Q. During the current coronavirus pandemic, when we are not obligated to attend Mass, I believe that we should be required to watch the Mass on television when possible. Does this obligation vary from diocese to diocese?
Some people take this dispensation to mean that they don’t have to bother about Mass at all, and I believe that this could lead to lower Mass attendance when the crisis is over. Another concern I have is the possibility of spreading the virus when Communion is given on the tongue. I would be more comfortable if everyone received in the hand. (Athens, Georgia)
A. There is no binding obligation, in any diocese I am aware of, to watch the Mass on television for those who are at home because of the pandemic. However, there is strong encouragement to do so, and I know of many instances where families are making this a part of their regular Sunday routine. I, too, share your concern that some may not come back to regular practice when the crisis is over — although my experience has been that people are eager to return.
As for your worry about those who receive Communion on the tongue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (in an advisory sent in April 2020) said that people should continue to have that option. In the two parishes where I serve, we ask those who prefer to receive on the tongue to wait until the others have received before approaching the altar. That way, I can sanitize my hands anew before and after someone chooses to receive the host on the tongue.
Q. When I was a Protestant, I never heard mention of “original sin.” We were told that each person is responsible for their own sins — and need not even worry about sin until we approached “the age of accountability” (usually said to be about the age of 10). Until then, we were told, people are in a “state of grace” — meaning that, if they died, they would go to heaven.
Now, as a Catholic, I hear original sin mentioned almost weekly and, it seems, we all (from birth on) are held responsible for Adam and Eve’s initial sin in the Garden of Eden — and if we die (kids, too) prior to some kind of salvific experience to erase it, we will go to hell. Could you please help me by explaining original sin more thoroughly? (Indiana)
A. Actually, I am a bit surprised that you heard no mention of original sin during your years as a Protestant. The doctrine of original sin, first articulated precisely by Augustine in the fifth century, was popular with Protestant reformers, including Martin Luther and John Calvin.
The Catholic understanding is that original sin involves no personal guilt on our own part; it simply means that, as a consequence of the fall of our earliest parents, we have been weakened in our ability to resist temptation — we still possess free will, but we are born into the world with an inherited inclination to evil.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense; it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ — a state and not an act” (No. 404). As to your concern about children who die without baptism going to hell, that is not the belief of the church.
In fact, in 2007, the church’s International Theological Commission, with the authorization of Pope Benedict XVI, published a document that concluded explicitly that “there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved.” God, after all, is reasonable; he created people to be happy and wants to bring us to heaven.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103