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September 7, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Regarding Cardinal McCarrick, who has been ordered by Pope Francis to conduct “a life of prayer and penance” before a Church trial is held, does anyone know exactly what that penance would be? Could McCarrick go to his confessor and seek absolution, like any other practicing Catholic? — J.G., Arizona.
A. Yes, Cardinal McCarrick could go to his confessor and seek absolution, like any other Catholic, but we don’t know what an appropriate penance would be. We would hope that it would be something commensurate to the great harm he did to those he sexually abused and to the Church he betrayed not only with his immoral sexual predation, but also by running interference for pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
His most egregious action in the latter case was his concealing and then misrepresenting a letter he received in 2004 from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
At a time when a task force of the U.S. bishops, under the chairmanship of McCarrick, was preparing a statement on the responsibility of Catholics in public life, Cardinal Ratzinger sent a letter to the bishops via McCarrick, in which he said that if an obstinately pro-abortion Catholic politician “presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.” Not only did McCarrick conceal the contents of the letter from the bishops, but he also misrepresented Ratzinger by saying that the cardinal’s letter merely “recognizes that there are circumstances in which Holy Communion may be denied.”
Around the same time, Francis Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican’s Congregation on the Sacraments, declared unambiguously that pro-abortion politicians should be denied Communion. But McCarrick, reacting to the Arinze statement, said that this was not “His Eminence’s official position” and that Arinze was just saying that “the United States should figure out what they ought to do.” Asked during a 2005 interview on EWTN if pro-abortion politicians should be denied Communion, Arinze replied:
“The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favor of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favor of killing them, I will be in favor of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favor that you should be killed. Then the person turns around and says, I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?. . . . Simple, ask the children for First Communion, they’ll give you the answer.”

Q. When did the custom of genuflecting and kissing the bishop’s ring originate, and when did we begin to address bishops as “excellency”? Is this still expected today? — T.R.G., via e-mail.
A. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the custom of genuflecting, that is, bending one or both knees to the floor or ground as a sign of reverence for the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus, originated early in the sixteenth century and was the customary practice of all Catholics until recent decades when Catholics seem to do everything in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament except genuflect.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (n. 274) says that genuflection “is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”
Of course, Catholics should always bend their knee, or make a reverent bow if unable to genuflect, when entering or leaving the church as a sign of reverence and recognition that Jesus is present there in the tabernacle.
As for kissing a bishop’s ring, we’re not sure exactly when that custom began. According to James Charles Noonan Jr.’s book The Church Visible, the ring as a symbol of episcopal authority first appeared in the third century. “Later,” he said, “the ring took the additional symbolic meaning of a bishop’s marriage to the Church and his spiritual parentage over the faithful of his diocese. The power of the ring is significant, as it binds priests and the faithful to the bishop and his teaching on all spiritual matters” (p. 323).
Noonan said that “formal protocol requires that everyone genuflect when they kiss a cardinal’s ring. Although it is proper to do so, it is not always possible, and often due to nervousness or excitement, one might forget to do so. In any case, a bow would be acceptable, followed by a proper greeting. It is best to follow the cardinal’s lead. He, of course, should always take care to put the individual at ease, while simultaneously reserving the dignity of his position” (p. 326).
The same respect should be accorded to archbishops and bishops, said Noonan, adding that “although protocol procedures may seem somewhat obsolete or arcane, they are set to recognize the dignity of the position of the prelate, as well as the role or function that he performs within the Church” (Ibid.). One does not see this protocol observed as much today, and it will surely be impacted by the recently disclosed immoral activities of some cardinals and bishops.
The word “excellency” goes back to the thirteenth century and is a title of honor given to certain high officials, such as governors, ambassadors, and Catholic bishops. It is usually preceded by “his” or “your.” It should still be used today when addressing a prelate or writing to him, as in “Your Excellency” for a bishop, “Your Eminence” for a cardinal, or “Your Holiness” for the Pope.

Q. Did former Communist Bella Dodd, who reportedly recruited some 1,100 Communists, some of them homosexuals, into Catholic seminaries, ever reveal any specific names? — R.B.K., Virginia.
A. Not that we know of. Bella Dodd was a key Communist Party organizer in the New York area during the Thirties and Forties, working with labor councils and the New York City Teacher’s Union and influencing their policies. She was expelled from the Communist Party in 1949 and later testified before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. She returned to the Catholic Church in 1952 under the direction of then-Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen.
In none of her public testimony, nor in her 1954 autobiography School of Darkness, did she talk about Communist infiltration of the Catholic Church. The only source of that information is Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, who said the following about a conversation she had with Mrs. Dodd in 1965:
“Stalin, soon after he came to power, ordered his cronies to invade Catholic seminaries . . . with young men that had neither faith nor morals. Now . . . the ideal cases: homosexual. Obviously, you don’t suppose that someone . . . well, it’s much more complicated, you know, to have an affair with a woman. But if you’re a homosexual, and then it was a tragic mission. . . . [Dodd] declared publicly — I repeat publicly — that in the course of the 20 years of activities for the Communists, she recruited some 1,100 young men.”
For a more recent account of the homosexual subculture in seminaries during the eighties and nineties, see chapter 4 of Michael Rose’s book Goodbye! Good Men, which has a foreword by Alice von Hildebrand. Rose in the year 2000 interviewed dozens of seminarians, former seminarians, recently ordained priests, seminary faculty members, and vocations directors representing some 50 dioceses and 22 major seminaries. He found that the so-called priest shortage or vocations crisis was caused in large part by the rejection of solid Catholic men who upheld the Church’s teachings on women priests, sexual morality, and homosexuality.
Chapter 4 of the book details the horrifying situation where homosexuals on the faculty or among the seminarians made life miserable for seminarians who refused to approve or participate in homosexual activity. Not only were these good men forced out of the seminaries, but their homosexual harassers went on to Ordination, which may account for the revelations in recent years of predatory behavior by homosexual priests and bishops. Goodbye! Good Men helps to explain the predicament the Church faces today.

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: In a recent reply about the appropriateness of giving blessings to those coming to Holy Communion, we said that the practice was an unauthorized innovation that should be discouraged. We have since learned that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., has instructed his priests and deacons not to give such blessings. Here is his rationale: “I do not…Continue Reading

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