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November 16, 2013 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. During the upcoming Christmas season, we are almost certain to have homilies describing the Blessed Virgin Mary as an unwed mother. What is the best way of describing Mary’s marital status, her relationship with Joseph, and her perpetual virginity? — J.D.H., California.
A. The best way is to read carefully chapter 1 of Matthew’s Gospel, particularly where he says that when “Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly” (Matt. 1:18-19). Notice that Matthew calls Joseph Mary’s “husband” and says that Joseph had decided to “divorce her quietly” when he discovered that she was with child upon her return from visiting her relative Elizabeth. But how could Joseph divorce Mary unless they were already married?
If these plain words are not enough to convince someone that Mary and Joseph were married when Jesus was conceived, then one can explain that, according to Jewish tradition, betrothal was the ceremony that united the couple in marriage. The second stage came a year later, if the woman was a virgin, when she moved into the house of her husband. In his apostolic exhortation Guardian of the Redeemer, Pope John Paul II confirmed this tradition:
“According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his own house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her ‘husband.’ Mary, however, preserved her deep desire to give herself exclusively to God” (n. 18).
Mary’s relationship with Joseph was that of a wife, although they had decided to forgo marital relations and live in a celibate relationship. At an audience in 1996, Pope John Paul shed some light on their consecrated virginity:
“It may be presumed that at the time of their betrothal there was an understanding between Joseph and Mary about her plan to live as a virgin. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, who had inspired Mary to choose virginity in view of the mystery of the Incarnation and who wanted the latter to come about in a family setting suited to the Child’s growth, was quite able to instill in Joseph the ideal of virginity as well.”
Commenting on the marriage of Joseph and Mary in his book To Know Christ Jesus, Frank Sheed said that the theory that Joseph was “merely brought in to keep the neighbors from talking would hardly be a marriage at all, but rather a mockery of marriage….We must think of them as truly husband and wife, with a true union of personalities, each bringing completion to the other, with a profound sharing of interests, sharing of lives, enriched by the special graces from God that their virginity called for….There was more love in that virginal family, more married love, than ever a family has known” (pp. 71-72).
The Church has always taught what St. Augustine taught in the fifth century, namely, that the Blessed Mother was “a virgin who conceives, a virgin who gives birth, a virgin with child, a virgin delivered of child — a virgin ever virgin.”

Q. Thank you for answering my question about why animals have to suffer, but I meant the suffering of animals in the wild, the savagery of their hunting and killing each other. What is the purpose of this type of suffering? — F.N., Iowa.
A. Animals were created by God to be at the service of man, who was given “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). “In God’s plan,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “man and woman have the vocation of ‘subduing’ the earth as stewards of God. This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator ‘who loves everything that exists,’ to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them” (n. 373).
Animals do not possess a rational soul that governs their choices, but rather they act on instinct, preying on other animals for food, for survival, or to protect their families. While suffering and pain are a consequence of original sin, and while Jesus came to earth to be God’s “Suffering Servant” to ransom us from our sins, and while we can join our suffering to that of Christ (cf. the Morning Offering) to help atone for our sins and the sins of the world, we know of no purpose that is served by the suffering of animals in the wild.

Q. How are we to answer someone who says that the Catholic Church is “anti-science”? — D.F., Pennsylvania.
A. You should say that not only is the Catholic Church not anti-science, but it was the Church that invented modern science. Fr. Nicholas Steno, a Catholic priest, has been called the father of geology; Fr. Roger Boscovich has been credited as the father of modern atomic theory; Fr. Gregor Mendel is the father of modern genetics; Fr. Georges Lemaitre first proposed the “Big Bang” theory for the birth of the universe; and some 35 craters on the moon are named for Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.
As J.L. Heilbron of the University of California at Berkeley, who is not a Catholic, has pointed out: “The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy [from the 12th century to the 18th century] than any other and, probably all other, institutions” (The Sun in the Church, p. 3).
Furthermore, you can point out that the Catholic Church helped to rebuild Western civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. It was the Catholic Church that preserved not only the Bible but the ancient secular writings of men like Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Horace, and Virgil. It was the Catholic Church that began the system of universities in Europe, established the first hospitals, pioneered modern international law, and sparked the scientific revolution. For more details on this, see Thomas Woods’ book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.

