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Question 76. A friend of mine, who happens to be the father of a Catholic priest is a member of a Masonic lodge. He claims that the prohibition against Catholics joining the Masonic order is no longer in force and the Church now allows Catholics to be Masons. Is this so? -Anon.
Answer. The Church, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has formally declared that Catholics who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. This declaration (See below), which is the most recent teaching of the Church, has affirmed nearly 300 years of papal pronouncements against Freemasonry on the grounds that the teachings of the Lodge are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.
The Church’s declaration on Freemasonry exposes Catholic Masons to a number of penalties under canon law. For example, a Catholic who is aware that the Church authoritatively judges membership in Freemasonry to be gravely sinful must not approach Holy Communion (c. 916). The Church imposes the duty upon all grave sinners not to make a sacrilegious communion. Such a Catholic Mason who is aware of the grave sin must receive absolution in a sacramental confession before being able to receive communion again, unless there is a grave reason and no opportunity to confess (c. 916). This confession, in order to be valid, also requires the Catholic Mason to renounce his Masonic membership.
Further, because membership in Freemasonry is an external or public condition, the Catholic Mason can be refused Holy Communion by the pastors of the Church for obstinately persevering in his Masonic membership (c. 915). Such a Catholic Mason would also be forbidden from receiving the Anointing of the Sick (c. 1007) as well as ecclesiastical funeral rites if public scandal were to result (c. 1184, §1, °3).
Canon 1364 also imposes an automatic excommunication upon apostates, heretics, or schismatics. This canon could also apply to Catholic Masons. If, for example, a Catholic Mason embraced the theological teachings of Freemasonry that the Church has condemned (indifferentism, syncretism), he would be in heresy by virtue of his belief in these teachings. Further, if a Catholic Mason knew the Church opposes membership in Freemasonry, and yet adamantly and persistently refused to submit to the pope’s authority in precluding his membership in the Lodge, he may also find himself in schism. Catholic Masons could also be subject to canon 1374, which imposes an interdict or just penalty upon those who join associations that plot against the Church.
For the canonical penalties to apply, the Catholic Mason would have to act in a gravely imputable way (that is, the Catholic would have to be aware of the Church’s teaching on Freemasonry and, after being warned about it, choose to disregard it). In my personal experience, a fair number of Catholic Masons do act in a gravely imputable way in regard to their Masonic membership. In these cases, the canonical penalties, including excommunication, apply. The Church's penalties are not meant to alienate the person on whom the penalty is levied. Instead, the penalties are meant to communicate to the person the gravity of his conduct, encourage his repentance and reconciliation with the Church, and bring him back into the one fold of Christ. After all, the mission of the Church is the salvation of souls.
DECLARATION ON MASONIC ASSOCIATIONS
Issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 26, 1983.
It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.
This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance is due to an editorial criterion, which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.
Therefore the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.
It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73  pp. 240-241).
In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration, which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.
Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.
JOSEPH Card. RATZINGER
+ Fr. JEROME HAMER, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium
Someone has been placing books entitled "Stories from Heaven" in the vestibule
of our church. These are stories apparently revealed to a mystic in California
in the 1970s? These books also speak of the "Miracle of St. Joseph." What
exactly is the "miracle" and has the Church approved these revelations? - J. L.
Answer. The purported revelations, known variously as "the miracle of St. Joseph" or "The City of God-St. Joseph's Hill of Hope" were given to Frances Marie Klug, known as "Mother Frances" to her devoted followers, in Southern California beginning in 1967. The contents of the revelations are contained in a thirty-five-volume series of books titled Stories from Heaven.
According to her devotees, Klug acts as the
spiritual medium for Christ and the saints. Her voice is said to change when the
heavenly personages are supposedly speaking through her. She is referred to as
the "funnel"* and "instrument" of heavenly teaching.
The so-called "locutions" of Frances Klug are at variance with the authentic and authoritative teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. St Joseph's Hill of Hope is NOT a Catholic institution.
More than twenty years ago, His Eminence, the late Most Reverend Timothy Cardinal Manning (Archbishop of Los Angeles), and Their Excellencies, the late Most Reverend William R. Johnson (Bishop of Orange in California) and the Most Reverend Phillip F. Straling (then Bishop of San Bernadino) promulgated a document declaring the alleged "locutions" of Frances Klug to be inauthentic and warning the faithful against this fraud. Their joint statement of condemnation refers to the "heretical" doctrines espoused, the "spurious" revelations received, and characterizes the organization "St. Joseph's Hill of Hope- City of God" as "independent of the Roman Catholic Church, its jurisdiction, and its favor."
For more information, contact His Excellency,
the Most Reverend Tod D. Brown, Bishop of Orange in California (the diocese in
which St. Joseph's Hill of Hope is located) at:
*Channeling is a practice in which one relinquishes his free will so that a deceased person or angelic spirit may communicate through him to himself and others. A recent document from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: a Christian Reflection on the New Age (2003), discusses the phenomenon of channeling:
One of the most common elements in New Age “spirituality” is a fascination with extraordinary manifestations, and in particular with paranormal entities. People recognized as “mediums” claim that their personality is taken over by another entity during trances in a New Age phenomenon known as “channeling,” during which the medium may lose control over his or her body and faculties. Some people who have witnessed these events would willingly acknowledge that the manifestations are indeed spiritual, but are not from God, despite the language of love and light, which is almost always used.... It is probably more correct to refer to this as a contemporary form of spiritualism, rather than spirituality in a strict sense. Other friends and counselors from the spirit world are angels (which have become the center of a new industry of books and paintings). Those who refer to angels in the New Age do so in an unsystematic way; in fact, distinctions in this area are sometimes described as unhelpful if they are too precise, since “there are many levels of guides, entities, energies, and beings in every octave of the universe... They are all there to pick and choose from in relation to your own attraction/repulsion mechanisms.” These spiritual entities are often invoked ‘non-religiously’ to help in relaxation aimed at better decision-making and control of one's life and career” (2.2.1, citations omitted).
