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June 30, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. My son bought me a book for Father’s Day that I was not aware of, and I wondered if you are aware of it. It is by Rodney Stark and is entitled Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History. I understand that he is not a Catholic. — D.M., Virginia.
A. Yes, we have read the book and it is great, not only because Professor Stark (he is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University) does such a persuasive job of debunking longtime anti-Catholic myths, but also because, as a non-Catholic, he cannot be accused of covering up the truth about Catholicism.
“I did not write this book in defense of the Church,” he said. “I wrote it in defense of history.” He said that while the days of “rampant anti-Catholic bigotry” may be gone, “a quiet kind of anti-Catholicism remains widespread precisely because any sensible person would resent any organization that was guilty of even some of the charges examined in the previous chapters. Thus, it is vital that these anti-Catholic falsehoods be purged from the historical record.”
Among the falsehoods Stark debunks are those about the Crusades, the Inquisition, Pope Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope,” the bogus Gnostic gospels, the so-called “Dark Ages,” the alleged hostility toward science and scientists (like Galileo), and the alleged failure of the Church to oppose slavery. This is a book that every Catholic interested in defending his Church should have on his shelf.

Q. A newly ordained priest told me recently that he was taught in the seminary only to anoint the living and not a person who had been pronounced dead. What does the Church teach about this? — M.A.W., Illinois.
A. According to canon 1004 of the Code of Canon Law, “the anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, after having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger of death due to sickness or old age. This sacrament can be repeated whenever the sick person again falls into a serious sickness after convalescence or whenever a more serious crisis develops during the same sickness.”
Canon 1005 says that “this sacrament is to be administered when there is a doubt whether the sick person has attained the use of reason, whether the person is dangerously ill, or whether the person is dead.”
While the priest may give the sacrament conditionally if there is some doubt as to whether the person is dead, which would not be the case if the person had been officially pronounced dead, the Roman Ritual says that “when a priest has been called to attend those who are already dead, he should not administer the sacrament of anointing. Instead he should pray for them, asking that God forgive their sins and graciously receive them into the kingdom.”

Q. Have the Blessed Virgin’s reported appearances to a woman in Betania, Venezuela, been approved by the Church? — A.S., Massachusetts.
A. Yes, and here is the background. After an extensive investigation, the Church has said that the Virgin Mary appeared 31 times to Maria Esperanza (1928-2004) at her farm two hours outside the capital city of Caracas.
Among other things, the Blessed Mother was reported to have said that “the great moment of reconciliation has arrived….I extend my love to all my children, dwellers on Earth, and be loyal to Jesus, so you may discover the wonderful secret of unity…which will help us find the key to God’s kingdom.”
After interviewing nearly 500 witnesses and compiling a file of almost 400 written documents, Bishop Pio Bello Ricardo, the bishop of the diocese in which Betania is located, issued the following statement on November 21, 1987:
“Having studied the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Finca Betania, and having prayed assiduously to God for spiritual discernment, I declare that in my judgment the aforementioned apparitions are authentic and supernatural in character. I therefore officially approve that the place where they occurred to be considered a sacred place. May it become a place of pilgrimage, a place of prayer, reflection, and cult.”
Because Maria Esperanza died in New Jersey, the bishop of Metuchen at that time, the Most Rev. Paul Bootkoski, opened her cause for beatification and canonization in January 2010.

Q. Is it obligatory for parents to direct their child toward salvation? Is it an offense to neglect this obligation? What is their responsibility? — J.H.G., Illinois.
A. In the Rite of Baptism, the celebrant says to the parents of the child to be baptized: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
The parents respond: “We do.”
So the parents are making a solemn promise before God to bring their child up in the faith of the Catholic Church, and it would be a serious sin to neglect this obligation.
In the introductory paragraphs to the rite itself, it says that parents “have special parts to play” in the celebration. These include publicly asking that the child be baptized, making the Sign of the Cross on the child, renouncing Satan and reciting the Profession of Faith, and receiving prayers specifically for mothers and fathers.
“After baptism,” the introduction says, “it is the responsibility of the parents, in their gratitude to God and in fidelity to the duty they have undertaken, to assist the child to know God, whose adopted child it has become, to prepare the child to receive Confirmation and participate in the Holy Eucharist. In this duty, they are again to be helped by the parish priest (pastor) by suitable means” (n. 5).

Q. Could you please answer the following questions? — P.S., via e-mail.
A. We can try. (1) How could Satan take a third of the angels from Heaven, when he could have gone alone? The figure of one-third comes from the Book of Revelation (12:4) and from Jesus’ statement that He saw “Satan fall like lightning from the sky” (Luke 10:18). All angels were created good by God, but some wanted to be equal to the Creator and rebelled against Him partly because of pride and partly because, as some Church fathers have suggested, they were jealous that Jesus would take on human form.
(2) Wouldn’t it have been better if God had never created Satan? But then there would have been no need for the Incarnation, no need for Jesus to come to Earth to defeat the power of the Devil. God can always bring good out of evil, and He allows the Devil to tempt us, said Fr. John Hardon, SJ, “in order to try our loyalty by giving us the opportunity to show our faith and trust in God; to test our virtue by giving us the chance to grow because of the struggle that this costs; and to prove our fidelity by resisting the devil’s blandishments and thus more generously serving God” (The Catholic Catechism, p. 88).
(3) Why did God give Satan a century to work his evil? This is a reference to a vision experienced by Pope Leo XIII in 1884 where God reportedly agreed to allow Satan to exert his malign influence on the 20th century, a terrible time of wars and totalitarianism that led to the extermination of more than a hundred million people. The vision so frightened the Holy Father that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and decreed that this prayer should be recited after every Mass.
That was done until the Mass was revised in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and its absence, in our opinion, had led to an increase in diabolical activity.
Ask your pastor to restore this prayer at the end of Mass or, at least, pray it daily yourself: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and may you, O prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

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