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Catholic Replies

June 20, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. In your book Catholic Replies, you gave an answer to a question about the priest breaking the Host before the elevation, but you did not explain why he cannot do so. Please explain. — J.N., Texas.
A. The priest cannot break the bread before elevation of the Host because such an action at that time is contrary to the rubrics of the Mass (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 83). The proper place in the Mass for what is called the “Fraction” was explained in the 2004 Vatican document Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 73:
“In the celebration of Holy Mass, the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread — done only by the priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a deacon or of a concelebrant — begins after the exchange of peace while the Agnus Dei is being recited. For the gesture of breaking bread ‘carried out by Christ at the Last Supper, which in apostolic times gave the whole Eucharistic action its name, signifies that the faithful, though they are many, are made one body in the communion of the one bread of life who is Christ, who died and rose for the world’s salvation’ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:17). For this reason, the rite must be carried out with great reverence. Even so, it should be brief. The abuse that has prevailed in some places by which this rite is unnecessarily prolonged and given undue emphasis, with laypersons helping in contradiction to the norms, should be corrected with all haste.”
The meaning of the fraction was explained by the GIRM, which says that “the priest breaks the Bread and puts a piece of the Host into the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation, namely, of the Body of Jesus Christ, living and glorious. The supplication Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) is usually sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation replying; or at least recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the fraction of the Bread and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has been completed. The final time it concludes with the words grant us peace” (n. 83).

Q. Would you please provide information concerning separation of church and state and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black? Wasn’t he a former lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan and a hater of Catholics? — E.J.M., Nevada.
A. Contrary to popular belief, there is no mention of “separation of church and state” anywhere in the Constitution. The phrase comes from a letter written in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association. The church had written to the president expressing its concern that its religious liberty was threatened by the Federalist-Congregationalist establishment in Connecticut. Jefferson replied by expressing his “sovereign reverence” for the First Amendment to the Constitution and saying that Congress should “‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
So was President Jefferson arguing against the influence of religion in public life? No. While he believed that the federal government should not impose itself on church or religion, he also believed that church and religion should be able to exercise the freedom to speak out on religious and moral issues. That his “wall” did not forbid a relationship between church and state is indicated by Jefferson’s endorsement of the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians.
It was Justice Hugo Black who introduced the false meaning of Jefferson’s words in a 1947 Supreme Court decision. This misuse of Jefferson’s metaphor is still being promoted today in an effort to keep all religious influence and ideas out of public life.
As for Hugo Black (1886-1971), he was born in Alabama and worked as a lawyer and county prosecutor before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1926. He was a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and was nominated to the Supreme Court by Roosevelt in 1937. In a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a month after the Senate approved his nomination to the Supreme Court, it was revealed that Black had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, an anti-black and anti-Catholic terrorist group.
Black responded that he had been a member for only two years and denied allegations in the Post-Gazette articles that his membership continued beyond two years. He said at the time that “I have no sympathy with any group which, anywhere or at any time, arrogates to itself the un-American power to interfere in the slightest with complete religious freedom.”
Newspapers of the time were not impressed with Black’s denial. Columnist David Lawrence said that he was “an insult to the millions of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, white and colored citizens.” An editorial in The New York Times said that “at every session of the court, the presence on the bench of a Justice who has worn the white robe of the Ku Klux Klan will stand as a living symbol of the fact that here the cause of liberalism was unwittingly betrayed.”
Thirty years later, Black gave an interview to the Times with the understanding that it would not be published until after his death. Asked in the interview why he had joined the KKK in the 1920s, Black said that “the Klan in those days was not what it became later. There were a few extremists in it, but most of the people were the cream of Birmingham’s middle-class. It was a fraternal organization really. It wasn’t anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, or anti-Negro.”
He also said the main reason why he joined the Klan was because “I was trying a lot of cases against corporations, jury cases, and I found out that all the corporation lawyers were in the Klan. A lot of jurors were too, so I figured I’d better be even-up. I haven’t told that before, but that’s how it was. People think it was politics, but it wasn’t politics. I wanted that even chance with the juries.”

Q. Is there any truth about reports of a eucharistic miracle occurring in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1996 when Pope Francis was an auxiliary bishop there? — W.D., Massachusetts.
A. According to articles we have read, on the evening of August 18, 1996, after Fr. Alejandro Pezet had finished distributing Communion at a 7:00 p.m. Mass, a woman told him that she had found a discarded Host on a candleholder at the back of the church. Fr. Pezet collected the Host, placed it in a container of water, and put it in the tabernacle. Returning to the tabernacle eight days later, the priest found that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Bishop Jorge Bergoglio, who arranged to have the Host professionally photographed. The photos showed that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size.
The whole thing was kept secret for three years until then-Archbishop Bergoglio decided to have the Host scientifically analyzed. It was sent to New York, but the team of scientists was not told the background of the fragment. One of the scientists, the well-known forensic pathologist Dr. Frederic Zugiba, determined that the substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. He testified that “the analyzed substance is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body.”
He said that “the heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken…since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”
On being informed that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host, Dr. Zugiba replied: “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science, a mystery totally beyond her competence.”

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