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January 11, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: In a recent reply about the appropriateness of giving blessings to those coming to Holy Communion, we said that the practice was an unauthorized innovation that should be discouraged. We have since learned that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., has instructed his priests and deacons not to give such blessings. Here is his rationale:
“I do not give any blessings during the time for Holy Communion. Everyone at Mass receives a liturgical blessing from the celebrant at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments after the distribution of Holy Communion and immediately before the dismissal. I do not touch anyone, pat them on the head, or make the Sign of the Cross on their forehead or over their forehead. I make no gesture at all toward them with my hand. If someone above the age of reason approaches me in the Communion line with their hands folded, indicating that they do not actually wish to receive Holy Communion, I invite them to make a spiritual communion by saying, ‘Receive Christ spiritually in your heart.’
“As I say this, I bow my head slightly toward the person while I hold the Host in my hand for the next person who wishes to receive. I do nothing with babies or children being held in the arms of an adult, since a child below the age of reason presumably would not understand the concept of spiritual communion. I do happily and readily give individual blessings to babies, children, and anyone else who so wishes after the recessional as I shake hands and greet people as they exit church.”

Q. As a convert to Catholic Christianity, I’ve always found the notion of “redemptive suffering” (cf. Col. 1:24) absolutely absurd and sadistic since the Bible states elsewhere that “by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). I suffered enough as a child and adolescent for any dozen people and resent the notion that further extensive suffering on my part could ever be part of God’s plan for my life. This concept seems like the diktat of a cosmic tyrant rather than of a loving Creator. I’m not trying to be rebellious; I’m just tired of pain. — Name Withheld, Minnesota.
A. Your reaction to the verse in Colossians is understandable in view of the trials in your own life. But St. Paul is not saying that Christ’s suffering was not sufficient to atone for the sins of humanity, because it most assuredly was. Rather, he is saying that we can join our sufferings to those of Christ and become part of His redemptive mission. Here is how a footnote in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament explains verse 1:24:
“what is lacking: i.e., the suffering that remains for believers in the trials of life. Suffering is a mission for all the faithful as a means of conforming ourselves to Christ (Romans 8:17; Phil. 3:10), but suffering is a special call for ministers of the Gospel like Paul, who endure many afflictions in the effort to bring salvation to others (2 Cor. 1:6; 4:11-15) (CCC 307, 618, 1508). These words could be misunderstood to mean that the suffering of Christ was not sufficient for redemption and that the suffering of the saints must be added to complete it. This, however, would be heretical. Christ and the Church are one mystical person, and while the merits of Christ, the head, are infinite, the saints acquire merit in a limited degree. What is ‘lacking,’ then, pertains to the afflictions of the entire Church, to which Paul adds his own amount (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Colossians 1, 6).”
You should read the Scripture citations in parentheses, and the paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), for further understanding, remembering that the sign of our Faith is the cross of suffering. Even the Holy Family was not spared, as Jesus was born in a stable, had to flee to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of King Herod, and performed arduous work in Nazareth until He was 30 years old.
As for the pain in your own life, listen to this advice of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

Q. In a recent address to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Pope Francis reiterated his opposition to capital punishment and said that his revision of paragraph 2267 in the Catechism, which permitted the death penalty under rare circumstances, was not a “contradiction with the teaching of the past,” but rather a “harmonious development” of doctrine. He said that “in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is always inadmissible because it counters the inviolability and dignity of the person. In the same way, the Magisterium of the Church understands that life imprisonment, which removes the possibility of moral and existential redemption for the benefit of the condemned and for the community, is a form of the death penalty in disguise.”
How does this square with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter in 2004 that said, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment.” — L.S., via e-mail.
A. The position of Pope Francis does not square with that of Pope Benedict XVI, nor with his predecessors on the Chair of Peter, or even with Holy Scripture itself. His repudiation of any use of the death penalty, even as a last resort when a society can no longer protect itself against a violent criminal, contradicts both the Catechism and Pope St. John Paul II, who had strictly limited the use of capital punishment to those “cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity,” recognizing that such cases “are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Evangelium Vitae, n. 56).
Francis went even further, however, by describing life imprisonment as “a form of the death penalty in disguise.” This contradicts the original paragraph in the Catechism, which said that if “non-lethal means [such as life imprisonment] are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person” (n. 2267).
Taking issue with the Holy Father was Edward Feser, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in California and co-author of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, which traces the history of capital punishment. Feser said in comments to LifeSiteNews that “consistency with Scripture and previous papal teaching requires us to say both that life has dignity, but also that the offender can in principle lose the right to his life. To fail to affirm both of these teachings is precisely to contradict past teaching, not ‘develop’ it.”
He said that Francis has seemingly ignored “the fact that previous Popes rested their teaching on Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and all their predecessors in the papal office. Perhaps the Pope does not realize that he is inadvertently laying the groundwork for a future Pope to criticize him the way he is criticizing his predecessors. If 2,000 years of Popes can be wrong about capital punishment — as Pope Francis implies — why should we not conclude instead that it is Pope Francis himself, rather than they, who has gotten things wrong?”
If one condemns life imprisonment as well as the death penalty, asked Feser, “Are Catholics now required to call for releasing serial killers and the like from prison at some point, however heinous their crimes and however dangerous they remain? If not, why not, given the Pope’s repeated sweeping condemnations of life imprisonment as no less wrong than capital punishment? How are we supposed to deal with the worst offenders if both capital punishment and life imprisonment are ruled out? Why do the Pope’s admirers not address these questions or call on the Pope to address them?”

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Catechism

Today . . .

On the question of a heretical pope

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Catholic Replies

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