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Q. Over the years my modest financial investment has been reinvested in numerous subcompanies. I am concerned about the possibility of my funds being used for causes not compatible with Catholic teachings. Is there an obligation on my part to try to track the use of these investments
-- Name withheld, Boulder Colo.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Certainly, the general moral law requires that we be responsible for our actions and for the way in which we cooperate with other in the commission of good and evil. The immorality of an action extends not only to the person who commits it but to those who cooperate with it or are neutral about it.
The moral person is called to have a sense of responsibility for the source of his or her income. Income derived from sources that offend against the good of society and the moral law of Christ is itself morally tainted.
While your desire to avoid the situation wherein your investment might be further invested in enterprises that go against Christian morality is commendable, you say that you would not know where to begin in trying to sort all of this out. Certainly, if something problematic comes to your attention, you would be obliged to act.
However, there is no obligation to go to impossible lengths in ensuring that all your subinvestments are moral.
Is St. Michael the same as Jesus?
Q. Is St Michael the same as Son of God, the Jesus Christ?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church remarks: “In the Old Testament, ‘son of God’ is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings. It signifies … a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature,” and “does not necessarily imply [the individual] was more than human” (No. 441). “Creature” is the key word in this reflection, and because St. Michael is one of God’s creatures, he — like any of us — may be called a “son of God.”
This is no small tribute to God’s generosity, but Jesus’ sonship is different. Jesus is not one of God’s creatures, adopted to be a son. We express this when we recite the Creed, professing our belief that Jesus is “begotten, not made.”
With the cooperation of the Virgin Mary, and through his conception and birth, Jesus is God’s only Son. (Our language acknowledges Jesus’ unique nature by using a capital “S” when we call him “Son of God.”) Jesus’ own words reflect the difference between his and everyone else’s relation to the Father, and the Catechism points out that except when Jesus taught the disciples to call God “‘Our Father’ … he emphasized this distinction, saying ‘my Father and your Father’” (No. 443).
Did the Roman Census Really Take Place?
Q. I have heard it said recently that the account in Luke's Gospel about Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem for the census (see 2:1-5) didn't happen. Are you aware of a credible historical source that says how the Romans conducted the census, and in particular the census in question?
Christy Leskovar, Las Vegas, Nev.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
We know from various sources that the Roman government ordinarily followed local customs in carrying out its decrees. A census in Palestine would have followed the Jewish practice of summoning each householder to his birthplace to be enrolled in the census.
Joseph had to travel about a hundred miles to Bethlehem, the place of origin of the family of David. The birth of Mary's son was imminent. He could not leave her behind; not only because of his love for her, but also because as foster father of the Incarnate Son of God it was fitting that he be present at the birth of Christ.
Luke 2:2 tells us that the census was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Though Quirinius was later governor of Syria, Saturninus was governor of Syria at the time of Jesus' birth. Perhaps at the time of the census Quirinius was in charge of carrying it out, under the authority of Saturninus. Tertullian (c. 160-c. 225) wrote that at the time of Christ' birth a census was in progress when Saturninus was governor of Syria. Both Tertullian and Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) state that in their time the records of this census still existed in the Roman archives.
The record outside the New Testament is clear. There was a census at the time of Jesus' birth. It required Joseph and Mary to go to the place of origin of Joseph's family. The only question is whether Quirinius was acting as governor for Saturninus in conducting the census. He certainly could have been. St. Luke says he was.
Last Rites for Comatose Patient?
Q. I once saw a priest give last rites to a dying and unconscious Catholic patient. The patient never made an indication that she was aware of what was happening. Does the Church allow for the possibility that someone in a coma may still be able somehow to respond to the grace of that sacrament? What about someone who seems to have expired only moments before the priest arrives? Can she still legitimately receive the sacrament? I've seen that done, too.
Amy Butler, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
So long as there is some hope that the patient may have wanted to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and/or absolution from his sins, a priest may conditionally administer these sacraments to dying and unconscious patients if there is some indication that he might still be alive. Obviously, it is much better to receive these sacraments while the patient is still conscious and better able to profit from the grace. Don't hesitate to call the priest to prepare our brothers and sisters for a holy death.
Q. I have several old scapulars that are weathered and worn, as well as some old prayer books whose pages have yellowed and are falling out. I was wondering how would someone properly dispose of broken or old religious articles? Is burying them or burning them a proper solution? I just don’t feel right about throwing them away.
Both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law define sacramentals as “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church (Catechism, No. 1667; Canon 1166). Although far less important than the consecrated elements of the Eucharist, the words and objects — blessings, scapulars, books — that make up the Church’s sacramentals must be treated as the important, indeed holy, things they are. Blessings must not be employed lightly, and books and other blessed objects should “be treated with reverence” (Canon 1167).
Burying seems an appropriate option for disposing of objects that will not — or are too large to — burn, and one might want to take some additional precaution, such as shredding the pages of a book, or cutting a scapular into small pieces before burying, so that no one accidentally stumbling onto the remains will imagine they were buried in anger or with ill will. This also prevents anyone from “recycling” the sacramental object for sacrilegious or profane use.
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