FAQs2017-06-27T14:08:48+00:00

FAQs

Question: What are the rules for Lenten fast and abstinence in this Diocese?

Answer: LENT AND EASTER REGULATIONS A distinction is to be made between Lent and the Easter Triduum. Strictly speaking, Lent ends with the beginning of the Triduum on Holy Thursday. The ordo notes: “Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until Evening Prayer I of Holy Thursday.” Traditionally, Christians fast on two sorts of occasions. One may be termed times of repentance (for example, Lent). The other occasion is by way of anticipation (for example, the one hour before holy communion or the “paschal fast” during the Triduum in anticipation of the Easter event). Lenten Fast and Abstinence 1. Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday by all Catholics who are 18 years of age but not yet 59. Those who are bound to fast may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted if necessary to maintain strength according to each one’s needs, but eating solid food between meals is not permitted. 2. Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics 14 years or older on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent. 3. Continuing the diocesan custom, all of the appropriate age are asked to fast and abstain on all the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent as a voluntary practice. The Paschal Fast 1. All Catholics of the appropriate age (see above) are to fast and abstain on Good Friday. 2. All Catholics are encouraged, as a voluntary practice, to fast on Holy Saturday until the celebration of the Easter Vigil. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:51

Question: I would like to assist at a Tridentine Mass. It is my understanding that the Holy Father has authorized the use of the Tridentine Mass in all dioceses, with the blessings of the Ordinary. It is also my understanding that the Holy Father has asked all local Ordinaries to be “generous” in allowing the faithful to worship according to the rubrics of the Tridentine Mass. Many, if not most dioceses now offer at least one Tridentine Mass. Has our Bishop yet approved this most reverent pious liturgy to return to our diocese? If so, what parish(es) offer this Mass?

Answer: The celebration of the Mass according to the Sacramentary of 1962 has been approved by His Holiness John Paul II. At the same time, the Holy Father stated that the permission of the Diocesan Bishop is required before a priest may celebrate the Mass according to this Sacramentary and further stated that this decision should be made on the basis of the spiritual welfare of the faithful, true pastoral need and usefulness, and the circumstances in the diocese in question. Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt has not given his permission to any priest in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to celebrate the Mass according to the Missal of Pius V and no priest of the Diocese has asked for such a permission. At the same time, the Bishop has said that bringing in a priest to the Diocese for the purpose of celebrating this privileged Mass when there are so many in our Diocese who do not have the benefit of any Sunday Mass at all on a regular basis would prove not to be in the real interests of justice or pastoral responsibility. It is our obligation to meet the needs of all first. When those needs have been met, then we can begin to address the desires of some. The answer, therefore, is to pray for more vocations and to actively work on behalf of vocations. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:50

Question: A friend and I were wondering if there was a mailing address we could use to reach Pope John Paul II at the Vatican?

Answer: Your letter to the Holy Father should be addressed as follows His Holiness John Paul II Apostolic Palace 00120 Vatican City State, EUROPE Do not write Italy anywhere on the envelope. If you do, your letter will go through the Italian mail service and, while famous for fashion, great Chianti, beautiful art, and good looking people, their mail system is … well … a heck of a lot worse then ours! For this reason, the Vatican, as an independent country, has its own mail service. Also, make sure to write “air mail” on the envelope so that it is sent by plane and not by boat. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:50

Question: Is this true? The Anglican Church in America is a Province of the Traditional Anglican Communion. We are a part of The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and maintain a valid and historic Apostolic Order and Succession.

Answer: I guess the answer is, it depends upon whom you ask. As a Roman Catholic priest and a canon lawyer, I would say – in as diplomatic a manner as possible – that what the Anglican Communion means by “Catholic” and “Apostolic Succession” and what the Roman Church means by those words is not exactly the same. This particular branch of the Anglican Church, like the rest of that communion, is not in communion with the Pope, the Roman Catholic Church, or its bishops. To the extent that there is a separation and to the extent that this group does not recognize the supreme authority of the Pope as Christ’s Vicar on Earth, this group is not “Catholic”. Likewise, as regards Apostolic Succession. Pope Leo XIII issued a papal bull (an official and authoritative statement) in which he declared Anglican orders (the ordination of priests and, therefore, the consecration of bishops) to be invalid. Though there exists in ecumenical circles today some question as regards the accuracy and the finality of Leo’s teaching, it is the current expression of the Church’s understanding on the matter. SO, it would be safe to say that there is some doubt as regards the apostolic succession of the bishops of the Anglican communion. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:49

Question: Was there not a request for an increase in church donations to help defray renovation costs for the cathedral around 1996? Are the renovations complete? Are donations still being collected from the parishes for that purpose. Was not part of those donations to remain in the home parishes? What is the status now? Thank you for any information you may care to send me.

Answer: Yes, you are correct. In 1996, we launched the Cathedral Restoration Fund to help pay for the $3 million restoration of St. Joseph Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Based on previously recorded offertory figures, parishes paid into the fund a total of 45% of any offertory increase due to our in pew offertory commitment campaign. Parishes that started their payments in July 1996 completed their obligation to the fund in March 1999. Parishes that sat out one year due to their financial concerns (about one-third) began paying in July 1997 and completed their payments based on March 2000 offertory figures. The $3 million goal is within reach. We have passed the $2.8 million mark and are waiting for parishes who have not completed reporting and payments to conclude reporting activity. Since this $2.8 million represents the 45% share of offertory increase, then about $3.1 million was kept by parishes across West Virginia as a result of the process. The mailing you received recently about the West Virginia Catholic Foundation and then from the Annual Bishop’s Appeal have nothing to do with the Cathedral Restoration Fund, other than the Cathedral having three endowments launched since the foundation opened its doors in 1997. If you are interested in one of our existing funds, want to create a new fund, start a gift annuity or perhaps contribute to the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, please know how much we would appreciate your support. Bryan Minor Director of Stewardship and Development Executive Director, WVa Catholic Foundation Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:49

Question: By whom and when did the Catholic Church begin?

Answer: The Catholic Church celebrates it’s birthday on Pentecost Sunday. The feast of Pentecost, the day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and other followers of Jesus, is found in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-47. We believe it was on this day that the Church was born. The Jewish feast of Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Passover, and Jews from all over would have gathered in Jerusalem for this feast. So to answer your question, after Jesus died and rose from the dead, and after he ascended to His Father, 50 days after Passover, the Church was born by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The first time the word ‘catholic’ was used to describe our Church was at the turn of the first century by St. Athanasius. The word means universal or for all. Looking at the Catholic Church today, it is a Church for all people: Asians, Africans, Europeans, North and South Americans, and the people of Oceania; men and women; rich and poor; all races; and young and old. You will not find the word, catholic, in the Bible, but you will find words that conotate universality, like, “Go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Bryan Reising Director, Evangelization Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:49

Question: What happened when Henry VIII made the break with Rome? Why and how?

Answer: To make short of a very long story (and open myself up to tons of criticism), King Henry VIII of England had married Catherine of Aragon, following the death of his older brother who had married Catherine previously. Henry’s father, Henry VII, and Catherine’s father, the Ferdinand King of Castille, had asked for a papal dispensation to allow Henry to marry the widow of his brother, since the marriage was seen as important to ensuring an alliance between England and Spain (ultimately against the growing power of France and Catherine de Medici). The pope granted the dispensation and the marriage took place. Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine was, in fact, his longest marriage and resulted in the birth of Mary Tudor, later Queen of England. However, Catherine could produce no sons who were born alive or who lived more than a few short days. Eventually, Henry became desperate to ensure the future of the Tudor dynasty by the birth of sons and, having already fallen in love with Lady Anne Boylen, sought to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon declared null and void by the Church. To cut through what amounted to several years of fighting, debate, and deliberation, the Roman Church refused to grant the annulment, Cardinal Campeggio finding no ground for nullity. Henry VIII was furious at this point, feeling betrayed by many of his advisors and by the Church. He resolved to divorce Catherine of his own will and marry Anne. Shortly after the marriage with the aid of Parliament and the consent of the bishops of England, except John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester and chancellor of Cambridge who had been Henry’s adolescent tutor, Henry issued the Act of Supremacy, declaring himself supreme head of the Church in England and forbidding an appeal to Rome or the papacy beyond his own decisions. Shortly thereafter, he issued the Act of Succession which legitimatized Elizabeth, his daughter from the marriage to Anne, required his subjects to swear an oath of loyalty to him as head of the state and head of the Church, and sealed the breach with Rome. It was the refusal of Thomas More and John Fisher to sign the Act of Succession which led to their executions in the Tower of London as traitors, both men recognized as martyrs. The breach with the Roman Catholic Church continued during the brief reign of Edward, Henry’s only son who was quite sickly. During this period, the liturgy was reformed and the first Book of Common Prayer issued. With the ascension of Mary Tudor to the Throne, whose husband was Philip of Spain, Roman Catholicism briefly returned to England. However, the ascension of her half-sister Elizabeth, upon Mary’s death, reserved the tide and Anglicanism, as we know it today, was born. During Elizabeth’s reign, Catholicism was outlawed and driven underground and the separation from Rome and denial of papal authority over the Church in England was solidified. The seeds were sown, however, in Henry’s refusal to accept the Church’s ruling and his decision to marry Anne Boylen, and four subsequent women. To justify his actions, he made himself head of the Church in his own country, authorizing and validating each of his successive marriages. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:48

Question: Could you please tell me if our local parish priests are ever evaluated by their congregations? If so, is it done in every parish?

Answer: The Pastors are evaluated about every five years. This is accomplished through the office of the Vicar for Clergy. Very Rev. Frederick P Annie Vicar for Clergy Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:48

Question: I am aware of our obligation to financially contribute to the Church. My question is: Where does the money that is collected at each Mass go? Does it stay in the parish to be spent according to the Pastor’s desire or does it go to the Bishop, for his distribution?

Answer: Church collections are, of course, amassed locally and are to be employed locally for God’s people. The allocation of funds that are given for offertory and other special gifts to the church are used in the discretion of the parish pastor. Church law only gives general instruction on how funds can be used. Canon 1260 says that “the Church has an innate right to require from the Christian faithful those things which are necessary for the purposes proper to it.” Funds from the parish go to the Bishop and/or the Diocese primarily in two manners: Special collections and Diocesan taxes. Special collections may be taken for specific causes approved by the local Bishop, such as the Campaign for Human Development, Retirement Fund for Religious, Catholic Communications, the Catholic University of America, etc., are just a few that are approved in this Diocese. Parishioners are encouraged to support these collections as generously as possible. Special collections are counted at local parishes and checks are then sent within a week or two to the Diocese, where all checks are deposited then assets dispatched to only the special cause supported by the collection. To do otherwise would not satisfy church or natural law. Regarding taxes, Canon 1263 gives a Bishop the opportunity to impose a moderate tax that support the needs of the Diocese. In the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, we have a very low “Cathedraticum” or general diocesan tax, of 3% of a parishes assessable income. These funds help operate Chancery operations, including the Bishop’s and Chancellor’s offices, archives, tribunal and other administrative offices. We also have another 5% assessment on parishes that is used to fund a priest’s retirement fund. This total 8% tax is moderate in comparison of other Dioceses, where total taxes of 12-16 percent are not out of the ordinary. Bryan Minor Director of Stewardship and Development Executive Director, W.Va Catholic Foundation Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:47

Question: What does Pastoral Meditation, Invocation, and benediction mean?

Answer: A: An “Invocation” is a prayer offered at the beginning of a service, public event, or academic gathering, called so because God is invoked (called upon) to oversee the event and bless its proceedings. A “Benediction” (literally, from Latin, “to speak well of”) is a prayer offered at the end of a service, public event, or academic gathering in which the leader of prayer blesses the people gathered and dismisses in God’s name and into God’s service. A “Pastoral Meditation” is preaching not performed by a priest or not done during the Mass (i.e., not a homily), in which the preacher offers some reflection on the word of God, on some matter of faith or morals, or on the event being celebrated with the purpose of having a direct connection to the lives of the hearers and encouraging them to holiness. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:47

Question: Has the Bishop issued an official statement regarding the abortion issue through this website? If so, could you direct me to that location?

Answer: Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt has not issued an official statement of his own with regard to abortion in Election 2000. However, he has adopted the position of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and does encourage all men and women of good will to vote, to vote with their correctly informed conscience, and to vote for life. The position of the Roman Catholic Church on the right to life of all innocent persons is extremely clear. Citizens who are looking for information on this and similar issues are encouraged to visit the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website (www.nccbuscc.org) or the West Virginians for Life website (www.labs.net/wvforlife), the latter of which contains information on voting records and information on local candidates. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:47

Question: What was the name of the Pope who failed to grant King Henry VIII’s divorce?

Answer: King Henry VIII Tudor of England sought to have his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon declared null and void due to the impediment of affinity during the reign of Pope Clement VII (a biography of Clement is available at the following site: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04024a.htm). I would like to note a few things here, in response to the wording of the question. First and foremost, the King’s request was unusual in that he, and his father Henry VII with King Ferdinand of Aragon’s assistance, had requested a papal dispensation from Pope Julius II to allow Henry VIII to marry Catherine of Aragon, because she had previously been married to his brother Prince Arthur of Wales, who had died at a tender age. All the parties to the request, included both fathers, testified that this previous marriage had never been consummated, a not so unusual occurrence at that day and age. Therefore, there was no real impediment of affinity (a relationship arising from marriage, based on the Mosaic law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy). However, the two kings, concerned about the legitimacy of heirs and the stability of their respective thrones and new alliance (especially against France), asked for the dispensation as a precaution. It was granted after due investigation and assurance of young Henry’s desire to take Catherine as his wife. Henry waited more than a dozen years to develop any qualms of conscience and this only after Catherine bore him only Mary Tudor (no male heirs, though he had a bastard son – Hugh Fitzroy – during the marriage) and after he had begun a long affair with Anne Boleyn. Second, the Holy See conducted a very long investigation into the proposed nullity of the marriage both at Rome and in England. In response to Cardinal Wolsey’s request, Pope Clement VII sent Cardinal Campeggio as his legate to England for the sole purpose of convening a Tribunal, of which Wolsey was a member, and hearing the arguments proposed both by the King himself and by Queen Catherine. In the end, the Tribunal found no reason to call into question Pope Julius II’s original dispensation and no reason in law to permit a decree of nullity. Pope Clement, in allowing the establishment of a legatine Court in England and reviewing the question a total of three times made unprecedented concession to Henry, largely due to Henry’s previous reputation as a champion of the Church against protestants and because of the importance that the Kingdom played in Europe. Third and finally, the request for an annulment does not entitle on to an annulment. In fact, the basic rule of the Church is that a marriage is presumed valid until it has been proved with moral certitude to be invalid. In other words, marriage enjoys the favour of the law (cf., The Code of Canon Law, canon 1060). Henry, and his counselors, failed to prove their case. This failure is perhaps why Cardinal Wolsey died in disfavour. But, truth be told, there appears no reason that Henry should have prevailed; in reality, he wanted a divorce and nothing more. The Church held to Her belief and the teaching of Christ that divorce is not permitted, even for the King. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:46

Question: [I] am updating some statistics. What is the latest figure you have for the number of Roman Catholics in the state and when was that figure compiled? The last figure I had was for 1998 and was 98,224. Thank you.

Answer: According to the 2000 edition of The Official Catholic Directory, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has a total Catholic population of 103,069. Bryan Minor Director of Stewardship and Development Executive Director, W.Va Catholic Foundation Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:46

Question: Why was January 1, 2001 not a Holy Day of Obligation? The excuses that we have been given are nothing but lame excuses for laziness. If we expect to be a Church known for its faith then how can we start canceling church services during the Christmas season. You already took away Epiphany. What’s next, optional Mass on Christmas? Even worse, it appears you have encouraged the local priests not to say Mass on these Non-obligatory Holy Days. Last night I passed a very rural Church of Christ at 7:00 p.m. on New Year’s eve. 0 Degree weather, snow, and the parking lot was overflowing with cars. Today, I went to my local Church for a supposedly scheduled Mass. It had been canceled because Mass attendance was low on Sunday. Not even a note or a sign for the Out-of-town visitor or the person inquiring who might become a priest someday. No wonder vocations are hurting. No one aspires to join a “LAZY” church.

Answer: First, let me answer you principal question about the Solemnity of Mary, Mother God which was not celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation this year in the Dioceses of the United States. Then, I would like to address a few words to the larger issue you raise. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother God is celebrated as one of six Holy Days of Obligation in the Dioceses of the United States (they are, Mary, Mother of God [January 1], Ascension Thursday, the Assumption [August 15], All Saints Day [November 1], the Immaculate Conception [December 8], and Christmas [December 25]). In 1991, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCC, exercising the authority given it at canon 1246§2 of The Code of Canon Law, suppressed the obligation to attend Mass on January 1, August 15, or November 1 when these days fall on a Monday or a Saturday. The Decree that the NCCB promulgated read: “On December 13, 1991 the members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of America made the following general decree concerning holy days of obligation for Latin rite Catholics: “In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with canon 1246, are as follows: “January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension; August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; November 1, the solemnity of All Saints; December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. “Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated. “This decree of the Conference of Bishops was approved and confirmed by the Apostolic See by a decree of the Congregation for Bishops (Prot. N. 296/84), signed by Bernardin Cardinal Gantin, prefect of the Congregation, and dated July 4, 1992.” So, the short answer is that January 1 was a Holy Day of Obligation but that the Bishops of the Unites States, with Roman approval, suppressed the obligation in this particular year because the day fell on a Monday, in light of the pastoral circumstances which arise when Holy Days of Obligation fall on that particular day of the week. I would like to note that the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston does encourage parish priests to celebrate the Mass on days when the obligation to attend has been suppressed. In a letter to the priests of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston sent just before the celebration of the First Sunday of Advent, 2000, Bishop Schmitt wrote: “On January 1, the Church observes the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Although this Solemnity is designated as a holy day of obligation, the faithful are dispensed from the obligation this year because the Solemnity falls on a Monday. However, the faithful should be encouraged to participate in the celebration of the Mass and the parish schedule of Masses for the Solemnity should encourage their participation. I further grant to the parishes of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston the faculty to celebrate the Mass for Peace on this Solemnity, in union with Pope John Paul II (see Masses and Prayers for Various Needs, #22).” As to the larger issue you raise, I would like to note first that throughout the Catholic world there is a legitimate diversity of practice with regard to Holy Days of Obligation. In the universal Church and at Rome itself, there are, in fact, 10 Holy Days of Obligation. This is spelled out in The Code of Canon Law: “Can. 1246 §1 The Lord’s Day, on which the paschal mystery is celebrated, is by apostolic tradition to be observed in the universal Church as the primary holyday of obligation. In the same way the following holydays are to be observed: the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension of Christ, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, the feast of St Joseph, the feast of the Apostles SS Peter and Paul, and the feast of All Saints.” Very few countries observe all ten (10) Holy Days of Obligation; not even the nation of Italy does. While I will be happy to stand corrected, I think that the State of the City of the Vatican is among the very few modern states that recognizes all ten and celebrates them as a days of obligation regardless of the day of the week on which they fall. In other cases, the Bishops’ Conferences of the various nations and territories have the power, according to paragraph 2 of the same canon, to adjust the observance of Holy Days. The canon states: “§2 However, the Episcopal Conference may, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See, suppress certain holydays of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.” This is how the United States of America has celebrated only six holy days of Obligation since 1983 (and, indeed, before that time). Our neighbor to the north (Canada, O Canada), for example, celebrates no holy days of obligation, with the days either suppressed or transferred to the nearest Sunday. I should warn you that in the Dioceses of the United States there is a new ruling with regard to the celebration of the Ascension of Our Lord. The NCCB promulgated the following decree in August, 1999: “In accord with the provision of canon 1246§2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states: “… the conference of bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See,” the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States decrees that the Ecclesiastical Provinces of the United States may transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the Seventh Sunday of Easter according to the following procedure. “The decision of each Ecclesiastical Province to transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension is to be made by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the bishops of the respective Ecclesiastical Province. The decision of the Ecclesiastical Province should be communicated to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and to the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This decree was approved by His Holiness Pope John Paul II by a decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and dated July 5, 1999.” The ecclesiastical provinces of the California, Oregon, and Washington have transferred this solemnity to the Seventh Sunday of Easter for a few years. The Province of Baltimore, in which the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is located has not made any decision to transfer the observance. So, part of the answer to the larger question is that the universal Church permits the transfer of these days to the nearest Sunday (which we in the United States do with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ) or the suppression of the obligation (which we do with Epiphany, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, and the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – as well as January 1, August 15, and November 1 when these days fall on a Monday or Saturday) because of the awareness of the different circumstances and cultural contexts in which the various nations and regions of the world. Whether the Bishop should suppress or transfer these days is a more difficult question and one, I can assure you, the Bishops themselves have carefully considered, researched, and even argued. In favor of the suppression or transfer is the desire not to make a further obligation among people, whose schedules are already very full and extra demands upon parish priests who are already worked very hard. In opposition is the desire to uphold a Catholic identity and the recognition of the doctrinal importance of these days. This debate will go on for some time and it is a matter worth debating. While you think about it, I would like to draw your attention to another fact about Holy Days of Obligation. The Code of Canon Law states,

“Can. 1247 On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to assist at Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body.” While Sabbath rest has really gone by the wayside in America, it is still part of keeping holy the Lord’s Day and an expectation of all Christians. Catholics are supposed to respect this Sabbath rest on Holy Days of Obligation as well. For this reason, the Chancery office in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are closed on these days. If we take holy days of obligation seriously – heck, if we take Sunday seriously – should be we working on those days? This question too is part of the debate facing the Roman Catholic Church in the Dioceses of the United States of America

Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:46

Question: My question is on baptism. I am very familiar about the sacrament of baptism and the scriptures that talk about how families in households were baptized. I wanted to know how the Catholic Church feels about baptizing children when they are at the age of reason?

Answer: Baptism being so necessary to salvation, as Jesus Christ affirms (CCC, 1257), there is no requirement for Baptism except that the person be unbaptized. While adult Baptism is the common practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new, the practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church and is the usual practice in those places where the Gospel has been preached for some time. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized. In other words, a person can be baptized at any stage or age in life. A child is held to reach the Age of Reason (that point at which one knows the difference between right and wrong in the objective sense) at 7 years of age. In the dioceses of the United States, a seven year old is to be enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children and, after be admitted to the catechumenate and properly prepare, such a child is not be baptized, confirmed, and receive First Holy Communion. In other words, from 7 years old and on, children who are not baptized should be prepared to receive all three Sacraments of Initiation in the same ceremony, as is the case with adults. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:45

Question: Do the people we choose to be godparents have to be a couple?

