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Question 1: Why do Protestants number the Ten Commandments differently than we Catholics?
Answer: The Scriptures tell us that there were Ten Commandments, but do not indicate how they were divided. The Protestant division follows rather Ex. 20:2-27, while the Catholic follows Deut. 5:6-21. The Catholic division is older and more logical. We hold that desire for another man’s wife and desire for another man’s property are essentially two distinct crimes, and therefore, merit two separate commandments, the ninth and tenth. On the other hand, the first commandment insists on the virtue of religion and forbids all sins against that virtue, the chief of which is idolatry. Logically, therefore, the Protestant second commandment has no reason for being, and was born of the necessity of controversy to justify the early Reformers.
Question 2: What do the initials I. H. S. and I. N. R. I. stand for?
Answer: The letters I. H. S. form a monogram for devotional use of the name of Jesus. It is frequently noted, especially on the vestments of the priest worn at Mass. The letters are popularly taken to mean references to Jesus, Hominum Salvator, Latin words for Jesus, Savior of Men.
The inscription I. N. R. I. was placed over our Lord’s head on the cross. I. N. R. I. are the first four letters of the Latin words “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum,” meaning, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Question 3: What is the Septuagint?
Answer: The Septuagint (Greek – seventy) is the Greek version of the Old Testament, so called because it was believed to have been sanctioned by the seventy leaders of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, or because according to tradition, seventy-two men were employed in the translation. It was probably made in the third century BC. There are three hundred translations in the New Testament from the Septuagint and it contains the same books that are in the OT canon used by the Catholic Church.
Question 4: Priests are ordained by the order of Melchizedek. Who is Melchizedek, and why are priests ordained by this order?
Answer: Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later Jerusalem) and a priest of God who offered bread and wine as an unbloody sacrifice in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory over the four eastern kings (Genesis 14:18-20). Because he was a type of Christ (both are kings and priests who offer bread and wine to God), an antiphon in the rite of ordination for a priest reads: “Christ the Lord, a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek, offered bread and wine.” See also Paul’s letter to the Hebrews for his comment on the link between Melchizedek and Jesus.
In the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, the priest prays that God will accept his offerings just as He once accepted “the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.”
Question 5: Is it permissible to use another light source, for example an electric light, instead of a candle to indicate the Real Presence of Christ in the sanctuary?
Answer: According to the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, “Candles intended for liturgical purposes should be made of material that can provide a living flame without being smoky or noxious and that does not stain the altar cloths or coverings. Electric bulbs are banned in the interest of safeguarding authenticity and the full symbolism of light” (n2690). Except for the altar candles, however, oil lamps can be used.
Question 6: Does the Catholic Church allow abortion when the life of the mother is threatened?
Answer: The Catholic Church does not permit the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child for any reason. If the mother’s life is endangered, the Church expects the doctor to do everything possible to save the life of the mother and the baby.
An indirect abortion is morally allowable if the death of the unborn child is not directly willed, but is rather the unintended side effect of a legitimate medical procedure. For example, it would not be contrary to Catholic teaching to remove a cancerous uterus in order to save the mother’s life, knowing that the operation would cause the death of the child who was growing inside that uterus but was not yet able to live outside the mother.
Question 7: Several practicing Catholics told me that if a person commits a sin but is unaware that it is a sin, it is not a sin for that person, even if they commit murder, or any other sin. How can this concept be reconciled with what our lord said about sin in the gospels?
Answer: The Church has taught at least since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century for a sin to be Mortal, three conditions must simultaneously occur: the object of the sin must be grave matter, and it must be committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1857). Since mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent, the Catechism goes on to explain, unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense, and the promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free choice character of the offense, as can such things as external pressures or pathological disorders (n. 1860).
Question 8: What is the current Church stand on ordaining men with homosexual tendencies?
Answer: A homosexual person, or one with homosexual tendencies, "is not fit" to receive priestly ordination, says the Vatican. This position is stated in a letter written by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, published in the November-December issue of the dicastery's bulletin "Notitiae." The letter was in response to a bishop's query. The letter, written in Italian, explains that an unidentified bishop appealed to the Congregation for Clergy, to inquire if it is licit to confer priestly ordination on men with manifest homosexual tendencies.
The Congregation for Clergy presented the request in turn to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, whose prefect at the time of the response (May 16) was Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez.
As explained in the letter, the Congregation for Divine Worship, before replying, consulted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The response is focused in a paragraph of the letter that reads as follows: "Ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent and, from the pastoral point of view, very risky. A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency is not, therefore, fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders."
The Congregation for Divine Worship explains that in its response, it is "conscious of the experience resulting from many instructed causes for the purpose of obtaining dispensation from the obligations that derive from Holy Ordination."
Question 9: Priests are ordained by the order of Melchizedek. Who is Melchizedek, and why are priests ordained by this order?
Answer: Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later Jerusalem) and a priest of God who offered bread and wine as an unbloody sacrifice in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory over the four eastern kings (Genesis 14:18-20). Because he was a type of Christ (both are kings and priests who offer bread and wine to God), an antiphon in the rite of ordination for a priest reads: “Christ the Lord, a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek, offered bread and wine.” See also Paul’s letter to the Hebrews for his comment on the link between Melchizedek and Jesus.
In the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, the priest prays that God will accept his offerings just as He once accepted “the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.”
Question 10: Why should I wear the Brown Scapular?
Answer: Everyone, young and old alike should wear the Brown Scapular because it is a gift from Our Heavenly Mother. Our Lady promised, "WHOSOEVER DIES WEARING THIS SCAPULAR SHALL NOT SUFFER ETERNAL FIRE. IT SHALL BE A SIGN OF PEACE AND A SAFEGUARD IN TIMES OF DANGER."
Question: What other benefits are attached to the brown scapular devotion?
Answer: The wearing of the scapular draws us closer to Mary in a spiritual bond which identifies us as belonging to her, just as the bracelet on a new born baby identifies that child as belonging to a particular mother. When we wear the Brown Scapular we are recipients of special graces from Our Blessed Mother and because of such are called to a new life of thinking and acting like Mary.
It is a silent prayer, no words need be spoken. We share in the prayers and good works of millions belonging to the Family of Carmel. We are assured of the continual assistance of Our Heavenly Mother as we travel through this life.
Question: Must I be enrolled? Who can enroll?
Answer: Our Lady gave this promise of salvation to all those in the Family of Carmel. One must be enrolled to obtain this promise. A priest is the ordinary who enrolls members into the Scapular Confraternity.
Question: Is the scapular devotion endorsed by the church?
Answer: Pope Paul VI said in 1965: " ...Ever hold in great esteem the practices and exercises of the devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin which have been recommended for centuries by the Magisterium of the Church. And among them we judge well to recall especially the Marian rosary and the religious use of the Scapular of Mt. Carmel."
Question: Why should I wear the scapular when I already have Jesus?
Answer: Always pray that you remain steadfast in your love for Jesus. Remember, at the crucifixion all the apostles, except John, abandoned Jesus...John remained at the cross with Mary.
St. Alphonsus: "Just as men take pride in having others wear their livery, so the Most Holy Mary is pleased when her servants wear her scapular as a mark that they have dedicated themselves to her service and are members of the Family of the Mother of God."
Question 11: Why do some crucifixes have a skull and bones underneath the corpus of Christ?
Answer: The explanation is that the mountain upon which the Old City of Jerusalem is built was called Golgoltha, which means “the Skull.” On top of this mountain stands the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The name Golgoltha has entered the Christian tradition as “Golgotha,” and the site has become sacred. The word was translated into Latin, and is now known as Calvary.
Why was the mountain called Golgoltha–the Skull? According to an ancient legend, cited by early Christian sources as a Jewish tradition, the skull of Adam, the first man, lies hidden in this mountain. It is also told that Shem, son of Noah the righteous, hid this skull here after he left the ark, at the end of the flood on the earth.
Christian lore relates that when Jesus was crucified on Mount Golgoltha, a drop of his blood fell to the earth, touched the skull of Adam and revived in it a breath of life for a fleeting moment.
In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Mount Golgotha there is a large hall in the possession of the Greeks. They call it Catholicon. On the floor of the Catholicon stands a large bowl, which marks the central point of the world. Therefore it is called the “Navel of the Earth.”
The legend of the Catholicon is parallel to the Hebrew tradition, which tells that the navel of the earth is in the Foundation Stone, on nearby Mount Moriah, the site of the Temple in ancient days. The sages of Israel relate that, “The Almighty created the world in the same manner as a child is formed in its mother’s womb. Just as the child begins to grow from its navel and then develops into its full form, so the world began from its central point and then developed in all directions.”
Question 12: As Catholics, are we allowed to cremate and are we allowed to spread the ashes?
Answer: The new Code of Canon Law (1983) stipulates, "The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching" (no. 1176, 3).
Therefore, a person may choose to be cremated if he has the right intention. However, the cremated remains must be treated with respect and should be interred in a grave or columbarium.
Question 13: Why does the priest mix a small amount of water with the wine to be consecrated?
Answer: The mingling signifies the union of the divine and human natures of Christ, as is beautifully expressed in the prayer then said by the priest, "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity." This mingling also signifies our union with Him in Holy Communion.
Question 14: Why do we make the sign of the cross?
Answer: Nicephorus writes that St. John the Evangelist blessed himself with the sign of the cross before dying. St. Paul used this same sign to restore sight to a blind man. Many even affirm that Our Lord Himself taught this sign to the apostles and that he used it to bless them on the day of his Ascension. “The sign of the cross,” says St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of St. John, “is the trophy raised against the power of the prince of this world; when he sees it, he is afraid; when he even hears of it, he is filled with terror.” Tertullian in the second century says, “At every fresh step and change of place, whenever we come in or go out…we impress upon our forehead the sign of the Cross.”
Our Lord's death sanctified (made holy) the symbol of the cross. The cross went from being regarded as an instrument of shame, to the symbol of Jesus' triumph and victory over sin and death and a sign of our faith in Him. That is why we make the sign of the cross.
If done with reverence and thought, the sign of the cross is a protection from the powers of Satan and a reminder of the power of our Faith. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, proclaims for all to see, our belief in the Trinity and the Unity of God in three persons. The touching of the forehead is to show that the Son proceeds from the Father, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son is signified by touching the heart and the two shoulders; while the form of the cross reminds us of our redemption by Jesus' sacrifice the cross. Make the sign of the cross devoutly. It is one of the greatest sacramentals of the Church.
The cross is signed upon the forehead, lips and heart when the Gospel is read, to show that we must avoid sin in thought, word or deed, and professes our faith in these three ways.
Question 15: Does a person who receives the Sacrament of Confirmation with mortal sin on his soul commit a sacrilege?
Answer: He does; for Confirmation is a Sacrament of the living and can only be worthily received by those who are in a state of grace. The Sacraments of the living, remember, increase sanctifying grace in the soul that is already in union with God. Sacraments of the dead, as they are called, namely, Baptism and Reconciliation, give sanctifying grace to the soul that is not in union with God.
Question 16: What was the sin of Sodom?
Answer: When the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had given themselves up to sins of impurity, the evil of their crime was so great that, as the Scripture says, it cried out to heaven for vengeance (Gen. 18:20; 19:13). As a result, God showed his anger, "Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground" (Gen. 19:24-25). Thus that country, which before was "like the garden of the Lord" (paradise) (Gen. 13:10), was turned into a lake of stinking water, as tradition has it, which remains to this day as an eternal reminder of the loathing God has for the sins of uncleanness.
So, the answer to the question is that sodomy was the sin for which God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The term includes all sins of unnatural lust, particularly those committed between persons of the same sex, and all practices aiming at the prevention of conception. Various distinctions, of no consequence here, are made by moral theology. But it always remains repugnant, unnatural lust that cries to heaven for vengeance.
Question 17: What are the origins of the "Hail Mary"?
Answer: The “Hail Mary,” as we now recite it, dates from the year 1515; originally it consisted only of the salutations of the Archangel and St. Elizabeth. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) ordered this primitive “Hail Mary” to be said at the offertory of the Mass on the fourth Sunday in Advent. There we find it as follows: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”
In the thirteenth century it was recited after the “Our Father” in the beginning of the divine office. Pope Urban IV, in 1263, added the holy name of Jesus after the scriptural sentence, as the devotion of the faithful introduced the name of Mary after the greeting.
The addition, “Holy Mary, pray for us sinners, Amen!” was made in 1508, and the Franciscans were accustomed to add to the Hail Mary, “hour of our death.” A few years later, Pius V showed his approval of the prayer, as we now have it, by allowing its insertion in the Roman Breviary.
From the time of the Crusades it became the custom to say the “Hail Mary every morning, noon, and night at the sound of the church bells.
Question 18: What is the "Secret of the Mass"?
Answer: As far back as the fourth century, historians called Christian life “the discipline of the secret.” However, much earlier, before it was called anything at all, it was a deeply ingrained discipline that had life of death consequences.
Of the 249 years from the first persecution under Nero (64) to the year 313, when Constantine established lasting peace, it is calculated that the Christians suffered persecution about 129 years and enjoyed a certain degree of toleration about 120 years. There is no way to know for certain, but it has been estimated that as many as one million Christian men, women and children perished in martyrdom during this period.
It took a long time for people to believe that the persecutions were really over. There was a latent fear of renewal for many years. Secrecy survived in the East until the fifth century, in the West until the sixth. When partially trusted strangers or new converts attended Christian rites, they were allowed to remain for the first part of the prayers and ceremonies. They were required to leave before the Eucharistic celebration. The first part of the Mass was designated for “the catechumens” and the rest designated for “the faithful.” The Eucharistic celebration was the most carefully guarded secret in all history. It was referred to as “the secret” until 1964 when Vatican Council II removed the label of secrecy and openly substituted “Liturgy of the Eucharist” for “Secret of the Mass.”
Question 19: Why does the Catholic Church not ordain women? Were not deaconesses ordained in the early Church?
Answer: Because such ordinations are contrary to the will of God, as manifested in both the Old Law and the New. Our Lord selected twelve men as His Apostles, and they in turn selected men as their successors. St. Paul excluded women from all share in liturgical functions, forbidding them to teach (1 Tim. 2:12) or even to address the assembled faithful (1 Cor. 14:34-35).
The deaconesses of the early Church were specially blessed, but they were never ordained, as St. Epiphanius (315-403) expressly states (Haer. 79, 3). They maintained order in church among the women, instructed them in the faith as Sisters do today, and attended them at baptism, which in the early Church was administered by immersion. They ceased to exist by the eighth century.
Question 20: Why do we Catholics call our priest "Father," when Jesus said: "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Mt. 23:9).
Answer: Catholics call their priest Father, because the priest is the ordinary minister of Baptism, which gives them the new birth of supernatural grace (Jn 3:5).
Christ was not finding fault with the use of the terms "Rabbi" or "Father" in themselves, but was teaching us that God alone, the Father of us all, is the Source of all authority, and at the same time rebuking the Pharisees for their pride (Mt. 23:2-10). It is absurd to interpret our Lord's words literally, for we have a perfect right to call our fathers and teachers by their just title. The early Christians never interpreted these words literally, for St. Paul calls Timothy his son (Phil. 2:22; 1 Tim. 1:2), and he calls himself the spiritual father of those whom he converted. " For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15). St. Jerome tells us that the fourth century monks in Palestine and Egypt called one another "Father."
Question 21: What is a Monstrance?
Answer: From the Latin “To Show.” This is a sacred vessel used to display the Eucharist for adoration. It is usually gold, often decorated with precious stones with rays emanating from a glass in the center beneath which the Sacred Host is reserved. The monstrance is used for the ceremony of blessing with the Eucharist known as Benediction.
Benediction is a paraliturgical Eucharistic service that began in the time of the Black Plague, when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for public adoration. Soon it became a custom before returning the Blessed Sacrament to “hiding” in the tabernacle to lift it in benediction upon the adorers. A monstrance is usually used, bur not necessary.
Question 22: What is the origin and meaning of the Stations of the Cross?
Answer: The Stations of the Cross are a series of pictures or tableau, placed on the walls of churches, or in the open air as in the Coliseum at Rome, representing scenes in the Passion of our Lord. They may be said privately or publicly by Catholics, who go0 from one to another of the fourteen stations, singing hymns and reciting prayers, while they meditate on the Savior's sufferings and death.
Pilgrimages to the Holy Land have been popular since the time of Constantine. St. Jerome mentions the crowds of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem in his day. To satisfy the devotion of Catholics, who could only make this pilgrimage in spirit, St. Petronius, in the fifth century, erected in St. Stephen's monastery in Bologna a number of chapels, modeled on the chief shrines of Jerusalem. Blessed Alvarez in the fifteenth century, on his return from the Holy Land, built a number of chapels in the Dominican friary of Cordova, on the walls of which were painted the chief scenes of the Passion.
The erection of Stations in the churches as we have them today did not become widespread until the close of the seventeenth century, when Pope Innocent XI granted special indulgences to the faithful, who would follow Christ in the Way of the Cross.
Question 23: Years ago, when a mother had a baby, the mother and child went to the church for a special blessing. Does this still occur and what is the blessing?