Q. Can you provide some good reasons why women cannot be ordained to the priesthood? — K.E.R., Connecticut.
A. We can suggest four reasons. First, because the Founder of the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, did not choose women to be priests. He had plenty of worthy women who supported Him during His ministry, including His own Mother, but He chose to ordain only men. This was no putdown of women, since Jesus demonstrated high regard for the women of His time, including the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-30, 39-42) and Mary Magdalene, who had the privilege of being the first person to see Jesus after His Resurrection (John 20:11-18).
Second, Jesus is our Eternal High Priest who chose to come to earth as a man. Since priests are supposed to be icons or representatives of our Lord, who stand in the person of Christ at the altar, it is fitting that only men should be priests. You wouldn’t choose a man to represent the Blessed Mother, so why choose a woman to represent Jesus?
Third, Christ is often referred to as the Bridegroom and the Church as His bride. That symbolism would be lost with women priests since the heavenly Bridegroom would be represented by a bride and you would have the confusing situation of two brides instead of a bride and groom.
Fourth, the Church cannot ordain anybody and everybody. Every sacrament must have the right “matter.” You can’t baptize with Pepsi, you can’t change beer into the Blood of Christ. Beer isn’t inferior to wine, anymore than women are inferior to men. Man and woman, like beer and wine, are of equal worth, but because Christ chose only men to be priests, only baptized males are the proper matter for Holy Orders, just as only bread and wine are the proper matter for the Holy Eucharist.
In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II infallibly proclaimed that “in order that all doubts may be removed in a matter of great importance…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 faithful” (n. 4).

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Angola: Catholic Priest Refutes Criticism of Church Practices

Lubango — The Southern Huila province?s Lubango city emeritus archbishop, Zacarias Kamwenho, rejected as false the claim that Catholic Christians worship images. Speaking on Sunday in the Muxima Diocese, in Lubango, the archbishop explained that Catholic Christians worship God instead,…Continue Reading

Ave Maria School of Law Wins Its HHS Mandate Case in Federal Court

The Obama Administration has suffered another defeat in its quest to force Catholics and people of faith to pay for abortion-causing drugs, as required by the HHS Mandate. Today the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida came down…Continue Reading

Catholic Educators Appeal to Obama Administration for Relief from HHS Mandate

Today a coalition including The Cardinal Newman Society, leaders of Catholic schools and colleges, and the expert attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the Obama administration that its latest rule mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing…Continue Reading

Toronto schools hosting ‘LGBTQ’ conference for students as young as 11

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is hosting three student conferences within the span of eight days for the purpose of LGBTQ activism.  The conferences, which have been organized in collaboration with Jer’s Vision, will take place on October 28,…Continue Reading

The Synod and the Media: Culpable Naïveté or Shrewd Calculation?

Upon becoming director of media relations for the American bishops in late 1969, I quickly made a crucial discovery about my new employers. With just a handful of exceptions, the bishops were painfully naïve about the news business, yet convinced…Continue Reading

Chaldean Catholic patriarch suspends 10 priests, including 1 from El Cajon

SAN DIEGO – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has suspended 10 priests, including one from El Cajon. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako issued a decree a month ago, demanding the priests return to Iraq or be suspended. Wednesday…Continue Reading

Retired Pope Says Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute For Mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation…Continue Reading

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Catholic Synod: Gay Rights Groups ‘Disappointed’

Catholic gay rights groups say they are disappointed after bishops rejected proposals for wider acceptance of gay people, which had the Pope’s backing. The call to “accept and value” homosexuals was in a draft report, but failed to win the…Continue Reading

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Writes Personal Ordinariate Of Our Lady Of Walsingham

