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Details in Confession?
Q. If a person confesses sexual sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is he or she required to give the details of what led to the sin?
N.N., via email
A. When a person confesses his sins, he is required to make an “integral” confession. That means he must mention all unconfessed mortal sins he is aware of. In accusing himself of any mortal sin, he is to mention the number of times as well as the circumstances.
With respect to sins against the sixth commandment, it is neither necessary nor helpful to go into too much detail.
If the sin was adultery, it should be mentioned as such. If it was unchastity between unmarried persons, it should be mentioned as “impure actions with a member of the opposite sex, x number of times.” If the sins were with a member of the same sex, or alone, those circumstances should also be mentioned. It can also be helpful to mention what led to the sin so that confessor can give appropriate advice for avoiding those occasions in the future.
Legionaries of Christ Founder
Q. What do you make of the recently publicized revelations that the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, had a child by a mistress and may be guilty of other serious sins and deceptions?
O.P., San Antonio, Texas
A. I feel great grief on behalf of my brothers and sisters among the Legionary priests and their associated apostolic movement, Regnum Christi. This is a terribly difficult and confusing time for them.
I won’t presume to offer an opinion about how they should move forward from here. Many faithful Catholic commentators, much wiser than I, disagree on that matter. So I am simply praying that God will give them every grace they need to find cleansing and healing and to know His will for their future.
Three Days of Darkness?
Q. I have just read about the three days of darkness. My mother said she read that the Pope said that it would happen sometime soon. Is this true?
C.M., via email
A. The notion of the “three days of darkness” you describe refers to an alleged private revelation that God will one day chastise the entire world with three days and nights of intense darkness, during which time a large portion of the earth’s population will die from pestilence and demonic attack.
This notion has appeared in the writings of several Catholic visionaries and is accepted by a number of Catholics as an authentic prophecy from God. But the Holy Father has not made any public prediction regarding it, and the Church has never approved the teaching. Even if she did approve it, she would be recommending it for our belief, not obligating us to give it the assent of faith on the same level as Scripture and Tradition. No private revelation (as this claims to be) can have that status.
I would be careful here: Some folks have allowed the idea to make them quite fearful of the future. Even if the warning truly is from God, I don’t think that His intent in making it known would be to fill faithful Catholics with anxiety.
Personally, I think it best to pay little attention to the prophecy until and unless the Church officially examines it. Time might be better spent instead studying and praying about all the Church has authoritatively taught about the end times. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 668-682. (Click here.)
You might also want to check out a book I wrote called The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to “End Times” Fever (Ascension, 2002). See chapter 9 especially, “On the Trail of the Great Monarch: The Dilemma of Private Revelations,” which deals more extensively with this and related issues.
A New Englishwoman Saint?
Q. Someone told me that the cause for canonization of Mother Mary Richard Beauchamp Hambrough, a twentieth-century English nun, might open soon. She could become the first British woman saint since 1970, when Pope Paul VI canonized Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line and Margaret Ward among 40 English and Welsh martyrs in the Protestant Reformation. What is her story?
B.N., Chicago, Ill.
A. This little-known English sister hid Italian Jews from the Nazis in Rome during World War II. She helped to save the lives of more than 60 people by smuggling them into her convent, the Casa di Santa Brigida. Her order, the Bridgettines, recently applied to the Vatican for permission to open her cause for sainthood.
Mother Mary Richard was born Madaleina Catherine in London in 1887. She was received into the Catholic Church in Brighton at the age of four, when her parents converted to the Faith.
In 1912, at the age of 24, she went to Rome and joined the Bridgettines, a 14th- century order that had nearly died out but was reestablished in 1911 by Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hasselblad, a Swedish convert from Lutheranism.
Madaleina took the name Mary Richard in religion (she was known to her fellow nuns as Mother Riccarda) and became assistant to Mother Mary Elizabeth, the abbess. The Bridgettines secured a motherhouse in Rome, and a few years later, the war broke out. Mother Riccarda began helping war victims.
After Pope Pius XII secretly ordered the religious houses of Rome to shelter Jews in October 1943, Mother Riccarda and Mother Mary Elizabeth provided refuge to scores of Italian Jews, Communists and Poles fleeing the Nazis.
Mother Mary Elizabeth was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999. In 2004 she was recognized by the Jewish association Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for her work in helping Jews. She died in 1957, with Mother Riccarda succeeding her as abbess until her own death in 1966. The two abbesses are buried in the same grave, in the convent church where they hid the refugees.
Presently, the sainthood cases of three other British women are being considered by the Church.
Q. I’ve read that the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible is used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the New American Bible (NAB) is used in the liturgy of the U.S. Catholic Church. Can you tell me which Bible is easier to read and understand, and what is the difference between the two Bibles?
Of the fourteen biblical books he advises to read first, to help us understand the overall story line or narrative, in which version is the Book of Maccabees? I have the King James Version, and it’s not in this Bible. Thank you.
V.V., Taylor, Pa.
A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, always avoiding the NRSV’s lapses into “inclusive language.” The RSV is superior to the NAB in its fidelity to the original languages and in its literary style. There is a Catholic edition of the RSV; I strongly recommend you use this edition.
Like all Protestant Bibles, the King James Version lacks books of the Old Testament that are found in Catholic Bibles. The books missing from Protestant Old Testaments are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees and some chapters of Daniel. Here is the reason for the difference.
Between 250 and 150 B.C., Jewish scholars in Egypt translated the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) from Hebrew into Greek, which then was the vernacular (common) language in the Roman Empire. This translation is known as the Septuagint because of a legend that it was done by seventy-two translators.
The Septuagint was the Bible of our Lord and the early Christians. It has always been the Old Testament of the Catholic Church.
Near the end of the first century, when all connection between the Church and Judaism had ended, a group of rabbis met at Jamnia in Palestine and drew up another canon of their sacred writings. Because of their high regard for the prophet Ezra, they assumed that nothing written after his time (the fifth century B.C.) could be inspired.
They eliminated certain books from the Septuagint that were written after Ezra’s time. (Without knowing it, they also retained a book or two that did not fit their criterion.) Their canon came to be known as the Palestinian canon.
The Catholic Church, of course, took no notice of this canon. It was Martin Luther who resurrected the shorter Palestinian canon and adopted it. His reason? He did not like certain things taught in the Septuagint books eliminated in the Palestinian canon. He was especially opposed to offering sacrifice and prayers for the dead, as described in 2 Maccabees 12.
Luther’s decision was purely arbitrary, but it has been followed by all Protestant traditions. As a noted Methodist Scripture scholar observed years ago, “If we’re going to keep the shorter canon, we’ve got to find better reasons than the ones we have now.”
In light of these facts, you can appreciate the irony of fundamentalists attacking the Catholic Church because, they say, she dares to add books to the Old Testament.
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