Q. When I was young, the Fifth Sunday of Lent was Passion Sunday and the Sixth Sunday was Palm Sunday. Now the Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. Why the change? — T.L.H., Massachusetts.
A. The change came about in 1970 when the two feast days were combined into one. According to the document Paschales Solemnitatis, which explains the feasts connected with Easter, “Holy Week begins on ‘Passion (or Palm) Sunday,’ which joins the foretelling of Christ’s regal triumph and the proclamation of the Passion. The connection between both aspects of the Paschal Mystery should be shown and explained in the celebration and catechesis of this day.”
Prior to 1970, the Gospel read on Passion Sunday was not one of the accounts of the Passion of the Lord, but rather John 8:46-59, where Jesus infuriated the Pharisees by saying that “‘before Abraham came to be, I am.’ They therefore took up stones to cast at Him, but Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.” The Passion of the Lord back then was read on Palm Sunday, as it is now, and there was then, as now, a solemn procession before Mass when the palms were blessed and the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was recounted. Hence the two names for the Sunday that begins Holy Week.
Q. A fellow parishioner told me today that two male employees of our parish are “married” to each other. One of them has a rather prominent role in the parish — supervising and scheduling the altar servers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The pastor has been approached through conversations and letters, so he is aware of the situation. I am inclined to get together a group of parishioners to meet with the pastor and ask him to do something about this situation. He is close to retirement, so some parishioners think we should wait until he leaves, but I see some problems with that: 1) we don’t know when that will happen, 2) waiting and doing nothing implies that we are okay with the situation, and 3) there is no reason to assume that the new pastor will act in the way we want.
My questions to you are what recourse do parishioners have in this situation, and do we have any rights at the chancery level? — Name and State Withheld.
A. This is one of those not uncommon situations today where the obvious and correct solution would be to remove these men from the parish staff because they are living a lifestyle that is contrary to the teachings of the Church and is a cause of scandal in that it might lead others to think that one can ignore Church teachings and remain in apparent good standing in the parish.
The problem is that any effort to remove these men will result in a media firestorm against the pastor and the Church, which may be why your pastor has not acted on concerns expressed by parishioners. Perhaps he is hoping to ease into retirement quietly and leave the problem to his successor.
So what can you do? You should gather a group of people together and ask for a meeting with the pastor because you need to find out exactly where he stands on the situation. Does he consider it a problem and, if so, is he willing to do the right thing and risk the outrage that will be directed at him? Or would he rather just let sleeping dogs lie and leave the problem to whoever comes after him? Once you know where he stands, you can either back him to the fullest if he decides to remove the men from his staff, or if he chooses not to, you can take the next step of contacting the chancery and the bishop.
As a baptized and practicing Catholic, you have a right to petition your bishop to correct an immoral and scandalous situation. There would be no hesitation in doing so if it were a question of a staff member who was embezzling parish funds or sexually abusing children. But when homosexual behavior is the issue, there is a double standard these days that scares people from doing what is right because of the fallout that will ensue.
We will pray for you, for your pastor, and for your bishop that all will have the fortitude to do what is right in this situation. And we will pray for the two men involved, that they will conform their lifestyle to God’s plan for marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Q. The Knights of Columbus in my parish have a monthly breakfast that donates the profits to a different local organization. Last month the money went to the Church of the Brethren. This doesn’t sit well with me since my parish is in debt and could use the money. Am I being overly sensitive about this, or am I right? Also, Catholic Relief Services is having its annual Lenten Rice Bowl collection. Haven’t I read something about CRS being involved in some activities that do not meet Catholic Church standards? — J.E.S., Indiana.
A. 1) Our own K of C Council donates money raised by Bingo to a variety of Church and community causes. We don’t see anything wrong with donating to a non-Church organization — we give to the local Ecumenical Food Pantry, as well as to groups that fight abortion and offer assistance to women facing problem pregnancies — as long as the needs of local Catholic parishes and schools are also taken into account. You should find out if your K of C Council helps your parish too and, if so, it would be okay for them to help other worthy causes as well.
2) Back on February 2 of this year, we devoted an entire column to CRS involvement in facilitating the distribution of more than two millions units of contraceptives and abortifacients into the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2006 and 2010. CRS spokesmen claimed that they were not doing anything wrong since the distribution of the products was carried out by an organization called IMA World Health. But as Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute pointed out, since CRS was responsible for the overall management of the specific health zones where the contraceptives were delivered, “this means that CRS was directly permitting contraception to be delivered and dispensed in its health centers, even if CRS itself didn’t technically ‘touch’ the contraceptives.”
Q. My 37-year-old nephew, a loose Catholic who went to Catholic school for 12 years, watched a documentary on the science channel that discussed the theory of the earth freezing over, then “defrosting,” throughout its existence. He believes the creation story and the Big Bang theory can’t be proven, that both rely on faith, and he doesn’t understand why both can’t be right. He said that “they should instead be embracing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but that Catholicism is all heart and no brains.” How can I help him combat the stuff he hears and sees on TV and elsewhere? Any book suggestions would be appreciated. — M.L., California.
A. If your nephew really knew about the Catholic Church, he would know that the Church is both heart and brains, both faith and science. Not only was the Catholic Church never against science, it was the Church that invented modern science. Fr. Nicholas Steno, a Catholic priest, has been called the father of geology; Fr. Roger Boscovich has been credited as the father of modern atomic theory; Fr. Gregor Mendel is the father of modern genetics; Fr. Georges Lemaitre first proposed the “Big Bang” theory for the birth of the universe; and some 35 craters on the moon are named for Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.
As J.L. Heilbron of the University of California at Berkeley, who is not a Catholic, has pointed out: “The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy [from the 12th century to the 18th century] than any other and, probably, all other, institutions” (The Sun in the Church, p. 3).
In fact, the Catholic Church helped to rebuild Western civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. It was the Catholic Church that preserved not only the Bible but the ancient secular writings of men like Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Horace, and Virgil. It was the Catholic Church that began the system of universities in Europe, established the first hospitals, pioneered modern international law, and sparked the scientific revolution. For more details, see Thomas Woods’ book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.
It might also help your nephew to combat the stuff he sees on TV to read the writings of Fr. Robert Spitzer, a Jesuit priest who has published eight books on faith, reason, and philosophy and is currently co-authoring a book entitled The Grand Designer: The Evidence for Creation in Modern Physics. You can learn more about Fr. Spitzer by Googling www.magiscenter.org.