Readers respond to Register articles.
In reference to your report in the Register’s Feb. 4 issue on the exodus of youth from the Church (Briefs, page 2):
I would agree that disagreement with the Church over moral issues was a major reason for the disaffection of many of our young people, as found by a national survey.
However, I’ve noted that another major reason for disaffection is the total lack of knowledge of Catholic Church history going back to the very beginning.
For example, a friend of mine told me that his son started going to the Episcopal Church, saying that it was just like the Catholic Church and he liked the choir better.
In talking with him, he discovered that he had no idea of the Episcopal Church’s relationship with the Church of England and how that church was started when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church because the pope would not approve of him getting a divorce from his wife.
Many of our youth see the Catholic Church as just another Christian church, with the only difference being one of ritual.
They have no clue that Christ founded our Church and what the rich history of the Church has been over the last 2,000-plus years.
They do not realize that other Christian churches either broke away from us or simply started up on their own somewhere along the way, contrary to the intent of Christ.
We have generally failed in our religious-education classes to give a full accounting of our history and why it matters.
In addition, we have passively let Hollywood set the moral tone for our youth.
When was the last time that any of us heard from the pulpit that fornication is a serious sin and that it is not excused by the fact that cohabitation is so universally practiced by today’s young adults?
When have we heard that the same-sex lifestyle is also a serious wrong and that both fornication and gay sex are condemned by the constant teaching of the Church and by many references in the Bible?
Most likely, most of us have never heard this from the pulpit.
However, we sure have heard from the Hollywood elite that such lifestyles are not only okay, but even a positive good.
We have to clearly rebut this falsehood and start now, before we lose even more of our youth.
I am a recent subscriber to the Register, and I find it very enlightening, helping me to see issues from a Catholic perspective.
Thank you also for taking entries through regular mail, as I do not have access to email or the internet.
Why do Catholics in the United States rarely seem to abstain from meat on Fridays other than through Lent (Code of Canon Law 1250 and 1251)?
What is the USCCB’s specific guidance regarding Friday penance outside of abstinence (Canon 1253)?
To me, Friday abstinence would seem to be the easiest way to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us year-round.
James Boggs, Obl. OSB
The editor responds: Colin Donovan, vice president of theology at EWTN, says, “Abstinence from meat on every Friday of the year remains the general law of the Church.
“However, each bishops’ conference is given the authority to establish a substitution of that penance on the Fridays outside of Lent (Code of Canon Law, 1249-1253).
“In the United States the bishops chose to make a particular norm, writing in their ‘Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence’ (Nov. 18, 1966):
‘Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.’
“Their document then goes on to give examples of practices that could be done in substitution, such as: ‘self-discipline in the use of stimulants and for a renewed emphasis on the virtue of temperance, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages ... volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends, our neighbors and our community, including our parishes ...’
“Thus, it is clear that abstinence from meat on Fridays retains its privileged place in the penitential practices of the Church, as well as the most practical form for most people, particularly within institutions serving meals to Catholics on Friday.
“On Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, it also remains obligatory throughout the Church.”
Let Prayer’s Wording Stand
Relative to “Pope Francis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord’s Prayer” (In Depth, Jan. 7 issue):
Pope Francis proposes to reword the Lord’s Prayer, to better reflect the goodness and purity of God, by altering, “Lead us not into temptation.”
I defend the phrase because it recognizes our participation in the divine economy, despite our imperfection.
Similarly, or even symmetrically to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus quoted the greatest commandments:
“Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
How can the second be like the first? I think that the Lord’s Prayer gives a hint, if it is regarded as an expression of those commandments. “Love your God” is beautifully expressed in the following words: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” in awe and wonder, followed by, “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done,” which is worship of the highest degree, turning over our will to God’s.
Then, “on earth as it is in heaven” expresses God’s dominion over us, but it also alerts us, by its mention of earth, that we are about to consider earthly things.
“Give us this day our daily bread” recognizes our dependence on God for our life in all its gory detail, especially through Holy Mass.
But how has God ordained that this request be ordinarily met?
It is met through other people.
Likewise, “Forgive us our trespasses” is a request not just of God, but also of our brethren.
“As we forgive those who trespass against us” reminds us of the imperfection of others. How the second greatest commandment “is like” the first is due to our participation in the divine economy.
“Lead us not into temptation” makes sense because others will often put us to the test for good cause, and even in obedience to God, e.g., to show us one of our faults, or call us to greater charity.
Yet we should ask others to recognize our weaknesses and to not intentionally put us to the test.
Finally, “deliver us from evil” asks others to help us in our weaknesses to avoid sin and death.
The Lord’s Prayer simultaneously expresses the presence of God in each of us, particularly in the Communion of Saints, which is the Body of Christ, and the incompleteness in us of that presence of God!
Since we, the Church, help in the salvation of others, I request that the phrase “Lead us not into temptation” stand.
Joseph Daniel Rudmin
- letters to the editor