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Catholic Faith
Vol. 4 - #6, Nov / Dec 1998

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Q.  Is it true that unless all the steps of the ritual for the Sacrament of Penance instituted in 1976 are followed, including the reading of Scripture by either the priest or the penitent, the Sacrament is illicit (though valid)? —Anonymous

A.  There is no obligation for the reading of Scripture by either the priest or the penitent during the ritual of the Sacrament of Penance. The official text reads, “Then the priest, or penitent himself, may read a text of Holy Scripture, or this may be done as part of the preparation for the sacrament. Through the word of God the Christian receives light to recognize his sins and is called to conversion and to confidence in God’s mercy.” Consequently, while the recitation from Sacred Scripture is praiseworthy, it is not obligatory on either the priest who hears the confession or on the penitent who is making his confession.

Q.  A priest has said that the Vatican decreed that no hymns only Gregorian chant may be sung at Mass. Is this right?  —Anonymous

A.  It all depends on what the word “Vatican” means. It is true that Gregorian chant had been used over the centuries. Gregorian chant was first established by Pope Gregory I (590-604). Since then Gregorian chant has been the standard for Catholic worship, and still is so today. We might therefore say that Gregorian chant is still the standard for the hymns used by the priest during his offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass. However, other forms of sacred music are not forbidden.

Q.  Does the Church require that there be at least one sponsor (godparent) for baptism? —D.S., Ohio

A.  I think it is worth quoting all three canons of the Code of Canon Law on the subject of sponsors. This quotation although lengthy will cover all the questions implied in the one question just raised.

  • Canon 872 — Insofar as possible one to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who is to assist an adult in Christian initiation, or together with the parents, to present an infant at the baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it.

  • Canon 873 — Only one male or one female sponsor or one of each sex is to be employed.

  • Canon 874

    1. To be admitted to the role of sponsor, a person must:

      1. be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the one who takes their place or, in their absence, by the pastor or minister and is to have the qualifications and intention of performing the role;

      2. have completed the sixteenth year, unless a different age has been established by the diocesan bishop or it seems to the pastor or minister that an exception is to be made for just cause;

      3. be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken;

      4. not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

      5. not be the father or the mother of the one to be baptized.

    2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may not be admitted except as a witness to baptism and together with a Catholic sponsor.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 4 - #6, Nov / Dec 1998

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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