Today, many politicians who call themselves Catholic are pro-choice when it comes to abortion. Are these politicians committing a sin by not forcefully condemning abortion? And why do the Catholic bishops not forcefully discipline them?
To be supportive of the so‐called “right” to abortion is indeed sinful and erroneous. Further, to vote to fund abortions is indeed a grave sin. The degree of culpability will be based on how directly the legislator votes for abortion. To go directly to fund abortions is clearly a grave evil. Sometimes however, abortion funding is tucked inside omnibus bills. And thus the culpability of the politician involves a more indirect cooperation with evil.
Bishops and pastors have a serious obligation to warn those who serve in public life against directly supporting, and especially funding, abortion. How this is best done is a matter of tactics and prudence.
Consider for example that a man has some obligation to protect his family from home invasion. Theoretically, any number of alternatives might be possible for him. Perhaps he might booby‐trap his property with lethal weapons that would instantly kill any trespasser. On the other hand, he might reasonably conclude that such a method would also endanger others whom might happen upon his property. Thus he might use lesser means, such as alarms, extra locks, and warning signs.
Which methods are employed, might vary from place to place. If a man lives in a country where civil wars are raging, he might use more severe methods. On the other hand, if a man lives where civil law is generally in place, he may feel it is reasonable to use lesser methods.
It is the same with the bishops on how best to deal with dissenting and wayward Catholic politicians. In some cases, public disciplining and refusal of communion may make some sense. But in other settings, many bishops have concluded such measures might make martyrs out of such politicians. Perhaps the bishop will prefer to privately warn a pro‐choice politician that they will have to answer to God.
Many, who are quick to critique the bishops, ought to recall that matters such as these require careful prudence. Many who demand significantly punitive measures do not themselves take this approach in dealing with their own families. The Lord himself warns that, sometimes in our zeal to pull up weeds, we end up harming the wheat.
Reasonable people differ on how to handle matters of prudential judgment. Indeed, individual bishops vary in their approaches. This is the nature of such prudential judgments. Catholics do well to pray for priests and bishops, who have obligations to correct, but must do so in ways that do not cause more harm than good. Pray!
Who can give blessings? There are lay people in my parish giving blessings and this does not seem right.
Context and content are important in answering a question like this. In the liturgical setting only a priest (and sometimes the deacon) should be conferring blessings since they are present and available for such. Thus, the practice observed in some places of lay people who are distributing communion and also giving blessings is inappropriate. The priest should be sought for this, apart from the communion line.
However, in other settings lay people can give certain blessings in certain ways. For example, a parent can bless a child, an elder can bless a youngster, etc. In doing this, however, they ought to avoid priestly gestures such as making the sign of the cross over others. Perhaps tracing the cross on the forehead is enough, or simply laying a hand on the head, or no gesture at all, are better.
In settings where lay people are praying for one another, say in a prayer for healing or deliverance, similar rules should be followed, avoiding overt priestly gestures, and being content to lay hands, or make no gesture at all.
In the rare instances where lay people lead formal liturgical gatherings, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, they must not only avoid gestures, but also follow prescribed texts which merely ask God’s blessing on the assembled believers, but do not imply they are bestowing such blessings.
Finally there are certain specific prayers and blessings that can only be given by a priest. The norms are too specific to be given here in a general answer. But most blessings of objects and sacramentals are reserved to clergy, and the laity ought to be content to offer simple prayers, asking blessings for one another only in appropriate contexts.
In the Nicene Creed the phrase “rose again” appears related to Christ’s resurrection. Does this imply that there is more than one resurrection or is this some quirk in the translation?
Yes, it is more of a quirk in the translation and of how we speak in English. There is only one resurrection.
The English word “resurrection” comes from the similar word in Latin, “resurrexit” which can be translated “he arose” but more literally means “He stood up again,” for re=again and surrexit=he stood up. The Greek text of the Creed also uses this construction: ἀναστάντα (anastanta) means to stand up again, ana=again, stanta= to stand.
Thus when we render these concepts into English we use the word “again” to capture more the sense of the Latin and Greek texts, which speak of the resurrection in very physical terms. While in English we could simply say “He arose” or “He rose from the dead” but, in a sense this is abstract and doesn’t quite capture the Latin and Greek which emphasize the physical fact that Christ who was freely struck down in death is now standing up once again.
It is true that in English “again” can mean that someone has done something more than once, as in “He did it again,” implying that this is at least the second time he has done something. But “again” can also mean simply to return to a former state. As in “He is back home again,” meaning he who had left has now returned. It is this second sense of the word “again” that is meant when saying Jesus “rose again.” In other words, Jesus who once stood among us fully alive, is now doing so again.
