Saturday, October 30, 2010


A lengthy two-part response to a lengthy email making the rounds on the Internet.
As usual, when someone writes a lengthy email to make a point, and a bunch more forward it around the world, there is some truth and a lot of error in the message.  The second installment of the response will talk about why we stand for communion.  So, here we go. 

Let’s read the email, first.

Pope Benedict to Catholics: Kneel and Receive on the Tongue Only
Pope Benedict XVI does not want the faithful receiving Communion in their hand nor does he want them standing to receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. According to Vatican liturgist, Monsignor Guido Marini, the pope is trying to set the stage for the whole church as to the proper norm for receiving Communion for which reason communicants at his papal Masses are now asked to kneel and receive on the tongue.
The Holy Father's reasoning is simple: "We Christians kneel before the Blessed Sacrament because, therein, we know and believe to be the presence of the One True God." (May 22, 2008)
According to the pope the entire Church should kneel in adoration before God in the Eucharist. "Kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist is the most valid and radical remedy against the idolatries of yesterday and today." (May 22, 2008)
The pope's action is in accord with the Church's 2000 year tradition and is being done in order to foster a renewed love and respect for the Eucharist which presently is being mocked and treated with contempt. The various trends and innovations of our time (guitar liturgy, altar girls, lay ministers, Communion in the hand) have worked together to destroy our regard for the Eucharist, thus advancing the spiritual death of the church. After all, the Eucharist is the very life and heartbeat of the Mystical Body around which the entire Church must revolve.
Kneeling also coincides with the Church's centuries old ordinance that only the consecrated hands of a priest touch the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. "To priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist." (Council of Trent) This teaching is beautifully expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica: "Because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament."
It is for reason that Pope Paul VI in his May 1969 pastoral letter to the world's bishops reaffirmed the Church's teaching on the reception of Communion, stating that: "This method on the tongue must be retained." (Memoriale Domini) This came in response to the bishops of Holland who started Communion in the hand in defiance of the centuries old decree from the Council of Rouen (650 A.D.) where this practice was condemned as sacrilegious. "Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layperson, but only in their mouths." To date this prohibition has never been overturned legally.

Today Communion in the hand is carried on illegally and has become a major tool of the enemy to destory the Faith throughout the world. For this practice serves no other purpose than to warp our conception of Jesus Christ and nourish a contempt for the sacred mysteries. It's no wonder St. Basil referred to Communion in the hand as "a grave fault."

That is to say, Communion in the hand is not tied with Catholic tradition. This practice was first introduced to the Church by the heretical Arians of the 4th century as a means of expressing their belief that Christ was not divine. Unfortunately, it has served to express the same in our time and has been at the very heart of the present heresy and desecration that is rampant throughout the universal Church. If we have 'abuse' problems today it is because we're abusing the Sacrament - it's backfiring on us!
Thanks to Communion in the hand, members of satanic cults are now given easy access to come into the Church and take the Host so that they bring it back to their covens where it is abused and brutalized in the ritualistic Black Mass to Satan. They crush the Host under their shoes as a mockery to the living God, and we assist it with our casual practice? Amongst themselves the satanists declare that Communion in the hand is the greatest thing that ever happened to them, and we do nothing to stop it?

Hence, the Holy Father is doing his part to try to purge the Church of abuse and we as members of Christ are called upon to assist him. For your encouragement we include the following quotation from Cardinal Llovera, the new prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments speaking to Life Site News on July 22, 2009: "It is the mission of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments to work to promote Pope Benedict's emphasis on the traditional practices of liturgy, such as reception of Communion on the tongue while kneeling."
Also worth considering is the recent decree from Cardinal Caffarra, the Archbishop of Bologna Italy, forbidding the practice of Communion in the hand: "Many cases of profanation of the Eucharist have occurred, profiting by the possibility to receive the consecrated Bread on one’s palm of the hand... Considering the frequency in which cases of irreverent behavior in the act of receiving the Eucharist have been reported, we dispose that starting from today in the Metropolitan Church of St. Peter, in the Basilica of St. Petronius and in the Shrine of the Holy Virgin of St. Luke in Bologna the faithful are to receive the consecrated Bread only from the hands of the Minister directly on the tongue." (from his decree on the reception of the Eucharist, issued April 27, 2009)
Technically all bishops and clergy are bound to follow the Holy Father's directive on this issue, but in the meantime the faithful are not obliged to wait for the approval of their bishop in order to kneel for God. The directives of the Holy Father are not subject to the veto or scrutiny of the bishops and therefore all pastors and laity have a right and duty to put these directives into practice for the edification of their communities.

