“The bishop is indeed the moderator of the liturgical life of the diocese. However, what concerns a number of the priests in Glasgow is that our Archbishop knowingly exceeds his legitimate authority when he attempts to remove liberties foreseen by the Roman Missal itself.”
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that “the faithful communicate either kneeling or standing, as determined by the Conference of Bishops.” The Instruction adds, “(w)hen they communicate standing, however, it is recommended that they make an appropriate sign of reverence, as determined in the same norms, before receiving the Sacrament.”
In 2002, then-Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, attempted to clarify the issue after receiving complaints from lay Catholics who were being refused communion after kneeling to receive the host.
The Congregation, he wrote in an open letter, “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).”
He went on to add that even when the Congregation has given its approval for a bishops’ conference to make a standing posture the norm, “it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.”
He also highlighted that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, believed the “centuries-old tradition” of kneeling to receive communion 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.”
Cardinal Estévez concluded with a warning that “the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness” and, if those complaints are verified, it would “seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.”
“There is no question of anybody being refused communion if they choose to kneel,” a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow told CNA on Aug. 30.
“The purpose of the bishop’s letter is to encourage, and certainly not diminish, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament by reminding people of the need to make an act of reverence before receiving Holy Communion standing and in procession – which is the overwhelming custom in the diocese and the rest of Europe.”
The latest development is not first time that Archbishop Conti has made headlines for his stance on liturgical matters.
In 2007, he sent an advisory note to all his priests following the publication of Pope Benedict’s document “Summorum Pontificum” on the provision of the older Tridentine Rite in parishes. The archbishop’s guidelines were dubbed the “coldest, most hostile I have read so far” by the renowned Catholic blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.
Archbishop Conti turned 77-years-old earlier this year and has already handed in his resignation to Pope Benedict. His replacement could be announced within the next few months.