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'He is Taking Advantage of Me'
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N

Dealing With a Controlling Person
Why Transubstantiation?
Can an Episcopalian Priest Become a Catholic Deacon?
Is Perjury Always a Sin?
More U.S. People Proposed for Beatification
Must a Saint's Body be Incorrupt?


Q: I am in my 70s and my younger son is 30 years younger. Although he is a very nice person, he has been very controlling all his life. Now he frequently tells me what to do and puts me down. I feel that he is taking advantage of me. My older son is not in good health. What can I do?

When I was younger, this did not bother me, but now I am developing an inferiority complex.

A: If you feel that your younger son’s behavior constitutes elder abuse, I encourage you to report this to the office for Adult Protective Services at your city, county or state Department of Social Services. The National Center on Elder Abuse can be phoned at 202/898-2586 or it can be reached through www.elderabusecenter.org.

If you do not want to report your son, you can enlist the help of any family members, friends or other people who have witnessed this controlling behavior. They could be part of an intervention about his domineering manner.

No one loses the right to be treated as a person simply because of age. If you confront your younger son on this issue, you need to be as calm and factual as possible, identifying recent incidents where you feel he was trying to control you and why you feel that you were already handling that situation well.

He may consider his behavior not as controlling but as helping you to avoid some problem. Tell him that you experience the same behavior as controlling because you feel smothered by his forceful personality. If he showed more humility in taking the same action or making the same statement, you would probably feel more respected.

You may now need the help of other people more than you did in the past. You retain the right to be treated as a person perfectly capable of certain decisions.

He could be right about other decisions that you should no longer be making. If so, you should discuss this with him—and possibly others—to work these out. Your present discomfort need not continue.

Why Transubstantiation?

Q: Why is transubstantiation an important Catholic doctrine? In other words, why is it essential to believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist turn into the actual body and blood of Christ before we partake of it?

A: Christians believed in the mystery of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for almost 1,200 years before the Catholic Church at Lateran Council IV accepted the term transubstantiation as the best description of the transformation of the bread and wine that occurs in the Eucharist. Their “substance” changes but their “accidents” (color, weight, smell, taste, etc.) do not. This language, based on Greek philosophy, expresses the truth of our faith.

Although members of Orthodox Churches firmly believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, they use the terms metabole (change) or metousiois (change of essence), as Gerald O’Collins, S.J., and Edward Farrugia, S.J., explain in their book A Concise Dictionary of Theology.

In Western Christianity, controversies about the Real Presence surfaced in the 11th and 12th centuries. Serious challenges to this belief arose in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation.

Q: A friend of mine knows a former Episcopalian priest, originally raised a Catholic, who would now like to become a Catholic deacon. Is that possible?

During his college years, this man joined the Episcopal Church, married and was ordained there. Eventually he and his wife came back to the Catholic Church. They are now faithful Catholics and he teaches at a Catholic high school.

My friend and this former Episcopalian priest have heard contradictory statements from Catholic priests about whether he can become a Catholic deacon. Please explain what the exact problem is.

A: When a baptized Catholic formally joins another Christian denomination, this is called heresy, defined in Canon 751 as “the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth that must be believed by divine and catholic faith.”

This is an impediment to ordination (Canon 1041:2), from which only the Apostolic See can dispense (1047:2). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith handles these requests.

If that dispensation is given, this man’s local bishop can then allow him to begin a formation program leading to ordination as a deacon.

The Catholic Church regards the decision to join another Christian denomination as a matter of scandal. That may not be an insurmountable obstacle.

Even if becoming a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church is not possible for this man, he can serve the Church in many other ways. His pastor may have other suggestions.

Q: Is perjury always wrong? When is it a venial sin or a mortal sin? Can I have an “interior reservation,” not meaning what I have to say or sign? I am speaking here not of the legal but of the moral consequences.

A: The very word perjury puts your question in the legal realm because perjury is the failure to tell the whole truth in a court proceeding or in a legal document. The same action has both legal and moral consequences.

At times the legal system may not have a right to compel a full response to a certain question (for example, asking for self-incriminating information, violating doctor-patient confidentiality or attorney-client privilege, or requiring a priest to divulge information obtained while hearing confessions).

Perjury is wrong because “acts such as these contribute to the condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty or the increased punishment of the accused” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2476).

Lying under oath is “a grave matter,” one of three conditions for a mortal sin (the other two being full knowledge and full consent). If a legal system operates under a dictatorship, that influences the moral evaluation.

My July and August columns provided updates on where in the process each of 33 “causes” for beatification is. I have since been informed that Mother Julia Navarete of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, who lived for a number of years in Kingsville, Texas, is officially recognized as Venerable. She founded the Congregation of the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.

The Diocese of Albany, New York, has now completed its investigation of Mother Angeline McCrory, founder of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. The diocese has forwarded her cause to Rome.

The Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has declared that the materials sent by the Archdiocese of New York regarding Cardinal Terence Cooke’s life, virtues and reputation for sanctity are valid.

In late 2006, the Diocese of Sacramento closed its investigation of Most Rev. Alphonse Gallegos, O.A.R. (1931-1991) and sent those documents to the Holy See. Having served as an auxiliary bishop there the last 10 years of his life, Bishop Gallegos was known for his pastoral care of the poor, the marginalized and the unchurched.

Q: Over 60 years ago when I was in grade school, I was led to believe that the bodies of Catholic saints were preserved incorrupt. When someone recently questioned me about this, I replied that I don’t believe that is the case. Was I correct?

A: An incorrupt body is not a requirement for beatification or canonization. A saint who was cremated (like St. Maximilian Kolbe) does not have an incorrupt body. Often the exact graves of martyrs are unknown.

The term incorrupt is sometimes used very generously. In Italy, I have seen several saints whose bodies looked more like that of a mummy than an incorrupt human body. In Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, even the body of saintly Father Zossima decays quickly. It may challenge Aloysha’s faith, but it shouldn’t disturb ours. Saints are all miracles of grace, but very few of them have incorrupt bodies.

 

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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