Answer: No. As you can see from other answers on this site, the only qualification to be a godparent is that one be a baptized and confirmed Catholic of at least 16 years of age, living a life which fits the office of godparent, free from ecclesiastical penalty, and not the actual parent of the child (see, Canon 874). While only one godparent is needed, many people name two persons to the role. If this is the case, there must be one of each sex (see, Canon 873). However, they need not be related to one another in any way. One cannot name more than two godparents. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:53

Question: My wife and I are practicing Catholics. However, my wife’s brother is not. He was born and raised Catholic but chooses not to attend Mass. He married a Baptist and they were married in a Protestant church. He now wants to Baptize their new born Catholic and the two Godparents who they chose are not Catholic. With regards to the above situation, I do not believe that this is in compliance with Canon Law. Are they allowed to Baptize their baby in the Catholic Church in this type of situation?

Answer: I must be perfectly frank with you and state that this is a hotly contested issue in some Church circles. The Code of Canon Law states: Can. 868 §1 For an infant to be baptised lawfully it is required: 1° that the parents, or at least one of them, or the person who lawfully holds their place, give their consent; 2° that there be a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this. The Code also says with regard to the parents: Can. 851 The celebration of baptism should be properly prepared. Accordingly: 2° the parents of a child who is to be baptised, and those who are to undertake the office of sponsers, are to be suitably instructed on the meaning of this sacrament and the obligations attaching to it. The parish priest is to see to it that either he or others duly prepare the parents, by means of pastoral advice and indeed by prayer together; a number of families might be brought together for this purpose and, where possible, each family visited. In this view of these canons, it can be rightly held that the parents should be at least some what active in their faith and that they promise to raise the child in the practice of the faith by actually practicing it themselves. And if they are not going to Church, some other family member takes the child to Church each and every Sunday and provides the catechesis that the child should be receiving from his or her parents. At the same time, there are those who would say that the child should not be held responsible for his or her parents faults and should be baptized even if the parents don’t practice the faith, taking the parents request for baptism and the practice of the faith as the founded hope sought for in Canon 868. So, what is my advice. Tell them to go see a parish priest and talk with him about it. Go with your brother if he feels uncomfortable. Know that the priest probably will ask them to attend the course and probably will invite them to return to Mass and may even be challenging about it. However, faith is so important a matter that we should be challenging about it! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:54

Question: I need to know more about stigmata because I am doing a research paper on it. I have looked all over the web for information and have found little. There are no books in my high school library, and my priest gave me three books with little bits of information in it. I still need more though.

Answer: I would suggest a book by Michael Freze entitled They Bore the Wounds of Christ: The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata as a good explanation of the stigmata and the life of stigmatics. Also, there are a number of books written about Padre Pio, recently beatified, who is perhaps the most famous stigmatic of the 20th Century. In addition, the following is the reprint of an article taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia (c. 1912) and can be found at http://newadvent.org/cathen/14294b.htm. The article states: Mystical Stigmata To decide merely the facts without deciding whether or not they may be explained by supernatural causes, history tells us that many ecstatics bear on hands, feet, side, or brow the marks of the Passion of Christ with corresponding and intense sufferings. These are called visible stigmata. Others only have the sufferings, without any outward marks, and these phenomena are called invisible stigmata. I. FACTS Their existence is so well established historically that, as a general thing, they are no longer disputed by unbelievers, who now seek only to explain them naturally. Thus a free-thinking physician, Dr. Dumas, professor of religious psychology at the Sorbonne, clearly admits the facts (Revue des Deux Mondes, 1 May, 1907), as does also Dr. Pierre Janet (Bulletin de l’Institut psychologique international, Paris, July, 1901). St. Catherine of Siena at first had visible stigmata but through humility she asked that they might be made invisible, and her prayer was heard. This was also the case with St. Catherine de’ Ricci, a Florentine Dominican of the sixteenth century, and with several other stigmatics. The sufferings may be considered the essential part of visible stigmata; the substance of this grace consists of pity for Christ, participation in His sufferings, sorrows, and for the same end–the expiation of the sins unceasingly committed in the world. If the sufferings were absent, the wounds would be but an empty symbol, theatrical representation, conducing to pride. If the stigmata really come from God, it would be unworthy of His wisdom to participate in such futility, and to do so by a miracle. But this trial is far from being the only one which the saints have to endure: “The life of stigmatics,” says Dr. Imbert, “is but a long series of sorrows which arise from the Divine malady of the stigmata and end only in death: (op. cit. infra, II, x). It seems historically certain that ecstatics alone bear the stigmata; moreover, they have visions which correspond to their rôle of co-sufferers, beholding from time to time the blood-stained scenes of the Passion. With many stigmatics these apparitions were periodical, e.g., St. Catherine de’ Ricci, whose ecstasies of the Passion began when she was twenty (1542), and the Bull of her canonization states that for twelve years they recurred with minute regularity. The ecstasy lasted exactly twenty-eight hours, from Thursday noon till Friday afternoon at four o’clock, the only interruption being for the saint to receive Holy Communion. Catherine conversed aloud, as if enacting a drama. This drama was divided into about seventeen scenes. On coming out of the ecstasy the saint’s limbs were covered with wounds produced by whips, cords etc. Dr. Imbert has attempted to count the number of stigmatics, with the following results: 1. None are known prior to the thirteenth century. The first mentioned is St. Francis of Assisi, in whom the stigmata were of a character never seen subsequently; in the wounds of feet and hands were excrescences of flesh representing nails, those on one side having round back heads, those on the other having rather long points, which bent back and grasped the skin. The saint’s humility could not prevent a great many of his brethren beholding with their own eyes the existence of these wonderful wounds during his lifetime as well as after his death. The fact is attested by a number of contemporary historians, and the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis is kept on 17 September. 2. Dr. Imbert counts 321 stigmatics in whom there is every reason to believe in a Divine action. He believes that others would be found by consulting the libraries of Germany, Spain, and Italy. In this list there are 41 men. 3. There are 62 saints or blessed of both sexes of whom the best known (numbering twenty-six) were:

  • St. Francis of Assisi (1186-1226);
  • St. Lutgarde (1182-1246), a Cistercian;
  • St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-97);
  • St. Gertrude (1256-1302), a Benedictine;
  • St. Clare of Montefalco (1268-1308), an Augustinian;
  • Bl. Angela of Foligno (d. 1309), Franciscan tertiary;
  • St. Catherine of Siena (1347-80), Dominican tertiary;
  • St. Lidwine (1380-1433);
  • St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440);
  • St. Colette (1380-1447), Franciscan;
  • St. Rita of Cassia (1386-1456), Augustinian;
  • Bl. Osanna of Mantua (1499-1505), Dominican tertiary;
  • St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), Franciscan tertiary;
  • Bl. Baptista Varani (1458-1524), Poor Clare;
  • Bl. Lucy of Narni (1476-1547), Dominican tertiary;
  • Bl. Catherine of Racconigi (1486-1547), Dominican;
  • St. John of God (1495-1550), founder of the Order of Charity;
  • St. Catherine de’ Ricci (1522-89), Dominican; * St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi (1566-1607), Carmelite;
  • Bl. Marie de l’Incarnation (1566-1618), Carmelite;
  • Bl. Mary Anne of Jesus (1557-1620), Franciscan tertiary;
  • Bl. Carlo of Sezze (d. 1670), Franciscan;
  • Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), Visitandine (who had only the crown of thorns);
  • St. Veronica Giuliani (1600-1727), Capuchiness;
  • St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds (1715-91), Franciscan tertiary. 4. There were 20 stigmatics in the nineteenth century. The most famous were:
  • Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), Augustinian;
  • Elizabeth Canori Mora (1774-1825), Trinitarian tertiary;
  • Anna Maria Taïgi (1769-1837);
  • Maria Dominica Lazzari (1815-48);
  • Marie de Moerl (1812-68) and Louise Lateau (1850-83), Franciscan tertiaries.

Of these, Marie de Moerl spent her life at Kaltern, Tyrol (1812-68). At the age of twenty she became an ecstatic, and ecstasy was her habitual condition for the remaining thirty-five years of her life. She emerged from it only at the command, sometimes only mental, of the Franciscan who was her director, and to attend to the affairs of her house, which sheltered a large family. Her ordinary attitude was kneeling on her bed with hands crossed on her breast, and an expression of countenance which deeply impressed spectators. At twenty-two she received the stigmata. On Thursday evening and Friday these stigmata shed very clear blood, drop by drop, becoming dry on the other days. Thousands of persons saw Marie de Moerl, among them Görres (who describes his visit in his “Mystik”, II, xx), Wiseman, and Lord Shrewsbury, who wrote a defence of the ecstatic in his letters published by “The Morning Herald” and “The Tablet” (cf. Boré, op. cit. infra). Louise Lateau spent her life in the village of Bois d’Haine, Belgium (1850-83). The graces she received were disputed even by some Catholics, who as a general thing relied on incomplete or erroneous information, as has been established by Canon Thiery (“Examen de ce qui concerne Bois d’Haine”, Louvain, 1907). At sixteen she devoted herself to nursing the cholera victims of her parish, who were abandoned by most of the inhabitants. Within a month she nursed ten, buried them, and in more than one instance bore them to the cemetery. At eighteen she became an ecstatic and stigmatic, which did not prevent her supporting her family by working as a seamstress. Numerous physicians witnessed her painful Friday ecstasies and established the fact that for twelve years she took no nourishment save weekly communion. For drink she was satisfied with three or four glasses of water a week. She never slept, but passed her nights in contemplation and prayer, kneeling at the foot of her bed. II. EXPLANATIONS The facts having been set forth, it remains to state the explanations that have been offered. Some physiologists, both Catholics and Free-thinkers, have maintained that the wounds might be produced in a purely natural manner by the sole action of the imagination coupled with lively emotions. The person being keenly impressed by the sufferings of the Saviour and penetrated by a great love, this preoccupation acts on her or him physically, reproducing the wounds of Christ. This would in no wise diminish his or her merit in accepting the trial, but the immediate cause of the phenomena would not be supernatural. We shall not attempt to solve this question. Physiological science does not appear to be far enough advanced to admit a definite solution, and the writer of this article adopts the intermediate position, which seems to him unassailable, that of showing that the arguments in favor of natural explanations are illusory. They are sometimes arbitrary hypotheses, being equivalent to mere assertions, sometimes arguments based exaggerated or misinterpreted facts. But if the progress of medical sciences and psycho-physiology should present serious objections, it must be remembered that neither religion or mysticism is dependent on the solution of these questions, and that in processes of canonization stigmata do not count as incontestable miracles. No one has ever claimed that imagination could produce wounds in a normal subject; it is true that this faculty can act slightly on the body, as Benedict XIV said, it may accelerate or retard the nerve-currents, but there is no instance of its action on the tissues (De canoniz., III, xxxiii, n. 31). But with regard to persons in an abnormal condition, such as ecstasy or hypnosis, the question is more difficult; and, despite numerous attempts, hypnotism has not produced very clear results. At most, and in exceedingly rare cases, it has induced exudations or a sweat more or less coloured, but this is a very imperfect imitation. Moreover, no explanation has been offered of three circumstances presented by the stigmata of the saints: 1. Physicians do not succeed in curing these wounds with remedies. 2. On the other hand, unlike natural wounds of a certain duration, those of stigmatics do not give forth a fetid odour. To this there is known but one exception: St. Rita of Cassia had received on her brow a supernatural wound produced by a thorn detached from the crown of the crucifix. Though this emitted an unbearable odour, there was never any suppuration or morbid alteration of the tissues. 3. Sometimes these wounds give forth perfumes, for example those of Juana of the Cross, Franciscan prioress of Toledo, and Bl. Lucy of Narni. To sum up, there is only one means of proving scientifically that the imagination, that is auto-suggestion, may produce stigmata: instead of hypothesis, analogous facts in the natural order must be produced, namely wounds produced apart from a religious idea. This had not been done. With regard to the flow of blood it has been objected that there have been bloody sweats, but Dr. Lefebvre, professor of medicine at Louvain, has replied that such cases as have been examined by physicians were not due to a moral cause, but to a specific malady. Moreover, it has often been proved by the microscope that the red liquid which oozes forth is not blood; its colour is due to a particular substance, and it does not proceed from a wound, but is due, like sweat, to a dilatation of the pores of the skin. But it may be objected that we unduly minimize the power of the imagination, since, joined to an emotion, it can produce sweat; and as the mere idea of having an acid bon-bon in the mouth produces abundant saliva, so, too, the nerves acted upon by the imagination might produce the emission of a liquid and this liquid might be blood. The answer is that in the instances mentioned there are glands (sudoriparous and salivary) which in the normal state emit a special liquid, and it is easy to understand that the imagination may bring about this secretion; but the nerves adjacent to the skin do not terminate in a gland emitting blood, and without such an organ they are powerless to produce the effects in question. What has been said of the stigmatic wounds applies also to the sufferings. There is not a single experimental proof that imagination could produce them, especially in violent forms. Another explanation of these phenomena is that the patients produce the wounds either fraudulently or during attacks of somnambulism, unconsciously. But physicians have always taken measures to avoid these sources of error, proceeding with great strictness, particularly in modern times. Sometimes the patient has been watched night and day, sometimes the limbs have been enveloped in sealed bandages. Mr. Pierre Janet placed on one foot of a stigmatic a copper shoe with a window in it through which the development of the wound might be watched, while it was impossible for anyone to touch it (op. cit. supra). AUG. POULAIN Transcribed by William G. Bilton, Ph.D. In memory of the Most Rev. Leo T. Maher Bishop of Santa Rosa and San Diego, California The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV Copyright (c) 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright (c) 1999 by Kevin Knight Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:57

Question: What year was the book of Revelations written, and by whom?

Answer: As with most books of The Bible, it is very difficult to identify and exact author or an exact date for The Book of Revelation (also called The Apocalypse). In the ancient world and, apparently, especially with biblical writings, the issue of authorship was not as important as the content of the work in determining its orthodoxy and acceptance as a work containing some part of Divine revelation. For example, the first four books of the New Testament are named according to the evangelists (and apostles in two cases) who wrote them. However, there are several apocryphal (false or Gnostic) gospels which were not accepted into the New Testament even though their authorship was ascribed to apostles, e.g. James and Thomas. These books were excluded because parts of them clearly contained statements and teaching totally contrary to the Christian message or contradictory to the early Christian community’s understanding of Christ. However, tradition has often assigned authorship to books of The Bible. In the Old Testament, the first four books were attributed to Moses (a difficulty since one of these books describes Moses death and events following it). In the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews was, for a time, ascribed to Saint Paul, though even medieval scholarship seriously doubted this. So, ascription of authorship needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Be that as it may, the writer of The Apocalypse calls himself John (1: 1, 4, 9; 22:8) and states that he is writing from the island of Patmos, where he is a prisoner because of his proclamation of the Gospel (1:9). Patmos, a small island in the Aegean Sea off the south-western coast of modern day Turkey, was a penal colony in the ancient Roman Empire. Because of the name and the similarity in vocabulary and imagery and symbol with the Fourth Gospel (particularly the use of “Lamb of God” and the light/darkness contrast), some Fathers of the Church linked The Apocalypse and the Gospel to John, the son of Zebedee and beloved disciple of the Lord. Popular tradition seems to have upheld this connection. The Fathers of the Church Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Hippolytus all agree that this work was written by John the Apostle. The Fathers Denis of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Chrysostom deny this connection. Modern scholarship also seems to lean away from the connection of this work directly to the writer of the Fourth Gospel. As regards a date for the work, The Apocalypse makes very clear reference to events which occurred during the persecution of Christian toward the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81- 96). Since these events are presented as occurring at the time of the writing and it is directly to the persecuted that the author writes, it appears that the work was at least initially written around 93-96, although some editing may have be done later. This date would make this the last book of The New Testament to have been written. The object is raised that John the Apostle would have been, literally, ancient by the time of the writing of this book. Pious tradition has long held that John was the last of the Apostle and that he alone avoided martyrdom, avoiding several attempts on his life, one in particular by snake venom placed in a chalice from which he was to drink. Pious tradition has also held that he (and Thomas) was quite young when called by Jesus, perhaps merely in his early teens. This would make it not altogether impossible for him to have written this work. In any case, one should remember that while the human authors of the inspired books of the Bible “are real authors”, their work was inspired and lead by the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit kept their work free from error as regards those matters which touch on faith and salvation, and that the purpose of these inspired works is to impart faith to us. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:57

Question: Can my mother, my second child’s grandmother, be my child’s godmother as well? Is there any prohibition on who can be a godparent?

Answer: §1 To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must: 1° be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it; 2° be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made; 3° be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken; 4° not labor under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared; 5° not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptized. §2 A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism. You should check with your parish priest, as some parishes and dioceses have additional requirements, such as attendance at a educational or training course for parents and godparents or the presentation of letters from the sponsor’s parish priest to state that the sponsor is a practicing Catholic. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:57

Question: Is there a religion that is more based on the Devil’s Advocate and a neutral religion rather then believing in good and evil?

Answer: I am sorry to say that I do not really understand your question. But I though I would offer a brief reflect on why Catholic believe in the existence of Good and Evil and see that truly human actions (that is action which one chooses with full knowledge and free consent of the will) have a moral quality to them and are not merely ‘neutral’ in value. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “God is infinitely good and all His works are good” (CCC, 385). Even the ancient Greek philosophers understood that God is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful; theologians often refer to God as the Summum Bonum, that is “the Greatest Good.” Our faith in God, who is Creator of the world and wills that all men and women come to the knowledge of the Truth and be saved, tells us that He is Good. Since creation is a reflection of God, it too is good. And since mankind has been created in the image and likeness of God, mankind is good. Life does not have a neutral value. At the same time, even The Catechism recognizes that “every man experiences evil around him and within himself” (CCC, 1606). That there is evil in the world, physical and moral, cannot be denied by any human being. The Catechism goes on to teach: “no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? ‘I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution’, said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For ‘the mystery of lawlessness’ is clarified only in the light of the ‘mystery of our religion’. The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace.259 We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror. “386 Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history. “387 Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.” In other words, evil, which is the result of sin, has come into the world through man’s own disobedience to the will of God. Christians call this ‘The Fall” and recognize that since ‘The Fall’ all men and women are borne into a state of separation from God from which we are incapable of saving ourselves. But God can save us from sin, from the evil it brings into the world, and from death itself and has done so in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord. Jesus Christ holds out to all men and women the real possibility of salvation and achievement of perfection, calling us all to “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” At the same time, Christians also believe that just as God is absolute perfection and the Greatest Good, there does exist also a personification of evil, known by many names. Again, The Catechism: “391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil’. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’ “392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: ‘You will be like God.’ The devil ‘has sinned from the beginning’; he is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ “393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. ‘There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.’ While all persons should have a legitimate fear of the Satan and a respect for His nefarious influence upon us, at the same time, there is no cause of despair. Because we know, as believers, that Good has already been victorious over Evil upon the Cross and that at the end, the ultimate triumph of Good will be made known to all. The Catechism clearly teaches the limited power of Satan:

“395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him’.”

I hope that this provides some answer to the question you asked. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:57

Question: I hope you can help me for I am very concerned. My sister constantly claims to see/smell ghosts. She claims to see/smell deceased family members and non-family members in her home and at places of employment. I am very concerned for her, for I do not know if she might have a psychological problem or maybe that her sightings/smellings for real. Please advise, and if possible could you direct me to other resources?

