The efficacity of non-catholic sacraments, the do’s and don’ts of the Billings method and the problems with annulments is the subject-matter of this month’s questions. Don’t hesitate to send in a few of your own that have worried you!
Q. Can the use of the Internet by Traditional Catholics be likened to the use of television? In other words, when and to what extent can the Internet be used? With E-commerce and modern business trends, access is increasingly a sine qua non, but what are the limits on other use?
A. The Net, like television, is an instrument that in itself is neither evil nor good, but becomes evil or good depending on the use men make of it. In modern business it is becoming indispensable for an increasing number of occupations, and Catholics in those occupations may of course make prudent use of it with a clear conscience.
When it comes to using the Net for recreation or information-gathering one has to be very careful. I am told that about 70% of the material on the Net is pornographic in content. This may be an exaggeration, but it underlines the fact that it is a dangerous source of temptation.
Another problem with the Net is that ‘surfing’ it takes time, and one can spend hours drifting from one pretty and, diverting website to another, without actually accomplishing anything worthwhile.
In conclusion, then, if you are someone with sufficient moral character to go into the Net knowing what you want and able to avoid its pitfalls, then you may make prudent use of it. If, however, the Net is a source too strong of temptation to immorality or idleness, then keep clear of it. How you have used to Net up to now will tell you in which category you belong.
Q. When one meets with a conservative' Novas Ordo Catholic and the subject of Tradition arises in conversation, what are some good starting points? Most have a mental block when it comes to the obedience issue and that of schism and cannot comprehend the arguments of Traditional Catholics.
A. Many conservative Catholics have made their Faith depend upon the structures of the Church, i.e. a Catholicism that finds its peace of mind in the thought of a ‘good’ Pope, a functioning hierarchy, and more-or-less healthy Catholic institutions. Nothing must be allowed to shake that peace of mind and so any direct criticism of the papacy or of the hierarchy as a whole is not permitted. It is extremely difficult for people with this kind of thinking to grasp that the survival of the Church does not depend upon churchmen doing their duty, although it is certainly helped by it. In dealing with such Catholics it is best, I think, simply to state the case for Tradition by describing the Catholic notion of obedience, i.e. that blind obedience is never owed to one's superiors, not even the Pope, when Faith or morals are compromised. Give proofs of this from the history of the Church (eg. St. Athanasius and Pope Liberius) and from the Church's teaching, all of which can be found in Traditional publications. If your interlocutor cannot grasp the point then agree to disagree and talk about something else. Persistent argument is useless, and keeping his goodwill may enable you, by the grace of God, to get through to him at a later time.
Q. Is it correct that it is most irreverent to chew the Sacred Host, but one should swallow It after receiving as soon as possible. I can understand this, but please explain if this is grave matter.
A. Chewing the Host would be sinful only if one did it as a deliberate act of irreverence, however Catholics are told not to chew but simply swallow the Host since chewing is something one associates with ordinary food, which the Host is not, and in any case is unnecessary given it size.
Q. If the priest were to upset the Chalice, thus spilling the Precious Blood, what , procedures are taken? Similarly, when the Host is dropped?
A. In the case of a spilled Chalice, the three altar cloths must be purified in water afterwards; if any precious Blood spills, on the ground, that area must be scrubbed using a towel and a basin of water. If (which has happened) it is spilled on the altar missal, then the missal must be burnt since it is impossible to purify it.
In the case of a dropped Host, it must be picked up and a cloth (eg the lavabo towel) placed on the spot. Afterwards, that area is scrubbed using a cloth and basin of water. The basin itself must be emptied onto earthen ground (eg the garden).
Q. What are the rulings about singing hymns during Mass? We sing an English hymn after Mass, but I believe such is not allowed during the Mass, though apparently this happened in some places pre-Vatican II. Where do Latin hymns fit in the liturgy (like Ave Maria, O Sanctissima, Panis Angelicus, etc.)? Must the choir first sing the Proper chant (eg Offertory) and then the hymn?
A. In Low Mass, Hymns may not be sung in English during the Mass itself, although it is permitted to sing a suitable hymn before Mass begins and after the end of Mass. Hymns in English have become customary during the Offertory at High and Sung Masses. In what concerns Latin hymns during Mass, let me quote Rev. J. O'Connell: "At the Offertory, after the antiphon has been sung, a short motet, in Latin, in keeping with this part of the Mass may be sung. It must not continue beyond the Secret. After the Communion a Latin motet suitable for that part of the Mass may be sung." The Celebration of Mass (Ed. 1963 with imprimatur), p 433.
Q. What kinds of popular music are out of bounds to Catholics? Some Traditional priests are stricter than others with regard to what music we may listen to.
A. Since popular songs come out at the rate of several dozen a week, it is impossible for a priest or anyone else for that matter to compile a list of what one may or may not listen to.
As a general guide, if a song contains words that are immoral or blasphemous, or by its nature is connected with something immoral or blasphemous, then one should not listen to it unless there is a sufficiently grave reason for doing so, eg when writing an article or something similar on modern music.
For the rest, one should try to acquire a taste for music that rises above the current BOOM BOOM Yeah Yeah culture. One destroys what one replaces, and a love of Church music, Classical music, Operatic music and the other forms of authentically beautiful and moving music should be enough to kill any interest in the rhythmic (and sometimes rhythmless) noise that beats on our ears from radios, emergency taxis and supermarket loudspeakers. If you have children then it is especially important to give them a taste for genuine music while they are young.
Which leads to another question: why should one listen to music at all? If it is just a harmless form of recreation then it would be on a level with ping-pong or draughts, but there is more to music than that.
Music is a form of beauty, and beauty is something than only the soul can appreciate animals have no understanding of it. Listening to good music expands the soul and even if only on a natural plane raises one above purely material preoccupations: making money, acquiring possessions, gratifying the passions. A soul thus expanded and elevated is better able to grasp and appreciate the supernatural world of the Faith, which itself results in a better love of beauty, and so on. It is not a coincidence that the loss of Faith in the West has gone hand in hand with a loss of beauty in the arts.