Letters 02.23.14

Resignation, Not Outrage

Regarding "Notre Dame Complies With Contraception Mandate" (Jan. 26 issue):

I am so disappointed that Notre Dame complied with the Obamacare mandate. They should be setting the example of what it means to be Catholic.

They should be leading the way in defending religious freedom and moral objection.

If [Notre Dame President] Father [John] Jenkins has worked with the Obama administration for a year to try and resolve this, to no avail, shouldn’t he understand this administration has no plan to compromise, but, rather, ignore religious freedom and moral objection? I really don’t hear outrage in this article, but, rather, resignation.

Maybe Father Jenkins should have consulted with the law school — which has many wonderful minds for ways to uphold the Constitution regarding religious freedom and moral objection — because he is right about one thing: You allow this to stand, and the door is open to any administration to promote their own agenda, regardless of the Constitution. It is disappointing that Father Jenkins couldn’t make the "tough decision" to stand up for religious freedom and moral objection.

And the truly sad part is: He doesn’t care that people are disappointed in his decision.

Colleen Ruszkowski

Birmingham, Alabama


Speaking the Truth

I love the Register and use it in my cenacle of Divine Mercy that I teach at our parish. Keep up the good work.

I do object to an article in the Jan. 12 edition, entitled: "Gates Foundation, USAID and Contraception" (Nation). Early in the article, you refer to Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and a Catholic, who has made her signature issue of pharmaceutical birth control with worldwide implications a major issue. One cannot be Catholic and openly support this kind of activity.

Mrs. Gates may call herself Catholic, but canon law says otherwise. The same applies to all the politicians who call themselves Catholic and openly support abortion.

Along the same lines, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Wall Street Journal that the Church, since the 1960s, has failed to communicate its teaching on contraception to the faithful. Is it any wonder, then, that Catholics are engaging in premarital sex, practicing birth control and divorcing at nearly the same rate as non-Catholics? It is time for the clergy to start speaking on the Ten Commandments.

Joe Conroy

New Braunfels, Texas


Keeping Sunday Holy

As a religious-education teacher in my parish, I devote a great deal of class time encouraging my students to attend Mass with their parents each Sunday. I find that, while the children would most likely choose to attend on a regular basis, it is the parents who seem to not find the time for this weekly devotion.

In the Dec. 29 edition of the Register, the article "How to Keep Holy the Sabbath Amid Youth Sports Schedules" (Culture of Life), the author discusses a variety of alternative ways to keep the Sabbath holy, some of which seem to exclude Mass attendance.

The article has left me confused. Am I wrong in understanding that the Catholic Church continues to teach that missing Mass is a mortal sin?

Is this article suggesting that keeping the Sabbath holy can be done through quality family time, such as family attendance at a soccer game or other outing, rather than a family Mass time? Does the Church now give the parent the ability to choose an activity other than Mass and not have to go to confession? While I have no issue with the suggestion, I just want to be certain that I am not incorrectly instructing my religious-education students.

Marlene Ministeri

Upland, California


The editor responds: The article you cite looked at ways to keep the Sabbath holy in addition to attending the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist, which the Catechism says "is at the heart of the Church’s life" (2177). Lord’s Day Mass attendance remains obligatory for Catholics. The Catechism states, "The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: ‘On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass’" (2180). As the article noted, "Faithful, practicing Catholics understand that it is their obligation to participate in corporate worship on Sundays (or Saturday evenings)."


When Does a Soul Depart?

In regard to the news that a Texas hospital ended a patient’s life support ("What Constitutes Extraordinary Care?" Jan. 26 issue) because of a legal order: To do so might present a future situation in which the Church will have to intervene theologically and even legally.

Though the woman was medically considered "brain-dead," she was also pregnant with a child reported to have problems. If a person ("persons," in the case of a pregnant woman) kept alive on artificial life support would die without life support, does that person die immediately after the support is removed? Or will he or she be not breathing and already deceased?

In either situation, I would like to ask: At what point does the soul leave the body, making that body "officially" dead by Divine decision to call the soul to personal judgment? And in the situation of a pregnant woman, can the baby, if alive, be baptized while still in the womb?

Richard Mackin Jr.

Millinocket, Maine


The editor responds: According to Colin Donovan, vice president of theology at EWTN, the soul leaves the body (metaphysical death) at a time that no human being can exactly determine, although it has certainly set in when the clearest clinical signs of death (loss of warmth and rigor) have set in. Until that time, the pastoral practice of the Church allows some sacraments, such as baptism, to be given conditionally (e.g., to someone who had manifested the desire for baptism, "If you are present, I baptize you in the Name, etc.").

Other clinical signs of death, such as complete cardiovascular failure or loss of all brain activity, while they represent the end of biological functioning (death), do not necessarily indicate metaphysical death, though they usually precede it. Medicine has already found ways to reverse them in some cases, or they sometimes spontaneously reverse. The Church allows us in most cases to act on a moral certainty of death without requiring the absolute certainty of metaphysical death.

Baptism in the womb is not possible, as baptism requires that the water used to baptize flow over the baptized.