Question: How does one forgive someone and be around them, knowing that what they are doing is wrong, without feeling one is condoning their wrongdoing?
— Name and address withheld
Answer: Practicing forgiveness and tolerance without compromising one’s principles is a considerable challenge. Forgiving someone while they continue to do wrong is never a matter of saying, “don’t worry about it; live and let live.” Forgiveness is a matter of letting God be the judge and mentally abiding by God’s judgment — although one may not know what it is. Taking the stance that only God knows what is in the heart and mind of another frees one from being the judge.
At the same time, one should be vigilant lest one do anything to enable the problematic behavior. Of importance also is finding ways of challenging the behavior with respect and letting the other person know that what he or she is doing is not acceptable to you — nor good for him or her, since wrongdoing always wounds the soul.
Question: We live in a retirement complex and an elderly priest comes and celebrates Mass once a week. He brings everything he needs, including a plastic container of hosts. He takes out enough hosts for everyone present and places them on the paten. However, when some people come late, he takes extra hosts from the plastic container and distributes them. Do the people who receive these hosts receive the Body of Christ?
— Name and city withheld, Wisconsin
Answer: I would surmise that the priest may have some loss of his mental faculties and may need help in the preparation of the hosts and other items for Mass. Taking unconsecrated hosts from a container and giving them to people is an improper practice (to put it mildly). One cannot say that in receiving such hosts the people are receiving the Body of Christ. However, the good intentions of the people who receive such hosts stand to their credit in the sight of God.
I would suggest that you draw attention to the priest’s irregular practice to someone who has responsibility for him. With some help and oversight at the actual celebration at Mass, the problem you describe could be avoided.
A simple solution to the problem is to have the priest consecrate more hosts than are necessary, so that latecomers are catered for, and then to have him consume any extra hosts at the end of Communion.
Pope and creation
Question: Some time ago, you quoted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) on how to interpret the story of the creation and fall. I think there were symbolic elements in the stories. Can you give the book’s title?
— John R., Trenton, N.J.
Answer: I was quoting from “‘In the Beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Creation and Fall” (Eerdmans Publishing, $13). He stated: “It has become clear that the biblical creation narratives represent another way of speaking about reality than that with which we are familiar from physics and biology. ... They represent the truth in a way that symbols do — just as, for example, a Gothic window gives us a deep insight into reality, thanks to the effects of light that it produces and to the figures that it portrays.”
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.