Q. When was it decided that Sunday is the Sabbath and not Saturday? Is it in the Bible? — R.E.G., Nevada.
A. Yes, it’s in the Acts of the Apostles where it says that “on the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread [i.e., celebrate Mass], Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight” (20:7). The Jews had celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, because that is the day on which God rested after creating the world and its creatures.
But the early Christians changed the celebration of the Lord’s Day to Sunday. Pope John Paul II explained why in Dies Domini:
“Because the Third Commandment depends on the remembrance of God’s saving works and because Christians saw the definitive time inaugurated by Christ as the new beginning, they made the first day after the Sabbath a festive day, for that was the day on which the Lord rose from the dead” (n. 18).
In the second century, St. Justin Martyr wrote that “we all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish Sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.” Two centuries later, St. Jerome echoed Justin when he said:
“The Lord’s Day, the day of Resurrection, the day of Christians, is our day. It is called the Lord’s Day because on it the Lord rose victorious to the Father. If pagans call it the ‘day of the sun,’ we willingly agree, for today the light of the world is raised, today is revealed the sun of justice with healing in its rays.”
Q. Our nation since our beginning has been involved in numerous wars and so-called police actions. Which of these would the Church consider “just”? It would appear from St. Augustine’s writings that not many were just, such as the war against Germany in World War II since we were not directly threatened. The same would hold true with Vietnam and, more recently, Iraq. Regarding the latter, I believe the Pope indicated that the Iraq War was unjust, but nobody seemed to acknowledge this. I remember asking two priests at a dinner table during the Iraq situation if they thought the war was just, and both said yes.
I recognize the Pope was not speaking infallibly, but why no response? Why no responses from Catholic soldiers who would not fight in view of the Pope’s declaration? What about their souls in cooperating with an apparent evil conflict? — R.B.K., Virginia.
A. Trying to decide which wars in our nation’s history would be considered “just” is beyond our competence. We can list the strict conditions that the Church requires for the legitimate use of military force, and people a lot smarter than we are can try to apply those conditions to various conflicts, most recently those in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the bottom line is the fervent prayer of recent Popes — “No more war” — because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war.
In any case, here are the conditions that must exist at one and the same time, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2309):
“ — the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
“ — all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
“ — there must be serious prospects of success;
“ — the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”
The Catechism goes on to say that “the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” This seems problematical to us since it puts the decision to go to war in the hands of people who may not be at all influenced by Catholic principles of just war.
Regarding Iraq, Pope John Paul and the U.S. bishops did object to the U.S. invasion of that country in 2003 on the grounds that there was no imminent threat of an Iraqi invasion of the United States, and there was not sufficient evidence to establish that Saddam Hussein was directly connected to the attacks on September 11, 2001 or that he would launch future attacks on the United States.
As you point out, however, little attention was paid to what the Holy Father said.
Even World War II, which many consider to have been a just war, featured mass destruction of cities (Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki) and the killing of thousands of innocent people. Vatican II and the Catechism have called such bombings gravely immoral, saying that “every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation” (n. 2314).
A further problem is our government’s penchant for waging “no-win wars” and for concealing the truth from the American people. For example, recent studies have confirmed what many have long suspected, namely, that there was no North Vietnamese attack on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. It was that alleged attack that led to the loss of nearly 60,000 American lives in a war that culminated in the takeover of South Vietnam by the Communists, which our decade-long presence there was supposed to prevent.
We can see a similar scenario being played out today in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the loss of thousands of American lives and the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars are resulting in the return to power of the bad guys we were supposedly trying to keep out of power. It’s hard to find much justice in those wars.
Q. As Catholics watch evangelical Protestants, like the owners of Hobby Lobby, spend millions of dollars and risk the loss of their large business enterprise that employs thousands to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court the immoral mandate of the U.S. government to provide birth control and abortifacient products to their employees, and as administrators of some Catholic universities not only accept the mandate and even celebrate providing such insurance coverage to their employees, and as Catholic nuns that operate and administer Catholic hospitals are celebrated as supporters of the authorizing legislation that created the immoral mandates, and as Catholic nuns who serve the poor while holding fast to traditional vows and habits appeal the same government mandates, just like Hobby Lobby owners, and as preaching at Masses and articles in Catholic newspapers and publications assiduously ignore this prime aspect of the current controversy, my question is:
What is the moral obligation of Catholic employers and Catholic workers when told to provide and/or pay for health insurance that includes and pays for (with the purchaser’s payments) birth control and/or abortifacient drugs, devices, and other paraphernalia? — J.B., Minnesota.
A. At their Fall General Assembly in Baltimore in November 2013, the U.S. bishops said that there are three basic problems with the Health and Human Services health-care mandate: “It establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.”
They said that the mandate not only undermines “our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith…but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.”
For that reason, the bishops said that they will resist the mandate if it is not changed, even if it means paying heavy fines. Catholic employers and employees must do the same lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil.