Our Bishop closed our parish. My grandparents were among those who built and paid for this parish. By what right does the bishop close what is ours?
Canonically, there likely are some solutions that permit the lay faithful to take possession of a building slated for closure, undertake its maintenance and keep them open as chapels etc. under the supervision of the local church. Frankly, though, most congregations that have reached a critical state where closure is deemed necessary are not in fact able to undertake such solutions.
While there are legitimate canonical issues, as the lay faithful you have canonical rights at the closing of the parishes, I am not a canon lawyer and would like to answer your question pastorally.
And from a pastoral point of view, it seems evident that bishops do not close parishes, people close parishes. Some wish to explain the widespread closing of Catholic parishes, especially in the Northeast, as mere demographic shifts. And while there are demographic issues, the fact remains that with the Catholic population almost double what it was in the 1950s, many parishes filled to overflowing back in that era now sit increasingly empty.
This is a teachable moment, and we must accept some very painful facts. When only 25% of Catholics go to Mass nationwide, and when Catholics stop having many children, or effectively handing on the faith to their children, this is what happens.
The Church simply cannot maintain parishes and other institutions such as schools and hospitals when Catholics are largely absent. Pastorally speaking, people, not Bishops alone, close parishes. Many parishes, schools, seminaries and convents now sit largely empty. And as they begin to go empty, bills are unpaid, maintenance is deferred, and the situation eventually becomes critical. Dioceses do not have endless amounts of money, or priests and other personnel to staff and maintain increasingly empty, no longer viable parishes… Decisions have to be made.
Pastorally, one would hope that long before things go utterly critical, that bishops, working together with communities that are going into crisis, can speak honestly and work for solutions. But this is not simply the responsibility of the Bishop, it is the responsibility of all the people of God to have such honest discussions.
Thus, we are left with a difficult but teachable moment about what happens when the faith handed down to us is largely set aside by the vast majority of Catholics. It's time to Evangelize and make disciples, as Christ commands.
I have inherited a first class relic. Are there any norms for what I should do or not do with the relic?
Other than a brief mention in Canon 1170 forbidding the sale of relics, there are surprisingly few directions on the care of relics.
Certainly, they are meant to be reverently kept, and ought not be simply cast in a drawer or some forgotten place. Ideally they are put in an ostensiorium, a display vessel easily purchased in most Catholic bookstores, shrine shops or catalogues. Relics ought to be displayed in a suitable place of prayer in one's house. Ideally the place should be uncluttered with other more worldly things like souvenirs, collectibles etc. If the possession of relics is not conducive to one's spiritual life, they ought to be given to another who might benefit or placed in the care of the local parish.
Relics are meant to remind us of the Saints, their stories, and what God can do even with weak human flesh. They should summon us to prayer and trust. But they ought not to be regarded superstitiously as if their mere presence could ward off all suffering or work independently of the will of God. The great wish and prayer of any Saint is that we know and love God and be conformed to His will and plan for us.
At our parish the priest says a shortened creed. Some Sundays he omits it altogether. When I talk to him about it he gets angry. Should I go to the bishop?
The creed is to be said each Sunday. It is possible that the shortened version you mention is the Apostles Creed, which is a permitted option.
Complete omission of the Creed is wrong, and if your request that the priest follow the requirement continues to be ignored, you should inform the diocesan bishop and ask for a written reply from his office as to how your concerns will be addressed.
Many have died for what the Creed announces. It is no mere ritual recitation.
At the Mass, when the priest offers the bread and wine we say, "Blessed be God forever." But how is it possible for us to bless God? He does not need our blessings and blesses us.
Linguistically the response you cite translates the Latin Benedictus Deus in saecula. The benedictus in Latin, literally means to speak well or favorably about someone or something (bene = well + dictus = say or speak). Hence what we mean by “blessed” and the phrase “Blessed be God forever” is that “It is well that God should be forever praised.” We are not claiming to confer some sort of grace or favor upon God, as is often the meaning of the word “blessing” in English.