Answer: A: Right off the top, let me deal with one particular issue: the existence of ghosts. Ghosts are popularly understood to be the spirits of deceased persons who linger about in this world, sometimes causing mischief (poltergeists) and other times merely inhabiting a particular place for one reason or another. Defined as such, the teaching of the Church does not admit the existence of ghosts. Pope Benedict XIV, in his encyclical Benedictus Deus, states that upon death, the human soul experiences the particular judgment and is, form there, consigned to Heaven, Purgatory (on the way to Heaven), or Hell. The human soul never departs from Hell; from purgatory it is eventually released to the bliss of heaven. And while the saints have sometimes appeared to persons (e.g.: Joan of Arc have visions of Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine; Saint Margaret Mary Alocque had visions of Saint John), these visions were more internal visions of a nature in which the mind’s eye is given a glimpse of blessedness and shares more intimately and closely in the communion of saints for a moment. The wailing and tormented suffering of wandering spirits often associated with ghosts has no commonality with that of the vision of saints. And since there is no release from Hell and the release from Purgatory is into heaven, the existence of ghosts is ruled out. Lest someone say that purgatory takes place on earth, like the ghost of Marley in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, it seems to be in keeping with the doctrine of the Church that Purgatory is a real place distinct from this world and separate from the final destination of Heaven. So, if a person is seeing spirits (not those of saints), that person is either experiencing a delusion of some kind (whether physical or mental in origin) or is, in fact, seeing a demon. In this particular question, the mention of ‘smell’ so prominently is a interest. Smell is the sense most closely associated with memory, because smell is perhaps the oldest of the sense and that most closely connected with the animal part of the brain. It is a very typical occurrence to have a sensate experience of a person whose memory one is dwelling one – smelling the cologne, scent, or even (in my mother’s case) the pipe tobacco of a dead significant relative or even living person one misses very much. Smell does evoke reactions in us, hence the use of cologne and body washes, etc. Since it is so closely related to memory, yet animal in origin, weak and string smell associations can become connected to or assigned to the memories of persons or events in the distant past or even which one has only heard about. Sense memory is a very tricky thing … just think of your own mental picture of individuals and how fuzzy it can be around the edges when you try to imagine it. It may be that your sister is still mourning the death of one or more persons or that she is going through a traumatic point in her life right now (even one of physical change) and that this or similar upheaval has stirred up some latent sense memory. On the other hand, she may be having (I know this sounds nuts) an allergic reaction to allergens in the air which are provoking old memories long dormant. The later could be the case if these sense related events occur in the same places all the time and that environment has been recently disturbed. Your sister need not worry about it unless it beings to create difficulty or discomfort for her or those around her. In the meantime, it never hurts to encourage one to say a little pray when this event occurs, even as brief as “Jesus, Son of the living God, Have mercy on me”, to invoke divine protection. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:56

Question: My friend and I are very interested on the applicability of prayers to a point back in time. It is seemingly fiction, but maybe it is not. God is outside of space and time. We know that we can apply merits in union with the sacrifice on the cross and offer to God for our own actions in our lifetime. The question is can we pray for someone dying back in time to influence his actions positively in the ensuing eternal life after his death. God, knowing the past, present, and future, can impart grace, but will he? Does this violate any moral or physical law? After all, God does suspend physical laws when performing miracles or bilocations. We would be most interested in the answer. Thank you

Answer: This is an interesting question, basically asking can I pray now that God will grant a particular grace to a person at some point in the past (relative to me). Let me first affirm a couple of things in your question. God does stand complete outside time and space, though He is intimately involved in human lives. In theological language, we would say that God is utterly transcendent while also being immanent. But, God, being immaterial and eternal, is not subject to time. So the entire expanse of the time line, from the first moment of creation to the last moment of the world, is equally present to Him and for Him. Second, God, in miracles, does not truly suspend the laws of physics. Rather, God being the author of those laws is not subject to them (the difference between a monarch and a president): he who makes the laws can dispense from their observance while the law remains the law. (And, by the way, there is a big debate about bilocation – being in two places at the same time. It would seem this to be absolutely impossible for a physical being because of the law of non-contradiction. There is question whether true bilocation has occurred, or whether it is a form of projection of self or projection of the imagine of self but not real simultaneous presence in two places. It is may be the gift of agility – extremely quick movement – a property of the resurrected body which we will all enjoy at the end of time and which is shared with some now; like St. Philip in The Acts of the Apostles.) Those two points must be kept in mind, in answering your question, along with two other thing. First, God is an absolute respecter of free will, even if human beings are not. God may make a grace almost irresistible to the human being and may coax and cajole us all along the way to salvation, but at the end of the day, He respects our decisions. For this reason, Pope Benedict XIV stated in Benedictus Deus that the time of merit and dismerit ends with the death of the person. At death, our fate is decided by what “we did in the body, whether for good or for evil.” No amount of human prayer can change that. Second, God is entirely outside the line of time, but we are not. A human being in the future cannot pray for the action of another in the past to be changed. Christ did not even do this from the Cross (with the exception of the Immaculate Conception, the Father applying the graces of the crucifixion to Mary in anticipation; but not on Mary’s behalf, but on Christ’s behalf that He might be borne of a spotless virgin). Rather, “He descended among the dead” there to preach the Good News even among them and ransom those who had been shut out of Heaven since the Fall. Christ applied His merits to them at the moment He earned them, not by projection into the past. Further, it not for us to judge the past actions of others in a manner which connotes absolute moral certainty. For no man knows with certainty the state of another’s soul. Rather, we trust and hope that God will bring about the salvation of all and that, indeed, all things work together for the good in Christ. But as Catholics we do believe in a place called Purgatory, that place of transition after life where the dead who have not chosen damnation by their actions in the body but have not died in the state of perfection go to be cleansed of their remaining attachment to sin. For these people we do pray and do sacrifice, trusting that as members of one great body of Christ, we can assist them by our prayers and by our works. So, we do pray for the dead, that their load now might be lightened, not to change them in the past. And, by the way, if we pray for someone who is dead but has already achieved Heaven, we trust that God will apply the power and assistance of the prayer to another who is in need of it. This is why the Communion of Saints is such a wonderful grace to us all! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:56

Question: Why in The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12, verse 4 is the word Passover translated Easter?

Answer: Actually, your question brings up a very good and important point about translations. First, to your specific question. The New American Bible (both the old one and the one with the Revised New Testament), The New Revised Standard Verson, and The Jerusalem Bible all read Passover at the place you have cited. It does depend on translations, though “Passover” seems the most fitting word to use since the text is referring specifically to the Jewish festival of Passover (a several days long event, climaxing in the Passover day itself, the 14th day of the month of Nissan, on which the lambs were slain in the Temple) and not to the Christian celebration of Easter, the annual commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Next, two points should be made here. First, some translations are superior to others in terms of scholarly fidelity to the most ancient manuscripts. The New American Bible and The New Revised Standard Version both make this a principle goal. Other translations attempt to use more popular language to make the text easier to read and do not remain as faithful to the exact words of the manuscripts, such a The Living Bible. So, one should choose a translation carefully. Second, one should keep in mind that it is only the original language texts of The Bible which are inspired and not translations into modern languages. Translating is a human art subject to personal interpretation and, even at times, guess work. We trust that the translators are conscientious men and women dedicated to rendering the most accurate yet readable translation of the ancient manuscripts of the inspired text. Yet, their work itself is not inspired or Divinely protected from error. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:56

Question: Is a parishioner allowed to receive the host in their hand, carry it to the wine and dip it before consuming? Isn’t this called intincture? I thought only priests could do this.

Answer: This practice is called ‘intinction’ by some, but is not the practice of ‘intinction’ as approved and practiced by the Church. As described by the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (1970) and as practiced by the Church in tradition, intinction is the method of administering communion in which the minister present and places on the tongue of the communicant a host which has been dipped in the precious blood, saying, “The Body and Blood of Christ,” to which the communicant responds, “Amen.” In some places, it has become the practice for members of the faithful to receive the Body of Christ and then approach the minister of the Cup and have that minister dip the Host in the Chalice and present the intincted Host for communion. This is problematic in that the Host should be consumed immediately upon reception, after the affirmation “Amen” has been given and should not be carried to another place. Some may argue that the devote desire to receive under both species, while not wishing to receive directly from the Chalice, should outweigh concern about the transporting of the Host from place to place. However, the practice whereby the communicant receives the Host and then approaches the Chalice and intincts the Host and receives it is prohibited. One does not and cannot minister a sacrament, any sacrament, unto one’s self. Thus, I cannot baptize myself nor can I confirm myself. The priest does receive communion from himself, but this is because his reception is integral to the celebration of the Mass and no one else’s reception is. Part of the administration of Holy Communion is to receive the sacrament from the hands of another (an official minister of the Church, whether ordinary – priest or deacon – or extraordinary – acolyte or Eucharistic minister) as we have received salvation from the hand of Christ and to publicly exchange a profession of faith in the truth and effectiveness of the sacrament. Long story short, only an ordinary minister (and in some dioceses, an extraordinary minister) of communion may administer communion by intinction, in fact by any means at all. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:55

Question: Do both parents have to agree on an infants Godparents?

Answer: I would suggest the following: 1. Take into account the qualities and qualifications for god-parent. By Canon Law, you need at least one but no more than two. (If you have two, there should be one of each gender). The person must be a baptized and confirmed Catholic. In addition to these most basic legal requirements, the person should be a faithful Catholic, one who leads a moral life and believes the faith of the Church. 2. Remember, the godparent is supposed to assist the parents in bringing the child up in the practice of the faith. Parents should select a godparent based on the real ability to carry out this duty, not because it is “so-and-so’s turn” or because “you got to choose your sister last time” or because “we are friends”. Being a godparent is a serious duty, not a reward or empty honour. 3. Come up with a list of persons and narrow it down to one man and one woman you can agree on. Or, each of the parents choose one. If there are other children already baptized, the same godparents can be used for all the children of a family. 4. Talk about the issue with the parish priest rather than allow this joyful moment to undermine the marital unity. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:55

Question: I have an unusual situation. I am not Catholic but have decided to become Catholic because of a personal faith journey. I have never been baptized and was not raised Christian. Here is my problem. I was married to a baptized Catholic for 16 years. We were married in the church but the record of our marriage was never put on my ex husband’s baptismal certificate or recorded in the church. I am divorced from my ex husband and remarried to a non catholic and I am his second marriage. His first wife was a baptized catholic and married in the church for her first marriage but my present husband was her third marriage and it was a civil ceremony. I am encountering problems just becoming a Catholic. The local priest says that he can’t admit me into the church because of my first marriage and my second marriage. What can I do and why is everything so complicated? I am not asking to marry my second husband in the church, I am only trying to become a baptized Catholic. I have been reading the Bible and I’m sure that to become a Christian was not this complicated.

Answer: Your situation is not all that unusual; in fact, this kind of situation regularly occurs when people approach the Church with a desire to be baptized or received into full communion. First of all, allow me to affirm your desire to be baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Second, Father’s concern has arise probably because you appeared a little later than he would have expected. You see, when it comes to adults who wish to be received into the Church, this is normally due at the Easter Vigil (celebrated the night before Easter Sunday), the person being baptized, confirmed, and receiving Holy Communion in one celebration. This is the end of a process called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA, for short), a program and process which most parishes usually begin in August or September. So, you may have just shown up in the middle of the cycle. Or, Father may be concerned about the slight irregularity with you marital history. In any case, I would advise you to go back to Father, make an appointment to meet him (these things should not be discussed on the Church stoop just after Mass), and discuss the matter with him. Let him know you are happy to wait to Easter 2002 to be received into the Church, but that you want to get started on sorting out your marital history as soon as possible. Third: the marriages. If I understand your question correctly, your current spouse (let’s call him Agrippa) was married previously to Julia. Julia, a baptized Roman Catholic, was married twice before Agrippa, her first marriage being celebrated in the Church, but neither of her two subsequent marriages were (for apparently obvious reasons). Therefore, Agrippa’s marriage to Julia can be annulled on one of two grounds: Defect of Form (Julia and he did not observe canonical form of marriage – please see elsewhere on the question section of the site) or Prior Bond. Both of these are documentary cases, meaning that they rely primarily on documents. In both, Agrippa will need a copy of his marriage certificate and divorce decree for the marriage with Julia. For a defect of form, he will also need a copy of his own baptismal certificate issued from the Church of his baptism within the last six months. Your parish priest can help you with this. For the prior bond case, Agrippa would also need copies of marriage certificates for Julia’s previous marriages. Please have Agrippa see the parish priest to handle what should be a relatively easy matter. In the parish priest does not want to handle it, simply call the Tribunal of the Diocese you live in and they can give you the name and number of a priest to help you. When it comes to your own previous marriage there are a couple of unclear matters. You say that you were married in a Church but no notation was made to your previous husband’s baptismal certificate. Were you married in a Catholic Church? If not, did you and your former spouse (Antony, for sake of ease) receive permission to marry in another Church? If both answers are no, this to is a case of defect of form. If either answer is yes, than you should consider submitting either a formal annulment petition (a long form with numerous essay questions) or a request for a Petrine Privilege. The latter may not truly suit your case, given some of the circumstances involved and a formal annulment may be the course best suited to your situation. In any case, please see your parish priest to discuss the matter (take Agrippa with you) or, again, call the Tribunal and ask for the name of a priest. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:55

Question: My brother recently asked me to be the godfather of his newborn son. His church says that I need a certificate of eligibility. Can you please tell me what this certificate is and where would I obtain one?

Answer: Congratulations on being chosen as godparent! The certificate your brother’s parish priest wants is really a statement or a letter from your own parish priest saying that you are baptized and that you are a practical Catholic, i.e. a person who attends Sunday mass and frequently receives the sacraments. Some parishes have a form or certificate to use, others prepare a letter to be carried to the priest. In any case, all you need to do is see your own parish priest and ask for this letter. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:55

Question: What are the steps to formal excommunication? I know lay people can be excommunicated for abortion and homosexual activity, but what about those who just insist on being officially removed from church records as if they never were members. I need this information for a report.

Answer: Excommunication is a penalty imposed by the Church when a person has committed a crime. It is the penalty by which a person is excluded from the communion of the faithful, from the sacraments and the public acts of worship, for all offices, privileges, titles, or rights within the Church, until such time as the excommunication is lifted. In some cases, the penalty is imposed immediately with the commission of the crime (apostasy, heresy, or schism; desecration of the Blessed Sacrament; use of physical force against the pope; a priest who violates the seal of the Confessional; a bishop who ordains another bishop without the mandate of the pope; a priest who absolves an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment; procuring an abortion). In other cases, the penalty is imposed after an ecclesiastical trial. I should note that the commission of homosexual acts, though gravely disordered and objectively sinful, is not grounds for excommunication, either automatically or by sentence of a Church Court. Your question seems to relate to an individual who wishes to formally depart from the Church. While some individuals just stop coming to Mass or start going to another place of worship, though I hope they eventually return, it does happen at times that a person will ask to formally withdraw from the Church. Some denominations do require this, like the Jehovah Witness. In such a case, the person is asked to place their intention in writing and send that to the Diocesan Bishop. He should inform the person’s baptismal parish so that a notation could be placed in the baptismal register saying that the person departed the Church by a formal act. Such a person would no longer be bound by the ecclesiastical (Church-orginated) laws of the Church, such as the canonical form of marriage, Holy Days of Obligation, abstaining from meat on Fridays, but he or she would still be bound by Divine Law. And some might say that this act would be schism, “The withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (canon 751), which is punished by the penalty of excommunication immediately upon commission of the act. Good luck on your report. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:54

Question: Can Catholics attend Protestant Services?

Answer: Yes, Catholics may attend Protestant Services. In fact, there are many occasions on which it is appropriate to gather with our separated brothers and sisters in Christ and pray with them, such as at Thanksgiving or other civic gatherings. However, Catholics should be mindful of a couple of things. First, we should avoid any false ecumenism or appearance that there does not exist between us a real separation. While we can pray together, it is inappropriate for Catholics to receive sacraments for non-Catholic ministers. The Code of Canon Law says, “Can. 844 §1 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic ministers, except as provided in §§2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 §2. “§2 Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid. ” As this canon makes clear, Catholics are to receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers, unless it is a matter of true necessity or real spiritual need and usefulness. In that case, the Catholic may receive penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid. For all intents and purposes, only the Orthodox Churches have valid Eucharist because only they preserve valid apostolic succession and valid priestly ordination. So, if it is a Protestant or Episcopalian Church, you may pray with them but you make not partake of their communion. Second, Catholics should fulfill their Sunday obligation (and Holy Days of Obligation) in Catholic Churches. While reception of the Eucharist is not necessary to fulfill the Sunday obligation (mindful that Catholics are required by law to take Holy Communion at least once a year, and at that time between Easter and Pentecost – in the Dioceses of the United States, we have lengthened the time period somewhat), Catholics who are properly disposed ought to receive the Eucharist as part of the Sunday celebration and every Mass at which they assist. Moreover, the Sunday celebration is a reminder of the communal nature of our faith and ought to be celebrate with those with whom we hold the faith in common. Finally, the celebration of the Mass is also meant to be catechetical – to teach one something – so, especially on Sundays and Holy Days – one ought to attend a Catholic Church in order to receive hear the Word of God proclaimed according to the faith Christ has revealed and which the Church has sought to explain through the centuries. The bottom line, one can attend other Christian services and there certainly are times when this is appropriate. However, the regular celebration of one’s faith in a Catholic Church ought not to be interrupted, especially on Sundays and Holy Days. And Catholics should not partake in communion in other Churches, because we do not share a common faith in the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:53

Question: I am in an interfaith marriage. I am a Catholic and my wife is a Congregationalist. We are seriously considering having children and are grappling with issue of which faith to raise our children. My wife is very appreciative of my desire to raise our kids as Catholics and the promise I made to raise our kids Catholic in order to have our marriage valid in the eyes of the church. Still, my wife and I would both like to baptize our children which pays respects to both faiths. My question is this, is there any possible christening/baptism ceremony in the Catholic church which would allow for my wife’s minister to be present at the ceremony and take some type of active role in it? I guess we are looking for the possibility of co-officiating the ceremony as was done at our wedding.

Answer: First of all, it is important to remember that The Catholic Church recognizes and respects the validity of all Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, using water (poured or by immersion). It would indeed be possible for your wife’s minister to take an active role in the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism for your child/children in the Roman Catholic Church. Although the priest or (Roman Catholic) deacon would actually pour the water (or immerse the baby) and pronounce the Trinitarian formula (“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”), and wound anoint the baby with the Oil of Chrism, the minister could be invited to proclaim one (or more) scripture readings and/or give a reflection. With prayers and best wishes, Marianne Engelmann, Director Office of Liturgical Practices Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:53

Question: I want to know who can get stigmata? Can any normal Christian get it?

Answer: Rather than explain the whole thing here, I have included the following link to an article from The Catholic Encyclopedia on the stigmata: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14294b.htm Please check that article out, as I think it will answer a number of questions for you. I will tell you this about the stigmatist the Church knows of. None are known prior to the thirteenth century. The first mentioned is St. Francis of Assisi, in whom the stigmata were of a character never seen subsequently; in the wounds of feet and hands were excrescences of flesh representing nails, those on one side having round back heads, those on the other having rather long points, which bent back and grasped the skin. The saint’s humility could not prevent a great many of his brethren beholding with their own eyes the existence of these wonderful wounds during his lifetime as well as after his death. The fact is attested by a number of contemporary historians, and the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis is kept on 17 September. Since the time of Saint Francis, one scholar has counted 321 stigmatics in whom there is every reason to believe in a Divine action. Many of these persons were ‘ordinary’ people, though they obviously possessed an extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Among that number, there are 62 saints or blessed of both sexes of whom the best known (numbering twenty-six) were: St. Francis of Assisi (1186-1226); St. Lutgarde (1182-1246), a Cistercian; St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-97); St. Gertrude (1256-1302), a Benedictine; St. Clare of Montefalco (1268-1308), an Augustinian; Bl. Angela of Foligno (d. 1309), Franciscan tertiary; St. Catherine of Siena (1347-80), Dominican tertiary; St. Lidwine (1380-1433); St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440); St. Colette (1380-1447), Franciscan; St. Rita of Cassia (1386-1456), Augustinian; Bl. Osanna of Mantua (1499-1505), Dominican tertiary; St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), Franciscan tertiary; Bl. Baptista Varani (1458-1524), Poor Clare; Bl. Lucy of Narni (1476-1547), Dominican tertiary; Bl. Catherine of Racconigi (1486-1547), Dominican; St. John of God (1495-1550), founder of the Order of Charity; St. Catherine de’ Ricci (1522-89), Dominican; St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi (1566-1607), Carmelite; Bl. Marie de l’Incarnation (1566-1618), Carmelite; Bl. Mary Anne of Jesus (1557-1620), Franciscan tertiary; Bl. Carlo of Sezze (d. 1670), Franciscan; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), Visitandine (who had only the crown of thorns); St. Veronica Giuliani (1600-1727),Capuchiness; St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds (1715-91), Franciscan tertiary. here were 20 stigmatics in the nineteenth century. The most famous were: Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), Augustinian; Elizabeth Canori Mora (1774-1825), Trinitarian tertiary; Bl. Anna Maria Taïgi (1769-1837); Maria Dominica Lazzari (1815-48); Marie de Moerl (1812-68) and Louise Lateau (1850-83), Franciscan tertiaries. In the 20th century, Bl. Padre Pio has proved to be an outstanding and well-know example of stigmatists. If you wish to read more, I would direct your attention to the book, “They Bore the Wounds of Christ: The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata” by Michael Freze. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:53

Question: Do you have to be catholic to be a godparent? Can the mother’s sister be a godparent?

Answer: Yes, the mother’s sister (the child’s aunt) can serve as the child’s godparent, provided that she meets the following criteria which are established by The Code of Canon Law at canon 874: “§1 To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must: 1° be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it; 2° be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made; 3° be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken; 4° not labor under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared; 5° not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptized.” The second paragraph of the same canon makes addresses the second part of your question. According to this paragraph, a baptized non-Christian can be serve as a Christian witness provided that there is a Catholic sponsor (godparent) as well. “§2 A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism. You should check with your parish priest, as some parishes and dioceses have additional requirements, such as attendance at an educational or training course for parents and godparents or the presentation of letters from the sponsor’s parish priest to state that the sponsor is a practicing Catholic.” Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:52

Question: I want to know about the beliefs of telepathy in the world today.

Answer: While I cannot comment on other world religions and their doctrine regarding telepathy and other forms of extrasensory perception, nor the doctrine of other Christian denominations, I will be happy to say a few words based on Roman Catholic doctrine, based primarily on theological anthropology (that is, our understanding of human nature and humanity in light of humanity’s creation by God). The Church teaches that God created human beings with a specific human nature, having capacities and capabilities common to or at least possible for all human beings. These are natural gifts: reason, self-reflection, etc. Human beings also have, by the promise of God the Father and through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the ability to receive supernatural gifts; that is, gifts beyond or entirely above human nature. Among these supernatural gifts are grace, eternal life, etc. There are also, preternatural gifts; that is, gifts which are outside of general human nature but available to some human beings and running parallel to human nature. For example, extrasensory perception (gaining knowledge – but not Divine revelation – by a means other than by use of the five senses), telekinesis (the ability to move objects by mental power rather than physical power), various forms of empathetic influence, telepathy (the ability to sense the emotions or thoughts of those around one, based not on sensory observation but direct mental perception), in addition to gifts which amplify normal human gifts such as supra-agility, supra-sensitivity, etc. These gifts are given to individual human beings but not as a direct result of their human nature. Their purpose is not clearly known, though it is apparent that these gifts do in fact exist among human beings. When it comes to these gifts, the possessor should use them in accord with the same rules of morality that all person most use. They cannot and should not be used to harm another or to harm one’s self. Rather, they should be used to improve one’s self or to help others or to praise God Almighty. The gifts ought to be used in accord with the Ten Commandments. And, they should never be used to violate the privacy of another person or to negatively effect them. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:52

Question: My question may have more to do with etiquette than religion, but I’ll ask your opinion anyway. I want to baptize my newborn daughter. Since I have no brothers, I was wondering if there was a specific “pecking order” which I should follow. Should I select a brother -in – law, cousin or friend?

Answer: I would answer that there is a specific ‘pecking order’ and one quite different from the order you might suppose. It relates to the nature and duties of godparents. It has become a social convention to use the role of godparent has a way of honoring a friend or relative. However, the role of the godparent is really rather specific. During the Rite of Baptism, the priest or deacon asks, “Godparents, are you prepared to assist the parents of this child to raise him/her in the practice of the faith?” It is this question which you should keep in mind when choosing a godparent. The Code of Canon Law states the minimum requirements: “To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must: 1° be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it; 2° be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made; 3° be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken; 4° not labor under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared; 5° not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptized.” But, beyond the minimum requirements, I would suggest that you select the person whose own life makes it clear that he or she believes in Jesus Christ and in His Church, that he or she is a committed Christian, and that he or she would be able to offer real assistance to you as parents in raising your child and a real and effective model to the child of the Christian life. The role of godparent and its duties is lifelong and meant to assist the child in achieving life eternal. So choose the person who would best help your child live a truly Christian life, not the person that Miss Manners or Martha Stewart might select from the social register. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 09:52

Question: From observance, I have noticed that people are reluctant to approach the bishop. I will soon have a personal meeting. Can you tell me the proper way to address him? Do we still kiss his ring? I think the more people who know the proper etiquette, the less standoffish people will be.

