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August 2018 Posts

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Do I have to take a saint’s name at my Confirmation?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Thursday 23, August 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints

The ruling on Confirmation names borrows from the practice at Baptism. The earlier 1917 Code of Canon Law required a Christian name be used, including saints’ names but also virtues “or the like.” Unfortunately for my mom, her parents chose the name Evelyn, derivative of the biblical Eve. That didn’t sit well with the priest, who exercised his canonical right to add a Christian name, baptizing her as Mary Evelyn Prudentia. “Mary” alone met the requirement; the priest added the third name from the virtue category, just to be on the safe side. The idea of an unfettered Eve really bothered him! Mom never used Mary or Prudence after that day, but they show up on the paperwork.

The most recent Code of Canon Law (1983) softens the requirement by stating that a saint’s name is not required, but the chosen name must not be “foreign to a Christian mentality.” (n.855) That is, it should not be alien or contradictory to Catholic beliefs. So, Buddha and Zoroaster are out, and you probably want to avoid Caiaphas or Nero.

It helps to keep the purpose of the sacrament in mind when claiming your new identity. The sacramental action is an expression of faith. You are embracing a “name in religion”–not unlike the traditional custom of being renamed when joining a religious order. While it may work as your Internet handle, do you really want to ritually declare an identity like “Wonderwoman” or “GameBoy”?

The Roman Ritual notes that in non-Christian regions, any name that has a Christian meaning might be chosen. This broadens the field to include theological words like Grace, Truth, Justice, Nativity, or Cruz. Or place names like Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes. You can select last names of saints as well as first names: Drexel, DePaul, Jogues, McAuley. And if you have more than one favorite saint, there’s no impediment to using a hyphen. Check out under “Creative Catholic Names” for more clever ideas.

In the end, you may find it best to go all old-fashioned and take a saints’ name. As Life Teen advises on its helpful blog about Confirmation names: Choosing a saints’ name is a way of saying, “Yes, you may always pray for my poor and weary soul.” Why travel alone through this world when you can have a friend? Share the journey!

Scriptures: Genesis 2:20, 22-23; 17:5; 35:10; 1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Kings 24:17; Job 18:17; Isaiah 43:1; 48:1-2; 62:2; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-64, 76; 2:21; Matthew 16:17-18; John 1:42; Philippians 2:9-11

Books: Saints and Patrons: Christian Names for Baptism and Confirmation, by Joanna Bogle (Catholic Truth Society, 2012)

The Catholic Baby Name Book, by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur (Ave Maria Press, 2013)

Where does the Catholic teaching on abortion come from?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Thursday 23, August 2018 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

Our faith acknowledges God as the author of life. This understanding makes all life deserving of welcome and respect. As moral theologian James Hanigan explains: “Conception, pregnancy, and birth are not, in the Church’s eyes, private matters as the Supreme Court would have it, but matters of fundamental concern to God and to the entire human community.”

Early church documents (see the Didache and the Letter of Barnabas) categorically prohibited abortions. Christian writer Athenagoras (2nd c.) compared any abortive measures to homicide. Not all church fathers agreed. Jerome and Augustine taught that human life begins when the “scattered elements” form a discernible body, while Basil dismissed distinctions based on fetal development. As late as the first codified canon law (ca. 1140), the gravity of abortion was measured by whether or not the fetus was formed and “ensouled”. The abortion of an unensouled fetus was considered a serious sin, but not grave enough to require excommunication. By 1869, the biology of fertilization was better understood, and canonical distinctions of ensoulment were dropped.

Today, three principles frame the church’s argument against abortion. The first two are not derived from revelation but from science. First, it’s scientifically conceded that a fertilized egg is a genetically unique life. If its progress is not interrupted, this life will eventually be universally identified as a human being. This defines abortion as the evident taking of a human life—a clear violation of the fifth Commandment.

Second, science cannot distinguish a moment in the developmental process in which this genetically unique life departs some preliminary or potential nature to “cross the line” into full humanity. Therefore, attempts to draw that line at a given stage are mere decisions, not actual determinations of humanity. Third, we hold that the fundamental value of human life is not measured by personal achievements, but by our origin and destiny in God. Life in the womb is as valuable to God as the person at life’s end. This is, to God, the same person.

These arguments aren’t about civil rights but about the meaning of life altogether. They don’t pretend to address the social and economic realities faced by women and girls who conceive in undesirable or unsupportive circumstances. Nor do they speak to the real jeopardy sometimes faced by the other inestimably valuable life in the equation of birth, the mother herself. More teaching is needed.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-28; Exodus 20:13; 21:22-23

Books: The Seamless Garment: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life, by Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin (Orbis Books, 2008)

Tough Choices: Bringing Moral Issues Home, by Sean Lynch (Ave Maria Press, 2003)




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