Answer: This is called "The Churching of Women." This is a blessing given by the Church to mothers after recovery from childbirth. The rite was probably suggested by the Jewish rite of purification of women after childbirth (Lev. 12). The contrast between the two rites is most striking, for whereas the Jewish mother was blessed to be freed from a legal defilement, the Catholic mother comes before the altar to give thanks to God for the safe delivery of her child. The ceremony consists of the recitation of Psalm 23, a special blessing with the sprinkling of holy water, and prayer.
Only a Catholic woman, who has given birth to a child in legitimate wedlock, provided she has not allowed the child to be baptized outside the Catholic Church, is entitled to it. It is not a precept, but a pious and praiseworthy custom dating from the early Christian ages, for a mother to present herself in the Church as soon as she is able to leave her house to render thanks to God for her happy delivery, and to obtain by means of the priestly blessing the graces necessary to bring up her child in a Christian manner. The prayers indicate that this blessing is intended solely for the benefit of the mother, and hence it is not necessary that she should bring the child with her; nevertheless, in many places the pious and edifying custom prevails of specially dedicating the child to God. For, as the Mother of Christ carried her Child to the Temple to offer Him to the Eternal Father, so a Christian mother is anxious to present her child to God and obtain for it the blessing of the Church. This blessing, in the ordinary form, without change or omission, is to be given to the mother, even if her child was stillborn, or has died without baptism. It is only since Vatican II and the late 1960s that this practice has ceased or has gone into decline in Catholic families. For more information on this practice and a copy of the rite see:
Question 24: What is incense and why is it used at Mass?
Answer: Incense is an aromatic substance obtained from resinous trees found in Eastern tropical countries. Placed upon a burning piece of charcoal in a thurible, it gives forth a heavy smoke of a most fragrant odor. It is symbolic of a good Christian's prayer, which ascends on high to the throne of God, and is pleasing in His sight. The Psalmist sings: "Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!" (Ps. 141:2). Because the smoke of burning incense ascending to heaven reminded men of the ascent of prayer to God, we find records of its use very early in the Old Testament, with minute directions for building the altar on which the incense is to be offered (Ex. 30:1-10). Incense was used extensively in the Jewish ritual (Lev.6:15), and although not mentioned by any Christian writer until the fourth century, the early Church must have adopted it from the Temple.
The Book of Revelation has an angel offering incense to God with "the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar" (Rev. 8:3).
Question 25: What is the difference between a Sacrament and a sacramental?
Answer: Christ instituted all the seven Sacraments, and the Church is powerless to change them; when worthily received, they infallibly confer grace of themselves. Sacramentals differ from the sacraments in not having been instituted by Christ in order to be perpetuated within the Church as divinely established means of conferring grace. For the most part, sacramentals are instituted by the Church, and even where we know that Christ practiced what is now considered a sacramental (such as the washing of feet at the Last Supper), the ritual was not intended by him as essentially related to the salvation or sanctification of the world.
They further differ from the sacraments in their efficacy. Sacraments confer grace as instrumental causes in such a way that, provided no obstacle interferes, the grace they signify they also produce by the power of God, who works through them. A newborn child is baptized, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are infused. Not so the sacramentals. Their efficacy does not come from the ritual performed but partly from the dispositions of the person who uses them and partly from the intercessory prayer of the whole Church, to which there belongs a particularly effective power because she is the holy and immaculate bride of Christ. This latter influence is what makes the sacramentals different from other religious practices (outside the sacraments), whose efficacy depends on the sanctity and fervor of the single person. Sacramentals are forms of ecclesial, as distinct from merely individual, piety. Built into the efficacy of the sacraments is an infallibility that God himself assures. Sacramentals lack this kind of inevitable effectiveness; they depend on the influence of prayerful petition: the person's who uses them, and the Church's in approving their practice.
The sacramentals finally differ from sacraments in the effects they produce. Unlike the sacraments, they do not confer sanctifying grace directly but merely dispose a person to its reception. This can occur in different ways, depending on the nature of the sacramental. A blessed article, like a crucifix or medal, acquires an objective holiness in virtue of the benediction placed upon it. Aware of this fact, the believer treats it accordingly and is thus prepared in heart to receive whatever grace God intends to confer on him. So, too, with verbal blessings and other sacramentals. They stimulate the faith of the one who reverently hears or uses them and thus indirectly are occasions for the reception of divine favors.
Question 26: I overheard part of a conversation between a priest and a parishioner at my church where the priest said the Church frowned upon mixed marriages. Since when is the Church against marriages between different races?
Answer: It appears that you may have misunderstood the conversation. Mixed marriage refers only to a sacramental union between a Catholic and any baptized non-Catholic. In the 1917 Code of Canon Law it was referred to as marriage of mixed religion. Although the marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic is no longer an impediment in law (and no longer penalized when unlawfully contracted), it still is seriously prohibited and warrants the special pastoral care of the Church and the guidance of her law.
The Church in her experience is wisely reluctant to permit such a union, even in a more ecumenical contemporary society, since it is often harmful to the intimacy of the union and the happiness of the spouses, dangerous to the faith and sometimes the morals of the Catholic party and especially to the children because conducive to indifferentism. It is not as such forbidden by the divine law, except where there is true danger of perversion for the Catholic party and the offspring.
In recent years, the Church has eased certain restrictions pertaining to mixed marriages. Stemming from the ecumenical movement, and also from the new sense of identity among the non-Christian religions of the world, the Second Vatican Council first paved the way and then the Pope determined the norms that are to govern these mixed marital unions. As a Catholic reflects on their import, he may at first be scandalized at what perhaps appears to him a compromise with the integrity of the faith, or certainly an about-face in what had been the Church's practice regarding such marriages in the past.
In order to appreciate the significance of what has happened, and to place the matter into perspective, two things should be done. The reasons that led up to the changed posture should be examined; then the norms themselves can be stated, along with some crucial explanations.
Mixed marriages have always been a vital concern of the Church. But today she is constrained to give even greater attention to them, owing to the conditions of the modern age. In the past, Catholics were separated from members of other Christian confessions and from non-Christians, by their situation in the community or even by physical boundaries. But all of this is changing. Not only has the separation been reduced, but also communication between and among people of different regions and religions has greatly developed, and as a result there has been a great increase in the number of mixed marriages in every country of the world. A contributing factor has been the growth and spread of civilization and industry, urbanization and consequent rural depopulation, migrations in great numbers, and the increase of exiles, as we might call them, everywhere.
What is the Church's position on mixed marriages in general? It has not essentially changed since biblical times: The Church is aware that mixed marriages, precisely because they admit differences of religion and are a consequence of the division among Christians, do not, except in some cases, help in reestablishing unity among Christians. There are many difficulties inherent in a mixed marriage, since a certain division is introduced into the living cell of the Church, as the Christian family is rightly called. Moreover, in the family itself the fulfillment of the Gospel teachings is more difficult because of diversities in matters of religion, especially with regard to those matters, which concern worship and the education of children.
Having said all of this, however, the Church is also conscious that people have a natural right to marry and beget children---hence the dilemma that needs to be resolved. The Church seeks to make such arrangements that "on the one hand the principles of divine law are scrupulously observed and on the other hand the recognized right to contract marriage is respected."
Accordingly, the new provisions regarding mixed marriages are at once a tribute to the Church's pastoral care of the faithful and a witness of her fidelity to the revelation bequeathed by the Savior.
2. A marriage between two persons, of whom one has been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, while the other is unbaptized, entered into without previous dispensation by the local bishop, is invalid.
3. The Church, taking into
account the nature and circumstances of times, places, and persons, is prepared
to dispense from both impediments, provided there is just cause.
5. At the opportune time, the non-Catholic party must be informed of these promises that the Catholic party has to make, so that it is clear that he or she is cognizant of the promise and obligation on the part of the Catholic.
6. Both parties are to be clearly instructed on the ends and essential properties of marriage, not to be excluded by either party.
7. The canonical form (priest and witnesses) is to be used for contracting mixed marriages and is required for validity. If serious difficulties stand in the way, local bishops have the right to dispense from the canonical form in any mixed marriage.
8. The celebration of marriage before a Catholic priest or deacon and a non-Catholic minister performing their respective rites together is forbidden; nor is it permitted to have another religious marriage ceremony before or after the Catholic ceremony, for the purpose of giving or renewing matrimonial consent.
9. Local bishops and parish priests shall see to it that the Catholic husband or wife and the children born of a mixed marriage do not lack spiritual assistance in fulfilling their duties of conscience. They shall encourage the Catholic husband or wife to keep ever in mind the divine gift of the Catholic faith and to bear witness to it with gentleness and reverence, and with a clear conscience. They are to aid the married couple to foster the unity of their conjugal and family life, a unity that, in the case of Christians, is based on their baptism too. To these ends it is to be desired that those pastors should establish relationships of sincere openness and enlightened confidence with ministers of other religious communities.
Since the percentage of mixed marriages in some countries is exceptionally high, approaching one half of all the marriages that Catholics enter, these directives of the Church are bound to have widespread implications. Doctrinally there is no problem. The essence of a matrimonial contract is the mutual exchange of consent between the contracting parties. If they are both baptized, whether professed Catholics or not, they certainly receive the sacrament of marriage and with it the title to all the graces that Christ confers on those who marry in his name. Since marriage is a "sacrament of the living," the graces of the sacrament demand the right disposition of soul. A person must be in the state of grace to receive the sacrament fruitfully.
A couple, therefore, preparing for an interfaith marriage need to know the difference between receiving a sacrament only, and receiving also the extraordinary blessings that Catholics believe are attached to the sacrament. Hence the value of both parties to such a marriage making their peace with God, by whatever means each believes are effective, before pronouncing the marriage vows.
Mixed marriages are generally frowned upon by churchmen who are not Catholic. The heart of the matter is concern about the encroachment of an "authoritarian" Church into the lives of their people. Responsive to this concern, the Catholic Church sincerely wishes to avoid giving needless offense to those who are Christians, indeed, but not Roman Catholic. Thus the new approach is to place the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the Catholic partner to the marriage. He or she declares the readiness "to remove all dangers of falling away from the faith," and is "also gravely bound to make a sincere promise to do all in his power to have all the children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church."
What the Church cannot dispense from is the obligations of the divine law affecting the Catholic party and his or her children. No one can give a dispensation from the duty of remaining loyal to the Catholic faith or the correlative duty of sharing this faith with flesh-and-blood offspring. Enlightened charity never has to compromise with the truth.
Question 27: Would you please elaborate on your answer to the previous question? Why can't a Catholic who marries a non-Catholic have a Catholic ceremony first and then be married be a minister to please the parents who are non-Catholics?
Answer: Canon law (Canon 1127 §3) expressly forbids a Catholic to give or renew his matrimonial consent before a non-Catholic minister. In doing so, Catholics incur "ipso facto" excommunication, for such action is, by the very fact, an open profession of heresy or schism. We must not sacrifice principle merely to please others. If, the first marriage is considered binding until death, why should a sensible person go through a second meaningless ceremony? In countries that insist that their citizens go through the formality of a civil marriage, a Catholic is bound to obey the law to insure their civil privileges. The civil marriage is then to be regarded merely as a legal formality; it has no religious significance whatever.
Question 28: Isn't the wearing of medals is a superstitious practice, similar to the pagan custom of wearing amulets or charms to ward off disease and danger.
Answer: No, there is no superstition in the wearing of medals. The pagans’ attributed magical power to the amulets they wore to ward off disease and death. Catholics wear medals to honor God and His saints, to bring to their minds some doctrine of the faith, or to show their membership to some pious confraternity. We do not attribute any virtue to the medal itself, but wear it to foster devotion. Would you call a person superstitious because he/she wore a locket with a picture of a loved one inside? Would you find fault with a soldier, who wore a medal given to him for some special act of bravery?
One of the oldest medals in existence is a bronze medallion of the Apostles Peter and Paul, discovered in the cemetery of Domitilla, and dated to the time of Alexander Severus (222-235). Many of the gilded glasses of the catacombs contain portraits of Moses, Tobias, the Blessed Virgin and St. Agnes.
Modern medals of devotion became popular in the fifteenth century, when the papal Jubilee medals were spread all over Europe; a century later the Popes gave them special blessings, and enriched them with many indulgences.
Question 29: Can my mother be my sponsor for Confirmation?
Answer: No. Canon law (Canon 893 §1) states, "To perform the role of sponsor, it is necessary that a person fulfill the conditions mentioned in can. 874. Canon 874 §5, states the sponsor must "not be the father or mother of the one who is to be baptized." The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§1311) states, "Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, fittingly seek the spiritual help of a sponsor. To emphasize the unity of the two sacraments, it is appropriate that this be one of the baptismal godparents."
The general requirements for the Diocese of San Bernardino are as follows:
· Be a Catholic who has received Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation and Confirmation.
· Be someone whose life is exemplary witness to the Gospel.
· Be sufficiently mature with strong and continuing influence on the candidate (not parents).
· Be a regular attendant at Mass.
Question 30: Does the Catholic Church condemn astrology? Is it sinful to have one’s horoscope taken? What about the use of a weejee board?
Answer: The Catholic Church condemns astrology as a pagan superstition, which by encouraging fatalism leads to the denial of Divine Providence. The stars have absolutely no influence whatsoever upon human life and human affairs, and the casting of a horoscope or diagram of the heavens at the birth of a child in order to foretell its future is downright foolishness. St. Augustine attacked it strongly in his City of God (8, 19), and St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “If anyone applies the observation of the stars in order to foreknow casual or fortuitous events, or to know with certitude future human actions, his conduct is based on a false and vain opinion: and so the operation of the demon introduces himself therein, wherefore it will be a superstitious and unlawful divination” (Summa, IIa. IIae., Q. 95, art. 5).
Divination is the attempt to learn hidden facts with the expressed or implied aid of evil spirits. Divination in this sense includes palmistry, crystal gazing, astrology, omens, and the ouija board. It is a sin against the first commandment of God because it involves business with the devil, a lack of trust in God, and the danger of being harmfully deceived.
Divination seeks guidance from a higher power apart from God. Divination is any attempt to foresee future contingencies, which human beings can know neither naturally nor by divine revelation. In taking seriously omens, astrology, automatic writing, or reading palms, cards, tealeaves, and so forth, people engage in divination. Implicit in these practices is recourse to something more than human, which is assumed either to know the future, to determine it, or both. Such a higher power other than God would be either personal and demonic or some sort of impersonal, cosmic, ruling force which subjected human life to inexorable fate. In either case, something other than God is regarded as if it were divine, insofar as enlightenment is sought from it to supplement the guidance God has made available. Divination is always a mortal sin unless it is used out of ignorance or as a joke.
Question 31: Recently I was advised by a parish priest that I should not strike my breast during the Agnus Dei -- that it was liturgically incorrect. I have done this for years and I am sure I have seen this "rubric" somewhere. Has something changed or has it expressly been forbidden?
Answer: From a technical point of view the parish priest is correct. Striking one's breast is a gesture implying penance and admission of sinfulness.
In the present rite it is done, above all, within the context of the first form of rite of penance at the beginning of Mass when the "I confess" is used and by the priest when he uses the Roman canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) at the words "though we are sinners."
Before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council it was also customary to do so at the "Lamb of God" and at the "Lord, I am not worthy," and this is probably where you get your custom.
The gesture is no longer prescribed at these latter moments and should not be fomented among younger Catholics. But it would be probably going too far to say it is forbidden to those who have been raised in this custom.
What motivated the removal of the gesture of striking the breast at the Lamb of God and the "Lord, I am not worthy" is not really known. This gesture entered into the Roman liturgy at these moments relatively late, the first notice of the gesture at the "Lamb of God" is from around 1311, and from a Spanish manuscript dated 1499 for the "Lord, I am not worthy."
I'd guess that the removal of these gestures was a consequence of the general desire for simplification of the rites. Then again, neither the "Lamb of God" nor the "Lord, I am not worthy" are, strictly speaking, penitential rites. They do not mention the personal sin of the individual but rather the sin of the world and a general state of unworthiness.
The "Lamb of God" is rather a hymn of praise for the work of redemption. And the petition of mercy asks for forgiveness of sin as well as for grace, which is a fruit of God's mercy.
Striking or beating the breast with the hand, and bowed head, is an ancient sign of sorrow and penitence (cf., Lk. 18:13; 23:48), survives as a liturgical gesture in the Latin rite. The gesture of beating the breast is carried out during the recitation the Confiteor: “I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do...” Striking the breast at the words “through my own fault.” expresses our repentance physically, in body language.
The early Christians were familiar with the practice, as St. Augustine and St. Jerome testify. “No sooner have you heard the word “Confiteor, says St. Augustine, than you strike your breast. What does this mean except that you wish to bring to light what is concealed in the breast, and by this act to cleanse your hidden sins?”[i] “We strike our breasts”, declares St. Jerome, “because the breast is the seat of evil thoughts: we wish to dispel those thoughts, we wish to purify our hearts.”[ii] A justification for these statements is found in Psalm 51:17: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
The ancient Christians were accustomed to strike the breast when they heard mention of sensual sins and at the “forgive us our trespasses” of the Our Father.
Father Romano Guardini[iii] answers the question: How should this gesture be carried out?
