@BishopStika issues a Decree for @knoxdiocese and people react. Wherein Fr. Z makes an entreaty

___ Originally Published on: May 11, 2020 at 19:42

I has come to my attention via LifeSite that His Excellency Most Rev. Richard Fr. Stika, Bishop of Knoxville on 6 May issued a DECREE (it says “decree”) which says, inter alia, that “Reception of Host on the tongue is strictly prohibited at this time.”

I believe the bishop is acting ultra vires in this matter, but that’s not why I am writing this today.

Obviously Bp. Stika got push back, and rightly so. People have the right to make their concerns known both to him directly (preferable as a first step) and the Holy See. However, the push back that he received is a mixed bag.

Then Bp. Stika issued a Tweet that was pretty inflammatory.

Wow.  Harsh, much?

So, Bp. Stika would, in effect, censure people who want Communion on the tongue, which is their right (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum), with a kind of interdict.

If he intends to include Communion at celebrations of the TLM in this, then he is doing something pretty provocative and, again, I believe beyond his authority (cf. Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae).

An “interdict” bans a person from receiving the Eucharist.  Interdicts can be incurred through the sinful commission of a delict, as when one incurs an excommunication, automatic or declared.  If a interdicted person violates the interdict, they are to be expelled or the sacred rite suspended.   Also, interdict is the penalty to be imposed when someone, stirs up hatred of the local ordinary bishop because of some act of ecclesiastical authority (cf. can. 1373).

Folks, don’t stir up hatred of your bishop because of some act of ecclesial authority!

Back in the day there was an excommunication that also made a person vitandus, someone to be avoided.  This is no longer part of the 1983 Code.    However, some times I have observed that bishops are perfectly happy to punish with the older Code.   I’m not saying that that is what Bp. Stika is doing.  But his reaction reminded me of that.

Bp. Stika, to whom I have not hitherto paid a lot of attention, is very active on Twitter.   As far as I can tell, he is not among those bishop who war on the TLM and those who desire it.  That’s a good thing, right?

However, Stika also posted this, in the wake of his tweet, above:

I can’t disagree with him on this.  I’ve been at this thing for over three decades.  When the Id of Traddom gets going, things can get ugly fast.  I am convinced that this is because the Enemy knows that the only viable path to renew the Church’s identity and life in a lasting way is through recovery of Tradition.  The Enemy is probably rather content with vast swaths of the Church at the moment, and doesn’t need to exert attention in those spheres where people have only vague notions about the Catholic Faith, or erroneous ideas, or who are simply drifting along.   Instead, the Enemy is going to make sure that his really opponents are divided in bitter factions and atomized into ineffectiveness.   Tradition has to be repressed through constant temptation and prodding of those who desire it. They are real the threats.

Back to Bp. Stika’s somewhat understandable reaction to the reactions:


I read some of the tweets people, many anonymous (aka cowardly) bequeathed to Bp. Stika. Some of them were truly infra dignitatem Christianam. They were beneath Christian dignity.  On a human level I get why Bp. Stika would point out their bad behavior.

At the same time, I wonder why Bp. Stika felt the need to troll people who want to receive Communion on the tongue.  In effect, that is what he did.   For sure, he was being trolled. But he doesn’t have to “fight back”. He is a diocesan bishop, for Pete’s sake.

If what some trads and others did in attacking Bp. Stika like jackals was infra dignitatem, so too I wonder if a bishop sending out tweets that he must know is going to bring those reactions isn’t also bordering on infra dignitatem.

“This will rile them up!”, followed by, “Let people see who they are!”

What I should like to see are some mutual apologies and then far calmer discourse.

It seems to me that that is what Christian charity suggests and our recognition of different roles in the Church suggests.

If the people of Knoxville (read: any diocese) don’t like what Bp. Stika (read: any bishop) did, they have channels of recourse.  The sands of time are flowing: this situation won’t last forever. We shall see what he himself does about his Decree in the future. Moreover, no one is compelled to receive Communion at Mass.  You can opt to stay in your pew and make a Spiritual Communion.

