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 February 16, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. As far back as I can remember we were told to attend Sunday Mass to fulfill the commandment to keep holy the sabbath. Now it seems all that has gone down with some other neglected Commandments. Will they ever come back? I hope so.
A. Ah, but we are New Testament people. We passed by those Old T. regulations for the last time 20 centuries ago. For a fuller experience you might sample the book of Leviticus, any of the 27 chapters that were the guidelines for God’s chosen people but now left behind.
“You have heard how it was said to our ancestors ... but now I say to you ... “ (Matthew 5:21) It’s a new deal, a deeper motive.
Sabbath is not Sunday. Sabbath – from the Hebrew word for rest – is the last day of the week. Sunday is the first day and “never the twain shall met.”
Our earliest Christian ancestors made a clean break with their Yahweh-inspired past. Dietary laws, liturgical ceremonies, fasting regulations, social observances, Pharisees versus Sadducees – all of that left behind by people of the New Way, as they were known.
“The reason why we all assemble on Sunday is that it is the first day: the day on which God transformed darkness and matter and created the world and the day on which Jesus Christ our savior rose from the dead.” (St. Justin, c.150)
Canon Law is simple and direct. Catholics are obliged to assist at “a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.” (C. 1248)
Q. Can an exception be made when a priest should break silence to alert law enforcement to arrest a person before he or she can commit another murder? Only the information he has through confession? If it would save one life? Or if he could save many?
A. No. Never. Not a chance. Not for any reason. Notice all the negatives. In this tired old world that are not many absolutely inviolable principles left, but the seal of confession remains tightly shut.
The late John Gotti, alleged Mafia don, complained in prison that the good old days were gone. His world of crime was collapsing, he said, because it was hard to recruit a few good men who understood the code of silence.
The Catholic Church understands the penitent’s need for silence and protects it with the ultimate seal. It’s too late for John Gotti to recruit a few good men who understand the code of silence. If a priest should break silence he is instantly suspended by a latae sententiae canon. It’s like a loaded gun waiting for some fool to touch it. No need to review. He’s finished, instantly.
Q. I received an article about Pope Joan as the woman who was pope in Rome about 1100 AD. That story may be fiction but maybe you’re open to more details.
A. That mossy old story about Popess Joan belongs in the same basket as The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk (there’s a reprint of that old fable going around), The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The Good Tooth Fairy. There has never been a female pope named Joan, Johanna or Josephine before or after 1100.
The unexpurgated version of the fable says Popess Joan (can we call her Joanie?) gave birth to her child (can you top that?) while walking down the aisle in procession to her coronation at St. Peter Basilica that wasn’t built until the 16th century.
A few years ago a movie mogul started working on a script about our Joanie but he was persuaded to give it up. It might surface again in another “left behind” series.
Q. An usher I know tapped me on my shoulder for reading your newspaper during the sermon. How embarrassing. Was he right?
A. Who will throw the first stone? You were offended by a vigilant usher. The usher was offended by your bad manners. The homilist was offended by both of you.
Cardinal Newman defined a gentleman as a person who never knowingly gives offense. Someone else said a gentleman is a person who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn’t. So be gentle.