Channeling is wrong not only because it violates one’s free will (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1738-40), but because it is a form of divination:
“All forms of
divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the
dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting
horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the
phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for
power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well
as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect and
loving fear that we owe to God alone” (Catechism, no. 2116, emphasis
original; cf. no. 2115).
See also: Spiritism
Question 78. There seems to be a lot of concern about whether or not the United States had the right to go to war with the regime of Saddam Hussein. I am really confused by the Holy See’s condemnation of the war when the world knew that many thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens had been murdered by Saddam’s henchmen. Saddam had the dubious distinction of being the world's best known and most hated Arab leader. And in a region where despotic rule is the norm, he was more feared by his own people than any other head of state. In my opinion, removing him from power was the right thing to do. Please explain the Vatican’s condemnation. – M. M. - Apple Valley, CA
Answer. Generally speaking, the Church opposes war as a means to settle conflicts. Pope John Paul II insisted that war is a "defeat for humanity" and that a preventive strike against Iraq was neither legally nor morally justified under the just war theory.
Aides repeatedly said the pope was not a pacifist, pointing to his support of humanitarian intervention to "disarm the aggressor" in Bosnia and East Timor and his repeat condemnations of terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks.
But in some of the Vatican's strongest language against a war in Iraq, its foreign minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran said a unilateral military strike would be a "crime against peace" with no justification on grounds of self-defense.
This does not mean the Church is asking for "peace at any price," but wants to highlight the "great, very great responsibility" that world leaders face when it comes to decisions on war.
The Holy Father called on Saddam to cooperate urgently and fully with the international community "to eliminate any motive for armed intervention." The pope also asked member nations of the UN Security Council to respect their own UN charter, which allows the use of force only as a last resort, when all peaceful means have been exhausted.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, “Whoever decides that all the peaceful means made available under international law are exhausted assumes a grave responsibility before God, his conscience and history."
In addition, the Vatican was afraid not only of suffering and destruction because of the war, but also of the destabilization of the entire region. As the Vatican has pointed out, this region is of particular importance to the Church and Christians.
The bottom line is that the Vatican did not believe that all peaceful means had been exhausted.
Saint Augustine developed the “Just War Theory” in the fifth century. Augustine was concerned when various groups used violence and claimed to do so for religious reasons. He became convinced that these groups must be stopped and that the state had both a right and responsibility to stop them using force if necessary. Saint Augustine argued that the use of force and even war was justifiable in some cases. He established a set of guidelines for determining whether or not a war was just. The principles laid down by Saint Augustine have been part of Church teaching ever since. Over the years the Church has made them even more specific. At the heart of the developed guidelines was the principle that even in the midst of violence love must be central.
According to the principles of the just war theory, the use of force by the state is legitimate if and only if the purpose of the war is just. Not a war of aggression, and all of the following conditions must be met:
1. There must be a real and certain danger; for example, if a situation threatens the life of innocent people, if basic human rights are violated, or if there is an imminent need for self-defense.
2. The right to declare a war of defense belongs to those who have the legitimate responsibility to represent the people and uphold the common good.
3. The rights and values to be gained by the conflict must justify the killing of people.
4. There must be a commitment to reconciliation among all sides after the war. Non-combatants, prisoners, and the wounded are to be treated with respect, and the indiscriminate destruction of cities or large areas of land is prohibited.
5. War must be the last resort after all other methods for achieving peace have been tried.
6. The odds of success should be weighed against potential lives lost.
7. The damage the war will inflict and the cost it will incur must be proportionate to the good expected. There must be serious hope that the use of force will actually put an end to the aggression.
Question 79. Since
September 11, I have struggled to understand our Lord’s challenge to love our
enemies. I know He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and
(through the parable of the Good Samaritan) explained that all men are our
neighbors. But am I to love my enemy as myself? Can I not rejoice in the just
triumph over a nihilistic cult of death as terrorists are captured or even
killed, so long as I fervently hope that their souls (and all souls!) ascend to
Heaven, perhaps by way of Purgatory, satisfying both God’s infinite justice and
His infinite mercy? - JBK - Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Answer. The love of all the brethren is a proof of our love of God. The First Commandment according to our Lord was: "You shall love the Lord your God..." And the Second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." "There is no other commandment greater than these' (Mk 12:29-31). And St. John teaches: "If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 Jn 4:20).
In general, every one is bound out of love of God to love all creatures who are capable of receiving grace and enjoying eternal happiness. The term "Neighbor" includes our fellowman, even those who are sinners and our enemies. To love sinners does not mean to desire what they want or to rejoice in what brings them joy, for they desire the pleasures of sin and rejoice in them. We love the sinner in terms of his capacity for loving God, and we desire him to become a friend of God. This means that we must hate the sin by which he separates himself from the love of God. Every truly Christian love of sinners must include a hatred for his sin.
Our Lord commanded: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt. 5:44-45). Enemies are those who hate, offend or injure us, and also those whom we think do these things. An enemy either is evil or is regarded as such. Now we are not required to love anyone precisely because he is our enemy, for this would be a perverse love of another's wickedness. Rather we are commanded to love our enemies precisely because they are God's children through charity.
Charity must be expressed in action. Therefore, enemies may not be excluded from the common signs of friendship, which we show to all men. It would be contrary to charity to exclude an enemy from the prayers we offer for all men generally. We must always be prepared to assist an enemy who is in extreme necessity, although we are not bound to show him special favors or signs of friendship outside of the special case of necessity. Freely to seek out one's enemy and to offer him special signs of friendship when he has no extreme need for them is a sign of the perfection of charity whereby we wish to overcome evil by good.