Now, it's my turn. 
The first error is in the headline: “Pope Benedict to Catholics: Kneel and Receive on the Tongue Only”  The pope actually said that when he is presiding at the Mass, he wants those participating in the Holy Mass to receive communion this way.
 It is true that the Pope is working to get this practice universally adopted.  The pope’s liturgist was correctly quoted as saying,  “The pope is trying to set the stage for the whole church as to the proper norm for receiving Communion for which reason communicants at his papal Masses are now asked to kneel and receive on the tongue. “  Because that is true, it does not mean that all the rest of the statements in the email are equally true.  Just because the pope has this way of thinking doesn't mean that all of the other  “abuses” mentioned in this email are factually and morally wrong and are going to have to change  by going back to the Church behaviors of the past..
To be honest to the line of thinking of this email, that is, "so many things are wrong that we have to follow the pope back to what we had before",  the Church would have to go back to Latin, all male servers, altar rails, communion under one species only, no more extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist for the good of the homebound and hospitalized, enclosed confessionals, restoration of minor orders, after midnight fast before communion, return to the full Lenten fast and the seasonal ember days not to mention the meatless Friday.  This is also the kind of thinking that, if followed to its logical conclusion, would go back to the banning of archeological investigations to support Biblical studies and the deepening of our knowledge of the ancient languages.  It would also go against the teachings all the popes since Leo XIII.  

The deep problem with this kind of thinking is that it defies the pedagogy of God.  It defies the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  Instead of keeping our minds open and going forward deeper onto the mysteries of faith, as Pope Pius XII teaches us to do in Divino Afflante Spiritu, we run back to the comfort of the behavior that we regret leaving.  This is true of the present pope as well as other human beings.  It is always possible in the Church to find arguments, many of them compelling, to support both sides of any discussion.  It is also always possible in the Church to make assertions that appear to be compelling, but that are in fact, outside the bounds of logic and defy the truly essential activity of the Holy Magisterium.  In this email, for instance, there is a reference to the council of important see in France of old (7th century).  This was not an ecumenical council, but a local one.  To make a decision of a local council a definitive article of universal church discipline nearly 1,500 years later is to negate all the doctrine that was built on the promulgation of Rouen during the ensuing centuries.  The Church doesn’t follow that process, why did the author of this email do it?  That is not good process.  It would be easy to go back and invoke the power of law and faith into the Old Testament and insist that it be practiced as the Sacred Scripture defines it.  We don't do that because we know that God, through the Holy Spirit continues to enlighten us in our practice of discipleship.  It would be good for you all to read the argument that St. Paul had with the Church leaders of the first century regarding the need for circumcision for converts.  What was illegal then does not always rule with the same force now.  Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, the decisions of the past have the virtue of helping us to understand why we have deepened our understanding of the doctrines of our faith.
What permits the author of this email to say, "Today Communion in the hand is carried on illegally...?"  That is a totally false statement and it cannot be logically deduced from the decree that came out of Rouen.  It is false because today we have the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the powers that be in Vatican City,  that describes the behavior that we follow in our liturgy. That behavior includes the posture that we assume at communion time.
It is intensely doubtful that the statement "The pope's action is in accord with the Church's 2000 year tradition..." is correct. In the very first place, the liturgy of the Eucharist in its present form is not 2,000 years old. The history of unleavened wafers serving as altar bread is not even 1,100 years old.  When people write and make doctrinaire statements, they should at least take the precaution to be factually correct.
Here’s another daring statement, erroneous, of course: “Technically all bishops and clergy are bound to follow the Holy Father's directive on this issue, but in the meantime the faithful are not obliged to wait for the approval of their bishop in order to kneel for God. The directives of the Holy Father are not subject to the veto or scrutiny of the bishops and therefore all pastors and laity have a right and duty to put these directives into practice for the edification of their communities.
     1.     The communities in the universal Church are not bound to follow the Holy Father’s directive
           on this issue, except when he is the one presiding at the Eucharist out of respect for his
           personal opinion.  
     2.   It has now been a long time since the directive to the universal church has been to respect
           the desire of the individual who indicates by his/her posture how he/she wants to receive 
     3.   The bishops, pastors and laity don’t have the duty to put these directives into practice for
            the edification of their communities because the communities will not be edified by such a
            reactionary return to the past and a flaunting of the now in force General Instruction of the
            Roman Missal.
If this email was written to convince the readers to kneel at communion time, it is a failure.  Arguments based on a recital of negative, anecdotal, non-documented “facts” are not compelling.  Every age, believe it, every age, has a barrel-full of bad and irreverent church behavior.  If you want to read about some from back in the 40’s and 50’s, just ask and this writer will oblige with a rather lengthy list.  You might want to start with the 20 minute Sunday Mass, including three altar rails full of communicants.  Then, as now, there were people of bad faith, ordained and lay, who contributed then and who now contribute to the “abuses.”  Human behavior in the palaces, the rectories, on the altar and in the pews will not be made holy by an edict dictating that the Church should back up into the past.  Those who want to try it that way will perhaps try, but they are doomed to fail. 
Finally, there is an attitude present in the message of this email that shows that it is more guided by emotion than by systematic argumentation based on a simple fact, the pope has made it clear that when he presides at the Holy Mass the faithful should kneel to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue.  That’s it.  He has his reasons.  His personal reasons do not compel others to fall in line when he is not the presider at the Eucharist.  It also has to be said that the pope’s liturgist has no compelling authority to change universal Church behavior.  If the pope wants to make his personal opinion dictate universal church behavior, he must follow the official procedures to do so.  Until then, no one has any obligation to change anything, especially something that is present in the official documents presently in force.
I am not going to change my faith convictions in this matter because I believe in the Holy Spirit’s work through the Second Vatican Council.  I’m going to my grave filled with holy joy with this faith in my heart and soul, so don’t cry at my funeral.

Part two coming soon: Stand up at the foot of the Cross.
Post a Comment