Home Opinion Symbol of crucifix sign of Christian devotion: Father Kenneth Doyle

Symbol of crucifix sign of Christian devotion: Father Kenneth Doyle

A pro-life supporter holds a crucifix outside of a Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis May 31, 2019. (CNS photo/Lawrence Bryant, Reuters)


Q. Most of my family is Protestant, but I became an adult convert four years ago and was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. Members of my family often ask me questions about Catholic beliefs, and usually I can answer them, but recently my mother asked me one that I need your help with.

Father Kenneth Doyle writes the Catholic News Service column “Question Corner.” He is based in Albany, N.Y. (CNS)

She said, “Since Jesus is now resurrected and sits at the right hand of God the Father, why do Catholics keep him crucified on the cross in your statues, religious jewelry, pictures, etc.?” (Chillicothe, Ohio)

A. The image of the tortured body of Jesus on the cross has been used by Christians as a devotional symbol since the early centuries of Christianity. The purpose, of course, is to illustrate the immense love that Christ had for us and the sacrifices he endured to redeem us. The crucifix serves, too, to remind us that we are called to make our own sacrifices on behalf of others.

In one of his sermons, St. Augustine (354-430) gave the underlying rationale for the use of the crucifix, writing, “The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.”

This depiction of Christ on the cross takes its inspiration from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul writes, “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). What you might want to say to your mother is that the Catholic Church honors her perception that Jesus now shares in glory — so much so that some Catholic churches today choose to portray the image of Christ on the cross dressed in the white robes of his resurrected glory.

Most crosses that adorn Catholic church steeples and bell towers display only the cross, not the body of Jesus; likewise, Catholics are not adverse to using such religious symbols as the Jerusalem cross or the Celtic cross. So Christians of all denominations, though their devotional symbols may sometimes differ, clearly reverence both the passion of Christ as well as his resurrection.

Q. Is treatment for erectile dysfunction against Catholic teaching? (City of origin withheld)

A. Within the context of marriage, the medical use of such products as Viagra is permitted by Catholic moral teaching.

Father Tad Pacholczyk, director of education for The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, has written this: “In the case of erectile dysfunction, a normal biological process may have become impaired due to age or injury, and through the use of Viagra, this impairment can sometimes be remedied. Viagra does not aim to disrupt normal function, but rather to restore it. Within marriage, the medical use of Viagra for such restorative functions does not generally raise moral problems.”

I am assuming, of course, that your question does refer to married men. If not, of course, that would change the moral calculus. The Catholic Church has always taught that sexual intercourse “must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental Communion,” as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2390).