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Question Corner

First slide

Baptize great-granddaughter?

Q. Our granddaughter was not raised Catholic. Now she has a 2-month-old baby. Can I baptize the baby? (Chances are the parents will wait until she’s a teen to decide. But I feel that she needs the graces now.) (Broken Arrow, Okla.)

A. The church’s Code of Canon Law requires that for an infant to be baptized licitly there is normally required the consent of at least one of the parents. (The exception would be if the child were in danger of death.) In the language of the code: 1) "the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent"; and 2) "there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion" (Canon 868).

In your own situation, then, if the child’s parents are unaware that you are doing so (and even more, if they oppose it), you should not baptize the baby. To do so would undermine and usurp the parents’ role. Instead, what you might do is to entrust the child to God (who created the baby out of love) and pray that, helped by the example of your own life of faith, the parents will one day decide on their own to have the child christened.

Jesus on the cross

Q. What was the meaning of Christ's words from the cross when he said, "Father, why have you forsaken me?" (Leicester, United Kingdom)

A. Both Matthew and Mark indicate in their Gospel accounts that among the last words of Jesus on the cross were the following: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Some readers might find this puzzling and ask, "How can God abandon God?" Actually, though, Jesus was uttering the first words of a familiar psalm, Psalm 22.

That psalm/prayer, as it develops, is really a testament to the enduring love and support of the Lord.

Though it addresses God with the anguished plea, "Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help," the psalm goes on to proclaim the confident assurance of divine support:

"For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out."

And the last line of the psalm lauds God's triumphal reign: "The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought."

Is confession necessary?

Q. I am a 92-year-old homebound woman — nearing the end of my earthly journey. Lately I have been plagued by the thought that I might be committing a grievous sin for receiving holy Communion without going to confession first. With a clear conscience, I know that I have not committed a mortal sin.

I have not gone to confession for more than 50 years, if memory serves me right, but I had been receiving Communion weekly up until the onset of COVID-19. Now my grandniece plans to resume driving her mom and me to weekly Mass, since we have already had our second vaccinations. Can I continue to receive holy Communion? (city and state withheld)

A. Please relax and be at peace. You may certainly continue to receive holy Communion. If you have not committed any mortal sins, you are not obliged to go to the sacrament of reconciliation first.

Canon 989 of the Code of Canon Law says, "After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year."

So, strictly speaking, one is obliged to go to confession only for mortal ("grave") sins. I am an advocate, though, of much more frequent confession, and I have read that Pope Francis receives the sacrament every two weeks.

Without any sense of urgency, I would suggest that you might ask your grandniece to drive you to church some Saturday afternoon to go to confession. I think it would bring you a sense of peace, and it would certainly be consistent with the mind of the church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit" (No. 1458).

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021