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 April 9, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. Pope Benedict spoke to a group of local priests, saying our sacraments such as Holy Communion should be given to people who have even “a glimmer of faith” because there is reason to think positive. But he said he would not give “an infallible answer.” Why not? Isn’t that what you have been saying all along?
A. Let’s assume the pope’s response was consistent with this Q.B. position and vice versa. There may be a bit of wiggle room in a reporter’s understanding of what the pope said, but we should agree that Pope Benedict, former professor of Catholic theology, former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, former head of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and now the supreme pontiff in charge of keeping Catholic doctrine pure and undefiled, is capable of presenting a true Catholic response. This Q.B. author has none of those qualifications.
All else being equal, anyone having even a small flicker of faith to share the Catholic sacrament of Eucharist properly as the body of Christ “there is reason to go ahead.” That’s been good Catholic theology since long before we were freshmen.
It doesn’t need a declaration of infallibility. In fact, there have been only two doctrines in recent times that have received the explicit label of “infallible.” Just two. In 1854 Pope Pius IX defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as an infallible dogma, and in 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary into heaven as infallible.
Popes don’t make infallible remarks at press conferences like that session at a gathering of priests in Italy. He told them he had developed some new thinking that he wanted to share with them. “If we can see even a small flame of desire for Communion in the Church, there is reason to go ahead.” Other restrictions still apply.
Speaking of infallibility reminds the Q.B. of the caustic remark of G. B. Shaw. “In this matter of infallibility, the pope is a piker compared to the average Irishman.”
Q. For our first child we agreed on three sponsors, one of whom was my sister, Catholic, but the others were a married couple – good friends. Our priest suggested we should try for all Catholics if we ever needed another baptism. We do now. Just how urgent is it having only Catholic sponsors? We know he will agree with this baptism, too.
A. The rite of baptism has not changed. One sponsor must be an active practicing Catholic, for good reason. The rite clearly emphasizes the responsibility of giving TLC by word and example, something a person of different faith, or no faith, will find extremely difficult to do for the next 20 or so years. Some non-Catholics, with a profound respect for their word of honor, have politely declined the offer.
A non-Catholic who accepts the responsibility is more properly called a “witness.”
Q. Do angels really exist? Are there such beings so spiritual they are invisible? The Bible says so, but we expect that. If angels are living beings, why haven’t people seen them?
A. Must visibility be the only proof of existence? Can some created beings live without being seen or heard? God must have absolute ability to design and extend life to beings of any kind, totally spiritual or physical or both.
If we pursue that idea, it’s possible that we, human beings of body and soul, are a tiny minority compared to a vast plethora of spirit-only created beings.
Let’s extend your inquiry to other spiritual beings. Saints by the multitude, names and places. Exceptional saints as the Virgin Mary. Specialist angels like Gabriel, Michael and Raphael.
Early in human-divine experience, Moses was guided by an angel (Exodus 23:20). From that first exposure a variety of angels have appeared in following pages.
The average Catholic, if there is such a person, will gladly relate some personal experience that can be explained as a close call with danger in which a guardian angel intervened. And some guardian angels, with hazardous assignments, look forward to early retirements.