Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the Aug. 18, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. I learned we have synoptics in the Bible. Does that mean they are in the Catholic and Protestant Bibles too? What does that mean?

A. As long as your Bible has the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke you have “synoptic spread.”

Optics, of course, have to do with seeing, sight, scope. Syn is from the Greek word for together. Synoptic means sighted together. A symphony orchestra has many instruments making music together. A carpenter squints one-eyed down a piece of lumber to see if it’s straight. A Scripture scholar lines up synoptic verses from Matthew, Mark and Luke looking for consensus.

Trained Scripture scholars, fluent in Biblical Hebrew, Greek and Latin, want to know who borrowed what from whom. They go about their work like detectives following a trail of clues. And there’s always that other mysterious missing element they call “Q.” But I digress.

Q. Can an ex-Catholic be denied a full Catholic funeral for any reason when his remaining family requests such rites? Some people think this refusal was an arbitrary decision without any good reason. What is the normal procedure? This can’t be such an unusual case.

A. We can be more precise. There are no ex-Catholics. A baptized Catholic remains a baptized Catholic forever because there is no way to de-baptize a person. Perhaps you mean a lapsed Catholic, a non-practicing, careless, abandoned but never totally X-ed out Catholic.

Much depends on what end of the spectrum we begin. Is this person a totally corrupt manifest sinner without the faintest flicker of repentance, or is this person a morally exhausted individual who has struggled mightily against the forces of evil and often lost?

The presumption always favors the weakened but not surrendering person until proven otherwise. Sensitive pastoral care raises the odds to 100 to 1 that he or she be given full funeral rites. The best Gospel counsel is simply to “Bury the dead.”

Canon 1184 quotes “manifest sinners” who have never shown any signs of repentance to be deprived of Catholic funeral rites when such rites would cause scandalous surprise. That would be extremely rare.

Some years ago a prominent figure in organized crime did not receive a Catholic funeral but no one was surprised. It’s the old adage that he did not enter the church when he could walk so we won’t carry him in when he can no longer resist.

In cases of doubt, further discussion should be reserved to the local bishop and his decision is to be followed.

Q. This came up because of the news about Catholic candidates campaigning for political office after being divorced. Local politics, too. Can a Catholic divorced man or woman re-marry in a Catholic church and retain his/her Catholic practice? It’s confusing.

A. Church laws apply equally to all Catholics, representatives, senators and politicians at all levels. Special dispensations are not given to families or friends, relatives of the Tribunal staff or the pope’s pen pals.

If a marriage was in a Catholic church we must presume it was a valid marriage witnessed by an ordained priest, bishop or deacon unless it can be proven invalid. The presumption is always in favor of validity. The diocesan marriage tribunal (every diocese has one) will review each case to see if there may be an impediment that would render the marriage invalid.

Once valid, always valid. Subsequent civil marriages do not, because they cannot, invalidate a valid marriage.

Q. About the awful language that’s acceptable these days. Are some words sinful? School kids are saying them. Where’s the sin?

A. Foul language can be anything from unintentional slips to ingrained habits to deliberately malicious blasphemy. Yes, they can be sins, depending on the motive.

Having worked with construction crews the Q.B. is aware that some people are bi-lingual: They speak English and Profanity.

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