TCA Tuesday – December 6, 2016

Q. We were cleaning out a Catholic Church and I ended up with a container of blessed salt.  What is it and what do I do with it?  I was told we can bury it somewhere.

A. Blessed salt is one of many sacramentals in the Church. Sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church's intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy” (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 60).

Salt is mentioned frequently in Scripture — in both Old and New Testaments (see 2Kgs 2: 20-21 and Mk 9: 49-50). An interesting tidbit of history is that salt was a valuable commodity in much of the ancient world. The word “salary” finds its root in the Latin word “sal” because Roman soldiers were paid in quantities of salt.

St. Augustine mentions that blessed salt was used with catechumens — those preparing for baptism — a practice that continued until the liturgical revisions of the Second Vatican Council.

An older form of blessing prayer for salt includes an invocation of exorcism. For this reason blessed salt still is used by some for blessing homes and the like.

Today, blessed salt is most typically used in the blessing of holy water — although it’s optional. There is a prayer for the blessing of salt in the Roman Missal.

Sacramentals should be disposed of with care and dignity — not in ways we dispose of average rubbish. As in the case of blessed salt, it’s best to dispose of it in the ground or, perhaps, give it to your parish priest to dissolve in holy water.

Q. Is it possible for a priest to leave priesthood and marry within Catholic Church? If so, is it a difficult process?

A. Holy Orders is one of the sacraments (as with Baptism and Confirmation) that leaves an indelible mark on the recipient’s soul, meaning it is irremovable. With that understanding, therefore, no one ever leaves the sacramental state of the priesthood.

However, a priest may be dismissed from what Church law calls the “clerical state.” This means the priest is returned to the lay state while still carrying the sacramental mark on his soul that configured him to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This laicization means the priest can no longer function as a priest, no longer authorized by the Church to celebrate the sacraments, except the ability to hear one’s confession and give them absolution in proximity of death.

The way in which a priest is removed from the clerical state depends on the circumstances. In reference to your question, however, if a priest desires to leave the clerical state so as to marry, he must receive two dispensations from the Vatican: approval for his dismissal from the clerical state and approval to be dismissed from the obligation of celibacy. There is no particular timeframe associated with this process. It’s a serious decision, often requested after a lengthy period of prayer, consultation and discernment.

Q. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical, he’s not providing global warming alarmism, right?

A. Pope Francis is teaching in his encyclical on care for our common home that the issue of global warming is beyond an issue of leftist or right-wing politics. Rather, it is an issue of faith — how seriously do we take our obligation to care for the gift of the world that God has entrusted to humanity? There’s no doubt that the earth is not cared for in a way God intends. The amount of waste, pollution and so on is staggering.

In regard to your question if the pope is “providing global warming alarmism,” the answer depends on what is meant by “alarmism” — as that can be taken in two primary ways. If alarmism indicates that he is causing a sense of false, unjustified concern (with apparent political overtones), the answer is “no.” But if by “alarmism” you mean that he is raising the issue of degradation of the environment (of which there seems to be a wealth of evidence that global warming is one of the results of such behavior) to the level of necessary concern of the human family, then the answer is “yes.”

Q. What does the Church teach on capitalism, specifically a free market capitalism?

A. In his 1991 encyclical Centessimus Annus (No. 42), Pope St. John Paul II asked if capitalism was the economic system to replace the then-recently collapsed Marxism:

“The answer is obviously complex. If by ‘capitalism’ is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a ‘business economy’, ‘market economy’ or simply ‘free economy’. But if by ‘capitalism’ is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.”

Regarding the free market, the pope said in No. 34 of the same encyclical: “It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are ‘solvent’, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are ‘marketable’, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish. It is also necessary to help these needy people to acquire expertise, to enter the circle of exchange, and to develop their skills in order to make the best use of their capacities and resources. Even prior to the logic of a fair exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to man because he is man, by reason of his lofty dignity. Inseparable from that required ‘something’ is the possibility to survive and, at the same time, to make an active contribution to the common good of humanity.”

Read the entire encyclical here.

You may also consult Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, especially Nos. 25 and 35-40.

Michael R. Heinlein is editor of The Catholic Answer magazine. Follow him on Twitter @HeinleinMichael. Follow The Catholic Answer on Twitter @tcanswer.