This is an excerpt from American Catholic Etiquette by Kay Toy Fenner, first published by The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, in 1961.

A bishop is a priest who has received the fullness of holy orders, that is, the power to administer confirmation and holy orders as well as all the other sacraments. Most bishops also have other administrative duties above those of a priest. Because of this, special distinction is shown a bishop by all other members of the Church.

A Catholic formally greets a bishop by kissing the ring which is one of his marks of office. When one is greeting a bishop within the diocese of which he is the head, one kneels to kiss his ring.  Properly one should kneel upon the left knee (kneeling on the right knee as a mark of respect is reserved for the Blessed Sacrament); but many people find kneeling on the left knee awkward. If one kneels on the right knee, one need not be concerned; it is a minor lapse of no importance.

It is never wrong, either from a religious or social point of view, to greet a bishop by kissing his ring. It is done at weddings, funerals, ordinations, any entertaining at which the bishop is the host, or meetings of Catholic organizations.

The gesture is sometimes omitted at mixed gatherings, such as the dedication of a public building lest it be misunderstood by non-Catholics present; but it is proper to kiss the episcopal ring under these circumstances if one wishes.

If one has frequent dealing with a bishop because of the nature of one’s work–when one meets him perhaps several times in a day–the usual practice is to kiss the ring at the first daily meeting and to omit the gesture for the remainder of the day.

No layman, religious, or cleric below the rank of bishop sits in the presence of a bishop until he requests one to do so. If seated, one rises when a bishop approaches to address one and remains standing until he invites one to be seated.

At a social gathering, the hostess or chairman says to the bishop, before any others present, “Please be seated, Your Excellency” and indicates a seat on her (his) right. If the bishop arrives after the other guests, all rise when he enters and remain standing until he is seated.

All these marks of respect (except kneeling and kissing the ring) should also be shown all clerics and religious by the laity.

Master of Saint Augustine (Netherlandish, ca. 1490). Scenes from the Life of Saint Augustine of Hippo (detail), ca. 1490. Oil, gold, and silver on wood. Made in Bruges, Flanders, South Netherlands. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1961 (61.199) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.