Fr. J. Michael Venditti

Subj: Need Guidance
Date: 94-09-24 14:23:30 EDT
From: James
To: Ask Father


I need help and I don't know where to turn. First of all my name is Jim and am a practicing Catholic. I don't "belong" to a parish per se because I don't like the atmosphere in the church in my parish, so I go to one of the other Churches on Sunday. I really should go sign up with another parish, but I have been thinking of moving to another part of the Chicago area. I am 29 years old, single, never married and still a virgin. Anyway, on to my problem...

I met this woman on AOL about a month ago, and while we have never met, we would like to meet. She is 27 and lives about 25 miles away from my house. We talk often and email even more frequently sending tokens of affection via email. She recently confided in me that after her father died when she was 17, she kind of lost it and married a guy in the Navy. The marriage lasted only 5 months because he got into drugs and she couldn't take it. So she left him.

What are the implications of being involved with this woman? I understand that she went through a great ordeal with her father - She says that they were very close and she needed to get away after he died. She is not that close with her mom. Anyway, I talked this over with my mom, and she says that she is not eligible to marry. Can she get an annulment? I think I could really fall for this woman, but I am kind of scrupulous—no not kind of I am scrupulous, but I wouldn't want it to be wrong in the eyes of God.

She is very nice, but very insecure and I would like to become a close friend with her and maybe more. Please respond ASAP..

BTW: I'm going to talk to a priest in person regarding this coming week, but I wanted to tell someone about it right away.


Dear James,

The whole question depends on whether or not the woman you are interested in was validly married. If either she or her first husband were a baptized Catholic, then they would have to have married in the presence of a priest and two witnesses in order for the marriage to be considered valid. If a Catholic marries before a non-Catholic official without special permission to do so, then the marriage is not valid. In this case, she would be free to marry now.

The whole question depends on whether the person you are interested in was validly married. If either she or her first husband are Catholic, then they would have had to marry in the presence of a priest and two witnesses in order for the marriage to be a valid one.

If neither of them were Catholic, then the Church would have to consider the marriage valid unless proven otherwise through the annulment process, since the Church recognizes the validity of the marriages of non-Catholics to one another.

You are right to be cautious about getting involved with someone until you are certain that she is free to marry. The only way to know that is to have her give all the information she can to your parish priest. Even if she was originally married according to the law of the Church, the background you gave me so far would seem to indicate that a petition for a declaration of nullity is in order, especially with regard to her age at the time of the marriage.

I hope your meeting with your own pastor goes well. If I can be of any other assistance, let me know.

Subj: communion
Date: 94-09-24 16:02:48 EDT
From: Anne
To: Ask Father

Dear Father:

I have spoken to my Monsignor about an annulment. I have gone to confession and been absolved of all my sins (I specifically listed all of them). But I have not yet received an annulment—can I still receive communion? ( I divorced, then married again outside the church, then divorced again) So, my sin of adultery has been absolved, but as I stated the annulment is not official—even though I believe it will be granted. I would like to receive communion again. My parish priests have been very busy lately and I can't seem to reach one before tomorrow's Mass. I'm taking the chance you may sign on tonight. Thanks in advance.

Dear Anne, As I understand from your letter, you have been married twice, once in the Church and once without, and that you are at the moment with no one. If you are not in a sexual relationship at the moment, then there is no reason for you not to frequent the sacraments. The declaration of nullity becomes crucial only in the event that you should seek to marry again.

Subj: Bible—Which version?
Date: 94-09-24 17:56:29 EDT
From: Anne

Hi Father:

Which is the official version of the Bible used by the Catholic church?


Dear Anne, The official version of the Scriptures used by the Catholic Church is the New Latin Vulgate, which replaced St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate about ten years ago. The New Vulgate takes into account advances in history and linguistics since Jerome's first translation of the Scriptures into Latin in the third century. Even so, the Church directs that translations of the Bible into vernacular languages are to be made from the Hebrew and Greek originals in which the various books were written. Questions of interpretation are to be resolved by reference to the New Vulgate, and any translation for the use of Catholics must be approved by the legitimate Catholic authority. There are several English translations of the Bible which are approved for use by Catholics, but no one of them is more official than another. Three English translations, however, have been specifically approved for use in the Liturgy in the United States: The New American Bible, The Jerusalem Bible, and the Revised Standard Version.

