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Standing Up For Your Beliefs
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N


Q: I am Catholic and love a man who goes to a pentecostal church. Although we intend to marry next year, we argue about in which church our wedding will take place and where we will worship as a married couple.

He is very committed to his church and I have been very active in my parish, especially in the Catholic charismatic renewal. I feel that I cannot change my Church.

The Bible says that wives should be submissive to their husbands. Must I go to my future husband?s church?

A: The texts about wives being submissive to or subordinate to their husbands (Titus 2:5, 9; 1 Corinthians 13:34; Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1) have often been misunderstood. People have sometimes even used them to justify verbal, physical or emotional abuse.

These passages mean no such thing. Marriage leads to the creation of a “domestic Church” where each person’s gifts must be respected while the virtue of generous, mutually self-sacrificing love reflects the love between Christ and the Church. We were baptized into the one body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The biblical texts cited above do not legitimate attempts to establish total control of one spouse by the other. I encourage you and your fiancé to face this issue seriously.

Only after St. Paul teaches that each spouse must be subordinate to the other “out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) does he write, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” (5:22). He then teaches that husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the Church (5:25).

Among those who have been baptized, writes St. Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

New Testament people were not always ready for such a radical truth about our equality before God. Christians should, therefore, adjust to the culture for the moment. In time, the Good News of Jesus Christ challenged some institutions and assumptions of that culture. It took a long time for some Christians to realize that “owning” slaves was incompatible with being baptized.

Two Christians of different denominations still have a right to their religious convictions, to their consciences. Those can never be traded away. Giving up your Catholic faith “to keep peace” will probably not “keep peace” but will leave you without the spiritual assistance that you continue to need.

Just as there are limits to what God asks of us (child sacrifice, for example), there are also limits to what spouses have a right to ask of each other.

Has each of you truly understood the depth of the other’s religious convictions? If your marriage is blessed with children, what kind of example will you give as a mother if you stop being Catholic to be “submissive” to your husband? Please face these issues now.

 

Q: Is it a sin to serve on a jury? What does the Catholic Church teach on this subject? The Bible says, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1; see also Luke 6:37a).

A: Serving on a jury is a normal civic duty. A jury makes its judgment on the basis of physical evidence submitted and testimony given. God might make a different judgment on a given case—but then only God has all the relevant information and knows the heart of the accused person.

Lawyers question potential jurors and have the right to a certain number of peremptory challenges, not having to state a reason. They can also object to other jurors “for cause” (a reason that the judge accepts or rejects).

A potential juror in a case involving the death penalty will be questioned about his or her readiness to impose that type of punishment if the person is found guilty. One should answer honestly about his or her stand on capital punishment, which Catholic teaching opposes in most cases (Catechism of the Catholic Church, rev. ed., #2267).

The biblical verse that you cite is a caution against thinking that human judgments can perfectly reflect God’s judgments. But some human judgments are necessary in order to stay alive and to protect innocent people.

Believers in Jesus have civic responsibilities. In Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the world’s bishops taught: “The council exhorts Christians, as citizens of both cities [earthly and heavenly], to perform their duties faithfully in the spirit of the Gospel. It is a mistake to think that, because we have here no lasting city, but seek the city which is to come, we are entitled to evade our earthly responsibilities; this is to forget that because of our faith we are all the more bound to fulfill these responsibilities according to each one’s vocation” (#43).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (#1915). Serving on a jury of one’s peers is an important part of a fair and impartial system of justice.

 

Q: After my son recently returned from Bosnia, where he was deployed with the Army National Guard unit, he asked me how the Catholic Church views war and the possibility of having to shoot/kill someone. He now faces the possibility of being deployed in Iraq.

He told me that he doesn?t know if God would condemn him for killing someone in war.

A: Killing in war is not automatically immoral. A war could be a just war, a legitimate extension of the individual right of self-defense. That does not make any and every killing during war moral. The distinction between combatants and noncombatants, for example, needs to be respected. That’s what soldiers commanded by Lt. William Calley failed to do during the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

Killing another person may be morally necessary while always remaining regrettable. Your son’s conscience goes to war with him. As the Nuremberg trials after World War II showed, “just following orders” can be morally wrong. The presumption is that orders are morally good, but that presumption must yield if evidence shows that they are not.

Encourage your son to talk this over with a military chaplain in his unit. Killing is not the only immoral act that can be committed during a war—as the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison earlier this year illustrates.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war” (#2307).

Having noted that governments have the right of lawful self-defense, “once all peace efforts have failed” (#2308), the Catechism goes on to describe a just war as one where “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition” (#2309).

Those who serve their country in the armed forces can contribute to the common good of the nation (#2310). “Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way” (#2311).

 

Q: At Mass after the Our Father, the priest breaks off a small piece of his large host and places it in the chalice. What is the meaning of this action?

A: While doing this the priest says, “May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” This action is all that remains of a custom from centuries ago when it was possible for the local bishop to send part of the consecrated host from his Mass to nearby communities celebrating Mass.

The particle was a reminder of the Church’s unity with the local bishop. This gesture reminded everyone that all of them were celebrating the same Eucharist. Every Eucharistic Prayer has a section acknowledging that each Mass is celebrated in union with the pope, the local bishop and the Church throughout the world.


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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