Are the Responsibilities of Parish Councils?
I would like to know the responsibilities of parish trustees and parish council when
there is a pastor in the parish and also when there is no pastor and no administrator
in the parish.
Canon law permits the existence of a parish council. It also allows the bishop to mandate
that the parishes in his diocese each have a parish council. If the bishop has not mandated
a parish council, a pastor himself may decide to establish a council in his parish.
The purpose of the parish council is to assist the pastor in the pastoral care of the
parish. But the council is a consultive body. It advises and offers its opinion. It does
not have legislative or decisive power. The governing of the parish is, by law, in the
hands of the pastor.
Since the bishop may enact norms governing the parish councils in his own diocese, you
would really have to ask a particular diocese about any norms governing parish councils
In the absence of a canonical pastor, the bishop appoints an administrator of a parish.
Again, you would have to consult any diocesan norms for administrators and check their
letters of ap-pointment to know their authority.
The Code of Canon Law, however, does require that all parishes have a financial council.
The duties of this council are to be spelled out in diocesan statutes, which determine
the competence of the council. The pastor can certainly use this council in numerous ways,
and the wise pastor will make much use of members skills and knowledge in determining
budgets, expenditures, salaries, benefits, contracts, etc.
Samson a Suicide?
Suicide is an objective mortal sin. Yet, in Judges 16:20-30, Samson kills himself and
prays to God for assistance: Let me die with the Philistines!
The New Catholic Encyclopedia explains that, in order for a suicide to be considered
indirect (which is sometimes permissible), The evil effect is not intended.
The evil effect of Samsons suicidehis deathis clearly intended because
he prays for it.
I took a look at some six or seven commentaries and biblical dictionaries to see what
they had to say about Samsons death. Hardly any of them tried to analyze his death
or comment on verse 30 in Judges 16.
For what it is worth, the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Louis
Hartman, C.SS.R., had this to say: Samsons death in the Temple of Dagon at
Gaza, which he brought down on himself and the assembled Philistines (16:23-30), was not
an act of suicide, but rather a return to his mission, to which he had been unfaithful
when he betrayed the secret of his strength to Delilah, but which he in conscious response
to his call and with a prayer to God on his lips, now fulfilled, even at the cost of his
I would infer from the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bibles point of view
that Samsons death was like that of a martyr who dies in defense of some virtue,
like a person who leaps to death rather than be sexually violated.
The moralist Heribert Jone, O.F.M.Cap., calls this indirect suicide and says that, while
in itself it is forbidden, it may be permitted for a proportionately grave reason. Jone
writes: One kills himself indirectly if, without the intention of committing suicide,
he knowingly and willingly does something which not only has an intended good effect, but
from which death also follows.
It is presupposed that the good effect results from the action as immediately as does
death. By example Jone then finds it permissible for a person to leap from a dangerous
height to escape burning to death, for a woman to do the same in order to avoid being violated
by a libertine, or for someone in wartime to blow up an enemy fortification or ship even
though the person foresees his or her own death in doing so.
Attend or Not to Attend, That Is the Question
I would like to know the Churchs position on attending a wedding and giving gifts
to a couple (one of whom is Catholic) who marries without a dispensation in a non-Catholic
ceremony. Would it be a serious sin to attend and give a gift under the above circumstances?
It is not easy to answer questions like yours with just a yes or no.
Each case is individual and requires a particular judgment about what is the best or most
charitable thing to do. There are a lot of factors to be weighed and questions to be answered
before a person makes a decision to attend the marriage of a Catholic marrying outside
Among the questions to be answered are: Will my friend or child or relative take my attendance
as approval of what he or she is doing? Will my decision to attend encourage the person
to go ahead and marry contrary to Gods law and enter a sinful union? Or does the
person know and realize my attendance will only be a sign of caring and friendship?
If I dont attend, will it only embitter that person and drive him or her further
from the Church, thus making any future effort to be reconciled with the Church and God
harder and more unlikely? Will failing to attend cause divisions and enmity in the family?
What actionattending or not attendingis morelikely to keep open communication
with the person and, in the end, have the most beneficial spiritual effect?