Answer: In answer to your question, I would say that it depends where you are in the world. In southern European, South American, Asian, and African countries, the custom remains to address a Bishop as “Your Excellency”, even in speech, and to reverence his ring upon first meeting him. In North American, Northern Europe, and the member nations of the British Commonwealth, the practice has become to address a Bishop in speech as “Bishop” and to shake his hand. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:04

Question: Recently our parish priest “instructed” the congregation that the American Bishops no longer allow any form of reverence be given by the faithful as they receive Holy Communion. He specifically sited genuflecting or bowing just prior to receiving Holy Communion as inappropriate pious gestures that are no longer permitted by the American Bishops. Instead, a bowing to the alter after receiving Holy Communion should be given. When another parishioner approached Father after Mass about the Eucharistic reverence mentioned in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, he said that was no longer effective and was changed by the American Bishops. We have been taught to obey our parish priest (in matters not violating faith or morals or Church Doctrine) so we are (as is almost everyone) obeying his wishes. However, I am familiar with the GIRM guidelines issued in (1980 I believe) specifically requiring some form of proper reverence be given by the faithful prior to receiving Holy Communion. So that I am properly educated, I would like a clarification as to when these guidelines were changed by the American Bishops. If they have not been changed then I would like some evidence or official clarification that the American Bishops still consider the present rules, outlined in GIRM (1980) regarding reverence prior to receiving Holy Communion, to be effective.

Answer: As you can imagine, I have found it always preferable to give a general answer to these questions rather than to respond to very specific situations. Allow me to say, at the very beginning, that any answer provided should not be used ‘against’ the parish priest, who is charged with the duty of providing liturgical discipline in the parish entrusted to his care. That said, I would like to share an answer that Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt, bishop of this Diocese, gave in answer to an almost identical question. He wrote: “Indeed, The General Instruction to the Roman Missal does instruct that as the communicant approaches to receive, he or she is to ‘make the proper reverence.’ At no point, however, is the exact nature of the proper reverence defined or described. This in one of the many times where local expression and custom are allowed to interpret the meaning of the universal law. In some parts of the world, the proper reverence is understood to be making the sign of the cross, in other places, it is held to be a genuflection or a simple bowing of the head. In the dioceses of the United States, the bishops have not adopted a single form for this reverence. However, custom and decorum seem to indicate that the prayerful and solemn procession to receive the Blessed Sacrament is itself a proper reverence, particularly when combined with thoughtful preparation to partake in the Mass and the desire to receive the sacrament worthily. “In any case, The General Instruction does place stress on ‘uniformity in movement and posture’ so that the people will symbolically manifest the unity of faith they celebrate. Any reverence made by an individual during reception of the Blessed Sacrament must also seek to respect this uniformity and avoid disruption of the procession of the faithful to receive the sacrament.” I think that this should answer your question in its major points, along with the caveat that the GIRM has not been revised since its initial publication, nor have the American provisions passed by the US Bishops in the early 1970s. However, the Roman Missal itself, the basis for The Sacramentary, is currently under revision. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:03

Question: Since there is no canon law that forbids Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians from Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church, why do priests forbid them from receiving this sacrament?

Answer: Thank you for your question. First, for others who may read this response, it is important to clarify that Eastern (the popular) or Oriental (the more technical term) Orthodox Christians as those fellow Christian who, while maintaining priesthood, the sacramental system, and many of the same basic beliefs in common with the Roman Catholic Church, are not in union with Rome. The division, though having some theological aspects to it, is largely cultural and ecclesiological (concerned with Church structure and governance) and revolves mainly around the primacy of the Roman Pontiff over all other bishops, as the direct successor of Peter. In any case, Orthodox Christians like Roman Catholics hold and believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Not having experienced the theological period of Scholasticism, the Orthodox would not be likely to use a term such as “Transubstantiation”. However, they believe exactly as Catholics believe in regard to the Eucharist. So, where members of Christian (Protestant) denominations are not admitted to the Eucharist because they do not believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation, this prohibition does not hold of members of Orthodoxy. And yet, sorry to say, members of Orthodoxy are not free permitted to receive communion in Roman Catholic Churches. As the National Conference of Catholic Bishops makes clear in its “Guidelines for Receiving Holy Communion” (to be found on the back of any missalette or at their web site www.usccnccb.org ), reception of communion is not merely a statement of personal belief, it is also a statement of communal faith. In receiving the Body of Christ, the person confesses membership in or union with the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world, indeed throughout time and space. But, the members of Orthodoxy are precisely not in this union or communion, an unfortunate circumstance and tragic human fault which has plagued both our Churches roughly since the dawn of this millennium. For them to be invited to receive communion in Catholic Churches as a matter of course would be to make a false statement about the nature of our relationship as it stands. And, there is a canon in the 1983 Code of Canon Law in this regard. Canon 844 reads: §1 Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers, with due regard for §§2,3, and 4 of this canon and can. 861, §2. It is the word “only” (which I emphasized in the above text) which provides the canonical prohibition against knowingly giving the sacraments to persons who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church, unless other circumstances apply (Remember, the law prohibits the minister not the non-Catholic person, we only make laws for our own!). And, indeed, the law does recognize that other circumstance may arise wherein an Orthodox person may receive some of the sacraments from a Catholic minister. For the same Canon provides: §3 Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to members of oriental churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they ask on their own and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned. The fourth paragraph of the Canon makes provisions for other Christians to receive these same sacraments, but with far greater restriction, requiring, among other things, that there be the danger of death or other grave necessity present. However, you can see from the law that while that is not a blanket invitation to Orthodox to receive these three sacraments from Catholic ministers, there is also the recognition that we believe the same with regard to them and that there may be situations wherein it would be appropriate to admit the person to the sacrament. The Canon places two conditions: (1) that the person ask for it on their own (i.e., that the minister not urge the person to it or invite the person, that the person’s desire to receive the sacrament here and now be spontaneous), and (2) that the person be properly disposed (i.e., be in such a moral and personal state as to be able to celebrate the sacrament worthily). The Canon leaves unsaid a rather important item, though one which is surely present within the overall thrust of the law: that there be some proportionate reason. Such as, the person’s desire to receive the grace of the sacrament right here and right now and the unavailability of an Orthodox priest to provide for that desire. So, all of that said, there is a law which prohibits a blanket invitation to Orthodox to receive the Eucharist in Catholic Churches. At the same time, there is a law which tells Catholic ministers to supply Orthodox Christians with the Eucharist if they seek it on their own and are properly disposed. As to why some priests forbid them from receiving the sacrament, I cannot answer. If you are thinking of a real situation, I would suggest talking with the priest. It may be that he is unfamiliar with this particular fine point of the law and thinks that Orthodox and Protestant Christians are to be treated the same regarding the reception of the Eucharist. It is a common misconception. I hope this answers your question. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:03

Question: The Catholic Church teaches that obedience of the Sabbath commandment requires rest on Sunday rather than Saturday thus the conclusion can only be that the definition of the Sabbath changed to Sunday and after reading the judgment of James in the first Jerusalem council [Acts 15] and of the actions taken by he and Paul in chapter 21, I ask that if Jewish Christians have the sanction and blessing to continue to observe the law which included Sabbath observance on Saturday, how could the Sabbath have changed without their being a contradiction?

Answer: As you point out, the very definition of Sabbath, and its requirement in the third commandment, is the last day of the week or the seventh day. In our Gregorian calendar, this day is Saturday. Jews, and the Seventh Day Adventists, continue to observe the Sabbath rest on Saturday, because that is the Sabbath. However, the majority of Christians now dedicate Sunday to the Lord, to praise of His Name, and to rest from labor, because Sunday is the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In this way, Sunday is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. The Sabbath celebrated the creation of the world by God and the freedom of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Sunday, fulfilling the Sabbath and called “The Lord’s Day”, celebrates the new creation that we have become in Christ and his recreation of the world, and marks our freedom from slavery to sin and death by Jesus’ emerging from the Tomb. About the relationship between the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath, The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “2174 Jesus rose from the dead ‘on the first day of the week.’ Because it is the ‘first day,’ the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the ‘eighth day’ following the Sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday: “We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish Sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.” “2175. Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:107 “Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.” Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:03

Question: Can a confirmed Catholic who has not practiced their faith for many many years be buried from the Church with a Mass of Christian Burial? I was told that if they had not practiced their faith, they could not be buried by the Church. Please clarify this for me.

Answer: The Code of Canon Law states: “Canon 1184 §1 Church funeral rites are to be denied to the following, unless they gave some signs of repentance before death: 1° notorious apostates, heretics and schismatics; 2° those who for anti-christian motives chose that their bodies be cremated; 3° other manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral could not be granted without public scandal to the faithful. §2 If any doubt occurs, the local Ordinary is to be consulted and his judgement followed.” In the universal code of law, then, there is no prohibition against the Christian burial of a person who was baptized and catechized but did not practice the faith. Denial of Christian burial should take place in only the most limited of circumstances since it amounts to a public statement that the decedent was an impenitent reprobate for whom the Church holds out little hope. Such denial has taken place in the United States. In one case which I remember, the Archdiocese of Chicago refused a Mass of Christian Burial to a notorious mob figure who was found executed in a gang-style killing. However, most people do not fit into such extreme categories. The Code, by allowing any Christian and even catechumens (that is, people preparing for baptism but not yet baptized) to be buried with the Rites of the Church, does seem to encourage the broadest admission to the Mass of Christian burial. This is for three reasons. First, the Church believes in purgatory; which is to say that we understand that people die as mixed bags and that absolute perfection at the moment of death is not required for ultimate salvation. Second, burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy, as demonstrated by Tobit. And, third, the Mass of Christian Burial is meant to be a comfort to the mourners and not merely for the deceased. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:03

Question: Where can I find pictures of the symbols for the gospels? ex) Matthew-man I need the pictures! please help me.

Answer: Hi Laura, There is a book entitled The Catholic Source Book. It is published by Harcourt Brace Religion Division. It has the pictures you are looking for. John = Eagle Matthew = Angel Mark = Winged Lion Luke = Winged Ox You might also check out a website called THEOLOGY LIBRARY. You can access it by going to the Creighton University Web site. I hope this helps. Cheryl Fournier Director, Catechetical Ministries Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:02

Question: I will be taking my grandson to the Episcopal Eucharist Service when I care for him. Earlier that day I will have already attended Mass and receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. My question is can I, or even should I, receive communion in the Episcopal Church?

Answer: Thank you for your question. The Code of Canon Law touches directly on this matter in the second paragraph of Canon 844, which states: “Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.” In other words, if it is impossible for a Catholic to approach a Catholic priest for the sacraments of Penance, Anointing of the Sick, or Eucharist and it is necessary or advantageous for the Catholic to receive one of these sacraments, he or she may approach a non-Catholic minister for them, provided that the sacraments of that Church are considered valid by the Catholic Church. Think here principally in terms of the Orthodox Churches, whose sacraments are valid but which are not in common with Rome. Given this provision of the Law, you should not seek receive communion in the Episcopal Church for two reasons: First, the sacraments of Eucharist as celebrated and administered by the Episcopal Church USA is not valid. This is a consequence of the sad schism which arose beginning in the 16th Century. As committed Catholics, we must be at work to restore the unity, presently lost, within the Body of Christ under the Petrine Ministry of the Holy Father. Second, you will have already received Holy Communion that day at a Catholic Mass. While you may receive Holy Communion more than once in a day, the second time you do so must be within a Mass at which you actively participate (can 917), except in the case of Holy Communion administered as Viaticum. You will not be attending the Catholic Mass the second time; rather you will be attending an Episcopal Eucharistic Liturgy. Affly yours in Christ, Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:02

Question: You indicated in one of your answers (regarding getting drunk) that breaking a civil law is by definition a sin. Does not the Catholic Church adhere to Aquinas’ discourse that the natural law of God is written on the hearts of men and, therefore, any civil law that transcends it is immoral and ought to be disobeyed. Thus, breaking a civil law does not necessarily mean sin.

Answer: You are correct that Aquinas and Catholic teaching and tradition requires us to observe revealed divine law (the Ten Commandments) and natural law before (in a hierarchical sense) human positive law (civil law). Part of revealed divine law is Jesus’ clear statement, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” In addition, there is Peter’s injunction to the early Christians to “maintain good conduct among the Gentiles” and to “be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him” (1 Pt 2, 12-14). Therefore, Christians are not free to use divine law as a ‘higher law’ – which it is – to exempt them from observance of civil law. The only case, which even Aquinas’ acknowledges – in which one is not bound to observe a civil law is when that law so violates the purpose of law that it ceases to be law. A law is, according to Thomas, “an ordinance of reasons, promulgated by a competent legislator, on behalf of a community capable of receiving it, to promote the common good.” Thus, if a law runs contrary to the common good, undermines the common good, or severely damages society, it is not a law at all and need not be observed. For example, the law which decriminalized abortion in the United States denies equal protection under the laws to citizens and potential citizens of the nation. Moreover, it encourages murder. Therefore, that law is not a true law and need not be observed by Christians. In other words, we do not have to hold that abortion is okay, legal, acceptable, a right, or any other thing. However, all the other laws, regarding trespassing, murder, destruction of property, which are legitimate laws and are necessary to the common good must be observed. In my example, I said getting drunk drinking would certainly be immoral if one drove a vehicle in that state because it recklessly endangers one’s own life and the lives of others and because it is illegal. Indeed, violating a just civil or criminal law is an immoral act. For it is observation of the civil laws which allows society to function. A wonderful meditation on this is the brilliant play, “A Man for All Season” about Saint Thomas More. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:10

Question: I am in a morals class at Seton Hall University and we have to answer the question do we have a soul? We are discussing cloning in class and if a soul can be duplicated.

Answer: Can a God-given soul be duplicated? No. Would a clone have a soul? Philosophically, yes. The soul is the principle of animation. Plants and animals have a philosophical soul, but with differing levels of sophistication. Nor is the soul co-extensive with the body it animates. Since the Catholic Church does not know exactly when God gives a soul to a developing child in the womb, the Church opts for the very moment of conception. How does the Church, or anyone for that matter, understand “conception”? General biological knowledge would understand it as the union of the sperm and the egg. Can one say that conception takes place in cloning when the genetic material is sucked out of an unfertilized ovum and refilled with the genetic material from the person to be cloned? I would answer, no. Or if the ovum is fertilized, should one suck out the “God-given ensouled” genetic material to refill the ovum with another’s genetic material that is “God-given ensouled” or not? I would again answer, no. While not approved by the Church, a child conceived through incest and rape, still has a God-given soul. To the best of my knowledge, this would apply to test-tube conceptions. The Catholic Church teaches that every soul is an individual act of creation by God. Nor is there some “well of souls” from which God reincarnates souls. Therefore, if clones were to have God-given souls, then God would have to enter the process somewhere along the way. Presumably, this would be at the very beginning of the process. Another logical question. If there is no God-given soul to a human clone, then what do we have. Just another higher primate? In time, after sufficient reflection, (and, I dare say, the first human cloning), I am sure the Church will have to answer the question… Fr. Richard Shoda, PERSONAL THEOLOGICAL OPINION Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:09

Question: My girlfriend and I were wondering about artificial insemination. Although we are not considering it ourselves, we were wondering about what the child would be. Would a child conceived by artificial insemination by someone other than a woman’s husband be illegitimate? Would an unmarried woman’s child by artificial insemination be illegitimate?

Answer: To answer your direct question regarding the legitimacy of the child, I would like to say very clearly that the Church no longer uses this term in Her moral or judicial practices (except as regards the offspring of Catholic monarchs, such as the Grimaldis of Monaco, and then only to ensure the line of succession for such Catholic monarchs). While society may continue to use this term, the Church has abandoned its use in pastoral practice because the term unjustly stigmatizes a child for the wrong or irresponsible action of his or her parents. Simply because the parents had sexual intercourse outside of marriage, conceived a child from such an illicit union, and did not then marry, does not mean that the child should be condemned to be forever thought of as illegitimate or, worse, as a bastard. The parents acts ought to be stigmatized, not the beautiful gift of a new life. Now, on the question you did not ask, the Church has condemned the practice of artificial insemination for four specific reasons. First, because, in most cases, the semen used is collected through immoral means (namely, masturbation) and a good act cannot result from evil means. Second, because artificial insemination is precisely that: artificial. God intended and so designed nature that children should be borne of the sexual union of their parents, which union is an expression and completion of the unitive covenant of marriage existing between them. To seek to conceive children in a manner which separates procreation from sexual intercourse perverts the structure of nature itself and violates the Divine will contained in the plan of creation. This says nothing of the medical-ethical horrors involved in some forms of artificial conception such as in-vitro fertilization where several fertilized eggs are aborted, or of the grave danger of eugenics which is made possible through such practices. Third, because the child has a right to be borne of the love which the parents have for one another and not through some medical practice. And fourth, because no one has a right to a child. If I had a right to have a child, that would mean that I am owed another person and be a short step to slavery or children as chattel of their parents (which our abortion culture is creating quickly any way). So, artificial insemination is immoral, this the Church teaches. But the immorality of the act effects the parents’ state of soul and should not taint the life or identity of the child who is innocent of these acts and, through baptism, a child of God, beloved by Him. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:09

Question: I hope you can help me for I am very concerned. My sister constantly claims to see/smell ghosts. She claims to see/smell deceased family members and non-family members in her home and at places of employment. I am very concerned for her, for I do not know if she might have a psychological problem or maybe that her sightings/smellings for real. Please advise, and if possible could you direct me to other resources?

Answer: A: Right off the top, let me deal with one particular issue: the existence of ghosts. Ghosts are popularly understood to be the spirits of deceased persons who linger about in this world, sometimes causing mischief (poltergeists) and other times merely inhabiting a particular place for one reason or another. Defined as such, the teaching of the Church does not admit the existence of ghosts. Pope Benedict XIV, in his encyclical Benedictus Deus, states that upon death, the human soul experiences the particular judgment and is, form there, consigned to Heaven, Purgatory (on the way to Heaven), or Hell. The human soul never departs from Hell; from purgatory it is eventually released to the bliss of heaven. And while the saints have sometimes appeared to persons (e.g.: Joan of Arc have visions of Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine; Saint Margaret Mary Alocque had visions of Saint John), these visions were more internal visions of a nature in which the mind’s eye is given a glimpse of blessedness and shares more intimately and closely in the communion of saints for a moment. The wailing and tormented suffering of wandering spirits often associated with ghosts has no commonality with that of the vision of saints. And since there is no release from Hell and the release from Purgatory is into heaven, the existence of ghosts is ruled out. Lest someone say that purgatory takes place on earth, like the ghost of Marley in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, it seems to be in keeping with the doctrine of the Church that Purgatory is a real place distinct from this world and separate from the final destination of Heaven. So, if a person is seeing spirits (not those of saints), that person is either experiencing a delusion of some kind (whether physical or mental in origin) or is, in fact, seeing a demon. In this particular question, the mention of ‘smell’ so prominently is a interest. Smell is the sense most closely associated with memory, because smell is perhaps the oldest of the sense and that most closely connected with the animal part of the brain. It is a very typical occurrence to have a sensate experience of a person whose memory one is dwelling one – smelling the cologne, scent, or even (in my mother’s case) the pipe tobacco of a dead significant relative or even living person one misses very much. Smell does evoke reactions in us, hence the use of cologne and body washes, etc. Since it is so closely related to memory, yet animal in origin, weak and string smell associations can become connected to or assigned to the memories of persons or events in the distant past or even which one has only heard about. Sense memory is a very tricky thing … just think of your own mental picture of individuals and how fuzzy it can be around the edges when you try to imagine it. It may be that your sister is still mourning the death of one or more persons or that she is going through a traumatic point in her life right now (even one of physical change) and that this or similar upheaval has stirred up some latent sense memory. On the other hand, she may be having (I know this sounds nuts) an allergic reaction to allergens in the air which are provoking old memories long dormant. The later could be the case if these sense related events occur in the same places all the time and that environment has been recently disturbed. Your sister need not worry about it unless it beings to create difficulty or discomfort for her or those around her. In the meantime, it never hurts to encourage one to say a little pray when this event occurs, even as brief as “Jesus, Son of the living God, Have mercy on me”, to invoke divine protection. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:09

Question: Someone I know was involved in Satanic groups that claimed that Jesus and God are the true devils. He has since then changed his ways and is now a true Christian and loves God. But I understand that to blaspheme God in this way is an unpardoned sin. Does this mean he will automatically go to hell even if he becomes righteous in God?

Answer: Actually, the Scriptural text you refer to is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12, 31-32. Here Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” In the rich tradition of the Christian churches, this problematic text has been interpreted to mean a very specific set of sins which cannot be forgiven. They are: 1. presuming to attain salvation without personal faith and charity, these together with hope being called the “theological virtues” and arising at baptism as a gifts of the Spirit; 2. utter despair of the Spirit’s ability to forgive one’s personal sins or bring one salvation; 3. obstinacy in sin or error, or the refusal to depart from sin or error; 4. final impenitence, or dying in the state of sin and not having any sorrow for meeting death in such an unhappy state; 5. Permanent apostasy, or departure from the one true faith and the refusal to later return to the Church. As you can see, all of these involve some refusal to seek forgiveness or refusal to be sorry for one’s sins. The Holy Spirit cannot bring forgiveness to one who does not feel that he has sinned nor to one who refuses to ask for forgiveness. Since your friend has sought forgiveness and embraced the faith, believing that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Spirit is certainly with him. For, Saint Paul says, “No one can say ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ except by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, have no fear for your friend but rejoice with him! And remember, God “wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live.” Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:08

Question: What does the Catholic Church believe about unwed pregnancies? What are the repercussions to the baby, or the baby’s soul? What about the parents? What if they get married after the baby comes?

