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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 6: September 2003

Diocesan Posture Directives Create a Stir - Adoremus Responds

Beginning on August 26, our e-mail inboxes began to fill with forwarded copies of an article that had just appeared in Cleveland's daily, The Plain Dealer -- and many questions from confused -- and very distressed -- Catholics.

The article, "Catholics to Change Communion Ritual", appeared on the front page of the newspaper, and detailed the changes to the Mass that the diocese of Cleveland plans to implement in the wake of the release of the US version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

Among the changes announced to parish workers at a diocesan-sponsored conference were:

"And undoing a lifetime of tradition by not kneeling in prayer after Communion", wrote religion writer David Briggs. "Instead, in a sign of the communal nature of the sacrament, worshippers will stand and sing until each person has received Communion.

"American Catholics are about to experience major changes in the Communion rite as dioceses begin implementing updated General Instruction of the Roman Missal", Briggs wrote. The story quoted Cleveland Pastoral Liturgy director, The Reverend J. Glenn Murray, SJ, who implicitly confirmed these directives. (Father Murray specializes in African-American worship, presents workshops on liturgy, and has taught at Saint Mary's Seminary in Cleveland and the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.).

Adoremus responds to queries

Adoremus responded to the many e-mail inquiries. The text of our response follows:

"We read the August 25, 2003 story in The Plain Dealer, 'Catholics to change Communion ritual'.

"There seems to be some confusion about the new rules as the story describes them. Some of the changes evidently being promoted in the Cleveland diocese are not, in fact, in the new General Instruction: viz. standing after receiving Communion, and raising the hands ('orans' posture) during the Lord's Prayer. These changes were advocated by some liturgists -- notably while the US bishops were considering a proposed revision of the Missal ('Sacramentary') a few years ago -- a revision that was eventually rejected by the Holy See. But they were never approved by the bishops. And they were neither included in the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the universal Church, nor in the 'American adaptations' of the GIRM now in effect.

Standing throughout the Communion rite

"The US bishops, in fact, voted explicitly that people may either kneel or sit after they receive Communion. Furthermore, in an official response to a dubium (question) of Cardinal George in July 2003, Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, said that it was not the intention of the Holy See to prohibit the customary kneeling immediately after reception of Holy Communion.

"(Earlier, similar responses from the Vatican made it clear that changing customary kneeling to standing was not intended; indeed was 'laudably retained'.)

The gesture of reverence

"The GIRM (both old 1973 and new 2000) called for a 'gesture of reverence' before receiving Communion; but until the US bishops 'adapted' the 2000 GIRM, no particular gesture had ever been specified -- and the rule was honored in the breach. (When the bishops voted for a simple bow, the argument was that it was a gesture that everyone -- even physically impaired people -- could make).

"Another response from the Vatican made it clear that people are not to be prohibited from kneeling to receive Communion, although the US norm is standing.

The "Orans" posture

"The bishops actually voted against people assuming the "orans" posture for the Lord's Prayer (this is the posture of the priest), though some liturgists have promoted it strenuously. No gesture at all is specified during the Lord's Prayer in the GIRM. (Some bishops and liturgists had objected to hand-holding, however, a gesture that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and was popularized by some charismatic groups.)

Divisive variations

"The liturgy office in the Cleveland diocese (and several others) is mandating changes that are neither specified nor mandated in the norms for the universal Church or for the US Church. Far from promoting unity, the effect of mandating these deviations from the customary practice in the Catholic Church in the United States is literally divisive -- dividing one diocese from another, one parish from another, one Catholic from another.

"If you should care to check further into this rather conflicted situation concerning the norms for Holy Communion, you may want to visit the Adoremus web site 'Gestures and Postures' and 'Documents' sections".

- hhh

***

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