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Dealing With Family Conflicts
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N

'My Wife Despises My Brother'
Why Does the Priest Sing Some Parts of the Mass?
Requirements for Becoming a Deacon
Would He Have a Declaration of Nullity Case Today?


Q: My wife has never gotten along with my brother. I cannot exactly explain why, but she clearly despises him, to the point of not wanting him or his wife in our home.

Because my brother and I have always been close, this situation hurts him and is tearing me up inside. He says that my wife controls me in several ways (for example, restricting what I can eat, preventing me from being alone and making life difficult if she learns that I have contacted him).

Although I think that she loves me in her own way, she refuses to accept any counseling on this issue. I take our marriage vows seriously, but this situation is getting unbearable. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Marriage must be based on the truth between a husband and a wife. There are several truths at work here: You love your wife, who despises your brother; you want to have a relationship with him and his wife; the current situation is tearing you up inside.

In Ephesians 4:15, Paul urges the Christians there to live the truth in love. I suggest that you speak to your wife again, emphasizing how this situation is affecting you. Being asked to live a lie about your relationship with your brother can hardly make you a better husband.

Do you think that your wife is trying to control your life too much? If you feel that she is making unreasonable demands of you, that is part of the truth that you need to say.

Living and speaking the truth in love, however, also means listening. Each of you has things that need to be said, to be heard and pondered before action is taken.

This conversation may require the help of your pastor or a trained marriage counselor. Several sessions may be needed. If your wife refuses to accept such counseling, perhaps she would be willing to participate in a Retrouvaille weekend. A Retrouvaille team addresses various issues in large-group sessions, followed by private conversations between husband and wife.

Regardless of how these conversations happen, if you can honestly say to yourself, “I have tried to speak and live the truth in love,” then this effort will have helped you live in the truth about your life and its many relationships. May both of you accept the Lord’s help to bring some healing into this tense situation.

Why Does the Priest Sing Some Parts of the Mass?

Q: Why do some priests sing certain parts of the Mass? This must be optional because most priests do not. Is this a holdover from pre-Vatican II days when the priests sang everything in Latin?

Also, I find it awkward and distracting whenever they sing Sanctus, Sanctus (“Holy, Holy”) or Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) and the translation into English does not match the Latin words.

A: According to section 40 of the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “...with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly, great importance should be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass.” Although at weekday Masses reciting some texts recommended for singing is permissible, “every care must be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

“In choosing the parts to be sung, however,” the Instruction explains, “preference must be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest, or the deacon or the reader, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.”

Regarding the issue of singing in Latin, section 41 of the Instruction says, “Since in these times the faithful from different countries come together more frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the profession of faith and the Lord’s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.”

When the pope celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, there is always singing. Usually, that congregation comes from many countries, speaking different languages as their mother tongue. Readings and petitions may be done in several languages, but my memory from living in Rome for six years is that the eucharistic prayer is always proclaimed in Latin.

The issue here is not whether God prefers Latin to other languages, but whether it is possible for some parts of the Mass to be proclaimed or sung in a language used by many nations and over many centuries. This would hold true in other international celebrations and for Masses in countries that have more than one major language.

In fact, most weekday Masses before Vatican II did not involve singing. Also, the Holy See approves all official translations from the original Latin text.

Q: How are deacons chosen in the Roman Catholic Church? What exactly can they do? How are they trained? I know that some deacons are married and others are not.

A: Because the diaconate is part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the expectations are somewhat similar to the requirements for those being ordained a priest or a bishop. For example, the person feels a call to this vocation and the Church officially affirms that call. Although the man is ordained for a particular diocese or religious community, he must be ready to serve the entire Church.

This requires adequate training in theology, liturgy, Scripture, canon law, preaching and other areas. For those to be ordained permanent deacons, this training is usually done part-time over several years. In the case of married men preparing for the permanent diaconate, there are often training sessions for their wives. To my knowledge, no diocese will ordain a married man whose wife does not agree to his being a deacon. Permanent deacons must be at least 35 years old.

A man who is not married when he is ordained a deacon must make a promise of celibacy for the rest of his life. If a married deacon becomes a widower, he can remarry if he receives a dispensation from the Holy See. This is granted on the basis of his bishop’s recommendation, the great pastoral usefulness of the deacon’s ministry and his having adequately provided for the care of any minor children.

For men ordained as “transitional” deacons (a step toward ordination to the priesthood), several years of full-time study are required.

Both permanent and transitional deacons must receive “faculties,” permission to exercise this ministry from the bishop in the diocese where they serve. Their ordination does not of itself give them a right to exercise that ministry wherever and in whatever manner they like. Priests and bishops also need faculties, from their local bishop or the bishop of Rome, respectively.

Permanent deacons preach, baptize, witness marriages and officiate at funeral services. The Rite of Ordination used for all deacons speaks of them as ministers of the Word of God, of the altar and of charity. This last category includes service that is not predominantly sacramental (prison ministry, for example). However they serve, deacons build up the Body of Christ and are always personally “stretched” through their ministry.

Q: If England’s King Henry VIII were alive today, would he have a declaration of nullity case for his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon? She was a widow, previously married to his older brother, Arthur.

A: No, Henry VIII would not have a case on the grounds that he presented. He was not directly related to Catherine by blood (consanguinity) but through marriage (affinity). In Henry’s day, such a marriage required a dispensation, which he and Catherine requested and received.

After 18 years of marriage, however, Henry alleged that no sacramental marriage ever existed, that no dispensation was possible because this impediment arises from divine law. The Church responded that the affinity impediment in the collateral line (for example, brother-in-law and sister-in-law) arises from Church law and thus can be dispensed.

The marriage of a man to his sister-in-law was commanded by the Law of Moses if a man’s brother had died without having sons (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Jesus’ followers have understood this as an option but not as an obligation.

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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