Catholic Theology Question and Answer (closed)

Post your questions in the comments. Please keep the questions to theology and any other topics related to my writings on this blog. One or two questions per post, not a list of questions.

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35 Responses to Catholic Theology Question and Answer (closed)

  1. Matt Z. says:

    Fr.Ripperger states in his talk on Conjugal Chastity, that what he calls foreplay, the moralists say can be used such as touching and stimulating the genitals of a woman as long as nothing is placed in the “vas.” Is this allowed or would this be a form of mutual masterbation?

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, that is not permitted. Neither the teaching of the Church, nor any principle of ethics allows such a moral distinction between inside and outside the genitals. This is not a basis for deciding the morality of an act.

  2. A Recent Reader says:

    Dear Mr. Conte,
    Related, perhaps, to Jesus Christ’s answer “seventy times seven”:
    As long as it appears to be a constructive option for one to evangelize, or admonish, etc.–is one responsible to keep doing so as one is able?
    Or is there a point–say when the person is choosing to array their will against it, that one leaves them to their choice?
    Jesus Christ did that sometimes, but maybe He calls on us to handle things differently during this phase?(Especially, as per the Catechism, Paragraph 900–if we happen to be in a unique position to be able to do so with someone– “This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel…”?)
    Thank you very much.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The positive precepts, such as to evangelize, admit of prudential decisions when, where, and how to fulfill them. They need not be fulfilled at all times in all circumstances. Certainly, we should leave accepting the Gospel (or not) to the will of each individual. If someone chooses to turn away from the Gospel, we have to respect their free will and not continually pursue them.

  3. A Recent Reader says:

    (To be clear, I’m asking in regards to when one is interacting with a particular single person, and especially if that is someone who is not likely to be told it by anyone else if I don’t say it.)

    • Ron Conte says:

      There is no strict obligation in any one case. We are not God. Persons can convert and be saved without you or I, by the grace of God alone or by grace and providence.

  4. Guilherme Feitosa says:

    Can other sacraments be granted to a person at will besides Baptism? I ask because of St. Alfonso de Ligorio’s famous prayer for “spiritual communion”.

    • Ron Conte says:

      A baptism of desire is not the full Sacrament, but has the main effect (state of grace, forgiveness of sin). Perfect contrition gives one the main effect of the Sacrament of Confession. Spiritual communion is not in the same category, as it only concerns our relation to the actual Sacrament of the Eucharist, when we do not physically receive it (but I see what you mean). Natural marriage is related to the Sacrament of marriage, but is not the full Sacrament. The Old Testament Covenant had priests, but they were not ordained. So the answer to your question is, It’s complicated.

  5. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,

    I read your prior article on priestly celibacy, and I agree that the majority of Catholic priests should be celibate. Priestly celibacy is a precious gift to the Church and corresponds to the example of Christ.

    Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFMCap, has published an article that contains many good arguments in favor of priestly celibacy:
    I believe, however, that he goes too far in this claim:

    “Because of all this, I believe that celibacy is not simply an ecclesial discipline or Church law, but is integral to the very nature of the ordained ministry. I would further propose that what we perceive, over the course of 2000 years, is an authentic development of doctrine. Because of this Spirit-imbued doctrinal development, it is now dogmatically impossible for priestly celibacy to be rescinded by the Church’s magisterium – either by a pope or an ecumenical council. Celibacy is so bound and intertwined to the sacrament of the ordained priesthood – as it was and is to Jesus’ own priesthood – that it cannot be revoked.”

    What does Fr. Weinandy mean when he says it is now dogmatically impossible for either a pope or an ecumenical council to rescind priestly celibacy? Does he mean only for the Latin Rite or for the entire Catholic Church, which includes the Eastern Rites? An ecumenical council, namely Vatican II, has already accepted the reality of married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16). Vatican II also solemnly declared that the Eastern Catholic Churches have the sacred right and duty to rule themselves in accordance with their “own established disciplines” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 5). As is well-known, one established discipline of the Eastern Catholic Churches is the ordination of married men to the priesthood. Was Vatican II contradicting Catholic dogma?

