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in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:57am on January 29th 2017

Are these legit catholic dogmas?

If they are then where do they derive from?

Thank you

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Hi Anna, I've had a look at that list of 255 'infallibly declared dogmas' of the Church and basically they sum up the main Catholic teaching on God, on the Blessed Trinity, on Christ, Our Lady and the Church. They derive from the Church's ordinary teaching, whether from what's called the magisterium, or the official teaching of the Church by the Popes, by Church Councils, and by bishops over two millennia.

The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed are the Church-approved short summaries of its teaching on God, Christ, Mary and the Church - having to remember 255 teachings would be too much a burden for most of us. But the best recent and authoritative summary of the Church's teachings is to be found in the magnificent Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is available online, and in cheap paperback editions. The Catechism doesn't just give the bare bones of doctrine, but fleshes them out beautifully in terms of their Scriptural background, of its centuries of understanding of those teachings, and of the spiritual insights of many of its saints. To properly appreciate the Church's teachings, even a basic introduction, like Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity can be a big help. Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 1:46am on February 6th 2017
I ask this with all due respect. I attended a Jesuit prep school and an Augustinian University. I struggle with all the evil and horrors that exist in this world to believe that there is an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving God. There are thousands of examples of horrors but I will mention three 1. Why did God sit by and allow Hitler and Stalin to torture and kill more than 20 million humans? 2- Why does God sit by and allow 21,000 humans to starve eveyday for lack of food? These people died or are dying for reasons beyond their control and God could prevent it. 3- Why are some children born with horrible deformities and suffer their entire lives? And why are some children born perfectly healthy and live lives without pain and suffering?



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Hi Richard, I hope you don't mind if I separate your first question from the other two. The Russian writer Dostoevsky prophetically explored this question in his last great book, The Brothers Karamazov, where Ivan Karamazov depicts Christ, once again being judged, this time by 'The Grand Inquisitor,' for the crime of overestimating human beings by granting them freedom - a freedom which Ivan shows has led to horrible crimes. Before sentencing Christ to death, Christ is told by the Inquisitor that 'we have corrected your work' - by taking away human freedom. One of the best Russian Dostoevsky commentators notes that behind Ivan's 'false compassion for the sufferings of mankind is hidden a diabolic hatred of human freedom and the image of God in man.'

The mystery here is that if God creates beings endowed with freedom, they must be able to choose good and evil, where that evil will sometimes include the slaughter of millions of innocent human beings you mention. In a little book I wrote last year, Where Is God In Suffering? I gave the example of married couples who have the choice to bring a child into the world, without being able to determine whether their child will turn out well or badly. Yet they take that risk - as God does when he created angels, and when, through our parents, he co-creates us. God's own answer to your question is to come right down into our world, and experience evil head on in his incarnate humanity. The Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is - for whoever want to follow him - the way of the Christian to overcome evil with self-sacrificing love united to Jesus' own self-sacrificing love.

In that little book, I mention the Dutch Jewish woman, Etty Hillesum, whose letters and diaries indicate someone who herself grew under the imminent threat of her extinction - she was killed in Auschwitz in 1943. Because of her position in the Jewish Council she could have escaped the concentration camp where she worked to help the Jewish inmates, but chose to remain with them, writing in her diary: 'And if God Himself should feel that I still have a great deal to do, well then, I shall do it after I have suffered what all the others have to suffer. And whether or not I am a valuable human being will become clear only from my behavior in more arduous circumstances. And if I should not survive, how I die will show me who I really am.' While not a Christian, she understood clearly that her freedom was something the Nazis could never take away from her, and her writings show how in fact she grew enormously through what she called 'the art of suffering.'

Asked by a young man in Nairobi in November 2015 a question very like yours, Pope Francis repeated the question: "'How can I see the hand of God in one of life's tragedies?' I was going to say there's just one response but no, there's no response. There is a path." In other words, the only 'answer' is how we ourselves endure the suffering that comes our way - do we take up Christ's advice and carry our cross every day, or do we refuse to? Let's have a look at your other two questions, which might help us on our way.

