Jesus facepalmThis week Jesus’ liturgical facepalm is awarded to those who refuse to bless children at communion time. E-popular Roman Catholics Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Deacon Greg Kandra helped viralise Father Cory Sticha’s blog post, Why I refuse to bless children at Communion.

The key, according to them, is Sacrosanctum Concilium (paragraph 22): “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” Blessing non-communicants at communion time, apparently, is adding to and changing the liturgy.

What’s the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist?
You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Deacon Greg (naively?) thinks he is sidestepping his own debate by using words such as “Receive Jesus in your heart”, “which”, he says, “is not a blessing but simply an admonition”. Sorry, Greg, aside from creating a new discussion about when is a blessing not a blessing, the point wasn’t about “blessings”, the point you brought up was “adding, removing, or changing anything in the liturgy” and that’s exactly what you are doing.

Some points from me:

  • Someone significant to this conversation once said: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath”. I think that insight applies here – as it does to so much of what consumes the time and energy of the church currently.
  • I’m passionate about communicating all the baptised. If your theology includes baptising children, I struggle to understand why it would not include communicating children.
  • Liturgical regulations can suffer from archaeological fantasies that we are living in some bygone era. In the early church all present would have been communicants and non-communicants (if any were allowed in) would have left prior to the Eucharistic Prayer. We are not living in a pre-Constantinian or Constantinian context. In our post-Constantinian context there are communicants and non-communicants present at communion time.
  • The blessing at the end of the Eucharist is a relatively later addition to the liturgy, increasing as non-communicating presence increased at the Eucharist. It cannot now be used as a reason not to bless non-communicants at communion time, as that final blessing itself is an “addition”.
  • We are talking not just about non-communicating children, we are talking about Roman Catholic divorcees, and those not in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, etc.
  • At which point is something an “addition or alteration” to the agreed liturgy?
  • If some present themselves at communion time to the priest, hands together (mouth closed), or arms crossed across their chest, what is a priest to do? Explaining at that point to “go away” (or doing so by gesture) surely is also an “addition or alteration” to the rite? Announcing at each Eucharist that there will be no blessings at communion time is, surely, also an “addition or alteration” to the rite?
  • The discussion is a luxury. Many Christian communities do not have children and young people and non-communicants present. Those of you who do have these – don’t stuff it up: don’t let the experience be one of unnecessarily excluding them.

A life-size statue of face-palm Jesus (pictured above) will be delivered to the community where the priest refuses to bless children and others at communion time. This community will be required to sprinkle the statue with holy water, cense it, and chant the Miserere. A 13½ inches (34 cm) replica will be delivered to the priest. He will be required each week to light a candle before it and say three Lord’s Prayers, three Hail Marys, and three Glory be to the Fathers for the inclusion of everyone in God’s family.

Double Facepalm

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