Father Kenneth Doyle

Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. Are priests allowed to edit the scriptural readings at Mass? Recently our priest, when reading a Gospel about marriage, cut off the verses that say, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

I can understand that the priest might feel uncomfortable, thinking that this passage could offend some of those who hear it, but aren’t priests supposed to read the Scriptures as they are? Sometimes we need to hear direct teaching, even if it offends us. (Indiana)

A. Priests are sometimes given the option, in the official guidelines of the church, to use shorter forms of the liturgical readings. But the priest in question was not empowered to do what he did. Generally, when a choice is offered, it is meant to keep the congregation’s interest by shortening what would otherwise be an overly long passage — not to avoid verses that might be controversial or challenging.

By exception, though, on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time of Year B (Aug. 23, 2015), the reader was allowed to skip the part of Ephesians that included the verse, “As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.” The reason is that Paul made that observation in a much different cultural context that, thankfully, no longer applies.

By contrast, the earlier passage you mention in Mark’s Gospel (about divorce) reflects Jesus’ statement of an enduring theological truth.

Q. I understand that during the upcoming papal-declared year, we can seek plenary indulgences for the dead. Naturally, as I age, I have more and more friends who have died. What a wonderful thing if I could include them in this. Is it possible to gain multiple plenary indulgences for the deceased and, if so, how do I accomplish this? (Hull, Massachusetts)

A. Pope Francis has declared an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy that begins on Dec. 8, 2015, and closes on Nov. 20, 2016. A holy year is also known as a jubilee year.

Among the privileges granted to the faithful during this Holy Year of Mercy is the opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence, which is the remission of all of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. This indulgence can also be applied to the deceased — to whom, in the words of Pope Francis, “we are bound … by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us.”

In the past, indulgences during a holy year normally required a pilgrimage to Rome and a visit to one of the papal basilicas, but for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, the pope has determined that a visit to a diocesan cathedral or designated local church will suffice, together with the reception of the sacrament of penance and Communion, as well as a profession of faith and prayers for the intention of the pope.

(Pope Francis has taken care to extend the privilege to those who are precluded from visiting one of the designated churches, e.g., those who are homebound or incarcerated.)

A unique element this time is that the pope has also granted the jubilee indulgence to those who perform the traditional spiritual and corporal works of mercy (sheltering the homeless, for example, or comforting the sorrowful.)

As to your question about “multiple” beneficiaries, the jubilee indulgence may be obtained only once a day. (A single sacramental confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but receiving Communion and praying for the intentions of the pope are required for each indulgence.)


Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.