Enmity, hatred, desire for revenge are mortal sins. The following acts are not to be confused with such sins: natural aversion for another, indignation at or dislike for the wicked or harmful conduct or quality of another. We may wish our neighbor evil, even death itself, if we do so for his own good or some other equally great advantage, e.g., in the case of terrorists, to prevent innocent lives from being taken.
That said, the Way of Jesus, the Word Incarnate, is the Way for us in a troubled world, lest we put out the light of life altogether. It takes courage, the courage to suffer, to love, and to forgive, even as we refuse to cooperate with evil and seek the conversion of the heart of the enemy.
Question 80. Did the Blessed Virgin Mary Die? If so, where and when did this happen? – M. L. P. - Hesperia, CA.
Answer. While theologians are still discussing it, the general opinion is that Mary died before she was transfigured into glory. It was fitting that she, who imitated Christ most perfectly and united with him in his suffering on Calvary, would also want to unite with him in his dying and going down among the dead. According to the ancient liturgies and the names for the feast of the Assumption, Transitus Virginis, Dormitio, Depositio, they seem to indicate the belief that Mary died. Sin makes death an act to be feared. Because of Mary's sinlessness, however, death was not something to be feared but a time of longing and fulfillment when she would be reunited with her Son, body and soul.
The Church has not offered a definitive statement on this issue. Pope Pius XII did not address the question of whether or not Mary died when he proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, in the Bull Munificentissimus Deus, on 1 November 1950.
The belief that the Virgin Mary had spent her last days in the vicinity of Ephesus and that she had died there, has focused attention on a nun named Anna Catherine Emmerich who had lived in the late 18th century (1774-1820).
In 1811, Emmerich, who had dedicated her life to God, was taken ill in the convent and had to keep to her bed. She was hearing voices, which no one else heard, and was having religious visions. On 29 December 1812, as Emmerich was praying in her bed with her hands stretched out, she was suddenly shaken by a divine force; and seized by a high fever, she became deep red in the face. Just at that moment, a bright light coming from above descended towards her and when it reached her the hands and the feet of the sick woman were suddenly covered with blood as if pierced by nails. The people around the bed were stunned with amazement. It was as if she had partaken of Christ’s agony during the Crucifixion, as she had become a stigmatized nun. The doctors who examined her were greatly astonished, as science could not explain these phenomena.
A writer named C. Brentano began putting into writing the visions and narrations, which Emmerich received. This was not a seer yearning for the limelight. Emmerich virtually never left her sickbed, and without question had a gift of spiritual sight that, though imperfect (as anything humanly-filtered is imperfect), lent tremendous and sometimes startlingly literal insights into the lives of Jesus and Mary.
Emmerich had seen the Virgin Mary leaving Jerusalem with St. John before the persecution of Christians had become worse and their coming to Ephesus; she had also seen that the house in Ephesus was on a mountain nearby and that the Christians who had settled there before lived in tents and caves. Furthermore she said that St. John had built the stone house of the Virgin Mary, and that it was rectangular in plan with a round back wall and had an apse and a hearth. The room next to the apse was her bedroom and there was a stream of water running through it.
Emmerich continued as follows:
"After completing her third year here she had a great desire to go to Jerusalem. John and Peter took her there. She was taken so ill and lost so much weight in Jerusalem that everybody thought she was going to die and they began preparing a grave for her. When the grave was finished the Virgin Mary recovered. She was feeling strong enough to return to Ephesus.
“After returning to Ephesus the Virgin Mary became very weak and at 64 years of age she died. The saints around her performed a funeral ceremony for her and put the coffin they had specially prepared into a cave about two kilometers away from the house".
Emmerich narrated that at this point in her vision St. Thomas arrived in Ephesus after the death of the Virgin Mary cried with sorrow because he had not been able to arrive in time, whereupon his friends not wanting to hurt his feelings took him to the cave.
The narrative continued:
"When they came to the cave they prostrated themselves. Thomas and his friends walked impatiently to the door. St. John followed them. Two of them went inside after removing the bushes at the entrance of the cave and they kneeled down in front of the grave. John neared the coffin of which a part was protruding from the grave and unlacing its ties he opened the lid. When they all approached the coffin they were stunned in amazement: Mary's corpse was not in the shroud. But the shroud had remained intact. After this event the mouth of the cave containing the grave was closed and the house was turned into a chapel."
What was the Virgin's death actually like according to Emmerich?
"Her maidservant was in the utmost distress, throwing herself on her knees and praying with outstretched arms, sometimes in corners of the house and sometimes outside in front of it. The Blessed Virgin lay still and as though near death in her little cell. She was completely enveloped in a white sleeping coverlet, even her arms being wrapped in it. In the last days of her life I never saw her take any nourishment except now and then a spoonful of juice, which her maidservant pressed, from a bunch of yellow berries like grapes into a bowl near her couch.
"Towards evening the Blessed Virgin realized that her end was approaching and therefore signified her desire, in accordance with Jesus' Will, to bless and say farewell to the Apostles, disciples, and women who were present. Her sleeping cell was opened on all sides, and she sat upright on her couch, shining white as if suffused with light. The Blessed Virgin, after praying, blessed each one by laying her hands on their foreheads.
When the time came, said Venerable Emmerich, after a drawn-out process, "the Blessed Virgin lay back on her pillows pale and still. Her gaze directed intently upwards; she said no word to anyone and seemed in a state of perpetual ecstasy. She was radiant with longing; I could feel this longing, which was bearing her upwards – “ah, my heart was longing to ascend with hers to God!” Once more the Apostles stood around her bed, praying after celebration of the Eucharist. When the actual moment arrived, said Emmerich, Mary's eyes "were raised towards Heaven in holy joy. Then I saw a wonderfully moving vision. The ceiling of Our Lady's room disappeared, the lamp hung in the open air, and I saw through the sky into the heavenly Jerusalem. Two radiant clouds of light sank down, out of which appeared the faces of many angels. Between these clouds a path of light poured down upon Mary, and I saw a shining mountain leading up from her into the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Blessed Mother then "stretched out her arms towards it in infinite longing," said Emmerich, "and I saw her body, all wrapped up, rise so high above her couch that one could see right under it. I saw her soul leave her body like a little figure of infinitely pure light, souring with outstretched arms up the shining mountain to Heaven.
