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Rockford, Illinois
March 10, 1961     The Observer
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March 10, 1961

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PAGE 12 THE OBSERVER FRIDAY, MARCH i0, 1961 THEOLOGY FOR EVERY MAN 0 0 The :following commentary ot~ .fast and abstinence was pre- Staved at St. Joh,'s Seminary, Brighton, Mass. It is reprinted from the Boston Pilot. The following commentary, explaining the spirit of the season of Lent, has been prepared as a guide for those who wish to broaden their understanding of the spiritual signifi- cance of this penitential season. Q. HAS THE OBLIGATION OF FASTING AND ABSTIN. ENCE BEEN dNULLIFIED BY RECENT DISPENSATIONS AND BY CHANGES IN THE LAW? A. There have been no changes in the laws of fast and abstinence as they're set down in the Code of Canon Law which was promulgated in 1918. The Code itself makes pro- visions for dispensations from the law, and recent decrees of the Holy See have greatly extended the power of local or- dinaries to grant dispensations in favor of all who reside within their territory, or who are actually present therein. In individ- ual cases dispensations may be given which will apply to all situations in which the law is of obligation. Provision is made also for granting dispensation for certain extraordinary rea- ons which would affect the entire community over which a local ordinary has jurisdiction. The Power of the Ordinary to grant general dispensations from the laws of fast and abstinence is, however, subject to certain limitations. The law of abstinence must be observed on all Fridays, and the law of fast and abstinence must be observed on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the vigils of the Immacu- late Conception and Christmas. No Ordinary, therefore, is em- powered to dispense his people completely from the laws of fast and abstinence; this would be equivaIent to abrogating the law in favor of those to whom the dispensation would be given. ! It should be remembered, therefore, that the laws of fast and abstinence as set down in the Code of Canon Law continue to exist, and that dispensations granted from it are of their very nature temporary. The power of dispensation which local Ordinaries possess is itself limited and must be renewed at stat- ed intervals. Should the Holy See decide not to renew the faculties by which dispensations are granted, the regulation of the question of .fast and abstinence would revert to the pro- visions of the general law. These facts should be kept in mind as questions arise regard- ing the present status of the laws on fast and abstinence. It should also be kept in mind that the granting of dispensations, even by ttiose who have the just and necessary faculties, re- quires a just and reasonable cause. When such a cause is not present, the granting of dispensations in virtue of power dele- gated by the Holy See is not only unlawful but invalid, accord- ing to general principles of canonical jurisprudence. Great care must be exercised, therefore, by those whom the Church authorizes to grant dispensations from the laws of fast and abstinence. Dispensations should never be granted merely in view of the ordinary difficulties connected with the ob- servance of the law. Nor should dispensations be granted un- less, in the territory in which they will apply, the just and reasonable cause which will make them lawful and valid is verified in relation to the greater part of the community. Any changes in the law itself should be made by the Holy See, not by way of dispensations granted by local ordinaries. If and when the laws of fast and abstinence should be found to be generally difficult of observance, or if and when they cannot be observed by the majority of the community without serious inconvenience, a petition should be sent tothe Holy See for changes in the law which would settle the difficulty on a perma- nent basis. A situation in which dispensattons are granted repeatedly, or are granted on a permanent basis in favor of the entire community, is legally incongruous, Of its very nature, a dis* pensation should apply to cases which those who make the law could not be expected to foresee, and which will be either of passing duration, or of application to only a relatively small number of those for whom the law is made. penance, however, which are not the object of ecclesiastical legislation cannot be substituted on one's own authority ior those which the law explicitly c~mmands. Hence Those who are bound by the laws of fast and absti- nence, and who are not properly dispensed, or excused for reasons of sufficient importance, must obey the laws in their literal requirements. It is quite true that it is possible to ob- serve an ecclesiastical law, such as those under discussion, with- out willing virtuously the fulfillment of the law, and with com- plete disregard for the purposes for which the law is made. One who takes this attitude towards the law is free of the sin which would be committed by violation of the law. He could not, however, gain the merit which virtuous observance of