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July 3, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: More thoughtful insights from Fr. George Rutler of the Church of St. Michael in New York City: “Robert Gould Shaw was born into an abolitionist Unitarian family in Boston in 1837. . . . During the Civil War, he was eventually promoted to colonel and, following the Emancipation Proclamation, he led New England’s first all-black military unit, the 54th Regiment. Shaw insisted on equal pay and opposed any form of discrimination. Two of his soldiers were sons of Frederick Douglass.
“In 1863, storming Fort Wagner in South Carolina, Colonel Shaw led his regiment’, which suffered heavy losses while he died from several wounds defending the nation and racial justice. Saint-Gaudens sculpted a bronze relief of Shaw and his troops, which was dedicated across from the Massachusetts State House 123 years ago on May 31.
“Just weeks ago, three million dollars were designated to restore it, but ironically on May 31, a mob claiming to be defenders of human dignity defaced with obscenities this tribute to valiant African-Americans.
“Rioters also gathered in our nation’s capital in Logan Circle, by another irony named for a Civil War general, John A. Logan, who said: ‘Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic.’ But many in our latest generation have not merely forgotten that cost, they were never taught it in the first place.
“The valor of the 54th Regiment was depicted in the 1989 film Glory. Yet recent mobs have behaved more like the brawlers in old Western movies, for whom one man attacking another becomes a cue for everyone to rise and wreck the whole saloon. Riots broke out in other cities and spread abroad.
“Perceived manipulation of the ignorant, by sinister plotters whose Orwellian strategy is to call their fascism anti-fascist, is no excuse for their obliviousness to the consequences of moral confusion.
“In 452, Pope Leo the Great saved Rome from Attila the Hun and, in a double whammy three years later, he confronted Genseric the Vandal. He faced both with the serenity of virtue and the bravery of charity, bending his knee before neither because he knelt only to God.”

Q. I know that sincere contrition is a part of the Sacrament of Penance, but what is the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition? — G.B., South Dakota.
A. The four key elements of Penance are contrition, confession, absolution, and satisfaction. Contrition is a sincere sorrow for having offended God or, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, it is “a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love which one has for God and which is reborn with repentance. Understood in this way, contrition is therefore the beginning and the heart of conversion” (Reconciliation and Penance, n. 31).
When one expresses sorrow for sin outside of the sacrament, the contrition can be either perfect or imperfect. “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else,” says the Catechism (n. 1452), “contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible [cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1677].”
In paragraph 1453, the Catechism says that “the contrition called ‘imperfect’ (or ‘attrition’) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself, however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance [cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1678; 1705].”

Q. I’ve read your column for years and wonder if there is an index by topic of your cogent responses. Also, our priest keeps substituting feast days on weekdays and generally switching the Mass for today to another day. The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium speaks to this in paragraph 22, but is there another source I can put under his nose to stop this? — W.W., via-e-mail.
A. In two volumes of Catholic Replies, we have compiled answers to some 1,600 questions, with an extensive index at the back of each book. You can purchase both books for a total of $17.95 (a 50 percent discount) by sending a check to the address below and adding $10 for shipping.
As for your priest switching the days on which certain Masses are to be celebrated, you are correct in citing paragraph 22 in Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. That paragraph says that “absolutely no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” That prohibition is repeated in Redemptionis Sacramentum, the 2004 instruction on liturgical abuses from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Among other things, the instruction says:
“The mystery of the Eucharist ‘is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal meaning would be obscured.’ On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free rein to his own inclinations, even if he is a priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved, and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today.
“Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline.
“In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the people of God. The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the people of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of ‘secularization’ as well” (n. 11).
As for your priest switching Masses, he should follow the Church’s liturgical calendar, either for the universal Church or for the particular Church in his diocese. The liturgical days are divided into solemnities, feasts, and memorials, and memorials are either obligatory or optional. In June 2020, for example, there were three solemnities on weekdays (Sacred Heart of Jesus, Nativity of John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul). These solemnities must be celebrated on their particular day.
There were no feasts in June, but there were six memorials (Mary Mother of the Church, St. Charles Lwanga, St. Boniface, St. Barnabas, St. Anthony of Padua, and Immaculate Heart of Mary). Six days that month were for certain saints or martyrs, and 11 had no particular person mentioned. June 22 gave a priest the option of remembering St. Paulinus of Nola, St. John Fisher, or St. Thomas More.
So while your priest had 11 days in the month when he could choose some other option, possibly even a Mass for a special intention (vocations, an end to abortion, racial justice), he was obligated to remember some person or event on the Church’s calendar 15 weekdays in June. He was not allowed to substitute something else for a scheduled feast or obligatory memorial. Good luck in trying to set him straight.

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The Bishop Strickland Hour – Week of July 28

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Commenting in his parish bulletin about the “cancel culture” of recent days, Fr. George Rutler of the Church of St. Michael in New York City mentioned the efforts to censor such patriotic songs as America the Beautiful. He said that “there are also demands to eliminate our National Anthem because the author owned slaves. In fact, Francis Scott…Continue Reading

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