When Does Disobedience Constitute Schism?

Q:  I am president of a student organization associated with our local diocese, which is served by a chaplain, and occasionally Mass is celebrated.  In the past, the Mass has been celebrated on our college campus, in a general-use chapel, even though there is a magnificent church built in the gothic revival style a few blocks away.  I made the decision to inform the group that since there was no need for us to have Mass on campus, we would carpool to the church.  I cited your article, “Does Mass Have to be Said in a Church?”  Now, the chaplain is accusing me of schismatic disobedience because of that decision (his interpretation of canon law and schism appears to be different).

Long story short: does your article apply to this situation? – Richard Continue reading

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When Can a Bishop Intervene in a Lay Association of the Faithful?

Q:  Greetings!  We have a certain Lay Association of Catholic Faithful in our diocese.  The association has a spiritual director appointed by the bishop.  That spiritual director suspended a member from the association, on the grounds of erroneous doctrinal teachings, and refuse to explain his position.  But there are concerns that this was done by the hierarchy to merge this lay association with another different lay association.

Do bishops (and their appointed legates/spiritual directors) have the authority to remove a member from a lay Catholic association on grounds such as heresy or other scandal?

Do bishops have the authority to merge two different lay associations, even if this is against the will of members of the lay association?

If a lay association in a diocese has multiple “chapters” and has a “national body” of moderators, whose decision should be followed?  The National body which the Catholic association belongs to, or the Local Ordinary? —Ednard Continue reading

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Altar Girls and the Pope’s New Document

Q:  With the Pope’s Spiritus Domini document, the girls of our country are enthusiastic in becoming altar girls.  But after reading your article “Canon Law and Altar Girls” and Spiritus Domini, I understood that the Acolyte and Lector ministries which were abolished after Vatican 2 were reinstated again.  But this time, both male and female lay people can be taken in for the ministry.  Have I grasped this correctly?

Secondly, our Archbishop issued a document for his diocese in 2010, and … it says that altar girls are not permitted in the Archdiocese.  Now since interpretation of the canon 230.2 was released in 1992, in favour of altar girls, and also since the canon doesn’t give permission to individual Ordinaries to decide on the matter, is the ban on altar girls legal?

Thirdly, can the Archbishop adhere to the same law he has issued saying NO to altar girls even now, since the Pope has changed the law.  And in any case, can a Parish Priest legally say he doesn’t like to start altar girls in his parish?  Thank You. –Fernando Continue reading

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Do Children Have to Make Their First Communion at Their Own Parish?

Q1: My youngest daughter is ready for first communion.  She has attended the catechism classes, she has done all the required steps.  Our priest is also a friend and knows that very well.  He has given communion to our five older children.  Yet, with time we grew really tired of all the fuss of First Communion masses, with the photographers drawing attention to the wrong things….  We also disagree with the way things are done in our parish about this.  We had bad experiences with some of our older children.  And now with the new pandemic laws, things got really strange over here.  We … got tired of all the superfluous (sic) that goes along with it.

We would love to simply take advantage of a family pilgrimage to a Marian shrine and have her doing her first communion there, without photographers, without fuss … in a public shrine during Sunday mass.

In fact, we got this idea from an American blog we trust.  The blogger’s children so far have done their first communion like this, one of them here in Fátima, some years ago.  Because the blogger is so in tune with the Church, we thought she might have some kind of say here…

Is this possible? What do we need in order to do that?  Can a priest say “no” to us, if we ask him before mass to give first communion to our daughter, supposing we have with us a letter of permission from our parish priest? –Maria

Q2: I sent my oldest child to catechism classes at our parish last year, until they were cancelled due to coronavirus, but I have always taught my kids about the faith at home…. There’s a Marian sanctuary nearby, and I would like to simply take them there for First Communion, if and when they start holding them again.  I don’t care about the bells and whistles – I would just like for my kids to get the sacraments….  I could probably find a priest somewhere willing to give First Communion during a mass.

…Assuming that I can find a willing priest and bishop in another diocese, that can and are willing to impart the sacraments, can I simply take my kids there for the sacraments? I’m willing to travel if necessary.

I have not yet spoken to my parish priest, but I doubt that I will get much collaboration from him…. –Megan Continue reading

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Catholic Schools With Non-Catholic Students

Q1:  My children attend a Catholic secondary school [run by a religious institute]. At the first Mass of the year, it was announced that an Anglican vicar would be available to distribute Communion to Anglicans or people from other denominations who were used to receiving Communion in their churches. Catholics should receive from the Catholic ministers.  We have since discovered that this is standard practice at all school Masses.

My husband and I could see how this solution could be seen as a sensitive pastoral response to a school body that is only around 70% Catholic … [but] we wondered what would occur if Muslim pupils wished elements of their faith practice to be incorporated into Mass. Or what of atheist pupils or their parents?

… Despite our assumption that the intention of the priests at the school is honourable and while it may seem to solve a delicate problem, doesn’t it in fact violate how Mass should be celebrated? –Samantha

Q2:  In my province, Catholic education is publicly funded and is widely available. This often leads to non-Catholics sending their children to the local Catholic school.  Sometimes the non-Catholic population is even the majority!

At our school Masses, it is common for Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian and even atheist students to serve as lectors, cantors/psalmists, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and altar servers. Is this permitted?

Once a teacher did not know how to distribute Holy Communion, so he simply just handed the chalice to each communicant.  Another time, a teacher identified herself as Orthodox to the celebrant before Mass, asking if it was acceptable for her to distribute Communion. The priest responded in the affirmative.

Now to be fair to my Bishop, he recently put forward a policy requiring all Extraordinary Ministers to be “mandated” by their home parish and to submit a list to the diocese, although its application to school Masses has yet to be seen.

… Whenever I suggested to our school administration that perhaps we should consider not having atheists or Protestants acting in these roles, I was met with great resistance.  Even my Spiritual Director is having a hard time pointing to a specific document dealing with this, because it is so inconceivable!   –John Paul Continue reading

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