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Question of the Day for Friday, November 16, 2007
Q. Did Adam and Eve have children while they were still in the Garden? If so, were they affected by the Fall, perhaps in the same way the rest of Creation was?
D. L., Rugby, ND
A. We are admittedly dealing with a mystery here, complicated by the fact that the biblical account of the Fall and expulsion from the Garden uses figurative language (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 390). Nevertheless, both the scriptural account and the Church’s authoritative interpretation of it affirm that the initial turning away of our first parents from God, and the resulting loss of their paradise, took place before they had children.
For this reason, the dire consequences of their rebellion included the dilemma of original sin, which afflicts all the human race. The loss of original holiness and righteousness (or justice) in our first parents through their free choice — not to mention the loss of certain wonderful additional gifts of God’s grace — was transmitted to their children and all their descendants through them. Why? Because the parents could not pass on to their children what they themselves no longer possessed.
For more on this subject, see the Catechism, 385–421 click here.
Question of the Day for Thursday, November 15, 2007
Q. Is there any published article or “list” anywhere that distinguishes the Church’s infallible teachings from others that are not infallible?
M. J., via email
A. The Church’s charism of infallibility — that is, the Magisterium’s God-given ability to know and teach His truth without error — is often misunderstood. Some Catholics insist that ex cathedra declarations from the Pope and the dogmatic pronouncements of ecumenical councils are the Church’s only infallible teachings. Others wonder whether papal encyclicals are infallible.
Often, the question stems from a reluctance to accept a particular Church teaching, such as the Vatican’s insistence that women cannot be ordained as priests. If the statement in question doesn’t fall in the “infallible” category, many Catholics assume, it can be challenged or even dismissed.
In 1998 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) addressed this issue in a Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei. It was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was then prefect of the CDF and is now Pope Benedict XVI. This document clarified, and was issued simultaneously with, the apostolic letter Ad tuendam fidem of Pope John Paul II, which sought to fill a gap in the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
The Commentary explains how the Church “distinguish[es] the order of the truths to which the believer adheres” (no. 4). Those truths fall into three types; we’ll examine the first two.
The first type of truth is that “which the Church proposes as divinely and formally revealed and, as such, as irreformable” — that is, final. Such truths have two characteristics:
They “are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down” — that is, they are part of Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition.
They have been either “defined with a solemn judgment as divinely revealed truths” (by the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra, or by an ecumenical council), or they have been “infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” without such a formal definition (no. 5).
According to the commentary, the Christological and Marian dogmas would be examples of infallible truths of this type that were defined either by an ecumenical council or by a pope ex cathedra.
Among the truths of this type that have been infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (but without a definition) would be the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being. This teaching, as the commentary shows, was solemnly confirmed by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” no. 57).
Note that the papal statement about killing is infallible, not by virtue of its inclusion in a papal encyclical, but because the manner in which it was explicitly confirmed meets the criteria noted. Even so, a particular formula of words is not necessary to meet those criteria. “It is enough that [the intention] be clear from the tenor of the words used and from their context” (no. 17).
What must be the response of faithful Catholics to these truths that are divinely revealed? “These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful.” To deny them is “heresy” (no. 5; all emphases in these and the following quotes are in the original).
The second type of truth explained in the commentary includes what is “definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” Besides the important qualifier that they must be matters of “faith and morals” (and not, for example, purely scientific claims unrelated to faith and morals), these truths also have two characteristics:
They “are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as formally revealed” (no. 5).
They can be defined solemnly by the pope ex cathedra or by an ecumenical council, or “they can be taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church” as definitive (no. 6).
The truths definitively proposed can be better understood when we consider that the commentary further subdivides them into two categories: those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity, and those that have a logical connection to revelation.
Examples of truths in the first category would be the canonization of a saint or the legitimacy of a papal election or of an ecumenical council (see no. 11). Since these involve historical realities that have come into being after the ancient deposit of faith was given to the Church, they obviously could not have been divinely revealed as part of that deposit.
The second category of truths definitively proposed are those having “an intrinsic connection with revealed truth” (no. 7). They are logically required as corollaries, so to speak, of the truths of divine revelation.
According to the commentary, one notable example from this category is “the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (no. 11).
Pope John Paul II solemnly confirmed this doctrine about women’s ordination in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (no. 4). Rather than a “defining act” of the Magisterium, this represents what the commentary calls a “non-defining act.”
In the latter, “a doctrine is taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the successor of St. Peter. Such a doctrine can be confirmed or reaffirmed by the Roman pontiff, even without recourse to a solemn definition, by declaring explicitly that it belongs to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium as a truth that is divinely revealed . . . or as a truth of Catholic doctrine. . . .
“Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei [“deposit of faith”], is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly. The declaration of confirmation or reaffirmation by the Roman pontiff in this case is not a new dogmatic definition, but a formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the Church” (no. 9).
How should faithful Catholics respond to these truths definitively proposed? “Every believer . . . is required to give firm and definitive assent” to them. “Whoever denies these truths would be . . . rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church. . . . The fact that these doctrines [might] not be proposed as formally revealed … in no way diminishes their definitive character” (nos. 6,7).
In fact, as the commentary pointedly notes, “it is important to emphasize” that between the truths divinely revealed and the truths definitively proposed, “there is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable character of the assent which is owed to these teachings” (no. 8).
Given the complexity of the issue, you can see why the Church has not attempted to publish an official “list” of infallible teachings.
Q. Where can I get information regarding what facts to explain to an adult child on how an annulment between two Catholics affects him? I need to dispel falsehoods that seem to have arisen and are causing relational problems with my adult son. I need to be able to explain where he stands as my son post-annulment.
A. D., via email
A. I would recommend an excellent book by canon lawyer Edward N. Peters, J.C.D., entitled Annulments and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions (Ascension Press, 2004). For more information, click here. . If you still have questions after reading this book, talk to your priest or to a diocesan official representing the marriage tribunal.
Question of the Day for Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Q. Is it liturgically proper to use recorded music during the Mass to lead the congregation in singing?
Y. G., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from our TCA columnist and canon lawyer Fr. Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.
None of the Church documents that regulate the Liturgy specifically prohibit the use of recorded music during the Mass. The 1967 Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, “Musicam Sacram,” as well as the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) and the recent instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum” (2004), each promote beautiful liturgical music and give pride of place to Gregorian chant and the pipe organ. But they are silent about the use of recorded music to lead the congregation in singing.
Nevertheless, the use of recorded music is not within the tradition of the Liturgy and should not be used to replace the active singing of the faithful, just as it would not be proper to have prerecorded responses of the faithful. Participation must actually take place.
At the same time, if no organist is available, and the congregation is musically challenged, a pre-programmed digital electronic organ can be a great help in adding majesty and solemnity to the Mass and could be used as an aid to the singing. This is not prerecorded music, but the use of a pre-programmed instrument for an actual rendition. Whether or not this is “proper” is a matter of opinion; but it is not prohibited.
Question of the Day for Monday, November 12, 2007
Q. Was anyone besides Mary assumed into heaven without dying? What about Enoch, Moses, Lazarus (the poor man) or Elijah?
E. M., Sun City, AZ
A. First we should note that Christians have long debated whether Our Lady actually died before she was assumed into heaven. The dogmatic definition of the Assumption, given by Pope Pius XII in 1950 (Munificentissimus Deus), doesn’t resolve the issue. It says simply that Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (par. 44).
As for the other saints you mention: Moses died a natural death. His body was buried in the land of Moab (see Deuteronomy 34:5–7; Jude 9), though his spirit showed up again centuries later to speak with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1–8). As my friend Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., pointed out to me in a recent conversation, since Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land during his earthly life (see Deuteronomy 32:48–52), we can be glad to know that he finally was allowed to do so for this divine appointment on the mountaintop!
The story of the beggar named Lazarus as told by Our Lord is assumed by most biblical scholars to be simply a parable He created to teach a spiritual lesson (see Luke 16:19–31). But even if we take Lazarus to be a real historical figure, the story doesn’t tell us that he was taken body and soul into heaven. Jesus says that “the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (verse 22). There’s little reason to think that these words describe anything more than a natural death, with the soul departing to its proper destination.
We don’t really know much about the Old Testament figure named Enoch. He’s first mentioned in Genesis chapter 5 along with some of his ancestors and descendants. While the text says about each of the others that they died after living a certain number of years, about Enoch it says instead: “Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (verses 23–24).
The writer of Hebrews tells us: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). Sirach 44:16 and 49:14 allude to Enoch’s special status in this regard as well.
Elijah, the Scripture tells us, was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind on “a chariot of fire and horses of fire” (2 Kings 2:11). Once he was taken, his companion Elisha “saw him no more” (verse 12); that is, his body was taken as well as his soul.
Both Enoch and Elijah thus seem to have had an experience at least similar to Our Lady’s bodily assumption in that, at the end of their earthly lives, their bodies departed from this world as well as their souls. The major difference, however, would be in their immediate destinations.
Our Lady could be assumed body and soul directly into heaven because her Son had by that time accomplished our redemption by His passion, death and resurrection. But Enoch and Elijah came to the end of their time on earth before those saving events had taken place. So we don’t know for sure where they were taken until heaven’s doors could be opened for them by Christ. (When the Old Testament text says Elijah was taken up into “heaven,” the Hebrew term means what we would call “the heavens” — that is, the sky.)
We should note that wherever Elijah may have remained while awaiting his redemption, like Moses he too was allowed by God to show up briefly on earth again to speak with Jesus at the Transfiguration.
A number of Christian scriptural commentators over the centuries have suggested that the “two witnesses” described in the Book of Revelation will be Elijah and Enoch, who return to earth at the end of time to preach, work miracles and suffer martyrdom at the hands of the Antichrist (see Revelation 11:1–13). But this is of course only an intriguing speculation. Other commentators have suggested different identities for these two figures, and still others insist that the passage is not to be taken literally.
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