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July 10, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. In a reply back in January, you said that devotions to Our Lady of America were “approved and promoted” by the late Archbishop Paul Leibold of Cincinnati and Raymond Cardinal Burke when he was archbishop of St. Louis. A Google search makes it quite clear that Cardinal Burke was only approving the devotions and not the apparitions or the messages which St. Mary Ephrem Neuzil of Ohio said she got from the Blessed Virgin in 1956 and 1957. You stated correctly that “devotion” is the key word, but it needs clarification that the apparition was not approved. — J.R.V., Minnesota.
A. You are right and your point was confirmed in May 2020 in a statement from six bishops that said the reported apparitions were not of supernatural origin. Following a year-long investigation by a commission of six theologians and canonists, said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., “I must come to the conclusion that the visions and revelations themselves cannot be said to be of supernatural origin in the sense of objective occurrences.” He said that he “cannot approve or support public devotion or cult,” although private devotion may continue.
Regarding Sr. Mary Ephrem, the statement said that she appeared to have been “honest, morally upright, psychologically balanced, devoted to religious life, and without guile.” It said that her experiences should be described as “subjective inner religious experiences rather than objective external visions and revelations.”
While they were “authentically graced moments,” the bishops said, they were “subjective ones in which her own imagination and intellect were constitutively engaged.” These moments were not “objective visions and revelations of the type seen at Guadalupe, Fatima, and Lourdes,” they said.
Bishop Rhoades praised the leaders of the devotion as “faith-filled, wonderful people,” and he commended them for providing the commission with many thousands of pages of materials for the investigation.

Q. Turner Classic Films recently aired the 1951 Elia Kazan movie A Streetcar Named Desire. At the conclusion of the film, its commentators expressed their annoyance with the Catholic Church’s condemnation of the film. The closest thing to an explanation was to say that the Legion of Decency disliked the use of jazz as background for the film. This strikes me as far-fetched and I’m wondering what the Legion really said. — P.A., New York.
A. Actually, the Legion did not condemn the movie after Kazan cut four minutes from it to avoid a “C” rating. Of concern was a brutal rape scene featuring Stanley Kowalski (played by Marlon Brando) and Blanche DuBois (played by Vivien Leigh). Kazan made the cuts because a negative rating by the Legion in those days would have hurt the film’s profitability.
The Legion of Decency was established by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 1934 to promote high moral standards in the film industry and to encourage Catholics to stay away from morally offensive movies. The bishops set up a national ratings system (A, B, or C) and, for three decades, many Catholic filmgoers across the country consulted these ratings when deciding which movies to avoid.
It was not uncommon in those days to have priests denounce certain films from the pulpit. So influential was the Legion that Hollywood producers would fly to New York to talk with Legion officials when a film was threatened with condemnation, and then agree to clean up the film to avoid the Legion’s most severe rating.
In the late 1950s, factions within and outside the Catholic Church, including some Jesuits on college campuses, began to tell Catholics that they could go to condemned movies since it would be good for their education. When Legion officers challenged this advice, they were given other assignments and a Jesuit was put in charge of the Legion’s New York office.
It wasn’t long after that when the Legion’s voice was muted and it became a division within the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Department of Communications. The division is now called the Office of Film and Broadcasting, and it still issues ratings classifications.
The office says that it no longer keeps tabs “on the levels of sex, violence, and coarse language in a film,” but “evaluates films for artistic merit and moral suitability.” Its classifications are A-I (General patronage), A-II (Adults and adolescents), A-III (Adults), L (Limited adult audience), and O (Morally offensive). It has nowhere near the clout of its predecessor, and it doesn’t do nearly enough to oppose the dreadful moral climate we face today.

Q. Your reply about the Blessed Virgin rising to Heaven body and soul blew me away. Since only souls exist in Heaven, what happened to her body? With everything I’ve read about the thousands of near-death experiences, people who come back speak of loving, talking, and visiting with family and friends who passed away some time ago, my question is, how could one recognize his/her family and friends if not recognizing their faces and bodies?
Then I’ve read in many Catholic books and the Book of Revelation of the new city of Jerusalem that will come down from Heaven and become the city for those who’ve been saved. This large square city will be completely walled with three major entrances on each of the four sides. There will be a large body of water going completely up the center of the city with fruit trees on both sides and various edible fruits growing continually. This led me always to believe there will be eating and drinking in Heaven?
How is Paradise explained if there are no bodies to eat, drink, dance, sing, work, fight if need be against Satan’s armies? Are there work crews to fix and build things? Are bathrooms necessary?
I guess I just don’t see how a soul without a body will function in Heaven. I’ve been led to believe our bodies will be free of illness and deformities so we can move around as we do here on Earth. Can you help me understand? — R.J., via e-mail.
A. We can try. First of all, the Assumption of Mary means that her body went to Heaven along with her soul, unlike the rest of us whose souls will be in Heaven until the end of time, when they will be rejoined with our resurrected bodies. Before the Final Judgment, our souls will see God and those who lived on Earth not with human eyes, but with our minds. Our souls will be infused with a supernatural light, the “light of glory,” that will enable them to interact with family and friends who have not yet received their bodies.
Second, once we have received our bodies, said Fr. Charles Arminjon in his book The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, they will “enter a mode of existence utterly different from their way of life on Earth…they will be ennobled, embellished, and transfigured to such an extent that, between this new state and the present one, there will be an infinitely greater difference than between an inert rock and the most brilliant sunbeams, or between the purest gold and the foulest, murkiest slime” (p. 121).
Third, there will be no need of food or drink, or bathrooms, and there will be no more disease, no death, no procreation, no work crews, and no need for armies to battle Satan since he will have been cast into Hell forever. What there will be, said St. Augustine, are “praises and songs . . . unlimited in duration…fragrances the air does not blow away, savors that never fade, goods and sweet joys unaccompanied by any distaste or surfeit. There, God is contemplated continuously, is known without any error of apprehension, and praised without weariness or diminution.”
We know of course that any descriptions of Heaven in the Bible are mysterious and enigmatic, figurative and not literal. “In drawing an image of the kingdom of Christ,” said Fr. Arminjon, “we have been able to speak only in riddles and metaphors; but these riddles and metaphors represent great and true things, an eloquent, irrefutable commentary on these words of St. Paul: ‘Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him’” (p. 135).
The image of a city coming down from Heaven in Revelation, with 12 gates and 12 foundation stones, connects the Tribes of Israel with the apostles. The Tree of Life is really Christ, who died on a tree, and the river is the Holy Spirit. The banks on either side of the river represent the Old and New Testaments. We share in the life-giving water of the Spirit through the sacraments and we eat the fruit of the tree in the Holy Eucharist.
Our human minds cannot comprehend the glory and happiness of Heaven. What we need to do is to live holy lives so that we can experience this glory and happiness firsthand.

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Catholic Replies

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