the law would deserve. That such an apparently- contradic- tory association of legally correct conduct with indifference for the purposes of the law can exist, is a defect which must neces- sarily attach to all kinds of human legislation. This defect does not, however, open the way for disregard for the law by those who would think it possible to achievd the pur- .pose of the law in some more effective manner. We may do more than the law demands, and we are deserving of great praise when we do so for virtuous motives. We are violating the law, however, when we knowingly and freely disregard it. Any such violation of the lawmust be considered as sinful when it occurs without a sufficient' reason. We cannot be excused from sin on the ground that we may have found a better way than the law prescribes for gaining the purposes to which the law is directed. Q. HAS THE CHURCH ACQUIESCED TO MODERN SOFT- NESS BY GRANTING DISPENSATIONS FROM THE LAWS OF FAST AND ABSTINENCE, INSTEAD OF INSISTING MORE STRONGLY ON THE RELATION OF THESE LAWS TO THE PRACTICE OF PENANCE? A. The obligation of doing penance is imposed by divine-law. It is an essential requirement of our fallen human nature; it is explicitly insisted upon in both the Old and the New Testaments. Ecclesiastical laws such as those of fast and abstinence merely indicate the particular circumstances in which the divine obliga- tion of doing penance may be appropriately fulfilled. The purpose of these laws is always to help people to do what God wants them to do. It is not strictly necessary that the divine law of doing penance should be supplemented and specified by human legisla- tion. Nevertheless, the Church is divinely authorized to deter- mine the circumstances in which acts of penance are to be per- formed by laws which must be observed under pain of sin by all to whom they apply Moreover, the Church is bound to emphasize the divine law of penance when it seems in danger of being overlooked or disre- garded by large numbers of the faithful. It is conceivable thal there would be reasons why the authorities of the Church might wish to mitigate the existing laws of fast and abstinence. It is conceivable too that the spiritual welfare of the faithful might a a Scientific Coating for Office, School and Display Windows "SOLARPAQUE" Allows daylight to stream through your win- dows but filters and subdues the damaging power of the sun's rays. Cuts air conditioning costs; reduces glare and heat. Prevents fading damage. Available in color tints. For Complete Details Dial WO 5-2482 SERVICE IN THE ROCKFORD DIOCESE Q. IS THE SPIRIT AND INTENT OF THE LAW ASSOCIAT- ED ESSENTIALLY WITH MORTIFICATION OF THE DESIRE FOR F(}OD, OR CAN THI~ PENITENTIAL PURPOSES OF THE LAW BE REALIZED IN OTHER WAYS MORE IN KEEPING WITH MODERN DEMANDS? OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS -- ROCKFORD 523 W. JEFFERSON A. The purposes towards which the law is directed must be distinguished from the matter or the law itself. The law is obeyed only when its particular requirements are fulfilled. The law of fasting and abstinence IS obeyed onty by fasting and abstaining on the days appointed, and in the'manner which a Estate Protection Factors Some smaller estates afford protection to heirs far greater t h a n their size would indicate, Why? Because they have the benefits of care- fully planned, attorney-drawn wills naming an ~xperienced Executor . . . the First National Bank and Trust Company. Our Trust Officers will welcome a conference with you and your attorney. FIRST NATIONAL BANK and TRUST COMPANY 401 EAST STATE ST ROCKFORD Member Federal D~posit Insurance Corp. "Rockford's Oldest Bank" FREE PARKING SPACE SPECIAL SPECIAL SPECIAL SPECIAL Fresh Air Heater--2 Visors---Air Foam Cushions Permanent Anti-Freeze -- Deluxe Bel Air Type Steering Wheel 330 $. Church wo 54681 HRODT 3 Big Lqcations WO 3-8421 1515 Kishwoukee 2643 111h St. WO 2-3705 1Pue~ --'~. "- m 8~ g IUU smm g l~m ,jam ' I| Dial WO 3-5409 S:or ,'e Co Inc. 330 S. Wyman Rockford, III. The Thriftiest, Most Beautiful Food Stores In The Rockford Diocese Locations: LOVES PARK STERLING ROCKFORD DIXON ELGIN AURORA WOODSTOCK MORRIS a DEKALB FREEPORT OREGON ST. CHARLES ROCHELLE ,e ROUND LAKE CARPENTERSVILLE servance, and in neglecting to reaffirm those parts of the divine la~. which demand self discipline and self sacrifice. The Church should not be thought of, therefore, as acquiescing to modern softness in granting dispensations from the taws of fast and ab- stinence. Nor should the Church be expected to abolish the laws oi fast and abstinence as completely out of line with the require- ments of modern society. The laws should be modified to the extent that they are incompatible with the conditions under which men live. Fasting and abstaining will always be useful exercises of mortification, however, and it may be expected that the Church will continue to insist on observance of the laws which command them, even while authorizing the granting of dispensa- tions in favor of those for whom the law would create excessive i hardship. Q. WHAT SHOULD BE THE ATTITUDE OF THE FAITHFUL TOWARDS THE LAWS OF