Book Reviews Subscribe Faith-filled Family Links for Learners Ask a Franciscan Editorial Entertainment Watch Saints for Our Lives Contents


History Isn't Always Clear

Sunday and Work
Alcoholism, Allergies
Bible Differences
Movies and Sin

Sunday and Servile Work

It used to be that "servile" work was not permitted on Sundays. What is the current Church law on this issue?

The present Code of Canon Law, in effect since 1983, does not use the term "servile work." Canon 1247 simply says that on Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. And, it says, they are also to abstain from work or business that would inhibit worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, and the due relaxation of mind and body.

In commenting on the observance of Sunday, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Sunday is traditionally consecrated to Christian piety, good works, and humble service to the sick and elderly. The Catechism urges Christians to devote time and care on Sunday to their families and relatives and to use the day for reflection and meditation which furthers the growth of the interior life.

The Catechism also acknowledges that traditional activities like sports and dining out require some people to work, as do public and social services and necessities. But, the Catechism says, all should set aside some time for leisure and worship and employers should be respectful of their employees.

The emphasis of the new law is based on the fact that everyone should use the day for prayer, leisure and family rather than on the kind of work that is forbidden. People should not engage in so much or any kind of labor that it would destroy the spirit of the day and make for "business as usual."

Differences in Protestant and Catholic Bibles

The Catholic Bible contains more books than Protestant translations. Why?

As Melvin Farrell, S.S., points out in Getting to Know the Bible (Hi-Time Publishing Corp.), the Bible has a somewhat complicated history.

Since the differences between Protestant translations and Catholic translations of the Bible are in the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, let us begin there.

The books of the Bible were written as individual books or writings. They were in response to different needs or situations and had purposes of their own. They emerged from different authors and traditions. Father Farrell tells us that until the Babylonian exile, which took place from 587 to 538 B.C., there were three different traditions concerning sacred writings among the Israelites: Northern, Southern and Deuteronomist. After the exile the three traditions were merged. One volume of sacred writings resulted with the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) at its heart.

With the passage of time other books came to be regarded as sacred or inspired. But not everyone agreed about which books were inspired.

Jews in Palestine formed a list of some 39 books written in Hebrew. Egyptian Jews (Jews of the Diaspora) added writings of their own (such as Tobit) to this list and produced a Greek translation of 46 books called the Septuagint. Thus there came to be a Palestinian Canon and the Septuagint, also known as the Greek or Alexandrian Canon.

After the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the Jews felt a need to preserve and gather traditions to pass on to those who would come after them. Around the end of the first century the Jews of Palestine settled on a Palestinian Canon.

In the meantime the early Christians were reading and writing in Greek. They were producing sacred writings of their own. The books they wrote and used in their liturgies and instruction were in Greek. They followed and accepted the Greek or Septuagint version of the Hebrew or Old Testament Scriptures.

Although all Christian lists were not immediately the same there was a list of Christian inspired writings by 150 A.D. Councils in 393 A.D. and 397 A.D. listed 27 books as belonging to the New Testament or Christian writings. By his death in 420 A.D., St. Jerome had produced the Latin Vulgate translation which became the official Bible of the Church.

When the Reformation came along, Martin Luther translated the Palestinian Canon rather than the Vulgate of Jerome. Leaders of the Reformation for the most part followed his German translation of the Bible, accepting the Palestinian Canon.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) took up the question of the inspired writings and authoritatively defined the canon as the books now contained in the Catholic translations of the Bible, following the Greek (Alexandrian) Canon.

Today many Protestant translations of the Bible contain the additional Catholic books, calling them by the name of Apocrypha. Catholic scholars use the term deutero-canonical for these books unique to the canon used by Catholics and Orthodox.

Eucharistic Wine and an Alcoholic Priest; Hosts for the Gluten-allergic

One of our parish priests suffers from alcoholism and says he has permission to use grape juice at Mass, rather than wine. Our question is whether he should distribute this consecrated grape juice to us, or use another chalice which contains consecrated wine for the Communion of the people. One priest said that unfermented grape juice is not valid matter for Mass. If that is the case, are this priest's Masses invalid? Some of us are very disturbed over this.

Just recently the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, under the signature of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued a statement that deals with the matter for the Eucharist under both forms. Canon law, based on the teaching of the Church concerning the Eucharist, demands that bread for the Eucharist must be merely wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of corruption. Wine for the Eucharist must be natural from the fruit of the grape and not corrupt (see Canon 924). Various decrees and instructions forbid additives and mixing with foreign substances. Theologians and canonists discuss what would affect validity of the matter. Matter in this sense refers to the physical material used in celebrating the Eucharist.

