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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 1: March 2003

Bishop Tafoya's rules:

Legitimate variations? Agree to Disagree?

Dramatic variations among the dioceses are emerging, as bishops move to implement the liturgical regulations of the new Roman Missal, and issue directives concerning the posture of the people at Mass

Among the several bishops who are mandating significant departures from the regulations adopted by the US bishops is Pueblo Bishop Arthur Tafoya, a member of the USCCB Committee on Vocations and chairman of the Committee on Hispanic Affairs.

In a letter to be read to his people just before Lent, Bishop Tafoya wrote:

"As we are about to begin Lent, I wish to revisit the posture for the Eucharistic Prayer within the Diocese of Pueblo. Years ago, when I made the 'suggestion' that we stand during the Eucharistic Prayer the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had not yet determined a posture for the Church in the United States of America.

"Recently, the Conference of Catholic Bishops has determined that after the 'Holy Holy' to after the 'Great Amen' the faithful would kneel. Therefore I am rescinding my previous 'suggestion'.

"In addition, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal has designated the posture of standing during the Communion Rite. This means that the faithful stand when the reception of the Communion of the Faithful begins and remain standing while all in the assembly receive Communion. When the presider [sic] has returned to his chair after Communion, the faithful may kneel or sit at this time. The appropriate posture for receiving Communion is to stand.

"Beginning on the First Sunday of Lent, March 8 and 9, 2003, the faithful of this diocese shall follow these regulations. This is being done so that our diocese will be in unity with the rest of the United States Church and in communion with Rome and the new document, General Instruction of the Roman Missal. (2002).

"I thank you for your cooperation and assure you of my prayers".

Constant practice of thirty-four years

Since November 1969 the rule in the United States has been that the people kneel throughout the Eucharistic Prayer.

After a lengthy discussion in the mid-1990s, the bishops voted to reaffirm this practice -- although several influential liturgists strongly urged changing the posture to standing during the Eucharistic Prayer and throughout the entire Communion rite. To justify the elimination of kneeling it was argued that kneeling is incompatible with the Resurrection spirit; kneeling is a medieval innovation; kneeling is individualistic and not communal; the Second Vatican Council radically altered the theology of the Eucharist, and standing is the only posture compatible with this new theology.

But most US bishops rejected these arguments and voted to retain the customary posture. And a sentence was added to the universal norm on posture at Mass (IGMR 43) expressly affirming that wherever there is a custom of kneeling, this is "laudably retained".

Bishop Tafoya is not alone in ordering variations from the US norms where customary kneeling is indicated. Similar directives have recently been given by the Bishop William L Higi, (Lafayette, Indiana), Archbishop Alexander Brunett (Seattle), and Bishop Dale Melczek (Gary).

There have also been distress signals from Catholics in Florida (Orlando and St. Petersburg dioceses), and several dioceses in California, including a number from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and its suffragan sees. In 1997, Cardinal Roger Mahony published a pastoral letter on the Liturgy, "Gather Faithfully Together", that advocated innovations such as standing throughout the Communion rite, extraordinary emphasis on "community", processions, etc. The pastoral letter (a principal author was said to be Gabe Huck) represented Cardinal Mahony's vision of the Liturgy for the year 2000, when all the innovations therein were to have been implemented.

Most bishops who are implementing the "American adaptations" now are doing so in unity with their brother bishops in the US Conference. Some are beginning the process with liturgical conferences - such as the archdiocese of Denver, featuring Cardinal Francis Arinze as principal speaker (see story in this issue.)

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