Pope John XXIII is quoted as stating that among the rights to belong to every person, Is the "freedom to form a family." Given the Church's stance on same-sex unions, and other non-biblical family structures, isn't his statement too vague?
As with any quote, historical context is important. Pope John XXIII lived in an era when single‐parent families, and cohabiting couples, were rare. And same-sex unions were inconceivable. Back in the late 1950s and early 60s, "family" meant a married father and a mother, and children. There was still a basic moral consensus, which could be presumed in using phrases such as "form a family."
Today, this is gone, and we must be much more specific. Thus, in reading Pope John XXIII, we must adjust to the context in which he spoke, and cannot reasonably demand the precision that is necessary today. Neither would it be reasonable for our opponents on the marriage question to read into these remarks an approval for the current situation.
In our hymnal there are many lines in the hymns which concern me. One line says "I myself am the bread of life…you and I are the bread of life." Another says “we become for each other the bread, the cup.”
Such lines ought to cause concern. For, interpreted in a rather literalistic way, they seem to declare equivalence between the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and of our communion with one another.
It is true, the concepts are related, but they are not equivalent or substitutable. One in fact causes the other. That is to say, our communion with Christ in Holy Communion effects our communion with one another. And I suspect that is what these hymns are trying to get at. But they do so in a clumsy sort of way, as if the two were simply and merely the same. They are not.
For Christ is not simply reducible or equivalent to the sum total of his members, but he, as God, is greater than and is the cause of the communion we enjoy with one another.
That said, we must accept the limits of what art and poetry do. Hymns are a form of poetry, and cannot always have the doctrinal precision that we might expect of a theological treatise. Context is important, and hymn use a poetic genre.
Nevertheless, some of the older Eucharistic hymns were able to speak politically, and yet not sacrifice doctrinal precision. Perhaps we could hope for more than we often find in many modern compositions.
I don't think the Church teaches that the Saints are omniscient. Therefore my question is how are they made aware of our prayers, which are directed to them?
Our communion with the Saints is accomplished in and through Jesus Christ who is the head of the Body, the Church. All the members of Christ's body, those here on earth (the Church militant), the Saints in heaven (the Church triumphant), and those in purgatory, (the Church suffering), are members of the one Body of Christ, and are united by him, and through him who is the Head.
To use an analogy, my right hand has communion with my left hand, not because my hands have their own capacity to work together. Rather, my right hand and my left hand have communion and can work together only in and through the head of my body, which unites and directs them. And so it is with the members of the Body of Christ. In this regard, St. Paul teaches, when one member suffers all the members suffer, when one member is glorified, all the members are glorified (1 Cor 12:26). And there is thus a communion of all the members in the one Body.
That the Saints are aware of us, and pray for us before the throne of God is attested in Scripture where in the four living creatures present before the throne of God and where the incense, which is the prayers of God’s saints, are brought before the throne (Rev 5:8). There is also the ancient tradition of the church from apostolic times wherein the martyrs and heavenly Saints are invoked for help of every sort.
Let us be clear that such communion of the Saints does not occur apart from Jesus Christ, but rather, it is facilitated by him through whom and in whom all things are and subsist, and who is the head of the Body the Church uniting his members.
A friend wants a grandmother and aunt to be the godparents for her daughter. But the pastor says this is not possible, one must be male, the other female. I know other pastors permit this practice. What is correct?
The first pastor is correct. The code of Canon Law says regarding sponsors for baptism, One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex. (Canon 873).
Catechesis is necessary today regarding the role of sponsors. Too frequently, the role is seen as merely ceremonial, and is often misconstrued as a way of bestowing honors on certain adults.
The role of a sponsor in infant baptism is to ensure the Catholic formation of the child if the parents are unable to do so. In this regard, only one sponsor is needed. However, if two are chosen, they are usually called “godparents,” and ought to be in the model of parents: male and female. Otherwise, one suffices.
I know a good number of people who didn't attend mass regularly or who look at pornography, but are not aware that they commit a sin. Actually, it might be pretty hard for the average person to commit grave sin, for who would purposely turn against God?
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent (cf Catechism 1857). However, there are aspects of this question that bespeak troubling trends in modern thinking.
First, there is the notion that people don't seem to know any better. Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Catechism all speak of the conscience in every human person. The voice of God echoes in the depths of every human heart. While some suppress this voice, deep down it is still there. There is much pastoral experience that people generally do know what they are doing. When speaking to people who are missing Mass, or perhaps are cohabiting and fornicating, etc., they admit they know, deep down, what they are doing is wrong.
Secondly, the notion that mortal sin is rare also seems rooted in modern anthropology that minimizes human freedom and knowledge. While it is true, certain compulsions may marginalize or limit freedom, yet, we are freer than most like to admit. In summoning us to a moral life, and warning us of sin, the Lord in Scripture is not simply setting up a straw man. He is speaking to us as moral agents, who generally act freely, making decisions for which we are responsible.
One may call all this “needless fear,” but if so, the Lord never got the memo. Jesus often used vivid imagery to stir fear within us of the consequences of sin. As with any pastoral appeal, fear must be balanced with other appeals as well. But the modern attempt to remove all fear from the preaching of the Church, has had poor results. Some degree of fear may be “needful” after all.
I support the Shriners Hospitals and their work of providing largely free Medical care of the Poor. I want to remember them in my will but recently discovered that they are associated with Freemasonry. As a Catholic can I remember them in my will?
Catholics are not permitted to join the Masons or to engage in specifically Masonic activity or ritual. However, what you describe would seem to fall merely under the category of remote, material cooperation. What you seek to support is the common humanitarian work of caring for the sick and the poor, an activity in keeping with Catholic vision as well. I am presuming your intention is not to support Freemasonry per se, and surely not its potentially anti-Catholic views. I say, “potentially,” since not every Mason, or Masonic organization, especially in America, is specifically focused on being anti-Catholic, as was, and often still is, the case in Europe. Further, it seems you also have some personal history, tied to the particular hospitals in question, and are grateful for the care they have exhibited.
