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October 13, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Writing in a recent parish bulletin about “the current mania for tearing down statues and stifling free speech by cultural ingénues ignorant of history and logic,” Fr. George Rutler of the Church of St. Michael in New York City pointed out that those concerned about some of our Founding Fathers owning slaves ought to be concerned about the role played by Islam in the slave trade. His are his words:
“Islam, which means ‘submission,’ has never had abolitionists like the Christians Bartolome de las Casas and William Wilberforce. Muhammed was a slave trader, and the Koran devotes five times as much space to regulating labor slavery and sex slavery as it does to prayer. Nearly 200 million slaves, white and black, were sold by Muslims. Muslim slavers even raided Ireland in 1631. So many Eastern Europeans were enslaved that the word ‘slave’ itself comes from ‘Slav.’
“While lip service is given to abolition in Islamic lands, slavery today is blatant in Sudan, Niger, and Mauritania and was not abolished in Saudi Arabia and Yemen until 1962 (under Western pressure). Where is the indignation of protesters here? If revisionists would burlesque the past and mute the voice of reason, they should first recognize that the value of life is secured best by the standard of the Cross and not the Crescent.”

Q. We have a local priest who breaks the Host at the consecration when he says, “. . . He took the bread and broke it. . . .” He is a good priest in every other way: good homilies, great in the confessional, etc. Are priests allowed to change the rubrics at Mass? — Name Withheld, California.
A. No, priests are not allowed to do their own thing at Mass. Of the particular matter you mentioned, the 2004 Vatican document Redemptionis Sacramentum said that “in the celebration of Holy Mass, the breaking of the eucharistic bread — done only by the priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a deacon or of a concelebrant — begins after the exchange of peace, while the Agnus Dei is being recited” (n. 73). The same document also spelled out the obligations of the priest-celebrant (n. 11):
“The mystery of the Eucharist ‘is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured.’ On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free rein to his own inclinations, even if he is a priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved, and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage.
“For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God.”
If your priest is a good as you say, he may not even be aware that his breaking of the Host at the consecration is an abuse. So talk to him privately and acquaint him with the admonitions just quoted.

Q. In the local Syriac-Maronite Catholic parish of my town, the priest took down the huge “Risen Christ” icon behind the altar and instead put up a white sheet with a Roman-style crucifix in front of it. However, this crucifix does not have the sign above Jesus’ head, as it appears in the Gospels. I cannot say that I have ever seen a crucifix without the sign. I offered to have a wood craftsman create a couple of versions of the sign to attach above the corpus, but the priest said, “We don’t need it.” To me, without the sign, the man on the cross could just as easily be one of the two thieves rather than Jesus. Are you aware of any rules as to crucifixes in this regard? — D.J.B., North Carolina.
A. First of all, the sign you mention was placed there at the orders of Pontius Pilate to indicate to passersby the crime of the man on the cross so that observers would be careful not to commit the same act lest they suffer the same punishment.
John the Evangelist, who was an eyewitness to the crucifixion, said that the sign was written in three languages, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, and it read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” In Latin this was Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, better known by the initials INRI.
Recall that the Jews complained about the wording of the sign, arguing that it should read, “I am the King of the Jews.” But Pilate dismissed their complaint by saying, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19:22).
There is no requirement that we are aware off that says the INRI sign should be on a crucifix displayed in church. All that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says is that “either on the altar or near it, there is to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, a cross clearly visible to the assembled people. It is desirable that such a cross should remain near the altar, even outside of liturgical celebrations, so as to call to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord” (n. 308).
You are to be commended for wanting to see a crucifix in church that most closely resembles the one on which the Lord was crucified. Having the correct inscription above the head of Jesus is also valuable because it can prompt discussion of the meaning of INRI.
Which reminds us of a phone call from our daughter when she was a freshman in college. It seems that she and her roommate were discussing the meaning of INRI. The roommate insisted that she had been taught in Catholic school that INRI meant “I’m Nailed Right In” (!)

Q. Can a Catholic undergo acupuncture for the treatment of an illness? — J.M., New Hampshire.
A. Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, who has a doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and serves as director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, has said that this alternative medical therapy raises both medical and spiritual concerns.
In an article about “The Ethics of New Age Medicine,” Fr. Pacholczyk writes that the acupuncture technique “does appear to provide benefit in certain cases of pain control. Yet similar results have been reported using ‘sham’ needles — tapping the skin in random places with a thin metal tube. Brain scans have demonstrated that treatment with genuine needles, as opposed to the sham needles, does cause detectable changes in the brain. But when researchers ignored acupuncturists’ recommended ‘meridian placement’ of needles, and instead did random placement in the skin, the same brain effects were observed. Hence, it is unclear whether the results seen from acupuncture arise mostly from the well-known ‘placebo effect’ or not. Further research should help resolve the question.”
But even if the observed effects “are not placebo-related,” he said, “acupuncture’s non-rational justification for its purported effectiveness remains a concern. It is based on energy principles that neither science nor faith affirms.
“Glenn Braunstein, MD, described it critically in the following way: ‘Ch’i, the invisible nutritive energy that flows from the universe into the body at any one of 500 acupuncture points, is conducted through the 12 main meridians [channels] in (ideally) an unbroken circle. Meridians conduct either Yin energy (from the sun) or Yang energy (from the earth). All maladies are caused by disharmony or disturbances in the flow of energy.’
“Clearly, then,” Fr. Pacholczyk concluded, “some alternative therapies, beyond the basic issue about whether they work, raise serious spiritual concerns as well.”

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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