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August 25, 2023 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. If each properly celebrated Mass is of infinite value, why would someone want or need to have more than one holy Mass offered for the salvation of the soul of someone? Why a second or third or twentieth anniversary Mass if the first offered Mass is the perfect sacrifice? — J.H.T., via e-mail.
A. Yes, each Mass is of infinite value and may indeed be sufficient to release a soul from Purgatory, but perhaps anniversary Masses are about the person scheduling them. We can see three positive things coming from this practice. First, the person asking for the Masses is gaining many graces for carrying out the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the living and dead. Second, he is giving good example to those who read the notice in the church bulletin by reminding them of the necessity of offering prayers for the deceased. Who knows how many people have been influenced to offer a memorial Mass for a loved one after noticing mention of such a Mass in the bulletin. Third, if the person being prayed for is already in Heaven, God will apply the merits of that Mass to some soul who has no one to pray for him.

Q. In the past you have written about the shortening of readings at Sunday Mass and have expressed doubt that the reason given – to save time – is valid. The Gospel read on July 23rd (Matthew 13:24-43) about the weeds and the wheat brought this to my mind. Although the Gospel is long, the omitted portion contains some strong words of Jesus. Is that why the reading is shortened? – F.P., via e-mail.
A. We have wondered the same thing. The first part of the Gospel is the parable of the weeds sown among the wheat, but left out is Jesus’ explanation of the parable, which we think is very important. Recall that the slaves of the landowner wanted to root out the weeds right then, but he told them to wait until the harvest lest they uproot the wheat along with the weeds. At that time, he said, the weeds would be collected in bundles for burning, while the wheat would be gathered into his barn. And that’s where the shortened Gospel ends.
But in the omitted portion, Jesus says that “just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
So those who cause others to sin, and all evildoers, are destined for the fires of Hell unless they repent. Isn’t that something people ought to hear in these days of rampant sin and evil? Shouldn’t those promoting abortion and sodomy and transgender madness be warned of the eternal consequences of their actions?
And yet the same omission happened a week later in a much shorter Gospel (Matt. 13:44-52). The faithful were allowed to hear the first three verses, about the treasure buried in a field and the “pearl of great price,” but not the next four verses, which are about the fishing net that collects good and bad fish and the fishermen who toss the good fish into buckets and throw away the bad.
Apparently, we weren’t supposed to hear Jesus say that “thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Omitting these verses allows some preachers to talk only about “nice” Jesus, who makes few demands on His followers, and not about “naughty” Jesus, who says that failure to keep His Commandments will lead to fire and damnation. “But, Lord,” some will say on Judgment Day, “we never heard about Hell. We thought it was just a pre-Vatican II myth.” They will be shocked to hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

Q. During a sparkling family debate, I used the principle of double effect to justify the use of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. I referenced Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary (pp. 171-172) to justify my argument. There was agreement on the first three conditions for an action that has both good and bad effects, but not on the fourth condition regarding a proportionally grave reason for allowing an evil effect. Could you comment on this matter? — R.M.V., North Carolina.
A. When considering the principle of the double effect, there are four conditions which must be fulfilled, said Fr. Hardon. First, “the act to be done must be good in itself or at least morally indifferent.” Second, “the good effect must not be obtained by means of the evil effect; the evil effect must be only an incidental by-product and not an actual factor in the accomplishment of the good.” Third, “the evil effect must not be intended for itself but only permitted; all bad will must be excluded from the act.” Fourth, “there must be a proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect. At least the good and evil effects should be nearly equivalent. All four conditions must be fulfilled. If any one of them is not satisfied, the act is morally wrong.”
The destruction of the two Japanese cities, with estimated casualties of between 130,000 and 215,000 from the blasts themselves or from the long-term effects of radiation, was deemed necessary to shorten World War II and to prevent a large number of American casualties in any potential invasion of Japan. However, years later top U.S. military officers questioned the need of the bombing. For example, General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, said that Japan was “already defeated” and that bombing the two cities was “completely unnecessary.” Agreeing with him was Admiral William Leahy, chief military adviser to President Harry Truman, who said that “use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.”
But did the atomic bombings satisfy all four conditions for invocation of the principle of double effect? Probably yes on one, two, and three. First, the bombings were intended to shorten the war and to avoid potential future mass casualties, not to kill innocent people. Second, the bombings were not evil in themselves, and the evil effect was an incidental by-product. Third, the evil effect (the killing of thousands of innocents) was not the cause of the good effect (the shortening of the war).
The fourth condition, however, is problematical. Were the good and evil effects equivalent? Was there a proportionately grave reason for permitting the deaths of thousands of innocent people, ostensibly to shorten the war? If Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been spared, would an invasion of Japan, with perhaps many thousands of American casualties, have been necessary? Not according to General Eisenhower and Admiral Leahy. Did they, and others of like mind, voice their opposition before the dropping of the atomic bombs?
The bombing of the two cities would also seem to violate the final principle of Catholic doctrine on a just war: “The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2309). So your family members who questioned the morality of the bombings of the two Japanese cities may be on solid ground.

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Catechism

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