Father Kenneth Doyle

Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church, along with other religious organizations, is helping to relocate Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees, of whom more than 90 percent are Muslim. Shouldn’t saving persecuted Christians from this region be the priority?

The church has to realize that, as terrorism by these refugees continues to escalate here at home, the church will become an accomplice in these acts. I lost an acquaintance (a Messianic Jew) in the San Bernardino, California, massacre. Some of these Muslims will participate in terrorist acts, and an even larger percentage — though quietly passive — will support such terrorism.

I have written to Catholic Charities, my diocesan newspaper and the League of Bishops expressing my concerns but have received no response. Now I no longer donate to Catholic Charities — or to any collection when I do not know fully what my money supports. I no longer contribute to Catholic education since I learned that one diocese has provided a “prayer room” at a Catholic high school for the Muslim students.

The church will have much to answer for, as Muslim attacks continue to go logrithmic (sic) in this country. The actions of my church have led me to a personal “crisis of faith.” Does the Bible, or do the teachings of Jesus, ever tell us that we should willfully provide for our own demise? (City of origin withheld)

A: Normally I would not choose to run a letter like this because of its blatant bias. But realism causes me to worry that there may be other readers who share some of the feelings expressed, so I prefer to respond.

No, we needn’t choose to participate in our demise. Pope Francis, in his address to diplomats in January 2016, called for nations to “find the right balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants.”

“The idea of only taking Christian refugees is contrary to what we stand for as an immigrant nation.”

In the past five years, at least 4 million Syrians have fled their country as a consequence of the civil war and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group. Children make up more than half of those displaced, and they have paid the heaviest price.

According to data gathered by Catholic Relief Services, “many have witnessed violence and the loss of homes or loved ones; the vast majority have been out of school for years.”

Christian humanitarian groups such as CRS and World Vision, which are on the ground helping refugees, do not distinguish between Christians and non-Christians; they simply serve all who are desperately seeking a home.

American priest Jesuit Father Tom Smolich, the international director of Jesuit Refugee Services, said, “The idea of only taking Christian refugees is contrary to what we stand for as an immigrant nation.”

To view Muslims generically as terrorist sympathizers is not only irresponsible but wildly inaccurate. In a 2014 Christmas letter, Pope Francis noted that “Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence.”

In November 2015, Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, echoed that observation: “These refugees are fleeing terror themselves,” he said. “They are extremely vulnerable families, women and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”

Q. What can one do with old missals that no longer follow the current Mass? I have one from when I was young (I am now 71) and even one from my mother, who is long gone. I know that I cannot throw them out. Does one burn them? I asked my parish priest, who did not seem to know. (Columbia, Maryland)

A. In November 2011, when the revised Roman Missal rendered obsolete the Sacramentary and Lectionary, which the church had used for decades, the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was asked by many parishes what should be done with the old books. It recommended that they be buried in an appropriate location on parish grounds or, in the alternative, that the books first be burned and the ashes then buried.

But that advice was predicated on the fact that those books might well have been blessed, since the church’s Book of Blessings does provide a ritual for blessing official liturgical books to be used at Mass.

Your situation, though, is different. Presumably your old missal, and your mother’s, were never blessed. So I don’t think that you should feel any obligation to burn them. (In fact, it might be dangerous for you to try!)

And can you imagine if all books or booklets that contained Mass texts had to be burned and/or buried — including the hundreds of thousands of seasonal missalettes that move into obsolescence each year?

You may dispose of your missals in whatever respectful way you choose — but you might first ask whether your parish library might want them for their historical value.


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