Father Tran and the Diocese of Orange clarify remarks made in the LA Times article.
The LA TIMES, Sunday, May 28, 2006, story about the liturgical practices at St. Mary’s
by the Sea stated that the determination of some parishioners to kneel during the Agnus
Dei at Mass was a `mortal sin’ because it violated the liturgical norm (to stand) of the
province of the USCCB Region XI (CA, Hawaii and Nevada)
The LA TIMES article quoted from Fr. Martin Tran’s weekly bulletin column in which
he addressed the issue of respect for the general liturgical norms and practices of the
Roman Catholic Church approved by the Vatican, the US Conference of Catholic
Bishops and Bishop Tod Brown.
His article resulted from ongoing local differences and rejection of various liturgical
practices by a small group of parishioners. Here is the quote in question from Fr. Tran’s
"As I said before, Liturgy is the `public worship of the Church whose authority
belongs only to Rome, the national Conference of Catholic Bishops and the local
bishop, and not a private worship or business which belongs to any person(s)
or group that can take it into their own hands by intentionally setting their own
norms, disregarding the permission from the local Bishop or despising the
authority of the local Bishop, and the National Conference of one’s country. That
is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin, separating oneself from
the Church. The reason for this is that all the current liturgical norms of the
Diocese and of the U.S. are officially recognized and allowed by Rome.
Fr. Tran regrets any concern or hurt caused by the misuse of the term "mortal sin" in this
context. The Diocese concurs with Fr. Tran’s clarification.
The bulletin article by Fr. Tran was never about "kneeling" or "standing" during Mass, it
was about respect for the liturgical practices of the Church as approved by the Pope.
Pretty much as Jimmy Akin dissected the situation in that the Times went further than what was actually said. Though the original statement is still pretty ironic for the liturgical norm challenged diocese where diversity does not include kneeling.
Update: Jimmy Akin looks at the clarification and is less than impressed with it and charitably calls attention to some "drafting problems" with it that in one cases spins the original bulletin column and in another makes a statement about liturgical norms USCCB Region XI that is likely just not true.
Gerald publishes some letters from parishioners of Father Tran’s parish that while Fr Tran is now saying that kneeling is not a mortal sin he considered it serious enough to dismiss two altar servers, an altar server coordinator, and someone from a parish council.
I wonder if they might make some changes to the lectionary there.
.. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. (Except within the Diocese of Orange and wherever prohibited by the local ordinary)
The Mass is not about diversity. It’s about unity. I too prefer kneeling, but our Bishop has also said “stand” after the Agnus Dei. Hence, I will stand. No need for sour grapes about it. Worship the Lord with Joy! Standing or kneeling!
If it is about unity then, why does Bishop Brown allow standing at the Consecration in the same Diocese? I don’t think it is a matter of sour grapes at all. It is a matter of selective enforcemnt. Why did Father Tran state he wasn’t talking about kneeling. Go to Gerald’s “Feeling the Heat?” and see the letters about kneeling signed by Father Tran. Someone is not being honest here, thats obvious!
I agree, Mel, that we should obey the bishop’s legitimate authority, and worship the Lord with joy regardless.
However, you can see why people are getting a bit tired of this, when the only norms that are adhered to and enforced by certain priests and bishops are the ones that prevent people from showing reverence in traditional ways. They will ignore every directive from Rome, until someone wants to kneel, and suddenly they get all papal on everyone. When you are singled out, it tends to make you want to be rebellious.
It is, however, a good and holy thing to resist that urge. We should submit to our superiors for the sake of Christ, and have filial love and show public respect for even wicked pastors; besides, we orthodox Catholics have to set the example for our errant brethren, not become like them.
But you can still understand the feelings.
Is anything else considered a mortal sin at Fr. Tran’s parish? Has he been asked this? Is he the only priest in the U.S. with no contraceptors, adulterers, porn connaisseurs, oppressive government functionaries, or crooked businessmen in his congregation, all taking the Sacrament every week without going near a confessional?
Please read the letters from Fr. Tran under “Feeling the heat ? ” located at
They will help in the discussion.