Subj: Membership ?
Date: 94-09-29 23:07:38 EDT
From: Linda
To: Ask Father

Father; I was raised Catholic and after college drifted into a rather strict, covenantual church (some call it a cult, but it isn't among the "classic" cultic churches). By reason of "alleged" transgression I was ex-communicated (though I had probably become alienated anyway by then). Went back to Catholic Church, local parish priest said confession was good enough to "get back in". Spent several years growing/learning/loving/rediscovering my real home. Something inside me wanted to "set the record straight", so I reapplied for membership in the other church—going through some rather lengthy repentance/re-formation/indoctrination procedures and was finally accepted back into full fellowship. After really trying to make it work for about another 6 months I realized that I could no longer stay in a church when I knew that I knew that the Eucharist is, indeed, the Real Presence and so I requested that my name be removed from the membership records of the other church.

(Emphasize: international records are kept, I requested complete removal, not just "take me off parish mailing list"; in essence I requested formal excommunication.) I felt I had to do that to feel free to and "right" about coming home to the Catholic Church for good. Moved domiciles in the meantime, so new parish priest, under the bounds of sacrament of reconciliation, said I needed to do nothing, just to come to Church .... and register in the parish if I felt so inclined. So I did both because I really wanted/want to be actively involved in the Church. Now, I find that my name was never removed from the records of the other church ... and I feel somewhat like a hypocrite in some of the service ministries I'm in ... like RCIA, EM, lector ... I've sent a strongly worded letter to the other organization demanding that the action I requested be taken immediately without further hesitation. I'm probably overreacting, but am I on shaky ethical/moral grounds continuing in my Church activity knowing that my name is still on the rolls of the other group? The last thing in the world I want to do is anything that would even hint at the slightest disrespect for our Lord, the Church, the sacraments. (NO chance anyone here would ever find out even by accident due to great geographic distances involved.) Thanks for listening.


Dear Linda, The new Code of Canon Law recommends that someone who has left the Church to practice in another faith should be admitted back into the Church in some public way consistent with the publicity of their leaving in the first place, usually by making a profession of faith in the presence of witnesses. But this is usually done at the discretion of the priest; and, if you parish priest has indicated that you need only go to confession, then that is sufficient in your case. I understand your concern that your name remains on the books of the other community to which you belonged, but this should not cause you concern. The Catholic Church pays no heed to these records, and you name on them does not in any way cause a difficult. My advise would be to ignore it. Thanks for your letter.

Fr. M

Date: 94-10-01 07:02:42 EDT
From: Angel
Ask Father:

Could you give me a brief summary of what caused the split between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Churches and a little information on how the Eastern Churches now differ from Rome?


