Our parish posted the availability of "gluten free hosts." Is this not another diminishment of the true presence? How could the Body of Christ make anyone sick?
So called “gluten free hosts” are not utterly free of all gluten. There are still some trace amounts. The US Bishops Conference allows the use of very low gluten hosts and urges additional caution by listing three reputable suppliers of them on the USCCB website.
As for the Blessed Sacrament making someone sick, it is not the Sacrament that does so, but the “accidents.” While your acknowledgement of the True Presence is laudable, it is important to remember that Catholic teaching states that though the bread is transubstantiated, the “accidents” remain.
The "accidents" are the physical attributes of the bread and wine ‐ that is, what can be seen, touched, tasted, or measured. These remain, though the substance of bread and wine change to become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. Hence it does not follow that one could not be affected by gluten in a consecrated Host, or by alcohol in the consecrated Blood, for these attributes remain to our senses.
In Matthew Chapter 19, Jesus forbids divorce. But the Lord makes an exception "for unchastity." Please explain what the Lord means here.
The particular verse you reference reads as follows: And so I [Jesus] say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)
The phrase, "unless the marriage is unlawful" is from the Catholic New American Bible, and is a rendering of the Greek (me epi porneia) which most literally means, "except for illicit sexual union".
The Greek word in question is porneia. This word refers generally to any illicit sexual union. Depending on the context, it most often means premarital sex, but can also refer to incest, and more rarely to adultery and/or homosexual acts. I say "more rarely" because adultery and homosexual acts have their own proper Greek words and descriptions that are normally used (e.g. Moichao (adultery) and paraphysin etc., for homosexual acts).
Some, especially from the Protestant tradition, think porneia, as used here, means “adultery.” Hence, they hold that divorce and remarriage is allowed if one (or both) of the spouses committed adultery. But this seems unlikely, since, if the Lord meant that, he could have used the more specific word for adultery (moichao) which he uses later in the very same sentence! It also seems a strange logic that one can avoid a second marriage being considered adulterous if the first marriage is rendered adulterous by one or both parties.
Catholic teaching and understanding regarding the word porneia holds it to mean in the context of this verse, “incestuous relationships.”
This makes historical sense. The Jewish world had very clear understandings about permissible marital unions, forbidding marriage where the bloodlines ran too close, e.g. siblings, first cousins etc. But as the Gospel went forth into the Greek and pagan world, there were differing and unacceptable notions about who could marry who.
Because of these many strange marital practices, the so‐called Matthean exception seeks to clarify the Lord’s teaching. Thus, the phrase “except for unlawful marriage” (sometimes also rendered “except for unchastity”) clarifies that those who are in marriages that are illicit, due to incestuous and other invalidating factors, should not stay in them. Rather, these are not marriages at all and can and should be set aside in favor of proper marriage.
I was taught to abstain from food or drink at least one hour before receiving Holy Communion. I've seen people at Mass drinking bottled water before Communion, including a Deacon assisting the priest. Has there been a change in the rules for fasting?
Drinking water does not break the fast before communion. The current rule, in place since 1964, says, “A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.” (see Canon 919).
It is a bit odd for a liturgical minister to be drinking bottled water in the Sanctuary. Perhaps the deacon has a health problem. But, precluding that, one would think it was usually possible to go without water for an hour or two. Water bottles are a kind of modern fad. We used to manage quite well without them.
Is it morally permissible to divorce in order to qualify for Medicaid assistance to pay for nursing home costs? My wife has dementia and will soon need nursing home care. Her savings would be gone in 9 months, and then they would come for my assets.
You describe a difficult situation faced by many today. A brief column such as this cannot explore all the moral issues involved here, but the bottom-line answer is, no, you should not divorce.
The well-known axiom that the ends do not justify the means applies here. And while the “end” of trying to save your money, presumably to give it to your children, is a good and understandable end or goal, one cannot sin in order to obtain it.
What is the sin involved in what you ponder? Fundamentally it is either to divorce, which God hates (see Malachi 2:16) or it is to lie.