“All its meaning lies in its being rightly done. To brush one's clothes with the tips of one's fingers is not to strike the breast. We should beat upon our breasts with our closed fists. In the old picture of Saint Jerome in the desert he is kneeling on the ground and striking his breast with a stone. It is an honest blow, not an elegant gesture. To strike the breast is to beat against the gates of our inner world in order to shatter them. This is its significance.
“The blow also is to wake us up. It is to shake the soul awake into the consciousness that God is calling, so that she may hear, and take his part and punish herself. She reflects, repents and is contrite.”
So when you strike your breast, do it like you mean it, so that the sound echoes.
1. St. Augustine, Sermo de verbis Domini, 13.
2. St. Jerome, In Ezechiel 100.18.
3. Guardini, Romano, Sacred Signs, tr. Grace Branham (St. Louis: Pio Decimo Press, 1956).
Question 32: John Edward claimed to be able to contact the dead on his TV program, Crossing Over; how did he do it? Now, there is a new television program called Medium, is this a program that Catholics should watch? Does the Catholic Church allow a Catholic to attend a spiritistic séance or to become a Medium? Isn’t spiritism invaluable in supplying us with proof of immortality?
Answer: The answer to the first question is simple, he didn’t. John Edward claims to have had a "psychic" ability since an early age. What he actually does is called "cold reading." A cold reading is the "sleight of tongue" procedure that fast-talking artists or so-called "Readers" use (as opposed to a "warm reading", where the Reader has actually acquired information about the subject beforehand). Cold reading has many methods whereby the Reader can get out of a blatantly wrong guess with extreme speed. So fast that, unless you listen very carefully or are able to review a transcript of what was actually said during the reading, few would ever notice. Cold reading is used by such other "psychics" or "sensitives" as Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh (John, Sylvia and James being the three most popular Cold Readers at the moment). All of whom claim to communicate with loved ones who have crossed over.
The answers to the rest of your questions are probably not, and no, and no. Although I have not viewed the program Medium, it must be understood that this is pure fiction, designed to be entertaining, with no basis of fact.
That said, it is important to understand that the Catholic Church forbids Catholics to have anything to do with Spiritism, which she condemns as a destructive superstition. The Holy See has issued at least five decrees (1840, 1847, 1856, 1898, 1917) forbidding Catholics “to be present at spiritistic conversations or manifestations of any kind, even though these phenomena present the appearance of honesty or piety, whether by interrogating souls or spirits, or by listening to responses, or only by looking on, even with a tacit or expressed protestation that one does not wish to have anything to do with wicked spirits.”
Spiritism is simply a modern from of pagan necromancy (summoning the spirits of the dead) condemned by the Law of Moses. “There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord” (Deut. 18:10-12).
Some of these practices survive or reappear from time to time in contemporary culture. Instead of taking the form of false religions, however, today they may present themselves as programs of self-improvement or psychological therapy, or as new forms of "spirituality." Whatever their guise, one must be careful to avoid any participation in false worship and superstition.
Attempts to summon the ghosts of the dead are forbidden. Such attempts, called spiritism or spiritualism, always risk evoking demonic activity, and often are undertaken for the sake of divination and/or magic. The séances conducted by supposed mediums often involve religious elements whose doctrinal basis denies Jesus' divinity. If Catholics undertake such practices to seek reassurance about the fate of their loved ones, they show lack of confidence in prayer and the rites of the Church, and manifest underlying defects in their faith. Those who seek guidance through a medium also show lack of confidence in divine guidance (see 1 Chr. 10.13-14). Participation is a grave matter, and the Church warns her members to avoid having anything to do with such practices.
Spiritism is a pagan superstition, which denies every dogma of the Christian Gospel in the name of an imagined communication with the dead, which is a cruel parody of the Communion of Saints. Experience has proven that spiritism comes with many dangers to both body and soul; it has frequently destroyed the physical health of its practitioners; caused mental illness, and deprived them of the true faith.
The immortality of the soul is a dogma of the Catholic faith. Spiritism in no way proves immortality, for despite its exaggerated claims, no person has ever succeeded in summoning a spirit from the dead or communicating with one.
Question 33: Do animals have souls and will there be animals in heaven?
Answer: All living things have souls. There are three classes of souls, vegetative, animal, and rational. The souls of vegetables and animals are incomplete, when they die, the soul dies. Only man has a complete and immortal soul, which is capable of gaining heaven. (See also Question 42)
Question 34: Is it permissible for a layperson to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration.
Answer: Yes, under certain circumstances. The ordinary minister of exposition is a bishop, priest or deacon. Only a bishop, priest or deacon may give the blessing with a monstrance, ciborium or pyx, which is known popularly as "Benediction". However, the bishop may authorize an acolyte, an extraordinary minister or a male or female religious to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament for a just pastoral reason (CIC, Can. 943).
During the time of exposition, on or near the altar, or near the tabernacle, at least four candles, and/or lamps should burn and flowers should be set up. The custody of the key to the tabernacle should be planned beforehand, but, above all, someone should always be present, "watching" before the Lord. However, if no one in the community can be present, the Eucharist must be reposed immediately. At the conclusion of the time of adoration, even if a priest or deacon is not available for Benediction, the reposition may well be accompanied by the appropriate hour of the Liturgy of the Hours or eucharistic devotions, such as a litany or hymn.
Greater freedom in allowing laity and religious to expose the Eucharist has helped promote adoration in parishes and religious communities. The modern development of perpetual adoration as a parish lay spirituality may include daily exposition. Regular public celebrations of eucharistic adoration should form part of this devout "watching". Personal visits to the Blessed Sacrament are explicitly encouraged in the provision of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (canon 937) that churches ought to be kept open at least for some hours each day for people to adore Our Lord.
"No one who enters a church should fail to adore the Blessed Sacrament, either by visiting the Blessed Sacrament chapel or at least by genuflecting" (Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 71). See also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1418.
Question 35: What is meant by the statement “Outside the Church there is no salvation”? Does that mean that all non-Catholics will go to Hell?
Answer: The Catholic Church makes claims about herself that are easily misunderstood, especially in the modern atmosphere of pluralism and ecumenism. Among these claims, the most fundamental is the doctrine of the Church's necessity for salvation.
The New Testament makes it plain that Christ founded the Church to be a society for the salvation of all men. The ancient Fathers held the unanimous conviction that salvation cannot be achieved outside the Church. St. Irenaeus taught that, "where the Church is, there is the spirit of God, and where the spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace" (St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, II, 24, 1.) Origen simply declared, "Outside the Church nobody will be saved." (Origen, Homilia In Jesu Nave, 3, 5.) And the favorite simile in patristic literature for the Church's absolute need to be saved is the Ark of Noah, outside of which there is no prospect of deliverance from the deluge of sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following historic Christian theology since the time of the early Church Fathers, refers to the Catholic Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780).
The Church teaches that she is the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” instituted by Christ, for man’s salvation, and that a person must be affiliated with her in some way to be saved. That is what St. Cyprian meant when he wrote: “No one can have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother” (On the Unity of the Church, 6). Many people, who are apparently outside the Church, are in truth, really within her fold in the sight of God. While not united with the Church in fact, they are in communion with her in desire. Whoever is saved owes his salvation to the one Catholic Church founded by Christ. It is to this Church alone that Christ entrusted the truths of revelation which have by now, though often dimly, penetrated all the cultures of mankind. It is this Church alone that communicates the merits won for the whole world on the cross.
This dogma "Outside the Church, there is no salvation" refers to those who are outside the Church by their own choice. There is a command to enter the Church, which is the prescribed way to Heaven. He who obstinately refuses to join the Church, when recognizing that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Jesus, forfeits salvation. But those who are in invincible ignorance will not be condemned merely on account of their ignorance. "It is to be held as of faith that none can be saved outside the Apostolic Roman Church ... but nevertheless it is equally certain that those who are ignorant of the true religion, if that ignorance is invincible, will not be held guilty in the matter in the eyes of the Lord" (Pius IX, allocution of December 9, 1854). Those non-Catholics who are saved are outside the visible body of the Church, but are joined invisibly to the Church by charity and by that implicit desire of joining the Church, which is inseparable from the explicit desire to do God's will.
The Church has always taught that no one is lost except through his own fault; that no one is held responsible before God for a duty that he cannot fulfill because of invincible ignorance.
Ignorance is invincible (from the Latin meaning "unconquerable") when it is present indeed but there is no reasonable way, here and now, of dispelling it so that the person cannot be held responsible for doing what he does not know is wrong. He may not even suspect his ignorance, as when a child uses profane or obscene language that was learned from adults, and in such cases the child is not responsible. Or a man may vaguely suspect his ignorance on a point of moral obligation but, under the circumstances, feels it is practically impossible to acquire the knowledge required.
Vincible ignorance can be cleared up if only a person wants to do so. A person would be condemned, not for seeing that the Catholic Church is true, but because, having acknowledged this, continue to close their eyes to it. The measure of his negligence to learn the truth determines his guilt when he does something wrong through lack of sufficient knowledge. Considering the amount of information available to one today, it would be difficult for anyone living in contemporary society to claim invincible ignorance.
This dogma also teaches that if a person is a member of the Church and understands that the Church is the one, true Church established by Christ for the salvation of souls, he forfeits his salvation by separating himself. A rejection of Christ’s Church is a rejection of Christ Himself.
Question 36: How can it be proved from the Scriptures that the Virgin Mary was miraculously conceived? Doesn’t the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin contradict the Scriptures, which teach that all men died in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22)? Is this not a relatively new teaching of the Church, first proclaimed in 1854?
Answer: We do not believe that the Virgin Mary was miraculously conceived. Her Son was born miraculously of a virgin Mother, but she herself had a real father and a real mother, St. Joachim and St. Anne. The doctrine means that at the very first instant when her soul was infused into her body, the Virgin Mary was sanctified by God's grace, so that her soul was never deprived of the sanctification, which all other creatures had forfeited by the sin of Adam. Her soul was never displeasing to God, because it had never been stained with original sin.
On December 8, 1854 Pope Pius IX defined that “the doctrine which declares that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God, and therefore must be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful" (Ineffabilis Deus).
Some people deny this dogma because they deny the existence of Original Sin, while orthodox Protestants deny it, because of their erroneous notion of Original Sin. Cardinal Newman writes: "Our doctrine of Original Sin is not the same as the Protestant doctrine. Original Sin with us cannot be called sin, in the mere ordinary sense of the word; it is a term denoting Adam's sin as transferred to us, or the state to which Adam's sin reduces his children; but by Protestants it seems to be understood as sin, in much the same sense as actual sin.
“We, with the Fathers, think of it as something negative, Protestants as something positive. Protestants hold that it is a disease, a radical change of nature, an active poison actively corrupting the soul, infecting its primary elements, and disorganizing it; and they fancy we ascribe a different nature from ours to the Blessed Virgin, different from that of her parents, and from that of fallen Adam.
“We hold nothing of the kind; we consider that in Adam she died as others; that she was included, together with the whole race, in Adam's sentence; that she incurred the debt as we do; but that for the sake of Him who was to redeem her and us upon the Cross, to her the debt was remitted by anticipation; on her the sentence was not carried out, except indeed as regards her natural death, for she died when her time came, as others,
“All this we teach, but we deny that she had Original Sin; for by Original Sin we mean, as I have already said, something negative, namely, this only, the deprivation of that supernatural, unmerited grace which Adam and Eve had on their first formation-deprivation and the consequences of deprivation.
“Mary could not merit, any more than they, the restoration of that grace; but it was restored to her by God's' free bounty from and at the very first moment of her existence, and thereby, in fact, she never came under the original curse, which consisted in the loss of it" (Difficulties of Anglicans, 2., 48, 49).
The Scriptures nowhere expressly teach this doctrine, but Pius IX cites two passages, from which it may be inferred, if they are considered in the light of Catholic tradition. They are: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28). Christ and His Mother are both spoken of as enemies of Satan and of sin; He, absolutely sinless as the Son of God, and she sinless, or full of grace, by God's special prerogative and gift.
The Blessed Virgin holds a unique position of dignity and preeminence in the writings of the early Fathers, many of whose statements would be exaggerated or untrue, had she been conceived in Original Sin. They imply her freedom from all sin by their insistence upon her perfect purity, and her position as the second Eve.
St. Irenaeus (140-205) writes: "As Eve, becoming disobedient, became the cause of death both to herself and the whole human race, so also Mary, bearing the predestined Man, and being yet a virgin, being obedient, became both to herself and to the whole human race the cause of salvation" (Adv. Haer., 3., 22). The same idea is set forth by St. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ephrem of Syria, St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome and others. Of all the testimonies that might be given, St. Ephrem's (306-373) words of praise can only mean that Mary was immaculately conceived. He says that "she was as innocent as Eve before her fall, a Virgin most estranged from every stain of sin, more holy than the Seraphim, the sealed fountain of the Holy Ghost, the pure seed of God, ever in body and in mind intact and immaculate" (Carmina Nisibena, first discovered and published in 1866).
Logically speaking, would the Lord have come into the world in a sinful vessel?
Question 37: Were their any Catholic signers to the Declaration of Independence?
Answer: Catholics participated in the Constitutional Convention that drew up the original Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. Two of the thirty-nine signers of the Constitution were Catholic citizens of considerable distinction and influence in their communities. In the nature of things, they had to be rather outstanding because they represented overwhelmingly Protestant states. These two were Daniel Carroll, of Maryland, and Thomas Fitzsimmons, of Pennsylvania. Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was originally chosen to represent Maryland, but declined the appointment, because as a member of the state legislature of Maryland he felt that he ought to stay at home in order to attend to the business of the legislature, particularly to work against a threatened issue of paper money by the state.
While it is of no great significance, perhaps it is interesting to note that, while there were only two Catholic signers of the Constitution and thirty-seven non-Catholic signers, this made Catholic representation in writing the Constitution about seven times as large in proportion to the Catholic population as was the non-Catholic representation in proportion to the non-Catholic population. The various estimates of the Catholic population of the United States in 1787 run from twenty-four to thirty thousand. The total population of the United States in 1787 is generally estimated to have been about four million. To keep the proportions even, there should have been about 264 non-Catholic signers of the Constitution to balance the two Catholic signers. The two Catholic delegates to the Convention both signed the Constitution
Thomas Fitzsimmons[i] (1741-1811) was born in County Tubber, Wicklow, Ireland, and came to this country sometime before 1760. In 1770 he joined the shipping firm of George Mead and Company, in Philadelphia. In 1774, following the Boston Tea Party, he was made a member of the Committee of Correspondence to keep in communication with the men of other colonies concerning the growing crisis. He was the first Catholic to attain a municipal office in Pennsylvania. In 1776 he was elected to membership in the Council of Safety and in 1777 a member of the Navy Board created by the legislature of Pennsylvania. He served in the Revolutionary War under George Washington, by commanding a company of volunteer home and was chosen a delegate to the Constitutional Convention on December 30, 1786, with Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson, and Governor Morris. He was a member of the Continental Congress in 1782 and 1783; member of the State house of representatives in 1786 and 1787; delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787; elected as a Federalist to the First, Second, and Third Congresses (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1795); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1794 to the Fourth Congress; president of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; trustee of the University of Pennsylvania; founder and director of the Bank of North America. Fitzsimmons died in Philadelphia, Pa., on August 26, 1811 and was interred in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Churchyard.
Daniel Carroll[ii] (1730-1796) was educated at home as a small boy and from the age of twelve to eighteen at the English Jesuit College of St. Omer in French Flanders. Education of Catholic youth in Maryland in Carroll's boyhood was difficult and even hazardous on account of the drastic English penal laws, which were still in force in Maryland. When Daniel was twenty-one, his father died, leaving heavy responsibilities on him-as manager of large estates and the family mercantile business. His only brother, John, later the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in America, was in France preparing for the priesthood. Daniel's public life began at the age of forty-seven, in 1777, when he was elected to the Council of State of the new state of Maryland. He was re-elected four times. He resigned on January 17, 1781, to accept a seat in the Continental Congress.
On November 24, 1781, he was elected to a five-year term as state senator, and was re-elected in 1786. During his years as a state senator he was also a member of the Continental Congress from 1781 until the work of the Congress was over. He served part of this time also as President of the Senate.
Daniel Carroll was one of the few signers of both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States. In the Continental Congress Carroll was active on many matters, particularly with such colleagues as Madison and Hamilton on army supply and public finance.
On May 26, 1787, Daniel Carroll was chosen as one of Maryland's five delegates to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. He took his seat there July 9, 1787, and remained to the final day, and the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. Later he was ardent and active in securing Maryland's ratification. On January 13, 1789, Daniel Carroll was elected to the House of Representatives in the First Congress. The record shows that Carroll played an active part in framing the religious clause of the First Amendment and the Tenth Amendment which reserves "to the people" of the states the authority to say what power over them 5hall be exerci5ed by the federal government.
Daniel Carroll was one of the three commissioners appointed in 1791 by Washington to plan the permanent seat of the government in s, where he served through its three sessions-Mardr4, 1789, to March 4, 1791. He was particularly concerned with the First and Tenth Amendments. Carroll was one of the three commissioners appointed in 1791 by Washington to plan the permanent seat of government in the newly created District of Columbia. He resigned in 1795, and died on May 7, 1796 at the age of 65 at his home near Rock Creek in Forest Glen, MD. He was buried there in St. John's Catholic Cemetery.