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(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has sent a message to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established for former Anglicans in England in 2011.  The message was on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released on November 4th 2009. The Pope Emeritus was responding to a letter he received…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church Visible And Spiritual

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(Vatican Radio)  “Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘Well the Church is the priests, the bishops, the Pope …’ We are all the Church! All of us all of us Baptized! We are the Church, the Church of Jesus’”. This was the message at…Continue Reading

Pope At Angelus: Love Of God And Neighbour Are Inseparable

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on Sunday. In remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father offered some reflections on the Gospel reading of the day, which was taken from Gospel…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Called To Be Children Of Light

(Vatican Radio) At morning Mass on Monday Pope Francis said that a conscientious examination of our words will help us understand whether we are Christians of light, Christians of darkness or Christians of grey areas. Reflecting on the First Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the Pope said men are recognizable by their words. By inviting Christians to…Continue Reading

Pass-Fail Grading: For The Professors’ Benefit?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK S.M. writes to offer some observations about the proposal to introduce a “pass-fail” grading system for freshmen at Princeton University. The possibility of doing that was discussed in the October 9 edition of First Teachers. He sees the idea as a “form of grade inflation that is solely intended to accomplish…Continue Reading

Contemporary Culture Encapsulated In A Single Sentence

By DONALD DeMARCO It is remarkable how much a single sentence can reveal about the temper of a culture, even when its author is trying to be withholding. Jacalyn Duffin, a historian and practicing hematologist, is the author of History of Medicine (University of Toronto Press, 2000). It is a 243-page tome that was produced…Continue Reading

Synod Document Of October 13, 2014

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

Elite Judges Think The Highest Judge Never Will End Their Misrule

By DEXTER DUGGAN Today people worry about globe-trotting terrorists, the transmission of the deadly Ebola virus, and the way contagions can cross borders when the government insists borders must be open for everyone’s alleged benefit. Meanwhile, unaccountable U.S. judges continue their contagion of immorality, as if God’s judgment never will come, maybe in little germs,…Continue Reading

Chilling Free Speech

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO Earlier this week, the federal government’s National Science Foundation, an entity created to encourage the study of science — encouragement that it achieves by awarding grants to scholars and universities — announced that it had awarded a grant to study what people say about themselves and others in social media. The…Continue Reading

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Temples Of The Holy Spirit

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Feast Of The Dedication Of St. John Lateran In Rome Readings: Ezek. 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 1 Cor. 3:9c-11, 16-17 John 2:13-22 Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of a church building that many people have never heard of and also have no idea of its significance. In Rome, there are four major basilicas; the…Continue Reading

Message Of The Extraordinary Synod Of Bishops . . . We Ask You To Walk With Us Toward The Next Synod

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the concluding message of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, held October 5-19. This message was released on October 18. (See Fr. Kevin M. Cusick’s column in this issue, p. 2B, and the front page for reporting and commentary on the separate final document of the Extraordinary Synod.) + + +…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Redefining Marriage: Not About The Kids And The Picket Fence

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Following the Extraordinary Synod and the rollback on confusing language about same-sex attraction and the divorced and remarried in the final version of the Relatio Synodi document, the predictable reactions are coming in. Those who continue to hold Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman are labeled as “bigots,” while…Continue Reading

Debunking The Sola Scriptura Myth… True Tradition And False “Tradition”

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 A classical objection: What Catholics call the “Apostolic Tradition” is just a human tradition, which Jesus clearly condemned in the Gospel, when He said to the Pharisees, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?…So, for the sake of your tradition you have made void the…Continue Reading

Public Revelation Vs. Private Revelation

By DON FIER Our previous installment ended by citing a pair of remarkable verses from the Letter to the Hebrews, verses that concisely summarize God’s divine pedagogy, His master plan of divine Revelation: “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Wolfgang

By CAROLE BRESLIN October 31 has come to be yet another Christian holy day corrupted by our secular society. All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is now celebrated with emphasis on evil and horror. Corn mazes with frightening objects around the corner, haunted houses to terrify even the bravest of persons, glorification of vampires, and decorations of death and witches — these…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading