About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“I left music college swearing never to write another note again … It was during the mid-1980s when esoteric and cerebral avant-garde music was still considered the right kind of music to be writing.”
— James MacMillan

Should Catholics Kneel At Mass?
published 2 March 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

OT LONG AGO, I wrote an article exploring what Msgr. Schuler often called “piccoluomini logic,” but several email messages accused me of creating “straw man” arguments.

Consider the video on the upper right. This was excerpted from a 2013 promotional film for a Catholic church 1 and has been garnering tons of internet attention. In case you have difficulty playing the video, here’s an audio recording:

      * *  Deacon Sandy: “Kneeling At Mass” — Mp3 Audio File

I doubt I could find a better example of piccoluomini logic. It is faulty reasoning which seemingly “proves” the worth of some liturgical practice. But what does the President of the United States have to do with the Holy Eucharist? Our President is not our God. Besides, after the President walks into a classroom, the children sit down while he speaks. They do not remain standing.

When I was in fifth grade, there was a movement in our parish to remove the kneelers. We were told that standing was a sign of respect “in some Asian cultures.” At that point in my life, the theory sounded fresh and exciting, but now I think it’s misguided. More importantly, it’s unbiblical and ignores our tradition — whereas Catholics are called to respect liturgical tradition for weighty reasons. Moreover, kneeling is only natural when man enters into the presence of God.

On 24 February 2014, Deacon Sandy clarified his church’s lack of kneelers:

“The fact that we do not have kneelers dates back to when the church was built in 1957. Canon law allows for an exception for a Catholic Church to not have kneelers in certain circumstances, including ours when there is a period of 30 or more consecutive years when kneelers have not been present. We have permission from our prior archbishop citing the expense that we — a parish facing financial hardship — would incur, and loss of worship space seating that would be caused by adding kneelers.”

In my humble opinion, this video wouldn’t have received so much attention if Deacon Sandy had simply said, “We don’t have kneelers because we can’t afford them.”

PLEASE NOTE: I unequivocally condemn mean-spirited, venomous, and/or needless attacks on liturgies of our fellow Catholics. Usually such attacks indicate that the “attacker” has too much time on his hands. Besides, our world already has enough hatred and division. However, when it comes to public statements about the Catholic liturgy, we have an obligation to stand up for the truth.

I believe the issues at stake here are serious, and I sense a troubling “disconnect” between, on one hand, a purported canonical “loophole” owing to a financial situation, and, on the other, “bragging” about the practice of no kneelers.

I cannot shake the mental image of Archbishop Bugnini, who was able to contravene clear directives from Rome (saying Latin must be included alongside all vernacular Missals) by arguing that Asian printers were too dumb to print Latin characters adequately. One could ask, “Why did the Consilium go along with such a dubious proposal?” Reading a book by Cardinal Antonelli, I’m beginning to understand the answer, and hope to explain more in future posts. In a nutshell, this well-informed Cardinal was shocked by the Consilium’s haphazard procedures. Time and again, he lobbied for rules of order, but even basic ones — like properly recording votes — were lacking. He was also severely distressed by the speed at which Church laws were changing. I’ve mentioned that this was also worrisome to Fr. Georg May, a distinguished Canon lawyer. More on this at later date …


1   Could this be the same Church I visited as a child, when our family was on vacation in Wisconsin? That church also lacked kneelers.