Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the March 20, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. Starting with Lent we began using incense during the Benediction ceremony. What brought this to mind is the scent of incense has been in my coat ever since. I like it. Will you please explain?
A. Ritual and symbolism are natural expressions of our human nature. If there are no explicit ceremonies to celebrate special events in our lives we invent rituals and even make them mandatory. Weddings would be dull events without bridal veils and gowns, rings, pretty flowers and a cortege of lovely ladies escorting the bride.
In liturgies of all kinds we tend to use appropriate symbols. Incense was often used in pagan and Israelite ceremonies for the most practical reasons. It smells nice. Catacombs were standing room only burial vaults before the days of frequent bathing and spray deodorants.
Prophet Isaiah described how he knew he was in the presence of God “when the temple was filled with smoke” wafting upwards in great spirals that must have permeated his garments so that everyone near him must have known where he had been. Rejoice that the same thing happened to you and people near you knew that, too.
Q. A certain person in this parish has been divorced and re-married and still receives Communion. Not everyone knows this. Where does my obligation begin to tell her Communion is not allowed for her?
A. Your obligation is confined to the few cubic feet of space you occupy in your own pew. As gently as possible the Q. B. scrivener suggests you are not responsible for her spiritual status.
It’s possible that a married divorced and re-married person should receive Eucharist. There are variables such as the baptism or non-baptism of either or both parties, where the marriage took place, whether an annulment was granted without informing you, and also the Pauline or Petrine privilege cases or combinations thereof. You would be wise to stay out of the way.
Q. I think there has been a huge change in the scientific advance of human cloning. What do the Christian medical experts have to say about this research? We know it’s coming already, with sperm banks and stem cells and selective baby breeding. Where will this lead us?
A. Immediately comes to mind that classic squelch attributed to George Bernard Shaw. Lady Astor, gloriously reigning society queen and leader of beautiful people in her court, proposed to craggy, bearded old G. B. Shaw that, “We really should have children. With my beauty and your genius they really would be outstanding.” To which crusty old G.B.S. replied. “My dear, what if they had my looks and your brains?”
Selective breeding by artificial insemination creates more problems than it solves. There is no evidence that it can work even after a number of generations of in-breeding by super-selection. If a super-brain could be grown to maturity like a super vegetable would that bring a full, happy life for that person? If the offspring is just normal, will that little person be rejected? What do you do with “seconds”? In this throwaway society that’s an unsettling prospect.
Pope Pius XII sounds more and more like a prophet ahead of his time. “Artificial insemination in marriage, with the use of an active element from a third party is immoral and is to be rejected summarily,” he said.
Genetic engineering is inevitable. It is the nature of science to pursue the possible by asking continually “How can we do this?” It is the nature and purpose of moral theology to ask continually “Should we do this?” As the poet said, “Aye, there’s the rub.”
Q. Genesis does not give the names of females who had to be wives-mates of Cain and Abel. Is there any record perhaps in other places that might answer that?
A. Genesis is not genetics, archeology or paleontology. Genesis is a simple moral commentary. God’s first creatures commit sin. God’s anger is tempered by mercy. Sin always makes trouble. Atonement for sin must be made. Names, dates and places don’t matter.
(Father Mikulski welcomes your comments and questions. Write to him at 7718 Westwood Dr., Oscoda, Mich. 48750.)