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Catholic Liturgy - Funeral Masses for a Suicide And More on Confession for RCIA Candidates
Zenit News Agency ^ | November 15, 2005 | Father Edward McNamara

Posted on 11/16/2005 12:06:35 AM PST by NYer

ROME, NOV. 15, 2005 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What is the current stand of the Church regarding the possibility of funeral Masses "in corpore presente" of persons who are said to have committed suicide? Is it true that there already are mitigating circumstances, like the possibility of irrationality at the moment of taking one's life (even if there was no note), whereby it would be possible to suppose that the person was not in his right mind, and that therefore it is licit to let the funeral entourage to enter a church and a funeral Mass be said? -- E.C.M., Manila, Philippines

A: In earlier times a person who committed suicide would often be denied funeral rites and even burial in a Church cemetery. However, some consideration has always been taken into account of the person's mental state at the time.

In one famous case, when Rudolph, the heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, committed suicide in 1889, the medical bulletin declared evidence of "mental aberrations" so that Pope Leo XIII would grant a religious funeral and burial in the imperial crypt. Other similar concessions were probably quietly made in less sonorous cases.

Canon law no longer specifically mentions suicide as an impediment to funeral rites or religious sepulture.

Canon 1184 mentions only three cases: a notorious apostate, heretic or schismatic; those who requested cremation for motives contrary to the Christian faith; and manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral cannot be granted without causing public scandal to the faithful. These restrictions apply only if there has been no sign of repentance before death.

The local bishop weighs any doubtful cases and in practice a prudent priest should always consult with the bishop before denying a funeral Mass.

A particular case of suicide might enter into the third case -- that of a manifest and unrepentant sinner -- especially if the suicide follows another grave crime such as murder.

In most cases, however, the progress made in the study of the underlying causes of self-destruction shows that the vast majority are consequences of an accumulation of psychological factors that impede making a free and deliberative act of the will.

Thus the general tendency is to see this extreme gesture as almost always resulting from the effects of an imbalanced mental state and, as a consequence, it is no longer forbidden to hold a funeral rite for a person who has committed this gesture although each case must still be studied on its merits.

Finally, it makes little difference, from the viewpoint of liturgical law, whether the body is present or not. If someone is denied a Church funeral, this applies to all public ceremonies although it does not impede the celebration of private Masses for the soul of the deceased.

The same principle applies to funeral Masses of those whose body is unavailable for burial due to loss or destruction. Certainly the rites are different when the body is present or absent, but the Church's public intercession for the deceased is equally manifest in both cases.

* * *

Follow-up: Confession for RCIA Candidates

In the Nov. 1 column on confession for Protestant candidates who were about to enter the Catholic Church, I mentioned that "Eastern Christians were treated differently."

A Minneapolis reader asked: "What is this 'very different position' of the Eastern Christians? Should they or should they not receive the sacrament of penance before they are publicly received into the Catholic Church?"

Eastern Christians share the same sacramental practice and faith as Catholics, even though they are not in full communion.

Because of this, the Catholic Church permits them to receive the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and anointing of the sick for any just cause when one of their own priests is unavailable. Likewise, a Catholic may receive these sacraments from an Eastern Christian for a similar cause.

For example, Catholics who work or vacation in a predominately Orthodox country where a Catholic Mass is unavailable, may freely attend and receive Communion at an Orthodox Divine Liturgy although they would not be obliged to do so.

The Church asks Catholics in such situations to respect the requirements of the local Church regarding such things as fasting before Communion.

It is important to note that not all Eastern Churches have the same law as the Catholic Church on this matter. Some do not allow their faithful to receive the sacraments in other Churches, nor do they offer this possibility to others. Once more, we need to be attentive to different sensibilities.

A priest writing from Hong Kong asked: "What about for those Protestant denominations whose baptism is doubtful (because of the form, etc.), and the candidate receives conditional baptism? Should they also go to confession before the conditional baptism?"

If conditional baptism is foreseen, the confession should be postponed until a suitable time after the celebration, since certainty is required in questions regarding the validity of the sacraments.

Of course, confession is not necessary immediately after baptism, as this latter sacrament removes all sins. In the case of a conditional baptism, however, it probably does much good to the spiritual health of the new Catholic to avail of the opportunity of confession as soon as possible.

