The sin of kneeling

The sin of kneeling

The faithful have a right to receive Communion kneeling, as a longstanding custom, regardless of local adaptations. But Bishop Tod Brown of Orange, California, disagrees. Gerald has video of Brown virtually wrestling with a woman who knelt to receive Communion at one of his Masses. He also has her personal testimony about what happened.

And when I say the faithful have a right to receive while kneeling, I mean that this has been confirmed recently (2002) by the Congregation for Divine Worship:

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.

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  • Am I missing something? I don’t see any wrestling in the video. Is it in the background somewhere?

  • Sad to know our Bishop’s lack charity but it is not surprising given their inaction and disregard with respect to allowing perverts run loose in the priesthood.

    Bishop Brown will have a lot to answer for so we should pray for him.

  • Is the Congregation’s statement exactly applicable? I ask because it doesn’t seem like the lady WAS in fact denied communion (she was just denied until she stopped kneeling).

    Scott (who still doesn’t like what the bishop did, but isn’t sure he “denied” her communion)

  • Yet nobody ever says a word to the people who come up, casually stick one hand out and walk back to the pew as if they’d been given a quarter or something.  I see a lot of this everywhere I go.  Only once have I heard a priest give an ‘instructional homily’ on this and other matters after he’d had enough.  And that was at a fairly progressive Parish (the one Sen. Susan Collins attends).

    At the Catheral, I still see some of this, though about half of all communicants recieve on the tongue.  Only two people that I know of, a pair of young women, recieve on their knees (except during TLM, of course, where everybody does).  And that takes place without any incident whatsoever.

  • Names mean things.  Great post over at GA’s place:

    Tod is a noun in German. It means “death”.

    Bishop Brown’s name is Tod and it’s spelled that way.

    Ironic, isn’t it?

  • Bender,

    Give me a break. “Given all that has gone on there the last several months.”  What are you talking about?  Where is there?  At the Diocese of Orange?  At Saint John the Baptist?  This particular incident took place on November 23, 2003 at the inauguration Mass for Father Martin Benzoni.  I remember that because that is the feast day of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro and it was a Saturday.  That is more than two years ago.  Check your facts first; this is how gossip starts because people like you make assumptions without doing some research first.  Also, do you know this woman?  Have you asked her for her motives?  What is this “not properly disposed” nonsense?  You are what I call an ostrich Catholic, very wicked things are going around you and you pretend that they are not happening.  By the way, I have it from a very reliable witness that Bishop Brown did the same thing back in 1998 to another woman who was of the habit of kneeling to receive Holy Communion at Holy Spirit Church in Fountain Valley.  Bishop Brown is firm-fisted towards reverence and piety, but tolerant towards child pornography viewing priests, such as Father Cesar Salazar.  But of course you would not know that since your head is stuck in the sand.

  • Bender,

    By the way, just so that you can see that I am familiar with the situation I am going to tell you who the characters of the video are.  The priest distributing the chalice, who is closest to the camera is Father Philip Smith.  The priest distribution Holy Communion to the right hand side of Bishop Brown is Father Martin Benzoni.  The priest to the left hand side of Bishop Brown is Father Nguyen.  Behind him you Father Vincent and to the right hand side of Father Vincent you have Father Luke, a very good homilist, by the way.

  • The Orange County Register’s first major interview with Bishop Brown, introducing him to his diocese, had this to say:

    “…he has not been afraid to ruffle feathers, speaking out in favor of gay civil rights…” and later added that, “In one instance, some were upset when he refused to support an anti-gay initiative in Idaho. The bishop said it would have “contributed to attitudes of intolerance and hostility directed at homosexual citizens.”

    (Orange County Register, July 1, 1998: “`Middle of the road’ bishop to lead O.C. Catholics RELIGION: Tod Brown is praised by his Idaho diocese, but his moderate views `riled’ some”)

    Bishop Brown has publicly opposed laws that seek to prevent homosexuality from gaining special protection and bent over backwards to appear tolerant and accepting of homosexuals, whether in society or the seminary.

