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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 Of course this or that article might be a bit out of date, since sometimes what is on online is from an early edition of the Encyclopedia, so you might need to check with other sources too, like the Catechism of the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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in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:04am on December 31st 2016
What is the wilderness?

St John the Baptist was in the wilderness.

St John of the Cross in the Dark Night of the Soul mentions a similar experience to the wilderness.

Job too.

Is it a state of being free of attachment/spiritual state?

Thank you.

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Hi Camilla, yes, the wilderness or desert has often been used, as St John the Baptist used it, and as Jesus did when he went into the desert for 40 days - to recall the people of Israel in their exodus from Egypt, leaving behind its sophistication and good food. By leaving all that was merely of this world aside, they were preparing to meet the God revealing himself as I AM to Moses. Commenting on Psalm 64:2, St Augustine meditates on the deep Christian meaning of any such exodus: "He begins to leave who begins to love. For many are leaving unawares, for the feet of those leaving are affections of the heart: and yet, they are leaving Babylon."

Jesus, chapter 6 of St John's Gospel, miraculously fed the huge crowd - if not in the desert, at least far removed from where they normally lived. Just after that, he revealed to us the meaning of the Eucharist as the new manna feeding us as we crossed through the desert every day of our lives - which we pray for in the Our Father when we say, 'give us this day our supersubstantial [not all that well normally translated as 'daily' and according to Brant Pitrie in his wonderful Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, clearly referring to the Eucharist] bread.' So there's always that double meaning of leaving all that's in the way of our meeting God, in order to find Him. Pope Benedict, in the homily opening his pontificate on April 24, 2005, referred to the inner deserts of modern society which we must find a way to lead people from towards God:

And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast...The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Anointing with Oil

in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 4:14am on December 24th 2016

I recently recieved a small bottle of oil from the hold land. It is pure olive oil. I was told that I could have this oil blessed by my priest, and that the oil can be used as a sacramental (something along the lines of holy water). Is this correct? How do I go about asking my priest to bless this oil if I can?



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Hi Donnie, I've never heard of blessed oil for ordinary use. In the Church, priests and bishops use two kinds of oil, of catechumens and of the baptized during baptism, and of blessed oil in conferring the sacraments of confirmation, of the sick, and of orders. However, I imagine if a priest will bless that oil for you, it would be seen as a sacramental, as you say, at the same level as blessed water.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Abuses, scandals, and apostates

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:09am on December 25th 2016

<p class="MsoNormal">I understand the Church is a field Hospital for sinners, and everyone is in need of the mercy God gives. God loves even those who abuse their offices, cause scandal, and commit apostasy. How should the Church handle people who commit grave evil in the name of the Church Jesus Christ founded? I understand there will always be a Judas, but how should the church address and treat such Christians. The Early Church "struggled" to accept apostates back. The Church also at times was "strict" about confession. Today the church dispenses Confessions frequently which is a great blessing. How should the church address Judas today and how should the Church "give Judas back his seat as apostle" if he were to have repented? Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than these, and the apostate became pope. What is a reasonable and prudent "litmus test" for a believer's love for Christ? Is the sacramental grace of confession sufficient to bring back to the fold abusers, scandals, and apostates to their previous offices? What does the church currently do and decide on these issues? Whose authority is needed to make these decisions? When is the line drawn and they are excommunicated? My guess is it is not black and white to generalize but needs to be taken on a case by case basis, but are there any generalizations that can be made beside general prudence?


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Hi JM, you've asked a lot of questions there and I'll try to tackle a few of them. Canon Law is quite clear on the sins where sinner incurs automatic excommunication - provided they're aware of the law - for example, physically assaulting the Pope, stealing the Host for a sacrilegious purpose, a priest giving absolution to a partner in a sin against the Sixth Commandment, a priest who violates the seal of the confessional, and someone who actually brings about an abortion.

I think that the Church would exercise careful judgment in every case of wrongdoing by clergy, and as you know, most Church leaders have been on a painful learning curve on how to deal with the terrible scandal of child abuse. By now, the most important lessons have been learnt, and as Pope Benedict said to the Irish hierarchy some years ago, the attempt by some of them to save the Church's reputation has in fact done it far greater harm than transparency would have done.

