Questions Answered

Question: I truly appreciate our parish priest. Everyone loves and admires him. People find it sometimes difficult to express their appreciation. How does one go about showing their appreciation for their priest?

Answer: One hears so much in criticism of priests today that it is a pleasure to hear that the laity still have a positive experience of their priests. It seems each time I go to dinner with the laity all I hear about are tales of doom and gloom about how bad things are in parishes and dioceses.

My answer to this question is really a personal one. First, if one wants to thank a priest for his ministry, the first thing is to show one profits from it. I taught Catholic high school almost 50 years ago and, though I appreciated the students personally, I only believe that they profited from my presence if they are still attending Mass and trying to live the teachings of the Church. This is the greatest gift of all.

Second, there is so much instant analysis leveled at every profession today that the priesthood gets more than its share. Perhaps this is so because, though we priests try not to allow the laity to put us on a pedestal, they do anyway.

I would say that a compliment given for work well done, perhaps even in the form of a thank-you note, would be greatly appreciated. In the same vein, a note to a priest’s pastor or bishop to express gratitude for service generously rendered and much appreciated is not out of line. The bishop or pastor will read your good words themselves, but will probably share it with the priest you want to acknowledge as well.

Third, priests like people to treat them with respect, but they also like the laity to realize that they are people too, and do have lives apart from religion and the parish. No one wants to talk shop all the time and for that reason if someone invites a priest out to their home or an event, one should realize that the conversation does not always have to be about religion. On the rare occasions when I have tried to convince lay friends that I do not want to talk about religion all the time, some have become insulted. “You are a priest!” Yes, that is true, but I am also a man who has many tastes, likes, dislikes, and interests. With some priests, sporting events are a good way to show thanks, but not all are into sports.

Fourth, I think also trying not to overreact if a priest has something serious to say which may seem like a criticism. Priests have recently been accused even by some members of the hierarchy of throwing stones at people in confession and torturing them. At least in the United States, I do not know many priests who see themselves in that role. Most are sincerely trying to help, but sometimes, as with a father in a family, this means challenging people.

The last thing (and the most important) is to pray for your priest. Let him know it. I am often touched when people tell me they are praying for me. This is especially true if men tell the priest they are praying for him. The companionship and support of men is extremely important for helping the male role.


 

Question: A Catholic leading a good and holy life believes in the right to abortion and same-sex marriage. My understanding is that to enter Heaven, even after Purgatory, one must be reconciled to the Father. Is a Catholic who believes in these things reconciled to the Father and, if not, what documentation can I use?

Answer: A Catholic who is leading a good and holy life would not be for abortion or same-sex marriage, as this contradicts the Gospel. But if the questioner means that a person is going to Mass and praying, but cannot affirm the Church’s teaching on this subject because of a desire to show solidarity with a group which someone thinks has been marginalized, then I can understand the question.

The Catholic in this case would be attempting to be what used to be called a smorgasbord Catholic, i.e., one who picks and chooses what doctrines they will support. This tendency is very prevalent today because of the “dictatorship of relativism” decried by Pope Benedict early in his papacy, but which has become very pronounced in the West today. This experience of relativism teaches that there are no absolute truths in any discipline of thought and especially in religion. Though there are dogmatic truths that are affected by this, like the divinity of Christ, the primary area this takes place is in Catholic moral doctrine. People today no longer think of doctrines as primarily true or false, but as current, being with the times, and things of that sort.

In the two cases you mention, abortion is murder no matter how one cuts or slices it. It is the direct killing of an innocent human person. Same-sex marriage involves an act from which neither procreation nor the proper relationship of marriage and friendship can follow. Though society may tolerate them as evils, there can be no right to them whatsoever. Why a Catholic who claims to be devout and holy cannot see this is beyond logical explanation.

One could make the argument that their conscience taught them this, but if that is true, their conscience is mistaken. One who is holy and devout should know their conscience is mistaken and so should change it to conform to the teaching of the Church. One cannot claim to love Christ and destroy the moral teaching which has been the bedrock of the Church’s evangelization for 2000 years. Catholic doctrine is all of a piece, as the words and works of Jesus go together. Devotion to Jesus and the teaching of the Holy Spirit must lead to the conformity of the two. A mistaken conscience must be changed.

What could cause such an erroneous conscience? One magisterial source for this is: “Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example of others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of the autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can all be the source of errors in moral conduct.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1792) This leads to a culpably erroneous conscience if one can know what the teaching of the Church is. Presumably a devout church-goer does.

Someone might respond that on the subject of abortion, at least, that teaching is somewhat muddy today. Though some members of the hierarchy have said this is the same in its binding character as the teaching on capital punishment, this is not the case. One cannot disagree with the pope on the former; one could on the latter. In a letter written from Cardinal Ratzinger to the USCCB on this subject, the cardinal clarifies:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on a decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, Letter to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory, June 2004. Reprinted in L’Espresso, July 2004.)

These two sources alone should make it clear that the idea that one can be a devout Catholic and dissent from Church teaching is completely illogical unless one is intellectually impaired from any basic understanding of truth. However, lamentably, logic seems little applied in the context of the present culture. What was logic has become political correctness.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, "Questions Answered".

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Fr. Brian T. Mullady, O.P.
375 NE Clackamas St.
Portland, OR 97232
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Comments

  1. Our son is a priest his name is father Jim the bishop in Edmonton David but he will not let him go to the country churches to have mass divine liturgy as it seems like he’s very jealous of him our son also works to provide for his wife and two boys the bishop wants him to quit his job is also diabetic ,the bishop said he will not help him and if something would happen to our son he will not provide for his wife and two boys the sad part is he’s diabetic so I don’t know if he wants them dead The people in the country and where ever he goes admire him do you think he’s a very great he has gone to Mexico area where our Blessed mother interceded and wanted him to be a priest we don’t understand the bishop at all? Bishop David Motiuk wants him to Quit his job The bishop should be proud that he is spreading gods word and he is very good and people love you we’re at the mercy of prayers please help he has to quit his job by December 30 I have no idea what to do but he’s putting a lot of stress on us than we need prayers can you help