    In February of 2000, Bishop Brown sent each priest in the diocese two articles by Fr. Gerald D. Coleman dealing with the Prop. 22 ban on homosexual marriage.  In the message Bishop Brown wrote that Fr. Coleman’s article “expresses very well my own thoughts on this subject.” In that article, Fr. Coleman argued, “Some homosexual persons have shown that it is possible to enter into long-term, committed and loving relationships, named by certain segments of our society as domestic partnerships.”  The story was chronicled in the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission:

    Damnable Falsehood, Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission, January 2001,

    Studied Ambiguity – Reply to Father Coleman’s Open Letter to the Mission, Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission, May 2001,

    Lynch Responds To Coleman, Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission, June 2001,

    A copy of the memo can be seen here:

  • Bishop Brown has even looked the other way while one of his own priests, Fr. Rod Stephens, was known to be living with his gay lover and allowed him to continue as Director of Liturgy and Evangelization for the diocese.

    Fr. Stephens has since taken a leave of absence from the priesthood, but Bishop Brown has allowed his pastors to retain his consultation services throughout the diocese and pay him handsomely, reportedly to the tune of around $300.00 an hour at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, St. Anthony Mary Claret Parish, and the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

    The Fr. Rod Stephens cover-up was documented in the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission:

    All That Perceptions Stuff – Ex-priest Rod Stephens Still Works in Orange Diocese, Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission, July/August 2004,

    Bishop Brown also allowed a gay priest looking at naked boys and gay sex on his computer to remain at a Catholic parish that has a grade school.

    See : Diocese breaks zero tolerance vow, Orange County Register, July 20, 2003,

    See also: No Vow Of Silence Here, OC Weekly, Dec. 26, 2003 – Jan. 1, 2004,

    His record on the subject of homosexuality makes it clear that this issue is very dear to his heart.

    Does anyone else see a pattern here?

    Bishop Brown said he didn’t want to be a part of an initiative that he claims “contributed to attitudes of intolerance and hostility directed at homosexual citizens.”

    Yet he has no problem contributing to attitudes of intolerance and hostility directed at Catholics who practice traditional Catholic piety!

  • Thought that flashed across my mind:

    Ah well, Bishop Brown will know what it feels like to bend the knee to His Lord soon enough.

    Probably not very charitable, but then I’m not the one with the responsibility of being a bishop of the Church of Christ.

    Liam, being a “progressive” in that sense makes you practically antediluvian these days. Though I should have known better (really), I thought *all* liturgists were nuts for a while after one who was prominent in my area went off on me when I tried to discuss Pius Parsch with her. She thought he had really screwed everything up . . . by being too “traditional”, not radical enough in his day. So that liturgists couldn’t be radical *enough* in our day (which, at that moment, was April 1994). Parsch is not my fave personally, but the liturgy did need to recrudesce, though IMO Paul VI just went too far past Pius XII’s reforms, and our English translation only enhances the stripped-down feel of the Pauline Missal. IMO.

    Bender may not be a Jesuit, but clearly he is jesuitical.

  • I didn’t watch it, I have dial up. I would find this as show if someone attempted this in my parish. If you want to kneel and you know the custom is standing, I would first speak to the pastor sometime earlier in the week before Mass. If kneeling really meant that much to you, then you speak up at the appropriate time, putting priests on the spot really isn’t very constructive.

    When I attend, children are suppose to get a blessing when they go up with their parents. Some EMs forget and already picked up the host for the next communicant, leaving my children sort of standing there. I don’t make a scene! I simply tell the priest later on to remind the EMs to bless those who are not there for communion.

  • Renee,

    This wasn’t the woman’s parish.  There wasn’t any publicly promulgated policy that kneeling wasn’t allowed.  She only genuflected and did not kneel, so as to keep the flow of the line moving, and the entire incident took place in a matter of seconds.  She didn’t put anyone on the spot.

