Saturday 21st October 2017

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September 15, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Please clarify 1 John 5:16-17. Does this refer to mortal sin? What is meant by not praying for one in deadly sin? Isn’t deadly sin a top priority for prayer? — P.S., Indiana.
A. The passage in question reads: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.”
While it is not completely clear what St. John meant by sin in the first instance, he was probably referring to mortal sin since he said that life would be given to the sinner who petitions God, primarily through the Sacrament of Penance. The “deadly” sin probably refers either to apostasy (the total rejection of the Catholic faith by one who was baptized in the faith) or to final impenitence (the stubborn rejection of God’s love and mercy at the moment of death).
John was not saying that we shouldn’t pray for those who are steeped in mortal sin because only God knows whether a person is finally impenitent or not. We know from Scripture that God wants all persons to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4) and that He takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live” (Ezek. 33:11).
So by all means pray fervently for sinners, for as Our Lady of Fatima said, “many souls go to Hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.” That’s why she taught the three children this prayer to be said after each decade of the rosary:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”

Q. On the Feast of the Assumption, the priest offering Mass stated that on this day the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary were reunited in Heaven. I was taught differently. Are there not different opinions on whether the Blessed Mother died or not? — W.B., Oregon.
A. The Church has never formally declared that the Virgin Mary died before she was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven, but saints, holy writers, and Popes have said that she underwent death but not the decay of the grave. For example, St. John Damascene (675-749) referred to an “ancient tradition” that Mary did die and was placed in a coffin in the Garden of Gethsemane. After three days of singing and chanting by angels, the coffin was opened, but the apostles “were unable anywhere to find her most lauded body.”
In his proclamation of the Assumption in 1950, Pope Pius XII seemed to think that the Blessed Mother died when he said that the fathers and doctors of the Church, in their explanations of the meaning of the Assumption, brought “into sharper light the fact that this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ” (Munificentissimus Deus, n. 20).

Q. Can a Catholic who endorses same-sex “marriage” remain in good standing in the Church? — T.H., California.
A. No, and here are the reasons why as explained by canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters in a recent blog discussing just such an endorsement by an Australian Jesuit priest (CIC means Code of Canon Law):
“As I have explained [before], that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman is a truth taught with infallible certainty by the Catholic Church, meaning that for a Catholic to endorse any other kind of union (same-sex, group, inanimate objects, etc.) as a form of marriage is for that person to be ‘opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church’ (1983 CIC 750 §2), rendering him or her liable to a just penalty (1983 CIC 1371, n. 1).
“Moreover, if, as seems to be the case, the divine establishment of marriage as uniting one man and one woman is a ‘revealed truth,’ then a Catholic’s endorsement of any other kinds of unions as marriage is actually heresy (1983 CIC 750), in turn rendering a Catholic liable to even more severe ecclesiastical sanctions, including excommunication (1983 CIC 1364 §1), expulsion from religious life (1983 CIC 696 §1), and dismissal from the clerical state (1983 CIC 1364 §2).”

Q. What are the regulations for hearing Confessions? In my parish, there are confessionals with a screen that are used and some Confessions are heard face to face. — C.G.D., Paraguay.
A. Both are permissible ways of going to the Sacrament of Penance, whether in North America or South America. In 1974, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that it is “considered desirable that small chapels or rooms of reconciliation be provided in which penitents might choose to confess their sins through an informal face-to-face exchange with the priest, with the opportunity for appropriate spiritual counsel.”
The bishops said that “it would also be regarded as desirable that such chapels or rooms be designed to afford the option of the penitents kneeling at the fixed confessional grille in the usual way, but in every case the freedom of the penitent is to be respected.”
Even in reconciliation rooms, the anonymity of the penitent is to be respected by providing the option of a fixed confessional screen between the person and the priest. Persons cannot be compelled to go face-to-face. This requirement was reiterated in canon 964.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which said that “confessionals with a fixed grille between penitent and confessor are always located in an open area so that the faithful who wish to make use of them may do so freely.”
Confessions may be heard outside a church or oratory for a “just cause.” A just cause would include the inability of the penitent to get to a church or oratory for a variety of reasons, such as confinement in a hospital, nursing home, prison, one’s own home, or on a military outpost or ship.

Q. I have always had a problem with the concept of veracity in the moral law. I refer to bogus passports and identification papers given to Jews and others during World War II. Another example occurred during the post-Henry VIII era in England when Catholic priests assumed false names and identities. If these people were questioned, wouldn’t they have to lie, and isn’t lying immoral? — R.B.K., Virginia.
A. Yes, lying is immoral, but are there circumstances when lying would be permissible to avoid a greater evil, namely, the deaths of Jews and Catholic priests? Would it be better to be truthful about the identity of certain persons, knowing that it would mean their deaths, or would it be better to conceal the truth? There are other exceptions in the moral law. For example, it is morally wrong to kill another person, except in cases of self-defense when there is no other way to save your own life than to take another person’s life. It is also morally wrong to steal, but what about a person who is starving and can only obtain food by stealing it? Aren’t these transgressions of the moral law permissible because of the dire circumstances?
It reminds us of the time when the apostles plucked grain that did not belong to them while passing through a field because they were hungry (cf. Luke 6:1-5). Did Jesus denounce them for stealing the grain? No. He reminded the Pharisees who had accused the apostles of violating the law on the Sabbath of the time when King David and those with him took the bread of offering in the Temple, which only the priests could lawfully eat, and ate it because they were hungry.
A footnote to this passage in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament says that “Jesus appeals to a scriptural precedent from 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The legal exception once made for King David and his men to eat the holy bread permits Jesus and his disciples to eat grain on the holy day of Sabbath. In both cases, the strict regulations of the Torah were allowed to bend to meet a pressing need (hunger) and to serve the anointed king of Israel (David and Jesus).”
Similarly, was it not allowable to bend the strict regulations against lying to meet a pressing need, i.e., saving the lives of innocent Jews and priests?

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

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