Holding Hands In Church

Richard Salbato 12-15-2007

  For more than 20 years now I have attended Mass standing in the back of the Church.  I even did that in my seven years in Fatima. Some who read my books, The Tongues of Satan or The Miracle of Damascus, think it is because I used the pen name, The Publican. He was the man in the back of the Church saying over and over, “Lord, forgive me a sinner”.   But that is not the reason I stand in the back of the Church.

That sounds like a good reason for me to use but it is not the truth.  I could say that it is because I have a bad back and sitting in low seats is not good for me, but that is not the whole truth either.  I could say it is because I have prostrate problems and have to worry about getting to a bathroom quickly but that is not the whole truth either.  I could say that I have claustrophobia and do not like being with a lot of people but that is not the whole truth either.  I could say that now that we use microphones the music is too loud for me, but that is not the whole truth either.  “My house is a house of prayer” and I come to pray and people distract me, but that is not the whole truth either. 

The truth is two things: one is that I believe in obedience and two, I hate the Charismatic Movement. It is from the Charismatic Movement, which started the idea of holding hands in a Satanic Circle of prayer (sensualism).  It is from these Catholic Charismatics who had these Charismatic (speaking in tongues) Satanic Masses that spilled over to the normal (if you can call it normal) Novus Ordo Masses in our Sunday Worship. It started by a few Catholic Charismatics who had gone to Charismatic Conferences and Masses, who came back to their parishes and held hands with each other during the Lord’s Prayer and reached out to other non-Charismatics to hold hands. Not wanting to seem un-friendly these non-Charismatics caved in and held hands. In time, those uninformed Catholics continued this practice or even found it normal and maybe even thinking it part of the continuing changes of the Mass, began to think it normal.  They followed the crowd, just like shoppers follow the crowd to whatsoever everyone else is buying. 

OK! Considering that I am very prejudice against Charismatics (I was in it at one time) and consider it a form of Gnosticism, Pluralism, Sensualism and even the root of the tree regarding the epidemic of false mystics that thing whatsoever comes to their mind must be God talking to them, you might need a better reason to stop this stupidity.  That reason is Obedience to the Rubrics of the Mass. Holding hands violates the law of the Church.

Holding hands during the Our Father, widespread in the United States, is an illicit addition to the liturgy. The official publication of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacrament sand Divine Worship, Notitiae (11 [1975] 226), states the practice "must be repudiated . . . it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on a personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics."

Anything not in the rubrics is unlawful, again because "no other person . . . may add . . . anything to the liturgy on his own authority" (ibid).

Notitiae (17 [1981] 186)) also reaffirms that the priest may never invite the congregation to stand around the altar and hold hands during the Consecration. He stays in the sanctuary and we stay outside of it.

Yes, but your priest will say that he has to obey his bishop and his bishop not only allows these things but even advocates them. He might even say that this is not important and that it is not a de fide statement from Rome and only de fide or ex Cathedra statements are mandatory. If he says these things (which I have heard them say) he is lying or simply does not know his faith.  It is true that the local bishop has some unrestrictive authority on some matters that not even the Holy Father can override: the placement of priests in parishes or the removal of them, the opening or closing of parishes, the financial control of the diocese and even the control of guest priests coming to the diocese. 

But what a local bishop does not have authority over is the sacraments, including the Mass and the architecture of the part of the Church that performs these sacraments.  The sacraments are reserved to the Holy Father alone and a local bishop only has the authority given to him by the Holy Father and nothing more.

One example of this is in the Sacramentary of the Mass.  The Sacramentary is the book that the priest uses in offering the Sacrifice of the Mass.  In this book there are Rubrics (written in red) that no one can change.  There are also some places in the book that allow the bishop or the priest to do some fluctuation from the book and the guidelines. 

As for the priest or bishop saying that only de fide or ex cathedra statements have to be obeyed, he is not telling the truth and he knows it.  The following is from "The Splendor of Truth" by Pope John Paul II.

"Our belief in the teachings of the Church de fide must be an absolute and unconditional one, but we should not imagine that our fidelity to the Church’s theoretical authority is satisfied merely by acceptance of ex cathedra pronouncements. We also must adhere wholeheartedly to teachings of the Church in matters of morality, even if they are not defined ex cathedra. The teachings of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, for example, is binding because its content has always been part of the teaching of the Church; in it we are confronted with the theoretical authority of the Church embodied in the tradition of the ordinary Magisterium. It is not a mere practical commandment of the Church, like the commandment to go to church on Sunday."

The second category is the practical decisions of the Pope and the Church. In this case I must also obey, providing they do not contradict the first category; but ----- even though I must obey, I do not have to accept with my whole heart, soul, and mind. In fact, I am free to speak against the decisions of even the Pope in practical maters, although I am not free to disobey them.

"Though we must obey such a practical decision, we must not approve it; nay, we must even pray for its revocation, and, in full respect, strive with all legitimate measures to persuade the Holy Father of its danger, all the whole proclaiming wholeheartedly: Credo in unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam!"

Two such practical decisions allowed by the Holy Father that I feel free to speak out against are: "Communion in the Hand" and "Standing for Communion". I am not free, however, to disobey; and therefore, I stand for Communion wherever it is done by directive of the local bishop. However, holding hands in church is not something that I can do without a direct disobedience to the Holy Father and even if I wanted to do it, I am not free to disobey him. 

