Ask Fr. Shea

Faith-based questions and answers about a range of topics.

Answers are provided by Fr. Michael Shea, CM, Associate Director of the Miraculous Medal Shrine.

Send Your Question to Fr. Shea.

Question:

Is it sinful to invest in a mutual fund whose holdings include pharmaceutical companies that make contraceptives and abortifacients? I have such investments and never thought about that possibility until recently, when I examined a list of the drug companies the fund invested in. Does such an investment cause me to cooperate in the evils of contraception and abortion? Please give me advice.

Answer:

I think your developed conscience has already answered the question for you. Obviously, we cannot distance ourselves from our money, allowing it to work for our good, all the while engaged in evil. That would be no different than a priest accepting money from a syndicate boss, alleging that he doesn’t really know how the man got all his money and not being honest enough to say that he doesn’t really want to know, lest he be put in the embarrassing situation of accepting tainted money.

Question:

Where in Scripture does it indicate that Paul was proclaimed Apostle? We know that he is referred to as such, but did he take the title for himself? If so, when and where did this first occur? If he didn’t, who gave him the title of Apostle?

Answer:

St. Paul refers to himself as an Apostle on more than a dozen occasions in the New Testament (for example, Romans 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 1 Cor 9:1; Gal 1:1). He also spoke of himself as the “Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13). He admits that he was one born out of the normal course of events but links his apostolic identity to the special revelation from the Jesus Whom he was persecuting as he harassed the Church of God.

In this, however, we should not see Pauline lust for power and prestige. On the contrary, Paul would have thought of this as part of the divine revelation of his identity and mission.

Question:

I was baptized a Methodist and later in life was rebaptized in the Baptist Church. Is it a sin to be baptized twice?

Answer:

I imagine that your second “baptism” was demanded by the Baptist minister, probably because you were baptized in the Methodist Church as an infant. Baptists regard infant baptism as invalid because they believe that full, conscious faith must be operative. The Church, from the very beginning, however, has never subscribed to that theory because it makes God’s activity entirely too dependent on us. Infant baptism conveys in a powerful way the primacy of divine initiative and grace in God’s relationship to man. Therefore, God calls even an infant, so great is God’s love and power. The faith necessary for any sacrament is, at that point, a “borrowed faith,” but one that will necessarily be claimed as the child matures.

Repeating a sacrament like Baptism is sinful, since it implicitly denies the effectiveness of God’s grace; in doubtful circumstances, the Church administers “conditional baptism” if she is not sure whether or not someone was once validly baptized. In your case, I doubt that serious sin was committed, because you seem to indicate that you merely wanted to do what was right and did not realize the implications.

Question:

What does the inscription “for private use” mean on certain Catholic periodicals?

Answer:

That inscription most often appears on devotional literature. In other words, the devotion has not been approved by the Church for public worship (e.g., because the individual being invoked is not beatified or canonized). This type of material is intended, as might be assumed, only for individuals or groups of individuals gathered for informal, unofficial prayer.

Question:

Russia has not yet been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as requested by Our Lady of Fatima. Why are the Pope and bishops so reluctant to carry out this grave responsibility?

Answer:

I believe that the Holy Father has, indeed, consecrated the whole world to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart; if that has happened, then presumably Russia has been brought under Mary’s mantle. By the way, I cannot help but think that so much of what happened in the former Eastern Bloc is precisely the fruit of all these rosaries and First Saturday devotions. Changes as startling as these cannot be the work of man; for that to occur at all, let alone with such astounding rapidity and force, can only be the work of Almighty God. Continued prayer and penance are obviously needed to bring these tentative beginnings to a happy conclusion.

Question:

My son and his non-Catholic wife were married in the Church. Subsequently, she became a Catholic, but the priest who received her never heard her confession. Three years later, she has still not received the Sacrament of Penance. Should I say anything to her?

Answer:

That such a thing could happen is a result of sheer carelessness at best. I would suggest that you speak to her very gently and let her know that she should be frequenting the Sacrament of Penance. Perhaps you might prod her by saying something like, “I’m going to confession this afternoon. Would you care to come with me?” Then help her prepare to receive the sacrament for the first time.  It might also be a good idea to precede her into the confessional and let the priest know that the next penitent is making her first confession, so that he is prepared.

Question:

I serve as a disc jockey at our high school dances. Sometimes I’m asked to play music which I think is anti-Christian. How should I handle the situation?

Answer:

If that’s your impression and you think it’s justified, then you should take the appropriate action, which I would see as the following: Refuse to play such music, and then explain to your classmates your rationale. Surely you don’t have to be nasty, judgmental, or abrasive; however, witnessing to the meaning of the Gospel in your life is both your right and obligation. Perhaps your honest and strong stand will lead at least some of your peers to consider what life in Christ in all about.

Question:

I am divorced and remarried. May I receive Holy Communion?

Divorce, in and of itself, does not constitute an impediment to a full sacramental life in the Church. The problem comes with a remarriage. Let me explain.

Remarriage presumably involves marital relations. However, since God and the Church do not recognize divorce, each and every marital relation in the second, invalid union is to be viewed in a literal sense as an act of adultery. Can one go to confession and receive absolution? Only if one is truly sorry for offenses committed and sincerely intends to avoid such sins in the future. Therein lies the difficulty with a remarriage. Unless one is willing to live as “brother and sister,” a sacramental life is ruled out, but one should still attend Sunday Mass and engage in prayer, seeking God’s assistance to deal with the present situation in such a way that God’s will can be done. 

Answer:

Divorce, in and of itself, does not constitute an impediment to a full sacramental life in the Church. The problem comes with a remarriage. Let me explain.

Remarriage presumably involves sexual intercourse. However, since God and the Church do not recognize divorce, each and every sexual encounter in the second, invalid union is to be viewed in a literal sense as an act of adultery. Can one go to confession and receive absolution? Only if one is truly sorry for offenses committed and sincerely intends to avoid such sins in the future. Therein lies the difficulty with a remarriage. Unless one is willing to live as “brother and sister,” a sacramental life is ruled out, but one should still attend Sunday Mass and engage in prayer, seeking God’s assistance to deal with the present situation in such a way that God’s will can be done.

Question:

All pre-Vatican ll Bibles indicate that the Synoptic Gospels and Acts were written before A.D. 65.  Recent Bibles give dates as late as A.D. 80.  What is the reason for this change in dates?

Answer:

Dating biblical texts is, at best, engaging in “guesstimation” at any time. Using linguistic, historical, and archaeological evidence available, determinations are made regarding place and time of composition, as well as authorship. It should be noted that none of those questions affects the inspiration, inerrancy, or canonicity of biblical texts. Whether the Gospel of John was written in A.D. 50 or 100, it is still part of the inspired Word of God. Dating can help us appreciate the process of development which went into the writing down of God’s revelation.

Question:

As a young nurse, I participated in a Cesarean delivery. The Jewish doctor asked me if I knew how to baptize, which I said I did and proceeded to do so. Later on, I realized the baby was in the amniotic sac and that the baptismal water never really touched the child. To this day, thirty-five years later, I am in agony when I think that I gave the baby a “limbo” existence. Tell me: Was the baby baptized or not?

Answer:

Baptism by water is the normal means by which one is incorporated into Christ. But I am sure you also recall that there is such a thing as baptism of desire. If parents, for instance, intend to have their baby baptized and the child died before the ceremony, the parental intention constitutes a kind of baptism of desire. I think one could see something similar in your efforts. Therefore, I would encourage you not to worry about the infant and leave him to the love and mercy of the God Who created him.

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