Jesus drove out some demons into a herd of swine, which ran down the bluff, into the water and drowned. Could not such an action be construed as cruelty to animals?
Well, the pigs are not really the point of the story, and we ought not to get too focused on them. More to the point of the story is the authority of Jesus Christ to cast out demons.
Thus, one might respond to the cruelty charge, that the Lord God has the capacity and authority to do this to the pigs, just as you and I might go to our garden, uproot withered tomatoes and replace them with corn. Further, having authority over animals, we also lead pigs to slaughterhouses.
One might still argue that driving the demons into the pigs was an arbitrary and unnecessary act by Jesus. But perhaps the Lord has reasons. For example, he may have wished to inspire a holy fear in those who saw the action. It was surely a memorable action, and while the townsfolk initially reacted with fear, it would seem they later welcome Jesus back with faith (Mk 5:17‐20; 7:31). Hence, Jesus makes use of the animals to bring blessings to human beings, which is fitting.
Culturally, pigs were considered by the Jewish people to be unclean animals. Thus, the pigs also help to fittingly illustrate the uncleanness of demons, and the fate of those persisting in uncleanness.
Why does the Catholic Church and Catholic Bibles fail to use the upper case, that is capitalize, pronouns referring to the persons of the Trinity? Does not the Lord's Prayer say, “hallowed be Thy name?”
Capitalizing pronouns (e.g. he, him, his, you, your etc.) referring to the Blessed Trinity has not been a widespread practice in Christian tradition. In fact, these pronouns are never capitalized in the source documents. They are not capitalized in the Greek text of the Scriptures. Neither did St. Jerome capitalize them when he translated these texts into Latin Vulgate.
Even as the biblical texts were translated into English, the pronouns remained in the lower case. This is true of both Catholic and Protestant translation to the Bible. The Douai Reims Bible did not use them, neither did the King James. Neither do over thirty current or old translations that I consulted online.
Outside the Scriptures, official English translations of Church documents and texts do not use the upper case for the pronouns either. For example the English translation of the Catechism of the Council of Trent used lowercase, as does the current Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Thus we see that the use of the lowercase for pronouns, even pronouns referring to the Divine Persons are always in the lowercase, beginning with the very biblical text.
Some years ago, at least in English-speaking countries, there was a pious practice set up of using the upper case for pronouns referring to members of the Trinity. However this practice was neither widespread nor ancient.
As for God's name being holy, this is absolutely true. When referring to God by name, or proper title, we should capitalize these proper nouns. Thus, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are capitalized, as is the name of Jesus. But pronouns are not proper names, they are by definition, words that stand for, or point back to proper nouns.
One may well argue that such pronouns should be capitalized, but given the widespread and ancient practice to the contrary, one ought to be careful not to impugn motives of impiety for those who do not do so.
The Catechism (# 1023) states that faithful who die after receiving Baptism "… already before they take up their bodies again .... will be in heaven ...." Could you please explain and elaborate on just what this means?
Currently, prior to the Second Coming, when we die our bodies lie in the earth, but our soul goes to God. Those deemed worthy and capable of heaven, after any necessary purification, are admitted into heaven.
Only at the Second Coming, will our bodies rise, when, as Scripture attests, the trumpet shall sound and the bodies of the dead will come forth (1 Cor 15:52). Our body which rises, will be truly our body, but gloriously transformed as St. Paul details in the same place in Scripture (1 Cor 15:35ff)
What this most fundamentally means is that Christ did not come to save only our souls but the whole of us, soul and body. One great dignity of the human person is that we unite both the spiritual and material aspects of God’s creation in our very person. This glory will be restored to us at the Second Coming.
An additional meaning of this truth is that we must reverence both our soul and body through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and we must fulfill the mandate to glorify God in our body as well as our soul.
If no soul may see God unless it has been totally purified (Purgatory), and since Purgatory ends on the Day of Judgment, what happens to the souls of the people who are still alive on Judgment Day? How are their souls purified?
This level of detail is not supplied to us by the biblical texts. Nor are such details defined in the magisterial teachings of the Church. Hence, we are in the realm of speculative theology when it comes to such matters.
We ought to begin by saying that the Day of Judgment will not be a day like any other. There are many unknown factors, especially related to the mystery of time, that underlie our speculations. For example, is Judgment Day really a day of 24 hours? Or is it a moment in time that happens like a flash? Perhaps it is a longer period of some indeterminate length? Does time even exist, as we know it now, at a moment like that?
