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Did God 'require' sacrifice of Jesus

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But isn't God all-powerful and couldn't he have done anything he wanted to?

Father Kenneth

Q. I wonder about Jesus being a "sacrifice" for the expiation of sins. Why did God the Father "require" that Christ be a "sacrifice" for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind? (Louisville, Kentucky)

A. I don't believe that God the Father "required" that Jesus die such a gruesome death to redeem us from our sins. But your question reflects a theological debate that has gone on for centuries.

On one side is the 11th-century thinker St. Anselm, who championed what was known as "satisfaction" theology. Anselm believed that Christ's sacrificial death was necessary to free mankind from sin and that the blood of Jesus was "payment" for that sin.

But isn't God all-powerful and couldn't he have done anything he wanted to? He could certainly have acted, as the father of the prodigal son did in the Gospel, by simply forgiving humanity outright and restoring us to his good graces.

In contrast to Anselm, I prefer to side with St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas said that while any manner God chose would have sufficed for our salvation, the passion of Christ was the perfect means because "man knows thereby how much God loves him and is thereby stirred to love him in return" (Summa III, 46, art. 3). So, to my way of thinking, we are in no way compelled to believe that God deliberately willed the suffering of his son.

Q. For more than 10 years, a member of my parish has been disrupting Mass on a regular basis. She will sit in the pew rocking back and forth, throwing her arms toward heaven and calling out in a loud voice -- sometimes "Papa" and sometimes just a guttural scream.

At Communion time, she will sometimes come up to the altar before anyone else has been directed to leave the pews. She has a faraway look in her eyes and physically resists if anyone tries to have her move on.

Our current pastor has told her that she is no longer welcome, so she now waits until he has begun Mass before appearing and taking her place. What can we as a parish church do? (Richmond, Virginia)

A. The first step, of course, would be for your pastor to take the woman aside and have a quiet conversation with her. This conversation would highlight the fact that, in fairness to other parishioners, a church needs to be a quiet place where people can pray peacefully. I am going to assume that your pastor has already tried this approach without success.

Some dioceses have written policies for approaching such situations. The Diocese of Stockton in California, for example, says on its website that "in the event that an individual should cause a disturbance during the liturgy, it is the responsibility of the usher(s) to escort the individual outside the church if the individual is willing to go. Otherwise, the usher should call the police and ask that the individual be removed from private property."

It's important to know that churches are private property and church officials are entitled to extend or withdraw the invitation to enter their premises as they see fit. Simply because a church's services are open to the public does not mean that a parish is legally bound to admit someone who disrupts those services.

Involving the police seems the wisest and safest approach, especially since in many jurisdictions law enforcement is allowed not only to remove such individuals but to bring them to a local hospital for evaluation.

- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service

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