Presuming, that this is your intention, rather than to support Freemasonry directly, it is permissible for you to donate under the circumstances stated. It remains the case however that Catholics are not free to join the Masons or to directly support Freemasonry per se.
I have been asked recently if I am Christian or Catholic? What kind of question is this, and how should I answer it?
You are right to be annoyed and find offense. Catholics are Christian, indeed the original Christians. We have been here all 2000 years, and are the Church founded by Jesus Christ himself.
It is sadly true, that there are some who polemically and rhetorically ask, “Are you Catholic or Christian?” as if the two categories were mutually exclusive. They are not. It would be like asking a certain man, “Are you male or human?” And of course, the answer is both and the question as stated is offensive. And the same answer is true here, that Catholics are also Christians.
Unfortunately, not all Christians are Catholic. And this is a countersign, because Christ founded one Church, and has one Body, he prayed for unity, not endless divisions. He did not found tens of thousands of different disputing denominations. He established one Church which he founded, and unified around his vicar, Peter and his successors, the popes who are designated to unify and strengthen the others whom the devil would sift (separate) like wheat (cf Luke 22:31).
The word “Catholic,” while often used as a proper noun, is also an adjective. The word catholic comes from the Greek, and means “according to the whole.” And this is understood in at least two ways. First of all, the Church is Catholic, because we preach the whole counsel of Christ, not just certain favorite passages or popular viewpoints. We are called to preach the whole Gospel, whether in season or out of season.
Secondly, the Church is called catholic, because we are called to a universal outreach to all the nations. We are not just a church of a certain race or nation, we are called to go on to the ends of the earth, and make disciples of all nations. The Church has a “catholic,” that is a universal, mission to everyone.
And thus, the Catholic Church is the Christian Church, and all Christians are called to be Catholic. It is for this unity that we must lovingly strive.
Is there an appropriate name for our Savior in the context of certain situations? Should we refer to him as Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus etc.?
As your question suggests, exactly how we address Jesus will vary in certain contexts. Perhaps it is most important to distinguish at the outset that “Christ,” is not part of Jesus’ proper name, but rather, it is his title. In this sense, it sometimes helps to put the definite article “the” in front of Christ, saying, “Jesus the Christ,” to remind us that “Christ” is not his surname. Jesus is “the Christ,” Which means, "the anointed one" and translates the Hebrew word “Messiah.”
His proper name, "Jesus" means, in Hebrew, “God saves.” To put all of this together in English, his name and title might be rendered “Anointed Lord and Savior.”
While it is certainly fine for us to call him simply by his proper name, “Jesus,” in the formal liturgy of the Church we often speak of him more fully, such as, “Christ our Lord,” or “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” and so forth.
All this said, it must be added that there are over 100 titles of Jesus, and ways of referring to him in the Scriptures which can also be appropriate ways of referring to him in certain circumstances. For example he is called: Alpha and Omega, Author and Finisher of our faith, Son of David, Son of Man, Good Shepherd, Emanuel, I AM, King of Israel, the Way the Truth and the Life, Light of the World, Redeemer, Teacher, Rabbi, Son of God, Son of Mary, True Vine, and so forth. There are more than 100 other such titles.
Thus, we do well to remember that the magnificent truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord, often requires us to speak of him in many ways, pondering his glory from many different perspectives through these titles.
Many people I know travel over the state border here to purchase things, especially alcoholic beverages, since the nearby state’s sales tax is much lower. Are there moral objections to avoiding taxes in cases like this?
Let me state at the outset that I am not a civil lawyer. But let us suppose that there are legitimate laws in place that forbid purchasing and carrying certain items across state lines. Presuming such laws do exist, they ought not to be violated. This would be true even if we suppose that such laws are more likely aimed at large distributors, rather than private citizens. Unless that exception is explicitly indicated in the law or overruled by other constitutional rights, we ought not to simply consider ourselves exempt.
It is a general norm for Catholics that we should obey all just laws enacted by civil authorities if they do not violate God's laws. If such laws displease us, we ought to have recourse, through the political process, to change them, rather than simply ignore them.
If a Catholic knowingly violates just civil laws such as this, the gravity of such a sin varies, based on the frequency, purpose and amount of items purchased. If one were to simply purchase a small number of items, more as a convenience, the gravity of such sin would be rather light. However, if one were to repeatedly purchase a large amount of items, especially if they were going to resell them, this would be a much more egregious violation of civil law, and also bring with it a more significant gravity in violation of moral law related to the 4th Commandment.
I don't think St. Joseph gets the recognition he deserves. We rightly speak a lot of mother Mary, and certainly of Jesus. But Joseph is often relegated to the background. Why is this so, and should it change?
Yes, more should be said of St. Joseph, especially today when fatherhood is in such crisis. St. Joseph was a strong man, who was willing to sacrifice career and personal comfort to protect and care for his family. St. Joseph listened to God and did what he was instructed to do in the obedience of faith. Here is a powerful model for men and fathers today. St. Joseph is often preached on at men's conferences.
That said, the reserve in emphasizing Joseph extends to the Scriptures themselves. This is not due to any neglect of St. Joseph personally, but extends from the emphasis that the true Father of Jesus is God the Father. Thus, Joseph’s role as foster father steps to the background after the early infancy narratives.
Nevertheless, your point remains valid. We ought not be overly forgetful of St. Joseph. Even if what we know of Joseph from the Scriptures is very limited, what we do know is powerfully inspiring and should be emphasized.
"Building our Catholic faith one question at a time."