If you are being treated unjustly by any bishop or by any priests, God knows it.  If they have sinned in imposing unjust decrees or enforcing them, they will be accountable at their judgment.  Don’t sin in response.

Time will tell.  Later, you will remember this moment when the diocese – any diocese, not just Knoxville – asks you for something.   Let’s hope that the air has been long cleared in a cordial way and we have a “new normal” better than the “old normal”.

If you are strongly against Communion in the hand, and if you are going to go to Mass, and if you know that when you go forward to receive you will not be given Communion on the tongue, then you have to ask yourself what your motive is for going forward. The Communion rail isn’t the place for protests.

I put out a general plea to all in – call it what you will – traddom, the tradosphere, traddies, trads, traditional whatever – please don’t act like jackasses right now.  If you perceive yourselves to be mistreated, maintain your dignity.  If those who mistreat you are to blame, so be it.  This isn’t the time of the lex talionis.

What happens is that some priest or bishop pokes you in the eye.  You turn around and poke him in the eye.  The situation builds and rapidly becomes ridiculous.

Satan and demons win.

You – nay rather, WE – all lose.  WE lose dignitas.  WE lose standing.  WE lose credibility.  You lose it for yourself and for others.  You also lose, sometimes, habitual grace.  And when that happens, the whole Church is wounded.

This sort of thing has to stop.

Yesterday, in the Epistle for the 4th Sunday after Easter, St. James said:

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.”

James goes on to say after that pericope:

“If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

Meanwhile, Paul writes to the bishop Timothy:

“Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2)


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  1. Semper Gumby says:


    Bp. Stika is on the wrong track, temporarily one hopes, with “trolls” and “gloom and doom protestants” and “[I] would rather watch reruns of MSNBC and CNN.”

    The bishop would benefit by taking a wider view of our current predicament. Instead of passively absorbing TV propaganda he could be proactive, a leader, and aspire to prophecy.

    “Prophecy, if it is real prophecy, is an exercise of love. Amos, Hosea, and Jeremiah employed harsh language in criticizing the children of Israel precisely because they thought more of the people than the people thought of themselves. The prophets were in love with, were possessed by, a vision of the dignity and destiny of those they addressed. The outrageousness of sin and failure was in direct proportion to the greatness of God’s intent for his people. Prophecy was always an exercise of love, never of contempt, for those to whom the prophet addressed his criticism.” – Fr. Neuhaus

  2. Eric says:

    I don’t live in Knoxville but have the pleasure of visiting, especially during football season (Go Vols!). While some of the above tweets leave a little to be desired, the diocese has a beautiful Missa cantata every Sunday at noon. It is not marginalized and takes place at a beautiful old church with a young and vibrant community.

  3. WVC says:

    Is it safe to assume the requirement that a Catholic receive the Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter season has been completely suspended this year? Otherwise, it does put people in a bad situation if they’re obligated to receive Communion but only being offered Communion in a way that violates their conscience. I suppose one can always try to drive to another diocese with a more reasonable policy, but not everyone is in that position, especially right now.

    It all still seems like hysteria from the bishops. Nothing like this during SARS, Swine Flu, MERS, or any of the flu seasons. The same demographic (immune system compromised, elderly, folks with respiratory conditions …etc.) are just as much in danger of contracting a flu that results in pneumonia and danger of death. Aside from media hysterics, what justifies this type of behavior from the bishops? Why no attempt at a reasonable compromise? And who on earth in this day and age thinks Twitter is the place to have a reasonable conversation? Twitter ONLY exists to sow discord.

  4. kdpfam says:

    One should research the possibility of filing a Petition in the diocesan Tribunal naming Bishop Stika as the Respondent, and seek to enforce Redemptionis Sacramentum.

  5. iamlucky13 says:

    I think there is a good chance this could escalate to the point that Rome decides to respond. [Given the context, and the timing of Card. Sarah’s need to resign, I don’t think so.]

