Editor’s Note: Regarding a recent reply about whether brothers in a monastery can pray the Confiteor using just the word “brothers” (as in “and to you my brothers and sisters”) when there are no females present, B.R. of Minnesota received the following reply from the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“The Secretariat holds that the formula you refer to may be adapted, for example to omit ‘sisters’ if the assembly is all male. This judgment is based on the Roman Missal itself, which adapts the formula in the ‘Order of Mass with the Participation of a Single Minister.’ The concern about doing so would only be a pastoral one, so that a group does not become accustomed to omitting the word and then continues to do so when female visitors are present — something which it would be easy to do out of habit.”
Q. Is there anything in the Bible that tells us that we will be reunited with our family members in Heaven? — S.M., Michigan.
A. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that there would be three surprises in Heaven. First, there would be people there whom we did not think would make it. Second, there would be people not there whom we thought would make it. Third, we would be there.
We are not aware of any verse in the Bible that specifically states that we will be reunited with family members in Heaven, but this reunification is implied in some verses. For example, Jesus says that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:7). This suggests that those in Heaven are aware of persons on earth, perhaps family members, who repent, and they are looking forward to the time when they will share their joy together for eternity.
Also, the author of Hebrews speaks of us being “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). These witnesses are those, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, who “share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him, and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth” (n. 2683).
It seems logical that concern for those left behind on earth would include family members who would one day have the opportunity in Heaven to express their gratitude for the constant care that helped them get to Heaven.
The Catechism (n. 1023) also quotes Pope Benedict XII as having proclaimed that “the souls of all the saints…and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died…or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death)…have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels” (Benedictus Deus).
The Catechism also says that Christ “makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will” (n. 1026), and that “in the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation” (n. 1029). Since family members will surely be among the blessed in Heaven, it wouldn’t make sense for those who were closely united on earth not to be united in Heaven.
Q. Can you give me some Bible passages about homosexuality? I have been told that homosexual acts are only condemned in the Old Testament. — M.K., Florida.
A. The relevant verses in the Old Testament are Gen. 19:1-11, Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, and Judges 19:16-24. In the New Testament, see Romans 1:18-32, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Tim. 1:8-10, and Jude 7. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, verses 1:26-27 are particularly important since they are often omitted when the first chapter of this letter is used in the readings for Mass and the reading is stopped at verse 25.
This omission leaves the faithful ignorant of one of the strongest condemnations of homosexual behavior in the Bible, where Paul says, “Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.”
As for those who contend that the sin of the people of Sodom was lack of hospitality for the two angels who visited the house of Lot, see verse 7 of Jude, which says that Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns “indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice” and suffered “a punishment of eternal fire.”
Q. Regarding your column about whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has excommunicated himself and is no longer a Catholic because he lives with his mistress and supports abortion and same-sex unions, I think you compromised the answer you gave. When the Blessed Virgin appeared in Akita, Japan, in the 1970s, she said that “the work of the Devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres… churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.” — A.C.R., Pennsylvania.
A. What we said in two replies about Gov. Cuomo is that while we don’t know the state of his soul, he would appear to be obstinately persisting in what canon law calls “manifest grave sin” (canon 915), which should preclude him from worthily receiving Holy Communion. Whether he has automatically excommunicated himself, we do not know, but even if he has, that does not separate him from the Catholic Church. Excommunication is a medicinal penalty that prohibits the person excommunicated from receiving the sacraments, but it does not render a person no longer a Catholic.
We quoted Pope Pius XII as having said in his 1943 encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ (Mystici Corporis) that “not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins” (n. 23).
As for the reported apparition at Akita, it has been investigated for many years, but as far as we know no bishop in Japan has yet declared it to be worthy of belief. Be that as it may, what our Lady allegedly said in Akita is certainly happening in the Church.
Back in 1972, Pope Paul VI said in a homily that the confusion in the wake of the Second Vatican Council had given him the feeling that Satan’s influence had permeated the Church. He said, “We believe that some preternatural power has come into the world to upset and stifle the fruits of the Ecumenical Council and to prevent the Church from breaking out into a hymn of joy for having regained a full awareness of itself. Precisely because of this, we would like to be able, now more than ever, to exercise the function assigned by God to St. Peter, namely, to confirm our brethren in the faith.”
It was also around that time that a Polish cardinal named Karol Wojtyla, who would become Pope John Paul II in 1978, made the following statement at a Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976:
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think the wide circle of the American society, or the wide circle of the Christian community, realizes this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is therefore in God’s plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.”