[i] The material in this paragraph is taken from Thomas Fitzsimmons, Sign of the Constitution, by the Rev. James A. Farrell, A.B., M.A., Records of American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Vol. 39, No.3, Philadelphia, 1928.
[ii] Most of the data on Daniel Carroll is taken from Daniel Carroll, a Framer of the Constitution by Mary Virginia Geiger (Washington: Catholic University of America Press), 1943.
Question 38: What are the rules concerning the sacred vessels used at Mass?
Answer: The celebration of Mass is always enhanced by the use of the finest vessels, vestments and other objects. These should all be designed according to the artistic and cultural principles of "noble simplicity" and worthiness for the sacred rites. The gifts of skilled members of the community and the generosity of the people or specific donors can always provide the best for God.
The 2003 General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM) §327-331 states, “Among the requisites for the celebration of Mass, the sacred vessels are held in special honor, especially the chalice and paten, in which the bread and wine are offered and consecrated, and from which they are consumed.
“Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside.
“In the Dioceses of the United States of America, sacred vessels may also be made from other solid materials that, according to the common estimation in each region, are precious, for example, ebony or other hard woods, provided that such materials are suited to sacred use and do not easily break or deteriorate. This applies to all vessels, which hold the hosts, such as the paten, the ciborium, the pyx, the monstrance, and other things of this kind.
“As regards chalices and other vessels that are intended to serve as receptacles for the Blood of the Lord, they are to have bowls of nonabsorbent material. The base, on the other hand, may be made of other solid and worthy materials.
“For the consecration of hosts, a large paten may appropriately be used; on it is placed the bread for the priest and the deacon as well as for the other ministers and for the faithful.”
A glass or ceramic chalice is easily breakable and is thus excluded as also are chalices with cups made of absorbent material or material which deteriorates easily. Vessels of glass and ceramics are also less hygienic and cannot be cleaned adequately at the ablutions. Moreover, it may well be argued that a priest should never celebrate the Sacred Mysteries in vessels less worthy than those he would use at his own table. The contrived "poverty" of chalices made of wood or pottery seems to end up expressing only a lack of esteem for the Eucharist itself. On the other hand, the artistic use of such simple materials for other objects in worship can embody a "noble simplicity". But what has always distinguished the Eucharistic vessels is that they are partly defined and identified as "sacred vessels" by being of significant material value. Secular vessels are never to be used for the Eucharist. Inaestimable Donum, (Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery) #16 reiterates this view, “Particular respect and care are due to the sacred vessels, both the chalice and paten for the celebration of the Eucharist, and the ciboria for the Communion of the faithful. The form of the vessels must be appropriate for the liturgical use for which they are meant. The material must be noble, durable, and in every case adapted to sacred use. In this sphere, judgment belongs to the episcopal conference of the individual regions.
“Use is not to be made of simple baskets or other recipients meant for ordinary use outside the sacred celebrations, nor are the sacred vessels to be of poor quality or lacking any artistic style.”
Greater freedom pertains to the form and material of the paten, ciborium, pyx or monstrance. In contrast to the chalice, "they may be made of other materials which are locally considered valuable and appropriate for sacred use, such as ebony or hard woods". But the same principles of value and worthiness are important. A large paten is favored, but common sense would preclude a platter. It should be fashioned out of fine metal or some durable, valuable material and be clearly distinguished from a secular plate by sacred art. A shallow low ciborium may replace the paten. However, while it may be used in conjunction with the paten, the traditional ciborium would not seem appropriate to replace the main paten because it looks like a second chalice.
Guided by St. Paul, "one bread . . . one cup", the ideal is to use one chalice and one paten, especially at concelebrations. However this is not always possible. It seems preferable at a major concelebration to use a set of chalices of the same design, arranging them at convenient points on the altar, not necessarily around the main chalice on the corporal. Consecrating wine in a flagon or decanter does not seem to be a sound liturgical solution, both from a practical and a symbolic point of view. The practical advantages are offset by the problem of spilling the Precious Blood and of purifying the Flagon.
What is said of the one chalice also applies to the paten. Ideally there should be one paten, for the "one Bread". In practice at major celebrations other patens or ciboria are used. It is worth noting at this point that undue literalism in liturgical signs can lead to a precious mentality. Our people are not distracted by the number of sacred vessels on the altar.
The pyx used for taking the Eucharist to the sick should be of convenient proportions and designed so that it may be securely closed and easily purified. Traditionally it is kept in a small bag or wallet, lined with silk, with a cord or chain so that it may be discreetly carried around the neck.
Question 39: Why do we re-baptize Protestants when they enter the Church?
Answer: We do not re-baptize them, as Baptism can be received only once. We baptize converts conditionally, only when a prudent doubt exists about the validity of the former baptism. The form is: "If you are not baptized, I baptize you..." etc. If the first Baptism was valid, the conditional Baptism is not a Sacrament.
Question 40: May a Protestant be a sponsor for a Catholic Child?
Answer: No, this is expressly forbidden by canon law (Canon 874, §1). "To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must:
1° be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it;
2° be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made;
3° be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith, which befits the role to be undertaken;
4° not labor under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;
5° not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptized.
§2 A baptized person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism.
It is the duty of a sponsor or godparent to regard his spiritual children and his perpetual charges, and to instruct them in the obligations of the Christian life, especially when the parents neglect their duty. A conscientious non-Catholic could not fulfill this obligation.
Question 41: Is it absolutely necessary to believe the Genesis story of Adam and Eve being the first man and first woman, and that the entire human race came from them?
Answer: Yes. A denial of this belief would be a rejection of the knowledge revealed by God to Moses, as it is recorded in Genesis. This knowledge was set forth and expanded upon by St. Paul, who said that "He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth" (Acts 11:26), which included Eve who came from Adam. To deny this truth is to deny Christ who quoted Genesis approvingly to enforce the fact that Christian marriage is monogamous and indissoluble. To the Pharisees Christ said: ""Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one"? (Matt. 19:3-5). At the time when Rationalism, Modernism and other anti-Christian so-called sciences came into popular vogue, the Pontifical Biblical Commission of the Church declared (Rome, July 30, 1900) that to doubt the literal story pf Adam and Eve being "our first parents" would be a denial of the Christian faith.
Question 42: Would you please elaborate your answer to question 33 as to the difference between the soul of an animal and the soul of a human being?
Answer: First, we must address the question, "What is the soul?"
The soul is the life principle:
It is a spiritual entity, which moves of its own volition: being independent of external forces:
It is a simple substance; having no parts, it is not subject to decomposition, disintegration or dissolution from within:
It is an immaterial, indivisible, indestructible unit, incapable of extinction, therefore immortal:
It is the conscious art principle, created by God, not born of man.
Man is capable of making a moral decision, while an animal is not. The animal differs radically from a human being. Humans are capable of building or creating, with the substances, which God has given him to work with, all the while hoping for immortality. Animal acts are reflexive, such as breathing, eating, sleeping, waking.
The soul of man thinks; the soul of the animal does not, although under the guidance of man, an animal can be taught to do many things.
The soul of man is intellectual, it can reflect, reason, and hope.
The soul of an animal is sensitive, it does what its nature compels it to do; it is mortal.
The soul of man comes from God to return to God. The soul of an animal is generated from its parents, and returns with its body to the earth.
As for such "higher animals" -- the ape, gorilla, ourang-outang, and the monkey, they are the same as any other animal. They live and act today the same as they did when they were created by God.
On the other hand, man builds, lives, and adjusts himself to his changing environments progressively. By the use of his art principle, he discovers new forces of nature, and new means of using the things over which God has given him dominion. Only man can create a symphony.
Question 43: Why do we Catholics identify ourselves as Catholics rather than simply using the title "Christian"? Many Protestants say that Catholics are not Christians, how should I respond?
Answer: We Catholics are both Catholic and Christian. Yet, by calling ourselves Catholic we are separating ourselves from the many "Christians" who deny the Divinity of Christ; the Bible as the Word of God; original sin; the necessity of baptism; the indissolubility of the marriage bond, etc.; and who advocate all kinds of ridiculous religious practices and absurdities, from denying the reality of matter to being bitten by poisonous snakes as an act of faith.
The distinction between Christian and Catholic, between Christianity and Catholicity, as it exists in many minds today, was unheard of prior to the Protestant Reformation. Today, the word Christian is used in vague and loose ways. It may still refer to a member of the Catholic Church, but, quite as often, may indicate an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, or merely a person who is not a Jew or Muslim. Such a subjective or negative use of the word "Christian" would have been unthinkable prior to the Reformation. The word Catholic was, prior to the Reformation, and is today, synonymous with the word Christian.
Identifying ourselves as Catholics has great propaganda value. Be proud to identify yourself as a Catholic. It tells the world that our Christ is not divided; it signifies doctrinal absoluteness in religious principles and moral standards; it says unequivocally that we hold Christianity in its fullness to be Catholic. You might respond with "Catholics were the first Christians, and we are the only Christian body that has the fullness of God's revelation."
Question 44: Does the Pope go to Confession?
Answer: As pope? no; as man? yes. This is not a distinction without a difference, as there is no official, economic, or social status in the confessional. All are equal therein, in the sense that we are all sinners, including the man who is pope. It is my understanding that the present Holy Father, confesses at least weekly.
Protestant misunderstanding, for instance regarding the infallibility of the pope, is often due to failure to discriminate between the official and the man. As pope, the official occupant of the Chair of St. Peter, the Catholic Church holds him to be Divinely protected from error, when defining matters of faith and morals. As a man, he is capable of sinning. Hence the man goes to confession, not the pope.
Question 45: What is the Liturgy of the Hours?
Answer: The Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) is the public prayer of the Church for sanctifying the day by praising God. Its daily recitation, or celebration, is a sacred duty of men in holy orders and of men and women religious according to their role of life. It is highly recommended to all the faithful.
By tradition going back to early Christian times, the faithful devoted themselves to prayer at certain hours. Gradually the practice developed of praying together not only in the morning and at sundown but at regular internals during the day. It was not long before the custom arose of arranging the whole course of the day and night in such a way that somewhere in the Church the praises of God would be sung and his name would be hallowed by those who believe.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Liturgy of the Hours has been thoroughly revised in its structure and form. At the same time its indispensable function in the Church's life and activity has been emphasized.
In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church exercises the priestly office of her head and constantly offers God a sacrifice of praise, a verbal sacrifice that is offered every time we acknowledge his name.
By offering praise to God in the Hours, the Church joins in singing that canticle of praise which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven; it is a foretaste of the heavenly praise sung unceasingly before the throne of God and the Lamb, as described by John in the Apocalypse.
well as praising God, the Church's liturgy expresses the hopes and prayers of
all the Christian faithful and intercedes before Christ and through him before
the Father for the salvation of the whole world. This voice is not only of the
Church but also of Christ.
readings and prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours constitute in turn a wellspring
of the Christian life. From the table of Sacred Scripture and the words of the
saints this life is nourished, and by prayer it is strengthened. The Lord alone,
without whom we can do nothing, can if we ask him give fruitfulness and increase
to the works in which we are engaged.
In the new Office, the hours are shorter than they had been, with more textual variety, meditation aids, and provisions for silence and reflection. The psalms are distributed over a four-week period instead of a week. Readings include some of the best material from the Fathers of the Church and authors with a reputation for sanctity and orthodoxy. Biographies of the saints are drawn from scholarly sources.
Question 46: What is the significance of the pink candle on the advent wreath?
Answer: The color rose is only occasionally used liturgically, and it represents joy. Halfway through the otherwise muted season of Advent, we express the joyful aspect of anticipating the Lord's coming. You can hear the theme of joy and rejoicing throughout the readings and prayers in the Mass.
The third Sunday in Advent was nicknamed "Gaudete Sunday" long ago. Gaudete means 'rejoice!' in Latin, and is the first word in the Latin Mass for that day. If you look up the "entrance antiphon" in a missalette, you will see that it starts out: "Rejoice in the Lord always!" In the Latin that would read Gaudete in Domino semper! Today we usually sing an opening hymn rather than recite or chant the entrance antiphon, but the theme of rejoicing is no less conspicuous now on Gaudete Sunday than in the past.
There is a counterpart to Gaudete Sunday in Lent. Halfway through Lent we celebrate what is traditionally called "Laetare Sunday." As in Advent, we take a mid-term break from the somberness of the season for joyous anticipation. Laetare Sunday also takes its name from the entrance antiphon of the day, whose first word is a Latin synonym also meaning, "rejoice" or "be joyful." This is the other time you may see liturgical use of the color rose.
Question 47: Please tell me a bit about how Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus.
Answer: The character of Santa Claus is copied from the life of a real person, a saint named Saint Nicholas. The name 'Saint Nicholas' even sounds like 'San-ta claus,' especially in the Dutch language. The Dutch veneration of 'Sinter Klaus' was brought to North America with the Dutch settlers and eventually became the story of Santa Claus that everyone knows.
Saint Nicholas, like St. Wenceslaus and St. Lucy, was a saint. He was the bishop of a city named Myra in Turkey in the early part of the fourth century. His feast day is December 6th because he died on December 6 or 7 in the middle of the fourth century. Feast days celebrate the entry of the saint's soul into Heaven.
The most famous story told about St. Nicholas has to do with three young sisters who were very poor. Their parents were so poor that they did not have enough money for the daughters to get married. Every young girl needed money to pay for the wedding and to set up house for themselves.
Nicholas heard about this family and wanted to help them, but he did not want anyone to know that he was the one who was helping them.
The story is told in a few different ways. In one version, he climbed up on their roof three nights in a row and threw gold coins down their chimney so that they would land in the girls' stockings, which had been hung by the fire to dry. After two of his daughters had been able to marry because of the money mysteriously appearing in their stockings, the father was determined to find out who was helping them, so he hid behind the chimney the next night. Along came Bishop Nicholas with another bag of money.
When he was discovered, he asked the father not to tell anyone else, but the father wanted everyone to know what a good and generous man the Bishop Nicholas was, so he told everyone he knew. That is how we have the story and the tradition of stocking full of gifts today.
The remains of St. Nicholas now repose principally in Bari, Italy, having been transported there in 1087 A.D. after Myra fell to Islamic invaders. A fragrant liquid (myrrh) still exudes from the relics. Miracles are performed even today through the intercessions of St. Nicholas. Feast day: December 6.
Question 48: Is there such a thing as Reincarnation?
Answer: It is not uncommon that people under the influence of the New Age Movement and Hollywood movies ask about the possibility of another or previous life or other lives for the soul. Catholic Christianity and all orthodox Christian faith communities have always found in the Word of God clear revelation of the unique nature of this life, of individual death and a definitive judgment for the soul.
2 Cor 5:10: The lives of all of us are to be revealed before the tribunal of Christ so that each one may receive his recompense, good or bad, according to his life in the body.
Heb 9:27-28: Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When 'the single course of our earthly life' is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: 'It is appointed for men to die once.' There is no "reincarnation" after death" (§1013).
Question 49: Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?
Answer: Many non-Catholic Christians believe the Blessed Virgin Mary had children after the birth of Jesus (see Matt. 12:46; Mark 3:32; Luke 8:19; John 2:12). St. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis and Apostolic Father, called by St. Irenaeus "a hearer of John, clears up the confusion by explaining that there were four different women named Mary in the New Testament:
“Mary, the mother of the Lord; Mary, the wife of Cleophas or Alpheus, who was the mother of James the bishop and apostle, and of Simon and Thaddeus, and of one Joseph; Mary Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of John the evangelist and James; Mary Magdalene. These four are found in the Gospel. James and Judas and Joseph were sons of an aunt of the Lord’s. James also and John were sons of another aunt of the Lord’s. Mary, mother of James the less and Joseph, wife of Alpheus, was the sister of Mary, the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason. Mary Salome is called Salome either from her husband or her village. Some affirm that she is the same as Mary of Cleophas, because she had two husbands” –The Fragments of Papias, X. (6). The work of St. Papias was evidently written in his old age, say between the years 115 and 140.
The Catholic Church teaches that our Blessed Mother remained a virgin after the birth of Christ.
The Catholic teaching on this point implies: (1) that Mary did not have other children besides Christ; (2) that she did not have the slightest relations with any man; (3) that she never used her marriage rights with her legitimate husband, St. Joseph. In a word, her virginity remained intact and inviolate until death.
The Catholic thesis is implicitly contained in the many documents of the magisterium, which refer to Out Lady as "the ever-virgin Mary." This ancient expression, already found in an early version of the Creed called the Symbol of Epipanius (4th century), was officially inserted in the Creed by the Second Council of Constantinople (Fifth Ecumenical Council) in the year 553. It is explicitly taught by Pope St. Siricius in his letter to Bishop Anysisus in the year 392; by Pope St. Martin I at the Lateran Council in the year 649; and Pope Paul IV who in 1555 condemned the Unitarians for denying that Mary "had always retained her virginal integrity before the birth, during the birth and perpetually after the birth of Christ.”
Great teachers of the Church from at least the fourth century spoke of Mary as having remained a virgin throughout her life. Among the many witnesses that could be mentioned in this connection are Origen, St. Ephraem, St. Hilary, St. Zeno, St. John Chrysostom, St. Epiphanius, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine and many others. In addition, there is absolutely no historical evidence to prove that Mary had other children after the birth of Jesus.
Question 50: What is the difference between Angels and Archangels?
Answer: “You should be aware that the word ‘angel’ denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.
"Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. Personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they come among us. Thus Michael means ‘Who is like God?’ Gabriel is ‘The Strength of God’; Raphael is ‘God’s Remedy.’”
–St. Gregory the Great (540-604), Homily.
Question 51: Is a priest always bound to keep secret the sins revealed to him in Confessions? Shouldn't he be required to give up a murderer?
Answer: Yes, a priest is bound by the natural law, the divine law and the law of the Church to keep absolutely secret whatever he hears in Confession. Canon 983 §states, “The sacramental seal in inviolable; therefore, it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason.” As early as the sixth century the Second Synod of Dovin in Armenia decreed: "A priest who reveals the confession of the penitents shall be deposed with anathema." The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) commanded confessors "not to betray the sinner in any manner, whether by word or sign or in any other way," and decreed that priests guilty of this crime "be deposed from their office, and imprisoned in a monastery for life." The New Code of Canon Law (Canon 1388 says: "A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense.”
There are no exceptions to this law. A priest may not break the seal of Confession, either to save his own life or his own good name, to save the life of another, or to further the aims of justice. This is eminently reasonable, for no criminal would dream of going to Confession, if he knew the confessor were bound to reveal his crime to the State authorities. The civil courts recognize the confessor's privilege of silence both here and abroad.
Question 52: What is the truth about the so-called bad Popes?
Answer: In E. R. Chamberlin's book entitled The Bad Popes (Signet, 1969), the writer finds seven popes that he calls bad, seven out of now 265. Does this historical fact that some popes lived lives unbecoming of their calling discredit the claim of the Catholic Church to be the true Church of Jesus Christ? Let's see what light we can find in Holy Scripture.
Our Lord chose twelve of his disciples to be Apostles, pillars and leaders of the Church. One of them, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Him (Mk 3:19). See also John 6:70-71.
The failure and fall of this apostle, personally chosen by Christ, does not discredit Christ's Church. His power is with the Church always, and his Spirit is mightier than the weaknesses of his members.
Matt. 28:19-20 - "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
No sinful pope has ever taught error or tried to change the rules of morality to justify his own bad behavior.
Jesus defended the teaching authority of the scribes and Pharisees while attacking their sinful behavior (Matt. 23:2-3).
Similarly, even if a pope is a grievous sinner, Jesus is faithful to his promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, the Church built upon Peter (Matt. 16:18).
Peter and his successors the popes, whatever their failings great or small, infallibly teach the truths of Christian doctrine and morality, always sustaining the Church of the living God, so that she is unfailingly the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
Therefore, like Judas, bad popes in the Church cannot discredit the work of Christ. Indeed, they are a proof of the Church's truth and vitality, that she has survived, in spite of all her sinners, to produce a marvelous legion of saints.
Question 53: Who are excused from fasting on Fridays?
Answer: Let us first explain the difference between fasting and abstinence. Fasting obliges one to control one’s appetite for food by eating only one full meal a day. Abstinence, commands one to abstain from fresh-meat on certain days.
The following is taken from the Code of Canon Law ©1983:
Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
Many who would be bound to fast are excused by virtue of a dispensation. Dispensations from fasting may be obtained fro any good reason from the bishop, or the pastor, or some other priest have ordinary, quasi-ordinary, or delegated jurisdiction.
Inability to fast may be physical or moral. It excuses the sick, convalescents, pregnant and nursing women, all who are in delicate health, the poor who cannot obtain enough food at any time to eat a full meal, as well as those who are obliged to perform hard bodily labor, or severe mental work, such as teaching; also physicians, judges, and those whom fasting would hinder in the performance of pious and charitable works. The Church imposes fasting and abstinence as a means of furthering good works, and therefore does not wish this law to stand in the way of anything that is better or more necessary. Nevertheless, unless a person is clearly exempt from the fast, it is advisable that he consult his pastor or confessor and lay the case before him and get either a declaration of exemption or a dispensation. The priest may, but is ordinarily not obliged to substitute some other good work, such as alms, prayers, Stations of the Cross.
Question 54: I know that the Catholic Church prohibits artificial birth control because it ‘goes against nature.’ What is the Church's position on Viagra? I think it goes against nature just as much as artificial birth control does.”
Answer: This is something many Catholics, even faithful ones, seemingly haven’t talked a lot about. Not that I blame them. It is, after all, a personal matter. Yet, the morality of such a very popular medication should be addressed. Syndicated columnist Grace MacKinnon (www.DearGrace.com) recently decided to answer this question.
"The Church has not condemned the use of Viagra, but your question is interesting and occasions an opportunity to make an important distinction. Artificial contraception, as you must know, is the intentional prevention of conception or impregnation through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures before, during, or after a voluntary act of intercourse. Viagra, on the other hand, is a drug that helps males to overcome a pathological condition preventing them from engaging in the conjugal act with their spouses. Destroying or denying a good (conception) is quite different from enhancing or strengthening a good (as by use of Viagra).
"Is it wrong for a married man to be assisted by medical treatment to have sexual relations with his wife? Surely it cannot be. Scripture tells us that God, out of His infinite and powerful love, created man and woman for each other. He then said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’ (Gen 1: 28). God had a beautiful plan for marriage. And in order that they would be able to fulfill that plan, God created them with a natural desire for each other. This desire is good and noble when it is satisfied in the way that the Creator intended. Sex is a sacred and holy gift from God to a husband and wife because this is one of the means by which they can fulfill the two purposes and meanings of marriage — to be unitive and procreative. Let us not make the mistake, though, of placing all of the focus on sex. Sexual performance is not the end-all in marriage and really has little to do with the spiritual aspect of marriage.
"Use of drugs such as Viagra to help overcome pathological conditions can certainly not be immoral. The difference between use of such drugs and artificial contraceptives is that contraceptives do not help overcome a pathological condition. Being fertile is not a pathology. There is quite a difference. Viagra does not go against nature — it assists nature. Artificial contraception does not assist nature — it goes against nature.
"I assumed, of course, that you were referring to married men in your question. If, however, you were asking about all men using Viagra, then that would change the answer. The Catholic Church has always taught consistently that sexual intercourse ‘must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes grave sin and excludes one from sacramental Communion’ (CCC #2390).
"You can see, therefore, that because we believe firmly that sex outside of marriage is immoral, then the use of Viagra — a drug specifically used to assist males to be able to have sexual intercourse — would most naturally be condemned as immoral if used by single men. This teaching by the Church regarding no sex outside of marriage is often not a popular one and creates a tremendous challenge for many single persons today, but the reality is that it is a beautiful teaching, for it comes from God, and therefore we know that it comes from His loving heart and is, thus, for our ultimate good and true happiness." (© Used with permission)
Question 55: I am interested in the study of Catholic apologetics. How would you recommend I begin?
Answer: Apologetics is the science concerned with the defense of the Catholic religion. Its aim is to prove from reason the Divine authority of the Catholic Church. Advancing a series of connected truths, it concludes that the one and only guide of faith on earth is the Catholic Church, Holy and Infallible. It leads unbelievers to the doors of the House of God and welcomes them. Within, they hear the Catholic Doctrine, Christ's message to them interpreted by His living representative.
The beginner will note that the words "Apologetics" and "Apology" though derived from the same Greek root, have come to have very different meanings. "Apology" as commonly used, may signify nothing more than an excuse, or an appeal for forgiveness, whereas "Apologetics" always denotes a scientific proof or defense of religious truth. "Catholic Apologetics," therefore, is not a mere appeal for acceptance of Catholicism or a plea for its toleration but a solid demonstration that it is the one and only true religion.
One of the objects of apologetics is to persuade a person to look further into the foundations for Catholicism. It is not enough just to know the foundations for Catholic belief, it is important that you are able to explain these foundations in a concise, logical manner, that will make sense to the listener. Remember, the goal is to win the arguer, not the argument.
I would suggest the following list of topics:
1. How do we know there is a God?
2. The Catholic Church and the Bible.
3. Sacred Tradition.
4. The True Church of Jesus Christ.
5. The Primacy of Peter.
7. The Sacraments.
8. The Holy Eucharist.
9. The Sacrifice of the Mass.
10. The Communion of Saints.
11. Mary the Mother of Jesus.
12. Eschatology: The Four Last Things.
Each of these topics will be broken down into many sub-topics. For example under topic 10 would be:
What is a Saint?
What is the Role of the Saints?
The Intercession of the Saints.
The Canonization of the Saints.
Images and relics of the Saints.
Praying to the Saints.
The overall goal will be to be able to explain Catholic doctrine in a logical, concise manner. You may or may not have a Bible available when you explain Catholic doctrine. It will be very helpful if you learn to memorize the appropriate Scripture passages to support your ideas. Don't be afraid of marking up your Bible. Finally, when you study, pray first.
Question 56: Please provide the Scriptural foundations for the Seven Sacraments.
Answer: Baptism: Matt. 3:1-17 & 28:16-20; Mk.1:1-11 & 16:14-17; Lk. 3:16-22; Jn. 1:19-34 & 3:1-24; Acts 1:1-10, 2:1-41, 8:26-40, 9:1-19, 10:1-48 & 19:1-7.
Confirmation: Jn.14:14-31 & 15:26-27; Acts 1:1-5, 2:1-4, 8:14-17, 9:1-19 & 19:1-7.
Holy Eucharist: Jn. 6:22-71; Mt. 26:26-29, Mk. 14:22- 25; Lk. 24:13-35, 1 Cor. 10:14-22, 11:17-34.
Reconciliation: Mt. 3:1-6, 4:17 & 16:13-19; Mk. 1:1- 15; Lk. 10:13-16;Jn. 20:19-23
Anointing of the Sick: Mk. 6:7-13; Jas. 5:13-16.
Holy Orders: Deut. 23:21-23; Ecc. 5:4-7; Mt 16:13-19 & 28:16-20; Mk. 16:14-20; Lk. 22: 19-30; Jn. 17:1-26, 20:19-23 & 21:14-19; 1 Cor. 7:7, 7:32-35; Heb.5:1-11
Matrimony: Deut 23:21-23; Ecc. 5:4-7; Gen. 1:26-31, 2:8-25; Prov. 5:15-23; Song of Songs, Mt 19:1-9; Mk. 10:1-12; 1 Cor. 7:1-40; Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-21; 1 Tim. 5:8; Tit 2:4; Heb. 13:4; 1 Pet. 3:1-7.
Question 57: For years, we Catholic faithful have knelt during the “Lamb of God”. Now we are told that we are to stand. I find this posture to be disrespectful to Jesus and cannot bring myself to stand when in my heart I believe I should be kneeling. Do I have the right to disobey my bishop when he orders me to do something that goes against my conscience?
Answer: Change is usually difficult, especially when it concerns worship and the Mass. But it is precisely during these tumultuous times that our Faith and Hope in the Church must not fail. During any change there is as much opportunity for growth as there is the threat of public scandal.
Perhaps the question should be: “Do we have the right to disobey our bishop when he is exercising his legitimate authority?”
Section 43 of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) states: “In the dioceses of the United States of America, [the faithful] should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise”
[Note: Bold type indicates US adaptations. A sentence in the un-adapted Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani [IGMR], March, 2003, reads: "Where it is the custom that the people remain kneeling from the end of the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, and before Communion when the priest says Ecce Agnus Dei, this is laudably retained".]
For the sake of observing uniformity in gestures and posture during the same celebration, the faithful should obey the directions, which the deacon or lay minister or the priest give during the celebration, according to whatever is indicated in the Missal.
In this case, Bishop Gerald Barnes has directed that the faithful are to “stand from the beginning of the Our Father to the reception of Holy Communion.” This is entirely within the bishop’s authority and as such, we must be in obedience to his wishes, just as Jesus was in obedience to His Father.
Let me cite a few paragraphs from Vatican II's Christus Dominus (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church) to give us a bit of context:
2. "The bishops also have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the apostles as pastors of souls and together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the eternal Pastor."
3. "United in one college or body for the instruction and direction of the universal Church, the bishops, sharing in the solicitude of all the churches, exercise this their episcopal function, which they have received by virtue of their episcopal consecration in communion with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority."
8 (a). "Bishops, as the successors of the apostles, enjoy as of right in the dioceses assigned to them all ordinary, special and immediate power which is necessary for the exercise of their pastoral office, but always without prejudice to the power which the Roman Pontiff possesses, by virtue of his office, of reserving certain matters to himself or to some other authority."
Canon Law also spells out the submission that Catholics owe to the bishop:
Canon 753. “Although they do not enjoy infallible teaching authority, the bishops in communion with the head and members of the college, whether as individuals or gathered in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the faithful entrusted to their care; the faithful must adhere to the authentic teaching of their own bishops with a religious assent of soul.”
Canon Law also describes the responsibility of a bishop to ensure discipline.
Can. 392 §1. “Since the Bishop must defend the unity of the universal Church, he is bound to foster the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.”
§2. “He is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the cult of the saints, and the administration of goods.”
Canon Law specifically states that a person who disobeys the rightful authority of his bishop may be subject to punishment.
Having therefore established clearly the Bishop's authority, we can now look to a lay Catholic's rights within the Church. The laity has the right to petition the bishop if we disagree with him, but we do not have the right to disobey him when he is exercising his legitimate authority.
Canon 212, § 1. “The Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound by Christian obedience to follow what the sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or determine as leaders of the Church.”
Canon 212, § 2. “The Christian faithful are free to make known their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires to the pastors of the Church.”
Canon 221 §1 “Christ's faithful may lawfully vindicate and defend the rights they enjoy in the Church, before the competent ecclesiastical forum in accordance with the law.”
We must submit to the rightful authority of the bishop - even if it is not what we want. We are no holier than the saints who went before us who were treated "roughly" by their superiors - even by Rome.
Two instances come to mind - St. “Padre” Pio and St. Faustina. We must take their example of humility and accept any proper directive that we might receive - and do it with a smile on our faces.
If we want the crown, we must first take the cross because that's how it works. If we are not prepared to do this, then the Lord will lift that cross off our shoulders and give it someone else who will carry it the rest of the way. Crucifixion is for all. Few accept it, and still fewer endure it.
Fundamentally, disobedience to the bishop’s lawful authority is prideful and as such, sinful. Let us embrace these new requirements in obedience. Even though you are standing God knows you are kneeling in your heart.
Question 58: It is the common practice that people with their arms outstretched during Mass. Is this posture appropriate?
Answer: Praying with Arms Outstretched is the traditional posture for priests and bishops during the liturgy. The Ceremonial of Bishops, § 104 states:
“Customarily in the Church a bishop or presbyter addresses prayers to God while standing and with hands slightly raised and outstretched.
“This practice appears already in the tradition of the Old Testament, and was taken over by Christians in memory of the Lord’s passion: Not only do we raise our hands, but we hold them outstretched so that by imitating the Lord in his passion we bear witness to him as we pray” [citing Tertullian, De Oratione, 14].
The U.S. Bishops have considered permitting the laity to mimic these gestures of the bishop or priest, but the Holy See has not approved this, and the 1997 Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests, prohibits the laity from mimicking the gestures appropriate to a priest. Specifically it states:
Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions, which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi-preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest, which is necessary to secure validity. [ICP, Practical Provisions 6 §2].
Question 59: I would like to know whether or not it is permissible to receive Holy Communion kneeling, even though the Bishop's of the United States say that we should stand.
Answer: The following responses to questions were published in the November-December 2002 edition of Notitiae, the official publication of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. These responses represent the view of the Holy See on the questions of kneeling to receive Holy Communion and the right of Catholics to address concerns to the Holy See.
Congregation de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum
Prot. n. 1322/02/L
Rome, 1 July 2002
This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has recently received reports of members of the faithful in your Diocese being refused Holy Communion unless while standing to receive, as opposed to kneeling. The reports state that such a policy has been announced to parishioners. There were possible indications that such a phenomenon might be somewhat more widespread in the Diocese, but the Congregation is unable to verify whether such is the case. This Dicastery is confident that Your Excellency will be in a position to make a more reliable determination of the matter, and these complaints in any event provide an occasion for the Congregation to communicate the manner in which it habitually addresses this matter, with a request that you make this position known to any priests who may be in need of being thus informed.
The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful, namely that of being assisted by their Pastors by means of the Sacraments (Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 213). In view of the law that "sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them" (canon 843 ¶ 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. (Emphasis mine)
In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.
Given the importance of this matter, the Congregation would request that Your Excellency inquire specifically whether this priest in fact has a regular practice of refusing Holy Communion to any member of the faithful in the circumstances described above and - if the complaint is verified - that you also firmly instruct him and any other priests who may have had such a practice to refrain from acting thus in the future. Priests should understand that the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if they are verified, it intends to seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.
Thanking Your Excellency for your attention to this matter and relying on your kind collaboration in its regard,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Jorge A. Cardinal Medina Estévez
+Francesco Pio Tamburrino
Congregation de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum
Prot. n. 1322/02/L
Rome, 1 July 2002
This Congregation for Divine Worship gratefully acknowledges receipt of your letter, regarding an announced policy of denial of Holy Communion to those who kneel to receive it at a certain church.
It is troubling that you seem to express some reservations about both the propriety and the usefulness of addressing the Holy See regarding this matter. Canon 212 ¶2 of the Code of Canon Law states that "Christ's faithful are totally free to make known their needs, especially their spiritual ones, and their desire: to the Pastor of the Church". The canon then continues in ¶3: "According to their own knowledge competence and position, they have the right, and indeed sometimes the duty, to present to the sacred Pastor; their opinions regarding those things that pertain to the good of the Church".... Accordingly, in consideration of the nature of the problem and the relative likelihood that it might or might not be resolved on the local level, every member of the faithful has the right of recourse to the Roman Pontiff either personally or by means of the Dicasteries or Tribunals of the Roman Curia.
Another fundamental right of the faithful, as noted in canon 213, is "the right to receive assistance by the sacred Pastors from the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the Sacraments". In view of the law that "sacred" ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them" (canon 843 ¶ 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. (Emphasis mine)
Please be assured that the Congregation takes this matter very seriously, and is making the necessary contacts in its regard. At the same time, this Dicastery continues to be ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again in the future.
Thanking you for your interest, and with every prayerful good wish, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Monsignor Mario Marini
Question 60: What is the proper posture for one after receiving Holy Communion? Some people sit and others kneel.
Answer: Posture is optional at this time of the Mass. Section 43 of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) states: "they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed." Keep in mind that this time is to be spent in private prayer. "When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately" (GIRM §88).
Question 61: Many say we should not be holding hands in the congregation while reciting the Lord's Prayer because it is not a community prayer but a prayer to "Our Father." Local priests say that since the Vatican has not specifically addressed it, then we are free to do as we please: either hold hands or not. What is the true Roman Catholic way in which to recite the Lord's Prayer during Mass?
Answer: It is true that there is no prescribed posture for the hands during the Our Father and that, so far at least, neither the Holy See nor the U.S. bishops' conference has officially addressed it.
The argument from silence is not very strong, however, because while there is no particular difficulty in a couple, family or a small group spontaneously holding hands during the Our Father, a problem arises when the entire assembly is expected or obliged to do so.
The process for introducing any new rite or gesture into the liturgy in a stable or even binding manner is already contemplated in liturgical law. This process entails a two-thirds majority vote in the bishops' conference and the go-ahead from the Holy See before any change may take effect.
Thus, if neither the bishops' conference nor the Holy See has seen fit to prescribe any posture for the recitation of the Our Father, it hardly behooves any lesser authority to impose a novel gesture not required by liturgical law and expect the faithful to follow their decrees.
While there are no directions as to the posture of the faithful, the rubrics clearly direct the priest and any concelebrants to pray the Our Father with hands extended -- so they at least should not hold hands.
One could argue that holding hands expresses the family union of the Church. But our singing or reciting the prayer in unison already expresses this element.
The act of holding hands usually emphasizes group or personal unity from the human or physical point of view and is thus more typical of the spontaneity of small groups. Hence it does not always transfer well into the context of larger gatherings where some people feel uncomfortable and a bit imposed upon when doing so. It is an inappropriate "sign," since Communion is the sign of intimacy. Thus, a gesture of intimacy is introduced both before the sign of reconciliation (the Sign of Peace), but more importantly, before Holy Communion, the sacramental sign of communion/intimacy within the People of God.
It is introduced on personal initiative. The Holy See has authority over the liturgy according to Vatican II's "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" #22 and canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law.
The "Our Father" contains six petitions. The first three are directed to the honor and glory of God. Substantially they are: May His name be revered; may His kingdom flourish; and may His will be done in all things. The last three apply to the spiritual needs of man. They are: May he receive his daily bread; may he be forgiven his sins; and may he be shielded against temptation. Chief among the wants of man is nourishment for his soul. In order to receive it worthily man must be free from sin and strengthened against temptation. The is a personal prayer rather than a communal prayer.
Holding hands during the Our Father could detract and distract from the prayer's God-directed sense of adoration and petition, as explained in Nos. 2777-2865 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in favor of a more horizontal and merely human meaning.
For all of these reasons, no one should have any qualms about not participating in this gesture if disinclined to do so. They will be simply following the universal customs of the Church, and should not be accused of being a cause of disharmony.
This gesture has come into widespread use, often leaving bishops and pastors at a loss as to how to reverse the situation. For individuals, I would recommend closed eyes and a prayerful posture as sufficient response, rather than belligerence. Most laity, and probably many priests, are blind to the liturgical significance of interrupting the flow of the Mass in this way. It is not necessary to lose one's peace over this or be an irritation to others. Some proportion is required. If asked why you don't participate, simply, plainly and charitably tell the questioner of your discovery. If some chance of changing the practice is possible talk to the pastor or work with other laity through the parish council. You can also write the bishop, as is your right in the case of any liturgical abuse not resolved at the parish level. If your judgment is that no change is possible then I believe you are excused from further fraternal correction.
Question 62: My eleven-year-old daughter wishes to be confirmed. My husband and I believe that she fully understands the sacrament. Our pastor said that she will have to wait until she is in high school. What is the age of Confirmation in the United States and what are our rights in this matter?
Answer: On August 21, 2001 the nation's bishops decreed that the age for conferring the sacrament of confirmation in the U.S. Latin-rite dioceses is between "the age of discretion (considered to be about age 7) and about 16 years of age". Within that range, each bishop can set a more specific policy in his own diocese.
The Holy See's Congregation for Bishops gave its recognition of the U.S. bishops' action on May 9, 2002. The U.S. norm took effect July 1, 2002.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law § 891 says confirmation ``is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.''
On December 18, 1999, The Congregation for Divine Worship issued the following statement concerning a similar case:
“The Code of Canon Law legislates that Sacred Ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (cf. can. 843 §1). Since it has been demonstrated that the girl possesses these requisite qualities, any other considerations, even those contained in the Diocesan Policy, need to be understood in subordination to the general norms governing the reception of the Sacraments.
“The Congregation considers it useful to point out that it is the role of the parents as the primary educators of their children and then of the Sacred Pastors to see that candidates for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation are properly instructed to receive the Sacrament and come to it at the opportune time (cf. can. 890). Consequently, when a member of the faithful wishes to receive this Sacrament, even though not satisfying one or more elements of the local legislation (e.g., being younger than the designated age for administration of the Sacrament), those elements must give way to the fundamental right of the faithful to receive the Sacraments. Indeed, the longer the conferral of the Sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for its reception but are deprived of its grace for a considerable period of time.”
Question 63: What are the Scrutinies?
Answer: The Scrutinies are rites belonging to the period of purification and enlightenment for the elect as they prepare for Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist immediately preceding the Easter Vigil (the culmination of the RCIA process). The Scrutinies, which are normally celebrated on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent, are rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. The Scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the Scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. The Scrutinies are celebrated as part of Sunday Mass. The Readings and Chant are always those normally used on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent in Cycle A.
Question 64. There seems to be quite a difference of opinion among the clergy as to whether or not the holy water fonts in churches should be emptied of holy water and refilled with sand or rocks during lent. Would you please clarify the Churches position?
Answer: While the holy water fonts are emptied from the Mass of the Lord's Supper until they are refilled with water blessed at the Easter Vigil, they should not be emptied prior to Holy Thursday. The following letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments rejects this practice. Note the strong bias (reason 1) against inventing practices not called for in the liturgical law. Forcibly rejected is the argument used by some to justify their abuses that "It is not forbidden, so I can do it." In reality, no one may do in that liturgy that which is not prescribed by the Church, specifically the Apostolic See, who alone has authority over it (SC 22, canon 838.
CONGREGATION DE CULTU DIVINO ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM
Prot. N. 569/00/L Dear Father:
March 14, 2000
This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.
This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:
1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).
Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ, [signed]
Mons. Mario Marini Undersecretary
Question 65. What exactly are the actual DOCTRINES of the Catholic faith? Is Purgatory one? How about the saints? And while I am at it, what exactly is the purpose of saints in our faith?
Answer: The chief truths, which Christians must hold, are those, which the holy Apostles, the leaders and teachers of the faith, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have divided into the twelve Articles of the Apostles Creed. There are actually four Creeds, which sum up Catholic belief. See: Elements of Basic Catholicism. Certainly, the Doctrine of Purgatory, and belief in the Communion of Saints are also "Articles of Faith", in other words, dogmas that must be held by Catholics. I would recommend that you purchase, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott. It is the definitive one-volume encyclopedia of the doctrines of the Catholic Church, showing their sources in Scripture and Tradition and their definitions by Popes and Councils. Dr. Ott defines theology, moves on to dogma, then moves on to the development of dogma, Catholic truths, theological grades of certainty, and theological opinions. From that point he goes on to systematically and exhaustively review all of the Catholic dogmas. This is a book no serious student of the Catholic faith should be without! It can be ordered from Catholic Answers, 888-291-8000, for $27.95 plus shipping and handling.
The "Communion of Saints" is the belief in the unity and co-operation of the members of the Church on earth with those in heaven and in purgatory. They are united as being one Mystical Body of Christ. The faithful on earth are in communion with each other by professing the same faith, obeying the same authority, and assisting each other with prayers and good works. They are in communion with the saints in heaven by honoring them as glorified members of the Church, invoking their prayers and aid, and striving to imitate their virtues. They are in communion with the souls in purgatory by helping them with their prayers and good works.
Question 66. Ok, so the Catholic Bible has a few more books in it than other religions. Why is this? A wandering Protestant was trying to convert me tonight, and he was trying to tell me that our books were added AFTER Revelations, and were not valid. Of course I believe our version is correct, but is there a timeline of when the books were authored vs. when each religion adopted their respective versions? This guy will be contacting me again next week, and I said I would show him that it was THEY who took books OUT of the Bible, not us who added them. If they did indeed remove books, why were they not justified in doing this? Or were our 'extra' books added after Revelations as he said? I think he said Rev. was written in 90 A.D.
Answer: The Catholic canon of the Old Testament contains 46 books, while the Protestant canon contains 39. In actuality, the Catholic Church did not add seven books to the OT canon, nor did Protestants remove seven books. There were two separate canons. Catholics use the same Scripture canon as Jesus and the Apostles. This canon was called the Septuagint (Seventy), and referred to as "Alexandrian Canon". St. Matthew quoted from the Septuagint approximately 130 times in his Gospel. No reputable scholar will dispute the fact that the current canon has been in use by Catholics since Christ established the Church by conferring the Keys of the Kingdom (Matt. 16:19).
The Septuagint is the most ancient translation of the Old Testament. Jews made use of it long before the Christian era. Since the language of the early Christian community was Greek, the Septuagint became its Bible. At the time of Christ it was recognized as a legitimate text and was employed in Palestine even by the rabbis. It is certain that neither Christ nor the apostles ever challenged the value of the Septuagint. That the Apostles and evangelists used the Septuagint is not in question. Out of approximately 350 quotations from the Old Testament in the New, about 300 are direct quotations from the Septuagint and the remaining are paraphrases, especially in regard to the prophecies.
That the early Christian Church used the Septuagint is also not in question. As proof, let me quote from what I hope will be considered reliable, yet non-Catholic sources:
“Together with the New Testament, the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the Christian Church, and is still the Bible of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Old Testament contains a translation of all the books of the Hebrew canon. It also embodies the deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Church (Judith, Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ben-Sira, 1 Baruch).” (“Bible,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 4, 852-853).
Another Jewish source is the TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures:
“With the growth of Christianity in the first century, the Church adopted the Septuagint as its Bible, and the Septuagint was translated into the languages of the various Christian communities.”
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary:
“When Christianity penetrated the world of the Greek-speaking Jews, and then the Gentiles, the Septuagint was the Bible used for preaching the gospel. Most of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are taken from this Greek Bible. In fact, the Christians adopted the Septuagint so wholeheartedly that the Jewish people lost interest in it. They produced other Greek versions that did not lend themselves so easily to Christian interpretation.
The Septuagint thus became the ‘Authorized Version’ of the early Gentile churches. To this day it is the official version of the Old Testament used in the Greek Orthodox Church. After the books of the New Testament were written and accepted by the early church, they were added to the Old Testament Septuagint to form the complete Greek version of the Bible.” (TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985) xvi.)
It is readily apparent that the Jews of the second half of the first century believed that the Christians of that time were playing fast and loose with the Septuagint translation, using it to show the prefiqurement of Christ as the long awaited Messiah.
Protestant scholar F.F. Bruce:
“There were two main reasons why the Jews lost interest in the Septuagint. One was that from the first century AD onwards the Christians adopted it as their version of the Old Testament, and used it freely in their propagation and defense of the Christian faith.” (F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: How we got our English Bible (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1984) 141.)
The World of the Bible:
“In antiquity, the Septuagint, the Bible of the Christians in the pre-Vulgate period, was translated into Latin (Vetus Latina), Syriac (the Syro-Palestinian translations), Coptic (Sahidic, Bohairic, and Akhmimic), Ethiopic, Armenian, Old Slavic, Gothic and Arabic.” (A.S. Van Der Woude, Gen. ed. The World of the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986) 177).
The Septuagint contained together with the books found in the present Hebrew Bible additional books and passages now known as deuterocanonical.
In view of the important place Biblical terms occupy in this discussion, we ought to consider the meaning of these terms before proceeding.
All the books found in the Hebrew Bible are called protocanonical (first canon); those found only in the Greek (Septuagint) are called deuterocanonical (second canon).
The following is a list of the Old Testament deuterocanonical books as they appear in the sequence used in modern Catholic Bible translations accompanied by the approximate date and original language of composition:
Title Date Language
Book of Tobit Early 2nd cent. BC Aramaic
Book of Judith End 2nd - Beg. 1st cent. BC Hebrew
1st Book of Maccabees 100 BC Hebrew
2nd Book of Maccabees 125-100 BC Greek
Book of Wisdom 100 BC Greek
Book of Sirach 200-175 BC Hebrew
Book of Baruch 150-60 BC Hebrew
Parts of the Book of Daniel, which were added to the Greek manuscript at the time of its translation from the Hebrew, i.e., Song of the Three Young Men (3:24-90); Susanna (Chapter 13:1-14, 42) and Bel and the Dragon (Chapter 14).
Parts of the Book of Esther, which also were added to the Greek manuscript at the time of its translation, i.e., six additions totaling 107 verses. The additions are 11:2-12:6; 13:1-7; 13:8-14; 15:1-16; 16:1-24 and 10:4-11:1.
Protestants usually refer to the deuterocanonical books as Apocryphal — not divinely inspired. If they are printed in Protestant Bibles at all, they are printed under that heading.
For the Catholic, the word apocryphal means a work is neither inspired nor authentic. It also can mean it is not the work of the author to whom it is ascribed or, if it is anonymous, does not belong to the date to which it is assigned.
For the Protestant, the word apocryphal might have the same meanings ascribed to it by Catholics or it could refer to a deuterocanonical work, depending on its context.
Because of the double uses of the word apocryphal, confusion may arise easily. Catholics do not apply the word apocryphal to the deuterocanonical books.
A significant period in the history of the Jewish Bible is at the end of the first century, some ten to thirty years after the destruction of the Temple. By that time a strong rabbinical academy had been established by Yohanan ben Zakkai at Yavneh (Greek, Jamnia), located near the coast between Jaffa and Ashod approximately twelve miles south of present day Tel Aviv. Rabban (Rabbi) Zakkai knew that in order to preserve the organic body of Judaism it would be necessary to have an organized group of men to take over the duties and responsibilities of the now defunct Sanhedrin. He therefore organized a council of teachers, the Bet Din, which served as senate, as court, and as parliament. In other words the voice of scattered Israel. It was here that they began the compilation of their Biblical canon.
What is the difference between the books accepted by the Jews of Alexandria and the Jews of Palestine? The deuterocanonical books were rejected by the Palestinian Jews by the use of narrow and rigid criteria. These criteria were: 1) conformity to the Torah ; 2) of antiquity, i.e., written not later that the time of Esdras (mid- to late fifth century BC); 3) written in the Hebrew language; and 4) of Palestinian origin.
The early Christians used the Septuagint to show the prefigurement of Christ. Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection had all been prophesied in the Septuagint.
Historian Giuseppi Ricciotti explained the antagonism and subsequent rejection of the Septuagint by the Jews:
“Under the influence of anti-Christian animus [hostility], the Septuagint was repudiated in the second century AD and other translations were substituted for it (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion and perhaps the anonymous Quinta, Sexta, and Septima; but these were also in Greek. The Greek Bible was indispensable for Alexandrian Judaism and for practically all the rest of the diaspora as well.”
It is reasonable to assume the Palestinian rabbis might have felt obligated to establish their canon in reaction to the Christian evangelists. The rabbis seemed to have accepted as sacred and canonical only those books distinguished by the four criteria previously mentioned. Their translations primarily were meant to be more faithful to the Hebrew texts.
The deuterocanonical books did not meet these strict requirements, and despite the great spiritual value of some of them and the esteem in which they were held, they were rejected.
