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The Pauline Privilege
Q. I wonder if you could explain the “Pauline Privilege” and if it still applies after the Second Vatican Council.
— C.S., Taylorsville, Utah
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The Pauline Privilege refers to the dissolution by the Church of the marriage of two persons not baptized at the time the marriage occurred. Its name comes from the fact that its biblical protocol is found in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul writes: “If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, she should not divorce her husband. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy. If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace” (7:12-15).
Explained more directly, the Pauline Privilege is invoked by the Church under certain conditions: First, if neither husband nor wife was baptized Christians at the time the marriage took place. Second, if either husband or wife was baptized after the marriage had taken place, while the other party remained unbaptized. Third, if the unbaptized person abandoned the marriage by divorce or simple departure from the marriage or made life unbearable for the Christian and was unwilling to live in peace with him or her. If these conditions are fulfilled, the original marriage may be dissolved by the Church and the Christian party is given the right to enter into marriage with another Christian or even a nonbaptized person. The Pauline Privilege is still used in the Church’s canonical processes.
Q. St. Paul, a few times, speaks of predestination. What does he mean? I am sure that God does not predestine us to heaven or hell, and I need to give this info to some who are having difficulty with predestination in prison.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Perhaps the first thing we should acknowledge about predestination is its complexity. One expert has observed, “Predestination, even for reason enlightened by faith, is an unfathomable mystery.”
The difficulty arises when we try to harmonize our belief in free will with God’s absolute knowledge. If God knows some of his human creatures will resist or even reject the grace that will enable us to achieve our salvation, how does that differ from God’s creating certain individuals to be damned? Likewise, if God knows some of his creatures will embrace the grace and perform good works that will win their salvation, how does this differ from creating them to be saved? Some may fear that despite a life spent doing good, God has predestined them to damnation.
Such views ignore the reward Scripture describes so eloquently — for example, see Romans 8:28 — and the Church’s belief that God desires the salvation of every human creatures. One writer (Ludwig Ott, “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma”) suggests we accept the reality of predestination and look within to discern whether we are maturing as creatures predestined for glory, growing in the beatitudes, in our devotion to the Eucharist, and in our love of Christ, his Church, his mother and our neighbor.
Q. How do you explain Catholicism to non-Catholic friends, including the crucifix?
J.L., Ewa Beach, Hawaii
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
Start with the crucifix. It’s the central symbol of the Catholic faith. It always reminds us of the agonizing death Our Lord willingly accepted, to cleanse us from our sins. Gazing upon the crucifix reminds us of the horror of our sins, which helped put Jesus on that cross. That gaze can strengthen our resolve to avoid sin and thereby free Our Lord from further suffering.
Your asking how to explain Catholicism to non-Catholics is a tall order. Here are some essentials to keep in mind.
Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Son of God who though His life, death, resurrection and ascension has redeemed the entire universe. He created His one true Church to carry on His work of redemption by making His saving love available to the human race. His Church, the Catholic Church, offers the world the fullness of Christ’s truth and His means of grace. Speaking through His Church, Jesus Christ guides our lives in basic matters of belief and practice. Only by submitting to Jesus Christ through His Church can we be assured of submitting to Him on His terms and not on our own terms. Every Christian tradition other than the Catholic Church can offer only a partial Gospel.
“A People Redeemed”?
Q. Is there a general instruction to kneel during Mass at “This is the Lamb of God” (Agnus Dei) and during the Communion rite? What if the priest tells the people to stand because “we are a people redeemed?”
Therese, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states, “The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise” (No. 43). If your priest directs you to stand at that point in the Mass, it’s likely because the diocesan bishop has made that indication, and not just because you are “a people redeemed,” since the faithful in the next diocese — who might be kneeling — are also redeemed.
Women Liturgical Presiders
Q. I read an obituary in our local newspaper, which stated that a nun in a local parish officiated at a funeral service. I would like to know if this is an approved action by our Catholic Church.
— Lucy Scott
The first document to come of the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) decreed that liturgical roles should be expanded, and shared among the laity. Pope Paul VI began implementing this goal in the early 1970s, when he eliminated tonsure, the so-called minor orders, and the subdiaconate, which had, until then, been prerequisites for priestly ordination. This allowed the Church to install qualified men as lectors and acolytes, and encouraged both men and women to function in a variety of liturgical and other roles.
The Code of Canon Law states, “When ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply for certain of their offices, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside over liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion in accord with the prescription of law” (Canon 230.3). A commentary gives attention to the nature of “liturgical prayers” and remarks, “This could range from Sunday celebrations without a priest to the celebration of the Divine Office or funeral services.”
To undertake important ministerial roles is not an individual’s choice. The same commentary reminds us that liturgical regulation is the bishop’s responsibility, for the good of the souls under his care.
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