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 April 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. Is it a sin of some kind not to fasten seat belts while driving? We had family discussions about this. It’s odd but the girls say it’s a sin while both boys say it’s not. I know they buckle up only when we’re with them. Is not using seat belts a sin?

A. Well, it’s not optional. It’s the law. The state has the right to require passing grades on the test you must take before it gives you a license the right to set speed limits you must observe and the right to revoke your driver’s license if you exceed the limit of points from violations of traffic laws.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Can the state legislate safety by requiring you to buckle up? Some say yes, some say no, some say just the opposite. The state can protect us from ourselves.

John Stuart Mill, long before the first car, has your answer: “The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

Innocent passengers and pedestrians are killed by careless unbuckled drivers. No one has the right to break the law.

Q. When you look at other denominations wouldn’t you agree the Roman Catholic Church makes more demands on us? Things like fasting and abstinence, marriage regulations and canon law that other religions do not have. I see those things as burdens we carry but others don’t. How does that affect our personal salvation?

A. How hard is too hard? Plea bargaining for cheap grace, the kind peddled by biblical hucksters because it makes you feel good all over is unworthy of mature adults, religious or pagan.

For a clear-eyed analysis on that point the comment by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran pastor and martyr to Nazi power, defines the issue: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without a cross, grace without Jesus living and incarnate.”

Is that too hard? Bonhoeffer lived that conviction. “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus suggest it’s easy. Rather, he insists all followers carry a personally fitted cross. That’s no place for the faint-hearted. No one can say he was misleading us.

Q. Our Apostles Creed is a compact prayer that summarizes the Catholic religion. I would like your thoughts on this: “on the third day He rose again.” Please comment on that “again” as though it was another person who rose from the dead.

A. We have two prominent summaries of our faith, the Apostles Creed, in the second century and the Nicene Creed, a product of the Council of Nicaea in 325. Both are statements of faith, memorized by catechumens, converts-to-be, and professed aloud just before their baptism. Both have that line “On the third day he rose again.”

Read the line just before that. The Apostles Creed says “He descended into hell” and the Nicene Creed says “he suffered, died and was buried.” The English Bible calls the abode of the dead “hell.” In Hebrew it’s Sheol, in Greek it’s Hades. It’s the nether region where all dead people stayed. It’s the place Jesus visited to free the good souls who were waiting for their liberator.

Jesus had a bodily Resurrection from the burial tomb and a return from that nether region where good people awaited release.

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