    All things considered, I think it highly likely that the response will be to uphold the decisions of individual bishops as a temporary measure.

    It may not go through the normal process where the Conference agrees on a desired liturgical change and submits it to the CDW for Recognitio, but I suppose Rome, or at least Pope Francis specifically, has the authority to forego the normal process, and may well do so during a time of emergency if a controversy appears to be getting out of hand.

    I am at least certain that appearing to behave poorly will not help our cause.

  6. St. Epaphras says:

    I live in the Diocese of Knoxville and fully expected Bishop Stika to forbid us to receive on the tongue. We have a thriving Latin Mass community. He knows this, of course. Hopefully, nearly all of the attendees at our traditional Latin Mass will not come forward to receive on the hand after Mass is over (that is, in the rite of reception of communion outside of Mass). Making a scene about the whole matter would be wrong on so many levels. Continuing to act according to our consciences while acting charitably and like adults gets our point across.

  7. Fr_Sotelo says:

    In my experience, people who do not know better approach the rail at the Extraordinary Form Mass, and they will put out their hands, or cross their arms over their chest and ask for a blessing. Yet, I have never seen priests who offer the Extraordinary Form Mass berate such people at the Communion rail.

    Later on, someone in the congregation will instruct them in practices that are seen at the Ordinary Form, but are not allowed in the Extraordinary Form Mass. Perhaps some priests who offer the EF Mass will gently instruct them on the spot to extend their tongue. Yet I repeat, I’ve never seen priests berate people at the Communion rail, at the Extraordinary Form Mass, or snap at them like the Soup Nazi, “NO COMMUNION for you!”

    It baffles me that priests in the Ordinary Form, which is supposed to be a “reformed” liturgy, would allow flashes of anger and confrontation to mar this sacred time. If my bishop forbade me to give Communion on the tongue, with his recommended punishment that I should turn people away for insisting on receiving on the tongue, I would certainly disobey that order.

    What’s the worst that can happen from the bishop? That he would shut down the parish and stop the public celebration of Mass? Or suspend me for three weeks (read “send me on a three week vacation”)?? These episcopal decrees are simply an interesting case study in obsessive control disorder. I pray that priests don’t take them so seriously.

  8. PiusV says:

    One effective and dignified method with the NO is money. Find some place else to tithe. Our bishop and the pastor where the TLM is celebrated in our area are completely focused on fund raising. Last year bishop stated that “he had to forgive those who did not fulfill their pledges…” I am fairly simple minded, but I would think shepherding souls comes first for a shepherd. And as Father states, do not be trolled. Individual agendas are surfacing, I crisis people show who they really are (communist never let a good crisis pass them by). Pray for them and pray for real vocations to religious life. I look at Bishop Sitka’s formation and I am saddened.

  9. PiusV says:

    One effective and dignified method with the NO is money. Find some place else to tithe. Our bishop and the pastor where the TLM is celebrated in our area are completely focused on fund raising. Last year bishop stated that “he had to forgive those who did not fulfill their pledges…” I am fairly simple minded, but I would think shepherding souls comes first for a shepherd. And as Father states, do not be trolled. Individual agendas are surfacing, in crisis people show who they really are (communist never let a good crisis pass them by). Pray for them and pray for real vocations to religious life. I look at Bishop Sitka’s formation and I am saddened.

    [This spat, and this decree, is not all on Bp. Stika.]

  10. Percusio says:

    There are three words which we always like to advise others to follow in times of sacrifice but find them most difficult to follow ourselves, “Offer it up”. It seems that if ecclesial matters are always taken up with the view that I must change them and there is no real cry to heaven for God’s help, then I would suppose that God would leave us to our own devices. What greater prayer would our Lord answer if not the cry of the “poor” and “impoverished” as it comes from the heart and recognizes God as Creator and the One who is recognized as being in control? On the wider scope, while I hear a lot of people disgusted about the violation of their rights to the sacraments merely because it is a violation of their rights as a sort of “political” and personal issue, I do not see the internal pleading exhibited externally to our Lord to restore the sacraments. But I suppose that is because everyone is so locked up. Normally this pleading would exhibit itself through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but that cannot be even for a virus. I know there are many who miss giving glory to Father through the loving offering of His Son to Him, but with the majority of people supposedly not believing in the True Presence, just what do they think they are missing? If anything, these are certainly times of worldwide reflection on our personal love for Christ and the extent we would go to our Lord in prayer for the restoration of being at the feet of our Lord at His crucifixion and to still offer Him consolation on the cross near 2000 years later.