Answer: The Roman Catholic Church believes and confesses that all pregnancies are blessed by God and that all children are deserving of love, care, respect, and the greatest possible protection by society, the state, and individuals regardless of their origins or the marital status of parents. In other words, every pregnancy should be protected, every child should be welcomed into life, and every child should be cared for and celebrated. So, there are no repercussions for the child’s soul if his or her parents were not married at the time of conception. At the same time, psychology and common sense both show that children who are born into and raised in an intact family (one with a Mom and dad who are married, live together, and are actively involved in the rearing of the children) are better adjusted, have a firmer moral code, and grow into adulthood and adult responsibility than do children who are not from intact homes. Now, this does not necessarily mean that couples who are pregnant out of wedlock should marry. They should if they love one another and are willing to commit to marriage, that is to the covenant for the whole of life which is marked by fidelity, perpetuity, and the procreation and education of children. Marriages entered into solely out of a sense of obligation rarely work … they sometimes do, but rarely. And the children are often left to feel that had they never been borne, the parents would never have been ‘forced’ to marry. Of course, none of this would happen if we practiced the virtue of chastity, i.e.: reserve sexual intercourse for the marital relationship. Outside of marriage, sexual intercourse is damaging to both partners, a lie in that there is no real unity or true commitment between them, violative of the child’s right to be borne into a stable family, and an objective sin. And chastity is an obligation, a positive duty, of all Christians. And, Fulfilling this primary obligation will save one from having other obligations later! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:08

Question: What is the Church’s stand on transplanted organs?

Answer: Dr. William May wrote a very thorough but concise article on this issue in Ethics and Medics (July 1996). This newsletter is published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center (www.ncbcenter.org). But, to put the whole thing in a nutshell, there are two broad kinds of organ transplants: (1) heteroplastic and (2) homoplastic. The first refers to transplanting organs from a lower species to a human person. The second refers to transplanting organs from one human person to another. This second category is broken into to sub-categories: (a) transplantation of organs from the bodies of dead persons to living one; (b) transplantation of organs from one living person to another. There are distinct moral issues involved in each area. With regard to Heteroplastic Transplants, Pope Pius XII actually taught quite extensively in this area. From his teachings the following rule can be derived: transplanting organs, other than generative ones (Pius XII specifically stated that it was immoral to transplant ovaries or testes from a lower life form into human beings), is morally acceptable provided that the health care professions are acting in accord with the norms for experimentation on human subjects, in other words: full, informed, and free consent of the patient, reasonable chance of success, previous clinical trials, etc. With regard to Homoplastic Transplantation, we look first to transplants from the bodies of dead persons to living human beings. In this area there are, generally, no serious moral problems. Again, Pius XII touched on this area, saying, “A person may will to dispose his body and to destine it to ends that are useful, morally irreproachable and even noble, among them the desire to aid the sick and suffering. One may make a decision of this nature with respect to his own body with full realization of the reverence which is due to it … this decision should not be condemned but positively justified.” There are only three real concerns here. First, the fully informed and free consent to organ donation is achieved from the person previous to death or from his or her next of kin if the wishes of the person are unknown. Second, that a physician pronounce the person dead in keeping with The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act so that there can be no question of necessary organs being taking from a still living person. And third, that the human body, even as a cadaver, continues to be treated with respect and reverence. With regard to transplantation between living persons, there is some debate in this area. However, the Bishops of the United States have said, in Ethical and Religious Directive (no. 30): “The transplantation of organs from living donors is morally permissible when such a donation will not sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm done to the donor. Furthermore, the freedom of the donor must be respected, and economic advantages should not accrue to the donor.” Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:08

Question: What is the Catholic Church’s teachings about the separation of conjoined twins, such as Mary and Jodie, if one is not going to survive from the operation?

Answer: While I am not aware of any statement by the Church or by any representative of the Church on the separation of conjoined twins in general or the recent separation performed in England specifically, I do think the general moral principles taught by the Church would apply in this case. The Church teaches a moral principle called the Principle of Double Effect. This principle realizes that many human actions have more than one consequence and that the consequences are often of mixed moral value. In other words, the same action can have morally good consequences and morally bad consequences. According to the principle of Double Effect, I may proceed with an action some outcomes I can foresee to be mixed if: 1. I do not intend the bad (morally evil) outcomes; 2. the good outcome that I do intend outweighs the evil that outcome that I don’t intend; 3. the good outcome is not a direct result of the bad outcome (e.g., I cannot kill one innocent person in order to save another innocent person). Moral theologians would go much deeper in this explanation, but that explains it in a nutshell. Now certainly, the issue of separating conjoined twins is a matter of double-effect, especially as the probability of death as a result of separation increases. In case where there is little of no probability of death or severe injury for one of the twins, the separation should take place. But, as the likelihood of death increases, doctors and parents should seriously consider whether the good to be achieved outweighs the evil that could result. Doctors especially should return to the Hippocratic Oath, wherein they promise “above all, to do no harm” and consider if their medical actions are bringing about real harm. In some cases of conjoined twins, separation is de facto death for one and life for the other; where to not separate will eventually bring about the death of both. This is the difference, ultimately between killing (an action) and letting die (a respectful choice to allow nature to take its own mysterious course) and is a very real moral distinction. To the extent that my actions directly result in the killing of an innocent person, I am morally responsible. To the extent that I take it upon myself to choose who will live and who will die, I am morally responsible for the death of the one. Fortunately, many medical/surgical separations do not involve life-or-death outcomes and we should be thankful to God that He has given us some many excellent men and women to advance the medical sciences. Addendum: 10/14/00 I began my answer to your question by saying, “While I am not aware of any statement by the Church or by any representative of the Church on the separation of conjoined twins in general or the recent separation performed in England specifically, I do think the general moral principles taught by the Church would apply in this case.” Since I wrote this answer, I have received two statements by way of The catholic News Service. The first is from the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, who said that the Court ruling “amount to the direct killing of a person, whose basic right to life will be denied.” He urged the parents and the hospital (which is located in the Archdiocesan, though in no way affiliated with it) not to proceed with the operation. The Most Reverend Nikol Cauchi, the Bishop of Gozo on the Island of Malta, abhorred the decision and states “We do not criticize the judges, but we abhor the act. You cannot destroy one human being to save another. All life is sacred.” The parents of the twins, Jodi and Mary, are from the island of Malta. I think that the rest of my original answer will explain the moral thought process behind these insightful statements of Church leaders. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:08

Question: What is the position of the Church with regard to a couple that underwent artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization?

Answer: Instead of saying where the Church stands with regard to the couple in question, I would rather share with you the Church’s teaching on in-vitro fertilization and let the couple decide where they stand in their moral lives. The Roman Catholic Church has a very clear and specific position with regard to in-vitro fertilization. Pope John Paul II taught in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae: “14. The various techniques of artificial reproduction, which would seem to be at the service of life and which are frequently used with this intention, actually open the door to new threats against life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, these techniques have a high rate of failure: not just failure in relation to fertilization but with regard to the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time. Furthermore, the number of embryos produced is often greater than that needed for implantation in the woman’s womb, and these so-called “spare embryos” are then destroyed or used for research which, under the pretext of scientific or medical progress, in fact reduces human life to the level of simple “biological material” to be freely disposed of.” Therefore, there are three distinct reasons why the process of in-vitro (meaning ‘in a glass’) fertilization is judged to be an immoral action by the Church. First, the medical procedure violates the nature and structure of reproduction by separating the sexual act from reproduction itself. In other words, it is a wholly unnatural activity. Second, the process is extremely risky for the fertilized human ovum and the subsequent embryo, failure to implant happening more often than not. In other words, the risk to the child is disproportionately large. Finally – and perhaps of greatest concern – the process actually includes abortion within it. typically, more than one (in fact several) eggs are fertilized. This means that several conceptions take place. The doctor will then usually ask how many children the couple wants and the ‘best’ fertilized ovum are implanted. The others are discarded. They are either immediately destroyed or are saved for medical/scientific experiments and purposes. Thus, such rejected ova could be cultured and used and latter destroyed. The long and short of it is that several conceived persons are destroyed in the process. Abortion is part and parcel of this activity. For these reasons the Church firmly opposes in-vitro fertilization and sees it as objectively morally evil and a violation of the Fifth Commandment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a beautiful reflection on the issue of infertility and how a Christian couple should face this question together. It touches upon the immorality of artificial means of fertilization, though not as clearly and specifically as the Holy Father does above. I would ask you to sit with these words and pray over them, in the quiet of your conscience, and then decide where you stand in your relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. The Catechism teaches: 2374 Couples who discover that they are sterile suffer greatly. “What will you give me,” asks Abraham of God, “for I continue childless?” And Rachel cries to her husband Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” 2375 Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed “at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.” 2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ “right to become a father and a mother only through each other.” 2377 Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.” “Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union . . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.” 2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.” 2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:07

Question: I have noticed that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 2295 it reads, “Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the subject’s life or physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate or avoidable risks.” Would this also apply to inmates on Death Row? If already sentenced to death, would not the risk of death from scientific research be a negligible consideration?

Answer: Thank you for your question. First and foremost, the teaching of The Catechism applies to all human being, whether they are inmates sentenced to death or not. Even prisoners on death row have and retain their basic human dignity. The philosopher Immanuel Kant said it best, perhaps, when he said that one may never use a person as a means to an end, no matter how good the end may be. In fact, this was among the reasons that the Nuremberg Tribunal condemned so many of the Nazis for crimes against and humanity and why the Nazi doctors continue to be held up to ridicule and disdain: they conducted experiments on the prisoners at the death camps. These kind of experiments were carried out at some U.S. prisoners even into the 1960s. Prisoners were offered the possibility for early parole or trusteeships if they participated in experiments which could do them harm (like being set on fire to test flammability of fabrics and other products). These were stopped as cruel and inhuman, since the prisoners were not truly acting under their own free will and since the basic respect due to human beings was undermined by the nature of the experiments. Further, as regards thee whole issue of capital punishment, I would direct your attention to the latest edition of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The most recent edition (1999, not 1997), at paragraph 2266-2267, makes clear the Church’s opposition to the use of the death penalty in most circumstances in most countries of the world today. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:07

Question: Is a parishioner allowed to receive the host in their hand, carry it to the wine and dip it before consuming? Isn’t this called intincture? I thought only priests could do this.

Answer: This practice is called ‘intinction’ by some, but is not the practice of ‘intinction’ as approved and practiced by the Church. As described by the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (1970) and as practiced by the Church in tradition, intinction is the method of administering communion in which the minister present and places on the tongue of the communicant a host which has been dipped in the precious blood, saying, “The Body and Blood of Christ,” to which the communicant responds, “Amen.” In some places, it has become the practice for members of the faithful to receive the Body of Christ and then approach the minister of the Cup and have that minister dip the Host in the Chalice and present the intincted Host for communion. This is problematic in that the Host should be consumed immediately upon reception, after the affirmation “Amen” has been given and should not be carried to another place. Some may argue that the devote desire to receive under both species, while not wishing to receive directly from the Chalice, should outweigh concern about the transporting of the Host from place to place. However, the practice whereby the communicant receives the Host and then approaches the Chalice and intincts the Host and receives it is prohibited. One does not and cannot minister a sacrament, any sacrament, unto one’s self. Thus, I cannot baptize myself nor can I confirm myself. The priest does receive communion from himself, but this is because his reception is integral to the celebration of the Mass and no one else’s reception is. Part of the administration of Holy Communion is to receive the sacrament from the hands of another (an official minister of the Church, whether ordinary – priest or deacon – or extraordinary – acolyte or Eucharistic minister) as we have received salvation from the hand of Christ and to publicly exchange a profession of faith in the truth and effectiveness of the sacrament. Long story short, only an ordinary minister (and in some dioceses, an extraordinary minister) of communion may administer communion by intinction, in fact by any means at all. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:07

Question: Recently I was diagnosed with a medical condition, severe endometriosis. This disease causes abdominal pain and, if left untreated, usually results in infertility. In my case, the disease is advanced, and has located in such an area of my body that if it is not halted soon, may cause severe adverse urinary tract consequences as well as the infertility. Treatment options offered by my doctor were: 1) birth control pills, 2) an injection that would put me in “pseudo menopause” for 4-6 months at a time, or 3) hysterectomy. The pills will halt further progression of the current disease while the shot will cure the disease (but it will begin again after the 4-6 month “menopause” wears off). The hysterectomy will also cure the disease, but obviously I couldn’t have kids after that. I am an unmarried woman in my 30s and do want to have children someday. The doctors have informed me that their recommended course of treatment is for me to take the pills until such time as I am married, then once I’m married and want to have kids, then take the injection, because it will clear up the disease temporarily and my best shot of conceiving is during the month or two following when the “menopause” injection wears off and my body has been cleansed of the endometriosis. Then after I’ve had a child (or children), they’d recommend hysterectomy to stop the disease entirely. All that having been said, here’s my question (sorry it took so long to get here): I understand that the Church is opposed to artificial birth control methods. But what if the birth control methods have been prescribed to halt/cure a disease (and to ensure that if/when I do get married, I’ll still be fertile at that time)? Will I be sinning if I take the pills that have been prescribed for treatment of my condition?

Answer: I would like to make two distinction at the very outset before answering your question directly. First, regarding the determination of the morality of an act, The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches 1750 The morality of human acts depends on: – the object chosen; – the end in view or the intention; – the circumstances of the action. The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts. 1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience. 1752 In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one’s whole life toward its ultimate end. For example, a service done with the end of helping one’s neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it. 1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving). 1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil. These points from The Catechism alone go a great way to answering your question. However, a further distinction is required. As Pope Paul VI taught clearly in Humanae Vitae, the sin of contraception (which is in and of itself a grave, objective moral evil about which there can be no lightness of matter) takes place between a husband and wife when they seek to frustrate the procreativity of the marital act by artificial means for the purpose of not having children and thereby excluding one of the ends of marital sexuality: the procreation and education of children. With these distinctions in mind, I would offer the following answer to your question. You state that you are not married and that you are affected by the disease endometriosis which your physician proposes to treat by use of what is popularly called “The Pill.” The pill (there are several variants of it on the market, so use of the chemical name here would not be particularly helpful) alters and controls a woman’s menstrual cycle, one of the results of which is a 98% effectiveness is blocking pregnancy. This is certainly one of the consequences of use of the pill. However, if one is not married and, therefore, chaste by definition, this consequence is neither intended nor aimed at. Indeed, this consequence (the blocking of pregnancy) will never occur because one is not engaging in those acts per se ordered to the procreation of children. In other words, the object aimed at is good: the treatment of a physical disorder. The negative object of this pill does not arise in your situation. In addition, you purpose for taking the pill is not artificial birth control but to address a medical condition. So your intention is not disordered but good. In fact, it may be said that your intention is honorable and good since you take the pill in order to preserve your procreative powers for marriage. Your intention is proved to be good by your direct statement of the desire to have children once married and your willingness to discontinue use of this medication when married. Therefore, I would say that you are not committing an objective evil act if you take this pill as part of a medical treatment for the condition from which you suffer during the period in which you are not married. Once you have married, I would say that you should discontinue use of the pill in order to have children. Please remain under a doctor’s care and follow his or her medical advice. However, make very clear to him or her your refusal to use artificial means of contraception during marriage. If pregnancy, which may be slightly difficult for you to achieve given this medical condition, does not alleviate the condition, you should consult your doctor again about non-contraceptive means of addressing the issue, including hysterectomy. And please know that my prayers are with you. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:07

Question: Has the Bishop issued an official statement regarding the abortion issue through this website? If so, could you direct me to that location?

Answer: Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt has not issued an official statement of his own with regard to abortion in Election 2000. However, he has adopted the position of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and does encourage all men and women of good will to vote, to vote with their correctly informed conscience, and to vote for life. The position of the Roman Catholic Church on the right to life of all innocent persons is extremely clear. Citizens who are looking for information on this and similar issues are encouraged to visit the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website (www.nccbuscc.org) or the West Virginians for Life website (www.labs.net/wvforlife), the latter of which contains information on voting records and information on local candidates. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:06

Question: If Jesus were standing on earth today in front of a non-Catholic, but someone who has total faith in Jesus Christ and has a personal relationship with him, and a Catholic, and he was “giving communion” can you honestly tell me that Jesus would deny that person communion because they weren’t Catholic? To me it’s “man made laws” that prohibits a non-Catholic from taking communion in a Catholic Church and I feel that it is totally wrong for “man’s laws” to specify who can and can’t receive communion, when it specifically says in the bible from the lord that it is his body and blood and to do this in remembrance of him, not “you can only receive communion in a Catholic Church if you are Catholic….That really turns me off…It’s like you are an outcast if you believe what the bible says, but go to a Catholic Church and are denied communion…Can you please clarify this for me.

Answer: Your question elicits a number of possible responses from me, so let me try and offer an organized and coherent treatment of this important topic. I apologize in advance for the length of the answer. First, the situation posed as the premise of your question goes directly to the heart of the matter. The idea of Jesus distributing communion is somewhat fantastical for Catholics, as it should be for Christians. This is because the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, made really and truly present under the mere appearance of bread and wine, so that we may enjoy here and now on earth the full communion we will have with Christ in heaven. The Eucharist is not merely a remembrance or reminder of Jesus, it is Jesus. The Eucharist is the means by which Jesus fulfills His promise to be with you until the end of time. And so, if Jesus were present standing in front of me, there would be no purpose for Him to be distributing communion. And, this is why the Sacrament of the Eucharist will cease in heaven: seeing Jesus face to face, I will no longer need to receive Him under sacramental signs. Some will object that at the Last Supper, Jesus did distribute communion to the Apostles. That is true. But the propose of Christ’s act at the Last Supper was three-fold: to establish the Sacrament of the Eucharist, to establish the Sacrament of Holy Orders (the Priesthood), and to share with the Apostles in anticipation the glory He would achieve upon the cross. But, following His Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven, the Eucharist is a communion in Jesus Christ, in His Body and Blood. Thus, when He come again, He will not be distributing communion. I say that this is the heart of the matter, because it goes right to one of the principle separations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches on the one hand and the Church of England and the churches and faith communities borne of the Reformation on the other hand. Catholics and Orthodox believe that the Eucharist is really and truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Biblical basis for this belief is the words of the Lord at the Last Supper as recording in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, as well as Jesus’ own teaching on the sacrament as recorded in chapters 6 and 7 of the Gospel of John, called “The Bread of Life Discourse”. It has been the constant and definitive teaching of the Church that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Only those who hold to this teaching and confess it are admitted to communion. For this reason, when distributing communion, the recipient approaches the minister and the minister says, “The Body of Christ,” stating clearly the faith of the Church. The recipient replies, “Amen,” an Hebrew word expressing agreement and ascent. The Church of England, as expressed in The Thirty-Nine Articles, and the other churches and faith communities borne of the Reformation do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In the main (though this is admittedly a generalization), they believe that Jesus is present only symbolically or that the bread and wine are a reminder of Jesus. Thus, it is the separation of faith, the real difference in belief, which excludes Protestants and Anglicans from receiving communion in Catholic Churches. The same separation excludes Catholics from receiving in Protestant and Anglican churches. It is not the law, but the reality of division in belief, which causes this separation. Second, I have been giving serious thought in recent years to this whole “WWJD” thing. What would Jesus Do? Seems to be the perpetual refrain among a great number of Christians. And this is all well and good. But, I would suggest that it may be a little wrong-headed as well. The question of the moment is not really “What would Jesus Do?” Rather, the real question is “What does Jesus want me to do?” The Church faced this exact same issue with the early Franciscan, are we supposed to do exactly what Jesus did or are we supposed to do what the Bible, tradition, and our own serious reflection tell us that Jesus wants us to do? Since Jesus was and is the Son of God, I would submit that slightly different rules apply to Him than apply to us and that Jesus did in fact do things that we cannot do and that He does not want us to do. With regard to the sacramental system of the Church, The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the same point in different words, “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments” (CCC, 1257). God can give grace to whomever He wants by whatever means He wants, but He has bound the Church to follow the sacramental system established by His Son. Which brings me to my third point. Many times, the rules of the Church are dismissed lightly as ‘man made’ or, to use your expression, ‘man’s laws.’ If the laws of the Church – or society – were in direct contradiction to Divine Law, such as the Ten Commandments, these laws would be empty and would not bind any human person. So, the man made laws of the United States allowing abortion and divorce are empty and useless and do not bind us as human beings or as Christians because they directly contradict the Ten Commandments. However, the laws made by the Church to protect and uphold the sacraments and the sacramental system as a whole are of a slightly different order. When Jesus founded the sacraments and the Church, He set down certain aspects of the sacraments that are inalterable (i.e., that in the Eucharist, bread and wine are to be used, not pretzels and bear) and left others aspects of the sacraments (i.e., their administration) to the Church. The Church has the Christ given right to establish rules and regulations both to protect the sacraments and to encourage the proper celebration of the sacraments. However, I would contend that the necessity of having the right faith in order to receive a post-baptismal sacrament is one of the law established by Christ himself, and not by the Church. Just look how man times Jesus refers to the faith of the person who has received a miracle. The Eucharist itself is a miracle and the right faith is necessary to receive it. This seems to be Jesus’ rule; not the Church’s. And even if it is the Church’s rule, a great measure of respect must be given it (a lot more respect than the laws made up about, say, the speed limit) because Christ Himself gave the Church the power to legislate regarding the sacraments. And finally, The Code of Canon Law does provide for certain circumstances when non-Catholic Christians may receive the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from Catholic ministers. These regulations, called communio in sacris or sharing in sacred things, allow Christians who share the explicit faith of the Church in this sacraments to receive these sacraments from Catholic ministers in cases of necessity and under certain circumstances. Canon 844 says, “§3 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the eastern Churches not in full communion with the catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other Churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern Churches so far as the sacraments are concerned. “§4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.” So, it is not accurate to think that the Catholic Church absolutely prohibits non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist. If the person believes that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, if they ask on their own, and if there is a grave need on their part to receive the sacrament, the Catholic minister can allow them to receive. I hope this clarifies the matter for you Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:06

