For lawmakers and nonpracticing Catholics, questions of Communion

Q. I read in the paper that Vice President Joseph Biden and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi both received holy Communion at the Vatican during the installation Mass of Pope Francis, in spite of their pro-choice views on abortion. Is there an official church position on this?(Clifton Park, N.Y.) A. In 2004, Catholic bishops in the United States held long discussions at several meetings on the very issue you raise. With a few bishops in favor of withholding Communion from politicians who favor abortion and the majority against, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to leave such decisions to individual bishops in their dioceses.

A question about the validity of Anglican orders

Q. My wife is a serious Christian and a faithful churchgoer. She is a member of a reverent and active congregation. Her pastor is a man who gave up a lucrative profession to become a priest. My wife receives the Eucharist every Sunday, and she believes fervently in the real presence. As I understand my own Catholic Church's teaching, the Eucharist my wife receives is invalid because she is an Episcopalian and her priest's ordination is invalid. I have a hard time not believing that Christ is present in the bread and wine consecrated by an Episcopal priest. Jesus is supposed to be present when people gather in his name. Doesn't that apply to my wife's church service? (Lynchburg, Va.)

Constant complaining keeps one from noticing Jesus’ presence, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Complaining frequently and stewing over disappointments can easily become an obsession that blocks one’s view of Jesus’ presence in difficult situations, Pope Francis said. Celebrating morning Mass April 3 with staff members from the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis, a nearby residence and guesthouse for clergy, Pope Francis preached about the Gospel story […]

Pope Francis’s prayer intentions for April

General intention: "That the public, prayerful celebration of faith may give life to the faithful." Mission intention: "That mission churches may be signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.”

Unhappy parishioners get incensed every Sunday

Q. How often is a priest supposed to use incense at Mass -- every Sunday or just at special times? Our priest uses a pungent form of incense at each Sunday Mass. A lot of people are allergic to the incense he uses; we have approached him about it, but he seems to ignore the fact that people start coughing and sneezing -- and some even walk out of church. Then he tells us that it is sin to leave early. (A "distressed and allergic parishioner" from Indiana.)

Walk the Way of the Cross through Lent, to holy Week and beyond

It seems early in Lent to be contemplating the Stations of the Cross; we are a month away from Holy Week, from the readings of the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Yet the mystery of Christ’s passion and death is not reserved to one day or one season, but is etched deep into our liturgies and our lives.

Did Jesus baptize anyone? Lectors and the she/he problem

Q. I remember being taught, somewhere in my Catholic training, that the Bible never mentions Jesus baptizing anyone, because our sacrament of baptism commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ and he had not yet died and risen. But I recently came across this passage in John's Gospel (3:22-23): "After this Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim." In Matthew 3:11 though, John says that he is baptizing with water and Jesus will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit. So my question is this: In John 3:22, isn't Jesus baptizing with water, or what else would that quote mean? (Milwaukee, Wis.)

At first Angelus, Pope Francis says God never tires of forgiving

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Citing a distinguished German theologian and an anonymous elderly penitent from Argentina, Pope Francis told an overflow crowd in St. Peter's Square never to despair of God's mercy to sinners. "The Lord never tires of forgiving," the pope said March 17, before leading his listeners in praying the midday Angelus. "It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness."

Reflection and rediscovery in the Year of Faith

Father Adolfo Nicolas, the superior general of the Jesuits, has, in response to Pope Benedict's invitation to a Year of Faith, asked Jesuits worldwide this question: "What do I experience as challenges or obstacles to faith, and what sustains and deepens my faith?" That is worthy of consideration by all Catholics and I'd like to provide some impetus for that reflection.

An answer to non-Catholic son’s question, why is confession necessary?

Q. My son, who is 20 years old, has left the Catholic religion for a Bible-based faith. We have had many lively discussions which we both enjoy, and it has actually helped to reinvigorate my own Catholic beliefs. There is one of his questions, though, which I'm not sure how to answer. He wants to know if the death of Jesus paid in full for the sins of all believers past, present and future, why would God punish someone if they fail to go to confession? (Chesapeake, Va.)