Finally, a reader from Ontario asked about marriage: "I just read your response to the question about the validity of the sacrament of penance for a baptized non-Catholic person before being received into the Church. Now this has made me wonder about the validity of my marriage as a sacrament. I went through the RCIA program and was baptized. Since I was civilly married to a Catholic, I was required to get married in the Church before my baptism. My question is: Since I was not baptized at the time of the marriage ceremony, is my marriage a sacramental marriage?"

Here the question is rather complex, but I will try to put it into a nutshell.

As our reader was only civilly married to a Catholic, her husband was in an irregular situation with respect to the Church, which does not recognize the validity of such marriages.

Her subsequent marriage to him would have been made with a dispensation, which transformed her relationship into a valid, but not yet sacramental, spousal bond.

The moment she received baptism, her valid marriage was elevated to a sacramental union by the very grace of her new state as a member of Christ's Mystical Body.

This is in conformity with long-standing practice in the Church. For example, when spouses joined in a valid natural marriage are baptized together, they are not usually required to go through another marriage ceremony, as their natural marriage is elevated to a sacramental bond by the very fact of receiving baptism.

* * *

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; History; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: rcia; suicide
Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country.
1 posted on 11/16/2005 12:06:36 AM PST by NYer
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To: american colleen; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; ...

2 posted on 11/16/2005 12:11:35 AM PST by NYer (“Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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To: NYer

For later.

3 posted on 11/16/2005 8:29:32 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer
Priests as Mediators

by Fr. John De Celles

Other Articles by Fr. John De Celles
Priests as Mediators

People often wonder why Catholics have to go to a priest to be forgiven their sins. Some point out that St. Paul tells us that Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tm 2:5).

But while Jesus is the only way to the Father and the only Mediator, Scripture makes it very clear that God calls other human beings to participate in this mediation. From the very beginning of God's revelation to Israel 3,700 years ago, God has chosen individual human beings — people like Abraham, Moses and the prophets — to communicate, or mediate, His will to the world. And in today's Gospel text, St. Mark reminds us that God sent St. John the Baptist to act as a mediator between Jesus and the Jews.

Why does God send mediators, both before and after Jesus? Advent is a season of preparation for celebrating Jesus’ coming into the world at Christmas. At the heart of this mystery is the fact that God became man to communicate clearly and completely through His human body and with human words. But Jesus took His body with Him when He ascended into heaven, while our bodies — the bodies of Christians — are still here. And Jesus continues to send us to mediate through the body, through speaking and hearing His word, and through the holy symbols we see and touch, especially the sacraments.

The Gospel tells us that 2,000 years ago, St. John the Baptist proclaimed "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." And in response Scripture says: "People...were going out to [John] they acknowledged their sins." Today, we do exactly the same thing as we go to the sacrament of penance and acknowledge, or confess, our sins before God’s chosen mediators — the priests of the Church. And when we hear those mediators say "I absolve you from your sins" we can hear in their human voices, not the voice of St. John, but the voice Jesus Himself, who St. John tells us "takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29).

The mediation of priests is a great gift to the whole Church. But by their baptism "in water and the Holy Spirit," lay Christians are also called to be mediators of Christ in some way. For most serious Christians, Advent is a time when the words of St. John can elicit a very strong response from us: We hear, "prepare the way of the Lord," and part of us shouts, "Yes, Lord."

But most of us don’t go much further than that initial "yes." Sometimes this is because we're afraid of failure, and sometimes it’s because we really don't know how to prepare the way.

If you’re afraid of failure, remember you are only a mediating instrument — you prepare the way only by allowing Jesus to act through you; let Him worry about the final results. Remember that the great mediator of the Messiah, St. John the Baptist, recognized that even his work was incomplete and only an opening for the Lord: "One Who is more powerful is to come after me."

If you just don't know how to prepare Jesus’ way, remember you start by preparing yourself, by accepting the word of God proclaimed by the Baptizer and by the Church: Confess and repent your sins.

Few of us are called to be public mediators like St. John the Baptist or priests. But this Advent the Lord Jesus Christ calls every single Christian to be His mediator to a sinful world by proclaiming, in everything we say and do: "Prepare the way of the Lord...make straight His paths."

Fr. De Celles is Parochial Vicar of St. Michael Parish in Annandale, Virginia.

(This article courtesy of the
Arlington Catholic Herald.)

4 posted on 12/03/2005 4:49:27 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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