Question: I have a very serious question concerning OCD and the Catholic Church. As an young boy growing up in Catholic Schools, we were always taught in Confession to repeat a prayer to repent for our sins. Somehow that lesson stuck a little too much and has developed into a rather confounding situation that I really believe took hold as an adolescent. We all know being a teenage boy comes with some pretty heavy hormones and trying to be a good Catholic I would always try my best to control any sexual feelings…but really how good can you keep your mind clean at 16! Anyway, I found myself repenting every time something sensual crossed my mind until it became a habit and now in my mid 20’s it has really taken hold of my life. Does God really expect me to repent every second of the day and to not experience these sensual emotions? I find now that when I pray, I can’t even just pray the words, I have to stop and think about each word until I feel comfortable with it’s meaning…almost as if I have to feel a good Karma about the word I just prayed before I can go onto to the next word. Any thoughts you may have on this would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: I have a very serious question concerning OCD and the Catholic Church. As an young boy growing up in Catholic Schools, we were always taught in Confession to repeat a prayer to repent for our sins. Somehow that lesson stuck a little too much and has developed into a rather confounding situation that I really believe took hold as an adolescent. We all know being a teenage boy comes with some pretty heavy hormones and trying to be a good Catholic I would always try my best to control any sexual feelings…but really how good can you keep your mind clean at 16! Anyway, I found myself repenting every time something sensual crossed my mind until it became a habit and now in my mid 20’s it has really taken hold of my life. Does God really expect me to repent every second of the day and to not experience these sensual emotions? I find now that when I pray, I can’t even just pray the words, I have to stop and think about each word until I feel comfortable with it’s meaning…almost as if I have to feel a good Karma about the word I just prayed before I can go onto to the next word. Any thoughts you may have on this would be greatly appreciated. Obsessive While I wouldn’t call your problem OCD, it might be a little touch of scrupulosity that is involved here. First of all, let me say that each of us is called to strive after chastity in mind and body; in other words, all Christians are called to be pure in mind and pure in body just as Christ was. And this universal call to holiness is address to each one, regardless of age, gender, or station in life; though it differs depending on one’s station. For a priest, bodily chastity means abstaining from all sexual activity while for a married person it means limiting one’s sexual activity to one’s spouse. Chastity of mind is required of all. It does not necessarily mean avoiding all sexual thoughts, but it does require that one avoid impure thoughts (those which arise from lust, idle curiosity, or a fascination with human sexuality, etc.) and which lead one to temptation or the near occasion of sin. One is called to avoid bringing such thoughts to mind and, if they appear on their one, to dismiss them and not concentrate upon them. Doubtless, you were taught to pray when you had such a thought as an aid to dismissing it. Before you say that it is hard to control what you think about, I would challenge you to be aware that you do choose what you think about and what you don’t think about all day long. There is stuff that I haven’t thought about for a long time and won’t think about for an equally long time by my own choosing. I’m sure you are the same. Indeed, we can control our minds and what we do with them. With regard to unchaste thoughts, it is a matter, first of all, of making an effort at dismissing them when they appear and not concentrating on them (mindful that one is not responsible for dreams, which are the activity of the unconscious mind). Second, if one practices other forms of chastity, controlling one’s thoughts becomes easier. For instance: custody of the eyes – that is, avoiding pornographic material, suggestive material (pictures, words, movies), staring at objects or persons which generate sexual feeling or attraction, etc. In other words, giving your mind less and less material to work with is an effective way of controlling what it does. Or, to put it another way, “garbage in, garbage out.” So, the struggle for chastity, and it is a real struggle at times, is something to which we are all called. With regard to the other aspects of your problem, I would suggest the following. First, go to confession and confess all your past difficulty with impure thoughts and advise the priest of the problems you have been having. Second, shorten the prayer you are using. Say, for example, “Jesus, have mercy on me” or merely, “Jesus, have mercy” or even, “Jesus, help me.” Third, try to identify the sources of temptation in your life and avoid them. Fourth, attend mass regularly. Fifth, ask Saint Aloysius Gonzaga for assistance with your personal purity. Sixth, remember that you are not alone and that God hears and answers each prayer, no matter how good or poor it may be. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:06

Question: I have a very serious moral dilemma and I am hoping that you can help me make the right decision. I work for a company that does business on the Internet. The basic idea of the site is to sell products and to offer rebates on all of the products. So the customer buys the product, fills out a rebate form for the product and then sends back the rebate form to an address on our site. After waiting 10-14 months, we send the customer a rebate check for the product they ordered. Now when the site started out, it completely legit. However, we are losing money at an incredible quick pace and there is basically no chance that the site will survive. As a result there is little chance that everybody will get his or her rebate money back. In fact, most people might never see their rebate checks. However, the executives of the company have made a decision to continue to let people buy from the site knowing that we will never be able to pay back the rebates. Therefore, people are buying products under the assumption that they will get a significant amount of the cost back as part of the rebate and in reality they won’t! So it has basically turned into a ponzi scheme. The worst part is, this site gets a HUGE amount of traffic and people spend millions of dollars on this site every month. Although I know that this is the situation, I have no way of proving it. So my question is: Do I quit my job (with no way to support my family) to go the proper authorities (even though I don’t have any concrete proof) or do I continue working there until I can prove it or until I find another means of support?

Answer: I agree that this is a serious moral issue, since it potentially involves both fraud and theft. What I would suggest is that you first attempt to verify that, in fact, rebates will not be paid and that the company has no intention of paying them. If you are able to verify that this is the case and you are involved as a salesperson, web-site/IT persons, or management person, you cannot continue to work at the company since this would constitute materially necessary cooperation in the immoral activity of another. You would also be obliged to at least inform the better business bureau of locality in which the company is headquartered. Ponzi schemes are illegal, to say nothing of immorality of their activities and the damage they do to the persons who are unwittingly bilked. Please note, I do not think you need to be able to prove this factually or legally. But you need more than anecdotal/water-cooler talk about the scheme. You should seek verification which makes you morally certain that it is a fraudulent scheme, assuming that it is a legal and legitimate business until you have proved to your self, in conscience, that it is fraudulent. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:05

Question: I am 49 years old, nearly 50. My wife is 35. We are Roman Catholics, and very happy to be so. We have 2 wonderful children, ages 11 and 5. We take our responsibilities as parents very seriously. My wife had an ovarian cyst removed when she was 21. Both of our children were born by cesarean section. During my wife’s second c-section, most of one ovary was removed because of an ovarian fibroma. In Puerto Rico, once a woman has a c-section, subsequent births are automatically c-sections. We are worried that another pregnancy would be dangerous for her because of possible complications from another c-section. We are also worried that I’m too old to have and responsibly raise another child. I lost both parents when I was 30, and I greatly fear not being around when my children are still relatively young and need me. To be honest, a few months ago we thought my wife was pregnant, and I’m sorry to admit that I was greatly distressed because of the combination of all our fears. She was not pregnant. Would having a vasectomy be an acceptable option for us?

Answer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats this question by stating that “The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).” In other words, it is perfectly legitimate and reasonable to seek to limit the number of children that a couple may have, provided that the couple use those means available to them by nature itself. On the other hand, The Catechism clearly teaches that direct sterilization, such as vasectomy, is morally unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances. Rather, you should consider Natural Family Planning or the Creighton Method. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:05

Question: Why does the Catholic Church consider homosexuality immoral and wrong? I know that the Church does not personally have anything against gays and lesbians, but why are homosexual acts considered sinful in the eyes of the Church? Where is the basis for this principle in the Bible?

Answer: The main position of the Church regarding homosexuality is: love the sinner, hate the sin. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans it states: “God therefore delivered them up to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and men gave up natural intercourse with women and burned for lust for one another. Men did shameful things with men, and thus received in their own persons the penalty for their perversity. They did not see fit to acknowledge God, so God delivered them up to their own depraved sense to do what is unseemly.” Romans 1:26-28. Other scriptural references are found in Genesis 19:1-29, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following: “2357 Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. 2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. 2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” Therefore, the Church, the People of God, welcomes all sinners and has respect, compassion, and sensitivity to those with homosexual tendencies. But the Spirit of God and the Church challenges the sinner to turn away from sin and turn towards God’s loving plan. This is called “conversion,” and conversion is a lifelong process. For those with homosexual tendencies, the challenge is to become and remain chaste and to eventually be converted toward Christian perfection. May the Spirit lead all of us sinners to Christian perfection! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 21 October 2010 14:28

Question: My husband-to-be is a Catholic who is divorced from a Mormon. They had been married in a civil ceremony. I am a baptized non-Catholic who wishes to join the Church prior to our marriage. I have been divorced twice. One was a civil marriage to a non-baptized individual and the second was a civil marriage to a baptized Catholic. What form of annulments do my fiancé and I both need in order for us to marry in the Church? Would all of the ex-spouses need to be contacted for permission? Would we need witnesses for all three marriages?

Answer: For ease of reference, lets put names to the thing , okay? You, Maria a baptized non-Catholic, are currently engaged to Marcus Aurelius a baptized Catholic. Marcus Aurelius was previous married in a civil ceremony, without a dispensation from canonical form (see the description of this in other Q&A entries on the website) to a Julia a Mormon. You, Maria, were previously married to Gaius, a non-baptized person. After divorcing him, you married Agrippa, a baptized Catholic, in a civil ceremony, Agrippa not receiving a dispensation from canonical form. So, here’s the answer. Marcus Aurelius should apply for a declaration of nullity based on defect of canonical form. His parish priest can help him and this case is proved basically by documents: his baptismal certificate – from his baptismal parish, dated within the last six months, and bearing all notations – a copy of the marriage certificate, and a copy of the divorce decree. Since this kind of case is proved by documents and measurable facts, witnesses are often not needed. The same goes for your marriage to Agrippa, because he was bound by canonical form and failed to observe it. You will need to get a copy of his baptismal certificate, however. For your first marriage to Gaius, I would suggest that you talk to your fiancé’s parish priest. You can apply for a formal annulment, which does require that Gaius be contacted and witness testimony be sought. Or, you could apply for a Petrine Privilege, granted by Rome. The object of this is whether the former marriage was a sacrament – which it was not if Gaius was in fact not married. The Pope dissolves this non-sacramental marriage so that you can enter a sacramental marriage. Talk to your parish priest. And all the best to you and Marcus Aurelius! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:35

Question: I am a baptized, confirmed Catholic. I was married at 20 to another Catholic in the Catholic church. We were then divorced and at 28 I married a non-Catholic in his church which was Methodist. I am now 48 and divorced for the second time. What is my standing in regard to the sacraments? Can I receive communion again or is an annulment necessary first?

Answer: While this may sound strange, you are still held to be married to your first spouse. As you may know, the Church, faithful to the teachings of Christ, does not recognize the effects of civil divorce. A civil court does not have the power to dissolve the bounds of a sacramental marriage, since sacraments are the care of the Church and not of the State. The Code of Canon Law states clearly that a marriage is presumed to be valid until the contrary is proven, and proven by the competent ecclesiastical (i.e., Church) court (cf., canon 1060). Therefore, your first marriage is presumed to be valid until proven otherwise and your second marriage is assumed to be invalid. Furthermore, the second marriage is absolutely invalid because, as a Catholic, you are bound by the canonical form of marriage. This means that you are required for the sake of validity to contract marriage in a Church, in the presence of a priest 9 or deacon) and two witnesses. Since you did not observe canonical form and, presumably, did not ask for and receive a dispensation from form, this marriage is invalid by that fact. In order to receive the sacraments, you should go to the Sacrament of Penance and confess adultery, explaining to the priest what you have explained here. Once you have made a good confession and received absolution, you may return to full participation in the sacramental life of the Church. I would also suggest that you go and see your parish priest and discuss with him the possibility of requesting an annulment so that you may have some peace of mind. The annulment for the second marriage should be relatively easy since, as I said, you failed to observe canonical and this nullifies a marriage per se. The annulment for the first marriage, which is not absolutely necessarily unless you should wish to remarry at some later date, will be a longer and more detailed case and a matter you should discussion with the parish priest. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:35

Question: I have a girlfriend. She is legally separated to her husband but still she lives with him for the sake of their 7year old daughter. They were married in a civil rites twice. The reason for the legal separation is that her husband was already married when they had their first civil marriage. (She remarried him again thinking that he will stop his womanizing). Now my question is: are we (me and my gf) be allowed to marry inside the Catholic Church? (We’re both Catholics). What must we do? I wanted to marry her by the year 2002. Is my time frame possible?

Answer: To be perfectly honest, your time frame may be possible; the question is whether you and your girl-friend will be ready. First, your fiancée will have to receive a civil divorce. Second, it appears that while she needs an annulment for this union in order to be free to marry you, her annulment would be what is called a “Defect of Form.” From your question, it appears that your girlfriend is a Catholic and was never married in the Church and did not have her marriage validate (for apparent reasons). If this is the case, she will merely need to demonstrate by way of her baptismal certificate and her marriage certificate that this union did not take place in the Church. Since it is proved by documents, this is fairly easily done and your parish priest can help you. So, the matter is really up to your girlfriend and whether she is ready and able to leave the union that she is currently in and whether there will be any issues, of a personal nature, to be addressed before the marriage can take place. So, I think the best thing to do is have a long and honest discussion with your girlfriend about where your relationship is and where it is going. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:35

Question: I am Roman Catholic. My fiance was married previously, in a religious but not catholic ceremony, in a union that produced a child. Later she got a divorce due to her husband’s drug abuse. She was married a second time in a marriage that ended because of abuse, and her third marriage ended when her husband died of cancer. This year she became a Catholic and received her first holy communion. I was wondering if, since she was not originally married in the Catholic Church, if she received an annulment from a non-Roman catholic church, would she be able to marry in the Catholic faith?

Answer: Your fiancée should approach her parish priest who can help her request the two annulments necessary for her to be free to marry you. Even though she was married in a different Church and was not, at the time of the marriages, a Catholic, the Roman Catholic Church still has the right to rule on whether these were valid marriages or not, because the institution of marriage was itself created by God (and not the State) and marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament (and not merely a civil contract). Please have her see her parish priest to discuss these cases. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:35

Question: My friend and I are having a discussion of annulment in the Catholic church. He is Catholic; I am not. The question we seem to be stuck at is: Is there a time limit when a marriage can be annulled in the Catholic church? Is it 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, or more? Has a marriage been annulled in the Church of 10 years or more? How about 15 or more? I think you get the idea. We are looking for a little data on this subject. My points of fact are “baseless” until I get some record of information.

Answer: No, there is no time limit for nullity. I have heard cases involving marriages as long as 25 to 30 years in duration. This is for several reasons. First of all, The Code of Canon Law enshrines the principle that “marriage enjoys the favor of the law” (can. 1060). This means that a marriage is presumed to be valid until the contrary is proven beyond a reasonable doubt (kind of like the principle in American criminal law that one is innocent until proven guilty). No matter how long or how short the marriage was, the automatic presumption is that the marriage is valid; its invalidity must be proved to the Tribunal. Second, as you may understand, the question of the nullity of the marriage has little to do with the common life (the time during which the parties lived together) itself; rather it really looks to what the parties brought to the moment of consent and whether they were free to marry, capable of marriage, and/or gave valid consent. These facts do not change because of the length of the common life. Third, as The Code of Canon Law also makes clear, any member of the Christian faithful as the right to have his or her canonical standing in the Church clarified by a Tribunal if they ask for it and show legitimate need for such clarification. Whether one is or is not married is a basic competent of one’s canonical standing and identity in the Church, and therefore a legitimate object of inquiry. Finally, one sometimes finds people who stay in objective invalid marriages (and really unworkable unions) for a multitude of reasons: the children, fear of the unknown, financial impossibility, familial pressure, etc. These persons who have finally left such unions ought not be deprived of recourse to the Church because of an arbitrary time limit. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:34

Question: Can an annulment be granted after the Respondent attempted to kill the Petitioner and their daughter, even though they were married for 7 years?

Answer: First, allow me to say that in a case such as this one, the attempted murder of one of the spouses, there would appear to be good grounds to suggest the invalidity of the union. I must offer my sincerest prayers for the well-being of the petitioner and daughter as well as my prayers for the respondent and the respondent’s return to peaceable mind and life. Second, the length of a marriage is proof neither for nor against the validity of a marriage. While the Tribunal is bound to presume the validity of the marriage bond it is overturned by stronger evidence of invalidity, the presumption does not necessarily grow stronger with each and every year. Many times couples remain together for extended periods of time for reasons that have little or nothing to do with marriage itself or for the good of the children. So, duration means little in the eyes of the Tribunal. But, this, like all things, must be weighed on a case by case basis. Again, I hope and pray for the well-being of all parties in this case. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:34

Question: About 5 years ago I was married to a Methodist and I am Jewish. We were not married in the church but we were married by a Methodist Preacher. I am now presently married to a Catholic, but we were married by a Justice of the Peace a little over 2 years ago. My question is being I am Jewish and my first marriage was not in the church but were married by a Methodist Preacher do we still have to go through the annulment process in order for my present husband and myself to be married in the Church.

Answer: Yes, you still need to apply for an annulment. The Catholic Church, faithful to the teachings of both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, holds and professes that all marriage, natural (in which at least one of the parties is not baptized) and sacramental (in which both of the parties are baptized) is perpetual by it very nature. Further, all marriage is presumed to be valid until proven to be invalid. Since marriage is a creation of God the Almighty, in the Garden at the beginning of time, and is not merely a social reality or invention of the state, the Church, rather than the state, has the right and the duty to determine which are valid (and valid, sacramental) marriages and which are not. So you do need to approach your husband’s parish priest and ask for his assistance. The parish priest will be able to help you apply for the annulment or can lead you to the person to whom you should speak. Please know in advance that there is the possibility of your case being handled in a special manner (as a Petrine Privilege) since you are not baptized and your marriage, though hopefully a grace filled union, was not a sacrament. Or, the Diocese may choose to process it as a regular annulment. Good luck to you both. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:34

Question: Does a divorced non-Catholic need to get an annulment before becoming Catholic?

Answer: Allow me to answer this question in two parts. First, the Roman Catholic Church holds and teaches that any marriage between two baptized persons (whether they are Catholic or not) is a valid and sacramental marriage. So, the sacrament of marriage is received whenever two baptized person exchange consent to marry. Since this marriage is presumed to be a sacrament, only a Church court can authentically rule whether it is valid or not. Why? Because only the Church has the required knowledge, power, and understanding to rule on what is and what is not a sacrament. The same is true by the way for marriages between two non-baptized persons (or one baptized and one non-baptized person). Since baptism is necessary in order to receive the other sacraments, such a marriage is de facto not a sacrament. At the same time, all marriage was intended by God (by natural and divine law) to be permanent. Only a Church court is able to rule on the application of Divine and natural law. So, the Church does not recognize the Civil court’s jurisdiction over marriage. In other words, we would say that the Civil Court is incompetent to judge whether not Mr. X and Ms. Y are married. So, in regard to part one, all marriage are subject to the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church’s courts (or tribunals) since the state is not able to rule and since the other denominations to not recognize this truth and provide Courts of their own. In part two, I deal with your question more directly. Having established the Church’s right and sole authority to rule whether your marriage was valid or not even if you married before you were a Catholic, does a previously married non-Catholic need an annulment in order to enter the Church. That depends. If the person has subsequently remarried before entrance into the Church, yes. Put it this way: Titus, a Lutheran boy, married Maria, a Lutheran girl in 1977. Titus and Maria hit the skids and break up in 1981, receiving a civil divorce in 1982. In 1995, Titus meets Julia, a good Catholic girl, and falls madly in love with her. In a whirlwind of passion, the elope and get married before the Justice of the Peace. They return home and Julia’s parents, understandably none too happy, demand that things get “fixed up with the Church” and that Titus become a Catholic. So, Titus goes off to RCIA classes. There he hears about annulments and is told he needs one, because of the whole Maria-thing. In this case, Titus must get an annulment before the Easter Vigil or being received into the Church. You see, the Church understands Titus to be married to Maria until the Tribunal says otherwise. Which means that Titus and Julia are in some objective difficulty. In real terms, they are objectively in violation of the sixth commandment until their marriage has been celebrated in the Church. Since one cannot receive a sacrament in such a objectively disordered state, Titus cannot be fully received into the Church (usually by way of Confirmation and Communion) until the annulment is granted and he and Julia are duly married in the Catholic Church. If there is absolutely no Julia in the picture, then Titus does not strictly need an annulment in order to enter the Church. So, if Titus was married to Maria and that marriage ended and then, down the road, he decides to become a Catholic but has never remarried, he is not in need of an annulment in order to be received into the Church. However, if some Julia latter comes along, he will need an annulment in order to marry here, whether she is a Catholic or not. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:34

Question: My ex-wife and I were married in a Protestant church. Both of us were raised Protestant and were professing members of our faith. Following our divorce she married an individual in a non religious ceremony. They are expecting a child. She wants to have our marriage annulled so that her child can be baptized Catholic. On what grounds can this marriage be annulled?

Answer: There are several different grounds upon which a petition for sacramental nullity may be tried. Let me explain it by way of a few distinctions. First and foremost, an annulment is not like a civil divorce. In a civil divorce, the Court assumes that you and your spouse were able to be married, freely chose marriage, and that your marriage was real and effective. However, the Court, on one of several grounds, ends the contract of marriage and frees you and your former spouse from the obligations of marriage. The annulment process, on the other hand, seeks to determine whether you and your spouse were free to marry and able to marry, intended marriage, and consented to marriage. If you did, you are validly married and no power on earth can end that union; if not, the marriage is declared null and void by the Church. So, the annulment process considers the consent of the parties, as given on the day of marriage itself, as well as facts about the parties. With regard to facts about the parties, there are several impediments to marriage arising from the persons themselves which invalidate marriage. E.g.: consanguinity, being married already, impotency, etc. With regard to the consent of the parties, there are also several grounds (according to some, there are as many as 21 possible grounds). Here the Court asks whether the consent of either one or both of the parties was defective due to one of several grounds, such as: a grave lack of discretionary judgment, psychological incapacity to live out the promises of marriage, error regarding the person or a quality of the person, force or fear, etc. You should know that as a party to this marriage, you have certain rights during the annulment process. Among them, you have the right to now exactly what ground the annulment is to be tried on and the right to object to that ground and propose another. You also have the right to offer testimony, propose witnesses, and review the evidence gathered by the Tribunal and object to it. If you want, you may ask the Tribunal to appoint someone to assist in the exercise of these rights. Since the marriage existed between you and your former spouse, you have the right to be involved in the process and you should not feel as if your involvement is a difficulty or is unwelcome. It is extremely important to the Church that this process be as open, transparent, and judicial as possible. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:33

Question: What are the most common grounds for annulment? Please be specific and give marginal examples if possible.

