May I Donate My Body to Science?
Q:Does the Catholic Church have a position about donating one’s body to science? I have registered as an organ donor but would also like to leave my body to help the training of future doctors.
The Catholic Church considers organ donation perfectly legitimate and even commendable—as long as the donation is made freely and other rights are respected. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient.
“Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons” (article 2296).
In the case of organ transplants from someone who has died in a hospital and consented to a donation, there should be separate medical teams for the donor and the recipient—in order to protect the rights of everyone and avoid any conflict of interest.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center has a “Resources by Topic” link at http://www.ncbcenter.org. Several documents can be accessed there for free. The NCBC also has for purchase 24 “Topic Packets” that contain thematic articles from the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, its monthly Ethics and Medicine newsletter and other sources. The NCBC can be contacted at (215) 877-2660 or at 6399 Drexel Road, Philadelphia, PA 19151-2511.
Apart from the issue of organ donation, leaving one’s body to science can enable future doctors, nurses and medical researchers to understand the human body better by witnessing an autopsy. Most clinical pastoral education programs for future chaplains also include this possibility. A potential donor should contact a medical college and make sure that his/her next of kin has that contact information.
Father Nicholas Lohkamp, O.F.M., a major contributor to this magazine and to St. Anthony Messenger Press, died recently. He had donated his body to science.
How Much Do We Know About Angels?
Q:I am very interested in angels but haven’t been able to find information about how many categories there are. Is there a Scripture reference for each group? What are their duties? To which group did Satan and his followers belong? Do we know how many angels there are? Are new ones being created?
The list of nine choirs of angels goes back to the fourth century A.D. The 2007 edition of The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Brace) identifies these choirs in ascending order as angels (many references in the Old Testament and New Testament), archangels (Jude 6:9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16), principalities (Romans 8:38 and Colossians 1:16), powers (same references), virtues, dominations (Colossians 1:16), thrones (Colossians 1:16), cherubim (plural of cherub, Genesis 3:24, Exodus 25:18) and seraphim (plural of seraph, Isaiah 6:7).
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_angelic_hierarchy for a short description of the duties of the various choirs of angels.
Although no Scripture text confirms this, my guess is that Satan belonged to the seraphim (those closest to God) but lost that position through his pride and disobedience. Non-scriptural texts suggest that Satan was originally among the highest of the angels.
In his Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul warned the Christians there against trying to enlist angels to guarantee a particular outcome of events. Because angels are diversified signs of God’s providence, they are never a means of manipulating God for our advantage.
Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to the world’s bishops last October, cautioning them about a splinter group from the Church-approved Opus Angelorum (“work of angels”) group. The dissenters refuse to accept corrections of certain beliefs and liturgical practices linked to private revelations to Gabrielle Bitterlich in 1946.
In sections 328 through 336, the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that angels are God’s servants and messengers, reminding us of the “blessed company” we are intended to share with them. The Catechism does not list the choirs of angels, their duties, number or creation.
Why Roman Catholic?
Q:Why does the Roman Catholic Church call itself that? Jesus stood against everything that the Roman Empire represented—the power, the might and the violence. Rome figured mightily in his death on the cross.
The term Roman Catholic became common only after the East/West separation of the Church in 1054 A.D. It was further reinforced in the West after Martin Luther’s protest in the 16th century.
You are correct that Jesus opposed many things linked to the Roman Empire. The New Testament’s Book of Revelation speaks of Rome as “Babylon” and “the mother of whores” (see 17:5). The Church steadfastly resisted the claim to the title “God and Lord” by the Emperor Domitian (d. 96) and his readiness to brand as atheists those who rejected the official state religion.
You are also correct that Rome was heavily involved in Jesus’ death. Pontius Pilate executed him on a charge of treason. No Roman citizen could be punished by crucifixion.
There were already Christians in Rome when the Apostles Peter and Paul arrived to strengthen that faith community. In that city they were martyred and are buried. Very different in temperament and background, they evangelized Jews and gentiles respectively. The fact that they share a single feast (June 29) suggests that the Church has long recognized legitimate diversity of thought and action. At times, however, the Church must designate some ideas and practices as incompatible with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We should remember that the oldest term in Scripture for Jesus’ disciples is “followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2). It was in Antioch that they were first called “Christians” (see Acts 11:26). The author of Acts of the Apostles ends his story with St. Paul’s ministry in Rome. From that city, the Good News of Jesus would spread to the rest of the known world.
All peoples—Roman Catholics included—stand under God’s judgment and must avoid idolatry of every kind. Thinking that only Roman Catholics can be saved is a form of idolatry.
Who Are Secular Franciscans?
Q:Is there still a Secular Franciscan Order? Are they the same group that used to be called the Third Order of St. Francis? My husband and I are interested in this type of order, would like more information and may join it.
Yes on both counts: The Secular Franciscan Order (S.F.O.) still exists and it used to be called the Third Order of St. Francis. It dates to the lifetime of St. Francis (1182-1226). Both married people and single people sought to share in his spirituality—and that of St. Clare—while fulfilling existing family or professional obligations. Today’s Secular Franciscans share some similarities to “oblates” of monastic communities or “associates” of more recent religious congregations.