Communion Posture - Denying Communion


The practice of criticizing Catholics as disobedient or even denying them Holy Communion for the manner in which they attempt to receive it (kneeling, genuflecting, tongue etc.) continues in some places despite letters such as the following from the Holy See, prohibiting such denials and threatening canonical sanctions against priests who do so. 

The following was published in the November/December 2002 issue of Notitiae, the journal of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The bishop to whom it was addressed was not identified.


Prot. n. 1322/02/L 

Rome, 1 July 2002 

Your Excellency,

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has recently received reports of members of the faithful in your Diocese being refused Holy Communion unless while standing to receive, as opposed to kneeling. The reports state that such a policy has been announced to parishioners. There were possible indications that such a phenomenon might be somewhat more widespread in the Diocese, but the Congregation is unable to verify whether such is the case. This Dicastery is confident that Your Excellency will be in a position to make a more reliable determination of the matter, and these complaints in any event provide an occasion for the Congregation to communicate the manner in which it habitually addresses this matter, with a request that you make this position known to any priests who may be in need of being thus informed.

The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful, namely that of being assisted by their Pastors by means of the Sacraments (Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 213). In view of the law that "sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them" (canon 843 § 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani n.160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.

In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.

Given the importance of this matter, the Congregation would request that Your Excellency inquire specifically whether this priest in fact has a regular practice of refusing Holy Communion to any member of the faithful in the circumstances described above and—if the complaint is verified—that you also firmly instruct him and any other priests who may have such a practice to refrain from acting thus in the future. Priests should understand that the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if they are verified, it intends to seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.

Thanking Your Excellency for your attention to this matter and relying on your kind collaboration in its regard, 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Jorge A. Card. MEDINA ESTÉVEZ
Prefect

Francesco Pio TAMBURRINO
Archbishop Secretary


Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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