Answer: Valid marriage requires EFFECTIVE consent ceremonially exchanged. At times consent may have been INEFFECTIVE. The following twenty reasons render consent INEFFECTIVE and are recognized as grounds for sacramental nullity which if capable of being proven by credible and available testimony make it possible to declare a marriage null and void. One or more of these reasons must be used in annulment cases that allege the ineffectiveness of marital consent. Likewise, there must be witnesses available who are fully knowledgeable of these facts and are willing to answer a written questionnaire. 1. Insufficient Use of Reason [1095,1(] You or your spouse did not know what was happening during the marriage ceremony because of insanity, mental illness, or a lack of consciousness. 2. Grave Lack of Discretionary Judgment Concerning Essential Marital Rights and Duties [1095,2(] You or your spouse was affected by some serious circumstances or factors that made you unable to judge or evaluate either the decision to marry or the ability to create a true marital relationship. 3. Psychic-Natured Incapacity to Assume Marital Obligations [1095,3(] You or your spouse, at the time of consent, was unable to fulfill the obligations of marriage because of a serious psychological disorder or other condition. 4. Ignorance about the Nature of Marriage [1096 §1] You or your spouse did not know that marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and a woman ordered toward the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation. 5. Error of Person [1097 §1] You or your spouse intended to marry a specific individual who was not the individual with whom marriage was celebrated. (Except for mail-order brides, does not occur in the United States.) 6. Error about a Quality of Person [10967 §2] You or your spouse intended to marry someone who either possessed or did not possess a certain quality; e.g., social status, marital status, education, religious conviction, freedom from disease, or arrest record. That quality must have been directly and principally intended. 7. Fraud [1098] You or your spouse was intentionally deceived about the presence or absence of a quality in the other. The reason for the deception was to obtain marital consent. 8. Error regarding Marital Unity that Determined the Will [1099] You or your spouse married believing that marriage was not necessarily an exclusive relationship. 9. Error regarding Marital Indissolubility that Determined the Will [1099] You or your spouse married believing that the State had the power to dissolve marriage and that remarriage was acceptable after civil divorce. 10. Error regarding Marital Sacramental Dignity that Determined the Will [1099] You and your spouse married believing that marriage is not a religious or sacred relationship but merely a civil contract or arrangement. 11. Total Willful Exclusion of Marriage [1101 §2] You or your spouse did not intend to contract marriage as marriage is understood by the law of the Church. Rather, the ceremony was observed solely as a means of obtaining something other than marriage itself; e.g., to obtain legal status in the country or to legitimize a child. 12. Willful Exclusion of Children [1101 §2] You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, to deny the other’s right to sexual acts open to procreation. 13. Willful Exclusion of Marital Fidelity [1101 §2] You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to remain faithful. 14. Willful Exclusion of Marital Permanence [1101 §2] You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to create a permanent relationship, retaining an option to divorce. 15. Future Condition [1102 §1] You or your spouse attached a future condition to your decision to marry; e.g., you will complete your education, your income will be at a certainly level, you will remain in this area. 16. Past Condition [1102 §2] You or your spouse attached a past condition to your decision to marry and that condition did not exist; e.g., I will marry you provided you have never been married before, I will marry you provided you have graduated from college. 17. Present Condition [1102 §2] You or your spouse attached a present condition to your decision to marry and that condition did not exist; e.g., I will marry you provided you don’t have any debt. 18. Force [1103] You or your spouse married because of an external physical or moral force which you could not resist. 19. Fear [1103] You or your spouse chose to marry because of fear that was grave and inescapable and was caused by an outside force. 20. Lacking of New Consent during Co validation [1157 & 1160] After your civil marriage, you or your participated in a Catholic ceremony and you or your spouse believed that (1) you were already married, (2) that the Catholic ceremony was merely a blessing, and (3) that the consent given during the Catholic ceremony had no real effect. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:33

Question: I was married first to a Catholic I’m Baptist and we both were Baptized. After a year of marriage which the whole year I was in Vietnam came home and a month later she left me. I believe we had it annulled but I don’t no for sure, are what kind. Then I married again to another Catholic in a Baptist Church because couldn’t get married in Catholic Church. We got divorced. The third marriage she was Baptist and was divorced we got married in church office. we got divorced because she went out on me with this guy and slept together. Am I correct that I’m still validly married to the first and the other two are void? I want to get this all straight because I’m seeing a Baptized Catholic lady that I would like to marry her, she has a annulment thru her Church.

Answer: I find it is often best to lay this out in a schematic form to clarify the issues at hand. So, here we go … Marriage #1 Titus (you) baptized non – Catholic to Julia – baptized Catholic, previously unmarried at Catholic Church Marriage #2 Titus to Servilla – a baptized Catholic, previously unmarried at Baptist Church Marriage #3 Titus to Tertia – a baptized non-Catholic, previously married at Baptist Church And now, you what to marry Pomponia, a baptized Catholic who has received an annulment and is free to marry. If these facts are correct, here is how you should proceed. In your question you make the same assumption that a number of others mistakenly made for years until the matter was recently clarified. What would happen is that the Tribunal would declare your marriages to Servilla and Tertia (#2 & 3) in valid due to your prior marriage with Julia. Then, the Court would declare your marriage to Julia invalid. The problem with that is, then there is no obstacle to the marriage with Servilla being valid. Rather, you have to take the marriage in the order that they occurred and consider their validity separately. However, in your own case it does not appear that you will need three formal (long form) annulments. For your first marriage, you will certainly need to follow the formal annulment process, which your fiancée’s parish priest can help you to complete. In regard to the second marriage, Servilla, as a baptized Catholic, was required to follow the canonical form of marriage and did not (see elsewhere on this site for an explanation of ‘canonical form’). Therefore, you can petition for a declaration of nullity based on lack of canonical form, a case proved mainly by documents. In the third marriage, Tertia was also previously married. Since she was and is not a Catholic, it is unlikely that she has received an annulment from that previous marriage. Therefore, you could petition for a declaration of sacramental nullity based on Tertia’s prior bond of marriage to Claudius. Again, the case is proved mainly by documents. And, you fiancée’s parish priest can assist you with these. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:33

Question: I was married in a Catholic Church and was divorced 4 years ago. I will be getting remarried in a United Methodist Church. Do I need an annulment?

Answer: If you are a Roman Catholic and you wish to have your new marriage recognized in the Roman Catholic Church and you wish to be able to receive the sacraments, you do need to receive an annulment from your previous marriage in order to be free to validly enter a new marriage. Please see your parish priest before your plans to marry proceed any further. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:32

Question: I am recently engaged to a man who is Quaker (he is baptized Quaker). He was previously married and divorced. His previous marriage was not in a church and was not performed by a religious priest. I would like the two of us to be married in the Catholic church (I am Catholic). My fiancé would be happy to be married in the Catholic church as well. However, I wonder if we would be able to be married in the Catholic church due to his previous marriage. Please let me know if it would be possible for us to marry in the Catholic church. Also, my father thinks that my soul will be put in jeopardy if I marry someone who was previously married. Is this true?

Answer: Regardless of where your fiancé’s marriage occurred or in whose presence it was celebrated, the Church presumes that marriage between two baptized persons is a valid, sacramental marriage until it has been proved not to be a valid marriage by a Tribunal of the Church. In other words, in order for you and your fiancé to validly enter marriage, he must first ask for a receive an annulment from the Church. Your parish priest can assist you with this process. Until the process is complete, you will not be able to set a date to marry in a Catholic Church. Your soul is not in jeopardy if you marry someone who was previously married, especially if he receives an annulment, which states that though the parties thought they were married, in fact they were not validly, sacramentally married. However, if you choose to marry an individual who was previously married and do so without his having obtained an annulment, your marriage would be held to be invalid (since your spouse is currently presumed to be married to another), you could not marry in the Church, and you would not be able to fully participate in the sacramental life of the Church. By this last statement I mean that while you would be welcome to and encouraged to attend the celebration of the Mass on Sunday and Holydays of Obligation, you would not be permitted to receive communion until such time as your spouse had received an annulment and your marriage had been validated. Being unable to receive the Holy Eucharist would certain have a very negative effect on your spiritual life, I am sure. Please, then, see your parish priest as soon as possible and help your fiancé begin the process of annulment. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:32

Question: My ex-wife and I were married by the justice of the peace and neither were baptized. My ex-wife had been married 3 times before our marriage and had not had annulments for any due to not being catholic. I have since remarried and was baptized and am attending RCIA. I have applied for nullity of my first marriage. My present wife is Baptist and does not wish to convert but does wish to have our marriage recognized by the church. I was wondering if prior bond and non-baptism had any effect on the outcome of the validity of the marriage with my ex-wife.

Answer: Because your ex-wife was not free to marry when she attempted marriage with you, that marriage is invalid because of her prior bond. In petitioning for a declaration of matrimonial nullity, you should be following the process of for a ligamen or prior bond. Once that declaration is received, your present marriage can be validated. To do so, your parish priest will ask you (and your spouse) to exchange your marriage vows in his presence and the presence of two witnesses, and to do so as if for the first time. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:32

Question: I am inquiring about an annulment. I was married in the United Methodist church 20 years ago. About 7yrs ago my husband and I and our children converted to Catholicism. Since then we have been divorced about 5 years. I thought that our marriage is recognized in the church. I am not sure. Will it be easier to get an annulment when I am ready? At this time in my life I have no reason to get one. I am just wondering.

Answer: You are correct, the Roman Catholic Church does recognize as valid and sacramental all marriages which take place between two baptized persons. This is because the minister of the sacrament of marriage is NOT the priest or deacon. Rather, the minister – that is, the one who effects the sacrament – is the couple themselves. It is the consent of the couple which makes marriage. If both parties are baptized (baptism being the pre-requisite for all sacraments), their marriage is a sacrament by the very fact of their baptism. This means that if you wish to remarry in the future, you will first need to apply for a formal annulment. This can be done with your local parish priest Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:17

Question: I would like to know the Roman Catholic churches stand on the interfaith marriage of a Roman Catholic to a New Order Mennonite? Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.

Answer: In order for a Roman Catholic to contract marriage with a non-Catholic Christian, the Catholic party must ask the permission of the Diocesan Bishop or his delegate and is asked to promise to do all that he or she is able to see that the children borne of the union are baptized and raised as Catholics. The permission is routine given, without difficulty and can be applied for at the same time that one makes the other marriage plans with one’s parish priest. I would add to words of caution, one more legal and one more pastoral. The so-called ‘legal’ consideration first. In order for a Catholic to validly contract a sacramental marriage (“be married in the eyes of the Church”) he or she must enter marriage in the presence of a priest (or deacon) and two witnesses in a Church. If the Catholic wishes to marry a non-Catholic and wants to be married in the other party’s Church by that person’s minister, the Catholic must ask for and receive a dispensation from canonical form from the Diocesan Bishop. One’s local parish priest can explain this and the dispensation, like the permission I mentioned earlier is readily granted where the appropriate conditions are existing. Now, the pastoral: interfaith or ‘mixed religion’ marriages pose their own particular sets of concerns for the parties. First and foremost, both spouses must have a strong religious identity and should be confident and secure in their own religious tradition so as to be able to discuss the differences in their faith-lives together. Second, the issue of children and how they will be educated religiously should be discussed openly and frankly well in advance of marriage, so that this does not become a potential pitfall. Finally, the couple should strive to pray together as much as possible and even attend one another’s religious services and participate to the extent that such is possible and appropriate. God bless! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:17

Question: Do to genetic problems which result in an increased probability of our kids being born with macrocyphally I got a vasectomy. Am I in a state of excommunication?

Answer: Thank you very much for your question. Allow me to answer it in several parts. First, an excommunication is a canonical penalty (in other words: a legal punishment) which is either incurred by the person when the individual performs a specific act to which this penalty is connected (also called an automatic excommunication, latae sententiae excommunication, because is arises automatically when one does action X) or it is imposed on the person as a penalty by an outside Church authority when one has done a specific act (also called an imposed or ferendae sententiae excommunication). The universal law of the Church lists the following cases where one is excommunicated, either automatically or by imposition:

  • Apostasy (the total repudiation or denial of the Christian faith), heresy (the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some article of the faith which must be believed with divine and catholic faith), or schism (removing one’s self from the authority of the Pope or communion with him and the Church of which he is the head);
  • Profanation of the Blessed Sacrament;
  • A physical attack on the person of the Holy Father;
  • When a priest absolves an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment;
  • When a bishop consecrates another bishop without a mandate or permission from the Holy Father to do so;
  • When a priest violates the seal of the confessional; and
  • When an individual successfully procures an abortion.

The local bishop is able to add to this list, as Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, did a few years ago (he excommunicated person who continued to belong to certain groups after an established dated). However, a penalty made by a Bishop only effects those who are subject to his Diocesan authority. I know of no Diocese in the United States where vasectomy is grounds for excommunication. Therefore, by neither local or universal law have you been excommunicated. In other words, you have not been subject to the penalty of excommunication. The question of legal penalty is one issue. The question of moral guilt and sin is another issue entirely. I am sure that you are aware that the Church teaches that all forms of artificial birth-control, vasectomy and tubal ligation among them, are immoral. They are immoral because they frustrate the natural function of procreation and exercise an undue usurpation of God’s right to give the gift of life. Tubal ligation and vasectomy are further held to be immoral because they are unnecessary mutilation of the human body and its beautiful integrity. In your own case, you may argue and may have believed in conscience that what you did was justified because of the terrible genetic condition you might have passed on to potential offspring. This is a matter to discuss with your confessor. At the same time, I would note two additional matters. First, one cannot be certain that genetic difficulty will be passed on from one generation to the next (the human genome is not that completely mapped yet). Second, the Church takes a very strong stance against “eugenics”, the wedding out of the genetically undesirable, physically weak, or mentally handicapped. All human being are fully and completely human not matter how differently abled, gifted, or challenged they might be. Having a mentally retarded brother, I must personally say that Sean is a great joy and pleasure (and sometime a real pain in the butt too!) and I am glad that in 1970 there was no way to test for his difficulties in utero and rid ourselves of him. Human life should not be suppressed or removed simply because it may be deeply or profoundly challenged or even subject to great trial and suffering. When people come to me with issues of this kind I often ask them: If you had to decided would you choose to have been born even if that meant you would have a difficult life or would you choose to have never been born at all? Would you want someone else to decide for you whether your life was worth it or not? And, ultimately, do we have the right and the proper understanding to make these such decisions. Indeed, questions such as yours point out that this day in age we may really know far too much. Let me reiterate that if you have any doubts or questions, you should seek out a priest-confessor and avail yourself of the Sacrament of Penance. Once you have done so, there should be no further fear or concern. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:17

Question: Can a Catholic marriage ceremony take place if the couple knows conclusively that they can not conceive?

Answer: The short answer is, Yes. Marriage has a two-fold purpose: the unity of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Even when the latter purpose is not physically possible, the former purpose is still possible and the perpetual, faithful, and exclusive love of the spouses is a great joy and a sacramental sign of God’s love for the world. The Church does teach that impotence which is permanent and antecedent to marriage (exists before marriage) is an absolute obstacle to marriage. But, impotence and infertility are not the same thing. Please excuse the graphic language here, but to be specific impotence in a male would be understood as the absolute inability to achieve and sustain an erection and/or the absolute inability to penetrate the female and/or the absolute inability to achieve ejaculation of at least some human fluid within her. For the female, impotence would mean that the woman does not possess a vaginal opening capable of receiving the male penis (let me be clear, hysterectomy or removal of ovaries does not result in ‘impotence’ as the Church understands it in this case; only the absolute lack of a vaginal opening qualifies here). Any other defects which may result in the inability to have children, such as simple sterility or infertility, do not pose an obstacle to Christian marriage. Such unions are as much the cause of sacramental joy as any other. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about sterility in marriage: “2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.” Please remember as well that Sacred Scripture is replete with examples of infertile couples being blessed with children by divine intervention: Zechariah and Elizabeth receiving John the Baptist chief among them. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:16

Question: My Fiancé and I have recently been engaged. I am Baptist and He is Roman Catholic. We are starting to make wedding arrangements but are not sure exactly what we want to do. We have a few questions that I am hoping you may help me with. His mother has made it very clear that she wants a catholic priest be there to bless our marriage. There are a few things about us that I have heard can hinder us from having a priest bless our marriage. First, he has been married before, not in a catholic church and for a very short time. He has been divorced but the marriage has not been annulled. Secondly, we have been living together for the last 2 years. Also, a catholic lady who married her Baptist husband told me that in order to get married and have a priest bless your marriage, you have to agree to raise your kids catholic. (I am from a small rural town in North Carolina. And there is not a Catholic church for about 100 miles. And he does not go to Catholic Mass. I go to my Baptist church every single Sunday. We have decided that under these circumstances, the children will be raised Baptist.) If these things will not hinder us from having a priest bless our marriage I have only a couple more concerns. First of all we are concerned that we may not even be able to get a Catholic priest to be there. As I have already stated there is not a Catholic Parish for about 100 miles. I am also concerned that my Baptist Minister would not agree to participate in a wedding co-officiating with a Catholic Priest or Vice Versa. If we can not get a Catholic Priest officiate in our marriage for one of these two reasons, Would our marriage still be looked upon by the Catholic Church as non-valid or nonexistent. And Lastly I am a little confused on what exactly does happen if we don’t have a Catholic Priest there. Is it that the Catholic Church does not recognize the marriage, or since he is Catholic and not married in a Catholic Ceremony is the marriage not legal.

Answer: First and foremost, congratulations on your engagement. I hope that you and your fiancé have many happy years together. Now, to your questions. Your fiancé is not currently free to enter a marriage, since he was previously married. However, if you check some of the other questions on this same site, you will notice a thing I have called “Canonical Form of Marriage.” In order for a Catholic to validly enter the sacrament of marriage, he must exchange consent in the presence of a priest or deacon, and two witnesses, in a Church or chapel. If he fails to do so, and does not get permission from the Diocesan Bishop to marry otherwise, the marriage is invalid and, therefore, not a sacramental marriage. Your fiancé, it appears, failed to observe canonical form and, therefore, should apply for an annulment. Any parish priest can assist him with this relatively simple matter. This should help with your ending questions about what will happen if you two do not marry in the Catholic Church. Second, in order for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, the Catholic must receive permission from the Diocesan Bishop. This permission is readily given and any parish priest can help with it. At the time of the request, the Catholic party (not the non-Catholic party) is required to make the following pledge: “I reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ and, with God’s help, intend to continue living that faith in the Catholic Church. I promise to do all that I can to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and reared as Catholics.” If your fiancé does not want to make this pledge or does not intend to practice his faith, I think the parish priest could rightly question why he is seeking to marry in the Catholic Church. Third, I think you do raise a legitimate concern about the willingness of the Baptist minister to co-officiate at the wedding ceremony. Though Catholic priests are always (or at least usually) willing to do this and most of the main-line Protestant minister are as well, I recently experienced a situation in which the Baptist minister informed me that I would not be welcome in his Church and that he would never step foot in a Catholic Church. Unfortunately, it seems that anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well in America. Fourth, I suggest that you contact the central offices of the Diocese in which you live. Though you live in rural North Carolina, there may be a Catholic Church somewhat closer to you than you think. This could solve a great many problems. I would suggest that you and your fiancé go and see a priest to discuss these complex matters face to face. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:16

Question: If the bride is a Catholic and the groom a Baptist how do things go and what are the rules of a Baptist marriage? I mean do they get divorce easily, can you please clarify this point to me?

Answer: First, allow me to address one major point here. There is no such thing as Baptist marriage, or Catholic marriage. The marriage celebrated between two baptized Christians is presumed to be a valid Christian marriage and a sacrament. Just as there is no Baptist baptism or Catholic baptism; there is Christian baptism and all baptisms are presumed to be valid and sacramental. Since there is only Christian marriage, the Church’s teaching on the sacramentality of marriage the indissolubility of marriage extends even to marriages celebrated between two baptized non-Catholics. For Jesus prohibited divorce among all His disciples, not merely among those of His disciples who would become Catholics. While the Baptist Church may recognize the effect of a civil divorce, the Roman Catholic Church remains faithful to Jesus’ teaching and does not recognize the effects of a civil divorce, no matter what the position is of another Christian Church. In your question, a Catholic has married a Baptist. This does raise the issue of canonical form, which I have several times discussed in this section of the website. Did the Catholic marry in a Catholic Church in the presence of a priest (or deacon) and two witnesses? If not, did the Catholic have the official permission (a dispensation) from his or her Bishop to marry elsewhere? If not, this marriage would be invalid due to the Catholic’s failure to observe the Church’s laws on how to celebrate marriage (called, “Canonical Form”). In any case, the Catholic party should see his or her parish priest. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:16

Question: A few years ago I had a divorce. I applied for an annulment. During the annulment I got engaged. The annulment was 2 and a half years old so I went ahead and remarried outside the church. A year later I received my annulment from the first marriage, is it possible to get a marriage of validation?

Answer: Yes it is. Please approach your parish priest or the priest who assisted you with the annulment and explain to him that during the processing of your annulment, you choose to civilly enter a new marriage and that you would now like to have that marriage validated (some people say, “blessed”, though this is not really the correct idea). The priest will check with the Tribunal to make sure there are no remaining concerns to address and will prepare you and your civil spouse to celebrate the sacrament of marriage. When the preparation is complete, you may have the marriage validated, during which you will be asked to consent to marriage by a new act of the will. Good luck and may God grant you many happy years together! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:15

Question: My question concerns interfaith marriage. I am a Baptist and my boyfriend is Catholic and we are considering marriage. We have decided to go to an Engaged Encounter because we both agree that it will help our relationship. However, I am still very confused about how we will go about getting married being an interfaith couple. What does the Catholic Church say about interfaith marriage? What are the actions that we must take to get married with his priest and my pastor both officiating the ceremony? Also, what about when we have children? Is he bound by the church to Baptize them Catholic? I am not opposed to Catholicism. I enjoy attending Catholic Mass, but I do not wish to convert and he understands, but I don’t want him have to give up any sacraments to marry me. Please fill me in on what the Church feels about this type of marriage.

Answer: Let me say one quick word at the outset. Please be careful of thinking of Catholics and Baptists as members of two different religions or two different faiths. As Saint Paul said, “We share one baptism, one faith, one God and Father of us all.” We are both Christians and share much in common. There does exists a sad state of separation between our Churches at this time, but both are Christian Churches seeking reunion with one another so that our communion in Jesus Christ might be seen clearly by all the world. So, concentrate on what you share in common with you fiancé and learn from the differences that exist between you two. The seven sacraments which Christ instituted and which the Catholic Church continues to celebrate for the largest difference, and are a special gift that the Catholic Church has to share with the world. As to the rest of your questions, I would encourage to do the Engaged Encounter and to visit with your fiancé’s parish priest as soon as possible. He will be able to answer your questions and explain the shape of the Catholic nuptial ceremony and how your pastor could be involved. Also, he will read to you and your fiancé the promise your fiancé will be asked to make and can explain to you the reason for the promise and exactly what is asked. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:15

Question: I am considering marrying a non-Catholic. He’s actually agnostic. Can we marry if he agrees to let me raise the children Catholic and he schools them in his beliefs at the same time? Also, can we have a Catholic ceremony in a location other than a Catholic church – outdoors?

