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 July 30, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. At times I take astrology seriously because it fits. Am I in a state of sin? I’ve heard that kings and popes consulted their astrology charts before making decisions about the creed and doctrine for the church. If astrology is a sin for me would you please explain that?
A. The sin of astrology is really the sin of idolatry, namely, the sublimation of anything over and above the absolute God of heaven and earth. If you attribute extraneous power to an alignment of planets or to a rabbit’s foot in your pocket, you’re flirting with idolatry. To what extent you commit serious sin depends on the extent to which you submit yourself to the power of planets or phases of the moon.
The Latin word for moon is “luna.”
There is no astronomical basis for astrology. Years ago 180 Nobel Prize winners signed a statement condemning astrology as a pseudo-science because there is no evidence that stars in any alignment can influence human behavior. That stern statement from top scientists condemning astrology resembled a decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Even freshman biologists know that a person’s genetic make-up is formed at the time of conception and months in a mother’s womb. The arrangement of stars at birth is obviously nine months too late.
Believing in astrology is not just a sin, it’s a dumb sin. Better-quality sins promise pleasure and fun, with deep remorse setting in later, but astrology just sits there waiting for some fool to surrender common sense.
Q. I have serious trouble dealing with crowds anywhere. Coming home from Sunday Mass I am sick for the rest of the day. May I fulfill my obligation for Mass be changed to a weekday?
A. Yes. There’s an old saying: Nemo ad impossibile tenetur. “No one is held to the impossible.”
Claustrophobia can be powerful enough to shut out any thoughts of praying with other people. If you are distressed you cannot join the community sharing Eucharist anyway.
Find yourself a nice quiet weekday Mass with just a few people, take a corner seat, and pray to your heart’s content.
Q. Please give the proper sequence for writing the Gospels if you can. I’ve learned that all writers were not always present when Jesus, for instance, did his miracles. Can we believe those four writers saw what they said happened?
A. Bible scholars are sure of these approximate dates. Mark, the scriptor-secretary for Peter in Rome, finished first, about A.D. 70. Matthew and Luke wrote and copied sometime in the 80s. John, the sole survivor of original Twelve, sometime in the 90s. All those dates have some wiggle room. We don’t have any original copies, of course. We have copies of copies.
There’s good evidence that those authors relied on an unknown source that has been lost, some “Jesus material” that we just don’t have. Scholars call those missing pieces “Q.” If you want to be famous until the end of time, don’t bother with inventions or predictions. Find “Q.”
Q. I remember how often we were told the Holy Spirit would be our guiding light in everything. We have so-called experts showing us how to interpret the Bible. People these days have the intelligence to make their own conclusions by good reading and good thinking. What do we need outsiders for?
A. True, you may be expert in matters of Biblical knowledge, but every good scholar knows it’s smart to ask a second opinion.
Some sections of the Bible defy simple understanding. The Q. B. scrivener has a standing wager with anyone who can read the Book of Revelation with no outside coaching and get it right the first time. That last section of the Bible has led novices into a doctrinal swamp from which they emerged babbling nonsense.
Here’s the issue: As an educated believer, why not follow the best leads? It’s not an either/or situation – either simple faith or serious study. It should be both/and – both solid faith and a desire to learn all you can with the consistent guidance of our Holy Spirit.