"The two angel choirs in the clouds met beneath her soul and separated it from her holy body, which in the moment of separation sank back on the couch with arms crossed on the breast.
"My gaze followed her soul and saw it enter the heavenly Jerusalem by that shining path and go up to the Throne of the Most Holy Trinity."
There were many souls to greet her, said Emmerich, and the Virgin's light was transcendent. She was buried in a tomb near the Ephesus house; a burial spot, which Emmerich claimed, was camouflaged by a spring the Apostles diverted toward the entrance.
Soon after came Mary’s Assumption into heaven, which was officially proclaimed by the Church in 1950.
Mary’s assumption into heaven.
"Those who were on their way home saw from the distance a strange radiance over Mary's tomb," stated Emmerich, in describing this event. "It was as if a shaft of light descended from Heaven towards the tomb, and in this shaft was a lovely form like the soul of the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by the form of Our Lord.
"Then the body of Our Lady, united to the shining soul, rose shining out of the grave and soared to Heaven with the figure of Our Lord."
How should such writings be treated today?
The answer to this is two-fold. First, as private revelations such writings must not be accorded equal or greater authenticity than the Gospels themselves. Private revelations are not given by God to satisfy curiosity or to fill in the gaps of the historical details left out of the Scriptures. Rather, they occur within the context of the prayer life of an individual. A person who has passed through the initial stage of growth in sanctity, called the Purgative Way, in which they have meditated on the Gospels, on Christ's life, on Church teaching, and have exhausted what human language can provide them as food for prayer, enter upon an Illuminative Way in which God provides them new food for contemplation, not descriptions of Christ's life but scenes from it. As the proverb says, a picture is worth a thousand words. The purpose is to bring the intellect to rest in God who is Truth, and to inflame the will to love God who is Good.
As St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross make clear, however, although God can give new lights, most private revelation is "constructed" from the building materials of the memory and knowledge of the person. This means that the mystic's own religious, cultural and educational influences help determine how the visions are presented to them. This accounts, for example, for the variety in the details of the same events among different mystics. God may have supplied some details, others taken from the presuppositions of the mystic. Since God's purpose is not to improve upon Scripture but to inflame the will with love, the source of the details is ultimately irrelevant to that purpose. In the end, the Church judges the authenticity of such writings not by these details but whether anything is contrary to faith and morals. It does not, therefore, guarantee that every detail is true, only that it is theologically safe.
Secondly, in addition to the general "problem" of interpreting private revelation there is also the specific problem of the uncertainties associated with these particular writings. Both factors argue for reading the writings of Anne Catherine Emmerich as a means to inflame one's love for God and for neighbor, and not as an appendix to Sacred Scripture. Toward that end they can be very fruitful, just as The Passion of The Christ can lead to a fruitful personal meditation on the sufferings of the Lord, without being historical in all its details.
[Resources: The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ]
Question 81. What do the symbols mean in the Our Lady of Guadalupe image?
Answer. The 450-year-old image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than simply a picture. It contains symbols -- in a sense, hieroglyphics, or a story in pictures -- that reveal part of the message the Blessed Mother brought through Juan Diego to the Indians of Mexico and to all the people of the Americas. But the symbols had a special meaning to the Indians, who because of their culture could decipher the code in the Image.
The eyes of the image are looking down, a posture of humility, revealing that, as great as she is, she is not a god. Indian gods never looked down; they looked straight ahead.
The woman's face shows great compassion. The Indians felt that the face was the window of the inner person, a means by which one could read who a person was -- the way a person would act. A good woman to the Indians was one whose femininity showed in her face. The head of the woman in the image shows her with dark skin and dark hair like that of the Indians.
Her hands are not poised in the traditional Western style of prayer, but in an Indian manner of offering, indicating that something is being offered, that something is to come from her.
The maternity band around the woman's waist was the sign of a pregnant woman, a mother who is about to give birth, it was a sign to the Indians that someone is yet to come.
The stars on the mantle are a sign that a new civilization, or era, is beginning. The Indian tradition recognized the end and the beginning of different eras throughout the ages, and the destruction of a particular civilization or era was always accompanied by a comet, or a body of stars. Indian prophets even before the arrival and conquest by the Spaniard Hernan Cortes had been predicting the end of their civilization at that time.
The rays of sun in the image recalled for the Indians that the sun played a key role in their civilization. But the woman in the image is greater than even the sun. She hides the sun, and only the rays come forth. She hides the sun but does not extinguish it.
The predominant color in the image's mantle is turquoise, the blue-green color reserved for the great god Omecihuatl. Although the Indians had many "intermediary gods." Omecihuatl was considered the supreme god. It was a mother-father god who sometimes was represented as a man and sometimes as a woman. It was a source of unity for everything that exists.
The woman is standing on the moon, indicating that she is greater than the god of night, the moon god.
The "angel" at the bottom of the image was seen by the Indians as an "intermediary god" carrying in a new era, the beginning of a new civilization. One era was at an end -- had died -- and a new one was beginning, was being born.
Question 82: A new poll (March 6, 2006) conducted for the Fox News Channel finds that a majority of Americans are opposed to a new abortion ban in South Dakota because it does not contain exceptions for abortions in the case of rape and incest. What is the Catholic Church's position on abortion in cases or rape and incest? How does the view of other Christian faiths differ (if at all) from that of the Catholic Church?
Answer: Respect for the sacredness of life in the womb originates in Christianity’s Jewish roots. The Roman Catholic Church has always condemned abortion — the direct and purposeful taking of the life of the unborn child. In principle, Catholic Christians believe that all life is sacred from conception until natural death, and the taking of innocent human life, whether born or unborn, is morally wrong. The Church teaches, "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being" ("Donum vitae," 5).
