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 March 15, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. Why canít the presider at Mass explain who can and who canít receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and then invite the rest of the people to receive their blessings spiritually? The blessings can be received spiritually as stated in Deuteronomy 28:29.
A. First, letís delete references to the book of Deuteronomy with its chapters of blessings and curses for the faithful and unfaithful chosen people of Yahweh. Besides being irrelevant to our Eucharistic liturgy itís out of date by too many centuries to count.
The present practice of our Catholic Eucharist for ďCatholics onlyĒ is rather well observed by most people. Now and then thereís a minor mix-up in the line of people coming forward to receive Eucharist but most people observe the rules of courtesy of respect for our great sacrament.
Q. Can you give some information about the so-called apocryphal books of the Bible? It would help if you name them, with dates of writing and any authors and why they donít belong in the churchís list of those approved books. Thatís what Iíd like to know.
A. Christian apocrypha is literature that once had a claim, plausible or implausible, to be considered authentic and canonical. Itís difficult to give a complete list because not all scholars agree on the authors or the time of writing. Hereís a partial list accepted by most people: Gospel of Peter, Gospel of James, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Hebrews, History of Joseph the Carpenter, Acts of John, Acts of Paul, Acts of Peter, Acts of Andrew, Books of Adam and Eve, Testament of Prophets, Assumption of Moses, Secrets of Enoch, Martyrdom of Isaiah, and many lesser-known writings on a more dubious list. There are more than 100 Christian apocrypha so I donít think you want all titles.
For instance, the Gospel of Truth was discovered in the same old monastery of Chenoboskion, Egypt, where others were found. Dry climate certainly helped preserve those documents. Is it possible, do you suppose, that a few pious monks, with talent for writing and time on their hands, could have...? Those spurious writings? Say it isnít soÖ?
Q. As a regular reader of your column I find that you are not always firm in your statements when it comes to being right or wrong. May I say we expect straight answers with fewer wishy-washy conclusions?
A. Well, yes and no. Some questions deserve a firm maybe.
The core doctrines of the Catholic faith, what theologians call the deposit of faith, are not negotiable. But not all doctrines are equal. For instance, our core belief that our Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ among us has been a mainstay belief since we wrote the New Testament, but whether we stand or kneel has changed many times. There is some wiggle room built into some Catholic practices.
Q. I want to have a Mass offered for a recently deceased friend who doesnít happen to be Catholic and my neighbor told me it cannot be done because there are too many differences in our faiths. That doesnít seem right. Will you advise me?
A. Here are two simple, obvious conditions.
1. The Mass should be requested or approved by the family or friends of the deceased for a genuinely religious motive. (How else?)
Thatís canonical legalese.
Q. A while ago on a trip I attended Mass that was a little different. I thought the priest was making it up the way he kept getting lost and repeating some parts. I found out he makes himself available there for weekend Masses. Do you think he was legit?
A. We need more info. The core issue is this: Was his ordination valid? Was he ordained by a validly ordained bishop? In the recent past there have been some delightful imposters.
That Mass was valid if the priest was validly ordained. A priest cannot be de-ordained. He can be suspended for malpractice and he can be excommunicated for heresy, but he cannot be de-ordained. For the right answer, a phone call to the diocesan office will tell all.