Regarding divorce, it is essential to recall the vow you made which is very pertinent in exactly the case described here. The vow said, “I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”: Clearly sickness and poverty were anticipated as a possible scenario in the vows you both made.
But one might argue, “We are not really getting divorced, it is just a legal move regarding civil marriage. We will still consider each other as spouses.” But in this case, a lie is being told to the State for the purpose of Medicaid funds.
Either way, it seems that what is proposed is that one do evil (sin) that good may come of it. This is not a valid moral solution to an admittedly difficult and painful issue.
In recent years, Long Term Care Insurance has been a solution to some of this, but for an older person, this new device is seldom much help since, if they have it at all, the premiums were high and the payoff low.
I pray it might be of some consolation to recall that the goal in life is not to die with a lot of money in the bank. The goal is to die in holiness. God has promised the Kingdom to those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and who have done what is right, even at high personal cost.
Our Bishop is closing the one and only Catholic Church near the airport. Isn't there a requirement that there be a church in or very near an airport?
No. It is of course a very nice convenience for travelers in larger airports that Mass might be offered, at least on Sundays. But given the shortage of clergy, and also the nature of modern airline travel with shorter lay‐overs, both the ability of travelers to attend, and the capacity to provide this service is less.
Canonically, travelers who cannot reasonably attend Mass to fulfill their Sunday obligation, may be exempted by their pastor from the Sunday obligation.
Do you have any suggestions for a person who is guilty of sloth and laziness? On account of it, I am often sluggish and this keeps me from many of my responsibilities and duties to be a good and prayerful Catholic.
Sloth, which is one of the Seven Capital Sins, is sorrow or aversion to the good things that God is offering us. And thus, one who has sloth, and hears that God can save them from sins and enable them to do many good works, instead of being happy and eager to embrace these gifts, has a kind of sadness or aversion to them. Perhaps they like their sins and would rather not be free of them. Perhaps the thought of good works seems burdensome. So, the slothful person becomes avoidant of God and the gifts that he is offering.
While this is often manifest through a kind of a laziness or inattentiveness, sometimes the opposite is true. And thus, some slothful people immerse themselves in worldly activities such as business and career, and claim they are far “too busy” to pray, to think about God, or go to Church.
Therefore, at its heart, sloth is a problem about desire; namely, that we do not ardently desire God and the things he is offering.
I might encourage you to pray out of the beatitude, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matt 5:6). In other words, we ought to ask for the desire for God and what he offers, if we don't even have that.
Secondly, I would counsel that while praying for greater desire, some small and initial steps be made toward God. Look for something you can reasonably do, which may not be highly desirable at first, but still can be reasonably accomplished. I once made a Lenten resolution to go to daily Mass at my lunch break. At first, this seemed difficult and irksome. But gradually, I grew to like it, and when Easter came, I just kept going to Mass almost every day to experience its peace and the nourishment of God's Word and his Body and Blood. Often life works like this. We ask for deeper desire, and step out on our request by small actions which build.
We have a priest at our church, who is a huge fan of Medjugorje. While he points out that it is not yet recognized by the church, his "the end is near" approach is not helpful to us who hope to make a difference. Any thoughts of what I can do?
Priests should avoid preaching substantially out of material not approved by the Church. Balance is also necessary. Sober teaching on sin with hope rooted in grace in mercy is the basic meat and potatoes of the preaching task. Encourage Father with what he preaches well, but also request he focus his material on what is approved and less divisive.
In an article entitled "Divorced Catholics," it states that some Bishops in Germany are allowing some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, citing a papal endorsement. What does this papal endorsement state?
There is no papal endorsement. Church policy on Catholics who are divorced and remarried remains unchanged. As a general rule, divorced and remarried Catholics are not able to receive communion or absolution in confession. This is because they are living in an invalid marriage, where at least one of them has been married to someone else before.
In accord with what Jesus teaches in Matthew 19, Matthew 5, Mark 10, and other places, those who divorce and then remarry are in a state of adultery. And, since their marriage is ongoing, and regular conjugal relations are presumed, Catholics in this state are not usually able to make a firm act of contrition which includes the promise to avoid adulterous sex in the future. Hence, they cannot receive absolution, neither can they be offered Holy Communion.