This teaching has been part and parcel of Christianity since the time of the Apostles: The "Didache" ("The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles," c. 80 A.D.) asserted, "You shall not procure abortion.
After the legalization of Christianity in 313, the condemnation against abortion remained. For example, St. Basil in a letter to Bishop Amphilochius (374) clearly pronounces the Church’s teaching: "A woman who has deliberately destroyed a fetus must pay the penalty for murder" and "Those also who give drugs causing abortions are murderers themselves, as well as those who receive the poison which kills the fetus."
To oppose this instruction contradicts the revelation of Sacred Scripture and Christian tradition. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church is the only Christian body, which fully upholds this teaching today.
How the child is conceived is not relevant to this issue. A baby conceived through rape or incest is not responsible for the sin of the biological father, so why should it be punished by death? There are many other options.
Question 83: When was the last time in recorded history that God or Jesus talked to a person here on earth? Has God or Jesus talked to anybody recently?
Answer: The last time Jesus appeared in “recorded history” was on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, when He ascended into heaven, according to Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, and Acts 1:2.
Over the years, there have been many people who claimed to see Jesus and/or hear Him speak. The vast majority of these assertions cannot be substantiated.
One such claim, which has been thoroughly investigated and approved by the Catholic Church, occurred on February 22, 1931, when Jesus appeared to a young religious nun by the name of Sister Faustina (Helen Kowalska).
Sister Faustina came from a very poor family that had struggled hard on their little farm during the terrible years of WWI. Sister had had only three years of very simple education. Hers were the humblest of tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or the vegetable garden, or as a porter. To her, Jesus brought a wonderful message about the merciful love of God towards every human being, even the greatest sinner. He also gave her a mission - to tell the world that He is Mercy itself, and that before He returns as a just Judge, He is coming as a merciful Savior. This message is now being spread throughout the world.
The Church canonized Faustina on April 30, 2000; and her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to Jesus.
Sister Faustina died in Cracow, Poland, in the odor of sanctity on October 5, 1938 at the age of 33. She was beatified on April 18, 1993 and has since been known as Saint Faustina. The one man primarily responsible for this decision was Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Sr. Faustina's home diocese of Cracow, later Pope John Paul II.
On the 15th of April 1978, the Holy See, after a thorough examination approved and permitted the devotion and celebrates Mercy Sunday on the Sunday after Easter. For further information on this issue go to: http://marian.org/divinemercy/faustina/index.html
Question 85: I have a nephew in Wisconsin, who happens to be godfather to our daughter. He's marrying a Protestant girl in July, and I'm afraid it won't be in the local Catholic Church. It's killing me that he probably didn't get enough training on the "true" faith as a boy, and he thinks it's just so great that his girl is so spiritual and good (Bible Christian). What would common wisdom dictate about whether or not we should go to the wedding? P. H. Ontario, CA
Answer: Jesus, who is God, elevated marriage to the level of a sacrament so that God’s grace would be available to help married couples be faithful to each other always. He also established a Church with the authority to set the rules and regulations for marriage. (Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven”). Thus the Catholic Church has the authority from God Himself to require her members to be married before a priest and two witnesses, or to obtain a dispensation from this form.
You firmly believe in what the Church teaches about marriage because you know those teachings come directly from God the Father and His Son Jesus. For you to approve of your nephew’s plans to marry outside the Church or to attend the wedding would be to disregard these teachings and would be for you to turn your back on God. It would be a violation of the First Commandment, which says that God must come first in everything-ahead of family members and friends who might say that they believe in God, but live and act as if God did not exist.
The Church’s teaching, as expressed in canon 1108 of the Code of Canon Law, is that a Catholic party can contract a valid marriage only in the presence of a Catholic bishop, priest, or deacon, who as the official witness of the Church must ask for and receive the consent of the parties in the name of the Church, and two witnesses, whose function is to attest that the marriage actually took place.
In the case of a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant, the local bishop of the Catholic party can dispense from these requirements “if serious difficulties pose an obstacle to the observance of the canonical form” (canon 1127.2), and he can permit the marriage to be celebrated in a Protestant church (canon 1118.2).
Question 86: A friend gave birth to a baby with a rare condition that has rendered her severely handicapped. She is not expected to live much past her tenth birthday. I just can't understand why God does that. If life has a purpose, what is the purpose of such a short and sad life?
Answer: Every birth is a gamble. A soul enters the world innocent and pure. But it may not stay that way. This world is maze of diverging pathways, both good and evil, and the choice is ours which way we go. Once a soul enters a body, it is free and therefore vulnerable to corruption. While acts of good elevate the soul, every act of evil makes a blemish on the soul.
Some souls are so
pure, it simply isn't worth the gamble. These souls are too precious to risk
being compromised by life in a body. They are too high to come down to this
world. But the other option, not to be sent down at all, to never reach this
world, would mean that we would miss out on meeting these holy and lofty souls
and hearing their message.
Question 87: Why is the Pope required to change his name after being appointed? Would it ever be possible to have a female Pope? Why or why not?
Answer: As the newly elected pope accepts his new role, it is tradition for him to select a new name, but not required. This papal tradition dates to 533 and the election of Pope John II, whose birth name was Mercurius. Mercurius is derived from Mercury, a pagan Roman god. Believing that a successor of St. Peter should not carry a name belonging to a pagan religion, Mercurius chose to change his name upon his election to honor a previous pope.
While some that followed John II chose to retain their original name, it soon became commonplace for new popes to choose a new name. The name change also symbolizes the new life that the new pope is entering as the head of the Catholic Church. Typically, the new pope selects the name of his favorite Saint or a former pope whom he admires.
Benedict XVI chose his name to honor Pope Benedict XV, whom the new Pope referred to as, "a true and courageous prophet of peace, who sought first to avert World War I and later to limit the slaughter."
