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January 15, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. How would we go about getting Joe Biden excommunicated because of his rejection of Church teachings on abortion, same-sex relationships, transgenderism, etc.? Could he be considered a heretic for promoting these evils? — J.D., via e-mail.
A. Some bishops and priests have denied or have said they would deny Joe Biden Holy Communion because they recognize that he has obstinately persisted in “manifest grave sin” (cf. canon 915) by promoting the evils just mentioned and is not worthy to receive the Eucharist. However, Biden’s advocacy of abortion and transgenderism, and his conducting a “marriage” ceremony for two homosexual men, are not excommunicable offenses for a person in his position.
For example, an automatic excommunication regarding abortion only applies to those who actually procure the abortion and those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed, provided that all parties knew the Church’s penalty for this action but went ahead with it anyway. Biden may be objectively guilty of “manifest grave sin” in pushing for abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, but he is not eligible for excommunication.
Automatic excommunication is also the penalty for baptized Catholics who are involved in apostasy, heresy, or schism (cf. canon 1364). Canon 751 defines heresy as “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.”
A case could be made under this canon for calling Biden a heretic, but we doubt if there is any bishop who would excommunicate him. Some bishops, for example, Wilton Cardinal Gregory of Washington, D.C., have said that they would still give him Communion in spite of his obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin.
Still another factor, which we alluded to a few columns ago, is that excommunication of Joe Biden, or other Catholic politicians, might have the opposite effect of what you are seeking. We quoted one solid bishop who expressed the concern that excommunicating pro-abortion politicians “would redound to many photo-ops for them, many opportunities to spew their false narrative about the Church, many opportunities to pit one bishop against another. Further, I am not sure at this juncture that the Holy Father would stand with the bishops.”
The Catholic Church, unfortunately, has lost its clout. Sixty or seventy years ago, Catholic politicians wouldn’t dare publicly challenge the Church’s teachings since they would be called to account and it would cost them votes.
Not so today when many self-identified Catholics no longer adhere to the Church’s teachings and would take the side of the erring politician rather than the side of the Church. The answer is not canonical penalties, but rather persevering prayer both for sinning politicians and for Church leaders who lack the courage to call them to a life of holiness.

Q. I have two questions: (1) Our local parish Advent wreath had four violet candles, but no pink candle. What is the significance of this? (2) In recent weeks, the local priest has been substituting the chant, “Remember your mercy,” following the Prayers of the Faithful. Is that permitted? — Name and State Withheld.
A. (1) The candles in the Advent wreath remind us that the light of Christ came into a darkened world (cf. John 1:5-9). Traditionally there are three violet candles symbolizing the time of waiting for the coming of Christ and one pink candle symbolizing the joy of His coming. The priest usually wears rose-colored vestments on the Third Sunday of Advent, which is known as Gaudete Sunday, named for the first words of the entrance antiphon that day: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice.” You’ll have to ask your priest why he decided to deviate from the traditional arrangement of the Advent wreath.
(2) The General Instruction of the Roman Missal first lists the subjects that ought to be covered in the Prayers of the Faithful and concludes by saying that “the people, for their part, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said in common after each intention or by praying in silence” (n. 71).
There is no indication what the response ought to be, although in every church we have attended Mass it is usually, “Lord, hear our prayer.” This seems more appropriate than “remember your mercy” when praying “for the needs of the Church, for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world, for those burdened by any kind of difficulty, and for the local community” (n. 70).

Q. While visiting with a friend over the holidays, she expressed her belief in the “Rapture” and said that this was clearly taught in the Bible. She also mentioned reading some books called Left Behind. Do you know what was she talking about? — L.C., Massachusetts.
A. The idea of the “Rapture” comes from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he says that at the Second Coming of Christ, “the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
The word “Rapture” does not appear in the Bible, but some Fundamentalists have interpreted these words of Paul to mean that Christ will secretly snatch certain true believers out of homes, cars, and planes to meet the Lord in the air. Once these lucky folks are gone, the theory goes, the Devil will be free to take control of the world through his puppet, the Antichrist.
Frightening horrors and catastrophes will be followed by the “great tribulation,” after which Christ will come back once more to defeat the powers of evil and bring history to a close.
The problem with this fantastic scenario is that there is nothing in the Bible to support it. Catholics believe that Paul was talking about the final coming of Christ at the end of time and the resurrection of the dead (see nn. 997-1001 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Furthermore, the Second Coming is not going to be a secret or invisible event. On the contrary, the Bible describes it as universally visible, glorious, and full of splendor.
Christ will return on magnificent clouds of glory with brilliant angels and saints and a trumpet blast announcing their arrival. Everyone in the world will know that Christ has returned, and those who refused to believe in the Lord will be terrified at the sight and at the fate that awaits them. When will this occur? No one knows, except God, and it is foolish to listen to any theories advanced by, say, the fictional books entitled Left Behind. These books were authored by Protestant Evangelicals Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Stay away from these books. They are filled with flawed history, faulty theology, and twisted interpretations of Scripture. They will lead you astray in matters of eternal importance. For books demonstrating the absurdity of the Rapture theory, see Rapture by David B. Currie and The Rapture Trap by Paul Thigpen.
But aren’t all the earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and pandemics, as well as wars and terrorism, signs of the end of the world? Not according to Jesus, who said that we should not be alarmed at “wars and reports of wars” or “famines and earthquakes” because “it will not yet be the end….All these are the beginning of the labor pains.”
He said that “many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of an increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved,” and the end will not come until “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world” (Matt. 24:6-14).
So “be not afraid.” Persevere through prayer and the sacraments and live each day as if it were your last day on Earth. Then you will be ready to meet the Lord.

Q. A friend believes that January 1 is not a holy day of obligation since it was changed, along with other holy days, some years ago. Is this true? — T.H., via e-mail.
A. It depends on whether January 1, once known as the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus and now as the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, falls on a Saturday or a Monday. Since it fell on a Friday in 2021, it was a holy day of obligation. The confusion arises because the U.S. bishops foolishly decided in 1991 that if certain holy days fell on Saturdays or Mondays (the Assumption of Mary and All Saints Day are the other two), there would not be an obligation to attend Mass that day. This change has led many Catholics to neglect holy days altogether.
Can’t we please go back to the former schedule of observing six special days in the United States, the only exception being when one falls on a Sunday?

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