ASK FATHER: Punching the Archbishop after he punches you

From a reader…


At the conclusion of a friendly and fruitful meeting between a number of laity and the archbishop this evening, the archbishop punched me in the arm in a he man football kind of way.

My question is this, is there any particular protocol for returning the punch?

The inquirer failed to note, but I will presume that the Archbishop in question is of the Latin Rite, and a Metropolitan.

As this punching took place in a non-liturgical setting, the ceremonies for returning the punch are much simplified . Imagine the manifold complexities of the liturgical punch at a Pontifical Mass coram Sanctissimo … within the octave of St. Elphege’s Day!

If one is holding a cocktail (or beer) when one is punched by an archbishop, one hands one’s drink to the subdeacon (omitting the ceremonial kisses) with one’s right hand, makes a fist and, saying nothing, punches the prelate’s left arm, on – and this is important – the oversleeve of his simar, between the second and third buttons.*

Meanwhile, two choirs are simultaneously to sing the antiphons “Christus passus est pro vobis vobis relinquens exemplum ut sequamini vestigia eius” (1 Peter 2:21) and, if there is time, “Propitius mihi sit Dominus ne extendam manum meam in christum Domini; pulsare autem umerum eius omnino est aliud.”

The Vicar General should then ensure that this is recorded accurately in the diocesan archives, lest charges later be brought upon the archiepiscopal assailant.

*Since we are not Irishmen trained by Sulpicians, and therefore Jansenists, if the punch lands between the third and fourth, we don’t think that even a venial sin is committed.  Sin or not, the punch is not to be repeated, unless… the prelate initiates another round.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. iamlucky13 says:

    It turns out you’re NOT supposed to hit back at confirmation.

    (just kidding)

  2. CharlesG says:

    Surely the two choirs sing the antiphons antiphonally, not simultaneously?

  3. Phil_NL says:

    Makes one wonder how many choirs and deacons are necessary for a boxing match between two cardinals (for the coveted “red belt”, of course).

  4. Animadversor says:

    What? Not “omnino est aliud“? [I must have been momentarily blinded by the garlic I was eating when I wrote that.]

  5. Tony Phillips says:

    I thought you were only allowed to punch someone if they swore at your mother? They keep changing the rules…

  6. JonPatrick says:

    I think this only applies in the context of the Extraordinary Form. In 1973 Pope Paul VI issued new guidelines that eliminated the return punch and the 2 choirs. Instead a Deacon, or in his absence an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, makes an announcement of the exchange of peace and everyone shakes hands. Then follows a prayer for Christian Unity.

  7. Tradster says:

    The Pope wants more female active participation so now there is a Lay Minister of Punches who performs the return punch for you.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Among the weirdness going on these days, this seems practically mundane!

  9. ejcmartin says:

    Darn, I almost had it right. Unfortunately I hit the archbishop between the first and second buttons. However, I understand that is proper in the Byzantine rite. Close enough I guess.

  10. rhhenry says:

    Also permitted in the Novus Ordo is the kiss-his-ring-pull-him-into-a-headlock maneuver (one word in the original German), IF you can get him to let you kiss his ring in the first place.

  11. pseudomodo says:

    Canon 1370 NOW!!!

    Can. 1370 §1. A person who uses physical force against the Roman Pontiff incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he is a cleric, another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, can be added according to the gravity of the delict.

    §2. A person who does this against a bishop incurs a latae sententiae interdict and, if he is a cleric, also a latae sententiae suspension.

    §3. A person who uses physical force against a cleric or religious out of contempt for the faith, the Church, ecclesiastical power, or the ministry is to be punished with a just penalty.

    Question: does this apply to St. Nicholas of Myra and his altercation with Arius?

  12. Sonshine135 says:

    It wouldn’t have hurt if you had the armor of Christ on at the time. Wuss!

  13. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I nominate Tony Phillips for a Gold Star.

    Question for Pater: does the punch have to be delivered in writing, or will reciting it in the presence of two witnesses (two priests, the if puncher is a priest) suffice?

    [I think it has to be an actual, physical punch. However, if the deliverer is impeded in some way, for a legitimate reason, the punch could be delivered by a proxy puncher.]

  14. aquinas138 says:

    ejcmartin, you are essentially correct as regards archbishops, but for Eastern Catholic patriarchs, and for the primates of autocephalous Orthodox Churches, the punch should actually strike the shoulder; the bicep for archbishops; a punch just above the elbow is reserved for married mitrophoric archpriests. Lesser clergy should not actually be struck, but a playful round of shadow-boxing is appropriate. Before the punch, if the puncher is a layman he begins “Through the prayers of our holy fathers…” followed by “O Heavenly King…” (unless it be Pascha, in which case this is replaced by “Christ is risen…”, thrice, until the Ascension, when it is simply omitted until Pentecost), the Trisagion, and the rest of the usual beginning. Psalm 50 and the Nicene Creed are taken, followed by the appropriate troparia, “Lord, have mercy” twelve times, the Canon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, with the Akathist to the same saint after the sixth ode. The punch is then delivered, followed by the stichera from Matins, “Lord, have mercy” forty times, the prayer of the hours, and various and numerous penitential troparia. The puncher then makes a prostration before the prelate begging his blessing, and having kissed the omophorion, or if a priest, the epitrachelion, the puncher then says the short dismissal.

  15. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Of course! Proxy puncher! How could I have forgotten that option? Once again, Fr. Z takes us all back to school.

  16. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    Scriptural reference for the second antiphon?

    Is there provision to sing these antiphons recto tono, or, if they are not sung, are they to be omitted?

  17. Steven Surrency says:

    @Chris Garton-Zavesky. Now days the chant is usually just replaced with a hymn.

  18. Tim Ferguson says:

    second antiphon seems to be from 2 Samuel 23:17

    I don’t think recto tono would be acceptable. I think if there is indeed punching going on, there must be melismae.

  19. MAJ Tony says:

    I was just thinking how something along the lines of the Popule meus would be apropos, but I haven’t gotten enough sleep lately, so who knows. Just my dupondius (copper coin equivalent to 2 cents).

  20. Matt Robare says:

    Don’t bishops get slapped as part of their ordination?

  21. Phil_NL says:

    Matt Robare,

    The problem is how much. Some get slapped too much, others too little.

    Steven Surrency,

    In case of electric guitar-loving crowds, I propose the following hymn:
    Beats ordination tambourines.

  22. You know, I would be lost without this blog. There is no topic too complex for Fr Z to advise upon.

  23. PS. At Wednesday evening Mass – which we attend at a church where the Sign of Peace is exchanged – my sister, nephew and I ritually exchange what we call The Punch of Peace. It is much like the punch described in the query. We have noticed that for some reason, no one wants to sit near us.

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  26. fathermike says:

    Boys struggle to follow girls. My two boys would not follow girls up to the alter. A boy will see an older boy serving, possibly as MC and think “Yes I can do that.” But would the same reaction come if it was a girl on the altar? I do not think so. Vocations will be spurred by examples of service. More alter boys wil give rise to more alter boys. I bet no parish would have an upsurge in boys wishing to be alter boys upon seeing girls on the alter. Perhaps I’m wrong. Has anyone seen anything like that?

  27. fathermike says:

    OOps. Posted in the wrong comment. Please delete.

  28. Ben Kenobi says:

    5 stars, Fr. Z :)

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