  11. mo7 says:

    He talks about doom and gloom Catholics on his twitter feed. We would call them faithful Catholics. I very politely disagreed once with a nasty comment he blocked me. Some bishop.

  12. Diana says:

    Thank you for this reminder, Father. I am grateful.

  13. ABird says:

    I have been in the diocese of Knoxville for the majority of Bp Stika’s tenure. He may not openly war against the TLM, but neither does he openly support it. My own parish has had a monthly TLM which we have been hoping to expand to weekly, but my understanding of the situation is that the Bishop is not supportive and I fear some sort of quiet retribution should my pastor go against the Bishops implicit wishes.

    My own view of his twitter habit is that he has an itchy keyboard finger and is all too happy to engage with trolls. It’s an understandable habit, one I struggle with myself, but one would hope a bishop could have more decorum.

    As to your plea for trads not to be jackasses, I couldn’t agree more. We have an image problem which stems almost entirely from the online conduct of a loud and angry few. We would all do well to display more charity.

  14. RosaryRose says:

    Fr Z, the quotes from St James and St Paul are spot on! Thank you!

    The sad truth: Many of us will be suffering bitterly when we have to make a spiritual communion (once again) because we believe Christ is truly present and unconsecrated hands must never touch Him.

    The joyful truth: we can turn that suffering to penance and offer it up for the salvation of souls, the reunion with the SSPX, for our priests, etc.

    Be in a state of Grace and offer it up!

    Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, pray for us! Our Lady of Fatima, help us!

  15. rcg says:

    I conduct a lot of negotiations, often with people in a position of authority. When I see a string of responses from a person who is not only in position of authority but also responsible for providing leadership my take is that it is time to call for a break, take a walk, go to the pub, and get the pressure off the guy. He has, IMO, reached some limit within himself and is ‘locked up’ mentally. He may be physically exhausted, succumbing to fear, he may feel hounded and stranded by his staff and rest of the American bishops, etc. The Twitter hounds are nipping his heals with the sole purpose of winning some point, even if it’s a good one, and are trying to drive their win through the Bishop’s humiliation. That will leave the Bishop broken, resentful, and unconverted to the winning position. My ultimate goal is to win an ally and supporter for a liturgical alternative that emphasizes respect. I should model that with polite firmness.

  16. JustaSinner says:

    Does that mean the Good Bishop will be instructing his priests in his Diocese to FORBID the Eucharist to known abortion supporting politicians? There is potential death—Kung Flu, and there is absolute death, abortion.

  17. My observation here goes to the ‘trolling’ business. Mons S. at some point tried via the medium of Twitter to emphasize some element of the theology of the Mass– I don’t remember the details but only that he found himself at one point writing, ‘we don’t worship Jesus at Mass’, which would have been defensible in the sense that there is more to the Mass than the straightforward (perhaps Evangelical or Pentecostal) notion that that’s what worship is (‘worshipping Jesus’). Or something. Anyway, he was asked, temperately and not so temperately, to ‘correct’ the tweet– you can imagine what sort of responses ‘we don’t worship Jesus at Mass’ might have elicited– I know he blocked me, and presumably others. So far as I could tell before being blocked he was ‘keeping on carrying on’, writing about misinterpretations and bad will etc. Some mediums simply aren’t good for some purposes, or for some users.

    [“Some mediums simply aren’t good for some purposes, or for some users.”]

  18. JPCahill says:

    Hold the fort . . . are you saying this bishop has open churches and allows the public celebration of Mass and the reception of Holy Communion? Whatever about reception in the hand, he’s streets ahead of any bishop out here in the lower left corner of the United States. It would be best if he would change his policy on reception, but under the circumstances he’s hardly the worst of the hapless bench, (You’ll recognize the quote.)

  19. AAJD says:

    Tradition-minded Catholics really need to listen to Fr Zed here and get control of the understandable anger and rage and not give vent to it. For more than 20 years in 2 countries and in several Catholic institutions I’ve seen how often Catholics can turn would-be allies into opponents and even enemies by various antics that are indeed infra dignitatem Christianam. The reclamation of Catholic identity has to be brick-by-brick. Frontal assaults, name-calling, etc. will only backfire. We all need to learn, as a wise priest once said to me, the Irish definition of diplomacy: how to tell another person to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip! Or as our Lord counseled us: be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. It’s hard and requires patience and virtue, not screeching on social media.

  20. Joy1985 says:

    This past Sunday, at Mass , I received Holy Communion in my hand. This morning, at Mass, I received Holy Communion on the tongue. No problems here.

  21. Father, the good Bishop made no distinction between those engaged in “trolling” or otherwise inflammatory statements, and those who politely engaged him in the matter of canon law, and the difference between a normative practice and an indulgence. I know. I was (in all humility) one of the latter.

    I was blocked anyway.

    If anyone doubts my self-assessment, they can read my comments on Twitter (@manwithblackhat) and see for themselves. I suppose they could have read his comments before his account was deleted, but they were mostly a rambling discourse on cable news networks, Church Militant/St Michael’s Media, and Catholics who attend the Traditional Mass. I can’t imagine him rightfully accusing anyone of being unreasonable (including some who were.

    One of the observations made by Church Militant in its reports on the Scandals last year, was the observation they learned from various law enforcement agencies, on the extent of arrogance on the part of chancery officials. My own experience is mixed, but I imagine that some prelates have a very thin skin when it comes to even the most polite of challenges. They can seem open to “dialogue” until they lose control of the narrative.

    So, I’m left wondering what he thinks constitutes a “scene.”

  22. TonyO says:

    I wish to make a comment / question about obeying authority on a matter like this. On the one hand, it seems (as Fr. Z says) that the bishop simply does not have the authority to issue the decree he tried to issue. From that standpoint, it is (as far as I can see), not a law, and therefore not binding.

    On the other hand, there is a fine distinction between laws (or “laws” that have the appearance of being laws that aren’t really) that require you to do something that you MUST NOT do (because doing it is immoral as such), and laws that do not let you do something that you really have a right to do. The former we must disobey, following instead St. Peter’s dictum in Acts: “it is right that we should obey God rather than man.” The latter it is possible to obey without violating moral norms, because it is morally possible to not do something that you have a right to do.

    In the case of receiving Communion, we have a right to receive on the tongue, established by canon law and particular implementations of it by CDW. However, we also have a right to not receive Communion at any given time, as well. Therefore, it is possible to abide by the bishop’s directive without doing something immoral.

    Should you? I submit that St. Thomas addresses this point: while a “law” that is no law because it is outside of the legislator’s area of authority is not itself binding, you may be bound by charity to abide by it anyway. If you were to be seen to flout the “law” and thus cause others to sin, you would be guilty of the sin of scandal, and this is wrong. To avoid scandal, it may in some cases be necessary to be seen to accept the constraints of the “law”.

    However, such a result is, it seems, highly dependent on circumstances: if, because of the details, the risk of scandal is entirely allayed, you may be free to disregard the directive and act like the non-law that it really is. But you should be very clear on how and why you judge those circumstances so, and especially be wary of your own motives: if you are in the least bit moved by anger because the unjust “law”, you should probably assume your motives are not aright and steer clear of even apparent disobedience. (cf what Fr. Z quoted from the Apostles) I think. What gives me pause in drawing that last conclusion is that speaking generically, we ought to feel anger at acts that damage the common good – LACK of anger at the proper objects of anger is, itself, a defect. I guess maybe what it comes to is whether your anger is for the right reason: that unnecessary damage is being done to the Church faithful, and not at the loss you specifically are being made to suffer. Is that right?

