Tuesday 20th August 2019

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July 19, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I am a senior citizen who has a collection of old prayer books, holy cards, leaflets, and pamphlets, as well as large-size holy pictures that are nicely framed. I will be moving soon and our local St. Vincent de Paul thrift store is no longer there. Can you help me to find some person or organization who would be interested in these treasures? — J.S., Indiana.
A. If any of our readers knows of some person or organization who would be interested in these holy items, please let us know and we will put you in touch with J.S.

Q. It strikes me as wrong on so many levels to say that a mother deserves Heaven for giving an adult son to the Church as a priest and, in return, she has a golden ticket into Heaven. If this is a dogma of the Church, then we are all in trouble. — K.H., via e-mail.
A. K.H. is referring to a recent column where we mentioned the tradition of a newly ordained priest giving to his mother the purificator that was used to wipe holy oil from his hands during the Ordination ceremony. When the mother dies, the purificator is to be wrapped around her hands and buried with her.
According to the tradition (not a dogma), when the mother gets to Heaven and is asked by Jesus what she did to deserve Heaven, she is to reply, “I gave you my son as a priest.”
We never said that this nice tradition guaranteed a mother entry into Heaven. If a mother fails to keep the Commandments and dies with unforgiven mortal sin on her soul, she will not get to Heaven no matter how many purificators are wrapped around her hands. But since mothers are often the promoters of priestly vocations among their sons, and are usually women of prayer and holiness, it is not a stretch to imagine Jesus welcoming into Heaven those mothers who encouraged their sons to become “other Christs.”

Q. My friend and I got into an argument over the recent Mass readings from the Book of Genesis about the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I said that God destroyed the cities because of the homosexual behavior of their residents, but my friend insists that it was because of their inhospitality to the two angels who visited the house of Lot. Who is right? — A.C., via e-mail.
A. You are correct. The effort to blame the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah on inhospitality is just wishful thinking promoted by those who are trying to mask the abomination of homosexual behavior. Read the Sodom story in chapter 19 of Genesis and see if it sounds like inhospitable conduct to you. In fact, so aggressive was the desire of the men of Sodom to have “intimacies” with the heavenly visitors that Lot offered the men his two virgin daughters, knowing that the men were not interested in females.
Or go back to the previous chapter of Genesis and read God’s dialogue with Abraham. God told Abraham that “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out” (18:20-21).
In their dialogue, Abraham asked God if He would spare the city if Abraham could find 50 innocent people in Sodom. God said yes. Abraham eventually bargained God all the way down to 10 innocent people, and God said, “I will not destroy it” (18:32). But apparently there were not even 10 innocent people in Sodom.
In a 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in Gen. 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgment made there against homosexual relations” (n. 6). The Letter goes on to say that similar condemnations of homosexual behavior can be found in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, in Romans 1:18-32, and in 1 Tim. 1:10.
Not mentioned and often overlooked is the following passage from Jude 7, which reads: “Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” No mention there of inhospitality.

Q. The new doctrine proclaimed by Pope Francis, which is included in the revised edition of the 1993 Theological Commentary on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, declares that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel.” While I do not wish to contest the reasoning put forth justifying this, I will say that this proclamation can only lead to religious confusion. What I am concerned with is whether we Catholics are required to obey this doctrine in the same way we obey “Thou shalt not kill.” If so, it follows that Catholics can no longer serve on a jury which sits on a capital crime trial. Also, that no Catholic prosecutor can be involved in a trial which may result in the death penalty. And don’t forget the many Catholic judges who would be required to recuse themselves in these trials or appeals. — M.W., Florida.
A. Indeed, the Holy Father’s stance on capital punishment is very problematic for Catholics, especially in the situations you mentioned. Furthermore, his new doctrine does not square with that of any of 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 nonexistent” (Evangelium Vitae, n. 56).
However, Pope Francis went well beyond that nuanced position in a video message last March to the Seventh World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Brussels, when he said that “the Church has always defended life, and her vision of the death penalty has matured. For this reason, I wanted this point to be modified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For a long time, the death penalty was taken into account as an adequate response to the gravity of some crimes and also to safeguard the common good. However, the dignity of the person is not lost even if he has committed the worst of crimes. No one can be killed and deprived of the opportunity to embrace again the community he wounded and made suffer.”
He called the goal of abolishing the death penalty worldwide a “courageous affirmation of the principle of the dignity of the human person” and of “the conviction that humankind can face crime, as well as reject evil, by offering the condemned person the possibility and time to repair the damage done, think about his action, and thus be able to change his life, at least inwardly. It is in our hands to recognize each person’s dignity and to work so that no more lives are taken away, but are won for the good of society as a whole.”
Taking issue with the Holy Father is Edward Feser, associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College in California and co-author (with Joseph Bessette) of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, which traces the history of capital punishment and defends its legitimacy, even in today’s world.
Dr. Feser said in comments to LifeSite News that “for the most part, Pope Francis’ latest statement on capital punishment just repeats things he has said before, but there is one element that is not only new, but possibly even more problematic than his previous remarks. The Pope says that the death penalty is ‘a serious violation of the right to life that every person has.’ That obviously gives the impression that capital punishment is a species of murder, and thus always and intrinsically evil rather than wrong only under modern circumstances. And that claim would flatly contradict Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and every Pope who has spoken on this subject prior to Pope Francis.”
For example, Feser said, “Pope Pius XII explicitly said that a murderer ‘has deprived himself of the right to live,’ so that the state does no wrong in executing him. Francis seems to be directly contradicting Pius XII, as well as, again, other Popes, such as St. Innocent I, Innocent II, St. Pius V, St. Pius X, and even St. John Paul II, who acknowledged that capital punishment can at least in rare cases be legitimate.”
Feser wonders if Pope Francis realizes 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?”

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Catholic Replies

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