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.
Lay Role in Prayer Services?
Q. When a priest is unable to say Mass because of a fall, what is a lay person allowed to do at a prayer service? Are lay people in that situation allowed to read the Gospel or preach a homily?
J.K., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
If a priest has been incapacitated, a lay person could carry out any number of extraordinary functions in the liturgy for the good of the community. What a lay person can never do is celebrate Holy Mass, forgive sins, anoint the sick or preach a homily.
In this situation, it would seem appropriate to have a Communion service at which the daily readings are read, and holy Communion is distributed by an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. Since what you refer to is a prayer service, a lay person could by exception read the Gospel if no ordained minister were available, but it would be out of place for a layman to give a homily.
Q. What is the Church’s position on the Divine Will movement and Luisa Piccarreta, founder of the movement? Some people I know have a prayer group who study her book. I am concerned about this movement.
P.H., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
The Italian Luisa Piccarreta was born in 1865 and died in 1947. She was an invalid during most of her years. She claimed Jesus had communicated special messages to her. The bulk of those messages form an astonishing thirty-four volumes.
Piccarreta’s messages from Jesus purportedly divide salvation history into three eras, each inaugurated by a “fiat.” The “Age of Creation” began when by His fiat God created the universe through his Word. The “Age of Redemption” was ushered in by the fiat of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Now the “Age of Sanctification” has begun with a third fiat, Piccarreta’s giving her life to God. She places her fiat on the same level as the two preceding fiats she describes.
Prior to Jesus’ locutions to Piccarreta, she claimed, the saints could attain only a weak and limited union with God. Now, through study of Piccarreta’s writings, and through fervent petition, a person can gain new life in the Divine Will. Whereas the Church teaches that the fullness of gospel truth has been entrusted to Her, Piccarreta says “not so.” Only through Piccarreta has Jesus revealed a way of holiness that greatly surpasses the one given to the apostles. Jesus has raised Piccarreta to be “second mother” of the Church, after the Virgin.
So far as I know, the Church has not spoken on these locutions. But it seems obvious that any judgment passed by the Church would have to be negative. For a careful examination of Piccarreta’s writings and claims, see this article in Envoy Magazine by Father Terry Staples (click here).
Q. There has been much talk about Scientology on the TV since celebrity Tom Cruise has been so gung-ho about the topic. I recently saw a newscaster say that someone who was raised Catholic can in fact be a Scientologist and still remain Catholic. I don’t believe he’s correct, but not knowing anything about Scientology, I can’t refute such a claim. What are we to say when someone asks us about the topic?
N.N., via email
A. You are correct. The differences between Scientology and the Catholic faith are profound and irreconcilable, and anyone who sincerely claims to adhere to both religions has somehow failed to grasp those differences. Here are just a few of the most important contradictions:
● The Catholic faith teaches that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who founded our Church two thousand years ago. Contradicting that central, indispensable article of Catholic faith, L. Ron Hubbard — the twentieth-century science fiction writer who founded Scientology in the 1950s — taught that Christ is an “illusion” implanted in humans to deceive us.
● The Catholic faith holds the Bible to be Scripture, inspired by God. The Church of Scientology holds as its scripture the writings of Hubbard.
● The Catholic faith teaches that the human race is fallen and in need of divine forgiveness and redemption. Through Jesus Christ we can be saved by God’s grace, a salvation that necessitates our repentance and conversion.
Scientology, on the other hand, does not call its followers to seek God’s grace as repentant sinners, trusting in the redemption of Christ. Rather, much like the ancient Gnostic heresies, it teaches a self-help technique of personal improvement, based on its claim to offer enlightenment. This alleged “enlightenment” comes from the writings of Hubbard.
● The Catholic faith teaches that the worship of God, our loving Creator, is the joyful duty of every human being. Scientology teaches, as its official website declares, that God is not to be worshiped.
● Scientology teaches reincarnation, a notion the Catholic faith firmly rejects as false.
● Like the ancient Gnostic heresies, Scientology has an elaborate and exotic mythology that contradicts Catholic teaching about the nature of humankind and its spiritual predicament.
Based on the ideas of Hubbard, the Church of Scientology teaches that about 75 million years ago, an evil intergalactic warlord called Xenu rounded up the inhabitants of various planets, massacred them and brought them to earth. The “thetans” of these extraterrestrials (in this mythology, a “thetan” is similar to a soul) are malicious and now fester within the bodies of human beings, out of which they must be summoned.
Given these essential differences between the Catholic faith and Scientology (there are other differences as well), it should be clear that a person cannot sincerely hold to both religions without engaging in extensive self-contradiction. So Catholics should be skeptical of any claims that Scientology would somehow enhance or supplement their faith.
Anglican Apostolic Succession?
Q. Does the Anglican Church still maintain its claim to apostolic succession, and is that claim still valid?
I believe that they have ordained women into the priesthood, which is totally incompatible with the Catholic Church. Are they still considered to retain the apostolic succession, as some Orthodox churches are recognized as possessing?
R.P., via email
A. The Church of England has retained a succession of bishops since it was established by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century. The apostolic succession, however, cannot be maintained simply by physical succession in office.
In 1896, Pope Leo XIII issued a papal bull, Apostolicae Curae, in which he pronounced Anglican orders “absolutely null and utterly void.” The reason he gave is defect of intention. In their ordinations, Anglican bishops down through the centuries have not intended to ordain priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Church’s teaching regarding Anglican orders was reaffirmed in 1998. In that year Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter entitled Ad Tuendam Fidem. In the name of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), and approved by the Holy Father, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a commentary on this apostolic letter.
In section 11 of that commentary, the CDF spoke of “truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed.” Pope Leo’s declaration of the nullity of Anglican orders was given as one example of this category of teaching. That declaration is “to be held definitively.” No clearer judgment could be rendered.
So Many Names for Mary?
Q. A lady in our RCIA class asked what I think is a very insightful question: “Why are there so many names for Mary and images of her, especially in Hispanic culture?” She added, “There is only one Virgin Mary, right?”
I answered that yes, there is only one Mary, the mother of Jesus. I believe the Blessed Mother has appeared to many persons in times and places which they could relate to so they would understand that she is their mother too. But I also told her I would check to see if I could get a more complete answer. Can you help?
R.G., Virginia Beach, Va.
You are correct. There is only one mother of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and she has always had only one given name, Mary. The “names” your friend referred to are not names in the strict sense.
Many of them are instead titles that express the ways in which we honor Mary as Mother of God and as our Mother: “Spouse of the Holy Spirit,” “Ark of the Covenant,” “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of the Church.”
Many others designate the functions she fulfills in the life of the faithful: “Help of Christians,” “Refuge of Sinners,” “Our Lady of Sorrows,” “Queen of Peace.”
Still other titles are associated with accounts of her appearances at various locations around the world: “Our Lady of Fátima” (Portugal), “Our Lady of Guadalupe” (Mexico), “Our Lady of LaVang” (Vietnam), “Our Lady of Lourdes” (France).
All these titles point to her as the high point — one might even say the climax — of the human race.
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs