Ah, Rome has come to the "rescue" of Catholics who have been denied Holy Communion because they attempted to kneel on their knees. A letter to some unnamed diocesan bishop, dated July 1, 2002, from Jorge A. Cardinal Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, reaffirms the right of Catholics to receive Holy Communion on their knees. Whew! Order has been restored in the Novus Ordo. I thought it would never happen. Just shows you how wrong a man can be, huh? Everything is all right once more. Catholics can receive Holy Communion on their knees.
Cardinal Medina Estevez wrote as follows to the unnamed bishop:
"This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has recently received reports of members of the faithful in your Diocese being refused Holy Communion unless while standing to receive, as opposed to kneeling. the reports state that such a policy has been announced to parishioners. There were possible indications that such a phenomenon might be somewhat more widespread in the Diocese, but the Congregation is unable to verify whether such is the case. This Dicastery is confident that Your Excellency will be in a position to make a more reliable determination of the matter, and these complaints in any event provide an occasion for the
Congregation to communicate the manner in which it habitually addresses this matter, with a request that you make this position known to any priests who may be in need of being thus informed.
"The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful, namely that of being assisted by their Pastors by means of the Sacraments (Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 213). In view of the law that "sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them" (canon 843 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.
"In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.
"Given the importance of this matter, the Congregation would request that Your Excellency inquire specifically whether this priest in fact has a regular practice of refusing Holy Communion to any member of the faithful in the circumstances described above and - if the complaint is verified - that you also firmly instruct him and any other priests who may have had such a practice to refrain from acting thus in the future. Priests should understand that the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if they are verified, it intends to seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.
"Thanking Your Excellency for your attention to this matter and relying on your kind collaboration in its regard, Sincerely yours in Christ, Jorge A. Cardinal Medina EstÚvez."
This is really what Cardinal Medina Estevez is saying:
"Yes, Your Excellency, Rome gave permission to the American bishops to make standing for Holy Communion the norm in your country after they applied for an indult from this Congregation based upon Paragraph 160 of the General Instruction to the Roman Missal. However, we did not think in our wildest imagination that you good bishops would look the other way as your priests denied Holy Communion to those who attempted to kneel. Please, please, pretty please, don't make us look bad here in Rome. Cardinal Ratzinger says kneeling is sort of like a Catholic thing to do. It's rather old. Let the people who want to kneel do so without badgering them. Please? We'll really be hurt and upset if we hear of any other cases."
Cardinal Medina Estevez does indeed appear to be genuinely concerned about the gravity of the situation brought to his attention. What he is unwilling to realize or to admit, however, is that the new Mass itself and all of its wide variety of permutations and adaptations found in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal gives rise to one abuse after another. Rome granted permission for Communion in the hand after many bishops looked the other way as their priests permitted this sacrilege to occur. One of the last things Pope Paul VI did before he died on August 6, 1978, was to decry the abuses that resulted from the permission he gave for Communion in the hand. Pope John Paul II had to remind the world's bishops and priests in Dominicae Cenae, his Holy Thursday letter of 1980, that the faithful have the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, mindful of the fact at the time that some of the faithful were being more or less coerced to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Despite Papal mea culpas and protestations notwithstanding, it is almost universally the case around the world that First Communicants and converts to the Faith are instructed that there is only one way to receive Holy Communion: in the hand. People can whip out all of the Papal and Vatican documents that have been produced in the last twenty-five years. The plain fact of the matter is that the bishops and priests have done - and will continue to do - exactly as they want without regard for any Papal pronouncement or Vatican decree.
As I noted recently in Roadblocks on the Path to Eternity, I used to wave copies of Inaestimabile Donum, issued as a follow up to Dominicae Cenae by the then name Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in 1980 in the face of priests who had engaged in some liturgical abuse during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Wanderer printed thousands of copies, replete with an explanation of it by Monsignor Richard Schuler, the pastor of the Church of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Armed with that ammunition, part of my preparation to attend Daily Mass was to be on the "hunt," to so speak, for this or that abuse. It was no way to attend Mas, let me tell you. And it would not be until the late 1980s that I began to learn the error of my ways as I became more exposed to the stability and permanency that are the bedrock of the Traditional Latin Mass. One doesn't have to carry a briefcase full of Vatican documents and Papal pronoucements when attending the Mass of our fathers.
Cardinal Medina Estevez's letter, although certainly well-intentioned, overlooks the simple fact, however, that the number of the faithful attending Novus Ordo Masses who desire to kneel are relatively few. His letter does not address the thorough-going indoctrination that is taking place in one diocese after another, especially out on the West Coast and in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, to browbeat the faithful into standing for the reception of Holy Communion. His letter can't address that as the bishops have received permission from the Holy See to mandate that standing is the norm. Cardinal Medina Estevez's letter is simply a rear-guard effort to try to help Catholics who want to kneel for the reception of Holy Communion to do so without being humiliated. It will do absolutely nothing to stop the indoctrination in favor of standing. It will do nothing to stop the rush to remove altar rails in the diocesan churches that have not yet been "wreckovated." It will do nothing to stop the flood of the scores of other abuses that pop up here and there in one Novus Ordo Mass after another. The new Mass is so dependent on the celebrant and the place and the whims of liturgists and planners and congregational "needs" that it is impossible to predict with certainty what one will experience if he enters a church other than the one he attends regularly (and it may not even be possible to predict with certainty what will happen in any one church at all times). This is simply not the case with the Traditional Latin Mass.
What does Cardinal Medina Estevez think is going to happen when a person is denied Holy Communion while attempting to kneel even after the distribution of his letter? Does he think that a person is going to say to the priest, "Excuse me, Father, while I look for my letter from Rome telling me that I can kneel for Holy Communion"? It should not be the case that a Catholic should have to be au courant with every jot and tittle of the ins and outs of Vatican decrees and letters published in Notitiae (and most likely reprinted in Adoremus Bulletin and The Wanderer). A Catholic has the right to attend Holy Mass in peace, something that is next to impossible to do in most instance in the Novus Ordo.