Granting Absolution to an Accomplice in Sin

Q:  Many young ladies have approached me with this question: they were taught that a woman who breaks the 6th commandment with a Catholic priest, if she goes to confession to the priest, that her sins will never be forgiven and that she will always face problems the rest of her life.

Then they asked, what about the priest?  If he goes to confess his sin to his fellow priests is he forgiven, or does he have to go to the bishop or the pope to forgive him that sin of the 6th commandment? –Father A.

A: This question comes to us from Africa, where Father A. is engaged in ministry.  Yet it seems a pretty safe bet that it will stump most Catholics (including many clergy) on other continents as well!  Everybody knows that priests can forgive sins in the sacrament of Penance, but what happens if a penitent confesses a sexual sin in which the priest himself was involved?  This scenario is nothing new—it has been with us for many centuries, and so it should surprise no one that canon law addresses the issue specifically.  Let’s take a look, and in the process we’ll see whether or not these young ladies have identified an inequality in the law. Continue reading

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Can Our Pastor Kick Us Out of the Parish?

Q: My husband and I have a very difficult situation with our parish priest.  He refused to allow our daughter to be baptized in 2013…. The Bishop declared that our baby should be baptized but the priest tried to delay things.  The priest announced in 2015 that my husband is not welcome (but did not say we were forbidden to attend) at Mass said by him and that he would deny my husband Holy Communion. He said that we should go to [one of the Masses celebrated for foreign immigrants by a foreign priest].

In 2016 the parish priest interrupted his own homily to tell the congregation that our family isn’t allowed to attend Masses at the parish (which isn’t true) and that we were disobeying the bishop (which isn’t true) and how we hate and despise the priest (which isn’t true).  He then finished off by describing us as crazy. And he did all this from the pulpit in the middle of Mass!

The bishop issued a statement saying the following:
None of the ministers of Communion will deny my husband Communion.
He may no longer question the pastor’s authority.
He may not spread slander about the pastor.
If my husband violates these two points and there are two witnesses who can attest to it, then he will no longer receive Communion in our diocese.

There is only one Catholic parish in our city so it has not been possible for us to switch parishes.  We feel very alone and humiliated, yet we believe that canon law is clearly on our side.  Can you please help us? –Heather Continue reading

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Can a Pastor Ban a Parishioner from Coming to Mass?

Q:  I witnessed a parish priest telling a parishioner not to attend prayer or assist at Mass at our parish, because he was “a distraction” to other parishioners, having what appear to be neurological seizures.  Is a parish priest allowed to disown members of his flock for such reasoning? –Lorraine Continue reading

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How Can You Get a Permanent Dispensation from Attending Sunday Mass?

Q:  I recently met a nice fellow, who wants to be catechist.  I inquired a bit more into his faith life and learned that he attends Mass “at least once a month” that is not every Sunday, which shocked me.  I told him that weekly Mass is the beginning of serious faith life and sent him an article about Mass attendance obligation.

He responded that a long time ago, after he married, he told his parish priest that he cannot attend Mass every Sunday, because his wife (not Christian) is not happy about it. When I ask what impedes him going to Mass, he basically said that his wife wants him to be at home or they have some different activities outside.

I know that the parish priest can give dispensation for Sunday Mass attendance, but do not understand details of this dispensation.  Can you enlighten me on this point? –Patrik

A: Patrik is a seminarian, engaged in parish work in a non-Christian country with only a tiny Catholic population.  As a future priest, he is quite understandably bewildered about this situation, since it seems to suggest that parish priests have a lot more power, and the Sunday Mass obligation has a lot less importance than he thought!  There are actually two separate issues here: the first involves dispensations in general, and the second involves the authority of a parish priest to grant one like this. Continue reading

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Why is This Method of Baptizing Illicit?

Q: I have recently discovered that my Presbyterian baptism was invalid (improper matter—no flowing water).  No investigation was done at the time of my conversion [to Catholicism], only a request for a baptismal certificate and so it was accepted by the Church at the time.

The method used was as follows: the Presbyterian minister dipped his fingertips into a bowl of water (so they were moistened but not dripping), then patted me on the top of the head 3 times.  Any water present on his fingers would only have touched my hair. I remember it clearly, as I was 12 years old.  I was also able to contact him to verify.  Several priests I have spoken with indicated that this would not suffice for proper matter.

Since I was not validly baptized, am I correct that all my other sacraments were invalid as well (therefore, my confirmation & marriage would need to be repeated to be valid & I should also not attempt to receive absolution or Holy Communion until I am validly baptized)?  My husband is a cradle Catholic, if that affects your response. –Irma Continue reading

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