In light of the discussions, which continued long after Yavneh, it would hardly be justified in believing the Palestinian Canon was finally settled. The available evidence points to finalization of the 39-book canon at the end of the 2nd century.
The Protestant churches have continued to exclude the deuterocanonical writings from their canons. Presbyterians and Calvinists, especially since the Westminster Synod of 1648, have been the most uncompromising enemies of any recognition of these books.
One argument put forth by our Protestant brethren against the use of the deuterocanonical books is they are not specifically quoted as Scripture in the New Testament, though the New Testament does contain a number of allusions to them. But the same may be said of several Old Testament books accepted by Protestants such as Ruth, Esther, Obadiah, Ezra, Nahum, Judges, Nehemiah, Ecclesiastes and Canticles.
The admitted absence of any explicit citation of the deuterocanonical writings does not therefore prove they were regarded as inferior to the writings included in the Palestinian canon. Orchard supports this premise:
“The wide popularity of the deuterocanonical books enjoyed in the early Church is finally shown by their use in the liturgy and from the many illustrations taken from them found in the catacombs; there are representations from Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Maccabees, and Daniel 3:24 ff.” (Orchard, Bernard. Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons. 1953.)
A comparison of Hebrews, Chapter 11 with 2 Macc., Chapters 6 and 7, reveals unmistakable references in the former to the heroism of the martyrs, who are glorified in the latter. There are close affinities of thought and, in some cases, of language, between 1 Peter 1:6-7 and Wis. 3:5-6; 1 Cor. 10:9-10 and Jth. 8:24-25; 1 Cor. 6:13 and Sir. 36:20.
It must be remembered the New Testament does not provide a list of the Old Testament books used by Christ and His Apostles and, when Christianity began, the Jews had not yet established a canon. It can, however, be proved from tradition that the full list of Old Testament books — including the deuterocanonicals — was authorized by the Apostles.
The testimony of Christian writers during the first three centuries is unanimous on this point. We can trace the reception of these books from the very time of the Apostles — Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Irenæus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and others quoted them, and many other early writers quoted them as Scripture.
There is nothing more complete than the pre-Nicene tradition for the Roman Catholic canon of the Old Testament. For the deuterocanonical books, we have the witness of Church Father after Church Father; we find them placed in every manuscript of the Septuagint, translated in the Old Latin version and quoted in controversy against heretics.
The Fathers of the Church instructed that the books of Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobias, the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas were to be read to the catechumens for edification and instruction. All the deuterocanonical writings are quoted by the apostolic writers and the early Fathers in the same way as the rest of the sacred books.
The witness of the Church in the fourth century, though not as forceful as that of the first three centuries, is strongly in favor of the deuterocanonical books.
There was some difference of opinion among a few of the Fathers and this probably led to the conciliar decisions; and here too, we see the weight of authority and tradition on the side of the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books.
Two documents of prime importance in the history of the canon provide us with the first formal statements of papal authority on the subject. The first is called the Decretal of Gelasius, de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris, the essential part of which is now generally attributed to a synod convoked in Rome by Pope Damasus I in the year AD 382. The text of which is as follows:
“Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.
“The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Joshua Nave one book, Judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books, Paralipomenon [Chronicles] two books, Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles [Song of Solomon] one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] one book.
“Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book, with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations, Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee [Hosea] one book, Micheas [Micah] one book, Joel one book, Abdias [Obadiah] one book, Jonas one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc [Habakkuk] one book, Sophonias [Zephaniah] one book, Aggeus [Haggai] one book, Zacharias [Zechariah] one book, Malachias [Malachi] one book.
“Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras [Ezra] two books, Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books.
“Likewise the order of the writings of the New and eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church supports. Of the Gospels, according to Matthew one book, according to Mark one book, according to Luke one book, according to John one book.
“The Epistles of Paul [the apostle] in number fourteen. To the Romans one, to the Corinthians two, to the Ephesians one, to the Thessalonians two, to the Galatians one, to the Philippians one, to the Colossians one, to Timothy two, to Titus one, to Philemon one, to the Hebrews one.
“Likewise the Apocalypse of John, one book. And the Acts of the Apostles one book.
“Likewise the canonical epistles in number seven. Of Peter the Apostle two epistles, of James the Apostle one epistle, of John the Apostle one epistle, of another John, the presbyter, two epistles, of Jude the Zealot, the Apostle one epistle.”
The other is the Canon of Innocent I, sent in the year AD 405 to a Gallican bishop in answer to an inquiry. Both contain all the deuterocanonicals and are identical with the canon listed by the Council of Trent.
The African Church, always a staunch supporter of the contested books, found itself in agreement with Rome on this question. The Synod of Hippo (AD 393), and the third and fourth Councils of Carthage (AD 397 and 419), in which St. Augustine was the leading spirit, found it necessary to deal specifically with the question of the Canon, and drew up identical lists from which no sacred books are excluded. This list became known as the African code.
The Ecumenical Council of Second Nicea in AD 787 ratified the decision made by the Fathers at Hippo and Carthage:
“In the year 418-419, all canons formally made in sixteen councils held at Carthage, one at Melevis, one at Hippo, that were approved of, were read, and received a new sanction from a great number of bishops, then met in Synod in Carthage. This collection is the Code of the African Church, which was always in greatest repute in all Churches next after the Code of the Universal Church.”
If doubts remained as to the canonical books, they were put to rest by the Councils of Florence and Trent. During the Council of Florence (AD 1442), and with its approval, Pope Eugenius IV issued several bulls or decrees. In the Bull of union with the Copts, he wrote:
“It professes that one and the same God is the author of the old and the new Testaments — that is, the law and the prophets and the gospel — since the saints of both testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates their books, whose titles are as follows ... [the document went on to list the current Canon]”
The Council of Trent promulgated the definitive list of Old Testament canon — the same books used by Jesus Christ and His Apostles.
Luther’s Rejection of the Alexandrian Canon.
Martin Luther, the originator of the Protestant Reformation, taught an innovative theology, contrary to the revealed truth of Holy Scripture. He taught a modified view of “predestination”. In his view, God pre-ordained certain people to be saved and others to be damned. As God is immutable, this determination was irreversible. How would one know if he or she was one of the saved? Luther referred to John 3:5 “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” Luther claimed that this passage referred to making a personal declaration to Jesus as “Lord and Savior rather than the sacrament of Baptism. This definition went directly against every scripture commentary written in the previous 1,400+ years.
Luther taught that if one made this personal declaration it would be evidence that they were under the power of the Holy Spirit and therefore saved and bound for heaven regardless of the life led. One could live a holy life and be damned, and conversely live an evil life, die unrepentant, and still be saved. He advised people to “Sin boldly, but believe more boldly.” He claimed that a person could “commit murder and fornication a thousand times a day” and still be saved. Luther’s doctrine denied the doctrines of purgatory and free will. The foundation for the doctrine of free will is found in Sirach 11:15-20. One of the foundations for the doctrine of purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:43f. Since Luther could not reasonably remove these books from the Bible, he simply rejected the Old Testament used by the Catholic Church and accepted the canon assembled by Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
The Book of Revelation 22:18-19 states: “I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Emphasis mine). As the book of Revelation was written long before the New Testament canon was established the words “this book” cannot refer to the entire Bible as it exists today, but only to the Book of Revelation.
Question 67. Is it permissible to sell a blessed article, such as a rosary? What would happen if there were an indulgence attached to the item?
Answer: Blessed religious articles may be sold for their material value, provided the price is not increased merely on account of the blessing or of the fact that indulgences are attached. But it should be noted that if blessed articles are sold they lose all the indulgences annexed.
Question 68. Both Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics make the Sign of the Cross, but why is the order different (Orthodox right shoulder first, RC's left shoulder)?
Answer: Nicephorus writes that Saint John the Evangelist blessed himself with the sign of the cross before dying. Saint Paul used this same sign to restore sight to a blind man. Many even affirm that Our Lord Himself taught this sign to the apostles and that he used it to bless them on the day of his Ascension. “The sign of the cross,” says Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, “is the trophy raised against the power of the prince of this world; when he sees it, he is afraid; when he even hears of it, he is filled with terror.” Tertullian in the second century says, “At every fresh step and change of place, whenever we come in or go out…we impress upon our forehead the sign of the Cross.”
It’s interesting to note that in the 13th century, Pope Innocent III (contemporary with St. Francis of Assisi) instructed the faithful on the meaning of the sign of the cross in these words: “The sign of the cross is made with three fingers, because the signing is done together with the invocation of the Trinity. ...This is how it is done: from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) he passed to the Gentiles (left)”.
Note that Pope Innocent is describing what the custom was in the West. In the 13th century the East and the West still made the sign of the cross in the same way. The pope goes on to say: “Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right, because from misery (left) we must cross over to glory (right), just as Christ crossed over Paradise.
Some priests do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same way. You can easily verify this picture. When a priest faces the people for a blessing and makes the sign of the cross over them, it is from left to right...”
So the people, imitating the blessing of the priest, began to sign themselves from left to right. Be that as it may, centuries have gone by since then, and we in the West make the sign of the cross from left to right, with the palm open, with the five fingers next to each other, to represent the five wounds of Christ (head, hand, hand, torso, feet).
Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics also place great emphasis on the sign of the cross as a profession of faith in the three basic doctrines of Christianity: the Holy Trinity, the double nature in Christ, and the mystery of Redemption. This act of faith in the teachings of Christianity is also an act of consecration to God of all human activities - thoughts, affections, actions.
Orthodox Christians make the sign of the cross with the thumb, index, and middle fingers together, representing the Trinity, and the fourth and fifth fingers pressed into the palm to represent the two natures of Christ. The gesture is presently made by lifting the hand first to the forehead, then to the heart, to the right and then the left shoulder. In the Scriptures right always represents good and left evil and in the Creed the Son is said to sit at the right hand of the Father - thus the signing of the right shoulder first.
Eastern Christians sign themselves often especially at every mention of the name of the Holy Trinity and in conjunction with the metany or bow made to reverence holy things such as the altar or an icon.
When you make the sign of the cross let it be with a real sign of the cross. Do it carefully, deliberately, and with reverence. When we cross ourselves, instead of a small, embarrassed, cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, make a large measured sign, from forehead to lower breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it envelopes you. The Sign of the Cross surrounds the deepest mysteries of our faith.
Question 69. “I think that the new Pope should allow priests to marry and/or date and for women to become priests. John Paul was a good Pope but too old fashioned, the modern church is suffering because of his old policies.”
Answer: Certainly, celibacy is a Roman Rite Church discipline and as such could conceivably be changed in the future. That said, it must be understood that priests voluntarily accept this discipline. They have many years of formation during which this subject is much discussed and ample time to consider the ramifications of their decision. Committing themselves to a life of celibacy is a voluntary act that faithful priests fully understand prior to ordination. No priest is coerced into taking a vow of chastity.
The law of celibacy has repeatedly been made the object of attack, especially of recent years, and it is important at the outset to correct certain prejudices thus created. Although we do not find in the New Testament any indication of celibacy being made compulsory either upon the Apostles or those whom they ordained, we have ample warrant in the language of Our Savior, and of St. Paul for looking upon virginity as the higher call, and by inference, as the condition befitting those who are set apart for the work of the ministry. In Matt. 19:12, Christ clearly commends those who, "for the sake of the kingdom of God", have held aloof from the married state, though He adds: "he who can accept it, let him accept it". St. Paul is even more explicit:
I would that all men were even as myself; but every one hath his proper gift from God.... But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it is good for them if they so continue, even as I.
And further on:
But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinks on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. But she that is married thinks on the things of this world how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit, not to cast a snare upon you, but for that which is decent and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord without impediment. (1 Cor. 7:7-8 and 32-35.)
Perhaps your statement stems from the recent priestly pedophile scandal. Please keep in mind that the perpetrators of these crimes are sick individuals who have violated their priestly vows. Allowing priests to marry will not impact this group of individuals in the slightest.
As for Women in the priesthood:
If you go back and study the idea of priesthood in the Old Testament as well as the New, you realize that the priest in a public capacity was to serve the role of a father figure. In Judges, chapter 18 and elsewhere, priests are called "Fathers" because they provide that kind of supernatural or at least that spiritual provision. They are providers and they are rulers and they are fathers.
Now, nature itself does not bestow the capacity of paternity upon women, and nature was created by God. And nature is what God uses to bring about the supernatural transformation of grace in the New Covenant. So it's appropriate, I believe, and the Church has long taught and always will teach, that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is only proper for men.
On Oct. 15, 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published the Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood.
"For some years now various Christian communities stemming from the sixteenth-century Reformation or of later origin have been admitting women to the pastoral office on a par with men. This initiative has led to petitions and writings by members of these communities and similar groups, directed towards making this admission a general thing: it has also led to contrary reactions. This therefore constitutes an ecumenical problem, and the Catholic Church must make her thinking known on it, all the more because in various sectors of opinion the question has been asked whether she too could modify her discipline and admit women to priestly ordination. … For these reasons, in execution of a mandate received from the Holy Father and echoing the declaration which he himself made in his letter of 30 November 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges it necessary to recall that the Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. (Inter Insigniores)
In his apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone; 1994), John Paul II made an unequivocal statement: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful”
Note: Questions were raised by certain parties about the level of Church teaching on this issue and in response the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Ratzinger issued the following response on October 28, 1995:
Responsum ad Dubium (Response to the Question)
Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum: In the affirmative.
This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.
Question 70. In a discussion with a tax adviser, I wanted to leave a Peter’s Pence bequest in my will. The adviser said I should not do this because it is a contribution to a “foreign country” not a charity. Is this so?
Answer: First, seek another adviser. Second, ask the first one for a small refund. A Peter’s Pence donation is “a free offering of Catholic dioceses to the Pope” (New Catholic Encyclopedia v.11, p. 235). You are free to make such a dedicated bequest in your will either to your parish or your diocese both of which are 501-C-VS recognized and so designated by the Federal Tax code.
A designated bequest can be received by your parish or your diocese not for general purposes (of parish or diocese) but only for the purpose designated. I can assure you the pastor or the bishop will be only too happy to honor that designation. Both canon law and moral law impose an obligation that the intent of the donor be honored.
A Peter’s Pence donation is to support the Pope and especially the Pope’s charities which are considerable as are those of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, established by Pope Paul VI (1971) and codified by the Constitution Pastor Bonus (1988) n.145.
Perhaps confusion might arise with some direct contribution to Vatican City State, an independent civil entity, within the city of Rome, to repair its roads or upgrade some physical maintenance.
Even there, if a bequest is sizable, you might do well to consult with the national office of the Knights of Columbus. I am neither a lawyer nor a tax adviser, but the national office of the Knights of Columbus (Hartford, Conn.) has a long, distinguished and effective record of support for the Holy See and the works of the Holy See. My guess is that their legal and practical advice will far surpass what your local adviser came up with.
Question 71. At an area meeting of clergy, three of my priest colleagues stated
that they anointed gravely ill infants because the Catechism did not forbid
this. Is this permissible? - Anon.
First, the law—Canon 1004, #l: “The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faith who, having reached the use of reason (adepto rationis usu) begins to be in danger by reason of illness or old age.” (The 19l7 Code employed the same language (post adeptum usum rationis [cn. 940, #l].)
Next, the Rite of Anointing (Ordo Unctionis Infirmorum (11/30/72) states in the Praenotanda or “Introduction”: “Sick children may be anointed if they have sufficient use of reason (cum talem habent usum rationis) to be comforted by this sacrament” (Ordo, n. 12).
Since your letter describes “infants” as those who are 1 or 2 years old, clearly these are not the proper recipients of this Sacrament since by no calculation would anyone suggest that they have reached the age of reason.
A Catholic University dissertation (Canon Law Series #419) treats at some length the question of attaining the use of reason in this context (cf. C. G. Renati, The Recipient of Extreme Unction  pp. 101-108). Renati argues that in the past some particular legislation required the recipient to be of a fixed age beyond that which brings the use of reason. But, Pope Benedict XIV (1748) ruled emphatically: “As soon as children are judged capable of knowing right from wrong and of being answerable for their acts they can be anointed should they fall seriously ill” (p. 102). Not to administer this Sacrament to children who have reached the use of reason was described by the Decree Quam singulari (1910) as a “detestable abuse.”
In view of Renati’s scholarly research it is fair to say that it has never been the tradition nor the practice of the Church to administer this Sacrament to those who have never attained the use of reason—they are simply ineligible to receive this Sacrament.
Does this leave us without spiritual means and aids for infants who are seriously ill? I think not! Surely prayer (individual or group) can be offered, novenas can be offered as can all sorts of pious works and efforts. Indeed, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be offered for this specific purpose.
Question 72. I read that the Church declared Mormon Baptism invalid. Isn’t this both late in time and unusual in outcome? - Anon.
Answer: It is true that on June 5, 2001, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith answered a dubium on the validity of baptism. The question posed was: Whether the baptism conferred by the community, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” called “Mormons” in the vernacular, is valid. The Response was: Negative (AAS 93  p. 476).
That formal doctrinal response was published, as is, in the Acta without further explanation.
However, two excellent commentaries, one doctrinal by L. Ladaria, S.J., and, the other canonical by U. Navarette, S.J. were published immediately in L’Osservatore Romano (#31/1704) (August 1, 2001) pp. 4-6. The article by Fr. Ladaria on doctrine is so well constructed and explanatory that I could not improve on it and thus I simply cite his major points.
This is unusual because doctrinal errors usually do not invalidate baptism. From the earliest times, an African Synod in 256 A.D. determined that those baptized by heretics could be received into the Catholic Church without rebaptism. The same was true with St. Augustine’s great struggle with the Donatists; Augustine taught that the validity of the sacrament depends neither on the personal sanctity of the minister nor on his belonging to the Church.
The right intention is the intention to do what the Church wants, what Christ wants. The Council of Trent confirms this tradition, when it defined that Baptism administered by heretics in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Catholic Church does is true Baptism (DS. 1617).
In the United States, the religious movement of Joseph Smith (Mormons) used the same matter (water) and almost the same form (Trinitarian) and this was considered valid. While the number of Mormons grew in the 19th and 20th centuries, it is fair to say that the number and kind of doctrinal errors professed in this group were not well-known in mainstream Christianity.
In the 20th century, the Catholic Church became more aware of the Trinitarian errors proposed by Joseph Smith—he did use traditional terms but the concepts and content diverge radically from orthodox Christianity.
According to traditional doctrine there are four requirements for the valid administration of sacramental Baptism: (1) the matter; (2) the form; (3) the intention of the minister; and (4) the right disposition of the recipient. Fr. Ladaria summarizes all four.
(1) The matter. On this point there is no problem, water is used and Mormons practice baptism by immersion.
(2) The form. At first hearing, the Mormon formula sounds Trinitarian: “Being commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The words are similar but the doctrine is not. There is not a true invocation of the Trinity because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in Mormon doctrine, are not three persons in which subsists the one Godhead, but three gods who form one divinity.
One is different from the other. The very word “divinity” here is functional, not substantial, because this divinity originates when the three gods decide to unite. This “divinity” and “man” share the same nature and are substantially equal. God the Father is an exalted man, native of another planet. God the Father has relatives. God the Father has a wife, the Heavenly Mother, and they procreate sons in the spiritual world. Their first-born is Jesus Christ, who acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence. Even the Holy Spirit is the son of heavenly parents. Four gods are directly responsible for the universe, three of whom established a covenant and thus formed the divinity.
Thus, the similarity of titles (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) does not correspond at all with the doctrinal content of the Christian Creeds about the Holy Trinity. These words (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) have, for Mormons, an entirely different meaning from the true Christian meaning.
(3) The intention of the minister. This profound doctrinal diversity (re the very notion of God) prevents the Mormon minister from having the intention of doing what the Catholic Church does when she confers Baptism—that is, doing what Christ willed her to do when he instituted and mandated the sacrament of Baptism.
This is even clearer when we consider the Mormon belief that Baptism was not instituted by Christ but by God and began with Adam. For them, Christ simply commanded this Adamic baptism and did not institute it himself. Mormon baptism originated not in Christ, but as the beginning of creation, and is not, therefore, Christian Baptism, the newness of which is denied.
The Mormon minister (i.e., priest), formed in Mormon doctrine, has an intention very different in respect to what the Catholic Church intends to do when it baptizes. True Christian Baptism intends the conferral of the Sacrament instituted by Christ, which means participation in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-11; Col. 2:12-13).
While not as fundamental as the prior points of doctrine, there are other differences as well. According to Catholic doctrine, true Baptism removes both personal sins and original sin, so that even infants are baptized. Mormon doctrine denies the existence of original sin and therefore baptizes only those who have the use of reason and are at least eight years old. In fact, the Catholic practice of infant baptism is one of the main reasons that Mormon doctrine says that the Catholic Church apostatized in the first centuries so that sacraments celebrated by the Catholic Church are all invalid.
Further, Mormons practice re-baptism, i.e., a Mormon who renounces his faith or is excommunicated from it, must be re-baptized. Thus, they accept no permanent sacramental “character” and again here do not intend to do what the Church does.
(4) Disposition of the recipient. Presumably, since the Mormon candidate for baptism already has the use of reason, when instructed in Mormon doctrine on baptism, that candidate would not consider baptism to be other than what he or she was correctly taught. It would not seem possible that the Mormon candidate would have the same disposition that the Catholic Church requires for the Baptism of adults.
In sum, the Baptism of the Catholic Church and that of the Latter-day Saints differ essentially both for what concerns faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and, for what concerns the relationship to Christ who instituted Christian Baptism. For these reasons, the Catholic Church considers Mormon baptism invalid; i.e., it does not consider true Baptism the rite given that name by the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
The CDF response is an objective and formal one to the question of sacramental validity. It offers and carries no personal judgments on the worth or integrity of individual believing Mormons. Catholics and Mormons sometimes find themselves working together on a range of pro-life and pro-family challenges sincerely seeking the common good of our society and the human community. These latter efforts are welcome and should be encouraged.
I conclude as I began with full gratitude to the Rev. Luis Ladaria, S.J. for his masterful doctrinal summary, which I have tried here merely to condense.
Question 73. I sometimes attend Mass at your Church and notice that some women wear a covering on their head, as I used to as a child. Does the Church require women to cover their heads? If not, why and when did this practice change?
Answer: The story is told about someone asking Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, who during and after the Second Vatican Council “presided” over the “reform” of the Roman Missal and liturgy in general whether women still had to wear a headcover in the churches. His response was that the Bishops were considering other issues, and that women’s veils were not on the agenda. The next day, the international press announced throughout the world that women did not have to wear the veil anymore. A few days later, Msgr. Bugnini told the press he was misquoted and women must still had to wear the veil. But the Press did not retract the error, and many women stopped wearing the veil as out of confusion and because of pressure from feminist groups.
The veil is simply a symbol of reverence, which recommends itself on very many levels. Can. 1262.2 of the 1917 Code of Canon law said that women must cover their heads “...especially when they approach the holy table”. But the 1983 Code is silent about this tradition.
This does not mean that the use of the veil is not to be observed or is simply an outdated custom, for the veil has roots in Scripture and Tradition as well.
Christianity has much to say about the dignity of women and their role in the family and in society; women also have an important role in the Church, but one distinct from that of men.
Wearing a hat or veil is an Apostolic custom, as we learn from St. Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:3-16). He strongly denounces the Christian women at Corinth for presuming to come to church unveiled, accusing them of pride and arrogance unsuited to their sex. For he argues that by nature and God’s law, woman is subject to her husband, and that the wearing of a veil is a sign of her dependence. “the head of a woman is her husband”; “but woman is the glory of man”; “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man” (vv. 3, 7, 9). To pray in church unveiled is insulting to the angels: “That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels” (v. 10), and equivalent to having a shaved head (v. 5), a custom followed only by slaves in Greece, and by dancers and prostitutes in Rome. After discussing this matter at some length, he ends by saying: “If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God” (v. 16). That is, if you cannot follow my subtle reasoning, let this suffice that you are going counter to the practice of all other churches.
Suffice to say that the veil, in this way of thinking, is a symbol of the divine hierarchy established in the relationship of men and women in the bond of matrimony that Paul describes in New Testament terms so beautifully in Ephesians chapter 5:22-30:
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body”.
Married women should wear black head coverings and single women white, signifying purity. One benefit is that the men in the congregation will be able to tell at a glance which of the lovely ladies might be available.
Question 74. Under what circumstances can someone be excommunicated from the Catholic Church and what must be done to be reinstated?
Answer: Excommunication is the ultimate ecclesiastical penalty, in which the offender is expelled from the Church. (The term itself signifies that the individual thus punished is no longer "in communion" with the Catholic Church.) Someone who has been excommunicated no longer has the right to the sacraments of the Church, and is not considered a Catholic unless or until the excommunication is lifted.
Once a person has been excommunicated, only the pope, a bishop, or a priest who has been given specific authorization can grant absolution and reinstate him or her into the Catho1ic communion. (If the person is in danger of death any priest can grant absolution.)
Excommunication can take two different forms. A ferendae sententiae excommunication comes after a formal canonical trial, and is often a matter of public record. A latae sententiae excommunication is incurred automatically, under the terms of the Code of Canon Law, as the punishment for certain offenses. In the case of a latae sententiae excommunication, there is no requirement for formal trial or announcement; in fact, the individual brings the punishment upon himself.
An excommunication can be lifted when the individual admits and makes appropriate efforts to atone for it. In many cases the excommunication can be lifted by a priest through sacramental Confession, although in some cases other conditions must be fulfilled.
When the code of Canon law was revised in 1983, the number of sins for which a person would automatically be excommunicated was significantly reduced. Today, automatic or latae sententiae excommunications are imposed (without the intervention of a judge or Superior) on the following people:
· apostates (those who openly reject the faith of the Church as a whole)
· heretics (those "who openly reject the truth of one or more dogmatic statements)
· schismatics (those who refuse to respect the authority of the pope)
· a person who uses physical force against the pope.
· a person who throws away the consecrated species or uses them for sacrilegious purposes
· a priest who absolves an accomplice
· a bishop who consecrates someone bishop and the person who receives consecration without a Pontifical mandate
· a confessor who directly violates the seal of confession
· a person who procures a successful abortion.
Question 75. The heresy of the de facto deification of Mary is evidenced repeatedly in Karol Wojtyla's Last Will and Testament. This man is not to be elevated as a great Christian, or erroneously described, as in the words of President George W. Bush, as a "faithful servant of God." HE WAS NOT !!!
Despite what Rome and some other Catholics like Mel Gibson ("The Passion") believe, that Mary is a "co-mediatrix" and "co-redemptrix" - this is clearly blasphemy; when compared to what the Word of God, the Bible says:
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;..." 1 Timothy 2:5.
Mary, the betrothed of Joseph, was a humble, obedient, handmaiden and servant of the Living God. However, Mary is NOT divine herself. The Romanist system of dogma that claims unbiblical and extra-biblical attributes to Mary is wicked. Mary was NOT Immaculately Conceived herself without any original sin.
There is NO biblical evidence of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. And we are NOT to pray to the DEAD. The rosary is a violation of Deuteronomy 18:10-14.
The wicked, evil practice of praying to Mary is sin.
Answer: Although you have not actually asked any specific questions, it should be obvious that your comments need to be addressed. It is readily apparent that you have done little or no research in order to try to understand what Catholics truly believe and the foundations for these beliefs.
This forum is not meant to be and avenue of apologetics, so I will briefly address your statements rather than going into any item in depth. I would suggest that before you continue to attack the Catholic Church that you purchase the Catechism of the Catholic Church and begin a systematic study. You are bearing false witness against the Catholic Church.
Catholics too, believe that Jesus is the one mediator between man and God. Jesus was the bridge between sinful man and His Immortal Father, in the sense that His sacrifice on the cross paid for the sins of mankind and open the gates of heaven. Jesus ransomed us from the pains of death.
This does not mean that others cannot mediate or intercede with God. Each time a person prays for the health or wellbeing of another they become a mediator and intercessor, and prayer for one another is certainly supported in Holy Writ.
I must say that your reference to Duet. 18:10-14 is confusing. The passages refer to the abominable practices of the Jews wherein they offered their children to the pagan god Molech. The rosary is not a pagan practice; it is a most perfect form of prayer.
Can you prove that Mary was not immaculately conceived without the taint of Original Sin? Can you prove that Mary was not assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life? Can you prove that asking those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, to intercede for us, is against basic Christian principles? Prayers for the dead and intercessory prayer have their roots in Judaism and go back 5,000 years.
The strongest proof for the Assumption according to “Munificentissimus Deus” is the unanimous faith of the people and their pastors. This remarkable accord of the Catholic bishops and faithful enlightened by the Holy Spirit existed in the Church for centuries. In a matter of so great importance that Church cannot make a mistake or be deceived for the Lord himself promised to be with the Church until the end of time. Pope Pius XII, therefore, do not receive or claim to receive a new revelation from above, nor did he invent a new doctrine of the Church. He simply declared in his definition what the faithful and the bishops had already believed. In a word, he was dependent on the lived faith of the people. It would be more accurate to say the Pope defined the Assumption because Catholics believed in it, than to say Catholics believed in it because the Pope defined it.
For further information, I would recommend “Munificentissimus Deus” also, “The Assumption of Mary” by Killian Healy, O. Carm. “Queen of the Universe, An Anthology on the Assumption and Queenship of Mary”, Mathews, Stanley. Grail 1957 St. Meinrad Indiana; and “The Glorious Assumption of the Mother of God”, Duhr, Joseph, S.J., NY: P.J. Kennedy & Sons c. 1950.
Further, concerning Mary:
Let me state at the outset that the CATHOLIC CHURCH CONDEMNS THE WORSHIP OF ANYTHING OR ANYONE OTHER THAN GOD, IN THE TRINITY. This includes Mary, the mother of our risen Lord. Catholics do not worship Mary in any way, shape, or form.
Worship denotes a kind of honor, which in turn is a sign of esteem given a person for his or her excellence. But in religious matters, worship adds to honor or esteem the sense of one's own inferiority and subjection with respect to the person honored. Since God is the Supreme Being and the Absolute Lord of the universe, to him is due worship in the highest degree. The technical name for the worship of God is adoration or latreutic worship (from the ancient Greek word latreia, which meant the service given to the gods). The lesser form of veneration given to the angels and saints that Catholicism recognizes has the theological name of dulia (from the Greek term douleia, which means the respect shown to a master by his servant). The Blessed Virgin is said to be honored with hyperdulia, i.e., a higher form of what is essentially the same veneration paid to other creatures among the saints but in essence unlike the adoration given only to God.
We adore God because of His infinite uncreated excellence (Latria); we venerate Our Lady (Hyperdulia) and the saints (Dulia) because of the manifestation of God's excellence in them. No person or thing should take the place of God, or be honored in a manner due to God alone, for this is idolatry, which God forbade. All worship not directed to God Himself must be subordinate to Him (Ex. 20:3-5; Deut. 5:9; John 4:22).
The veneration Catholics pay to the saints is not based on emotionalism and sentimentality, but on sound theological reason and pure common sense. When we honor the saints, we honor God because they are the jewels of His creation. And when we honor the Blessed Virgin, we are honoring the Queen of all saints.
Today, there is much misunderstanding, outside the Catholic Church, concerning the Catholic practice of honoring Mary and the saints.
Once again, I wish to emphasize that the Catholic Church literally condemns as idolatry, the worship of anything or anyone other than God in the form of the Trinity.
The word in the Bible for “saint” or “saints” is the Greek word “hagios” also translated “sanctified” or “holy ones.” The root word “hazo,” means “to venerate.” Hagios means to be separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God.
Why should we honor the saints? The answer is straightforward; because God did! God provided the necessary grace, through faith, to enable these men and women to live lives of heroic sanctity. If God honored the saints, shouldn’t we do the same?
God honored Mary in a very special way by choosing her, among all His creatures to be the Mother of His Incarnation. It is certainly logical to believe that God protected Mary even from original sin.
If you were God (Jesus) and had the ability to create your own mother, would you allow blemishes, either physical of spiritual, or would you make her perfect in every way? Holy Scripture is very clear that nothing profane can come into contact with God and live (1 Chron. 13:10). Since Mary was to be the vessel in Whom Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, would be conceived and nurtured, she would have had to be a pure vessel, without any taint of sin. She would have to have been conceived in her mother Anne’s womb without sin. Catholics call this the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly defined it as an article of faith "that, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, the Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception was, by a unique grace and privilege of almighty God, preserved from all stain of original sin."
Further, if it were within your power, would you ever allow your mother to be under the influence of the Evil One? God honored Mary by choosing her, above every other human being who would ever live, to be the Mother of Jesus. If God honored Mary in such a way, should not we honor her also? By honoring Mary and the saints we are simply emulating God.
If I honored your mother, would not you be pleased. If I insulted your mother in any way, would you not be hurt or even angry. Honoring Mary is certainly pleasing to Jesus.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "’All generations will call me blessed’: ‘The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’ The Church rightly honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... This very special devotion ... differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.’ The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an ‘epitome of the whole Gospel,’ express this devotion to the Virgin Mary’” (§971).
The Decalogue commands that we honor our fathers and mothers. Jesus would have fulfilled this commandment, in reference to Mary - perfectly; He could do no less. Catholics simply ask Mary, in prayer, to present our petitions to her Son. Certainly, we can go directly to Jesus with our requests, but what loving son would refuse his mother any request within his power to grant?
What loving son, would ignore his mother? Would you not grant her every wish? Catholics rely on the love Jesus had for His mother, by asking her to intercede for us before His throne. We fly unto her protection, knowing that under her mantel we will be sheltered and protected. Mary is not only Jesus’ mother, but she is our mother as well. When Jesus gave His mother to John at the foot of the Cross, He gave her also to the Church, the living Body of Christ.
By placing himself under the protection of the Blessed Mother, Pope John Paul II was honoring Jesus in a sublime way. Mary is our mother and we are her children. We can rest in her loving arms in the same way that our blessed Lord did so many years ago, and as He continues to do so today. Mary never stopped being the mother of Jesus.
Jesus’ love for Mary was perfect then as it is perfect now. We must continue to emulate Our Lord and Savior. Ask Mary to lead you to a closer relationship with Jesus. There is nothing she would rather do.
Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.