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Q. Recently I’ve had a few questions on Catholic subjects for which I just can’t find answers. For example, my friend heard during a broadcast about euthanasia on NPR that in the past, priests used a “holy stone” to hit people on the head and take them out of their misery. Is there any truth to this?
J.B., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
Some priests at times may have thought about hitting certain people on the head! And it’s a safe bet to assume that some lay people have had similar thoughts about their priests!
However, if your friend correctly reported what was said on the broadcast, you can add this to your collection of ridiculous misinformation about the Catholic Church.
There was no “holy stone,” no putting people out of their misery.
This sounds like an attempt to link the Catholic Church with euthanasia. The Church has always condemned euthanasia.
Q. What is your opinion, please, of someone choosing not to receive Communion on Good Friday, in order to more realistically follow the historic time frame of the liturgy and wait happily to receive on Easter Sunday?
Also, what do you think about someone who missed the Mass (because of an unknown change in the schedule), and when the priest kindly offered to provide the Eucharist, the person graciously declined, saying, “No, thank you very much, Father, but not without the Mass”?
It was explained to me that this person felt so many people do just come to “get” and even leave soon afterward, ignoring the beauty of the wholeness of the liturgy; that she would rather wait, and only if she were ill in bed would she request Communion at home.
M.R., Windsor Locks, Conn.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
My sense is that both cases deal with persons who have good and sensitive souls. No one should receive the holy Eucharist unless they really want to and unless they are properly prepared — that is, they should be in the state of grace and should have kept the Eucharistic fast.
Nevertheless, the Church offers us the holy Eucharist on Good Friday for a good reason: We need the grace. Dom Chautard, author of the spiritual classic “The Soul of the Apostolate,” notes that as souls advance in the interior life, they exhibit a “hunger for the Eucharist.”
In the event that a daily communicant is impeded from attending Mass, it is entirely appropriate and praiseworthy to ask the pastor for Communion outside of Mass. Some of us just can’t live without Him.
Even so, receiving holy Communion outside of Mass should not be just a willy-nilly affair. All carelessness should be avoided. The ritual should begin with the Sign of the Cross, followed by the penitential rite and the Our Father. A minimum of preparation and recollection is necessary to receive holy Communion fruitfully.
Did Jesus Know?
Q. Did Jesus know that He would rise from the dead in three days?
P.L., Camarillo, Calif.
A. The Gospel of Mark states three times that Jesus told His apostles He would be put to death and would rise from the dead three days later. (See Mark 8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34.) These accounts are confirmed by parallel passages in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Q. Someone has asked me, if you get what is called a “dissolution of marriage,” which the Catholic Church does not recognize, does that keep you from getting an annulment from the Church? I said I would try to find out.
P.T., Elmira, Mich.
You have come to the right place to find out! “Dissolution of marriage” is another name for a civil divorce. If a marriage has ended in civil divorce, then either party may petition the competent ecclesiastical tribunal for a declaration of nullity.
So, in short, a civil divorce does not prohibit one from seeking an annulment. In fact, in most if not all ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the United States, the tribunal will not even consider a petition for declaration of nullity until the parties have received a civil divorce or civil separation.
If the Church declared a marriage null before a civil divorce was finalized, in some states of the United States either party could bring suit against the Church for “alienation of affection” — that is, the Church could be sued for unjustly rupturing the civil marriage bond.
What, legally, is “alienation of affection”? It’s a tort action, brought by a spouse who has been deserted, against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage. Usually, the defendant is the lover of an adulterous spouse. In some cases, however, family members, counselors or clergy who have advised a spouse to seek divorce have also been sued for alienation of affection.
Q. The life of Jesus all took place in the Middle East. The Acts of the Apostles direct us to the same area. Why was the Church’s headquarters established in Rome rather than Israel, where Jesus lived and taught? Did Peter travel to Rome, and was he crucified in Rome?
E.C., via email
The answer to your first question is contained in the answers to your last two questions. Yes, Peter did go to Rome, and yes, Peter was crucified in Rome. And because Jesus Christ had designated him and his successors as earthly heads of the Church, they remained in Rome. Thus Rome and no other was universally known as the “Apostolic See.”
There were practical advantages to the Church’s “headquarters” being in Rome. All roads led to Rome. And all the Church’s roads led away from Rome. Rome was the appropriate center from which the Church’s far-flung missionary outreach radiated and from which it could be directed.
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