Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Kneeling to receive Holy Communion, 2004, Private.
The following question regarding kneeling to receive Holy Communion was sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by a member of the laity. The response of the Congregation follows.
Cardinal Francis Arinze
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Piazza Pio XII, 10
Rome, Italy 00120
I would like to pose a dubium to this Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments as to whether or not Latin Rite Catholics in the United States can be accused of disobedience or acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion according to the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2?
And, can my diocesan bishop forbid or prohibit me from kneeling to receive Holy Communion in accordance with the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2?
There seems to be much debate and confusion on this issue and I would be most grateful if this congregation would issue a clarification in this regard. Thank you very much, and I remain
Diocese of _______, USA
CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS
This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter dated _______, related to the application of the norms approved by the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America with the subsequent recognitio of this Congregation, as regards the question of the posture during the communion rite of Holy Mass.
As the authority by virtue of whose recognitio the norm in question has attained the force of law, this dicastery is competent to specify the manner in which the norm is to be understood for the sake of a proper application. Having received more than a few letters regarding this matter from different locations in the United States of America, the congregation wishes to ensure that its position on the matter is clear.
To this end, it is perhaps useful to respond to your inquiry by repeating the content of a letter that the congregation recently addressed to a bishop in the United States of America from whose diocese a number of pertinent letters had been received. The letter states: "... while this congregation gave the recognitio to the norm desired by the bishops' conference of your country that people stand for Holy Communion, this was done on the condition that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on those grounds. Indeed, the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion."
Recently, a number of questions have also arisen regarding the question of whether the General Instruction of the Roman Missal itself requires that the faithful remain standing until the distribution of Holy Communion is completed. While the Congregation has no intention in the present letter to enter into the details of any particular norms that may have been established by a local bishop for his diocese, it may be useful to include here the following interpretation of the universal law that was recently given to a bishop who had requested such a clarification. The question was worded in the following manner:
In many places the faithful are accustomed to keeling or sitting in personal prayer upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion during Mass. Is it the intention of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, to forbid this practice?
After careful consideration of the matter, this congregation responded in the negative, adding the following explanation:
“... (T)he prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, n. 43, is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, not to regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would not longer be free. “
The local bishop, as moderator of the liturgical life of the diocese, may establish further or more specific norms for those under his jurisdiction, provided that they are not in contradiction to the prescriptions of universal law. The clarification given above, therefore, pertains only to the relevant law in effect for the entire Latin Church.
This interpretation is consistent with a principle that has governed the application of law within the Church over the course of many centuries, namely that the law should always be applied with a prudence and gentleness by which the faithful are supported and encouraged in their faith and devotion to God, and that obligation should not be laid upon them which are not truly necessary.
This dicastery hopes that the citations given here will provide an adequate answer to your question. At the same time, please be assured that the congregation remains ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again.
With every prayerful good wish, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Kneeling to receive Holy Communion, 2004, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2004, 21-23.