Dear Angel,

For a great part of the history of early Christianity, practices differed between Christians in the East and the West, initiated by the transfer of the seat of the empire from Rome to Byzantium by Constantine. As the Church continued to spread the Gospel message Westward throughout Europe, it adapted and absorbed the cultures and traditions of the various people it encountered, while the Church in the East, for the most part, sought to cling to their own more traditional practices and customs. The two most important differences, and those which caused the greatest amount of friction between East and West, were the decisions of the Church in the West to adapt to the pagan calendar in use throughout most of Europe, and to translate the liturgy into the common language of most believers by that time, which was Latin. The East, for its part, clung to the old Christian calendar and the use of Greek as a liturgical language. With the most important feasts being celebrated on different days, and in different languages, the unity of the Church was strained. Individual bishops in the East floated in and out of unity with the Catholic Church for many centuries. The intense rivalry between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople fueled many disputes, the latter of the two believing strongly that the seat of the Church and the seat of the government should co-exist together in one place, the former maintaining that the establishment of the See of Rome by the Prince of the Apostles fixed that city as the center of the Church. When the final schism finally occurred, in 1054, the real reasons were almost all political, though theological ones were often given as the excuse. The famous "filioque" clause of the creed, for example, which is often cited as the reason for the break, was a point of dispute only among a few Eastern bishops and never hotly contested by the majority of Orthodox, even today. The name "Orthodox Church" was introduced only at the time of the final schism as a means of distinguishing the new Church from the Nestorians and Monophysites who had separated from the Catholic Church long before, and whose doctrines the Orthodox and Catholics both rejected. Four hundred years later, at the Council of Florence, the Catholic Church followed suit by coining the phrase "Holy Roman Church," to emphasize acceptance of Rome as a condition for complete unity. Because they share in the true sacraments of Christ, the Catholic Church recognizes a special relationship with the Orthodox. Their priesthood is a true priesthood, and their sacraments, including the Eucharist, are recognized as valid. There are, however, many important differences, chief among them the whole theology of marriage and the question of the primacy of the Pope (the former posing even more a barrier to unity than the latter). The Orthodox maintain a married clergy, though celibacy was certainly the norm at the time of the schism. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, St. Josephat labored to bring many Orthodox Christians back to unity with Rome. Those who heard his call were offered an opportunity to keep their liturgical and cultural traditions (including a married clergy), forming what are known today as the various "Eastern Rites" of the Catholic Church. For this reason, every individual rite in Orthodoxy has a corresponding counterpart in the Catholic Church. An Armenian Catholic liturgy, for example, will not appear at all different from an Armenian Orthodox liturgy, even though the one group is part of the Catholic Church and the other is not.

Subj: Re: Welcome back to Ask Father
Date: 94-10-01 22:38:41 EDT
From: Homoousion

What order do you belong to? I was interviewed for the priesthood some years ago by the Augustinians, Holy Ghost Fathers, Jesuits, and the Dominicans... of whom I had a lively debate with re: Savonarola.


Dear Homoousion, I do not belong to a religious order. I am what is commonly called a diocesan or "secular" priest, as opposed to a priest in a religious order who is referred to as a "regular" priest (from the Latin "regula" meaning rule, which is a reference to the rule of life practiced by members of religious institutes). Secular priests are ordained specifically for the service of a particular diocese, and will typically spend their whole lives there. Like religious priests, they make promises of celibacy and obedience; but, unlike religious priests, they answer directly to the bishop of the diocese as their immediate superior, and do not take a vow of poverty, leaving them free to own property and manage their own financial affairs. The vast majority of secular priests serve in parish ministry. More than 70% of all Catholic priests are secular priests.

Subj: Re: Homily part II
Date: 94-10-02 15:03:12 EDT
From: Angel

Dear Father,

Thank you for your Homily.

You ask: "How many of us are even aware of the fact that we are required to do penance every Friday."

Regretfully include me in this group. Could you please elaborate on this requirement ?

Thank you

Dear Angel, The current regulations with regard to penitential disciplines were first introduced by Pope Paul VI in the decree "Poenitemini," and later incorporated into the Code of Canon Law. Herein it is stated that all Fridays of the year are to be regarded as days of penitence, in consideration of the fact that it is on this day our Lord died. The law states that the faithful should abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year, but that on Fridays outside the season of Lent, the National Episcopal Conference may replace the abstention from meat with some other sacrifice. The bishops of the United States have left it up to each individual to decide for himself if he wants to make a substitution on any given Friday, and to choose what that substitute will be. If no substitution is made, then the abstinence from meat must be observed. On Fridays during the season of Lent, the option of substituting another penance is not available, and the abstinence from meat must be observed by everyone. All the regulations regarding fasting and abstaining from meat apply only to those Catholics in good health between the ages of 14 and 65.

