Q: I am in my 70s and my younger
son is 30 years younger. Although
he is a very nice person, he has been
very controlling all his life. Now he frequently
tells me what to do and puts
me down. I feel that he is taking advantage
of me. My older son is not in good
What can I do?
When I was younger, this
did not bother me, but now I am developing
an inferiority complex.
A: If you feel that your younger
son’s behavior constitutes elder
abuse, I encourage you to report this
to the office for Adult Protective Services
at your city, county or state
Department of Social Services. The
National Center on Elder Abuse can
be phoned at 202/898-2586 or it can
be reached through www.elderabusecenter.org.
If you do not want to report your
son, you can enlist the help of any
family members, friends or other
people who have witnessed this controlling
behavior. They could be part
of an intervention about his domineering
No one loses the right to be treated
as a person simply because of age. If
you confront your younger son on this
issue, you need to be as calm and factual
as possible, identifying recent incidents
where you feel he was trying to
control you and why you feel that you
were already handling that situation
He may consider his behavior
not as controlling but as helping
you to avoid some problem. Tell him
that you experience the same behavior
as controlling because you feel
smothered by his forceful personality.
If he showed more humility in taking
the same action or making the same
statement, you would probably feel
You may now need the help of other
people more than you did in the past.
You retain the right to be treated as a
person perfectly capable of certain decisions.
He could be right about other decisions
that you should no longer be
making. If so, you should discuss this
with him—and possibly others—to
work these out. Your present discomfort
need not continue.
Q: Why is transubstantiation an important
Catholic doctrine? In other
words, why is it essential to believe that the
bread and wine of the Eucharist turn into
the actual body and blood of Christ before
we partake of it?
A: Christians believed in the mystery
of the Real Presence of Jesus
in the Eucharist for almost 1,200 years
before the Catholic Church at Lateran
Council IV accepted the term transubstantiation as the best description of
the transformation of the bread and
wine that occurs in the Eucharist.
Their “substance” changes but their
“accidents” (color, weight, smell, taste,
etc.) do not. This language, based on
Greek philosophy, expresses the truth
of our faith.
Although members of Orthodox
Churches firmly believe in the Real
Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, they
use the terms metabole (change) or
metousiois (change of essence), as
Gerald O’Collins, S.J., and Edward
Farrugia, S.J., explain in their book
A Concise Dictionary of Theology.
In Western Christianity, controversies
about the Real Presence surfaced in
the 11th and 12th centuries. Serious
challenges to this belief arose in the
16th century during the Protestant
Q: A friend of mine knows a former
Episcopalian priest, originally raised
a Catholic, who would now like to become
a Catholic deacon. Is that possible?
During his college years, this man joined
the Episcopal Church, married and was
ordained there. Eventually he and his wife
came back to the Catholic Church. They are
now faithful Catholics and he teaches at a
Catholic high school.
My friend and this former Episcopalian
priest have heard contradictory statements from Catholic priests about whether he
can become a Catholic deacon. Please
explain what the exact problem is.
A: When a baptized Catholic formally
joins another Christian
denomination, this is called heresy,
defined in Canon 751 as “the obstinate
denial or doubt, after baptism, of
a truth that must be believed by divine
and catholic faith.”
This is an impediment to ordination
(Canon 1041:2), from which only the
Apostolic See can dispense (1047:2).
The Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith handles these requests.
If that dispensation is given, this
man’s local bishop can then allow him
to begin a formation program leading
to ordination as a deacon.
The Catholic Church regards the
decision to join another Christian
denomination as a matter of scandal.
That may not be an insurmountable
Even if becoming a permanent
deacon in the Catholic Church is not
possible for this man, he can serve
the Church in many other ways. His
pastor may have other suggestions.
Q: Is perjury always wrong? When is it
a venial sin or a mortal sin? Can I
have an “interior reservation,” not meaning
what I have to say or sign? I am speaking
here not of the legal but of the moral
A: The very word perjury puts your
question in the legal realm
because perjury is the failure to tell
the whole truth in a court proceeding
or in a legal document. The same action
has both legal and moral consequences.
At times the legal system may not
have a right to compel a full response
to a certain question (for example, asking
for self-incriminating information,
violating doctor-patient confidentiality
or attorney-client privilege, or requiring
a priest to divulge information obtained
while hearing confessions).
Perjury is wrong because “acts such
as these contribute to the condemnation
of the innocent, exoneration of
the guilty or the increased punishment
of the accused” (Catechism of the Catholic
Lying under oath is “a grave matter,”
one of three conditions for a mortal
sin (the other two being full
knowledge and full consent). If a
legal system operates under a dictatorship,
that influences the moral
My July and August columns provided
updates on where in the process each
of 33 “causes” for beatification is. I
have since been informed that Mother
Julia Navarete of San Luis Potosí, Mexico,
who lived for a number of years in
Kingsville, Texas, is officially recognized
as Venerable. She founded the
Congregation of the Missionary Daughters
of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.
The Diocese of Albany, New York,
has now completed its investigation
of Mother Angeline McCrory, founder
of the Carmelite Sisters for the
Aged and Infirm. The diocese has forwarded
her cause to Rome.
The Holy See’s Congregation for the
Causes of the Saints has declared that
the materials sent by the Archdiocese of
New York regarding Cardinal Terence
Cooke’s life, virtues and reputation for
sanctity are valid.
In late 2006, the Diocese of Sacramento
closed its investigation of Most
Rev. Alphonse Gallegos, O.A.R. (1931-1991) and sent those documents to
the Holy See. Having served as an
auxiliary bishop there the last 10
years of his life, Bishop Gallegos
was known for his pastoral care of
the poor, the marginalized and the
Q: Over 60 years ago when I was in grade school, I was led to believe
that the bodies of Catholic saints were preserved incorrupt. When
someone recently questioned me about this, I replied that I don’t
believe that is the case. Was I correct?
A: An incorrupt body is not a requirement for beatification or
canonization. A saint who was cremated (like St. Maximilian
Kolbe) does not have an incorrupt body. Often the exact
graves of martyrs are unknown.
The term incorrupt is sometimes used very generously. In Italy, I have
seen several saints whose bodies looked more like that of a mummy than
an incorrupt human body. In Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov,
even the body of saintly Father Zossima decays quickly. It may challenge
Aloysha’s faith, but it shouldn’t disturb ours. Saints are all miracles of
grace, but very few of them have incorrupt bodies.
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