The question about world hunger is maybe the easier one - I can't think of a single case at present that isn't closely tied up with poor or corrupt human governance. The worst famine in modern times, in China from 1958 to 1962 when up to 45 million died, was directly due to Mao's catastrophic mismanagement, the Russian famine of 1921 resulted in 5 million dead, and in Ukraine, 1932, in 6 million deaths - the first was Lenin's choice, the second, Stalin's. The 1983-85 famine under Mengistu in Ethiopia led to nearly half a million deaths. All of these famines were 'planned' in that they were a direct result of ideology-driven government policies.

The Irish famine of 1846-47 and its aftermath left a million dead, a million forced to emigrate, was due to poor Irish farming practices (depending on just one crop, potatoes), the Irish inheritance structure that meant subdividing farms into smaller and smaller units, unable to support even one family. Along with these causes was an uncaring British government policy that regarded the native Irish as somehow less than human. God gives us humans reason and the ability to solve these problems - in fact, countries where famine was endemic, especially India and China, are supporting far greater populations than ever, once they sorted out their agricultural policies.

Regarding the suffering or affliction with disability of young children, there's no answer other than the love and care such suffering evokes - which may be the nearest to an answer that we can get in this life. While he wasn't a child when he said it, I've never forgotten what Eddie McCaffrey, a friend of mine suffering from muscular dystrophy (a genetic illness that left him without use of his legs or arms), said about someone he know who suffered from depression. 'It's a pity he doesn't understand, you don't solve problems, you love them.' That had been his own experience - he didn't want a miraculous cure, just whatever God wanted for him. His loving, or fully accepting, that had meant he somehow managed to leave his 'problem' behind. He lived his suffering so well to his death at 31 years old, that many young people from Northern Ireland and the Republic found their way to God through Eddie.

These are just pointers, it's only by trying ourselves to live our sufferings - united, if we're Christians, to the God who shared them in his Son, Jesus - that we'll glimpse a kind of answer there. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Occasion of sin

A Xt3 Member asked at 5:19pm on January 26th 2017
What should I do if someone is an occasion of sin for me? When I correspond with a certain person, I will sometimes experience sinful feelings. However, this doesn't happen quite often enough for it to be considered a NEAR occasion of sin, I'd say it seems to be more of a remote occasion of sin, and if I understand correctly we have no obligation to avoid those. My question is this... If, when one risks the remote occasion of sin and ends up falling (In my case, into impure feelings) is it automatically a mortal sin? For instance, I know that impure thoughts or feelings are not a mortal sin unless fully and willfully consented to, but would not avoiding people that inadvertently trigger them equate to full consent? Because I know how to manage these thoughts and impulses, I would never willfully entertain them, I'm just wondering if I carry the weight of obligation to avoid this person. This person is a friend, so I really hope it doesn't come to that.

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Hi Cole, years ago when I used to give school retreats, you often got asked, regarding relations with the opposite sex, 'Father, how far can you go?' This of course was always the wrong question. Jesus has said only one line about this area of morality: 'Anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart' (Mt 5:28). He didn't have to say much more, since if looking at a woman lustfully is ruled out, a lot more serious sexual wrongdoing is included in that. So the question isn't how far can I go, but how deeply am I prepared to love that other person?

St John Paul II has a beautiful commentary on that line in Mt. 5:28, where he focuses on the positive meaning contained in what Jesus is teaching. He notes how Jesus uses the word 'heart' - that he wants us to love each other from the heart - that is, from our deepest core. Which is how God loves us, for our own sake, for who we are, not for his own sake. It's the relation between men and women that's expressed in the marriage ceremony, where each promises to love the other for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. That is, each says to the other, 'I love you for you, no matter what changes you may go through.'

I don't doubt what you say, that you're able to manage' certain thoughts and impulses, but maybe a more positive approach would be better. You could ask yourself, do I love this person the way Jesus wants us to, that is, by loving them for themselves and not for me. If the other person doesn't reciprocate your feelings, then true love for them will be for them to be free, including to be free of you! Without a face to face chat, it's hard for me to go into more details than these general points. But all the saints advise us to fly from temptations, since as they say - and I'm not saying this is true of you at all - 'whoever loves the danger will perish in it.' Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 11:36pm on January 25th 2017
Hello, I think one of my professor's might have a sexual misdemeanor because I happened to look up their name and I found an article with their name and other teachers with sexual misdemeanors and the teacher who has the same name as mine also happens to work in the same field as my professor. So what my question is is even if it is true about the misdemeanor should I drop the course because my teacher may have a sexual misdemeanor and possibly call the police (although I'm not sure if the school would hire them although the place where I live is known to have corruption) or should I think it's okay to take this class and presume that my teacher has changed their ways and knows what they did is wrong and won't do anything like that again and is all better now?