Our parish went throughthis nonsense about 8 years ago. I went along at first, but then I wised up. I finally figured out that it was just the thin edge of the wedge, trying to turn us into presbyterians. It was shortly followed by the “WEAVERS” program (Womyn Experiencing someting Via something Ritual and Song). This program explicitly teaches witchcraft to middle-aged Catholic women. Then they moved the tabernacle.
Tha’s when I finally found the courage to refuse. I started kneeling regardless, as did my wife and 8 (at the time) kids. Right up front. We wrote to the bishop, but we never raised a fuss, we never responded to demands, we never resisted pressure. We just knelt when it was appropriate to do so. Within a month a majority of the parish was kneeling with us. Then one day the bishop died and the chancellor (now Bishop Thomas of Helena) within a week issued a clarification that we were to follow the rubrics of the missal, with no adaptations.
The priest was laicised some years later over a different matter (preaching out of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and refusing to recant).
How dare you kneel in the Presence of the Living God!!!!!!!!!!
Fr. Jim Tucker had a good post on this general topic that made a big impression on me when I read it,
Whether to Bend the Knee?
I know nothing of Fr. Tran and Bishop Brown, and there may well be inconsistency in how that Diocese conducts its rubrics. However, I am hearing a lot of chest thumping about kneeling….If we are to kneel in the presence of our LORD in the Eucharist, B&B,S&D, then why aren’t we kneeling during the “Our Father”, the Kiss of Peace, and during the Agnus Dei as well? We should be on our knees from the moment of consecration to benediction. The reason is that it is OK to stand!
So why is it that Eastern Catholics the norm is to stand? Are they less holy than Romans? I appreciate kneeling as much as any orthodox Catholic that posts here, but the Bishop is the Bishop, no matter how human or inconsistent he is. Worship Christ with Joy! Standing or Kneeling!
Ummmm…. hate to break your bubble, but Eastern Catholics get down on the floor and prostrate themselves in front of the Eucharist in the tabernacle at every single Eucharistic Liturgy. They do it three times, at the very end.
They understand Who it is up there — that’s how they show it.
The Roman way of showing it, for centuries, was to kneel during certain times in the Mass.
So, if we’re standing just like the Eastern church now, why are we not getting down on our belly at the end of Mass like they do?
The point is…. every Mass needs a physical sign of adoration and worship from the laity to the Eucharist.
The faithful of the Eastern rites would flip if their bishops told them, “no more prostrating.” So why should we accept “no more kneeling?”
I’ll kneel if I have to do it in the street in front of the building. The local guy doesn’t have the right to tell me whether to kneel or not. Period.
Reminds me of being a seminarian (briefly) at St. Vincent’s (Latrobe, Pa.) back in the ’90s. They might let you get away with wearing a cassock, but kneeling after the Agnus Dei made you unsuitable for the priesthood. Little wonder we are short on priests these days and the ones we have are making kneeling a mortal sin while downplaying child sex abuse.
BTW–wouldn’t handholding during the “Our Father” also be a mortal sin? Bet Father Tran won’t be trying to get rid of those people.
But if we’re standing, we’re supposed to “bow profoundly” — you know, like a nice deep Japanese bow. Even if you’re not supposed to kneel, you could certainly bow profoundly. A forest of correctly bowed heads and backs is probably not what the bishop has in mind, though.
However, I think I would encourage a bunch of elderly people to go sit up in front, one by one clutch their hearts after standing for a while, and then wobble their way to sitting down on the pews or kneeler. Anybody who has leg problems can do this, too (minus the hearts). Teenage girls can manifest the symptoms of fainting.
Some priests and bishops don’t understand pastoral care, and some of them don’t understand tradition. But they all understand liability.
(This isn’t entirely a joke, either. There’s been times in the past year when even when I got well, I was still so weak from sickness that standing still at Mass was a real trial. I’d hate to be really frail and have to stand all that time.)
As a Melkite (Eastern Rite Catholic), I have to take issue with your position, Mel.
First, the historical Tradition of the Eastern churches has been standing as a form of reverence… for the ENTIRE Divine Liturgy, which normally takes about 2 hours. Do the Latins stand during the epistles, readings, etc? Do they also take on the (very rigorous!) Lenten fast which eliminates all meat, diary and fish?
