A letter by Bishop Morlino highlights the difficulties in giving individual bishops authority about the posture for Mass.
The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal said decisions on posture were to be made by the Conference of Bishops, not the individual bishop. From the 2002 GIRM:
"390. It is up to the Conferences of Bishops to decide on the adaptations indicated in this General Instruction and in the Order of Mass and, once their decisions have been accorded the recognitio of the Apostolic See, to introduce them into the Missal itself. These adaptations include
• The gestures and posture of the faithful"
But in 2003 Cardinal Arinze gave approval for the Unites States of America's Adaptations to the GIRM. These included:
"43. ... The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise."
Bishop Morlino interprets this as allowing him to determine the posture until everyone receives Communion. In his letter of 21 May 2003 he wrote:
"The Bishop has also a certain discretion about the posture of the assembly after the Lamb of God and through the end of the distribution of Communion. Again after careful observation during the recent Confirmation circuit and dialogue with various individuals and some brother bishops, I wish to indicate for the Diocese of Helena, the posture from the end of the Angus Dei until after the distribution of Communion will be kneeling, except for those times when individuals are actually out of the pew proceeding to receive Communion or returning from the reception of Communion."
But Cardinal Arinze has made it clear that he does not want the congregation required to kneel for the whole of Communion. In an address of 11 October 2003 he said: "For example, it seems too rigid to demand that everyone keep standing until the last communicant has received Our Lord. Why not allow those who have received Communion and returned to their seat to stand, or kneel, or sit?" (Notitiae, January 2004, page 20).
I think this indicates that the correct posture is to stand. That is also my interpretation of 2002 GIRM 43. However he allows a relaxation from this correct posture.
I think people should at least be free to choose to the correct posture. My main concern with Bishop Morlino is that he is forcing a posture contrary to the Roman Missal (or at least my interpretation of it).
Hopefully this sort of confusion will be avoided in other countries, by Cardinal Arinze being more careful about allowing individual bishops to determine posture.
Another part of Bishop Morlino's letter which concerned me was on the posture for the Our Father:
"In most places the practice of holding hands during the Our Father continues. While this is permitted for Masses with children, for adults the "orans" posture - that is extending one's hands in prayer in imitation of the priest, at this point is to be preferred. While good pastoral practice does not include reprimanding people for the well meaning gesture of holding hands, perhaps it would be possible to offer the alternative to them in accord with the approach of the new GIRM."
I think the people should all be instructed that the 2002 Roman Missal does not indicate that they should hold hands or use the priet's "orans" posture.
By J.R. Lilburne, 17 July, 2004. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.