There is no possibility that a woman will ever be elected as pope. Those capable of being elected (Papabile), must possess the requirements of the Divine Law for Papal Election, which are: 1. Baptized; 2. Male; 3. A person who has not departed from the Church by schism, heresy or apostasy.
Strictly speaking, any male Christian who has reached the use of reason can be chosen. A layman may also be elected as pope, as was Celestine V (1294). Even the election of a married man would not be invalid. Of course the election of a heretic, schismatic, or female would be null and void.
Upon election, the individual would have to be ordained a priest and the Catholic Church has definitively spoken that the priesthood is reserved for males only.
Question 88: Does the practice of excommunicating and anathematizing people from the Catholic Church imply condemning them to eternal damnation?
Answer: Neither excommunication or anathemas imply the Church's condemning anyone to hell. That is the prerogative of God alone. Excommunication is a Church law, excluding a notorious sinner from the communion of the faithful. The Code of Canon Law (1331 §1) stipulates that the excommunicated person is forbidden:
The purpose of excommunication is to warn the sinner of the danger he runs of incurring eternal damnation, unless he repents of his sin. Excommunication or "Delivering the sinner to Satan" is based on the words of St. Paul, who delivered the incestuous sinner to Satan, "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5; Cf. 1 Tim. 1:20).
When St. Paul said, "Let him be accursed" (Greek, anathema) who preaches a heretical Gospel (Gal. 1:8), he did not condemn the heretic to hell, but stigmatized the willful teacher of false doctrines as a rebel against the Gospel of Christ. The Church in the anathemas, which accompany the canons of her Councils, merely imitates the example of St. Paul.
The Council of Trent solemnly warned bishops to be moderate in its use, declaring, "Although the sword of excommunication is the very sinews of ecclesiastical discipline…yet it is to be used with sobriety and great circumspection; seeing that experience teaches that if it be wielded rashly and for slight causes, it is more despised than feared, and works more evil than good” (Sess. 25, ch. 3, De ref.)
Question 89: Why did Jesus descend into Hell after His crucifixion? I have heard it said that Jesus went to offer mercy to the souls who had rejected God, is this true?
Answer: The Apostles Creed states that Jesus descended into hell, but Jesus did not descend to the Hell of eternal damnation.
Jesus gave the very words with which He will condemn those who deliberately rejected Him in this life: “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 24:31). This is but one of His numerous and unmistakable declarations on the subject of hell. Jesus did not descend to the Hell of the damned but rather to the abode of the dead, or “Paradise” where the souls of the just were waiting to be redeemed and taken to Heaven.
Paradise was where the righteous were awaiting Heaven’s gate to open. Heaven was closed to those who had gone to rest in godliness from the time of the sin of our first parents until Jesus paid the ultimate price for man’s sins. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, he took and all those in Paradise with Him: “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives…” (Ephesians 4:8).
Many sincere and kindly people feel repugnance to the idea of eternal punishment. The loss of God, for whom every heart and soul insatiably longs, is too horrible to be clothed in less than the strongest possible language. Christ wished to convey the idea of intense and unceasing suffering. It was the God of love who created Hell and informed us of its existence.
As long as we are alive we can repent of our sins, call on God’s mercy and receive His grace. When we die, we receive His justice. There is no second chance.
Question 90: In 2 Cor. 12:2, St Paul speaks of “the third heaven.” How are we to understand this passage? How many heavens are there?
Answer: There is no further explanation for this passage in the Scriptures. Genesis 1:1 tells us that “God created the heavens and the earth” but the author does not stipulate the number of heavens. As a result, there has been much confusion and many different explanations postulated.
In order to understand this passage, it is necessary to examine the historical context and the author’s background. Most biblical scholars agree that St. Paul was modestly referring to himself when he wrote: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”
We must remember that St Paul was a Jewish convert to Christianity. Prior to his conversion he was trained as a Pharisee[i] under Rabbi Gamaliel[ii] (Acts, 22:3). In the Talmud, Gamaliel bears the surname of "the Elder", and is the first to whom the title "Rabban", "our master", was given. He appears therein, as in the book of the Acts, as a prominent member of the highest tribunal of the Jews and is considered to have been one of the greatest Rabbis who ever lived. As Paul was raised and trained as a devote Jew, it is necessary to return to the time of Jesus and determine Jewish belief at that time in order to understand 2 Cor. 12:2.
Years ago, “He’s/She’s in seventh heaven” was a common expression. It was not until I began a study of Jewish belief and doctrine that I understood the expression’s origin. You see, Jews in Jesus’ time believed in seven levels of heaven. The throne of God was situated in the seventh, or highest level of Heaven, hence, the expression: "He's in seventh heaven" indicating someone who was joyously happy. Biblically speaking the number 7 suggests either a considerable number or designates a complete series.
Jewish legend tells us that on the first day of creation God produced ten things: the heavens and the earth, Tohu and Bohu (formlessness and emptiness), light and darkness, wind and water, the duration of the day and the duration of the night.
“Several heavens were created, seven in fact, each to serve a distinct purpose. The first, the one visible to us, has no function except that of covering up the light during the nighttime; therefore it disappears every morning. The planets are fastened to the second of the heavens; in the third the manna is made for the pious in the hereafter; the fourth contains the celestial Jerusalem together with the Temple, in which Michael ministers as high priest, and offers the souls of the pious as sacrifices. In the fifth heaven, the angel hosts reside, and sing the praise of God, though only during the night, for by day it is the task of Israel on earth to give glory to God on high. The sixth heaven is an uncanny spot; there originate most of the trials and visitations ordained for the earth and its inhabitants. Snow lies heaped up there and hail; there are lofts full of noxious dew, magazines stocked with storms, and cellars holding reserves of smoke. Doors of fire separate these celestial chambers, which are under the supervision of the archangel Metatron. Their pernicious contents defiled the heavens until David’s time. The pious king prayed to God to purge His exalted dwelling of whatever was pregnant with evil; it was not becoming that such things should exist near the Merciful One. Only then were they removed to the earth.
