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Q. Recently a neighbor told me that on occasion the Greek Orthodox priest gives her Communion in the Orthodox Church near where she lives. I did not know that this was allowed.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
There is something of an anomaly in this arrangement. While Catholics may receive Communion, as well as the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick in the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church does not, as a rule, allow Catholics to receive these sacraments. Canon 844, Paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law states: “[Catholic] faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick, from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.” The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments.
The anomaly, however, is that the regulations of the Orthodox Churches do not allow Catholics (or members of any non-Orthodox denomination) to receive the sacraments in their churches. Thus, the situation you mention is out of step with the Orthodox Church — though acceptable from a Catholic point of view. The priest you mention seems to be interpreting the ecclesiastical regulations of his own Church rather liberally.
You may also be interested to know that although the Catholic Church does not allow intercommunion with members of other Christian churches, it does — as an exception — allow members of the Orthodox Church to receive the sacraments mentioned in the Catholic Church.
On the matter of Catholic-Orthodox relations, the U.S. Catholic bishops summed up the matter in their 1996 Guidelines for the Reception of Communion at a Catholic Mass: “Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Churches of the East, and the Polish National Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches.”
Those Born without Sin
Q. How many people in the Bible were born without sin?
— Patrick Beck, Ch, Maj, USAF Catholic Chaplain, Lackland AFB, Texas
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Only four individuals in the Bible were fortunate enough to have been born without sin. Our Savior, of course, because he is God, could not know sin, even in his human person. And our faith teaches that the Virgin Mary was preserved from sin by a unique act of God from the moment of her conception so that, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, she might “become the mother of the Savior” (see Nos. 490-492).
The remaining sinless beings — at least for a time — were our first parents, created, the Catechism teaches, “not only … good, but … in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ” (No. 374). The text continues, ‘our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original ‘state of holiness and justice.’ This grace of original holiness was ‘to share in … divine life’” (No. 375).
Jesus and Mary maintained the integrity of their original sinlessness; our first parents did not fare so well. The world has suffered the pain of original sin ever since. “After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin” (No. 401). Our baptism into Christ’s death is our first step toward the life of holiness Adam and Eve forfeited.
Q. What does the word “Pontius” in the name of Pontius Pilate (the Roman procurator of Judaea) stand for? I’ve asked several people and done some research, but all I’ve found is it’s the title or station he holds. Can you help?
R.S., Hillsboro, Wis.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
Yes, I can help by confirming what you have already found. Pilate was a Roman equestrian (a knight) of the Samnite clan of the Ponti. Hence, his title “Pontius.”
Q. If a religious article is bought and blessed, does the reselling of this article remove the blessing? If so, why and who determines this action? Where do we get this information?
Ralph, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The Church forbids selling sacred items: sacraments, indulgences, relics and the like. If someone buys a religious article which is not per se sacred — such as a medal or a holy card — and has it blessed, he cannot resell it for more than he paid for it on account that it has been blessed. One never pays for a blessing per se. Because of the confusion and scandal that can result from trading in blessed items, it would be best to avoid it entirely. In the event that a blessed item is sold at fair market value — with no value added to the blessing — it is my opinion that the blessing remains.
Sacred places and things can lose their “blessing” if they are broken or are returned to “profane use” by proper ecclesiastical decree. Such would be the case when a parish is closed and the property is sold. The bishop would issue a decree to “desacralize” the building after all sacred items (tabernacle, altar, etc.) have been removed. Because of the pain such a process causes, some suggest the best thing to do is to demolish the church if it is not going to be used for the sacred purpose for which it was built.
Q. I have often wondered why it was necessary for Jesus to be betrayed. He was widely known and available, as he himself pointed out (see Jn 18:20). So why was it necessary for Judas (or anyone, for that matter) to betray him?
— Elizabeth E. "Betty" Stevens
St. Thomas Aquinas asked whether the Incarnation was necessary, and replied that if by “necessary” we mean was the Incarnation the only way God could have saved us, the answer is no. God could have saved us in any number of ways. But if, St. Thomas says, by “necessary” we mean the Incarnation was the most fitting way to save us and gave the best example, the Incarnation was absolutely necessary. For what could be a better example, when we had forgotten what it meant to be God’s children, than to have God’s son dwell among us? What could more aptly increase our faith than to have God’s son become a partner in our human nature?
We might say the same about many details in Jesus’ public life. They were not, in themselves, “necessary” — Jesus would have saved us without the detail — but the Evangelists remind us that a detail occurred to fulfill a text from the Old Testament. Jesus’ temptation, recorded by Matthew, is based entirely on Old Testament maxims, as is Jesus’ praise of John the Baptist (see Mt 11:7-15). Likewise, at the Crucifixion, John remarks several times something happens that “scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn 19:24; 19:28; see also 19:36).
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