They obviously do not, and so if we’re being honest, the most likely explaination of the “don’t kneel” mandatum (with the threat of mortal sin and eternal damnation no less!) is just another example of American Catholicism’s rejection of Western Orthodox Tradition.
Likewise, to use leavened bread (the Eastern standard) in a Latin church would be scandalous, as would the converse in an Eastern Church. No Western bishop can force the leavened Eucharist upon his flock, any more than an Eastern bishop may (licitly) declare that Unleavened Mysteries will be the norm.
I cannot judge this Bishop’s heart, but I can (and must) judge his actions. And his actions align well with the Psalmist’s decree: Woe unto them that call good evil, and evil good.
Let’s keep in mind that remaining standing after the Agnus Dei is not the same as standing during the Canon or Institution narrative. It is a legitimate option in current liturgical law and consistent with the Latin Rite tradition. The bishop and pastor in question here (despite other errors) were not banning kneeling from the liturgy. It’s important to keep in mind exactly what happened and make our judgments based on that.
You and I are in agreement, standing is the norm for Eastern Catholics, it was Cin who was claiming that standing was not the norm.
I am so torn on this whole issue. I know that obedience is part of believing, but I also know that St. Paul taught that he was careful not to cause scandal to fellow Christians.
For the life of me, I cannot see how kneeling became an issue in the first place, but when considered in light of other documented problems in the diocese I would have to recommend sending that documentation to the Vatican and requesting mediation or guidance.
Vatican II never recommended going back to earlier practices. That is a Puritan (read Protestant) argument that does not understand the promise of Jesus that the Holy Spirit would lead us to remember and better understand Jesus’ teachings over time, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. That people stood after the Agnus Dei prior to 435 A.D. only tells me that they may not yet have internalized what the unity of Jesus’ human and divine natures really means.
The Apostle whom Jesus loved, that reclined on His breast at the Last Supper, threw Himself down prostrate before the glorified Jesus in Revelation. I should do no less; however I can see that this is not possible in a large Church setting.
Kneeling, however, is possible. When we are glorified, with no sin and no attachment to sin, I may be permitted to be casual about His presence, but rather hope that the gratitude, reverence, and awe I now have will be geometrically increased, rather than decreased by the perfection granted me.
In my understanding, it truly seems as if heresy, a stressing of Jesus’ humanity at the expense of His divinity is at the root of this. I pray for all involved, and also hope that the people who have accumulated all this evidence put it into a multimedia cd and send it to the proper authorities in Rome. I believe Father Fessio helped another diocese do the same thing a few years past.
In Christ’s peace and love,
Robin L. in TX
“That people stood after the Agnus Dei prior to 435 A.D. only tells me that they may not yet have internalized what the unity of Jesus’ human and divine natures really means.”
I fail to see how standing after the Agnus Dei is an implicit denial of the divinity of Jesus when standing during the Agnus Dei and prior is not. Standing in the presence of Our Eucharistic Lord by the congregation has been a part for centuries and continues to be a part of the Latin Rite. We can talk about the value and necessity of kneeling, but keep in mind that we aren’t kneeling at all times during the liturgy.
Now, one may argue that we should be kneeling from the Epiclesis through the parts in which we normally stand until we receive communion out of reverence for the sacramental Presence of Jesus. That is a consistent opinion. But to overlook the fact that we stand after the Great Amen and then see a failure to re-kneel after offering prayers in the Presence of Jesus as a denial of Christ’s divinity is inconsistent. The fact is that kneeling after the Agnus Dei is an arbitrary point that only differs from the “standing part” preceeding it by the fact that there are no prayers being offered by the congregation at that time. In fact, it would make a lot MORE sense to kneel while offering the Agus Dei prayer directed to Jesus, than immediately after.
As regards kneeling in other countries, the norm in most of the world is only to kneel during the Epilesis and Institution Narrative, such as the deacon does. The American bishops petitioned for and received permission to extend kneeling until the Great Amen. Heh, how’s that for irony? 😉
Does this make sense or am I completely missing something?
It’s funny, the sisters who ran my so-called “Catholic” all-girls school in the Chicago suburbs encouraged us to disobey any priest who wasn’t supportive of our feelings.
