Definition of family

Question: Our Sunday Visitor recently quoted Blessed Pope John XXIII as stating that among the rights to belong to every person is “freedom to form a family.” Given the Church’s stance on same-sex unions, doesn’t Pope John’s statement give tacit license that anyone could adopt in order to “form a family.” In other words, is not the expression “form a family” too vague?

Janet Cooper, San Diego, Calif. 

Answer: As with any quote, historical context is important. Pope John XXIII lived in an era when single-parent families and cohabiting couples were rare, and same-sex unions were inconceivable. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, “family” meant a married father, mother and children. There was still a basic moral consensus, which could be presumed in using phrases such as “form a family.”

Today, this is gone, and we must be much more specific. We must adjust to the context in which the pontiff spoke, and cannot reasonably demand the precision that is necessary today. Neither would it be reasonable for our opponents on the marriage question to read into these remarks an approval for the current situation.

Tithing references

Question: Can you cite a scriptural reference that supports tithing?

Norbert Gorny, Altamonte, Fla. 

Answer: Yes, Malachi 3:8-10 says, “Can anyone rob God? But you are robbing me! And you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ Of tithes and contributions! ... Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure!”

In the New Testament, Jesus references tithing when he says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others” (Mt 23:23). Note that in this text, while the Lord speaks of weightier matters than tithing, he says, regarding tithing, that we should not neglect it.

The Church does not require an absolute adherence to the biblical tithe (i.e., giving one tenth of income to the Church), nevertheless, there is a precept that Catholics contribute to the mission of Church.

The whole truth

Question: A priest wrote in our local paper that we should humbly accept that our church, whatever our denomination, does not have the whole truth. But I thought the Catholic Church was the pillar and foundation of the truth.

Lucy Hart, Harper, Texas 

Answer: The Catholic Church maintains, for demonstrable reasons, that we possess the fullness of revealed truth and the full means to salvation given by God. We hold this in distinction to other denominations and religious traditions, which may have elements of the truth, but are lacking the fullness of these and are usually admixed with error.

That said, we do not claim to know everything there is to know about God. God is more glorious than everything we could ever say or know about him. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.