Obedience or Disobedience... liturgical policies?

In my area, there are many parishes. A few are conservative, others coined more liberal. Over the past few years I have become reacquainted with my faith and are starting to see the differences come to light.

With the recent H1N1 virus, many are being asked to receive on the hand instead of the tongue. The parish I attend is very much traditional, even having a communion rail at the front, in which communion is distributed by kneeling, which is not the norm in the diocese. The majority of parishioners receive on the tongue. There are some in our parish, who when they go to other parishes, will not receive in the hand. In fact, they are in many ways being confrontational about it, saying I refuse to take it in the hand and are stating that they are being “refused” the Eucharist. I see their point about reverence in receiving on the tongue, however, it seems like they are making more of a ruckus than being good Catholics. After all, we are there to worship the Lord and receive him.

This brings up the question of obedience and “honoring thy father”, hence the Bishop who has stated we should receive in the hand for now. While discussing this subject with those on all sides of the issue, a seminarian offered the thought of obedience. His opinion is that we should obey the bishop, as he is obliged to obey his superiors as a seminarian. If he is asked to do something, he should, with the exception of if the issue would cause sin. It was said that there is nothing sinful about receiving on the hand. If the action of receiving on the hand was sinful, then it is a problem. So, the premise lies in sin.


There is nothing sinful about receiving communion, whether on the tongue or hand.

You can follow your Bishop, who has authority in your diocese via the Apostles and his ordination, or you can choose to follow your own/other guidance.

The reverence required for the Eucharist in the heart and soul, not in the body part that receives it.

While I do not see how reception on the tongue can be a vector of transmission of H1N1 virus (or any other pathogen), should I be within the jurisdiction of a bishop who is urging reception in the hand pro tem, I would yield to the scruples of the weaker brethren, and receive on my hand.

Well for one thing, there is no obligation to receive at every Mass, so if a person is convinced that receiving in the hand is sinful and the bishop has dictated that receiving on the tongue is suspended for public health reasons, the person could simply choose to make a Spiritual Communion.

I think the possibility of transmission from the tongue to the hand of the minister and then to the next person is what is being avoided.

Ironically, the “weaker brethren” in Romans refers to the more scrupulous believer. But your first sentence is the critical point. And reception in the hand has been approved, so it is not as if the bishops are trying to get people to do something that is prohibitted by Rome.

Recieving on the tounge is not an issue of obedience. This is a matter that has been defined by Rome, specifically that the reception of the Eucharist on the tounge is the universal norm, but countries can request an indult that allows for the reception in the hand.

A local bishop cannot override what Rome has decreed. So perhaps you misunderstood your bishop, and that the bishop simply requested that the faithful recieve in the hand, as opposed to obligated them to do so?.

Some thoughts (or as I like to call them facts) on norms. There are, in the US, two norms on the reception of the Eucharist to be contemplated: the universal norm approved for the whole Church (adherence to which is *never *disobedience) and the norm for the United States approved in addition to the universal norm.

The seminarian owes a different kind of obedience to the bishop (of the same kind, but different degree, than a priest). To say that all of the laity are to surrender even prudential judgement to the clergy (which is what the seminarian in your account suggest) is to endorse clericalism. His argument is based on the false premise that the bishop is owed that degree of obedience independent (and contrary to) the expressed intention of the Church.

Oh, and a thought about ruckus and “good” Catholics, I see no reason the two can’t go hand in hand (the Church would have fallen into the Arian heresy if God didn’t send a few saints to cause a ruckus; orthodoxy prevailed in several early counsels because of the fear of monks with staves [side note: yay, Cistercians!])

I do not understand what you mean – How can there possibly be two norms?


I would agree with you :thumbsup:, why do we need a second?

The Latin Rite has, as its norm, that communion should be received on the tongue while kneeling (this was never changed after Vatican II, common practice to the contrary). At the same time, conferences of bishops (not individual dioceses) were allowed to ask for an indult to allow reception in the hand, and to state a norm for posture (standing or kneeling). If the bishops had not named another norm, then kneeling would be the only norm.

However, the Vatican has repeatedly made it clear that the local norms do not prevent people from following the universal norm and those that do choose to follow it cannot be accused of disobedience. (also try searching the forums, this has been hashed out many times, I am sure.)

The Vatican has what are called Universal Norms, that is they apply to the entire Church, everywhere.

A bishop, or group of bishops, may request what is called a “Particular Norm”. It is kind of the relationship between Federal Law and State Law.

A Particular Norm, such as reception in the hand, or standing, only takes presidence over a Universal Norm if it was specifically approved as such. Neither the norm of receiving in the hand, or for standing, was approved in that way.

When multiple norms exists ( Universal and Particular) they are supposed to be additive.

In the US, the particular norm to recieve in the hand ADDS to the Universal Norm of recieving on the tounge, so in the US, we may choose one or the other.

If someone attempts to place them in conflict ( which no one should really do), the Universal Norm takes precedence.

All, thanks for the comments.

Here’s the situation. This is what the bishop of the diocese has posted in regards to receiving:

“Holy Communion should be distributed only into the hands of communicants and not on the tongue.”

I’ve been told that the faithful cannot be denied reception of the Eucharist if they are in proper form. In this instance, these faithful say that since they will not receive in the hand (only on the tongue), they are being denied reception- That is, they cannot be denied reception on the tongue by what Rome says.

