Each weekday, you'll find a new question and answer. Check back for the new question and scroll down to see previous day's entries! Let us know what you think - - or question! -- by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the papal pen
Q. There are many books that seem to be written by Pope Benedict XVI: meditation books, daily reflective types of writing, etc.
A great deal of time goes into writing a book. Are all these books really being written by the pope, or does he have a staff of "ghost writers" and the final books are just attributed to him?
-- H.P, Redlands, Calif.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
There are two options that we can rule out here: One is that the pope personally researches and writes every paragraph of every homily, talk and reflection that is attributed to him; the other is that everything is "ghost written" by others and that the pope simply gives talks as they are handed to him and adds his name to books that are prepared for him.
What is more likely the case is that the pope gives his staff outlines of what he wishes to say on a particular topic, and then his staff (which probably involves people in a number of Vatican dicasteries, or departments, who are very familiar with his thought and his previous writings) prepare drafts for his own editing, correction, amplification and final shaping. This is more likely the case with everyday matters like homilies, talks to particular groups and reflections for particular occasions.
However, the more important a document is, the more likely the pope is to be involved in the whole process of writing and editing. Undoubtedly, many people read the drafts and provide input, but the work is primarily his. My understanding is that the book "Jesus of Nazareth" (Ignatius Press, $14.95) was his work completely. This is likely to be the case with his encyclicals as well. Of all popes, Benedict XVI -- a trained theologian and writer all his life -- is the least likely to let others do the work for him. You can be sure that everything he says and prints arises from his own convictions and bears his particular style.
Many of the writings that appear under Benedict's name these days were written while he was archbishop of Munich and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ignatius Press of San Francisco does the Church a great service by making so much of the pope's writings (before and since he became pope) to a wide audience. Many of the collections of his talks and homilies that appear today are clearly edited by others. But they are always more or less the product of his own pen.
Q. Is it a sin to buy lottery tickets?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church considers the morality of gambling in its discussion of the Seventh Commandment, which “forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor or wronging him in any way with respect to his goods” (No. 2401). The discussion continues, “The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family” (No. 2404).
The virtue of justice demands we give each person whatever is due him. The virtue governs our use of created things, as well as our relations with one another, and is the principle that determines the morality of gambling. The Catechism teaches, “Games of chance … or wagers [this includes participation in lotteries] are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others” (No. 2413).
So far we have considered gambling from the point of view of the risk-taker. However, justice also demands that lotteries or games of chance be fairly organized, so that those who make a bet know what odds they face and are not cheated or treated unfairly.
Only Italian Popes?
Q. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope to be elected in more than 450 years, and he was followed, of course, by another non-Italian, Pope Benedict XVI. Why were there only Italians elected during all those years?
K.L., Dawsonville, Ga.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
In the days right after Pope John Paul I died, a Jesuit colleague and I were often asked in our classes at the University of San Diego, "Who will be the next pope?"
Later we discovered that we had given identical answers: "One thing you can be sure of; he'll be an Italian." Of course, we were delightedly wrong when God gave us that Polish cardinal to be Christ's vicar.
Why this long line of Italian popes? We can only speculate.
Perhaps because the Vatican is located within Rome, the numerous Italian cardinals were inclined, humanly speaking, to elect one of their own nationality. Perhaps the fact that the pope is also the Bishop of Rome made it seem suitable to choose an Italian. I think it's clear that the seeming inevitability of an Italian pope all those years forestalled intense nationalistic rivalries among the cardinals.
Whatever the human reasons we can think of, the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ's Mystical Body. He must have had a guiding hand in selecting that long line of Italian popes.
Can Godparents Invalidate Baptism?
Q. As you know, a liberal attitude toward religion has been rampant in the Church during the last few decades. I was recently thinking about my baptism as an infant, and it occurred to me that I have good reason to believe my godparents are not necessarily the most serious or faithful Catholics. My question is, would this invalidate my baptism?
D.L., via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The condition of your godparents -- spiritual or otherwise -- has no bearing on the validity of your baptism. Your baptism as an infant was valid because your parents requested it and the parish priest performed it following the approved rites of the Church.
In case of necessity, a person can be baptized without even a godparent present or named. It is sufficient that the person to be baptized be alive and, if he is of the age of reason, believe in the faith of the Catholic Church.
Naturally, an infant cannot ask for baptism himself (nor, for that matter, can he ask for an indispensable medical vaccination). But his parents, knowing what is best for the child, ask that the child be baptized.
It is ironic that these days godparents need to be catechized by their godchildren.
Q. Since Adam and Ever were the first couple, and Cain and Abel were their children, how did Cain start a family? Where did his wife come form? Who created her?
The “missing pieces” in Scripture are both interesting and frustrating. For example, until God banishes Cain, who then takes up residence “east of Eden” and marries. Nothing in the Book of Genesis suggests the world held any inhabitants except Adam, Eve and their sons. How are we to explain the origin of these additional peoples?
Scholars in the early Church distinguished between the literal and spiritual meanings of Scripture; we must do the same. The Catechism of the Catholic Church places immense importance on the literal sense, “the meaning conveyed by the words … and discovered by … following the rules of sound interpretation” (No. 116).
This “sound interpretation” acknowledges that books of Scripture were written long after the events they describe, and may have been taken from many sources, each of which sought to make its own moral point. This capacity to teach is one very important aspect of the “spiritual sense” of Scripture (see No. 117). St. Paul tells us the events of Scripture were written “for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11, RSV), and the history of Cain illustrates — vividly — both the sad, pervasive nature of sin, and its punishment, which (for Adam, Eve and their son) is exile.
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs