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February 18, 1994     The Message
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February 18, 1994

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1994 The Message Monthly -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 " Bishop's Forum -- Wednesday begins a most sa- on and re- 3 to be taken very seri- especially true in our i:::: when there is so much for our attention. L Scream for our senses. Adver- all sorts of allure- appetites. cultural. Practices of prayer, fasting are traditional in These too need to be We have but two fast and absti- ay and Good e are to abstain from meat on all Fridays For those who can, I encourage a re- during Lent. Praying the "Sta- r with the community or ery powerful Lenten devotion re- t baptism initiated us not only into resurrection of Jesus but also into the death as well. Those were the price of The Lenten retreat is a time for Who are baptized to prepare to renew to walk with those who are Sacrament of baptism. for almsgiving y for special purposes rseas Relief(CRS) and in the Holy Land. Giving alms to needy in our own community is a won- our appetites, we are chal- L. More than that, the spirit of that we should review where we three steps required. First, of spirit to admit our sins. the confession of sin that has el- or impaired our relationship with and sisters in faith with sm again The. third, step is to ac- penance imposed by the priest who the Sacrament of Reconciliation to make an effort to receive the provided in the Sacrament of is traditional when one makes a parishes provide ample oppor- It on a weekly basis. During so penance services to remind us s to members of our faith s, personal sin is not private. Sin of COmmunity, hence all of us are Others' failures, each others' sins. Lenten retreat ByBISHOP GERALD A. GETTELFINGER Coming together in special prayer services helps us to appreciate the community dimension of sin as well as forgiveness. I highly rec- ommend your participation in these special moments of prayer during our Lenten retreat. In recent years, however, there has arisen some confusion about the question of general absolution during such penance services since it was permitted under certain cir- cumstances here in our diocese. Let me review the three ways or forms in which the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be received. The first and most common form of the recep- tion of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is individ- ual wherein the penitent confesses individually and receives penance and absolution from the priest. All our parishes provide this opportunity on a regular basis. The second includes personal confession of sin and individual reception of penance and absolu- tion but takes place in the context of a communal penance service. The third form provides for the sacrament to be administered through a general confession of sin by the penitents and general absolution being given by the priest. This form is to be used in emergency situations only, and some very specific conditions must be met. It is up to the local bishop to interpret when the criteria for general confession and absolution are present. That being the case, on February 6, 1990, I issued to all our priests the criteria provided to me by the National Conference of Catholic Bish- ops. Further, neither the National Conference of Catholic Bishops nor I have made any alterations in these criteria. Rare would be the emergency that would meet the criteria presented to us due to closeness of our parishes, the numberofregular opportunities for the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation available to the faithful. I am printing those crite- ria here that all may have a better understanding of the discipline governing the administration of the Sacrament of Penance wherein general absolu- tion is given. NCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs Criteria for Use of General Absolution (Canons 961-963) The Bishops' Committee for Canonical Affairs recommends to individual diocesan bishops that the following criteria be applied with regard to the right and responsibility of the local bishop to inter- pret the canons on general absolution. 1. In any use of general absolution all the con- ditions of the law must be simultaneously verified as being present. These conditions are: (a)"... when in the light of the number of penitents, a supply of confessors is not readily available to hear the confessions of individuals within a suitable time so that the penitents are forced to be deprived of sacramental grace or holy communion for a long time through no fault of their own; it is not considered a sufficient necessity if confessors cannot be readily available only be- cause of the great number of penitents as can occur on occasion of some great feast or pilgrimage." (Canon 961) (b) "For a member of the Christian faithful validly to enjoy sacramental absolution given to many at one time, it is required that this person not only be suitably disposed but also at the same time intend to confess individually the serious sins which at present cannot be so confessed." (Canon 962) 2. It is reasonable to understand the term "within a suitable time" (intra congruum tempus) to mean about two (2) hours. 3. It is reasonable to understand the phrase "so that the penitents are forced to be deprived of sacramental grace or holy communion for a long time through no fault of their own" (ita ut paeni. tentes, sine propria culpa, gratis sacramentali aut sacra communione diu carere cogantur), to mean between two (2) and four (4) weeks. 4. The above conditions would not be verified at a communal penance service where it is not pos- sible for the priests present to hear the individual confessions, but access to the sacrament is avail- able on other days or in other places. The condi- tions would not be present simply because the faithful prefer not to confess their sins individually to a priest. 5. Each time general absolution would be used, the faithful are to be instructed concerning the requirements specified in Canon 962, Section :t, and exhorted to make an act of contrition to pre- cede general absolution, even in danger of death if time is available. Once again, I invite all to experience Lent as a time of serious retreat recalling our common bap- tism whereby we have been initiated into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In doing so, the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the waiting of Holy Saturday properly prepare us for Easter vigil and the renewal of life signaled by the "Light of Christ" and life-giving waters of baptism, followed by the first Alleluia announcing the Resurrection of the Lord. ng Will bill is still alive in Indiana legislature VUJAM s Conference when nutrition be with- 1037, an able to through a nta. which to indi. whether or nutri- should be if he or ill. Wanted will er state di- care. The to als, or family lth care they be- luding olding of nutrition and hydration. The bill's author and others believe people should be able to make those decisions for themselves in their living wills. HB 1037, in its original form, failed to pass the legisla- ture the last three years be- cause of its broad definition of a terminal condition. This year, modified language was suggested in a House commit- tee. The suggested changes were accepted by Representa- tive Hayes and Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buech- lein in a meeting earlier this session. A time element was added requiring a physician to certify in writing that the terminal patient's death would occur in "a relatively short period of time." The amendment also specified more clearly when, if ever, artificial nutrition and hydration could be removed. The artificial nutrition and hy- dration would be removed, if requested by a person in a liv- ing will, only if the "effort to sustain life is futile or exces- sively burdensome." The bill containing the amendments, with an addition that the "excessive burden" be just to the person declaring the living will, was accepted by the House in a 55-44 vote and sent over to the Senate Public Health and Environmental Af- fairs Committee, chaired by Senator Patricia Miller, R-In- dianapolis. In the Senate committee, the bill was further amended to clarify the withholding or re- moval of artificially supplied food and water from a terminal patient under a living will. "Relatively" was removed from the definition of short period of time, so that it conformed to the present living will law. The bill was also amended to clearly state that if the person did not indicate the removal of artificial food and water in the living will, its provision would be presumed. Further, the bill would require the attending physician to "determine that the patient's death will occur from the terminal condition whether or not life prolonging procedures are used." "Life prolonging procedures" would include artificial food and water, as defined in the bill. The amendments offered by Sen. Miller were accepted by the bill's sponsor Senator Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, and Representative Hayes, with the understanding that his concerns with the changes would be addressed later in the process. Faith communities and senior citizens' groups, which figured heavily into the bill's passage to that point, also accepted the amendments. One of many to testify before the committee, Dr. M. Desmond Ryan, Indiana Catholic Conference executive director and lobbyist, stated that Catholic teachings has long recognized competent adults' right to make their own health care decisions. "What is important is the intent behind those decisions," said Ryan, re- ferring to a document written by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Pro-Life Activities, "Nutri- tion and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Reflections," issued in April 1992. The Pro-Life Committee's document says that a person has the right to refuse med- ically assisted nutrition and hydration if it is excessively burdensome. Because assess- ment of these burdens neces- sarily involves some subjective judgments," states the commit- tee, "a conscious and compe- tent patient is generally the best judge of whether a partic- ular burden or risk is too grave to be tolerated in his or her own case." HB 1037 passed the commit- tee 10-2 and now is up for more discussion and a vote be- fore the full Senate. If the bill passes the Senate in similar form to the committee's amended version, then it may go to a conference committee, so that a compromise between Representative Hayes and the Senate sponsors can be reached.