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Hi Eric, without knowing more details than you give here, I'd be inclined to presume, if your professor's name has already been published, that the case is already known to the police (bearing in mind that there are many malicious blogsites where completely untrue allegations are made). It seems to me unlikely that your professor is likely to do anything wrong during the course of lectures, so I wouldn't hesitate to take the course being offered - obviously providing there's nothing wrong with the course material itself.

Calling in the police on the basis of one article you've read could have calamitous consequences for the teacher, since even the suspicion of an allegation can ruin an innocent person's career. Perhaps you might discuss the article with a trusted counsellor at your college. Very best, Fr Brendan
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What will it mean to give an account of oneself to God?

in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:26am on January 18th 2017
Hi Father,

What does it mean in Matthew 12:36 "But I tell you men will give an account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken" and Romans 14:12 "So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God"?

Is it likely to be a symbolic or literal thing?

Thank you,


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Hi Geoff, what Jesus and St Paul are saying is that when we die, we will be living face to face with ourselves and with God. The reference to us giving an account of ourselves to God means that moment of judgment isn't something pronounced against us from on high, the judgment we pronounce on ourselves will be an expression of our own full awareness of who we are, who we have been, and what we have done with our lives. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, SS679, 1038 - 1041).

The careless word spoken would surely not refer to every silly thing we've said, but to what you find in Psalm 14 (13):1, 'The fool says in his heart "There is no God."' In the Bible, the fool is the one who is closed to God's message, and St Paul, just before the passage you quote from his Letter to the Romans, seems to be referring to a similar radical openness or closure to God.

The Church speaks of two judgments: what's called the particular judgment is the judgment each of us will pronounce on ourselves in the presence of God when we die. The General Judgment will occur at the end of time, when Christ comes again, and the whole of humanity is brought to complete transparency before God, so that each human being will know the whole truth about all of the human family.

The reason why Jesus, and all the New Testament writers tell us about these judgments is not, primarily, to scare us, but to encourage us to live in such a way that, helped by God's generous grace and mercy, we make the best use of our short time here on earth. So that when we die, we'll hear Jesus' invitation, 'Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world' (Mt 25:34). Very best, Fr Brendan
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Work on Sunday

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 3:40am on January 13th 2017
I turned down a job because they wanted me to work on only Sundays. Was I right to do this or is working on Sundays not a sin?

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Hi Ryan, if you check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church, SS2184-2188, I think you'll see for yourself whether it's necessary to turn down a job that requires Sunday work - or in your case, only work on Sundays. What the Catechism returns to several times is that we must make sure we have time for Sunday observance, that is, to attend Sunday Mass, and then there are other values mentioned, like meditation, time spent with family and various charitable works we mightn't be free to do on other days.

As we know, there are various countries where Sundays are not the official day of rest - Fridays in Muslim countries, Saturdays in Israel, and Christians in those countries have to find a way to carry out their duties of worship despite having to work on Sundays. Then there is the reality of a secular world where many services are available on Sundays, and people, in order to earn a living, can't afford not to take jobs which involve Sunday work.

Since Vatican II, it's now easy enough, at least in larger towns and cities, to find Masses of the Sunday vigil on Saturday evenings, to make it easier for such people to avoid missing Mass. And I'd be inclined to say that if a persons' job made it impossible to attend Mass either on Saturday evening, or early Sunday morning or later on Sunday evening, they should seriously consider getting another job.
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in topic "Vocations"
A Xt3 Member asked at 8:54am on January 8th 2017

Would like to clarify... having a debate with a friend and this question came up- do priests and nuns have to be virgins? Or are priests and nuns required to live celibate and chaste lives?


