Editor’s Note: In a column a few weeks ago, we wondered if “political correctness” had something to do with the omission in the Mass readings of verses 26 and 27 of the first chapter of the Letter to the Romans, where St. Paul delivered a devastating condemnation of homosexual behavior.
One of our readers, G.T.G. of Maine, posed this question to the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship and was told by Associate Director Fr. Dan Merz that the omission was the work of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome. Fr. Merz said that the revised introduction to the Lectionary published in 1981 included the following paragraph:
“77. The omission of verses in readings from Scripture has at times been the tradition of many liturgies, including the Roman liturgy. Admittedly such omissions may not be made lightly for fear of distorting the meaning of the text or the intent and style of Scripture. Yet on pastoral grounds it was decided to continue the traditional practice in the present Order of Readings, but at the same time to ensure that the essential meaning of the text remained intact. One reason for the decision is that otherwise some texts would have been unduly long. It would also have been necessary to omit completely certain readings of high spiritual value for the faithful because those readings include some verse that is pastorally less useful or that involves truly difficult questions.”
We don’t have a problem with this general principle, but we wonder who made the specific decision to omit verses 26 and 27. Like G.T.G., we fail to see how these verses would make the reading “unduly long,” and we agree with him that “it is absolutely necessary that vital instruction from the Scriptures on sexual purity not be omitted at Mass in these morally trying times,” especially when “we are facing a long march through the institutions of our culture by a militant, aggressive U.S. homosexual juggernaut.”
Q. I continue to be a Catholic by choice for many years but, with the current attacks on faith, I lack an answer on one issue and will appreciate your comments. There is beyond question one true God of creation, who created this world and universe, but how do we respond to those who say in effect that He cannot exist because who created Him? And can we really say that He always existed? — R. P., New Hampshire.
A. No one created God. He already existed from all eternity and is responsible for bringing everything else into existence. We surmise this because when we look around the world, we cannot find anything that was not caused by something else. If there ever were a moment at which nothing existed, nothing could ever exist, and it doesn’t help to extend the line of causes back indefinitely. The only conclusion we can reach is that at the beginning of the line there was an uncaused cause, something that already existed and was not caused by something else. That Uncaused Cause we call God.
In their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, SJ, offer 20 arguments for the existence of God, including “the argument from change.” Noting that the material world is in a constant state of change, the authors say that “nothing changes itself,” but must be acted upon by some outside agent. “The whole universe is in the process of change,” they say, “but we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by ‘God’ (p. 50).”
Kreeft and Tacelli sum up the argument from change this way:
“Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore, there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space, and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore, this being outside the universe is outside matter, space, and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change” (pp. 50-51).
Q. I notice that the advertisement placed by Food for the Poor in the December 12 edition of The Wanderer quoted Job 24:8, NIV. However, the advertisement placed in the January 16 edition does not specify the translation used for the quotation of Jer. 1:4-5a — i.e., no mention of NIV. For the reason mentioned in my letter to Food for the Poor, I began to wonder whether Food for the Poor is a trustworthy organization. I noticed, of course, that FFTP’s ads in The Wanderer show Oscar Andres Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as a member of the board of directors for FFTP.
But I wonder, does FFTP highlight its apparent endorsement by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga in advertisements sent out generally, by U.S. mail or in publications whose intended audience is Protestant? I would like to give money to FFTP, but I wonder whether you have any additional information about the group as to its suitability for donations. — J.G.B., Alabama.
A. The NIV is the New International Version translation of the Bible. Food for the Poor’s translation of Job 24:8 is essentially the same as the Catholic New American Bible translation, which reads: “They are drenched with the rain of the mountains, and for want of shelter they cling to the rock.” The translation of Jer. 1:4-5a in the January 16 Wanderer, presumably from the NIV, is exactly the same as the NAB: “The word of the Lord came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
J.G.B.’s concern, as expressed in his letter to FFTP, is that the NIV translation of other verses in the Bible reflects the Protestant interpretation rather than the Catholic interpretation (on the word “tradition,” for example), and he wonders if it is appropriate for Catholics to contribute to the group. As can be seen from the two citations above, however, there is virtually no difference between the NIV and the NAB on these verses.
Now if FFTP were quoting in their ads Bible translations that contradicted the Catholic understanding of certain Scripture verses, then The Wanderer would not take the ads and knowledgeable Catholics would not contribute to the group. But that is not the case with these ads, and we see no reason for Catholics not to donate to the work of Food for the Poor.
Q. An article in The Wanderer a few months ago said that in France attempts were being made to change the wording of the Our Father from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Wouldn’t it be a good idea to change the English to “do not let us yield to temptation”? — E.G., Florida.
A. You know, of course, that God would never lead anyone into temptation. As St. James has told us: “No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13-14).
The confusion arises because temptation can mean two different things: an inducement or enticement to evil, or a trial or test of faith. It is the latter meaning that Jesus had in mind when He taught us the Our Father, and this is illustrated in recent NAB translations of the Lord’s Prayer in Matt. 6:13 and Luke 11:4, both of which read, “do not subject us to the final test.” This is also emphasized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2863):
“When we say ‘lead us not into temptation’ we are asking God not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin. This petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength; it requests the grace of vigilance and final perseverance.”
When we pray this petition, said Pope Benedict in his book Jesus of Nazareth, we are saying to God: “I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuver…then please remember that my strength only goes so far. Don’t overestimate my capacity. Don’t set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me” (p. 163).