Ask Father Hardon
Vol. 1 - #2, Nov / Dec 1995
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Q. What is the Churchs teaching on capital punishment? V.E.R., Texas
A. Capital punishment is part of the acknowledged tradition of
the Catholic Church. This is illustrated by St. Pauls statement: The State
is there to serve God for your benefit. If you break the law, however, you
may well have fear; the bearing of the sword has its significance. The authorities
are there to serve God; they carry out Gods revenge by punishing wrongdoers
Having said this, however, we must immediately explain that capital
punishment is becoming less and less accepted. More than one country no longer
legalizes capital punishment. Moreover, Pope John Paul II in The Gospel
of Life expresses his satisfaction with the growing public opposition
to the death penalty even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of legitimate
defense on the part of society. He further declares that, modern society
has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless
without definitely denying them the chance of reform (Evangelium vitae,
This does not mean that the Holy Father
is against capital punishment on principle. It simply means that, in our day,
capital punishment is not as effective a deterrent to crime as in the past.
But the Vicar of Christ is heartened by the fact that, at least in some circles,
opposition to capital punishment is an encouraging sign of renewed respect
for human life.
To return to the original question, What is the Churchs teaching
on capital punishment? the best answer is found in the Catechism of the
Catholic Church. Preserving the common good of society, we are told,
requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason
the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the
right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means
of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding in
cases of extreme gravity; the death penalty (no.2266).
Q. Is it permissible for priests to decide that kneeling during Holy Mass is now optional for the congregation? A.R.D., Florida
A. No, it is not permissible for priests to decide whether the
people should kneel or not kneel during Holy Mass. As the General Instruction
to the Roman Missal tells us, reverence in the Eucharistic Liturgy is
of the essence of the Churchs liturgical history. The form of this reverence
is to be in harmony with the traditions or the culture of the region (no.212).
Three genuflections during Mass are required of the priest who offers
the Holy Sacrifice. Moreover, a genuflection is required of the priest before
and after Mass if there is, a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament in the
sanctuary, and whenever anyone passes in front of the Blessed Sacrament
The absolute minimum for the faithful kneeling during Mass is during
the consecration (Ibid., no.21).
Having said this, we must, keep in mind how deeply concerned Pope
Paul VI was about the weakening of faith in the Real Presence, both during
and after Mass. He wrote an entire encyclical, The Mystery of Faith, before
the Second Vatican Council closed to recall the Churchs faith in transubstantiation.
The Vicar of Christ saw this faith in grave danger. One of the signs of this
jeopardy is the fact that in a growing number of churches in our country people
are no longer kneeling even at the consecration of the Mass.
For centuries the Catholic faithful in the United States have knelt
during the Eucharistic Prayer. The real issue which the questioner raises
is not whether kneeling during Mass is now optional for the congregation.
It is whether faith in the Holy Eucharist has weakened, and the undermining
is being disguised as progress in the post-conciliar liturgy.
Q. What is wrong with using inclusive language
in the translations of Scripture, the liturgy, and papal documents? F.L.N., New York
A. The expression inclusive language is an invention of the
feminist movement. The roots of the feminist movement are at variance with
Christian principles. It argues from an alleged discrimination of women by
men and urges women to revolt against men. The best known proponent of this
ideology was the Marxist Nikolai Lenin who urged that the success of a revolution
depends upon the degree of participation by women.
On these terms inclusive language is simply part of the larger struggle
for the eventual creation of a classless society.
For the Catholic Church to use inclusive language in translations
of the Bible, the Liturgy, and papal documents is to tamper with the integrity
of the Faith. The feminists could not care less what happens to the meaning
of revealed truth as expressed in English. As fundamental a mystery as the
Eternal Fatherhood of God must be sacrificed, they will say, in order to satisfy
those who have been seduced by the feminist revolution.
Vol. 1 - #2, Nov / Dec 1995, pp. 34-35
Copyright © 1995 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission