Q&A November AD
Our Lady of the Rosary
Hildegard and the New Age?
Property Rights and the "Remission of the
Holy Communion for non-Catholics
Words from the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Saints
Our Apostolic Mandate requires from Us that We watch
over the purity of the Faith and the integrity of Catholic
discipline. It requires from Us that We protect the faithful from
evil and error; especially so when evil and error are presented in
dynamic language which, concealing vague notions and ambiguous
expressions with emotional and high-sounding words, is likely to set
ablaze the hearts of men in pursuit of ideals which, whilst
attractive, are nonetheless nefarious. Such were not so long ago the
doctrines of the so-called philosophers of the 18th century, the
doctrines of the Revolution and Liberalism which have been so often
condemned; such are even today the theories of the Sillon [a
Modernist movement of the time] which, under the glowing appearance
of generosity, are all too often wanting in clarity, logic and
truth. These theories do not belong to the Catholic or, for that
matter, to the French Spirit.
Pope Pius X to the French Bishops, August 15, 1910
Hildegard and the New Age?
Question: On May 11th of this year, Pope
Benedict declared Hildegard of Bingen (1089-1179) a saint, even though she
was never canonized. He is set to declare her a Doctor of the Church later
this year. How can someone be a saint if not canonized? Also, Hildegard
had some strange ideas about using precious stones to heal diseases. Won’t
her “magic stones” and newfound importance give credence to the New Age
Movement? (L.M., Miami)
Answer: The process of canonization was
introduced into the Church right around the time of Hildegard’s death.
Prior to that people were venerated as saints if they were known to be
martyrs for the Faith, or if they enjoyed a public reputation of great
sanctity. Approval of the local bishop was adequate to introduce the cult
of a saint in the area where he was known. Confirmation by the Pope came
only in the thirteenth century, under Popes Alexander III and Innocent III.
(Innocent III is acknowledged by historians to be the great consolidator of
the Church’s political power in the person of the Pope.)
In theory, Hildegard would have been subject to the new process of
investigation and canonization, but customs die hard, and thirteenth century
communications left many people unaware of the new regulations. The
generally conservative Thurston-Attwater edition of Butler’s Lives of the
Saints lists her as a saint, with a feast day on September 17th.
Hildegard is one of the
best known saints of the medieval period. Her extensive writings and music
are still extant and available in print or as digital recordings.
Her reputation for admonishing the Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa who
supported anti-Popes against the legitimate Pope Alexander III, and for her
published visions which contradicted the heresies of her time, place her
among the most strong and outspoken women of her time. A lot is known about
Saint Hildegard, and much of it does speak to her sanctity. The relatively
weak canonization procedures of the Conciliar Church would probably not
disqualify her from the honors of the altar.
By modern scientific
standards Saint Hildegard’s writings about the curative value of precious
stones are laughable. The section on stones from her Physica can be
The wine in which her gems were often to be soaked must have had a far
greater effect than the minerals that made up the stones. Her explanation
of how the gems came to be, and why they are curative, is a mixture of the
four element theory of medieval science, and pious thinking about the
psychology of the devil:
Every stone contains fire and
moisture..... Precious stones and gems arise in the Orient, in areas
where the sun’s heat is very great. The rivers in those areas
always boil from the sun’s great heat.... The mountains, burning
with the sun’s heat, are touched by those rivers. Froth, similar to
that produced by hot iron or a hot stone when water is poured over
it.... adheres to that place, and in three of four days hardens into
The devil abhors, detests, and distains precious
stones. This is because he remembers that their beauty was manifest
on him before he fell from the glory God had given him, and because
some precious stones are engendered from fire, in which he receives
like most science of the middle ages, depended upon the presumed authority
of the ancients, rather than upon empirical demonstration. If a notable
like Aristotle believed something, it might be accepted as truth, even
though it proved incorrect in a controlled experiment. For example, Galileo
was ignored when he demonstrated that heavy and light bodies fall at the
same speed, for Aristotle said otherwise. The idea that certain stones had
certain curative properties goes back to the ancient Greeks—the amethyst,
for example, was said to be a cure for intoxication and mental instability.