“The seventh heaven, on the other hand, contains only what is good and beautiful; right, justice, and mercy, the storehouses of life, peace, and blessing, the souls of the pious, the souls and spirits of unborn generations, the dew with which God will revive the dead on the resurrection day, and, above all, the Divine Throne, surrounded by the seraphim and ofanim, the holy Hayyot (the highest angelic beings), and the ministering angels.” (The Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, Vol. 1, p. 8-9, 1937, Jewish Publication Society)
As the New Testament does not provide a clear explanation on the number of heavens, it is only necessary to remember that there is a heaven where God dwells in majesty and endeavor to live a life that will eventually gain us access to the Divine Throne.
Question 91: Chick Publications publishes a book entitled 50 Years in the "Church" of Rome, by Charles Chiniquy. Jack Chick claims that Chiniquy was a good priest who was unjustly persecuted by the Church. What is the truth about Chiniquy?
Answer: Charles Chiniquy was born on July 30, 1809, at Kamouraska, a town on the right bank of the St. Lawrence, some forty miles below Quebec, Canada. His parents were Charles Chiniquy, a notary by profession, and Reine Chiniquy, née Perrault. His father dying on July 19, 1821, he was adopted by his uncle, the Hon. Amable Dionne, who, on finding that he desired to be brought up for the priesthood, sent him to school at the Seminary of St. Nicolet. He was ordained a priest on September 21, 1833 in the Archdiocese of Montreal, Canada.
Father Chiniquy was twice suspended by two different bishops and there is no room to doubt that these suspensions were motivated by grave moral lapses of which the bishops in question had full and convincing proof, though, as often happens in such cases, the girls he had seduced could not be persuaded to face public exposure by pressing civil charges.
Father Chiniquy was a priest of the Archdiocese of Montreal, Canada, in the early nineteenth century, who was suspended by his archbishop for immoral conduct. He left Canada and immigrated to the United States where, after being suspended a second time, he applied to the Bishop of Chicago for temporary faculties. The Bishop gave him faculties in the belief that he had reformed his life, but Chiniquy continued in his immoral behavior and was finally excommunicated from the Church in 1858. Chiniquy then became affiliated and eventually expelled from two Protestant groups for embezzlement of church funds. His charges against the Church and its teachings are so gross and ridiculous that only very ignorant or very prejudiced people would give them credence. One can only hope that he received the grace of repentance at the hour of his death.
The book to which you refer is a typical example of the lengths to which misguided or vengeful person such as Jack Chick will go in their attacks on the Church. Although it is poorly written and full of lies, it has been published and re-published since 1886, with the sole purpose of misrepresenting the Church’s stand on the Bible. Quiniquy’s life is long over. The existence of this book is a terrible example of the fact that the evil, which a person does, not only lives after them, but may grow with the years.
For further information about Chiniquy go to: http://www.geocities.com/chiniquy/
Question 92: Since Mark and Luke were not Apostles, why are their writings in the New Testament?
Answer: Nearly every Christian writer during the first five centuries after Christ gives testimony the Catholic Church was the only recognized depository and interpreter of the written Scriptures and the unwritten word and deeds of Jesus. This was alluded to by St. John: “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
The sacred heart of the Church contains all the truths of the faith revealed by our Blessed Savior. From apostle to apostle, from bishop to bishop, from priest to priest, from disciple to disciple, the words uttered by Christ and the deeds he performed were transmitted within and under the sole direction of the only Church of God then in existence.
A part of these words and deeds were the written Scriptures of the Apostles and their holy predecessors, and a part the recorded Traditions of the successors of the Apostles, the only recognized representatives of Christ on earth. The proper source of Revelation is the word of God, which is both written and unwritten. The written is contained in the Sacred Scriptures, the unwritten in Sacred Tradition. When we speak of the unwritten word of God, we do not mean it has never been written, but that the man to whom God revealed it never wrote it. It was committed to writing afterwards by his disciples or by others who heard it from his lips.
The Gospels of Mark and Luke are a prime example of Sacred Tradition. Mark was the secretary, traveling companion, and interpreter for Peter. Peter, spoke only Aramaic, so whenever he preached in Greek speaking lands, Mark interpreted. Luke traveled with Paul. We have written historical evidence that the Christian community asked Mark and Luke to write down the teachings of Peter and Paul. This is a very good example of what the Catholic Church means when she speaks of Sacred Tradition. When the Catholic Church compiled the New Testament canon of Scripture and the end of the fourth century, the Gospels of Mark and Luke were included because of their direct link to the Apostles.
The divine legacy bequeathed by Christ to men, the Sacred Scriptures and Traditions of God’s visible Church, were written in the records of the Church by the hands of Catholic priests and were passed down from generation to generation by Catholics. Those same Scriptures and Traditions are still in the same Church, while modern Protestants have appropriated only a part of the legacy — the written Scriptures. Sacred Tradition is the deposit of oral teaching passed on from age to age by faithful followers of Christ.
Question 93: In a penance service followed by individual confession, is the penitent allowed to write his/her sins on a sheet of paper to be read and then burned by the priest without the penitent actually having to confess their sins with their lips as the catechism states?
Answer: Regularly, confession should be vocal. One accuses himself with by spoken words. This does not belong to the essence of confession, since any sign by which sins are sufficiently made manifest would suffice, and there is no divine precept to confess orally; but it is the custom of the Church, which has obtained the force of law, confession must sub gravi (under pain of mortal sin) be made orally by those who can speak, unless a serious reason excuses from this obligation, though in certain cases not all the sins need to be told vocally. For example, if they are already known to the confessor the words, “I accuse myself of the sins already known to you,” would suffice.
