Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Best of The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the July 17, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. This may sound easy, but let me ask: Why doesn’t God punish terrible sinners of the worst kind right here while they’re living so we can see them get what’s coming to them? I mean only to the most obvious sinners everybody knows. That kind of punishment would go a long way toward keeping the rest of us straight if it might be done.

A. And how, may we ask, will their guilt be decided? By whom? Like the fella said, if the decision will be made by a committee, be sure you’re on the committee.

It’s just too simplistic, asking God to punish sinners visibly now rather than later. That’s too easy. It makes God a bogeyman instead of the loving Father we were taught about by Jesus. Let the wheat and weeds grow side by side, he said, even though weeds grow faster. Let the good guys and the bad guys live side by side, even though bad guys succeed faster. God is in no hurry.

The idea that natural disasters or personal misfortunes are evidence of God’s punishments for evil deeds is neither Biblical or logical. You will have a tough time explaining why criminals are wealthy but Mother Teresa had to go begging.

Q. Your column about hunting offended me and others. Can you justify hunting from any Bible references? Can you prove that killing birds and animals is in keeping with God’s wishes as we understand it in the Bible? Will you do a correction?

A. With a little gerrymandering you can find Bible quotes to prove anything you like. There are some casual references that the chosen people of God supplemented their food supply with wild game but there is no reason to think they hunted for sport.

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, describes Nimrod as a mighty hunter. Isaiah, the great prophesying visionary, summons his son Esau to take his weapons, “your quiver and bow; go out into the country and hunt me some game.”

A better comment to your inquiry is that the Bible should not be used in this way. The authors never intended that their words should be used as ammunition (pardon the expression) to settle personal debates. That’s a mis-use of Scripture.

Years ago a man in Nevada built himself a house using old beer cans instead of bricks. It probably holds together well enough, providing him with shelter from wind and rain. But that’s not the real purpose of beer cans.

Q. While we were house cleaning we found my old Baltimore Catechism still in good shape. Whatever was the reason for letting that just fade away? I can still remember the parts we memorized. I don’t think it will be used again, so why did it get left out?

A. That little blue book was the first notable result of the third plenary council of Baltimore, Nov. 9 to Dec. 7, 1884. They were the basic means of religious instruction in this country. It was mediocre pedagogy, but it was the only text we had.

Father John McCaffrey, a respected expert theologian who served as personal adviser to many bishops, was the author. The quick question-and-answer format was similar to the catechism of the Council of Trent (1545). For many years little pocket-sized catechisms replaced good Scripture studies, liturgies and homilies as instruction material. We’ve come a long way from Q&A one-liners. Stop in your parish office and get a list of instructional books on almost any point of Catholic doctrine.

Q. After what my Catholic Church has been through, there seems to be a real crisis of faith where no one can be sure. Can we still be optimistic, faithful people?

A. We have the assurance of Jesus Christ: “I will be with you all days.” The long view of our faith shows we represent about one-eightieth of our total Catholic experience which is really a minuscule sample.

“Be not afraid” was the popular greeting of St. John Paul II. We have seen more perilous times than these. Or as feisty Harry Truman liked to say, “The only thing new is the history we don’t know.”

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