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December 3, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Attending parochial school in the 1950s, we read about Fr. Miguel Pro, who was martyred during the Mexican Revolution. We learned that the revolution was led by the Communists. However, now it seems that it was led by the Masons. Which one was it? Or was it both? — R.K., via e-mail.
A. A priest-friend of ours who is from Mexico explained it this way. The Revolution in Mexico was more the result of atheist-masonic thinking that saw the Church as the root of all problems in Mexico. There is a great book that sets the record straight: Saints and Sinners in the Cristero War by Fr. James Murphy (Ignatius Press). I highly recommend this one. This provocative account of the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s tells the stories of eight pivotal players. The saints are now honored as martyrs by the Catholic Church, and the sinners were political and military leaders who were accomplices in the persecution.
The saintly standouts are Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, whose nonviolent demonstrations ended with his death after a day of brutal torture; Archbishop Francisco Orozco y Jimenez, who ran his vast archdiocese from hiding while on the run from the Mexican government; Fr. Toribio Romo Gonzalez, who was shot in his bed one morning simply for being a Catholic priest; and Fr. Miguel Pro, the famous Jesuit who kept slipping through the hands of the military police in Mexico City despite being on the “most wanted” list for sixteen months. He died shouting, “Viva Cristo Rey!”
The four sinners are Melchor Ocampo, the powerful politician who believed that Catholicism was the cause of Mexico’s problems; President Plutarco Elias Calles, the fanatical atheist who brutally persecuted the Church; José Reyes Vega, the priest who ignored the orders of his archbishop and became a general in the Cristero army; and Tomas Garrido Canabal, a farmer-turned-politician who became known as the “Scourge of Tabasco.” This cast of characters is presented in a compelling narrative of the Cristero War that engages the reader like a gripping novel, while it unfolds a largely unknown chapter in the history of America.
Other books that give a good perspective are: Blessed Miguel Pro: Twentieth-Century Mexican Martyr by Ann Ball (TAN), Blood-Drenched Altars: A Catholic Commentary on the History of Mexico by Most Rev. Francis Clement Kelley (TAN), and Mexican Martyrdom: Firsthand Experiences of the Religious Persecution in Mexico by Wilfred Parsons, SJ (TAN).

Q. The question of cremation has come up in our Bible study group. What is the position of the Church, and may the ashes be scattered or kept at home? — V.G., via e-mail.
A. Cremation is permitted by the Catholic Church as long as there is no denial of Catholic teaching about the resurrection of the body. However, the Church requires that the ashes be disposed of in a reverent fashion, for example, by being buried or by being placed in a niche in a mausoleum or columbarium. The Church prohibits scattering the ashes at sea, over a golf course, or over a cemetery plot. It also forbids placing them over one’s fireplace mantel, enclosing them in jewelry, or carrying them in one’s purse or wallet.
The reason for not scattering the ashes, or keeping them in a container at home, is that the Church wishes to honor the body of the deceased, which was once a temple of the Holy Spirit. The body of the deceased was made “very good” (Gen. 1:31) by God and should be treated with the utmost respect. Never mind what our anti-religious culture says, we must show reverence for our departed family and friends.

Q. Why is the Church not allowing priests to provide a letter of support for Catholics who do not want to take the COVID vaccine because of its abortion connection, thereby, in some cases, risking their livelihood? What harm can it possibly do to provide a letter of exemption to a conscientious Catholic? And what is the reasoning behind this policy since the vaccinated supposedly have nothing to fear from the unvaccinated? — J.H., via e-mail.
A. First of all, while Church leaders in general may be refusing to give conscientious Catholics letters of exemption from taking the COVID-19 vaccine, some bishops — in Colorado, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, for example — have published samples of a letter that Catholics may use. Other bishops, following the guidance of Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have refused to provide such letters on the grounds that taking the experimental vaccine is “an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
Not necessarily so, argues moral theologian Janet Smith. In an article in Crisis magazine, she said that “those who refuse the vaccine are working not only to make the medical establishment prove its claims, but also to pressure the government to respect fundamental human rights — frequently at a great cost to themselves. Standing up for evidence-based science and for respect for law and human rights is one of the best ‘gifts of love’ that we can give to our neighbors.”
Dr. Smith said that many of those seeking exemptions from the vaccines are not anti-science Neanderthals, but rather persons who have legitimate concerns about the health effects of the vaccines. These people, she said, are concerned about “the endless string of lies told by Dr. Fauci: lies about the origin of the virus, lies about the effectiveness of masks, lies about the dangers of the vaccine, lies about herd immunity, etc. With some regularity over the last two years, Fauci has had to reverse his positions — reversals that often confirm what the skeptics have believed.”
Other problems, she said, include “censoring qualified, credentialed doctors from raising concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines”; “grossly” overstating deaths from COVID; underreporting the number of people dying from the vaccines; showing little interest in the long-term effects of the vaccines; and requiring those who have natural immunity from having had COVID to get a vaccine, “even though studies demonstrate that natural immunity is much more effective than vaccination.”
While none of the vaccines is completely free from the taint of abortion, the U.S. bishops have said that “in view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines,” the reasons to use one of them “are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines.”
Disagreeing is Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. He called the government mandates “tyranny” and asked: “Do we as Catholics need to just roll over and say, well, the state has mandated this so we’ve got to do it? If it’s unjust? Yes, we owe a certain level of respect and obedience to the state for the common good. But when it violates our own personal conscience and when it violates our ability to be master of our own acts, then we have to say no.”
Can a Catholic refuse to take the vaccine? Yes, said the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2020. It said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and, therefore, it must be voluntary,” taking into account not only “the duty to protect one’s own health, but also the duty to pursue the common good.”
According to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, “If a Catholic comes to an informed and sure judgment in conscience that he or she should not receive a vaccine, then the Catholic Church requires that the person follow this certain judgment of conscience and refuse the vaccine. The Catechism is clear: ‘Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters’” (n. 1782).
So if a Catholic follows his well-informed conscience and chooses to refuse the vaccination, then his priest or bishop ought to give him a letter of exemption. But it is probably not coincidental that those prelates who decline to give an exemption letter are often the same ones who would never refuse Holy Communion to pro-abortion fanatics like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

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