Theologically though we can distinguish between God’s intrinsic glory and his external glory. As you point out, there is not one thing we can add or take from God’s intrinsic glory. God is glorious and blessed all by Himself and has no need of our praise.
However, we can help to spread God’s external glory by our praise and acknowledgment of him before others, as well as by reflecting his glory through lives of holiness, generosity and conformity to the truth.
In this sense we can also understand the phrase "Blessed be God forever" to mean, "May God's external glory and blessedness be extended and experienced in all places and times. May God be blessed (praised) everywhere, and unto the age of ages."
I have read that in some countries it is legal to sell blood and organs. What is the Catholic view of this practice?
Organs and blood should not be sold and no Christian can seriously propose such a thing. In the first place, it violates Scripture which says, “You are not your own. You have been bought at a price! So, glorify God in your body.”. (1 Cor 6:19‐20). Hence, we are not owners of our bodies, merely stewards. We should not sell what does not belong to us.
To be a steward means to use what belongs to another in a way that accords with the will of the true owner. Hence, we are permitted in charity to donate blood, and to donate certain organs while we live and other organs upon our death. These acts of charity conform to the will of the true owner of our body, God, who is love. Thus, Scripture encourages, “The gift that you have received, give as a gift.” (Matt 10:8)
The second reason not to sell blood and organs is the harm that it does to the poor. If they can be sold, the number of those who simply donate them will decline. And the price of purchasing them will surely be high. This gives the poor less access to healing remedies.
Hence, the buying and selling of organs and blood is an offense against Catholic teaching. It violates both the principle of stewardship, and also of charity.
An Evangelical Christian saw a holy card on my desk of the Blessed Mother. He was rather dismissive of it and my Catholic faith. I did not know how to answer him. He understands we don't worship her but still says we ought to focus only on Jesus.
In discussing such a matter with evangelical Protestants, it's best to stick with Scripture. While there are many scriptures we could quote, it seems the most fundamental passage to set the stage for the discussion is from the Gospel of Luke. There, Mary, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and rejoicing with her cousin, Elizabeth, says, “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:48-49 KJV)
Now, if the Word of God is inspired, and it is, then we should be asking a few questions of our own to good brothers and sisters in the evangelical tradition. Since Scripture says that all generations would call her blessed, aren’t we Catholics fulfilling exactly what Scripture says? And if we are thus fulfilling Scripture, how are you, and why do you criticize us for doing it?
It is not to the detriment of God to call Mary blessed, any more than it is a slight against an artist to praise a masterpiece by him. Mary is God's masterpiece, and as the text says, she is blessed because God who is mighty has done great things for her. In calling her blessed, we bless the artist, who is the Lord himself.
At some point, we need to start answering questions by asking a few of our own in a kind of Socratic method. And thus, a simple and humble question to ask our critical Evangelical brethren is "How do you fulfill what Scripture says of Mary, "all nations will call me blessed"? We should ask this with humility, but in silence, await and insist upon an answer.
No. The souls in purgatory are not accessible to the devil or demons. They are safe in God’s hands, in what amounts to the “vestibule” of heaven. There, they undergo final purifications, which only lead to heaven (cf 1 Cor 3:13‐15).
Further, at death, our final disposition for or against God; and for or against his Kingdom, is final, it is definitive. This places the souls in heaven, and also in purgatory beyond the reach of the devil. Sadly, it also places heaven beyond the reach of those who have finalized their decision against it. At death, the judgment or verdict is in and is irreversible. (see Luke 16:26; Heb 9:27; Jn 8:21; Jn 10:27‐28).
We do well today to be more sober about this definitive aspect of death, and to realize that our cumulative decisions build toward a final disposition by us that God will, in the end, acknowledge.
A Jewish friend insists that, according to his religion, there is simply no afterlife. Is this true and consistent with the Old Testament?