Subj: Modernism/Encyclical
Date: 94-10-02 11:51:27 EDT
From: Renko

Hi Father—I'm a newcomer to AOL and look forward to the benefits of the Ask Father forum. I understand that there is a papal encyclical issued in the early 1900s dealing with modernism in the world. I'm told that this encyclical clearly points to where we've arrived today—morally, spiritually, etc.. What is the name of this document? Who was the pope that wrote it? I'd appreciate any comments that you're willing to offer about the subject and/or the encyclical. Last, how does one go about getting a copy of this document?

Thanks in advance for your efforts.

God Bless You!

Dear Renko, There are four documents to which you could be referring... In 1899, Pope Leo XIII wrote an apostolic letter to Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore in which he deplored a movement that has since come to be known as "Americanism." Historians often criticize Leo for condemning a heresy which did not, at the time, exist (in fact, there is some question whether the specific accusation made against the Methodist convert, Isaac Hecker, had any basis in fact). Nevertheless, many now regard this document to have been prophetic; and, Fr. John Hardon, in his history of the Church in the 20th century, states that it could have just as easily been written 75 years later. The letter, the official title of which is "Testem Benevolentiae," deals with a whole catalog of related errors, principally the notion that the active virtues are superior to the infused theological virtues, and also the notion that the Church has no right to teach that which is required for salvation. The term "modernism" as such does not appear until the reign of Pope St. Pius X who, in 1907, issued the decree "Lamentabili," which condemned specific articles of modernism. Later that same year, Pius issued a follow-up encyclical, "Pascendi," which explained the errors of the modernists in more detail, and discussed the previous decree from a more theological point of view. It was at this time that he also required all priests, prior to their ordination, to take an oath against the articles of modernism condemned in "Lamentabili." 43 years later, Pope Pius XII issued his famous encyclical, "Humani Generis," subtitled "False Trends in Modern Teaching." This document dealt with many of the same issues as the previous ones, in addition to some new ones. All of these documents can be found either in the Acta Apostolicae Sedes for those respective years, or in the book "The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church," which is readily available, published by Alba House in New York. Thanks for your post.

Subj: Reconciliation and Spiritual Direction
Date: 94-10-05 08:18:50 EDT
From: Marybeth

Father, I have read that we should go to the same confessor regularly and that we should tell the priest the same, i.e. you will be going to them regularly (another priest also mentioned this during a retreat conference). Do you need to tell the priest this? I assume it is so that the spiritual direction would be consistent, that is so that the priest would know where you were "coming from". But how could this be since the priest doesn't know who you are? And how would you tell a priest this anyway? Also, when you have questions about your spiritual life do you discuss them before or after absolution? Thanks.

Dear Marybeth, Certainly it is never necessary to see that you go to the same confessor repeatedly. Many people, however, find that doing so helps them to grow in grace, especially if they find a confessor who is helpful to them. But the relationship between spiritual direction and confession has always been debated. Some priests believe, as I do, that there is an intrinsic relationship between spiritual direction and confession, and that one's director should also be one's confessor (which would, by the way, require that one's director be a priest). Other's, particularly those who do not believe that the director must be a priest, maintain that it is not necessary to combine the two, and will often keep spiritual direction and confession separate occasions. Most Catholics, of course, do not avail themselves of spiritual direction in any case. For those that do, it can be approached in any number of ways, depending on what kind of relationship one wants to have with one's director. Some find it sufficient simply to go to the same priest for confession regularly, and may or may not find it necessary to even inform him of the fact that they are coming to him regularly. Those who, however, wish a more consistent approach may do better to approach a priest outside of confession and make arrangements with him for direction at a regular time. Confession, then, would take place not at the regularly scheduled time, but in the context of direction, and face to face. Those uncomfortable with face to face confession would probably prefer the former approach. When confession takes place in the context of spiritual direction, then the Rite of Penance can be adapted accordingly. For example, one might discuss with one's director whatever needs to be discussed in an informal manner, then the director can conclude by giving absolution for any sins that have been discussed. Naturally, the seal of confession would have to apply to everything discussed in direction, and the penitent would have to be sure that he or she added any sins that may not have come up in the course of the conversation before absolution is given. I hope this answers your question. Thanks for posting.

