Commentary

Questions?

Originally Appeared in : 9924-11/21/19

Q. At the Last Supper, Jesus told the apostles to take his body and his blood. But Christ knew that Judas was in a state of serious sin. So how could he have let him receive? (Alexandria, Louisiana)

 

A. Scripture scholars indicate that there is room for debate as to whether Judas was still present at the Last Supper after Jesus had instituted the Eucharist. Luke’s account (22:17-23) would lead one to believe that Judas did share in consuming Christ’s body and blood.

 

In Luke, after blessing the bread and wine and indicating that it was now his body and blood, Jesus says: “Behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed” (22:21-22).

 

The other evangelists, though — especially John — would seem to indicate that Judas may have already exited before the Eucharist was celebrated and shared.

 

In John (13:21-30), the apostles are greatly troubled at Christ’s announcement of his betrayal and, in response to their question as to the betrayer’s identity, Jesus says, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”

 

Then, after Jesus had handed the morsel to Judas, Judas “took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.” There is no indication that this took place after the institution of the Eucharist or that that particular morsel was different from the other food consumed at the supper.

 

But if Judas did in fact receive the Eucharist that night, why would Jesus have permitted it? One possibility is that Jesus left Judas free to make the choice and that the burden for the decision would have been on Judas for sharing that sacred food unworthily, since he had already been plotting Christ’s betrayal.

 

Another explanation might be that Judas was already feeling remorse for what he had done, although he clearly chose the wrong way to demonstrate that remorse when, “flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself” (Mt 27:5).

 

Q. My wife and I married 53 years ago and have had nine children. Some of them served on the altar, and all of them went to Catholic schools. Our ninth child was refused for baptism because the priest insisted that my wife had to go to classes first.

I was not a Catholic at the time (I have since converted), and it bothered me a lot. How, I thought, could anyone deny a child the love and protection of God? I felt then that it was wrong, and I still do. Can you help me to understand? (Lincolnshire, England)

 

A. As for the “love and protection of God,” I wouldn’t worry about that part. God would find a way to offer that, even if a child were not baptized. But as to the baptism itself, I agree with you.

 

The Church’s Code of Canon Law indicates that for a baptism “there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion.” This same canon goes on to say that “if such a hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed ... after the parents have been advised about the reason” (Canon 868.1.2).

 

My own view is that the benefit of the doubt should always go to the parents, and I feel supported by the very wording of the canon. (To warrant a delay, says the canon, the hope of a Catholic upbringing must be “altogether lacking.”)

 

In your own situation, I don’t think there was any doubt at all: You were already, in fact, sending your other kids to a Catholic school. As for the baptismal preparation classes, they are surely worthwhile, especially for first-time parents. But for the ninth child, I would guess that your wife already knew a bit about the sacrament.

 

Q. What is the Catholic Church’s policy on having a Catholic marriage ceremony (not a Mass) at a reception venue rather than in a church? (My local pastor says that, even if it’s just a ceremony, it needs to be in a church.) (Roswell, Georgia)

 

A. In answering your question, I am going to assume that both the bride and the groom are Catholic. (If, on the other hand, the marriage involved a Catholic and a Protestant, they would have the option to seek from the Catholic diocese a “dispensation from form,” which could allow a Protestant minister to officiate at the ceremony even in a non-church setting.)

 

For two Catholics, the Church’s Code of Canon Law notes that normally the wedding is to be held in a parish church, but it does allow the local bishop to “permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place” (Canon 1118.2).

 

But my experience has been that most dioceses in most situations are reluctant to give permission for a non-church wedding between two Catholics. The Church tries at a wedding to maintain a sense of the sacred; it views marriage as a sacrament, a commitment made in the eyes of God, with the couple seeking the Lord’s blessing on their lifelong union.

 

I am aware, though, that in 2018 the Archdiocese of Baltimore began allowing weddings in non-church settings (including outdoors) with a bit more frequency. (A June 2018 article in America magazine noted that, in Baltimore’s new policy, the preferred location for weddings was still the home parish of the bride or groom and that locations like bars and nightclubs were still off-limits.)

 

Q. My son, who is 15, keeps asking for a video game called Grand Theft Auto V. After reading some reviews (gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, drug and alcohol abuse), I was not inclined to purchase it for him in good conscience.
 

 

He’s asked now to spend his own money on the game, but I don’t want to be responsible for contributing to something that appears to be of no value spiritually or otherwise. Could playing mature-rated video games also be a cause of sin, like watching movies with mature content? (Wichita, Kansas)

 

A. Video games could of course be an occasion of sin, just as X-rated movies can be. I’ll leave aside the issue of violence and simply mention that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was an avid fan of video violence, as were the Columbine High School perpetrators — though admittedly no one can document a definitive causal connection.

 

I’m not a patron of video games myself, but I trust the letter-writer’s depiction of this one; in fact, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), the industry’s highly regarded “watchdog,” notes that in Grand Theft Auto V “players use pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles and explosives” to kill rival gang members.

 

It adds that “the game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation (and) various sex acts ... that the player’s character procures from a prostitute” with the option for “a topless lap dance in a strip club.” Sadly, Grand Theft Auto V’s publisher boasted that, in the first three of years of this game’s existence, they had shipped more than 75 million copies.

 

Now I ask our readers: Is this the kind of “entertainment” you would want for your 15-year-old son? Our letter-writer acted responsibly in refusing to purchase the video for her son — and she shouldn’t let him buy it with his own money, either.

 

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.

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