Answer: First, if you choose to marry, please know that my prayers are with you. Second, I would encourage you and your intended to have a very serious and frank conversation about the issue of religion, where you both are in your faith journey, and how religion will be practiced in your family, if God should bless you with children (and even aside from that). At times, difference in religion, especially the difference between a Catholic Christian believer and an agnostic or atheist, can pose some serious, even seemingly insurmountable, difficulties. So, please talk about the matter up front. Third, your intended would not be required to promise anything. The Church can only ask for and expect promises from her members. But, you will be asked to make a promise and will be asked to acknowledge that the promise has been made. In the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the promise reads: “I reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ and, with God’s help, intend to continue living that faith in the Catholic Church. I promise to do all that I can to share the faith I have received with our children by having them baptized and reared as Catholics.” If you can and are willing to make this promise, the Church is happy to grant you permission to marry a non-Catholic. Fourth, as regards celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage outside, The Code of Canon Law requires marriage to be celebrated in a Church, chapel or oratory, preferably your parish Church. However, the diocesan Bishop can give permission for marriage to be celebrated outside. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston does not grant this permission for a number of reasons, chief among them the desire to clearly underline the sacramental nature of marriage. However, you should check with your parish priest as your diocese might have different regulations. Finally, congratulations and God bless you both. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:15

Question: I am Catholic and my previous spouse is not. We were married in the Lutheran Church, because the Catholic Church would not marry us due to the fact that he was previously divorced from a Catholic. During our marriage he received an annulment from the Catholic Church. We divorced a few years ago due to problems with our children. The children are now grown and we want to remarry next year. Can we get married in the Church so our marriage will be recognized as valid? We want only the priest and witnesses in attendance.

Answer: Yes. I would suggest that you go see your parish priest and talk about the situation with him. Though you were first married in a Lutheran Church and, thus, failed to follow canonical form which made your marriage invalid and, then, had a civil divorce, it would perhaps be best to consider this not a second marriage but one in the same union. Therefore, you should have the marriage validated: a ceremony almost identical to a wedding in which you are your spouse would renew your consent to marriage, offering your consent as if for the first time. It can be a very simple ceremony. However, I would strongly suggest that you take full advantage of any pre-marital counseling or preparation. It does sound like there are a number of issues which you and your former spouse/fiancé should address and that this kind of marriage preparation could be very beneficial to you both. God bless! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:15

Question: I am aware that it is required to have two witnesses at a wedding. However, my fiancée and I just moved to Maine, and quite far away from friends and family. We wish to get married where we live and through the Catholic Church, both being Catholic and all. Therefore, we have chosen not to invite anyone to our wedding. So, I have two questions. One, is it possible to still get married through the Catholic Church? Two, would the Church be able to provide us with witnesses (alter boys, Deacons or such)?

Answer: First, I congratulate you on deciding to marry where you live. This is precisely what the Church envisions in The Code of Canon Law, that you celebrate your marriage in the parish church of the territory in which you reside, not where your parents live, where you met, or where you went to school. Second, yes, the parish should be able to supply you with two witnesses. The witness don’t have to be anyone you know. Rather they fulfill a juridic or legal role of being able to testify, in the absence of or destruction of a written record, that this marriage did take place. Following the words of Jesus Christ and an ancient practice, we rest our judgments on the word of two or three witnesses. Overtime, these witnesses grew to the ceremonial Maid of Honor and Best Man. The witnesses are necessary, the ceremonial stuff is not. Third, I would advise you that many parishes and Dioceses require that you allow six months between initial contact and date of marriage. So you many have time to find or make friends to informally serve as witnesses or at the very least invite to you celebration. I would advise you to contact your parish priest as soon as possible to begin making arrangements. Tell him of your potential lack of witnesses right off the bat. Fourth, congratulations to you both and may God give you many happy years. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:14

Question: If two people are married in the Church but never consummate the marriage because they previously agreed to live in a perpetual state of virginity, would the marriage be considered valid? Although I can’t personally find any evidence in the Bible for the lifelong virginity of Mary, the Catholic Church upholds the belief that Mary and Joseph remained virgins for life. If that’s so, was their marriage valid? Thank you very much!

Answer: This very question was much debated and considered in Church history, especially in the medieval period of the Church as our understanding of the sacrament of marriage – together with the other six sacraments – became more refined. It was basically a clash of ideas. Roman civilization had held that the consent of the parties makes marriage. Today, the Code of Canon Law still teaches this clearly and definitely: “Can. 1057 §1 A marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of persons who are legally capable. This consent cannot be supplied by any human power. “§2 Matrimonial consent is an act of will by which a man and a woman by an irrevocable covenant mutually give and accept one another for the purpose of establishing a marriage. ” Likewise, The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches that consent makes marriage: “1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that ‘makes the marriage. ‘If consent is lacking there is no marriage. “1627 The consent consists in a ‘human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other’: ‘I take you to be my wife’ – ‘I take you to be my husband.’ This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two ‘becoming one flesh.’ “1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid. Meanwhile, the Germanic world held to the legal principal that one takes ownership of a thing by use of it. They held the same for the covenant of marriage: marriage came into being when the spouses made use of their mutual right to each others bodies, in other words when they consummated marriage. Even the word ‘consummation’ discloses this original Germanic understanding. As the Catholic Church brought the Roman and Germanic world together, theologians began to understand that both consent and consummation have a specific place in the formation of the covenant and contract of marriage. By the consent of the parties, the contract of marriage comes into being. If both parties are baptized, the contract is also a sacrament and obtains a “special firmness” as a result of sacramental grace (can. 1055 §2). If the parties proceed from there to consummation, their sacramental union becomes, by the act of consummation, absolutely indissoluble – a permanent and lasting bond which can only be destroyed by the power of death. The Church can and does dissolve marriages which have never been consummated, but only at the request of one of the parties and only after incontrovertible proof of the lack of consummation has been supplied. (The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith handles such requests.) The Code of Canon Law reflects the importance of both these elements in saying: “Can. 1061 §1 A valid marriage between baptized persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human manner engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring. To this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh. “§2 If the spouses have lived together after the celebration of their marriage, consummation is presumed until the contrary is proven.” As regards Mary and Joseph’s marriage, I would first like to state that the Church professes the perpetual virginity of Mary. She was a virgin before the birth of Jesus, after the birth of Jesus, and for the whole of her life. We state this in the Nicene Creed at Mass when we say that Jesus “was borne of the virgin Mary,” This means that Mary and Joseph did not consummate their marriage. Were they married? Yes, because they had exchanged between themselves consent to marry and therefore had a ratified marriage, remembering that God intended marriage from the beginning to be perpetual and exclusive. Did they have the sacrament of marriage? If you believe that both Mary and Joseph received baptism (which many of the Fathers of the Church held and which I believe), than yes they had the sacrament of marriage which enjoys a special firmness as a result of sacramental grace. Did they consummate their marriage? No, so their marriage was not absolutely indissoluble. But it was a true marriage nonetheless and their love for one another and their joy in Christ their son left no room for them ever to desire or think about leaving for another. Good luck and may God grant you many happy years together! Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:14

Question: My fiancé is a Muslim and I am a Catholic. My boyfriend is not and has not really ever been a practicing Muslim. I think he may have been to a mosque five times in his life. But his grandmother whom he tells me he loved more than anything, was a very big Muslim. His Mum and Dad don’t practice the religion at all, but have told me quite adamantly that I can’t marry in a church in respect of their religion. On the other hand, I have been brought up in a very religious Catholic family. My father serves on the alter as an assistant to the priest and I’ve been brought up going to church all my life. I mentioned to my parents I would be unable to marry in a church and they were really upset about it. I am upset about it. I always thought I would marry in a church and my boyfriend originally told me early upon going out, it wouldn’t be a problem, marrying in a church. Now he has found out different and says that he can’t and never will marry in a church. What should I do? Please help as I love my family and I love him and his family. I hear that a Catholic priest will not perform a marriage out of a church, so having a Muslim and Catholic representative would not work anyway?

Answer: First of all, I would say that this is a matter about which you and your fiance should have a very serious and honest conversation. I would suggest that you frankly discuss all sides of the matter and try to avoid being defense in or getting hurt by the conversation. The reason I say that you really need to talk about this matter is that, when and if God should bless you with children, the matter will come up again. Will they be baptized as Christians or will they be raised as Muslim? This is, in many ways, an even tougher question. At the end of the conversation, if you decide not to be married in a Catholic Church, I would suggest that you and your fiance go to see your parish priest and tell him that you want to get married but have chosen not to marry in a Catholic Church. He will help you apply for permission to marry outside the Church, in the presence of an Imam if you should wish. The priest could attend and take part in the ceremony, but could not ask for or receive your vows. And the parish priest will also help the two of you prepare for marriage. However, I would again say that the first thing you should do would be to sit down together and have a serious conversation about these important matters. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:14

Question: My husband (a non-Catholic) and I were married in a civil ceremony, as a compromise. He refused to be wed by the catholic church; however, he occasionally attends mass with me and agrees to raise our children catholic. Having an invalid marriage, and not being able to fully participate in the sacraments weighs heavily upon me. Can our marriage be “blessed” without his participation (he believes our marriage is valid in the eyes of God)?

Answer: Yes, your marriage can be validated in the Church without your spouse’s participation in the process of validation, provided that his consent to marriage can be demonstrated to continue to be present, which from your statement appears to the be the case. Since you failed to observe canonical form, the canons (1159, paragraph 3; and 1160) require that for validation – the giving of new consent according to canonical form, what most people call “being blessed” – the canonical form must now be followed. This means that both you and your spouse must participate. However, the Code of Canon Law also allows for a process called radical sanation. You should go to see your parish priest and discuss this matter with him. If the parish priest thinks the circumstances are correct, he can ask the Diocesan Bishop to grant a radical sanation which is “the retroactive validation of an invalid marriage … without the renewal of consent granted by the” Diocesan Bishop. Canon 1161 paragraph 1 says that this radical sanation (which means, literally “a healing at the root”) “involves a dispensation … from the canonical form if it had not been observed, as well as a referral back to the past of the canonical effects.” This means that, if granted, the radical sanation would cause your marriage to be held as a valid and sacramental marriage from the day that you entered the civil marriage. Again, please talk to your parish priest. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:14

Question: My sister is getting married to a wonderful man (non catholic) this summer and my father refuses to go to the wedding because a priest will not be there. Is there a rule that says he may not attend? Our family is very upset by this and would like to understand the Church’s position on this.

Answer: If you check some of the other questions on this same site, you will notice a thing I have called “Canonical Form of Marriage.” In order for a Catholic to validly enter the sacrament of marriage, he must exchange consent in the presence of a priest or deacon, and two witnesses, in a Church or chapel. If he fails to do so, and does not get a dispensation from the Diocesan Bishop to marry otherwise, the marriage is invalid and, therefore, not a sacramental marriage. I should remind all readers that among the Seven Precepts of the Church, which all Catholics -and especially those who have been confirmed – are obliged to observe, is the pledge to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage according to the laws of the Church. In other words, this is a very serious matter. If your sister has not gotten the required dispensation from the Diocesan Bishop before proceeding, her marriage is invalid, she will have failed to observe this precept, and will be in violation of the Sixth Commandment, making her ineligible for reception of the Sacraments, including Eucharist, until she celebrates the Sacrament of Penance and has the marriage validated. Your father, by threatening not to attend, may be attempting to draw your sister’s attention to the seriousness of the matter. If your sister has seen her parish priest and has received a dispensation from Canonical Form, the presence of a Catholic Priest is not necessary for the marriage to be valid and sacramental. In that case, her father ought to attend the wedding. At the same time, I would note that the 4th Commandment surely does suggest that your sister ought to take into consideration the reasonable request of her parents (all the more so if they are paying for the wedding). If your sister has not received the dispensation from Canonical Form, hers will not be a valid or sacramental marriage. While there is no law prohibiting Catholics from attending such events, it would not be inconsistent to say that Catholics ought not encourage such events or, by their behavior, suggest that they are acceptable. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:13

Question: My ex-husband and I were married 17 years, we went through the RCIA classes in 1997 and were baptized and married in the catholic church. We were divorced last year, if we wanted to remarry, how would we do that?

Answer: If by “remarry,” you mean to restore the civil contract of marriage between the two of you that existed before your divorce, all you need to do is see a Justice of the Peace. The Church alone has the right to determine the validity of marriage. Civil courts only have jurisdiction over the merely civil effects of marriage; the sacramentality of marriage is not a merely civil effect nor is the existence of marriage. Church does not recognize the effect of a civil divorce, for these reasons. Thus, sacramentally, the two of you are still married; its just the civil matter you must resolve. It might be pastorally useful for the two of you to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, to put behind you any of the faults or failure which led up to the divorce. After that, it might be good to approach your parish priest and ask for a blessing of your marriage. Explain the circumstances to him. If, on the other hand, you mean by “remarry” that you two wish to marry other people, you will need the decree of a Church Tribunal declaring you free to marry. Please ask your parish priest for help in completing the annulment process. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:13

Question: Is there any opportunity for a baptized Catholic to marry a Hindu divorcee who earlier married in a Hindu temple? Is it okay for the divorcee to convert into Christianity before marriage? Can the marriage be solemnized in a Catholic church?

Answer: There really are three (actually four) very separate questions here:

  1. Can a baptized Catholic marry a Hindu?
  2. How would the couple celebrate marriage (i.e., where)?
  3. Can a baptized Catholic marry a divorced Hindu?
  4. Can the Hindu convert to Christianity before marriage?

I’ll answer these questions in the same order given above. First, a baptized Catholic is required, by the Church’s law, to marry a baptized person and preferably to marry a baptized Catholic. In order to lawfully marry a baptized non-Catholic Christian, the Catholic party needs the permission of his or her diocesan Bishop; in order to validly marry a non-baptized person, the Catholic party needs a dispensation from his or her diocesan Bishop. Why is this? Well, first, the Church wants Catholics to be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage and enjoy all its graces. Since sacraments are only for the baptized and marriage takes place between two people, both persons must be baptized in order to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage. And so, the Church places this extra requirement of a dispensation in order to draw one’s attention to the fact that he or she will not be receiving sacramental grace. Additionally, the Church, in her experience, is convinced that sharing the faith is an essential component of a successful and happy marriage and of the proper rearing of children. In granting the dispensation, the diocesan Bishop is releasing the Catholic party from the legal obligation to marry a baptized person, provided that the Catholic party promises to continue the practice of the faith and to share his or her faith with any children that are borne. So, bottom line: yes, a baptized Catholic may validly and licitly marry a Hindu, provided the Catholic receives a dispensation. One’s parish priest can help with obtaining the dispensation. Second, the Catholic party is obliged to marry in the presence of a priest (or deacon) and two witnesses in a Catholic church, chapel, or oratory. However, the Catholic party may ask his or her diocesan Bishop for a dispensation from this obligation (referred to as “the canonical form of marriage”) if he or she is marrying a non-Catholic and there is legitimate reason to not have a Catholic ceremony. Again, one’s parish priest can help with obtaining the dispensation. Third, a baptized Catholic cannot marry a divorced person, regardless of the divorcee’s religion, unless that person has been declared free to marry by a Tribunal of the Church. In other words, it will be necessary for the previously married person to petition for an annulment or a similar decree from a Church Tribunal. To read more about annulments, please refer to Annulment FAQ at http://www.dwc.org/curia/tribunal.shtml. Fourth, Yes, the Hindu person can covert to Christianity before marriage. Please discuss this with your parish priest before doing anything else, as it may affect the kind of petition that the Hindu person would need to present to the Tribunal for his or her previous marriage. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:13

Question: I have been dating a divorced Catholic gentleman who is in the process of pursuing an annulment as he was once married in the Catholic Church to a Catholic woman & wishes to be free to marry in the Church again . Although he & I have recently taken a break, I love him and he is a wonderful man. He and I are embarking on serious soul-searching journeys and remain in touch. When I mentioned this to a dear friend of mine, she informed me that her spiritual advisor, a Catholic priest, stated that I was actually dating a married man in the eyes of the Church. He continued to state that if I was romantically involved with this man (that does not include pre–marital sexual intercourse) , it was the equivalent of me committing adultery. Is this accurate? I am greatly disturbed by my own religious ignorance, and hope that you can provide some insight.

Answer: The Church does teach that the bond of marriage is presumed to be valid until it has been declared null and void by a legitimate decree of the Church. Furthermore, the bond of marriage ends only with death or by decree of the Church. That being the case, the rights, obligations, and duties of marriage continue until the bond itself has come to an end. Some of the rights and obligations are placed in abeyance when the couple seeks a decree formally recognizing a separation – rights such as the right to share bed and board. However, the others remain effective until the bond itself has ended, since the Church understands separation as a period in hopeful expectation of the recovery of married life not a step on the way to civil divorce or annulment. For all intents and purposes, a civil divorce is more equated to a permanent separation than to an annulment. From this perspective, it can be seen that there is little difference between a married person dating and a civilly divorced but not yet annulled person dating. Both cases would involve a violation of the sixth commandment, about which commandment it has been classically taught that there is no “lightness of matter,” e.g.: all violations of the sixth commandment involve grave matter – some admittedly more grave than others. An individual who is dating a married person would then certainly be involved in the commission of an offense against the sixth commandment, as a necessary cooperator, and would be committing a grave act. Such a person should seriously examine his or her conscience and should consider discontinuing the romantic relationship until such time as the civilly divorced person has obtained an annulment. Being disturbed by ignorance is a beautiful thing, because it is the provocation to seek understanding. What should be terrified by all those occasions when ignorance suits us just fine, because ignorance is rarely bliss. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:12

Question: My husband and I were married august 18 2006 (civil court). he is in the military currently on deployment till mid september we were planning on having our marriage blessed in april but now we wont be able to because he will be gone for 2 years, the problem is he was previously married he was not baptized and she was. We dont have the time to wait he leaves october 9th 2007 and before he goes I would like to know that our marriage is blessed it means so much to me I am a practicing catholic and have been since the day I was baptized no one seems to want to help and I feel like I am being punished for marrying a man who was once married, we have a child together and she was baptized catholic my husband is planning to attend RCIA classes soon as he gets a chance to so we can raise our daughter in the catholic church together.

Answer: Please thank your husband for his service to our nation. You are correct that there is some difficulty posed by the time here. However, I would urge you to go see your parish priest with your husband. Depending on the circumstances, your husband may be able to request a Petrine Privilege rather than a formal annulment, since he was not baptized at the time of his previous marriage. Together with his intention to be baptized and, therefore, to enter a sacramental marriage with you, this could strongly favor the grant of a Petrine Privilege. On the other hand, it may be that he would need to apply for a formal annulment. In either case, the two of you should go to see your parish priest right now. At the same time, he could begin formation to be received into the Church. Of course, his marriage situation must be resolved before he can be received into the Church. During his deployment, the Catholic chaplain should be able to help with these matters. You two can and are raising your daughter together in the Catholic Church. It is true that until these matters are resolved, it would not be appropriate for you to receive Holy Communion. But, you should go to Church on Sunday and participate in the life of your parish Church. That community can be a great support to you during your husband’s deployment, especially in you do not have family or an FRG in the area. It will take time to get things straightened out properly and have your marriage validated, but the result will certainly be worth the wait Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:12

Question: My daughter who is Catholic… went to the Dominican Republic and married a non-baptized man. She was married by a judge. On coming home she realized she made a mistake and got a divorce (our state does not do annulments). Is she now able to marry in a Catholic Church because the marriage was never recognized by the church?

Answer: Yes. Your daughter should take her marriage certificate, her divorce decree, and a copy of her baptismal certificate to her parish priest and explain what happened. He will be able to help her apply for a Declaration of Nullity based on Lack of Canonical Form. If a Catholic does not marry in the presence of a priest (or deacon) and two witnesses in a Catholic Church and also fails to requests a dispensation from the bishop to get married elsewhere or in the presence of another, that marriage is certainly invalid. It’s invalidity it proven by the public documents I mentioned above and is relatively easy. If you are in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, our forms are available on-line at http://www.dwc.org/curia/petitions.shtml. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vica Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:12

Question: Can I get married in a Catholic Church or by a priest if I have conceived children before marriage?

Answer: Yes. The priest or deacon witnessing your marriage may wish to carefully prepare you and your fiancé in order to ensure that you are not marrying under pressure to “do the right thing” or “give the baby a name.” Such pressure is sometimes well intentioned but often results not only in resentment and subsequent divorce but in invalid consent due to Simulation or Consent given under Force. In other words, the priest or deacon may wish to make sure that you are marrying because you want to marry one another, not because you are pregnant. Moreover, the priest or deacon may encourage you to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession before the wedding. All that said, being pregnant is not an impediment – an obstacle – to the Sacrament of Marriage. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD Judicial Vicar Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:11

Question: I married my husband who is Catholic in a civil ceremony here in WV. I had been married before and I have the papers to fill out to get my marriages annulled. My question is the father in my husband’s church in Mexico said he would marry us there if I had a paper saying I had never been married in the Catholic church. Where and how can I get that paper? We are going back to Mexico in October and was hoping that we could get married there at that time.

Answer: Now, before we get way ahead of ourselves here, it is important to clarify matters. From your question above, I know the following: You – Sandi – were married time 1 to Marcus Then you were married time 2 to Titus You married Titus in a civil ceremony in WV Titus, who is a Roman Catholic, wants to validate this marriage in Mexico. In order for that to happen, you may need much more than a paper saying you did not marry in the Church, depending on a few things. First and foremost, it will be important to receive the answers to a few questions.

  1. Were you, Sandi, a Catholic when you married Marcus? If not, were you baptized when you married him?
  2. Was Marcus, your first husband, a Catholic when you married him? Was he baptized when you married him?
  3. Were either of you married before?
  4. Where did the two of you get married (city, state)?
  5. Was Titus, your second husband, married before?
  6. Where are you presently living?

With the answers to these questions, I may be able to assist you. Very Rev. Kevin Michael Quirk, JCD, JV Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:11