Japanese Parish Abolishes Kneeling for Communion

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 16, 2015   

Church in Tokyo tears out kneelers and demands communicants stand for Communion

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TOKYO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Saint Ignatius Church in Tokyo, Japan is abolishing all kneeling at Mass, tearing out its kneelers, and directing faithful to no longer receive Communion on the tongue.

The church's bulletin states the parish is making changes based on the New Revised General Rule of the Liturgy released by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan. However, they do not cite any specific statements made by the Conference to justify their actions.

This month's bulletin reads:

According to this rule, the basic posture during the Mass will be standing or sitting only. This means the kneelers will no longer be needed. All kneelers will be removed. ... During Holy Communion, recipients will receive by hand while standing (implemented last year). Receiving Holy Communion while kneeling will not be permitted from now on.

The parish already violated norms set by the Japanese bishops last year by having recipients stand to receive Communion in the hand. The Japanese bishops, in accord with longstanding directives from Rome, have given the faithful the option to kneel for Communion and to receive Communion on the tongue.

The Japanese bishops state in their 2014 document:

Regarding the posture of communicants the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani states that "the faithful communicate either kneeling or standing, as determined by the Conference of Bishops." ... However, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ's faithful solely on the grounds that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling.

In English, the reference is to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which lists the norms and rubrics that must be followed by priests and faithful during Mass. A binding instruction on these norms, presented by the Congregation For Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW), detailed these norms and rubrics. Their document is titled Redemptionis Sacramentum and must be followed by all bishops' conferences around the world regarding liturgical practices.

This instruction was published with papal approval under Cdl. Francis Arinze, the prefect emeritus of the CDW. In an interview concerning the instruction, Cdl. Arinze stated:

The main point 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.

Concerning reception of Communion on the tongue, Arinze said in this same interview:

Some people insist you must receive in the hand; no priest has the right to demand that and even no bishop has the right to demand you must receive on the hand. No, No, the faithful remain free to receive on the tongue.

Cardinal Arinze discusses the right of the faithful to kneel (at 1:36) and the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue (at 5:35)

Cardinal Arinze was speaking of section 92 of the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, which reads: "[E]ach of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue."

This instruction is meant by Rome to be observed by all national episcopal conferences regarding their liturgical practices. Section two of this document states its purpose:

[T]o establish certain norms by which earlier ones are explained and complemented; and also to set forth for Bishops, as well as for Priests, Deacons and all the lay Christian faithful, how each should carry them out in accordance with his own responsibilities.

Section five of the Instruction states: "The observance of the norms published by authority of the Church requires conformity of thought and of word, of external action and of the application of the heart."

These norms are used by the CDW to enforce the right of the faithful to always kneel and receive on the tongue, as this particular letter shows.

Stay tuned for ChurchMilitant.com's coverage as the story develops.

For a more in-depth look at the entire issue of Communion in the Hand, please see our Premium show Sleight of Hand: Reception Deception:


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