    Since you admitted that you couldn’t and didn’t watch the video, it seems odd that you would make a definitive judgment like that, especially given the fact that you were able to read the woman’s description of the actual event and see that her act of reverence wasn’t an evil plot to put the bishop on the spot.

    I also couldn’t help but notice that you seem to believe that extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist can bless people.  The power of priestly blessing is reserved to ordained priests and deacons.  The extraordinary ministers are most likely not forgetting.  They may well know that it is not in their power to confer the blessing you apparently believe they should be giving.

  • I think that would be even more reason not to kneel if she wasn’t in her home parish.

    Technically can’t anyone bless anyone? Is it wrong to say “God Bless You” then when someone sneezes? I realize it isn’t a priestly blessing, but all my kids want is a blessing or else they would be grabbing for the Eucharist.

    When I’m at another parish, usually I just look around and see what is going knowing there are different certian ways and such. In my larger parish we have three aisles, so when there is only one priest we have EMs on the sides.

    I course I can have an opinion. I was honest about what I was making based on, sure I was judging. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Dear Tom Tucker:

    Why should people who want to kneel stand?  Because everybody else does?

    If kneeling is allowed, as you admit, then why should kneeling be an issue at all?

    The mind of the Church is that a local norm can be set so as to have a general uniformity with respect to posture (as opposed to random chaos), but the Church respects the Real Presence to such an extent that the Holy See has explicitly stated that kneeling is not only to be allowed, but that no one may ever be denied Holy Communion for doing so.

    If kneeling when the local custom is standing were as incorrect as you imply, then the Church would have said: These people should never be denied communion, but must be instructed to follow the local norm and should be aware the disobedience to the local norm is, in fact, an act of disobedience to legitimate authority and contrary to the mind of the Holy See.

    But that’s not what the Church said, Tom.

    The Church says that people can kneel and they can’t be denied the Blessed Sacrament for kneeling.

    Strictly regulating posture at Mass becomes ridiculous.  That’s why the Church doesn’t do it.  People have babies and need to sit down sometimes when everyone is standing, or kneeling.  Other people have issues that prevent them from kneeling when everyone else kneels.

    There are general guidelines, but not hard, fast rules in this regard.

    Yes, it would be dumb for someone to stand at the consecration while everyone else kneels, and they should probably sit, not stand, when everyone else is kneeling so as not to stick out, but human nature is such that some people stick out no matter what they do.  People are people.  They do things differently.  They respond to God differently.  So long as their response isn’t sinful or so disruptive as to interrupt the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which is one example of how it could be sinful), why should people be overly concerned about it?

    People aren’t supposed to hold hands at the Our Father.  I go to Churches all the time where this is the local custom.  I don’t make a fuss about it, and I don’t bother running to inform/correct the pastor because I have been around long enough to know its probably a waste of time.

    I will add this, though.  The Church prefers that they respond by kneeling.  The Holy See instinctively recognizes that it is wrong to interfere with that kind of reverence.

    Why then, would you suggest otherwise?

    So here is my solution:

    A local norm for receiving communion while standing in line can be established.

    That local norm is a general guideline, not an inflexible law that is binding in conscience, and certainly not a dogma of the faith.

    A sign of reverence is required before receiving Holy Communion.  A local norm may be set for this sign of reverence as well, but it is as binding in conscience as the norm about standing to receive.

    Kneeling is one sign of reverence, and kneeling to receive Holy Communion does not require any additional sign of reverence.

    So most people can stand (if that is the norm), some can kneel (as is their right), and nobody runs around like a Pharisee trying to browbeat or force anyone to do it one way or the other (just as the Church does not do, or else the Holy See would have come down hard and fast about posture), while everyone recognizes, remembers, and respects, that the Church has a special preference for kneeling.

    See?  It’s really not so difficult.