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July 6, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Since this column is dated the day after we celebrate the birthday of our nation, and it comes at a time when mention of God and freedom of religion is under attack in our country, it might be worth recalling how important God was to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, who put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on the line 242 years ago.
On no less than four occasions in that brief document did our Founders mention the role of God in their bold proclamation.
In the first paragraph of the Declaration, the signers said that they were acting “to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them.”
In the second paragraph came the most important words in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We get our rights from God, said the signers, not from government.
After enumerating the many abuses inflicted on the Colonies by the British Government, the signers, appealing to the “Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” declared their independence from Great Britain and said that “for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
That was no idle pledge since the signers knew that they were committing an act of high treason against the British Crown and that the penalty for doing so was death by hanging. When John Hancock, the first to sign his name to the document, said that “we must be unanimous…we must all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin wittily retorted, “Yes, we must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
These 56 men, who ranged in age from 26 to 70, were moral men, mostly religious, and all persons of integrity who had been welded together in a common purpose. Many of them were prominent and prosperous citizens who had a great deal to lose — life, liberty, and property — but they were convinced that the cause was worth the risk.
In point of fact, disaster and ruin were the lot of many of the signers. Nine died of wounds or hardships during the War for Independence. Five were jailed and brutally treated. One lost all 13 of his children. The wives, sons, and daughters of others were killed, imprisoned, harassed, or deprived of all material possessions. Seventeen signers lost everything they owned, and all of them were hunted as traitors, with most separated from their homes and families.
But none of the signers ever betrayed his pledged word. There were no defectors. No one changed his mind. Lives and fortunes were lost, but their sacred honor was never sacrificed. Half of them continued to serve their country after the war — several as president, many as members of Congress, governors, and state legislators — and many of them later played a role in drawing up the Constitution of the United States.
We, too, live in difficult times today. Like the Founders of this country, we find the right to life, liberty, and religious freedom threatened. We too are burdened by an oppressive government that “has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” And we have our own “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots,” in Thomas Paine’s famous words, who shrink from the defense of their Church and their country.
But we have many more courageous men and women who will pray and work to make sure that this country remains “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” May God continue to bless this land!

Q. This past Holy Week, the reading of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday was punctuated with prompts to sing “Let us ever glory in the Cross of Christ and the promise of God’s great love” from a song by Dan Schutte. Also, while the procession was exiting the sanctuary at the end of the service, these words were sung again, even though the worship aid states that all should “depart in silence.” Is this something unique to my parish? — Name and State Withheld.
A. We don’t know if this happens in other parishes, but it is certainly wrong to ignore the call for silence and sing the song you mentioned. Singing is permitted at various times during the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, although there is no mention of singing during the reading of the Passion. However, at the moment after Jesus has died, and all are invited to kneel for a short time, we have heard the celebrant sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” This was a very moving moment.
There is singing during the showing of the cross when the priest intones, “Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” And the people respond, “Come, let us adore.” And there are chants that can be sung during the adoration of the cross, particularly what is known as the “Reproaches.” Also, while Holy Communion is being distributed, the rubrics state that “Psalm 22 or another appropriate chant may be sung.” But after the final blessing, as we noted above, “all, after genuflecting to the cross, depart in silence.” This is because the Holy Week liturgy is one continuous celebration.

Q. I have heard recently about the possibility of women being ordained priests? Will this ever happen? — S.D., Florida.
A. No, it is impossible, as Pope St. John Paul II made clear in 1994. In an apostolic letter entitled Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Holy Father said:
“Wherefore, in order that all doubts may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (n. 4).”
On November 18, 1995, 18 months after Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was promulgated, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made clear that the ban on women priests would never be reversed when it said that the pronouncement of St. John Paul had been “set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium. Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren, has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all as belonging to the deposit of the faith.”
Unfortunately, this infallible teaching has recently been called into question by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna. In an interview on April 1, Cardinal Schönborn, who was an editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said that “the question of ordination [of women] is a question which clearly can only be clarified by a council. That cannot be decided upon by a Pope alone. That is a question too big that it could be decided from the desk of a Pope.”
That such a statement could be issued by a churchman as prominent at Schönborn, said canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters, is a “chilling illustration of the erosion of order in the Church.” He said that Schönborn was wrong on three points.
First, John Paul definitively ruled out women priests in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
Second, the Pope can act on his own on such a matter since canon law (c. 331) says that the Pontiff “possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.”
Third, said Peters, to hold that ecumenical councils are superior to the Pope comes “perilously close to crossing a line that few modern canonists ever thought could be crossed, that one marked out in canon 1372, which states, ‘A person who makes recourse against an act of the Roman Pontiff to an ecumenical council or the college of bishops is to be punished with a censure’.”
He said the fact that the cardinal’s comments have not apparently elicited a “single fraternal correction is, I think, a sign of how urgently a restoration of order in the Church is needed.”

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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