If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong

It was a very nice 22nd anniversary gift to have my May 25 blog post (To Obey, or Not to Obey) included on Fr. Z’s blog. I have much admiration for Fr. Z., and the way he seems to be leading the charge for bringing more reverence to the Holy Mass.

After reading many of the comments to this post, I wanted to follow up here with some of the reasoning I used in deciding to offer a kneeler as an option.

As my blog post indicated, “obedience” needs to be at the essence of all we do in formulating our choices in life. Of course I am referring to obedience to God. After 22 years of priesthood, and a lifetime of being a Catholic in America, I had a growing sense that it becomes difficult to know how to obey God through His Church.

I am referring to almost 5 decades of watching such things as our beautiful churches being gutted out, listening to music that sounds more like a Barry Manilow concert, the Sacrament of Confession being put on a back burner, the rosary being treated as a relic of the past, haughty dissenters joyfully encouraged to come and receive our Eucharistic Lord as our bishops sit idly by and allow confusion among their flock to grow to epidemic proportions … I am left asking myself, “how can I best obey God?”

Of course this is an ecclesiological question. And I believe the answer is that, as a priest, I am to be the extension of my bishop, who must be in union with Peter and his successors. This is amazing, because this vine links me directly to the Bride, and to the Sacred Heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I DID check with my bishop on offering the kneeler, and I was given his permission to proceed.

When worldly politics and ideologies try to infiltrate this Church of ours, it certainly makes it more difficult for us to discern what is of the Holy Spirit, and what is of man.

In the case of kneeling to receive Communion, I spent some time doing the research. I wanted to be sure I could sift through any “man caused disaster” of ideological proportions (usually of the progressive/modernist type) that may be causing any confusion.

Low and behold, there it was …

It turns out that when the issue of standing or kneeling to receive Communion was heading for a final vote among the US Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship stepped in and wrote to the Conference, noting that disturbing reports of people being denied Communion because they were kneeling had made this clarification necessary: The Holy See asked the bishops to make this – “Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel” – explicit in their adaptation of IGMR §160.

Further, before the bishops voted on the proposed adaptation of §160, a bishop questioned the meaning of the term “norm”. The chairman of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy (Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb) said that “norm” is a descriptive term meaning the usual or standard practice, not a legal term. With this clarification, the bishops voted to accept the BCL’s wording of the adaptation.  Since then, however, some bishops and liturgists are interpreting “norm” as implying that standing is legally obligatory. This is not the case.  

Therefore, while the US bishops’ adaptation established standing as the “norm” for the Church in the United States, it is not permissible to deny Communion to any person who kneels to receive. That would amount to virtual excommunication. The universal law permits either posture in IGMR 160 (refer here).

I want to obey. But the hard work of finding the truth, beyond some bishops’ and liturgists’ poor interpretation of “norm” (or ideological ulterior motive) is something that asks us to go the extra mile to uncover the truth. Again, haven’t we all been assaulted by “poor interpretations” (and ideological ulterior motives) since the Council of Vatican II?

Ultimately, I believe I was inspired to take the time to uncover this truth as I watched our Holy Father encourage His Church to offer this option of kneeling to receive.  I thought to myself that there is something more here … how could a “norm” in our country – treated as a mandate – directly oppose the encouragement given by the successor of Peter? The answer was, as it consistently seems to be, “poor interpretation.”

I agree with one of the commenters from Fr. Z’s blog: “If the norm of the Church throughout the world is to kneel (and standing is permitted, but not the norm) then isn’t our bishop’s conference striking a blow against unity of gesture by declaring that we are to have a norm peculiar to this country? Why does the need for unity of gesture stop at our borders? Shouldn’t seeking true union mean that we cleave to the norms of the Church worldwide?”

Here is the conclusion, derived from the facts:  The word “norm,” in this context, is merely stating that it is the most common practice – a custom right now – but not a mandate. And, the universal law permits either posture.  Therefore, kneeling to receive our Lord in Holy Communion remains now and always a legitimate option for our faithful.

And, as we continue to sift through a politically and ideologically charged USCCB, I will humbly yield by having my bishop teach through me, and I will seek the truth in the way my bishop prescribes: “If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong.”


6 Responses to If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong

  1. DeProfundus says:

    “If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong.” Amen, Father!

  2. Quaesocaelus says:

    Re: “If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong.”

    One question: “Has the Catholic Church ~ever~ had a ‘bad pope?'”

    If no, blind obedience should be the recommended norm: “Don’t think! Follow!”

    If so, weighing what the Holy Father is asking with what his predecessors have taught in Tradition would seem to be the more prudent course. Hey. Prudence. Isn’t that supposed to be a virtue?


  3. mercyknight says:

    Has the military ever had bad Generals? Does that mean each soldier should stop and reflect upon the credence of each command? Have there ever been bad parents? Does that mean we toss out the fourh commandment? Certainly there have been bad parents, Generals and Popes, but I believe we are losing, as a culture, that humble teachability which we were instructed, as Jesus embraced a child, is the WAY to receive the Kingdom of God — receive His presence.

  4. >>Therefore, I DID check with my bishop on offering the kneeler, and I was given his permission to proceed.

    When worldly politics and ideologies try to infiltrate this Church of ours, it certainly makes it more difficult for us to discern what is of the Holy Spirit, and what is of man.<<


    I don't envy you. In some American diocese' you might be told by your bishop to 'ignore' the Holy father's humble example. And btw 'don't ever mention it again unless you want to be reassigned!' Who is it who sows the seeds of confusion in the Church, where the pope shows us one thing and our bishops undermine and contradict him? Demonic powers, that's who!

    as a layman, I have had enough. It would be a privilege to be marginalized (as Bishop Schneider puts it) or even excommunicated by a bishop who tells me that he can trump the Pope's teaching authority, or for that matter: my conscience, or perhaps: logic itself!

    I like to remember how, according to Cardinal Newman, God used the laity to prevent the Church from becoming Arian. The Catholic Bishops had consensused themselves into a false doctrine.


  5. Oma Sarver says:

    Thanks this made for interesting reading. I adore your wordpress theme!

  6. […] [7] Mary’s Anawim: If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong […]

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