Archive for December 23, 2010

Some Q & A(s)

Posted: December 23, 2010 by CatholicJules in Questions & Answers

Answers By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem

Q. In a previous answer, you said it’s permissible to confess sins already confessed and absolved, as long as it’s not done out of scrupulosity. I admit that it might be good to recall past sins in order to grow in gratitude for God’s forgiveness, but how is it appropriate to confess them again?

A. In 1304, Pope Benedict XI, in the constitution Inter Cunctas Sollicitudines taught: “Even though it is not necessary to do so, we judge it spiritually helpful to confess the same sins over again on account of the contrition, which is a great part of this sacrament.” The “matter” of the sacrament of penance is contrition for sin, the sin is only the necessary motive for the sorrow. Thus any confession which increases contrition, as well as our purpose of amendment, is helpful to the fruitful reception of the sacrament. As we grow in the love of God, reflecting on our past sins, even though they are forgiven, strengthens our resolve to avoid sin, it deepens our sorrow for our sins, and it can make our reception of the sacrament more effective in rooting out the remaining sources of sin in us.


Q. When I hear that the devil can tempt us, I am frightened. Is he able to get inside of us and make us sin? Can he force us to give in to his temptations?

A. The only way that the devil can tempt us is, in principle, the way in which other human beings can tempt us. He can approach us only from the “outside,” through our senses and sense imagination and memory. The devil cannot force our spiritual will or our immaterial intellect. He can only work on the aspects of our soul which are completely dependent on physical sensation. The difference with the devil is that, being by nature an angel (although a fallen one) he is able to “see” into our imagination and memory, even though we may not be expressing their contents by words or actions. This gives him a slight advantage, more ammunition, to use against us. However, he never is able to be sure we have really given in, because he can only guess whether we have given full consent or completely understand, or have reflected sufficiently that what we have done or want to do is sinful. This is because he cannot see our intellect or will. This can only be seen by God. This is why the earliest teachers on Christian prayer and spiritual discipline, the Fathers of the Desert, emphasize how important control of our imagination is in fighting the devil. By constant prayer, by short aspirations prayed inwardly or out loud as we go about our daily work, short prayers like “My Jesus, Mercy” or “Mary, Help,” by thinking about the life of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Saints, by avoiding useless words and images on TV and radio, we can clean up our imagination, and give the devil less to work on. We will recognize temptations more easily, and reject them more successfully, if we have a purer inner life. The best example of this is Our Lord and Our Lady. When the devil tempted Christ, he was not sure He was the Son of God and Messiah. This means that Our Lord had so complete a control of His imagination that nothing entered there which he did not want to, so the devil was perplexed at a man with an imagination and memory so pure and holy, so he was forced to come out into the open and ask. (What a humiliation for him, and a lesson for us!) In World War II, there were posters with sinking ships over the caption “somebody talked.” If we can quiet our imagination by prayer and silence, we can avoid many an attack of the evil one. Lets remember the words of St. Peter: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little” (1 Peter 5:8-10).


Q. A nun recently told me its possible that we have more than one life on earth, through reincarnation. I showed her paragraph 1013 in the Catechism, which says there is no such thing as reincarnation. She shrugged and said that teaching is “non-infallible” and were free to hold other opinions. Is reincarnation compatible with the Catholic Faith?

A. The problem with reincarnation isnt’ that a soul could be reunited with a body after death. After all, Christians believe in exactly that: the resurrection of the dead, in which our souls will be reunited with our bodies.
The problem is that reincarnation entails the notion that the body is not an essential aspect of the human person, but only a shell, or an instrument of the spiritual soul. The Church solemnly defined at the Council of Vienna in 1312 that the human soul is not only a spirit, but is per se and essentially the form of a body. The council taught that the contrary view was heretical. The Catechism (CCC #365) quotes this definition of the fifteenth ecumenical council. Our Catholic Faith presents death as a tragic consequence of sin, not as a natural passage from one state to another. Christ’s death triumphs over the death brought about by sin by rising from the dead in His own identical body. So too our future resurrection will be the same body which we now are, materially reconstituted by the ministry of angels and reunited with the soul by the miraculous power of Christ. Resurrection in the same body means the re-uniting of body and soul (CCC #997), not the taking on of a new body not previously our own. Reincarnation has a tantalizing attraction for many since it satisfies their curiosity about themselves without coming to grips with the permanent, everlasting nature of our bodily individuality. Christianity believes so strongly that the body is an essential part of our makeup and happiness, that even God, to redeem us had to take on flesh, die, and rise again, and feed us with His own Body. The Fathers say “Christ did not redeem what He did not assume.” The Incarnation and Resurrection are the Catholic responses to the error of reincarnation. Archbishop Christoph Scho‘nborn of Vienna (the main architect of the Catechism) has written a book on reincarnation, available from Ignatius Press of San Francisco.