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Fee-Based Spiritual Direction?
Q. Is it customary to pay a regular fee or honorarium to a spiritual director? I asked a laywoman I knew about becoming my spiritual director, and she said I would need to pay her thirty dollars an hour.
N. N., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
It is not usual to pay for spiritual direction, but if your spiritual director has no other way to support herself, then I suppose it would be appropriate. After all, Our Lord said that the “laborer deserves his pay.” Nevertheless, the tradition of the Church in this matter is based on Our Lord’s instructions to the apostles: “Freely you have been given, freely should you give” (Matt. 10:8).
Attending Secular Weddings?
Q. Can you please tell me what is the Church’s teaching on Catholics attending a humanist wedding service or a wedding in a registry office?
M. Q., via email
A. The Church doesn’t ask Catholics to refrain from attending weddings of those who aren’t Catholic, even weddings of a secular nature or ones that involve only a civil ceremony. Civil marriages are presumed valid by the Church (apart from obvious impediments to validity, such as same-sex “marriages”), though they are not sacramental.
Problems do arise, however, when Catholics, who are obligated to obey the Church’s moral teaching and precepts, have weddings that are contrary to Church law. Is the bride or groom who is engaging in such a ceremony a Catholic without proper dispensations or with a prior marriage that has not been annulled? In that case, you must wrestle with the question of whether your attendance would seem to signify your approval. Also, the Church does not allow Catholics to act as formal witnesses (maid/matron of honor, best man) in such situations.
Has the Church Accepted Sola Fide?
Q. Some time ago I read an article in a Protestant magazine that the Catholic Church has now officially recognized the validity of the Reformation (Lutheran) “salvation by faith alone” (sola fide) doctrine, which is the central teaching of most Protestant churches. Is this so? If so, can you explain this further?
A. A., N.Y.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
The Catholic Church has not accepted the Reformation doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
In 1999, the Lutheran World Federation officials and representatives of the Catholic Church issued a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Though a great measure of accord was reached, the Catholic Church has pointed out subsequently that there is still much work to be done.
At the time when the Catholic-Lutheran statement was issued, the Vatican made it plain that the teachings of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council were not being changed. Conservative Lutherans and others have attacked the statement precisely for that reason. They view the joint declaration as a betrayal of true Lutheran doctrine and a reprehensible concession to the Catholic Church.
What’s a Monsignor?
Q. I’m a recent convert, and I have a simple question: What exactly is a monsignor? I know it’s a clergyman of some kind, and I’ve even met one, but is it some kind of clerical rank between a priest and a bishop?
K. A., Chicago, Ill.
A. Welcome home to the Church! Actually, I recall that as a new convert I had the same question.
The address monsignor (from the Italian “my lord”) has been used generally to refer to Church dignitaries of various sorts, such as bishops, higher officials of the Church administration in Rome, abbots and other major superiors of religious orders, and others.
However, you are probably referring to those who are addressed as monsignor because they have received one of several honorary ranks conferred by the pope on a priest, usually at the request of his bishop, in recognition of outstanding service to the Church. They may be named as an “Prelate of Honor of His Holiness,” a “Chaplain of His Holiness,” or a “Protonotary Apostolic.”
Why Aren’t St. Paul’s Letters Chronological?
Q. Why aren’t the epistles of St. Paul arranged chronologically?
D.A., via email
A. A few pairs of St. Paul’s epistles show chronological ordering, in the sense that 1 Corinthians apparently was written before 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians before 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Timothy before 2 Timothy. But otherwise, as you note, they weren’t arranged chronologically.
This is in fact the case with most books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Chronological ordering doesn’t seem to have been a concern for the ancient churches whose circulated collections of inspired texts eventually gave shape to the established canon of Scripture. (The canon is the Church’s official list of inspired books of Scripture; it comes from a Greek word meaning the rule by which other things are measured.)
The ancient kernel of the New Testament canon contained two groupings of the sacred books, the four Gospels and the Pauline epistles. Both Pope St. Clement (who died about the year 96) and the Muratorian Canon (the earliest known list of New Testament books, compiled at the end of the second century), referred to 1 Corinthians as “the head of the Gospel.” This suggests that as early as Clement’s time, St. Paul’s letters had already been collected and arranged in a fixed order (though the eventual list, of course, placed Romans, not 1 Corinthians, at the “head”).
The reasons for that particular ordering, however, are now lost to us. Perhaps it was more circumstantial than intentional.
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