  23. I agree with the idea that bishops should not be using Twitter much, if at all, nor should Presidents or governors, just as Popes shouldn’t be using airplane press conferences to say anything more important than “Nice day, beautiful view from here, no?” Bishops probably shouldn’t even be sending ordinary text messages. It’s just too easy to get riled up and fall into a trap of some sort– and if Bishop Fumble Fingers’ phone auto-“corrects” something into the wrong word, who knows what sin might be legitimized or what virtue might be condemned? I’m sure people get frustrated with me when I switch from texts to e-mail, but typing even on a large touch screen just isn’t the same as typing on a proper keyboard.

  24. Ferretti says:

    You convinced me RCG. We’re all, I’d suspect, irritable and have been long before this virus. But your reminder was, for me, to remember to love our enemies – be they domestic or Mystical families. I’ve had to think it through why I feel compelled never to receive Our Lord upon my hand. It started as an abuse, was rejected by the Bishops whose opinion was solicited by Pope St. Paul VI. It was rejected; oddly, the Pope didn’t want it either. But by the persistence of disobedience bishops, Rome caved eventually. I personally see it like that movie about the Jesuit in Japan, if the only way I can can continue on is to abuse Him, then I won’t.

  25. Fr_Sotelo says:


    You raise good questions about how to discern obedience to a directive that calls for Communion in the hand only.

    As Fr. Z mentioned earlier, a very disturbing element of the Bishop’s comment, was that Communion should be withheld from someone who wishes to receive on the tongue.

    That constitutes the canonical, and public penalty, of “interdiction” inflicted upon a member of the Church without due process.

    It is made more grave by the command of the Lord that we must “take and eat” in order to receive the full fruits of the Sacrifice (see Pius XII in “Mediator Dei”).

    And the fruits of the Sacrifice belong to the faithful who devoutly assist at Mass, again by clear promises of the Lord, “If you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man…you will remain in Me and I will raise you up.” Even canon law says the salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church.

    Thus, by depriving his subjects of what is their right by clear instruction of the Lord, for their gaining eternal life, the Bishop might be damming himself to hellfire. And so if a priest does not ignore this call for unjust interdiction, for love of his flock, he should at least ignore it to save the soul of his Bishop.

  26. creekman says:

    In my diocese (Charleston) Masses are set to resume this weekend . I received a two-page long description of procedures and details about the Masses and they include in bold print ” per the decision of the Deanery, no communion will be given on the tongue.” So, not even the bishop, but the Deanery exercising these imaginary powers. It gets even better, the priest will distribute communion from behind a plexiglass shield! One hot mess!

  27. Joe in Canada says:

    Well said. Anyone who wants to argue with his or her Bishop about this should keep in mind the survey sent to every Bishop about the TLM. Do you want Bishops sitting around saying to each other “this one group is a pain in the mozzetta”?

  28. The Cobbler says:


    I’d have to dig up the passage from Aquinas for context to be sure. That said, it strikes me that in philosophy the “object” of a thing is not the preceding cause, but whatever it is directed toward: less what leads to it and more what it leads to, if you will. In that sense I would argue the “proper objects of anger” are not what I am angered by, but what I am angry enough to do.

    This is a higher bar, because anger typically inclines one to rationalize justification based on what one opposes or is upset by, whereas the question becomes whether I am responding with more evil or with good. (Of course, it is possible to do good in anger: otherwise by definition it would be morally wrong.)

    I’m inclined to think the difference between righteous anger and anger in general is akin to the difference between mere enjoyment (i.e. pleasure) and joy. Think of the rejoicing that goes up to God whenever people are saved from some wickedness, when unjust laws are overturned, when idols are drowned! When what is accomplished is truly good and for good’s sake, there is no bitterness in the anger that accomplishes it, nor enmity save for enmity with evil itself, but also joy in doing good.

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