There is also a premise in your question, which is not unassailable. Namely, that Purgatory ends on the Day of Judgment. We do not know this. Perhaps Purgatory, or the process of purgation, may exist for a time after the last judgment. But here too is another question. What does it mean to say that something exists “for a time,” if time as we know it no longer exists?
Perhaps the best we can do with a question like this is to say that it is not for us to know such details, and that God will accomplish the purifications and purgation necessary in ways known to Him.
It would certainly seem that such purification would in fact be necessary based on Scripture, which says of heaven, Nothing impure will ever enter it (Rev 21:27). And thus, while Purgatory, or the process of purgation, is set forth in Scripture for us who die now, how God will accomplish this for souls in the rarefied conditions of the Great Second Coming is known to Him, but not revealed to us with enough specificity to answer your question without speculation.
Our new pastor says the altar in our Church is too far away from the pews, so for daily mass he uses a table outside the sanctuary. Is this proper?
Generally, the norms of the Church indicate that the altar should be fixed, that is, immovable, made of stone, and located in the sanctuary of the Church, that is, in an area of the church distinguished from where the people gather and are seated. (“Built of Living Stones” 54, 57)
At first glance, it would seem that your pastor is operating outside these norms and that the appropriate place for him to celebrate Mass is at the main altar of the church.
Sometimes however, in older, or larger churches, the pastoral challenge you described is present. In such cases the use of a smaller altar, closer to the people, (as is done in some larger basilicas), is employed.
The movable altar should be truly noble, not a simple folding table, and dedicated to no other purpose other than the celebration of the sacred liturgy. While this is not ideal, in some instances it may be pastorally allowable, especially if recourse to a chapel for daily Mass is not possible.
A member of my family is an atheist hostile to faith and likes to challenge me to explain how a loving God permits suffering. Is there an answer I can give?
It is perhaps too absolute to say the Church has "an answer" to suffering, and why God permits it. The full answer to this is ultimately mysterious, and has many aspects, which are hidden from our view.
To be sure, we do have elements of an answer, which God reveals to us, or which human reason can supply. One element of an answer is the existence of human freedom. One way God could prevent a lot of suffering would be to cancel human freedom whenever it was abused. But God, it would seem, does not usually see fit to do so, and his respect for our freedom is very consistent.
Another aspect of an answer is that suffering often brings growth and opens new possibilities. Perhaps God sees these fruits and thereby allows some degree of suffering.
But again, these insights are part of an answer. They do not constitute a full or complete answer to the great mystery of suffering and why God allows it. These insights tend to bring up even more questions. Fundamentally we must accept that we do not have an absolute answer to the problem of suffering.
While it is fine that atheists raise this issue, (for it is a valid question we all have), the demand by them for an absolute answer is not reasonable. We must also ask them to consider that not everything has a simple answer.
Thus, if they will demand that I must absolutely answer the question, “Why is there suffering?” then I would also like to ask them to give an absolute answer to the question, “Why is there love? Why is there generosity or a passion for justice or self‐sacrificing heroism?”
If you and I must account for the negative side of suffering, then perhaps too our critics must account for the existence of love. If they are honest they will perhaps admit that while they can give a partial answer, they cannot fully account for these things.
The bottom line is, not everything can be absolutely answered. To unreasonably demand answers from others, when they cannot supply them either, is not itself a rational or adequate reputation of the existence of God.
Why doesn’t the Church speak more about exorcism and have exorcists speak out more about possession?
Major exorcism is a matter of supreme discretion and confidentiality. The identity of the diocesan exorcist is not generally made known, except to those who need to know.
While procedures in dioceses vary a bit, it is most common that the exorcist works with a team that includes at least one other priest, a medical doctor, and a properly trained psychotherapist who all assist in the assessment of whether a person is actually possessed.
If major exorcism is considered advisable, the exorcist proceeds with it, but only with the explicit approval of the bishop, who must concur with the judgment to go ahead with the major exorcism.
Here too, the exorcist should never work alone, but with at least one other assisting priest and an appropriate team. It is almost never the case that exorcism is a “one and you’re done scenario.” Generally exorcisms are conducted over a series of sessions, sometimes weeks or months apart.
If one suspects demonic possession, the first place to begin inquiry is always with the parish priest, or another trusted priest. If that priest has reason to suspect possession (rather than obsession or torment) then he should contact the Diocese and request consultation with the appointed exorcist.
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