Subj: The Unconverted
Date: 94-10-08 10:17:47 EDT
From: Arcane

Suppose there is a small island somewhere and on it a man. This man is not a Christian in fact he only believes in a "great Spirit". Suppose further that this man is a just, honest, hardworking fellow who loves his family and friends. He is faithful to his wife, helps others and does unto them what he would have done to him. The man "prays" to the great Spirit but knows absolutely nothing of Jesus or the Saints or Christianity.

In short, this man lives a life as Jesus would have us live.

The man dies; would he not be welcomed into Heaven?

Does this mean that God only welcomes Christians into heaven?

What about Hindus, American Indians, etc... all who perhaps "coincidentally" lead lives that Jesus asked us to live including acknowledging a one, true God or "great Spirit"?

Dear Arcane, The Catholic Church has always recognized what the ancient Fathers of the Church called the "baptism of desire." What this means is that someone who, through no fault of his own, is ignorant of Christ and his Gospel can still be saved in the presumption that they would have accepted the truth had they been given that opportunity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "'Outside the Church there is no salvation.' How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Reformulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his body." Then, quoting the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism continues: "'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—these too may achieve eternal salvation'" (CCC, #856-7).

Subj: Kneeling at the Consecration & after Communion
Date: 94-10-17 15:52:34 EDT
From: Emily
To: Ask Father

I like to kneel at these times...a hold over from when I was younger...

The Deacon's wife handed me a copy of instructions today concerning the proper way to attend Mass...what we are to do...sit or stand or kneel...

I feel a bit insulted over the whole thing...

Am I wrong in adoring God the way I choose too?

She and her husband don't think I am participating with the group...the article basically said I was doing my own thing and not joining in with the rest of the parishioners...

Comments please...
one who likes to kneel in adoration....

Dear Emily, The Roman Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship has had occasion, from time to time, to answer questions of a liturgical nature regarding the proper celebration of Mass. The following questions, with their answers, may prove helpful to you. They are taken from the Appendix of the 1982 edition of the General Instruction to the Roman Missal:

21. QUEREY 1: After communion should the faithful be seated or not? REPLY: After communion they may either kneel, stand, or sit. Accordingly the GIRM no. 21 give this rule: "The people sit...if this seems useful during the period of silence after communion." Thus it is a matter of option, not obligation. The GIRM no. 121, should, therefore, be interpreted to match no 21: Not. 10 (1974) 407.

QUEREY 2: Should the people a. stand during the prayer over the gifts; b. kneel after the Sanctus and during the entire Eucharistic Prayer; c. sit after communion? REPLY: As usual the GIRM gives simple rules to solve these questions (GIRM no. 21): a. The people stand while the presidential prayers are being said, therefore, during the prayer over the gifts. b. They also stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, except the consecration. The practice is for the faithful to remain kneeling from the epiclesis before the consecration until the memorial acclamation after it. c. The people may sit during the silence after communion. The points determined are in no way to be considered trivial, since their purpose is to ensure uniformity in posture in the assembly celebrating the Eucharist as a manifestation of the community's unity in faith and worship: Not. 14 (1978) 302-202.

I hope you find these citations helpful.

Subj: fasting
Date: 94-10-18 12:25:54 EDT
From: Albert

Fr., When we are told to "pray and fast" over something what type of fast should we follow? I realize that just giving up snack foods, etc. are considered by some to be a fast...but I would like specific information on the more traditional fasts...and on how long fasts should last. Also, what type of fast should be followed during advent? Thank you.

Dear Albert, The word "fast" can mean several things. In it's strictest form, to fast means to go totally without food for a certain period of time. In the context of that "fast" which is required of us on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the word has a more narrow meaning, however. Here, the Church defines fasting as taking only one full meal during the day, with other food taken at other times not to total more than the one full meal. This law of fasting on these two days binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year (Code of Canon Law, Can. 1252). There is no prescribed law of fast for the season of Advent. The rules about fasting are not to be confused with those regarding the abstention from meat, which are different, and which apply on all Fridays according to the norms of the local episcopal conference, and universally on Fridays during Lent. Regarding the practice of fasting in general, the Catechism states: "The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom, they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: efforts at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity 'which covers a multitude of sins' (1 Peter 4:8)" (CCC, no. 1434).