That is one set of considerations. Another is: What effect will my attending or not attending
the wedding have on other people, especially those for whom I have the most responsibility?
If I attend, will my children or other family members take it to mean that I see nothing
wrong with what the other person is doing?
Is it likely to encourage them to do the same thing in the future? In other words, will
it give genuine scandal? Or will the other family members understand that I am not approving
of sinful conduct and am merely showing friendship and caring by attending the ceremony?
The closer the relationship, of course, the more the pressure to attend and the more significant
the act of attending or not attending.
In my own experience, I have discovered that, outside of close family relationships, attending
or not attending a wedding isnt noticed very much. The parties dont stop to
ask questions about why so-and-so didnt come. We frequently exaggerate the importance
of going or not going and the likelihood of giving real offense by not attending.
Also, to be fair, those marrying outside the Church must have some consideration and understanding
for the consciences of their friends and relatives. They should not expect or demand them
to do what they believe wrong. Friendship and love are, after all, two-way streets.
Where relationships are closest, kindness and a show of affection are more likely to have
the best spiritual effect in the long run. A parent who has hope of eventually leading
the child back to God and Church, for instance, might chooseafter letting a child
know he or she believes what the child is doing is wrongto keep communication open
and to show love and concern, even by attending the ceremony.
In all these cases, I believe we have to respect the prudential decision a person makes
and accept that it is made in good conscience whether the person decides to attend or not
We are encouraged to go to Confession often. How do I confess if I have no mortal sins
or perhaps no venial sin and faults? I have felt some priests were impatient with my
confession. Now I dread going to Confession.
It is always appropriate to make what theologians call a confession of devotion. That
means the penitent has no unconfessed, unforgiven mortal sins to confess, but wishes to
receive the graces of the sacrament to grow in his or her spiritual life.
Im sorry if some confessors have been impatient with you. The Catechism of the
Catholic Church states: Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday
faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular
confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies,
let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving
more frequently through the sacrament the gift of the Fathers mercy, we are spurred
to be merciful as he is merciful.
If you have no serious sins to confess, you may simply confess one or more venial sins.
And if you have been so fortunate as not to have committed any sin since your last confession,
you may confess a sin from your past life.
A confession of devotion might sound something like this: Bless me, Father, for
I have sinned. It has been a month since my last confession. I am not aware of any grave
sin since then. But I accuse myself of being unkind and impatient with my wife (husband)
and children, neglectful of my parents who are lonely and ill. And I want to acknowledge
again my sorrow for all my sins, particularly the sin of...
On Ash Wednesday, the priest in our parish did not distribute ashes to small children.
He explained to the people who were present that ashes are an outward sign of our inner
intention to enter into the penitential discipline of Lent. He said that, even though
ashes are a sacramental of the Church, it does not make sense to impose them on the foreheads
of little children who are innocent and have no need to repent. He said a child should
have some awareness of sin to be a recipient of ashes.
I felt his explanation made sense, but I cannot seem to find any official support
for his position. In a neighboring parish, ashes were distributed to everyone, including
infants. Could you shed some light on the question?
I found your letter and question quite interesting. There is a certain logic in the position
taken by your parish priest. After all, we do not administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation
to children who havent started school or expect preschoolers to participate in penitential
services. Liturgical directions in the Sacramentary, after the blessing of ashes, say, The
priest then places ashes on those who come forward.
That instruction seems to indicate a conscious decision to receive the sacramental, a
personal declaration of the intention to change for the better and a prayer for Gods
assistance. It doesnt seem to suggest putting ashes on a baby carried to the altar
or a toddler pulled there by his mother or father.
Yet there is a line in the Book of Blessings that says the season of Lent begins
with the ancient practice of marking the baptized with ashes as a public and communal
sign of penance.
From that I think it possible to argue that marking the child with ashes could be an expression
of human solidarity and a reminder we are all marked by the sin of Adam and need redemption.
Im not sure how much of a question this is in most
places. You dont usually find many babies or preschoolers at Masses on Ash Wednesday
when their parents are between home and work.
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