Hence, one is in no case bound to confess by writing, confession may be made by signs or in writing for grave reasons, e.g., if the penitent is dumb (unable to speak), or the confessor is deaf; or if there is danger of being heard by those nearby; or if one sick with throat trouble finds it very hard to speak; or if one, out of excessive shame, cannot explain his sins; or if one fears that because of scruples or temptations to conceal sins he cannot make a complete confession; or if there are similar grave reasons. But in these instances it is advisable, if possible, that before absolution the penitent say these or similar words, “I accuse myself of the sins which I have written down and am sorry for them.” But this is not strictly necessary since, in circumstances like those mentioned above, he is simply excused from oral confession.
Question 94: Is it a mortal sin for men and women who are dating to sleep in the same bed from time to time and if no sexual relations occur? Please explain.
Answer: A mortal sin is the deliberate, conscious and free transgression of a moral law, involving very serious matter, and resulting in the loss of grace and separation from God. Mortal sin is so grave that its punishment is eternal damnation.
Three conditions must be present for the commission of a mortal sin:
Various factors can limit these conditions, for example, lack of maturity, force of habit, etc. However, one must never presume to be incapable of such a deadly sin.
Mortal sins are forgiven by God through the sinner’s penitence and the sacramental absolution of a priest.
By sleeping together in the same bed, you are placing your souls in serious jeopardy. A proximate occasion of sin is one in which the inducement to sin is so strong that sin will almost certainly be committed. The person who voluntarily enters or remains in a proximate occasion of mortal sin thereby commits a serious internal sin.
To be free from sin, a person who is in a proximate occasion of mortal sin, must do everything possible to remove himself from the situation. Nothing can ever justify the commission of a mortal sin. A person proves his sincerity when he takes the means to destroy the power for sin rooted in the occasion. He is guilty in the same proportion that he neglects to take these means. The general means that he can use to cope with an occasion of sin are prayer, meditation, frequent reception of the Sacraments, and mortification. More specifically, you must not place your soul in danger by placing yourself in a situation where the commission of a mortal sin is likely or even possible.
Your behaviors in this matter demonstrates a lack of respect for one another and a disregard for the will of God. It is only a matter of time before you cross the line and commit the mortal sin of fornication.
For fornication, it is not necessary that both parties should experience complete pleasure of orgasm resulting from genital to genital intercourse. Sexual pleasure of any amount has a legitimate place only in the married state. No amount of it has any meaning outside of this state, so that to take any of it out on marriage completely defeats its purpose and is seriously wrong. The serious prohibition of the Sixth Commandment is against illicit pleasure as such. Sexual intercourse must only occur in the context of a lawful marriage.
All sin is a forbidden choice, and sins of impurity are no exception. When one chooses to stir up illicit pleasure, he is guilty the moment he makes his choice.
I have read in articles written by Catholics, where they describe the
Genesis account as a myth. Is the Genesis account of creation considered a
myth by the Catholic Church?
Answer: The Holy See's Pontifical Biblical Commission examined the question of the “Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis” and issued the following statement, “Whether we may, in spite of the character and historic form of the book of Genesis, of the close connection of the first three chapters with one another and with those which follow, of the manifold testimony of the Scriptures both of the Old and the New Testament, of the almost unanimous opinion of the Fathers, and of the traditional view which – transmitted also by the Jewish people-has always been held by the Church, teach that the three aforesaid chapters do not contain the narrative of things which actually happened, a narrative which corresponds to objective reality and historic truth; and whether we may teach that these chapters contain fables derived from mythologies and cosmologies belonging to older nations, but purified from all polytheistic error and accommodated to monotheistic teaching by the sacred author or that they contain allegories and symbols destitute of any foundation in objective reality but presented under the garb of history for the purpose of inculcating religious and philosophical truth; or, finally, that they contain legends partly historical and partly fictitious, freely handled for the instruction and edification of souls.”
Answer: In the negative to each part. June 30, 1909
The ruling by The Pontifical Biblical Commission has not been abrogated during the ensuing period. The bottom line is that the Catholic Church teaches that the Genesis account is NOT myth.
Genesis is usually thought of as divisible by two-the first eleven chapters are pre-history: with the appearance of Abram, who was to be Abraham and ends with the death of Joseph. The second book, Exodus, is all of Moses and the movement of the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert.
But the first eleven chapters themselves are further divisible. They fall into three parts. Chapter 1 has the Creation of the Universe, Chapters 2 and 3 tell of Adam and Eve and the Fall. Chapters 4-11 tell, in a series of stories, of the moral and social chaos ushered in by the Fall. The main concern is with the first three chapters. The first, on the week of creation was written last. Scholars seem agreed in dating it at or near the end of the Babylonian Captivity (597 - 535 B.C.). About this time it is thought that Genesis as we now have it was compiled: This Prologue Chapter, beginning, like the Prologue to John's Gospel with "In the beginning," was seen as necessary to set the Pentateuch in a wider frame. Chapters 2 and 3, and most of the remainder of Genesis, had been written three of four centuries earlier, possibly under King Solomon.
For the orthodox Jew and for the Christian, the authority of the Creation story comes from its being Scripture, the inspired word of God. For the Christian there is something more. Christ made it his own by quoting Genesis 2:24 - "Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." Indeed he gives it greater authority than it gives itself. For, merely reading the passage, we would assume that we are to take the words as spoken by the writer, or possibly by Adam. But Christ says that God said them (Matt. 19:4-5)-"He who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said..."
Does everything in an inspired book come to us with the authority of God who cannot deceive? Certainly there are things in these books which are simply not so, things which contradict each other. Yet God wanted them written. He submitted himself to human limitations, man's ignorance in particular, but this submission did not cut across his own purpose. But what was his purpose in wanting books written? For many of them, or for sections in them, the answer may be that he wanted them written because he wanted them recorded, that is preserved; and he wanted them preserved that we might all be able to follow the movement of mankind on its way to Christ: these are the stages through which men passed, the ideas men had as their minds grew towards the fullness of revelation.