Subj: return to the church
Date: 94-10-18 22:46:40 EDT
From: Amy

Dear Father,

About a year ago, I went to my parish to sign up for classes offered to those who wanted to return to the Church or convert to Catholicism. Because I have been living with a man for over 15 years, I had to speak with the Monsignor. After a lengthy discussion pertaining to marriage and children, Monsignor said he would not allow me to participate in these classes because I might raise doubts in the minds of those attending. Father, I was honest and sincere when I spoke with Monsignor, yet I left that day feeling as if I did not give him the answers he wanted to hear. I realize I may be wrong about this, but I felt no concern on his part for my spiritual struggle.... only a need to protect the Church; (which I do understand to some extent). My whole reason for attending classes is to come to a better understanding of the faith in which I was baptized. I can learn a lot by studying on my own, but I feel I also need the Church and her guidance. When you participate in these classes, are you not allowed to ask questions or express doubt??? I can understand the need to meditate on Church teachings, but I cannot understand not being able to discuss it as well. I would appreciate your comments...

Also, if I marry my common law husband outside of the Catholic Church (he is not a Christian nor does he subscribe to any organized religion) does this mean I can never be a Catholic? If we do not raise children in the faith, does this mean I can never be a Catholic?

One more question, Father, and I thank you for being so patient... Is the New King James bible used in the Catholic Church and how is it different from what I've seen referred to as a Catholic bible?

Many Blessings,

Dear Amy, Unfortunately, I cannot answer to the attitude of the priest with whom you spoke. I can only say that if you had knocked on my door, I would have welcomed you to the classes and encouraged you to attend Mass, only making sure that you understood clearly that, in your current situation, you cannot receive the sacraments. Indeed, the Church has emphasized time and again the need to continue ministry to those who do not have access to the sacraments because of such situations, including the divorced and remarried. Assuming that both you and your partner are free to marry, I would probably try to move you toward resolving that situation one way or another; but, that would not be a requirement for seeking the guidance and support of the Church, nor of attending classes, which I would regard as an act of good faith toward conversion of ways. With regard to marrying your common law husband outside the Church, you should understand that, while the Church recognizes marriages between two non-Catholics as valid, a Catholic is required to marry in the presence of a priest and two witnesses, even if he or she marries a non-Catholic. Permission to do otherwise must be obtained by the bishop, through the local parish priest. Without this, the Church would not recognize the marriage as valid. With regard to raising children in the faith, whenever a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, he or she is required to sign an oath to do all that is possible to have their children baptized into the Catholic faith and provide for their religious instruction. No penalty is applied should these efforts fail, however. Regarding the Bible, the New King James Bible is not used in Catholic worship. Catholic liturgical law in the United States approves three versions of Scripture for liturgical use: the New American Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition). You will notice that Catholic Bibles contain seven books and parts of books that are not contained in most Protestant Bibles, or which are set aside as "apocrypha." The reason for this is that when the Catholic Church defined the Canon of Scripture at the Council of Trent in 1546, they recognized a Greek version of the Old Testament known as the "Septuagint" as the authoritative version of the Hebrew Scriptures, an Aramaic translation of which was the edition of the Scriptures familiar to our Lord and the Jews of his time. The Protestant reformers, on the other hand, chose to recognize a canon of Hebrew Scripture which was put together by Palestinian Rabbis 100 years after Christ, and which excluded any books that were not written in Hebrew, in Palestine. Hence, a Catholic Bible will include Old Testament books which were written during the Babylonian Captivity in Greek, such as Wisdom, Sirach, parts of Esther, several minor prophets, and the two books of Macabees. [For your own personal reading, you're free to read whatever version you like, as the above only applies to liturgical use in church.]

I hope this answers your questions. I also sincerely hope that you will seek out another priest, perhaps in another parish, for guidance, and not be discouraged by the reception you received initially.