Confession by E-mail Allowed?
am a Roman Catholic and attend Mass every Sunday. I am very uneasy, though, with
going to confession. Since I haven’t gone in years, I am wondering: Is there such
a thing as going to confession to a priest online or by e-mail?
person going to confession and the priest hearing that confession must be in the
same physical place. It is not possible to celebrate this sacrament by phone, letter
Why not? Although in one sense the Sacrament
of Reconciliation is a private act (we do not mention our sins before a group), in
another sense it is a public act (we have all sinned and we all need forgiveness).
The reconciliation intended by this sacrament is twofold—with God and with the community
of believers, as well as the larger human community.
This second aspect of the sacrament is
reflected in the absolution formula, which reads: “God, the Father of mercies, through
the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent
the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the
Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
If you have had a bad experience with
confession in the past, I urge you to believe that not all confessors are like that
one. Their job is really a very humbling one—helping people accept God’s grace and
forgiveness. If your bad experience was in a confessional box, perhaps the face-to-face
option would be better for you. If your bad experience was face-to-face, perhaps
the confessional box would be better.
I hope you have met a priest whom you
can trust to celebrate this sacrament with you. If you haven’t, try visiting some
other parish or retreat center in your area. A confessor represents both God and
the faith community. I encourage you not to cut yourself off from the grace of this
Is Only One Factor
criteria are used for naming cardinals? Geographic, demographic, population numbers?
Does one area always have a cardinal serving it? Does the United States have a specified
number of cardinals at all times, which are replenished when attrition occurs?
cardinals are the electors of the pope, geography is certainly a factor in their appointment.
For example, every archbishop of New York since 1902 eventually became a cardinal.
It is unlikely, therefore, that the pope will appoint as archbishop there someone whom
he does not intend to make a cardinal.
Geography, however, is not the only consideration. Cardinals are supposed to head
the Holy See’s Secretariat of State and the Vatican’s nine congregations. Anyone appointed
to those offices will probably be made a cardinal.
No country is entitled to a specific number of cardinals. In the last 40 years, in
fact, many cardinals were the first ones ever named in their country.
In 1971, Pope Paul VI set 120 as the maximum number of cardinals below the age of
80; only they may vote for a new pope. As that number declines, a pope is more likely
to appoint new cardinals.
Pope John Paul II has retained the rule specifying a maximum of 120 members under
age 80. He has also named as cardinals several men over that age. He did so to show
his appreciation for their lifetime service to the Church.
There are now 11 U.S. cardinals under the age of 80, eight serving in this country
and three in Rome. As of October 15, 1999, the Church’s 154 cardinals were born in
Europe (81), Latin America (24), North America (16), Asia (15), Africa (14) and Oceania
is it that after so many years of traditional teaching, some people are acknowledging
Mark the Evangelist as author of the first Gospel instead of Matthew? I read something
about “internal evidence.” Is there such doubt about authorship, or is “internal
evidence” more convincing than early Church history?
problem may arise from what people mean by “the first Gospel.” The attribution of
the four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was reported by Papias, a bishop
who died as a martyr around 125 A.D.
Most modern biblical scholars think that
the Gospel of Mark was the first of the four Gospels to be completed (about
70 A.D.) and that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke borrow a good deal of material
from Mark. The Gospel of John is usually considered the last of the four Gospels,
having been completed around the year 95 A.D.
The Gospel of Matthew is the first Gospel
in the sense that it has long been copied or printed first in collections
of the four Gospels. That does not mean, however, that it was completed first.
Although the Book of Genesis is printed
first in the Old Testament and without doubt describes its oldest events, the Book
of Amos was probably completed 200 years earlier, in the eighth century before Christ’s
If the Gospel of Matthew was not written
first, then why is it printed first? The Gospel of Matthew is in some ways
a more “churchy” Gospel than the other three—indeed, the only one to use the Greek
word ekklesia (“Church”). The liturgy has used this Gospel more than those
of Mark, Luke or John. Why? Jesus is most clearly a teacher in Matthew.
friend of mine, who was quite upset this morning, told me that a newscaster had
reported that Pope John Paul II said that heaven and hell were a “state of mind.” Is
this truly what he said?
his weekly general audience last July 28, the pope said that hell “is not a punishment
imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this
life....It is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person
who committed it. It is the state of those who definitely reject the Father’s mercy,
even at the last moment of their life....
“The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted.
They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God.
“Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively
separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy....The thought of hell—and
even less the improper use of biblical images—must not create anxiety or despair, but
is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen
Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the Spirit of God who makes us cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Romans
8:15; Galatians 4:6).”
Sometimes what the pope says (hell is real but more than the biblical images used
to describe it) can become so drastically compressed in a news report (hell is a state
of mind) that the summary distorts or even reverses the original message.
The text of the pope’s weekly audience can be found at: www.vatican.va,
searching for the word hell.
have searched for many hours, looking for a blessing for a new home, and I was
delighted to find your Web site. We are a large parish, and we are considering
providing to new parishioners a home blessing prayer. We welcome each family personally
and provide them with a packet of ministries, etc.
What we are looking for is a home
blessing which we have heard of but cannot find. It is one in which the mother
and father bless the home, room by room, with the blessing specific for the purpose
of each room.
A: I think
that what you need is on pages 297-301 of Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers,
a 1988 publication of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.).
You can find this book at your local Catholic bookstore, by calling St. Francis Bookshop
in Cincinnati (1-800-241-6392) or by contacting the NCCB publications department (1-800-235-8722).
You need the NCCB’s permission to reprint this blessing.
She Still Saved?
a Catholic is baptized, then renounces her religion, is she still saved?
one’s religion is serious business, but only God knows for certain the various factors
involved and whether a person acted with full knowledge and full consent.
If you know someone in this situation, pray for her but not with the fear that she
will surely go to hell if she dies without returning to the Catholic Church. Only God
can sort all this out. The Church puts up warning signs for us, but it also asks God
to remember: “...all the dead whose faith is known to you alone” (Eucharistic Prayer
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