Personally, I’ve chosen to receive on the tongue if the particular parish lets me, however, I have no problem standing with my hands in the proper gesture to receive. I was just wondering if the faithful who demand reception on the tongue are being a little disobedient.

The issue is that I am in an area where there is a very liberal stance across the diocese on many issues. The more orthodox laity and parishes are up in arms about it, and I wonder if the reception issue is being used to make a point. I’m just trying to figure out as a faithful Catholic, where the line should be drawn on obedience.

there is nothing sinful about receiving communion in the hand

there is a huge sin involved in deliberate, public, confrontational disobedience of one’s bishop.

There aren’t two norms. There is one norm (on the tongue) and one permitted exception (in the hand if certain conditions are met).

In any case, it’s possible to have “two norms” if both are equal–for example, we don’t have “one norm” for the penitential rite, we have several norms. We might also say that we have “one norm” with “several options” but that’s just parsing words.

puzzleannie, there is nothing disobedient in receiving on the tongue. It is not within the bishop’s authority to abolish it, even temporarily (unlike reception in the hand).

To understand obedience we need a proper understanding of authority. If the bishop does not have the authority to change something, it is not sinful disobedience (let alone “a huge sin”) to not follow the directive (perhaps unless you have vowed obedience to the bishop, as a consecrated virgin or hermit). Prudence can suggest the course ml78 is taking, and some people would use this as a capital ‘i’ Issue, which would be at the least imprudent (perhaps, depending on what is in the persons heart it may be sinful).

[quote=Redemptionis Sacramentum,92] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue,[178] at his choice if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

the footnote above citing:

[quote=GIRM, 161]161. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ). The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes it entirely.

I don’t think there is a bishop anywhere in the country who has mandated reception in the hand during the epidemic under pain of mortal sin. I think they have suggested it and given guidelines to pastors and other ministers, but I don’t think they have made any statement at all that would render this sinful. What is sinful is a willful, intransigent attitude of disobedience against one’s bishop, an attitude that always looks for way to disobey his directives, simply for the sake of disobeying. The ;issue is irrelevant. The people who choose latin Mass, kneeling for communion or any “traditionalist” issue as an excuse to display their dissidence are in precisely the same position as those who use women’s ordination or homosexual priests as their issue. I note that on Sunday Night Live both Fr. Groeschel and Archbishop Dolan agree with my assessment.

I’m having a hard time following you here. First you say (and rightly so) that it’s only a suggestion and that it is not mandated. Then you say that to do otherwise is an act of disobedience. How can it be disobedience if something is not mandated in the first place but only suggested?

A couple things, a quick google search of the direct quote (by the OP on the first page) gives this result: “Adaptations of Liturgical Norms in response to a request from the County Health Department” Diocese of San Jose. It could be taken as a suggestion or a mandate, but there it is.

Of course there is the fact that reception on the tongue cannot be disobedience in the first place (see the last post on page 1, quoting both RS and the GIRM). Also attributing “dissidence” or motives of disobedience to people who desire to participate in the Sacraments in a manner that is recognized by the Church (communion kneeling, on the tongue, and the Extraordinary Form have all bee recognized as being legitimate desires of the faithful) is quite troubling (and I don’t care who, short of the Pope himself agrees with the contrary). Certainly we can state that the devotees of the EF, even if out of a spirit of disobedience (if we were to grant that possible), are not in the same boat as the women priestesses and their immediate supporters, who have been excommunicated.

Full disclosure, I almost exclusively attend the EF myself.

Found what you referred to on SNL. A tangent from a question on vocations, but starting where they are discussing the EF (49:10-51:30):

[quote=Sunday Night Live]I am certainly open to people wanting to use the Latin liturgy. And it is often a sign of orthodoxy, I haven’t met anybody who likes the Latin liturgy who is somewhat unorthodox. They go together. On the other hand, and I would have taken the time to learn the Latin liturgy, but my arm is broken…
Ahh so it would be hard for you to…
and I can’t say the traditional, couldn’t say the traditional prayer- Mass. I said that mass for 6 years, I said my first Mass entirely in Latin. On the other hand, people can use it to be very divisive, and I don’t think that’s helpful (unclear).
No… and there would even be some that would deny the validity of what we call the Novus Ordo, the Mass of Paul VI, and that of course is not…that’s unorthodox

It’s heresy [ed note, I couldn’t tell who said this]
It (unclear) the authority of the Pope. You know, the Pope himself has said this to us and the Pope himself, /I was there/ he says the vernacular liturgy. That’s going over the…
That’s way over the top, and thank God that most,… the great majority, don’t say that you’re right.
When you get too far to the left, or too far to the right, you’re going around and you’re gonna to meet at (unclear)
… and you start shaking hands

And the Very strange thing is there’s a very, very super conservative group that says that no priests are ordained since Pope Pius XII, so you and I are out.
Oh, Darn it!
So when they get together they say the Mass /without a priest/. And at the same time, you have the group that’s on radical on feminist, and getting women priests so /they don’t/ have a Mass with a priest, as well.
So they could concelebrate! There you got it.


Fr Benedict in black, Archbishop Dolan in blue

A little different than you portrayed it. The sede vacanists are in a similar position to the priestesses movement, but that has little to no bearing on the discussion at hand.

Who here is advocating such an approach? If my bishop asked/suggested that I not receive Communion on my tongue, I would politely express my desire to continue receiving on the tongue (since it is my right). This isn’t for the sake of disobeying my bishop – I have no reason to do so! – but for the sake of retaining a right granted me by higher authority than my bishop.

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