Forcing Communicants to Stand

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 2, 2020   

Seattle archbishop bans kneeling for Holy Communion

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SEATTLE (ChurchMilitant.com) - Seattle's Abp. Paul Etienne is attempting to stop Catholics from kneeling to receive Holy Communion.

In a pastoral letter promoting the Eucharist titled "The Work of Redemption," the archbishop writes, "As we move in procession to the altar, we bow before receiving the Body or Blood of Christ, and remain standing to receive Holy Communion, whether the host or the chalice. To kneel at this point, or to add other gestures, individualizes the reception of Communion."

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Abp. Paul Etienne

The archbishop is demanding a so-called "unity of posture." He claims his directives are based on "the norms for the United States as expressed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)." The Vatican has stated repeatedly, however, that such norms are not binding on the laity.

Etienne links to the GIRM, which has been in force in the United States since 2011. He refers to paragraph 160; when read in full, however, this paragraph tells laity they can decide for themselves whether to stand or kneel when receiving Holy Communion.

Paragraph 160 of the GIRM 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."

As a basis for this option, the GIRM cites paragraph 91 of the Vatican's 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW).

Those who want to kneel are free to kneel.

The CDW in paragraph 91 reins in authoritarian clerics who wish to impose standing on kneeling communicants by denying them the Blessed Sacrament.

Paragraph 91 reads, "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."


While head of the CDW, Cdl. Francis Arinze granted an interview on Redemptionis Sacramentum, which his congregation published during his tenure as prefect. Asked specifically about paragraph 91 of Redemptionis Sacramentum, Arinze clarified that it gave people the freedom to decide whether to kneel or stand while receiving Holy Communion:

The main point that we are making there is that the people are free. Even if the bishops have chosen standing, those who want to kneel are free to kneel. And no one has the right to say to them you are disobedient ... which means then that a Catholic who is not forbidden to receive Communion, should not be denied just because the Catholic prefers to kneel.

Many traditional Catholics throughout the years have been embarrassed by overzealous clerics who order them to stand for Holy Communion. Many have gone so far as to refuse Communion to Catholics who choose to remain kneeling.

Even if the bishops have chosen standing, those who want to kneel are free to kneel.

Speaking of this problem Arinze added, "Some people just punish others at the very supreme moment of receiving Holy Communion; they begin to give orders."

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