The views of the Jewish people regarding the afterlife vary to some degree. Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no central teaching authority among Jewish people. Thus, in a short answer like this, we cannot fully treat what all Jewish people believe about the particulars of the afterlife. But it is fair to say that most believing Jews do believe in an afterlife. It is also fair to say that the concept of the resurrection of the dead developed in Judaism over the centuries, and became clearer in the later books as God brought the ancient Jews to a deeper understanding of what He was offering.
But for your friend to say that there is nothing in the Old Testament about it requires the dismissal of a good number of texts from the prophets, Psalms and the Wisdom tradition that speak quite vividly of the dead rising (e.g. Is 26:19; Job 19:25ff; Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 37:12; Hosea 13:14; 1 Sam 2:6, among many others).
At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees did reject the resurrection of the dead, and held that, at death one simply ceased to exist. Part of the reason for this was that they only accepted the first five books of the Bible, and claimed that in them, there was no mention of the dead rising. Jesus sets aside their view by invoking the encounter of God with Moses at the burning bush in the book of Exodus, one of the first five books of the Bible. There, God called Himself the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” But if God is a “God of the living, and not the dead” as the Sadducees would surely insist, then somehow, to God, Abraham Isaac and Jacob are alive. (see Mark 12:24‐27)
And while your Jewish friend is not likely to accept the authority of Jesus, this text goes a long way to show that declaring there's nothing in the Old Testament about resurrection, especially in the first five books, is not an interpretation immune from critique. It further illustrates that at the time of Jesus, while the Sadducees rejected the resurrection of the dead, most other Jews, such as the Pharisees and also followers of Jesus and others, did accept, teach and expect the resurrection of the dead.
Therefore, it seems safe to consign your friend’s remark as the opinion of one Jew, or some Jews, but not all Jews, then or now.
How does the Catholic Church reconcile Catechism #841 which says, "The plan of salvation also includes Muslims" (who deny the resurrection) with 1 Corinthians 15:14 that says "If Christ be not risen...your faith is in vain."?
God surely wants to save all and has set plans in place to do so through the preaching of the Gospel. That the plan of salvation aims for all does not mean that all are in fact saved. If one were to knowingly reject Christ after having Him effectively preached, they may well forfeit their salvation. However, not all have had Christ effectively preached, and the Church leaves the final determination to the Lord of how culpable they are of their seeming rejection of Christ.
A short biblical answer to your question is supplied by Peter in Acts. Having heard a sermon that he preached on Pentecost, many were struck to the heart and cried out what shall we do? Peter replied, repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
But this is not simply to be understood as a ritualistic observance that we fulfill on one day, but is meant to usher in a whole renewal of the human person. And thus, we ought to look at all three things that Peter indicates in some more detail.
The word translated as “repent” is Metanoia which means more than to clean up our act. It means to come to a whole new mind, rooted in what God teaches and reveals, with new priorities and able to make better decisions.
To be baptized is not only to be cleansed of our sins but also to see our old self put to death, and for Christ to come alive in us. Baptism ushers in the beginnings of a lifelong healing process that must continue by God's grace. Baptism also points to all the sacraments of the Church. For, having been brought to new life, we must also be fed by the Eucharist and by God's word, we must see the wounds of sins healed in confession, we must be strengthened for a mission by confirmation. Baptism also makes us a member of the body of Christ. And thus, we are called to walk in fellowship with all the members of Christ’s one body, The Church.
St. Peter also speaks of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. And thus, we are taught that our dignity is to be swept up into the life, love, and wisdom of God. We are called to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit to see sins put to death and many virtues come alive.
Finally, something needs to be said about your use of the word "exactly" which might imply there is some very simple formula for getting saved. But as can be seen, there are many dimensions to the work of God in saving us. Thus, we are to walk in a loving covenant relationship with the Lord and His body the Church. And like any relationship, this cannot simply be reduced to a few things. We must trust the Lord and walk in a relationship of love and obedience to him. We are to do this in fellowship with His Church, through the grace of the Sacraments, obedience to the Word of God, and prayer (cf Acts 2:42).
"Building our Catholic faith one question at a time."