Q: When politicians, who
are running for election or reelection, state they are for a woman’s right to choose
and who vote against the bill that would ban partial-birth abortions, should we in all
conscience vote for them?
It has troubled me that so many of my Catholic friends voted for candidates who espoused
free choice, voted against the bill to ban partial-birth abortions and were in favor
of marriage between homosexual couples.
Although we may agree with their other political stands, it would seem that we are morally
obligated to vote against these politicians.
A: Back in 1996 John Carr,
secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference Department of Social Development and World
Peace, told a workshop on political responsibility that voting on the basis of a single
issue is not new and it is a legitimate option for Catholics—but not the only option.
He remarked that abortion is a fundamental human-rights issue but not the only issue.
In 1992 the California Catholic Conference published Guidelines for Pastors and Parishes
on Lobbying and Electioneering. In those guidelines we find the bishops saying, "We
urge citizens to avoid choosing candidates simply on the basis of narrow self-interest.
We hope that voters will examine the positions of candidates on the full range of issues,
as well as their personal integrity, philosophy and performances." The bishops
emphasized the importance of the right to life and stated that when this right is in
jeopardy all other rights are in danger. They wrote, "But abortion is not the
only issue facing the people of California. The consistent ethic of life demands a
concern for all the weak and vulnerable members of society: not just the unborn, but
all the frail elderly, the disabled and the helpless. People in the Church are involved
in many issues, such as abortion, agricultural workers’ rights, capital punishment,
criminal justice, housing, parochial schools, pornography and sex education."
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said much the same thing May 21, 1998, giving
advice to voters in California primary elections. He said a candidate’s stand on abortion
is "one significant test of commitment to the protection of human life." Mahony
listed as other issues connected with a consistent ethic of life euthanasia, military
force that does not respect the rights of innocent noncombatants, violence, capital punishment,
inadequate health care for children, the needy and the elderly.
I would dare to add there are still other issues today with great moral implications.
What are the implications of unregulated cloning, legalized suicide and assisted suicide,
promoting the use of tobacco among teenagers, legalizing casino gambling, housing development
that displaces the poor, legalizing the use of marijuana, laws controlling the use or
possession of handguns, welfare laws that leave children hungry and without medical attention?
What is the voter to do when a candidate is right on some issues and wrong on others?
What is the voter to do when both or all candidates are right or wrong in the voter’s
judgment on different issues? I suggest the voter has to decide what are the most fundamental
issues, learn where the candidate stands on the greater number of those issues and then
to Do When Someone Dies
Q: I was taught that if
someone just died by accident or natural causes we should contact a priest immediately.
I tried to contact a priest recently and could not get anyone. I know that there is
a shortage of priests. But what is the latest on calling a priest regarding a recent
A: It is never out of place
to call a priest in the event of death. But it is even better for a priest to be present before someone
dies. Every effort should be made to provide the last sacraments for a dying person—Confession,
the Anointing of the Sick and Communion as viaticum. The priest can then administer the
apostolic blessing at the time of death which conveys a plenary indulgence.
We would hope that relatives or hospital or nursing-home personnel would have alerted
the chaplain or pastor when death first seems possible. When a person has already died,
the priest can only console relatives and join them in prayer for the dead person. Once
dead, a person can no longer receive the sacraments.
Sacraments at the end of life are meant to help a person prepare for departing this
life:"...[I]t can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist
as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life ‘the sacraments that prepare for
our heavenly homeland’..."(Catechism #1525).
Obviously, it is not always possible for a priest to be present at the time of death.
In such a case friends, relatives and caretakers should spiritually assist the dying.
They can pray with and for the dying person. They can strengthen the faith of the dying
by their own show of faith and trust in God’s goodness and mercy.
Those assisting the dying should encourage them to make acts of contrition, faith, hope
and love. They should encourage the dying to put themselves in the hands of God.
Did They Call it San Antonio?
Q: Can you tell me why
Texas named a city for St. Anthony? I’ve often wondered why.
A: According to the encyclopedias,
in 1691 a Spanish expedition camped at a little-known village that was in present-day
Texas. The New Catholic Encyclopedia explains that the Franciscan chaplain of
the expedition named the site for St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast was being celebrated
In 1691 this area was still Spanish territory. So, rather than speaking of Texas naming
the city, I think you would have to say that Spain named it. It was not until 1718 that
a mission was established at San Antonio. In 1731 the inhabitants formed the first city
government in Texas.
When the Republic of Texas and later the State of Texas took over the territory, there
already existed the Spanish-named city of San Antonio. A look at a map will tell you
the Spanish often named cities for a saint. Cities grew up around a Catholic mission
named for a saint and took the name of the mission.
Q: Can you tell me something
about the papal tiara? Who first wore it? What do the crowns mean? What pope was the
last to wear it?
A: In its simplest form the
papal tiara seems to have appeared about the third century. Over the years it became
much more ornate and took on a kind of beehive shape.
The tiara came to consist of three crowns. According to James Charles Noonan, Jr., in The
Church Visible, the bottom crown became ornamentation at the base of the miter
in the ninth century. When the popes assumed temporal power, the base crown became
decorated with jewels to resemble the crowns of princes. A second crown was added by
Boniface VIII in 1298 to symbolize spiritual dominion. Very soon after, a third crown
and lappets (cloth strips) were added.
According to Noonan, the triple tiara represents the pope’s universal episcopate, his
supreme jurisdiction and his temporal power. It is also said to represent his role as
priest, pastor and teacher. In our century the tiara came to be regarded as inappropriate
because of its ornateness and rich character. Pope Paul VI stopped wearing the tiara
and sold his, using the funds for the poor.
it a Religious Festival?
Q: A friend who traveled
to Porto, Portugal, this past June talked about a festival called Fest de Sao Joao ,
where citizens danced and amicably hit each other in the head with what looked like
plastic hammers. Does this ritual have a religious origin?
A: According to the World Events
Calendar on the Epicurious Travel Web site, the feast of St. John the Baptist is celebrated
in Porto and other Portuguese cities June 23 and 24.
In Porto, home of port wine, great quantities of wine are drunk all night. Lights and
bonfires appear. Women in traditional costumes lead a candlelight parade to the beach.
The celebrations are described as "devout and spirited."
To Anonymous in NY, NY
As much as I feel for you, it is impossible to give you absolution by mail or here in "Ask
the Wise Man."
I realize confession of a grave sin is not easy. It can be very humbling. But it can
also bring peace and a sense of relief—what you long for after 35 years.
As hard as it may seem, remember every priest ordained any length of time has heard
others confess the sin you repent. None has died of shock. Priests rejoice with their
penitents in the forgiveness of God and reconciliation with the Lord.
Pray to the Holy Spirit for courage and fortitude. If you are afraid of confessing to
your pastor, there are hundreds of other priests in New York. The Franciscans at St.
Francis on 31st Street in Manhattan spend hours in the confessional listening with compassion.