choose
    They have no power.

    Have no will
    It’s all instinct,
    Well planned out
    No missing-linked.

    Daily patterns
    They must follow,
    Nothing holy
    Nothing hollow.

    Just obey
    There’s no pretend,
    Nor books to read
    Or truth defend.

    Man can choose
    To drink all day.
    Man can read
    Brush truth away.

    Man can smoke
    Up trees in May
    Picking nits
    Like monkey’s play.

    But still I think
    You’ll never see…
    The monkey down
    On bended knee!

  40. asperges says:

    I was not going to comment in this thread, but being stuck in traffic gave me time to think and I will, please, add a thought or two. Andy Milam and Gail F above (inter alios) make their points better than I. We do not need to be reminded of what went on / goes on in the East or even to be told that kneeling is relatively new – standing for us IS new and it is NOT tradition.

    That one can also be humble standing etc is irrelevant. Of course you can, but this is not OUR way and the liturgy we are speaking of is that of Rome. My Maronite friends receive standing and by intinction. That is their esteemed practice and entirely suitable for them. We don’t and it is not ours. There have been profound changes in OUR Church which many of us feel passionate about still. This subject touches very raw nerves.

    Many of our Bishops are out of tune either with our sympathies or we feel they are disingenuous in such phrases as “This communion procession beautifully expresses the way in which we are a people journeying towards the Lord.” To me that is poetic nonsense. It translates as “Do it my way and do as you are told.” Conti is not my Bishop or even belonging to the See of England and Wales, so he can say what he likes to his own people and I know he has many critics in Scotland and I have met some of his clergy who live in fear of his wrath. There are two Sees in Britain. We don’t use the phrase “British Bishops” usually for that reason.

    I was privileged to meet Bp Shneider last year – the most charismatic and astounding Bishop I have ever met – whose arguments about Holy Communion and especially the Real Presence persuaded the Holy Father to give Communion in the mouth only and kneeling. That is how I wish to receive and to that end I rarely attend a novus ordo Mass so the problem doesn’t usually arise. Our Bishops then see how the Pope does it and then suggest the opposite as the norm! How can we take them seriously?

    Lastly at the back of my mind since the Council as an English Catholic, I hear the voices of our Reformation martyrs and their fortitude and resistance. Queuing up for the Blessed Sacrament instead of receiving on the their knees and orally in one kind alone was the norm. It was good enough for them and it is good enough for me. The “Black Rubric” of the new Church of England and its reformed, Protestantised Communion Service made it very clear that no adoration of the Bread could be countenanced, but for good order allowed the custom of kneeling to continue. It is still in the Book of Common Prayer.

    I am not a rebel by nature. The matter of how we receive Our Blessed Lord matters: it is not a question of intellect of rational debate but one of the heart and Faith in the light of OUR Tradition. If that means being stubborn or closed to new ideas, that’s fine by me. Nor is it false humility: this is a new catch-all phrase we have heard for 40 years. We didn’t accept it then, and we don’t accept it now.

    Gail F above said “Kneeling is just a battleground in the overall struggle.” Exactly.

  41. Supertradmum says:

    What is most strange to me is that the Catholic Glaswegians I have known are very conservative. Perhaps the Bishop is swimming against the tide in his suggestion.

  42. ikseret says:

    “tradition of standing”
    It is pretty pathetic when a custom introduced 40 some odd years ago is called a tradition.
    It’s also funny that liberal clergy are now quoting documents to push their agenda. The tide is turning.

  43. Maltese says:

    I have been to a Catholic Orthodox service, and received the Eucharist standing, by “spoon”. I loved it!

    OK, but we shouldn’t impose kneeling on the Orthodox, granted. Also, the Western Roman rite has for almost 2,000 insisted on kneeling for reception of the Eucharist. You think the disciples at the Last Supper stood erect to receive? I don’t know if they sat or knelt, but, by God, I can guarantee they didn’t stand!

  44. Charles E Flynn says:

    Suggested reading:

    The Invention of Tradition (Canto) [Paperback] Eric Hobsbawm (Editor), Terence Ranger (Editor). Warning: You will never be able to look at a tartan the same way again.