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Hi Sarah, all Christians, married or celibate, are required to live chaste lives, that is to follow the laws of the Church and of the Ten Commandments appropriate to their state of life - for example young people who are not married, or married couples who must be faithful to each other.

But lifelong vowed celibacy as a total dedication of themselves to God, is a commitment freely made by religious men (brothers, monks, priests) and women (sisters), as well as by priests in the Roman or Latin rite. In the Catholic Church, there are also 23 other rites, belonging to what's called the Oriental or Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, most of which allow their priests to marry (except for the two Indian Syrian Catholic Churches and the Coptic Catholic Church) - although, as with the Orthodox, they must have married before priestly ordination. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Catholic encyclopedia

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:45pm on January 11th 2017

Is the Catholic Encyclopedia a reliable source?

Also are the terms nihil obstat and imprimatur referring to a source that is "very reliable" comapred to the rest of Catholic books?

Many thanks

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Hi Anna, now and then I use the online Catholic Encyclopedia and have always found it very helpful. Of course this or that article might be a bit out of date, since sometimes what is on online is from an early edition of the Encyclopedia, so you might need to check with other sources too, like the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the documents of the Second Vatican Council, all of which are online.

'Nihil obstat' is the Latin for 'there is no objection,' while 'imprimatur' means 'it may be published.' These statements in a Catholic book means that the Bishop of the diocese it's being published in, or his delegate, has read the material and find no material against Catholic doctrine there. I haven't come across these statements in more recently published books, which doesn't mean they're unreliable! Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 12:57am on January 6th 2017
Is it mortally sinful to trespass on private property? I found an amazing swimming place not far from my house, however it's on privately owned land, and there are no trespassing signs. This is a relatively recent development, as I went there for a long time and it wasn't until somebody trashed the place that the signs popped up. For the most part I've been obedient to these signs, but today I went with a camera so I could have footage to look back on. I felt uncomfortable going past all the signs, but I really wanted to have the footage. I disregarded my qualms and proceeded to jump into the water and leave. Was this a mortal sin? I'll probably confess it anyway because I acted in suspicion of it being so, but I'd like to know for further clarification.

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Hi Cole, I can't imagine that trespassing on private property would ever be a mortal sin, unless accompanied by a desire for theft or destruction.

In these troubled times, trespassing on a military or nuclear facility could be a serious matter, since security would be tight and there's a danger that trespassers might get seriously injured or killed.

I wonder if you'd think of approaching the owner of that swimming place and asking if he'd allow you to swim there? As you say, the signs only went up after the place was trashed, and the owner might not object to well-behaved swimmers. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Are 'shotgun' weddings recommended for 'those' situations or not?

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:47pm on January 10th 2017
Dear father,

A family member (2nd-tier) has gotten pregnant at 21y.o. and has past the 1st trimester. She was brought up in a strict catholic family however her faith in God has waned for years. Her partner is an atheist. Her parents feel the shame and want to plan an urgent wedding ("shotgun wedding"). The couple is agreeable to the idea. They look forward to raising the child.

When I first heard of this urgent wedding I felt disgusted and offended that the institution of marriage was being abused. I personally would not recommend this catholic marriage ceremony - instead to just "sign the papers". The girl does not respect the faith and he is an active atheist but the parents wants the full traditional catholic wedding in a church. Am I being too judgemental? Am I wrong to dissuade this wedding?

Best regards,


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Hi Andrew,

Firstly, any attempt you make at dissuading this wedding has to be done in charity and very tactfully, since people may strongly object to what they may see as interference in their affairs. It's really up to the priest who is being asked to carry out the ceremony to question them on their motivations for the marriage.

Without commenting on that particular situation, which I don't know enough about, any priest would warn them that avoiding shame is an inadequate motivation for a Catholic wedding, where both partners are asked whether they are freely entering into marriage. Such a wedding could rather easily be annulled on the basis that one or other of them weren't free, but were acting under the compulsion of their family. This is a big problem in traditional societies where arranged marriages are common.

I'd be inclined to leave this issue to the priest, who would be failing in his duty if he didn't sort out this question. And keep both people involved in your prayers, as they'll need God's support no matter what they do. Very best, Fr Brendan
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