'Friendly' Fire Does the Most Damage In the Catholic Civil War

May 2003By Michael Forrest

Michael Forrest is a Catholic apologist, and works with Priests for Life. He is also a composer and musician, and plays with his brother Sean Forrest in a contemporary Christian band (for information on the band, go to

The National Catholic Register (Jan. 26) printed an article by Leon Suprenant, President of Catholics United for the Faith, regarding kneeling for Communion, titled “Standing Up (and Not Kneeling) for the Church.” Suprenant does sympathize with those who desire to kneel before our Lord to receive Communion. However, he asserts that U.S. Catholics are not free to kneel for Communion. He states that “The U.S. bishops last year specified that ‘the norm for reception of holy Communion is standing.’” In conclusion, he writes, “Catholic worship allows ample room for diversity of expression, but when it comes to gestures and postures at Mass, if Simon (Peter) says stand, we stand. If Simon (Peter) says kneel, we kneel. Anything else is a recipe for liturgical anarchy and ultimately a divided church.” The problem is, however, that the Church is already divided, and Simon (Peter) — i.e., St. Peter’s current successor — has never commanded us to stand to receive Communion.

Overall, Suprenant clearly believes that the foundational issue is obedience to the U.S. bishops, and the only proper response is immediate and assiduous compliance.

He also states that “standing is also considered a reverential posture…. We stand at several key times during the Mass, such as the proclamation of the Gospel.” But I do not believe that Suprenant would seriously want to contend that standing is as reverent as kneeling.

Regardless, he forges on: “The bishops, then, were left with choosing among two legitimate ways of physically expressing reverence during Communion and selected one. The Church desires uniformity in bodily gestures and postures as a sign of unity among members of Christ’s body.” I find the assertion that the bishops are pursuing “uniformity” or even “unity” completely untenable. Even Suprenant admits that “other more significant deviations from the rite are ignored or even encouraged and mandated by local Church officials. One example is the Eucharistic Prayer, where the norm in the United States is for the faithful to kneel, yet some priests and bishops routinely require the faithful to stand, which inevitably leads to confusion, cynicism and conflict” (italics added). I agree. Only, I would substitute “many” for “some.” And there are other occasions in the Mass where uniformity is at least an equally valid concern and yet most parishes deviate from it. It strains credibility to the breaking point to suggest the bishops felt compelled to focus a laser beam on the issue of kneeling for Communion out of a universally high regard for uniformity. Frankly, I have become convinced that many bishops consider kneeling to be an embarrassing testimony against and obstacle to their vision of a minimalist Catholicism.

Moreover, there seems to be a deafening catechetical silence about bowing one’s head before receiving our Lord when standing, per the new norm. Furthermore, we are permitted to receive under one or both species. And we are still permitted the option of receiving Communion on the hand or the tongue — for now at least. Where exactly is the desire for liturgical uniformity here?

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I would like to direct readers to the following link:

Leon Suprenant and I had a lengthy, fruitful discussion about this issue and came to a very satisfying resolution and deeper mutual appreciation.

I continue to completely support the option of kneeling for Holy Communion as entirely lawful and appropriate and pray that it is restored as the "norm" in the entire Catholic Church.

The following video of the Holy Father distributing Holy Communion to a long line of kneeling communicants is encouraging as well:
Posted by: Michael Forrest
May 28, 2008 08:40 AM EDT
Jimmy Akin has written an important article about the upcoming liturgical changes in "Catholic Answers Magazine" (Nov.-Dec. 2011). In it, he writes:

"Although most of the rules for the new Roman Missal went into effect when its General Instruction was implemented in 2003, a notable change in the new version of the GIRM concerns the practice of kneeling for Communion. Prior to Vatican II, kneeling for Communion was the norm, but after the council this changed. In some places there were even reports of priests forbidding communicants from receiving on their knees, though the law allowed kneeling.

"In 2002 the U.S. bishops aksed Rome to allow them to establish standing as the official posture for receiving Communion in America. Rome agreed, with the proviso that people who knelt should not be denied Communion. As a result, the American edition of the GIRM stated: 'The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.' (GIRM 160, 2002 ed.).

"This did not end the problems, though, and communicants who knelt reported being berated and pressured by priests. Consequently, the new edition of the GIRM simply states: '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.' (GIRM 160, 2011 ed.).

"No mention is made of handling the situation pastorally. Individuals simply have the discretion to receive kneeling if they choose."
Posted by: Michael Forrest
November 04, 2011 02:22 PM EDT
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