If an alcoholic priest is among concelebrants he may simply receive the host and not partake of the chalice. Nevertheless, ordinaries may grant permission to use must or mustum (more about this below) to alcoholic priests who cannot ingest even the smallest quantity of alcohol. For this permission the priest must present a medical certificate.

Those who receive permission to use mustum are ordinarily prohibited from presiding at concelebrated Masses. But the decree provides for some exceptions. In such a case the alcoholic who presides may use mustum for his own Communion but he is to provide another chalice in which normal wine has been consecrated for the other celebrants.

By extension of this directive, I would presume that an alcoholic priest offering Mass in a parish setting would consecrate regular altar wine for the Communion of the people if Communion is to be distributed under both forms.

While providing for the use of mustum for alcoholic priests, the Congregation also gave directives about the use of low-gluten altar bread for priests and laypersons who are affected by celiac disease (a digestive illness) or who are allergic to gluten and also present a medical certificate. Hosts in which there is no gluten are invalid for the Eucharist. But, as we will see below, reduced-gluten hosts can be acceptable.

Pastors and rectors of churches are usually careful to purchase both wine and hosts from sources that follow the requirements for the eucharistic bread and wine.

While insisting that it must be wine that is used for the Eucharist, some writers state that as soon as grapes are crushed the juice is on the way to fermentation (in the process of becoming wine) and will continue fermenting unless something is done to stop it. They say, therefore, that fresh juice from grapes, to which nothing has been added, would be valid matter.

Such grape juice whose fermentation has been suspended by freezing, or other methods which do not alter its nature, is called mustum. In the case of an alcoholic priest, Cardinal Ratzinger instructed, the preferred solution to his problem in celebrating would be for him to communicate himself by intinction (dipping the host in the consecrated wine).

Low-gluten hosts are valid matter, provided: 1) they contain the amount of gluten sufficient to obtain the confection of bread, 2) there is no addition of foreign materials and 3) the procedure for making such hosts is not such as to alter the nature of the substance of bread. When a medical certificate has been presented, ordinaries may grant priests and laypersons permission to receive such bread.

I would only suggest after all this that you be happy for your priest who seems to be successfully struggling with his addiction, and that you be supportive and encouraging as he tries to live soberly in his ministry.

Movies and the Occasion of Sin

Is it a mortal sin for an adult Catholic to go to a movie rated "Morally Offensive" because of violence or sex? If my intention is not bad or I do not think that the movie is a proximate occasion of sin for me, can I see this type of movie that is rated "Morally Offensive" by the bishops' office for film and television?

Are the ratings of the film office binding under sin for an adult Catholic? I am scrupulous and have problems making decisions.

If you can judge from reviews and advance publicity that a particular motion picture would be a proximate occasion of grave sin for you, it would be seriously sinful to attend it. Your own past experience, ads or TV spots for the picture might lead you to conclude it would be the occasion of sin.

While I'm sure they are reliable, the reviews and classification of the U.S. bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting are personal or group opinions. Individual reviewers there may not agree on the worthiness, message or moral effect of a picture. Such judgments are subjective.

Different reviewers, for instance, had different interpretations of the movie Priest. Accordingly they differed in their moral evaluations of the picture.

Elements in a story can be morally offensive, without the picture being an occasion of sin. Just because a character murders his brother and marries his widow and the dead man's son seeks revenge (Hamlet) doesn't mean the play would be an occasion of sin.

According to the head of the Office for Film and Broadcasting, in an article by Mary Jo Dangel in the December 1995 issue of St. Anthony Messenger, the office does not intend to censor pictures. The office offers information and evaluations so people can make their own decisions.

In the end you have to judge for yourself and follow your own conscience. Because you are scrupulous and have difficulty making decisions, the ratings of the Office for Film and Broadcasting should be especially helpful to you.

By the way, a new book, The Doubting Disease: Help for Scrupulosity and Religious Compulsions, by Joseph W. Ciarrocchi (Paulist Press, $14.95) may be of help to you. You can order the book through any Catholic bookstore, including St. Francis Bookshop, 1618 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45210 (1-800-241-6392). Add $3.00 for postage and handling.



The Wise Man welcomes your questions. If you have a question, 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: Wise Man, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ask The Wise Man  | The Bible: Light to My Path  | Book Reviews  | Entertainment Watch
Editorial  | Editor’s Message  | Faith-filled Family  | Links for Learners
Saints for Our Lives  | Web Catholic  | Back Issues


Return to AmericanCatholic.org

Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.

An AmericanCatholic.org Web Site from the Franciscans and
Franciscan Media     ©1996-2014 Copyright



 Find 
 FIND