If I feel like I should kneel, I should. No matter what any MAN says…
I bet this wasn’t what they had in mind. Oh well…
As regards the larger issue of reverent posture in worship, I would like to throw out a couple of reminders..
First, we must remember that God is omnipresent (stick with me; I’m not going where you might think…). We can and should worship God everywhere we go in many ways. This not be outwardly expressed as we walk through a crowd or ride on a bus. But being fleshy beings, we should worship God with our whole body when possible. Thus, we can kneel, prostrate ourselves, make the sign of the Cross, et cetera in many places, consecrated or otherwise.
Now, Christ, through the Church, has given us the liturgy, a foretaste of the heavenly worship to come. When engaged in the liturgy, we must practice it as the Church directs, not as we feel it should be or as an expression of our own holiness or insight. We must be reminded that our posture of kneeling (including the most stringent and proudly POD regulations and customs in our tradition) don’t even come close to approaching the reverence due to God as creatures. Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Eucharist. Our posture reflects this, but don’t think that any of our “ideal” liturgical practices would be how we would relate to Our Lord were his divine majesty fully made manifest. We wouldn’t simply be kneeling until it was time to approach him. No, we would be on our faces and likely sliding backwards, hoping that we survived the experience, not unlike the Israelites who begged that they would no longer hear God’s voice.
God allows us to approach him and receive him by assuming the form of bread and wine. Give him the due reverence in your body as directed by the Church and always seek giving him more reverence with your heart, but do not fall into believing that you (or anyone else) has given him his due. Not only does it stunt our spiritual relationship with God, but it causes us to look down on those whose outward expression of faith is not as ours.
That you stand up at all is a tremendous presumption of faith.
I think the bishops have brought this disobedience on themselves. We’d be hard pressed to find an example of when a bishop decided to stick with tradition because his flock peacefully and respectfully petitioned him to do so. But, we could do a 12-hour mini-series on the times bishops and priests caved into dissenters who actively practiced disobedience (and that 12 hours would include only the most picturesque moments–we’d have to present the rest in an 24-DVD collector’s edition). Lesson learned. If you want something from the clerical class, engage in active disobedience. Tradition-minded folk know that the only option is getting run over — again.
Did not the church have this problem some 500 years ago and a wonderful courageous saint/Pope, who actually fought off the evils of Islam, codified a mass that was supposed to have been said “into perpetuity”-until some liberal reformers with other than Catholic ideals as well as Popes I have to say-decided they knew better than St Pope Pius V as well as the Council of Trent-and using words weaved as crafty a an OJ lawyer- somehow still conclude that the Council of Vatican II was somehow not pastoral as it did not “reteach previous catholic doctrine” and was able to turn the church and her teachings into basically a new religion
So now some 40-60 years later-as liturgical reform actually started at the end of WWII-here we are with a new Mass, new code of canon law, new catechism, new tranlations of the New American Bible to make it “politically correct” and not offend Jews or woman and the DR bible is only found on traditional websites-and we have Bishops and priests and laypersons discussing whether one should kneel during the consecration of our Lords body and blood, something that people used to fight to see, hence the reason for the introduction of the raising of it during the middle ages-with kneelers ripped out and the tabernacles moved off to the side near the candles or whatever saint.
Has the church been infiltrated by unholy clergy? You decide for yourself-and for your family what is best
You and I are in agreement, standing is the norm for Eastern Catholics, it was Cin who was claiming that standing was not the norm.”
If you think you are in agreement with Ortho, you are literate in only the most superficial sense.
Re-read what Ortho wrote, consult a dictionary if needed, consider his actual point and then come back and tell us if you are in agreement with Ortho.
While you are at it, reread what Cin wrote and then post the applicable quotes to back up your claim that Cin argues that standing is not the norm in the Eastern Church.
Aside to all others: And some people have the audacity to expect to be taken seriously!!!
What is going on in the church? We have a lot of bishops who in the first place are not fit to be ordained as bishops. I bet Father Tran is the bishop’s friend. In term of committing a mortal sin by not kneeling. The priest and his bishop hace coomitted a mortal sin themselves by dividing a parish community. They have their own agenda and it is very sad.
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