FAST AND ABSTINENCE? A. The faithful should be disposed to accept the laws of fast and abstinence as they are presented to them by the authority ol the Church. The willingness of the Church to authorize dispen- sations from the law should not be seized upon as a pretext for evading the law, or of magnifying the importance of reasons for disregarding it which are in reality inconsequential. Laws of fast and abstinence, reasonably enacted and applied, should not be looked upon merely as restraints upon human freedom. The Church would not and could not have insisted upon the observ- ance of tl~ese laws over so many centuries unless they had proved to be indispensable means of developing the self discipline by which the sinful inclinations of a fallen human nature may be successfully resisted. Moreover, it would seem inappropriate, and even inconsistent, for people to look for reasons for disregarding the ecclesiatical laws of fast and abstinence at the same time developing habits of eating that are noticeably similar to those which the eccle- siastical law prescribes. The law of fasting prescribes that only one full meal each day be taken, with two supplementary meals Monument to 26 Martyrs NAGASAKI, Japan -- Arch- bishop P a u 1 Yamaguchi of Nagasaki has blessed and laid the cornerstone of a monument to the 26 martyrs of this city who were crucified in 159;/. The monument is being built on the site of the saints' execu- tion, the Mount of Martyrs on the city's outskirts: Later a chapel and a historical museum of early Christianity in 5apan will be built nearby. The execution of the Naga- saki martyrs was the first step in the 50-year campaign of per- secution which wiped out the Church in Japan, which had i grown to 300,000 faithful as a !result of the mission efforts be- gun by' St. Erancis Xavier in 1549. of less quantity and of restricted quality. Today few people eat more than one substantial meal each day. All that is necessary for observance of the law of fasting is that sufficient self re- straint be exercised to avoid eating between meals. For the nor- mal person this involves no extraordinary hardship. In fact, most people might benefit even physically by eating less than they do, and by eliminating from their diet the kinds of foods that are usually taken at odd hours. Again, today most people eat freely of protein foods other than meat, such as fish and cheese. Restaurant menus always offer substantial entrees in these latter categories. Most families find it possible, and necessary, to stretch their food budgets by serv- ing fish instead of meat from time to time. The law of abstinence, a.~ it applies on Fridays and other appointed days, can easily be brought into correspondence with present day dietary customs. It seems incansistent, therefore, for people to demand dispen- sations from the law when they can so easily do what the law requires. If this is not universally true, the exceptional cases should be dealt with through the medium of dispensations. It is i unreasonable to protest that the laws of fast and abstinence ar~ essentially outmoded. Dispensations should not be thought of, however, as merely instrument of convenience for evading the law when one does not choose to observe it. The Church has much to gain by continuing the discipline of the laws of fast and abstinence which have been so helpful over the years. Individual Catholics have much to lose by refusing to conform to the existing legislation and by over- looking the supernatural benefit that comes from accepting theO penitential discipline which the law imposes. The laws of last~' and abstinence are meant to reaffirm and to bring to particular application the divine law of penance from which no dispensa- tion can be given by the authority of the Church. We should be willing to fast and abstain because we should be willing to im- pose upon ourselves the self restraint which will bring us closer to God. We should not regard the laws of fast and abstinence as manmade regulations to be evaded in every possible way. Q. IS IT NOT INCONSISTENT FOR THE LAWS OF FAST AND ABSTINENCE TO BE ENFORCED IN ONE PLACE AND DISPENSED FROM IN ANOTHER? A. The answer to this question must be sought by exam- ining the reasons for which dispensations are granted. Pre- sumably, there are valid reasons which justify the exercise of the power of dispensation by which all the faithful in a given jurisdiction are exempted from the law. This should not lead us to the conclusion that the law can serve no pur- pose and that it should be completely abrogated. The law should be kept everywhere; this is the implication of the fact that it is imposed upon the universal Church. Any particular part of the Church should be more conscious of its identification with the Church as a whole than of difficulties perculiar to some other part ~vhich demand modifications of the ~eneral law. We are more loyal Catholics when we follow in the lead of the Church as a whole than when we demand concessions which, however justified elsewhere, are unneces- sary in our own circumstances. sites in a ST. 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