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Dating churches

A building marker is seen outside Divine Redeemer Catholic Church in Mount Carmel, Pa. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)


Question: How does one date a church? When the cornerstone was laid? When it was dedicated? For example, the cornerstone at my parish says 1926, but the church itself wasn’t dedicated until 1931.

Mary via email

Answer: It depends on what you mean by “church.” It seems you mean the church building, and thus, the cornerstone is the best source. If there is no cornerstone, the day construction begins is the usual norm. The cornerstone of my own church building says 1938, but the church wasn’t occupied until 1939. Your own church took longer to build. So, the cornerstone is the best reference date. Dating a building by when it was dedicated is problematic, since many dioceses in the past did not dedicate a church until the mortgage was paid. Hence, the building may be a bit older than the date of dedication or consecration.

If by “church” you mean “parish,” the date to look for is the date the bishop canonically “erected” (i.e. founded) the parish. Many parishes are older than the buildings they currently occupy. My own parish dates to 1906, but the current church building was completed in 1939 and the school building in 1921.

Surrogate motherhood

Question: What is the Church’s teaching on surrogate motherhood?

Name withheld

Answer: Surrogate motherhood is when a woman carries in pregnancy an embryo implanted in her uterus who is genetically a stranger because it has been obtained through the union of the gametes of “donors.” She carries the pregnancy with a pledge to surrender the baby once it is born to the party who commissioned or made the agreement for the pregnancy. Sometimes the woman carries in pregnancy an embryo to whose procreation she has contributed the donation of her own ovum, fertilized through insemination with the sperm of a man other than her husband.

In both cases the Church opposes surrogate motherhood. God has set forth both in nature and in his revealed word that a child be conceived by his own parents in the love of the marital embrace and be born from and raised by those parents. Surrogate motherhood separates what God has joined together in several ways.

Usually it begins with in vitro fertilization (IVF), wherein the sperm and numerous ova are united in a petri dish. Thus conception is separated from the marital act, which God has joined together. In IVF one embryo is usually chosen, and the rest are frozen or discarded. Discarding them violates the fifth commandment by killing human beings. Freezing them is a violation of human dignity. IVF turns the conception of human life into a technology instead of a celebration of the unity of the couple.

Surrogate motherhood further violates marriage and the dignity of persons by introducing a third party into the process. This too separates what God has joined. A child is to be conceived in his own mother and carried in her womb.

Finally, there is a tendency in our culture to call parenthood a right. It is not. It should depend on God. There are going to be times when God permits that a couple not be able to conceive children. Perhaps he wants them to adopt or has reasons that they not have children. But God is the Lord of life and has determined how human life should come about. We should learn to respect God’s authority in these matters and not seek to override him.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at Send questions to

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