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 January 19, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. To what extent are we supposed to follow our conscience when we cannot agree with the official teaching of the Catholic Church? Marriage laws for instance. In my heart of hearts I feel secure believing divorce and re-marriage should be allowed. My married friends agree and some have done that. How can the church keep them from Communion?
A. Many people agree that the Catholic Church is firmly committed to observing the moral code. Many people praise the Catholic Church for taking a firm moral stand on public issues such as abortion, stem cells, and euthanasia, especially these days when any system of morality can get a fuzzy interpretation. A guidance counselor was quoted recently as saying, “Do it if it feels good.” That’s a moral vacuum.
Truly we agree that a well-formed conscience is the first and last arbiter of moral decisions. However, a pliable conscience, a wishy-washy conscience made of Silly Putty, can lead a person into deep trouble.
Here’s an objective standard of morality: “Every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in religious matters in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience... . In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully” (Direction of Religious Freedom, Vatican II).
Marriage laws hardly need explanations. You are entitled to have only one spouse at a time. Marriage vows are clearly understood to mean exactly what they say: for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health, until death. That’s a solemn vow that leaves nothing to chance or debate.
When a man and a woman exchange such solemn vows before witnesses they are permanently bonded. No power on earth can break that bond. If your heart of hearts cannot agree, it may need adjustment.
Q. Can you say something about angels? We Catholics seem to be the only ones who believe in them anymore. I know they’re in the Bible, so why don’t we see them listed anywhere?
A. If we believe in a divine connection we should have no trouble accepting angels as the messenger service. Pope John Paul II said, “One would have to alter Sacred Scripture itself if one wished to eliminate this teaching.”
Angels are pure spirits, free of physical baggage, with intuitive knowledge which enables them to understand anything faster and more thoroughly than human beings, who must rely on impulses between brain cells.
They come in groups. Seraphim, cherubim (notice the “im” for the Hebrew plural), thrones, dominations, principalities, powers, virtues, angels and archangels. That listing was made by Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), the same Gregory who gave us our calendar.
Q. Why do born-again people always say they’re expecting a rapture when they can’t even explain satisfactorily what it is? Also the end-times, and when it will happen, but they don’t know? Where do they get those ideas that I have never heard in a Catholic sermon?
A. In the past few years we have been exposed to many imminent forecasts of the rapturous end-times promoted by self-taught experts in the field supported by pages of Bible quotes. An amateur prophet even double-checked his prediction through his computer and held a press conference to announce his discovery. Wrong again.
In a good year, we might have three or four such forecasts of Bible prophecies. If you would like to join the fun you will need a Bible concordance to match words and phrases quickly from any part of the book. With a little practice you can get an audience.
Catholic doctrine dismisses such distortions of the Word of God. We don’t use Bible quotes as a game of tic-tac-toe to forecast events. That’s an unacceptable abuse of the inspired word of God. The only reference we need is the motto “You know not the day nor the hour.”