That Saint Hildegard’s
science seems foolish by modern standards has no bearing on her sanctity.
Believing that air, water, earth, and fire are the elements of all material
things, or believing that heavy objects fall faster than light objects, or
believing the sun, stars, and planets go around the earth, were the common
mistakes of medieval science, generally unrelated to the truths of the
Catholic Faith. If the science of the day incorrectly claimed that angels
and devils moved the workings of the universe, it was false science, and not
The standard of modern
science is empirical proof in a controlled experiment. The claim that a
certain stone, for example, makes the skin fair, would be tested on a number
of people, some of whom would be given the stone, and some of whom would
not. If there was no significant difference between the two groups,
rational people would reject the hypothesis that the stone causes fair skin.
Certainly, there are
alternatives to allopathic medicine (some of which even kill fewer
patients). Perhaps drinking wine saturated with a particular gem stone
actually produces a claimed benefit—but the proof of that is in seeing that
benefit in a living person—not in reading about it in a medieval
pharmacopeia. The New Agers can swill all the stones they want, but it is
unlikely that their methods can stand up to scrutiny in the real world.
Remission of the Jubilee?
Question: “Father Bob” says
that private ownership of property and the holding of another man’s debt are
forbidden in the Bible. He kept referring to “the remission of the jubilee”
but didn’t really explain what that was. So, please, what is “the remission
of the jubilee”? And what is wrong with property ownership?
Answer: Be careful with
Modernists. Many have leanings toward one form of socialism or another, and
“spin” the Scriptures to justify their ideas.
The Old Testament Jews
who received the Promised Land of Chanaan were the extended family that
derived from Abraham and his grandson Jacob (later called Israel). The
extended family was divided into tribes named for the particular son of
Jacob from which the tribe descended: Ruben, Simeon, Levi, Juda, Issachar,
Zabulon, Dan, Nephtali, Gad, Aser, Joseph, and Benjamin. The tribe of
Joseph is divided into two, named after his two sons Ephraim and Manasses.
At God’s direction the land was divided amongst the tribe members by lot, so
that each family had adequate agricultural land for its support. The Levites, who earned their living in the
service of the Temple were given cities in which to live, with suburbs “for
their cattle and beasts.”
Men and women were required to marry within their tribe, which kept the
tribes from acquiring each other’s property through marriage.
There certainly was private ownership—clearly, God intended each Israelite
to own what was necessary for his support.
What we non-Jews find
unusual is that the Israelite would not permanently sell the property he had
received from God. The “Jubilee” mentioned in the question was an
arrangement for ensuring that if any Jew was forced by poor economic
circumstances to sell his land or his labor, he would do so only for a
period of time. By divine law, the land was to be left fallow every seventh
(Sabbatical) year, debts to fellow Jews were to be cancelled, and Jewish
slaves released if they wished it.
Following seven Sabbatical years, the fiftieth year—the year of Jubilee—was
to be the year in which land that had been “sold” was to be returned to the
original family owning it, and in which labor “sold” to another was to
cease. “Sold” is in quotation marks because the property or the laborer
were more correctly rented for the value of the crops that might be
grown on the land, or the value of what the laborer might be expected to
The schedule of the Jubilee was public knowledge, and land or labor would
command a price that reflected how long it could be used before the next
“In an agricultural
community, where a debt would be contracted only in a case of poverty or
misfortune, the loan was considered to be an act of benevolence rather than
a business transaction.”
The Rabbi Hillel, who lived just before Christ, declared that debt must be
enforceable without regard to the seven or fifty year cycle, otherwise
lenders might be harmed by frivolous requests for loans, and poor borrowers
might be unable to obtain loans that were certain not to be repaid. Hillel
developed a special writ or contract, prozbul (פרוזבול) that placed
the debt into the public sector, thus making it enforceable, even between
Jews, and suitable for a more complex economy.