In relatively rare situations, some Catholics are able to live with their current spouse and a kind of “brother‐sister” relationship where no sexual relations are part of the picture. Sometimes this is due to mutual agreement between the spouses, and sometimes it is due to health-related issues that preclude sexual activity and will not change in the future. In such rare cases, a Catholic is able to make an act of contrition, receive absolution and be restored to Holy Communion.
Regarding the German Bishops, it has been reported that some are either acting contrary to current Church law, or strongly requesting a change in the law.
Of itself, request to review current church policies is a legitimate matter to consider in any number of areas. As most priests know, many people today find themselves in very complicated situations. Many for example, have returned to the Church after many years away, and often do so with the irregular marriage situations. Some can be quickly and easily rectified. Others, because current or former spouses are uncooperative, create difficulties in people being restored to the full sacramental life of the Church.
Are there ways that we can more efficiently deal with these situations, and at the same time respect the Lord's clear teaching in Scripture? These are ongoing questions.
It is unlikely that there can be any major changes in Church policy in this regard. However, there can be great improvements in explaining our pastoral stance to Catholics who are often confused by what the Church teaches and why. The prayers of the faithful will be very important so the decisions that come forth are wise, prudent, and engender in that respect for Church teaching on marriage.
Indulgences used to be designated by time value: 100 Days, 500 days, etc. Now, only the terms partial and plenary are used. Why the change?
This change to “partial” or “plenary” occurred in 1968 when the Enchiridion of Indulgences was issued. There are several reasons this was done.
First, the designation of “days” did not originally reference that time in Purgatory could be lessened. The origin likely had more to do with the penitential practices of the early Church, which were often lengthy and somewhat severe. Given this, one could visit the Confessors of the Faith, in jail, or who had once been jailed for the practice of the faith. Given the esteem these confessors of the faith were held in by the Church, such a visit, and the promise to say prayers, often resulted in time being knocked off one’s penance by the Bishop. Where and when this designation of days, weeks and years came to be applied to the souls in purgatory by the faithful is not exactly clear.
The second problem designating a time value to indulgences is that we are not certain that Purgatory runs on an earth clock. How time passes there, or if there is time, or how time here relates to time there, is all uncertain.
The third problem is that the merit of a prayer or action depends not only on the action done, but on the dispositions and state of the soul of those who do them. Exactly how fruitful the saying of a rosary is, may not be something we can simply gauge by assigning a number.
Most prayers are not sacraments, but sacramentals. Even indulgenced acts related to the reception of the sacraments do not pertain to the sacrament itself, but to the fruitfulness of the reception of it, and the application of those fruits to another. Hence, we are not speaking of something that works automatically (ex opere operato), but rather something that depends for its fruitfulness to a large extent on the disposition of the one who does it (ex opere operantis).
Most people did find the old system of days, weeks and years to be helpful at gauging the general fruitfulness of certain acts or prayers. These days, however, the Church seems to prefer to leave matters such as this less clearly specified for all the reasons stated. And while common sense might value the rosary above a brief prayer or aspiration, even here it is sometimes best to leave things up to God who sees not only the appearance but looks into the heart.
A fellow Catholic maintains that at some time in the past the Catholic Church believed in reincarnation. Is this true?
As regards the matter of so‐called reincarnation (the belief that we have had previous lives in other bodies, or will come back in other bodies or forms), the view is clearly excluded in Scripture and by Christian Anthropology.
Scripture says, It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb 9:27). “Once” is pretty clear, there are no previous deaths or lives, nor shall we face death again. “Once” cannot mean many.
Further, Christian anthropology, rooted in the Scriptures, excludes the notion of reincarnation. This is not the place to set forth a full anthropology, but it is here sufficient to state that the soul is the form of the body and it does not pertain to the same soul to “form” different bodies. I am my body; it is not a mere appendage or container that can be shed or exchanged.
Finally, whenever some claim the Catholic Church once taught something, a good follow‐up request is “Show it to me in writing.” For, many make unsubstantiated claims and the pressure should not be on to defend against something that never happened, but for them to demonstrate clearly the truth of their charge.
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