Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Q&A  November AD 2012
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Q&A Archives

Hildegard and the New Age?

Property Rights and the "Remission of the Jubilee"?

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.

~ Notre Charge Apostolique—Our Apostolic Mandate
Pope Pius X to the French Bishops, August 15, 1910

Our Lady of the Rosary
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.[1])  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.[2]  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 read online.[3]  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 stone.....

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 his punishment.

    Hildegard’s science, 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 false religion.

    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.

 Our Lady of the Rosary
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. [4]  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.”[5]  Men and women were required to marry within their tribe, which kept the tribes from acquiring each other’s property through marriage.[6]  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.[7]  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 produce.[8]  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 Jubilee.

    “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.”[9]  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.[10]

    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 property:

    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.[11]

    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.[12]

 Our Lady of the Rosary
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.)




[9]   Philip Birnbaum, A Book of Jewish Concepts (NY: Hebrew Publishing, 1964), p. 619.

[10]   Birnbaum, ibid, p. 254-5, 619.

[11]   Summa Theologica II-II Q.66 a.2



Question:  What is a “hermeneutic”? And

Answer:  xxxxx

Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!