    Is it not dangerous for an individual theologian to place limits on what an ecumenical council or a pope can or cannot do? Would it not be better for Fr. Weinandy to argue that priestly celibacy should be upheld as normative for the Latin Rite rather than claim that no ecumenical council or pope could ever revoke priestly celibacy?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m not sure exactly what Fr. Weinandy meant. The Church’s indefectibility implies that She cannot have been wrong in her consistent practice and discipline under Church law on celibacy. So celibacy cannot be revoked or rescinded in full, as if it had no connection to the priesthood. The Church certainly can increase or decrease the degree of permission for some married persons to become priests. The authority of the Church is the authority of Christ. No argument of development of doctrine can take away that authority. So the ancient and constant practice of the Church, lived by so many different priests, is for most priests to be celibate. I think Fr. Weinandy would be right, if he meant that the Church lacks the authority to have only married priests, that is, to rescind celibacy entirely. Celibacy is of Christ, and the priesthood is a participation in the high priesthood of Christ himself.

  6. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Thank you, Ron. I find your explanation quite helpful. Fr. Weinandy should have expressed himself with greater clarity.

  7. CMV says:

    My spiritual practice is that to honor the Sabbath, I do not shop at stores, go to movies or eat out on Sundays. Ordering merchandise from an automated website on a day when both my bank and the shipper are closed seems to me like it could be an exception, and thus acceptable. Given my pledge to this practice, do you believe that shopping on Amazon would count as an infringement of the Sabbath?

    • Ron Conte says:

      No. The faithful may use prudential judgment in fulfilling positive precepts, such as keep holy the Sabbath. You can use your own good judgment about what you do on the Sabbath.

      [Matthew 12]
      {12:1} At that time, Jesus went out through the ripe grain on the Sabbath. And his disciples, being hungry, began to separate the grain and to eat.
      {12:2} Then the Pharisees, seeing this, said to him, “Behold, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbaths.”
      {12:3} But he said to them: “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
      {12:4} how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
      {12:5} Or have you not read in the law, that on the Sabbaths the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath, and they are without guilt?

  8. Vít Lacman says:

    Is desire to be better than others (be smarter, more knowledgeable than others for example) venial sin or no sin at all?

  9. Mr Aguilar says:

    Good evening Mr Conte, when Jesus died, he descended to hell and open the glory for the souls that were there, that did not make much sense to me because hell is eternal so no soul one can get out of there, but when the priest explained that it was actually not hell, but Abraham’s Bosom, was more understandable, but my question is that …shouldn´t be changed the word “hell” in the creed to avoid confusion? , or what is the reason to maintain through the centuries…thanks in advanced for your answer.Regards.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It used to be the practice to use the term “hell” to refer to places in the afterlife other than Heaven: hell, purgatory, the “limbo of the fathers” (also called Abraham’s bosom). This is based on the OT concept of Sheol, which has a similar (but more vague) meaning.

      Jesus visited the souls in Purgatory. He also released the souls from the limbo of the fathers into heaven. And, in my understanding, Jesus also visited Hell — not in the sense of visiting each soul or devil there — but instead He went to the gates of Hell, so that the condemned would know that they lost the eternal salvation offered by so great a Savior. The condemned in Hell know their sins and why they are there, and they had to know that Christ is the Son of God:
      [Philippians 2]
      {2:10} so that, at the name of Jesus, every knee would bend, of those in heaven, of those on earth, and of those in hell….

      Even the condemned in Hell must know and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.

  10. exploreanbg says:

    Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter to the Bishops accompanying Summorum pontificum, says: “Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.”

    Does this mean that the refusal in principle to celebrate mass according to the current Roman Missal constitutes a schismatic (internal) act? If so, would that apply to laymen and clerics equally, and cause latae sententiae excommunication?

    Should a statement of this kind, in this context, be considered an authoritative act of the magisterium?

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, such refusal is not schismatic. It takes a lot to be excommunicated. However, it is a matter of disobedience, and an error. The statement is debatable as to its authority. One comment like this is not sufficient to make contrary behavior schismatic or a grave sin. He only says “not…consistent with”, which is is a relatively mild assertion.

      I recall a video with “CatholicBoss” (a Youtuber username, I think) and Timothy Gordon, who both are traditionalists who greatly criticize the Novus Ordo Mass and attend the Latin Mass. They were talking about a Mass they went to with their respective families. A Latin Mass was not available, so they attended a Novus Ordo Mass.

      I should also point out that Gordon, some years ago, had a falling out with Taylor Marshall because Gordon decided to accept the teachings of Vatican II. I still think there are serious errors in Gordon’s approach to the Faith. But he is not a schismatic.

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