Thursday 23rd May 2019

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May 17, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. A visiting priest gave a homily at Mass today and referred to a book entitled The American Catechism. Do you know what this new catechism is, and is it devoted to the truth of the Magisterium? — J.W., via e-mail.
A. The only book we know of with a similar title is the St. Joseph New American Catechism, which is a current edition of the old Baltimore Catechism. It should be a reliable source of Catholic teachings.
Is it possible that the priest you heard was referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was promulgated in English in 1994 and was the first universal catechism of the Church in 400 years? In his introduction to the volume, Pope St. John Paul II called it “a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life.”
He said that “the Church now has at her disposal this new, authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a ‘valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion’ and a ‘sure norm for teaching the faith,’ as well as a ‘sure and authentic reference text’ for preparing local catechisms (apostolic constitution Fidei Depositum, n. 4).”
There are spinoffs from the CCC that are easier to understand, such as the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is popularly known as YOUCAT. All are devoted to the truths of the Church.

Q. Can a Protestant and a minor be godparents of a child of Catholic parents? I am referring to an actual fact, where a priest baptized a child having an adult Lutheran as a godparent. — C.G.D., Paraguay.
A. While a baptized Protestant, such as a Lutheran, can be a “Christian witness” at the Baptism of a Catholic child, and perhaps that is what you saw, he or she cannot be a godparent. Canon 874 §2 says that “a baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may not be admitted except as a witness to baptism and together with a Catholic sponsor.”
The non-Catholic’s name would be entered in the parish’s baptismal register, but not as a godparent. This makes sense since the person promises to help raise the child in the Catholic faith.
The same canon spells out the conditions for a baptismal sponsor, saying that the person must:
“1. Be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the one who takes their place or, in their absence, by the pastor or minister and is to have the qualifications and intentions of performing this role;
“2. Have completed the sixteenth year, unless a different age has been established by the diocesan bishop or it seems to the pastor or minister that an exception is to be made for a just cause;
“3. Be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken;
“4. Not be bound by a canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
“5. Not be the father or the mother of the one to be baptized.”

Q. My friend is a charismatic and says she prays in tongues. What does that mean, and does the Church recognize this practice?
I have seen it done, but it struck me as a performance, as the person stood up in front so all could see her. Am I being judgmental? — R.A., via e-mail.
A. We have witnessed people apparently praying in tongues, but we had no idea what they were saying since their speech was unintelligible. We were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were sincere in what they were doing, but we had no way of judging that.
Some good advice in this matter comes from St. Paul, who says that it is better to prophesy than to speak in tongues. He says that “whoever speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but whoever prophesies builds up the church. Now I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:4-5).
Paul says that “if you, because of speaking in tongues, do not utter intelligible speech, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be talking to the air” (14:9). He says that “I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you, but in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:18-19).

Q. On the subject of conscience, I offer the following incident that to me reflects the decay of the concept of a rightly formed conscience.
In 1987, my wife and I taught CCD in our previous parish. At a workshop for teachers sponsored by the diocese, a priest said the following: “Conscience is formed by our life experiences — Church, television, movies, and society. If the Church says ‘Y,’ but your conscience says ‘X,’ you must do ‘X’ and it is not a sin. You may be criticized by the Church, but we must take possession of our conscience and follow it.”
I took notes and that is an accurate quote. I wrote to the bishop, and a staff person responded that I must have misunderstood the priest.
He said that he would have the priest call me personally to discuss the matter, but by that time the horses were out of the barn. In my mind, that false concept of conscience is well-established in our Church today. I can name a substantial list of Catholic politicians who subscribe to that concept. Frankly, that’s how they can support abortion and same-sex “marriage” and present themselves for Holy Communion with a clear conscience. What do you think? — D.M., via e-mail.
A. It is true that one is bound to follow a certain conscience that has been honestly and correctly formed. However, since conscience is an operation of the human intellect, it is subject to the shortcomings of our sometimes darkened intellect. Thus, a person who bases his moral decisions on television, movies, and society is bound to reach different conclusions from one who bases his moral choices on the teachings of the Church. The correct path was suggested by Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, n. 14: “In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. The Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that Truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself.”
And by the U.S. Catholic bishops in their 1976 pastoral letter on the moral life (To Live in Christ Jesus):
“We must have a rightly informed conscience and follow it. But our judgments are human and can be mistaken; we may be blinded by the power of sin in our lives or misled by the strength of our desires. ‘Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but put the spirits to a test to see if they belong to God’ (1 John 4:1). Clearly, then, we must do everything in our power to see to it that our judgments of conscience are informed and in accord with the moral order of which God is creator. Common sense requires that conscientious people be open and humble, ready to learn from the experience and insight of others, willing to acknowledge prejudices and even change their judgments in light of better instruction.”
And by Pope St. John Paul II in his World Day of Peace message on December 8, 1990:
“To claim that one has a right to act according to conscience, but without at the same time acknowledging the duty to conform one’s conscience to the truth and to the law which God Himself has written on our hearts, in the end means nothing more than imposing one’s limited personal opinion.”

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Catholic Replies

Q. A visiting priest gave a homily at Mass today and referred to a book entitled The American Catechism. Do you know what this new catechism is, and is it devoted to the truth of the Magisterium? — J.W., via e-mail. A. The only book we know of with a similar title is the St. Joseph New American Catechism, which…Continue Reading

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