  45. PaterAugustinus says:


    Thanks very much for your reply; perhaps this thread is dead at this point, but I’ll answer you anyway! I really do understand what you’re saying. And we Orthodox have *great* sympathy for those in Catholicism, who are trying to restore a sense of reverence. We want very much to encourage you. But since, as you describe, everything is “up in the air” and confused in Catholicism at the present time, I think this is a perfect time to do some real soul-searching, before simply returning to the last known point of reference.

    There are many authentically Western acts of devotion that could be shown at Mass. As an added bonus, they happen to share much with the Orthodox, because they are closer to that unity of Apostolic Tradition that once joined us. Kneeling for certain portions of the service would still continue unabated on weekday masses (outside of Paschaltide and Feasts). Genuflecting is a very locally Roman custom, that came to supplant the more broadly European custom of profoundly bowing. People queueing up for Communion could make full prostrations on weekdays, or make genuflections or profound bows on Sundays, Feasts, Paschaltide, etc. See? Plenty of acts of reverence.

    When it comes to standing for Communion, standing is not a sign of particular respect to the Eucharist for the Orthodox; some of your comments seemed to think that we Orthodox stand as a sign of respect to the Eucharist. In fact, we stand *generally* through the service, as a sign of respect to the Divine Presence generally, and upon the Altar. It is unthinkable to us, that one would sit upon his bottom during Mass, in the Lord’s House, with the Lord and all the Saints and Angels present. But, when we get up to receive, we show particular respect to the Eucharist by prostrating or profoundly bowing before approaching the Chalice. That’s our particular gesture of reverence. When it comes to remaining standing while we receive, and refusing to kneel or prostrate for the rest of the day, this is less a particular gesture of reverence, and more a particular avoidance of any gesture of irreverence. A subtle difference, but an important one.

    Therefore, I’m not suggesting that Catholics should just be content to let people stand and wait their turn for Communion, as if standing alone were a way of showing reverence to the Eucharist. Refusing to sit shows respect; refusing to kneel or prostrate during and after shows a desire not to disrespect; but obviously some gesture of adoration and reverence must be made before receiving – a profound bow or genuflection, or prostration.

    Here’s the gist of my point: if some Roman Catholics think that the “Spirit of Vatican II” sold the farm, we Orthodox see things differently. Trent sold the farm; Vatican II sold the farmhouse. The Missal of Pius V is already a beginning of accomodation to Protestantism, and a degradation of some of the most catholic, the most rich, the most beautiful features of the Mass. Vatican II just finished the job. Now, there is a golden opportunity for Catholicism. The Counter-Reformation life of early Modern Catholicism has been almost totally obliterated. The fiddlebacks, the kneelers, the gawdy Rococo statuary… it’s all gone. What we Orthodox truly hope for, is that when Catholicism rebuilds, it will not rebuild the phase of the Latin Rite’s centuries-long collapse just prior to the “omega point” (if I may be so droll); we hope the Latin Rite will rebuild upon the gold of its undiluted heritage, when the Latin Rite’s Apostolicity shone through with such clarity, that East and West could still see a living testament to their closeness and shared heritage. We see this not at all in most NO masses, and only to a limited degree in most EF masses.

    There are two options for rebuilding. One option, sees no problem with the general attitude of accomodation to Protestantism, and the wholesale employ of secular styles of art and music for the Temple. It thinks that the problem, is not that the Mass has been desacralized and secularized for going on 5 centuries; there’s nothing wrong with following secular trends in architecture, music and art, so long as this is done tastefully, right? It’s just that we all stopped having good taste in art and music, and we all quit kneeling and wearing veils. If we just get some good taste, and start doing things like we did in 1962, everything will be good again!

    Option 2 says, “You know what? It really is clear that Trent began an whole era of subtle, but numerous and incremental changes in praxis, that brought us up to the crisis point of Vatican II. A lot of this was done in an attitude of accomodation to Protestantism. Over time, we became less and less like our Orthodox brethren in the Apostolic Churches of the East, and more and more like Protestant Moonbats in a rapidly apostatizing West. Perhaps now, when we stand upon the ruins of our Latin heritage after having come to this trajectory’s last extremity, we can dare something bold. Rather than simply return to the last known point before everything really started to suck, we can reject the whole model of accomodationism and begin rebuilding the authentically Latin heritage, whose firm roots in the Apostolic Tradition once made her look and sound very much like all the other Churches of Apostolic pedigree. This is not a simple project of Byzantinisation; no! Rather, as we learn from the Orthodox Churches the explanations and rationale for their customs, we can begin to understand the rationale that once informed our own, similiar (yet slightly different) customs of venerable antiquity. Latin Christianity will wind up looking a bit more like the Orthodox… but, that’s because that’s how it’s supposed to look, and that’s how it did look before the Protestants and Humanists started pulling us along by the nose. And as an added bonus, the prospects for reunion with the Apostolic Churches of the East, will doubtless be greatly aided by this renaissance of Apostolic culture in the Latin Rite.”

    That’s all I’m saying. Forget 1962. That may be easy, but it really isn’t the answer. If you have to rebuild from the ground up, “brick by brick” – and clearly you do – it really isn’t much harder to renovate the undiluted Latin heritage of pre-Counter-Reformation Catholicism, and to implement that. I think you guys will like it better, and certainly the Orthodox will be glad. God brings great things out of tragedy and loss. Perhaps the melt-down of Latinity can be the ash-heap, from which a new Phoenix arises?

  46. evener says:

    Just back home from adoration. Many well thought out comments here & elsewhere about this. The liberals somehow didn’t get around to removing the corpus from the cross, but in many a parish simply removed the whole crucifix.
    What do children & non-catholics think when people have stopped genuflecting towards the tabernacle and do a simple nod of the head towards an empty altar? Is it any wonder it’s reported so many doubt His presence?
    I’ll practice kneeling on one knee at home today to receive Him that way at tomorrow’s daily Mass.

  47. jameshughes1947@hotmail.com says:

    Why can’t we all just follow what the holy father does,Kneel down and accept communion on the tongue? Like it or not Abp. Conti is past retirement date and has more pressing things to occupy his mind like the amount of money (£4million+) he has recently spent on renovating the cathedral while at the same time closing a number number of parishes in the arch-diocese. I noted somewhere about taking water from an oasis ,wouldn’t you be so desperate for water that you would throw yourself on your belly to take the water. This guy forgets that it is god we are there to see and worship and that being so then why quibble about kneeling ? I read an article before about a Muslim who said that if he believed that it was truly god in the tabernacle he would be lying on his face! Anyway we can relax because when these bishops show contempt for the holy father then they in their turn will be treated with contempt they deserve. God bless our Pope!

  48. evener says:

    If anyone’s still there, I knelt on one knee to receive Jesus this morning, and it was a beautiful gift I received. I simply promised Our Lady I would do it, then beforehand I thought maybe not, I’m the last guy in church that needs to call attention to himself. But because I kneeled down anyway while still in line to receive Him, it wasn’t such a big change, and at that moment of receiving Him, I knew I was truly humble before my God.

  49. AnAmericanMother says:

    Sometimes “just do it” is the best and plainest way through.
    I too agonized over kneeling to receive — but it turned out to be a complete non-event for everybody but me . . . that whole “human respect” thing was deceiving me.
    Do right, and fear no man . . . .

    Charles Flynn,
    This is no news to us old Highland and Scottish Country dancers . . . the Great Tartan Nonsense, as Clifford Hanley calls it, is not a very well kept secret.
    There are, however, a couple of tartans that actually predate the Romantic Revival and the ’45 as well — Grant, the Black Watch, MacLean, and a couple of others. There are also district tartans that have a fairly long history, although in most cases we’re not exactly sure what they looked like.
    I have a fairly wide range of tartans to choose from, since there are Highlandmen clinging to our family tree all over, so I just wear what I like. My dear husband, who is a massive man, does NOT wear his father’s tartan as that expanse of BRIGHT ORANGE would be blinding. His mother, although Irish, bears a name that is designated a “sept” of Gordon – a nice, subdued green and blue sett for day wear with an evening sett that is still very subdued even though on a white ground.
    We enjoy it, but don’t take it seriously.

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