Stop Holding Hands

I understand that if someone reaches out to you to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer and if you refuse you will insult them and even may scandalize them to the point that they will think Catholics are not charitable and loving. This is the reason I stand in the back of the church, so that I do not have to insult these poor people.  But what are the choices: if we do cave in to the holding of hands, we are promoting the Charismatic Movement, and being disobedient to Rome, maybe even sinning against the Rubrics of the Mass. 

So what do we do?  Not everyone can stand behind the Church like I do. I am not sure what to do, because we are facing a conflict between being charitable and being obedient.  I believe the solution to this is for my readers to go from person to person in their parish and educate them until this stops once and for all.

Educate them that holding hands is not permitted.  Educate them that Pope John Paul II’s Redemptionis Sacramentum allows the greeting of peace only to the person right next to you and does not allow you to go all over the church shaking hands with people everywhere as if you were running for political office.  Educate them that Redemptionis Sacramentum does not allow Extraordinary Ministers to pass out Communion in any normal Sunday or Weekday Masses.  Educate them that passing out both the Body of Christ in the bread and the Blood of Christ in the wine is not approved for normal Masses on Sunday or Weekdays. 

For Redemptionis Sacramentum see http://www.unitypublishing.com/liturgy/VaticanMass2004.htm

Just a note to add here for clarification, the angel of Fatima said to Jacinta and Francisco, when giving to them the Blood of Christ from the chalice, “Take and drink the body and blood of Christ”.  So, when we take the bread we take the Body and Blood of Christ and when we take the wine, we take the Body and Blood of Christ, so why both?  The priest does both as a symbol of the Crucifixion and as standing in the place of Christ, be we do not need to do this and this practice is not allowed except in special cases like Marriages and Funerals.   

There are parishes where the ushers will ask you to stand when you’re kneeling. Many churches are being built now without kneelers to discourage you from kneeling at all. This violates the law and does no honor to Christ nor to the martyrs who died rather than compromise the outward signs of their faith.

The celebrant and his ushers can not mandate your posture, the law can, and it does. Everybody at Mass is supposed to be uniform in standing, sitting, and kneeling (GIRM 20), and there are universal rules about it. In this country you are still required to kneel during the Consecration, from after the end of the Sanctus until the Great Amen, even if there aren’t any kneelers (GIRM 21; Appendix to the General Instruction 21).

You are required to bow or kneel at the words "by the power of the Holy Spirit" in the Creed (GIRM 98).

You are required to genuflect whenever you pass the Eucharist, whether it’s in the tabernacle or publicly exposed except when in procession (GIRM 233; CB 71).

And contrary to what you might see these days, the Eucharist’s tabernacle can’t be tucked out of the way. It should be "placed in a part of the church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer" (CIC 938).

After Communion, though, you’re free to stand, sit, or kneel as you choose.

Vatican II never mentioned receiving the host in hand. But when some countries introduced the practice illicitly Pope Paul VI surveyed the world’s bishops to see if it should be allowed where it already existed. Rather than suddenly suppressing reception in the hand, the pope granted an indult intended to let the practice continue for a time in those areas where it already existed. Oddly enough, the bishops of the United States—where the practice did not exist—asked permission of the Holy See to introduce it here. Even more amazingly, they got it.

Still, universal Church law does not permit reception of the Sacrament in the hand, and John Paul II disapproves of the practice. The indult that allowed it specified that reception in the hand "must not be imposed" (CSDW, En réponse, 1969). Absolutely no priest or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may refuse to administer the Eucharist on the tongue. Your right to determine which lawful manner you use is stated in the GIRM (Appendix for the United States, 240b).

The chalice cannot be left on the altar for people to pick up and drink from, not even during lightly attended Masses. The celebrant must distribute the Sacrament (United States Bishops’ Directory on Communion Under Both Species, 47). In fact, you’re not allowed to dip your host into the chalice; you have to take the cup and drink from it (DCUBS 45).

As I said above, as to Eucharistic ministers, it’s important to note that they’re not supposed to help distribute the Sacrament routinely; only if there’s an unusually large number of people at Mass or if they’re sent to distribute extraordinarily outside of Mass, as to the sick. They are not supposed to assist at all when a priest is in attendance. Their office has nothing whatever to do with increased participation by the laity.

The official statement of the rules for reception has recently been rewritten by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and unfortunately it’s pretty vague. But it still says clearly that "in order to be properly disposed to receive communion, participants . . . normally should have fasted for one hour," abstaining from food and drink except water or medicine.

The rewrite also goes to great lengths to say that non-Christians and Christians not in communion with the Church are welcome to come to Mass, but it’s not nearly so clear as it used to be on the fact that they may not receive the Eucharist. The new phrase "ordinarily not admitted to holy communion" makes some Catholics—and too many priests—figure that it’s all right for non-Catholics to take communion on special occasions like weddings or funerals, or if the non-Catholic is a prominent person like a government official or head of state. Exceptions are so few and given in circumstances so rare that it might have been more helpful to write simply "not admitted to holy communion"; but that’s for the bishops to say.

Naturally, you’re also required to be free from "grave" sin—what we all used to call "mortal" sin—which means Reconciliation before reception if you have committed a grave offense. And, no, the theology about what constitutes a grave sin has not changed, even if the terminology has.

Now I leave it up to you, if you do nothing I will continue to stand in the back of the church but if you go out and educate the people in the pew then maybe someday I can again enter the pews like everyone else.