The Jubilee guaranteed
that no Israelite would permanently lose his liberty or ability to earn a
living because of economic hardship. It did not regulate the outright sale
of moveable property, nor did it keep the industrious person or the
entrepreneur from amassing more wealth than the average person. The
economic effects of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years did not extend beyond
the “extended family” of Abraham, and thus cannot be considered part of the
Natural Moral Law which binds all men and women. Outside of the realm of
biblical Israel, one might suggest that the “remission of the Jubilee” is no
more required than any other act of charity.
The ownership of
property is a right conferred by God—it is implicit in the command that
“thou shalt not steal,” for their cannot be theft if no one has a legitimate
claim to property.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
balances the right to ownership with charitable generosity in the use of
I answer that, Two things are competent to man in
respect of exterior things. One is the power to procure and dispense
them, and in this regard it is lawful for man to possess property.
Moreover this is necessary to human life for three reasons. First
because every man is more careful to procure what is for himself
alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one
would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the
community, as happens where there is a great number of servants.
Secondly, because human affairs are conducted in more orderly
fashion if each man is charged with taking care of some particular
thing himself, whereas there would be confusion if everyone had to
look after any one thing indeterminately. Thirdly, because a more
peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his
own. Hence it is to be observed that quarrels arise more frequently
where there is no division of the things possessed.
The second thing that is competent to man with regard
to external things is their use. On this respect man ought to
possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to
wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need. Hence
the Apostle says (1 Timothy 6:17-18): "Charge the rich of this world
. . . to give easily, to communicate to others," etc.
The saintly Pope Leo
XIII wrote that:
5. It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages
in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work
is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own. If
one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for
the purpose of receiving in return what is necessary for the
satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire
a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to the
disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives
sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his
savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under
another form; and, consequently, a working man's little estate thus
purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the
wages he receives for his labor. But it is precisely in such power
of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of
land or chattels. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer
the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at
the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of
the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and
possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his
condition in life.
Holy Communion for non-Catholics?
Question: A co-worker went to
a friend’s funeral Mass over the weekend in a Catholic church and when it
came to receiving Holy Communion she wanted to know why she couldn't
receive. She is Episcopalian and anybody can receive Communion in their
church. She wants to know why only Catholics can receive in a Catholic
church. (D.C. via e-mail).
1. Holy Communion, the
partaking of the physical body and blood of Christ is a visible sign of the
unity of the Church, which is the Mystical body of Christ. To extend
Communion to those who are outside of the Mystical Body—either by refusal to
acknowledge and join It, or by notorious sin—would be to make this sign
meaningless. (Notorious sin is why pro-abortion politicians should be
denied Holy Communion.)
2. Those receiving
Holy Communion must believe that it is in fact the body and blood, soul and
divinity of Christ, under the appearances of bread and wine. Saint Paul
says that “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and
drinks judgment upon himself” (1
Cor. 11:29). Most Protestants do not believe in
transubstantiation; a few (e.g. Lutherans) believe that the body and blood
of Christ are somehow added to the bread and wine. Many view Holy Communion
as a mere symbol of the body and blood of Christ. To give them Communion
would be to induce them to sin.
3. To receive Holy
Communion, one must be in the state of grace. For those who have sinned
since Baptism—just about all of us!—that requires Sacramental Confession.
It is the belief of Catholics that none of the Protestant churches has a
priesthood capable of conferring Sacramental absolution. No Catholic priest
could grant absolution to one who insists in remaining outside the Catholic
Church. (But see below.)
4. Among traditional
Catholics, one is supposed to be fasting, perhaps from midnight—unlikely for
most non-Catholics. The modern legislation on that amounts to nothing more
than “don't eat in the car on the way to church.” The modern legislation
also permits non-Catholics "in danger of death or other grave necessity,"
who profess the Catholic belief in transubstantiation, to Confess and
receive Holy Communion and be Anointed (1983 Code, canon 844 § 4).
Attendance at a wedding or funeral would not constitute a “grave
necessity.” (This legislation appears to be intended not for Protestants,
but for the Eastern Orthodox and others with valid Holy Orders and a proper
understanding of the Mass and Sacraments.)
Question:  What is a “hermeneutic”? And