From a reader…
I have a few sincere questions and I believe answers to them may help other readers, too.
For years I have heard it said that the “universal norm” for receiving Holy Communion is kneeling and on the tongue. Therefore, even though the US Bishops obtained a rescript for communion standing and in the hand, no Catholic may be refused communion in the traditional manner.
I have three questions:
1. Where can we find the documentary evidence that the universal norm is kneeling, in case someone challenges this?
2. How do we respond to the claim that the US Bishops’ norm, because it is a “local adaptation,” trumps the universal norm?
3. If an individual, due to the universal norm, is permitted to receive kneeling, in spite of the US Bishops’ norm, could an entire community decide to kneel in preference to standing — either because the pastor decided it, or because it was a shared sentiment?
4. Could there ever be legitimate grounds for a bishop to forbid kneeling in any community?
When one wants to know the “universal norm” for something, particularly a liturgical action, one should check the “universal language” – Latin.
In the Latin Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, we read:
“160. … Fideles communicant genuflexi vel stantes, prout Conferentia Episcoporum statuerit. Cum autem stantes communicant, commendatur ut debitam reverentiam, ab iisdem normis statuendam, ante susceptionem Sacramenti faciant.”
Now let’s look at the English equivalent:
160…. The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.
When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.
The amended text of 160 now 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 (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004, no. 91).”
Thanks to the commentator, below.
Not exactly a translation, is it? This English version is the adaption of norm 160 for the Church in these United States. The US bishops didn’t receive a rescript to permit standing: they used the right given to them by the Institution itself to establish a norm.
Hence, the universal norm specifies that Holy Communion should be received “genuflexi vel stantes, prout Conferentia Episcoporum statuerit” – “kneeling OR standing, as the Bishops’ Conference will have determined.
In these USA, the bishops have determined that the norm is standing, but they further demand that no one be denied if he or she chooses to kneel.
Oddly… seriously oddly… the Institutio Generalis in Latin doesn’t seem to be available on the Vatican.va website. Hmmm…
There is a general canonical principle that particular law does trump universal law. See, for example, can. 20, which states in part, “A universal law however, does not derogate from a particular or from a special law, unless the law expressly provides otherwise.”
However, since the particular law makes provision for those who choose to kneel, this seems to be something of a moot point.
A parish community in these United States could choose to kneel, as a community. That choice of the majority of the community, with the pastor, etc., however, would not thereby prevent some people from opting to stand, as is their right according to the particular law. Moreover, were they as a community to maintain the practice of kneeling for thirty years, a case could be made that they have established a custom which is contrary to the law in accord with can. 26, provided that, during those 30 years, they do not receive any official contrary instruction from a proper authority, such as the local diocesan bishop or the Holy See.
A bishop could, I suppose, instruct – beg- cajole – harangue – bully – admonish – plead with a community not to kneel, but he could not rescind Article 160 of the General Instruction, even with the American adaptations, which permits individuals – or many individuals together – to kneel with impunity.
So, over in the Diocese of Libville, the parishioners of Holy Martyrs of Islamic Terrorism Church, qua parishioners, could be instructed by their bishop, Most Rev. Fatty McButterpants, with all manner of high-falutin’, legal sounding phrases, always and only to stand for the reception of Holy Communion, but as individuals they could collectively make the decision to kneel.
I suspect that The Flexible-Knee Challenged parishioners would eventually hie their way over to the Engendering Togetherness Community of Welcome where Fr. “Just call me Bruce” Hugalot tries to drag the kneelers back to their feet before putting the white thing in their hand as a sign that everyone is, indeed, Welcome™.
Finally, the 2004 (hence, subsequent to the 2002 GIRM) Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum states:
[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.
That applies to celebration of Holy Mass according to the Novus Ordo, the 2002 Missale Romanum.
For Masses with the 1962 Missale Romanum, one should kneel if one is able. If one can’t, no problem. Tradition is flexible.
I trust that that helps.