The ordinary discipline of the sacrament of Confession always requires a firm purpose of amendment - if the penitent isn't seriously resolving to do all in their power not only to fully repent of their sin, but to avoid committing it again, the confessor can't give them absolution. Surely if Judas, like Peter, had fully repented of his betrayal, like Peter he would have been welcomed back among the Apostles. Greater, perhaps, than his betrayal of Jesus was what looks like his despair of forgiveness leading to suicide.

You're right, a decision regarding excommunication - whose aim is to be a kind of shock tactic to get the penitent back on track again, as well as to avoid the scandal of allowing certain public sins to go unpunished by the Church - has to be made carefully, either by the local hierarchy or in a really serious case, by Rome. The excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre was an example of that, and as we know it was withdrawn in 2009. As you say, some cases - even those listed in Canon Law as leading to excommunication - are not black and white, and need careful judgment by the confessor, by the local hierarchy or by Rome.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 12:14am on December 26th 2016
Hi Father,

I am a recently married man with a young child. Our family will be moving soon into a new house at the beginning of next year. I have been wondering - should we move into a nice house in a well-off area, or should we move into a poor house in a less safe area of the city. I have been reading the Gospel to try to help with this decision, but am somewhat perplexed.

On the one hand, Christ says, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God", "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" and "go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me". From these words, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that, to some extent, Christ is actually encouraging us to be poor. So maybe we should move into a small, run-down house in a poorer neighbourhood.

On the other hand, Christ tells us to love one another and show charity to others. I wonder if this means that I should show charity and love for my family by moving into a big house in a rich suburb.

There seems to be some conflict between these two points of view and I'm not quite sure how to reconcile them. To expand a bit on this, it seems that Christ tells us that there is goodness in things such as poverty, suffering and difficulties, but then Christ also tells us that there is goodness in showing charity to people and removing their poverty, suffering and difficulties. But then if goodness is in poverty, suffering and difficulties then why remove them?

If you could throw some light on this (so that we know whether we should move to a big house or small house) I would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

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Hi Jack, I think the first thing you should think about is safety - if possible to live somewhere your wife and family can feel secure. I have Anglican clergy friends and it has been a big problem for them if they happened to be posted to areas where their family would be at risk: they realized they couldn't impose their vocation on their family.

The Church has always distinguished what are called 'the evangelical counsels' of poverty, chastity and obedience - which some, like priests and religious, are called to-from the 10 Commandments, which hold for everyone. So St Paul doesn't condemn money or rich people, but gets to the key issue when he says that 'the love of money is the root of all evils' (1 Tim 6:10).

How to resolve the conflict you mention? Some friends and acquaintances of mine in the Focolare movement are developing what's called the Economy of Communion, where businesses keep a third of their profits to pay wages, another third to develop their company and the remaining third they use to help people in less developed parts of the world with business investment and to pay for training. And there are surely many groups and ecclesial or lay movements whose members focus their surplus wealth to helping those in need.

With whatever is over after looking after your own family, if you have wealth you can share, particularly if your earning power allows you to be continually of help to others, you'll be joining thousands of wealthy Christians who've used their educational and entrepreneurial advantage to help others. In that way, you'll be following Jesus' direct path to salvation - whatever you did to the least of your brothers and sisters, you did to me.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Pope Leo xiii vision

in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 10:03pm on December 21st 2016
Hi I recently read about Pope Leo xiii's vision of God allowing satan 100 years to prove he can destroy his church. God then allowed the pope to see a vision of all the calamities that were to come in the 20the century.

why would God allow this, all these terrible things to happen?

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Hi Vasco, I suppose we could also ask, why did God allow terrible things to happen to his own Son, the only time he sent Him on earth to be with us and one of us? I think the answer would be much the same - once God creates beings who have the gift of freedom, he accepts that both angels and human beings will use their freedom to choose what is wrong.

For terrible things (in the sense I think you mean, morally or spiritually terrible things) never to happen among his creatures, God would have had to restrict his creation at the highest level, to animals, not free human beings and free angels. What we're celebrating now at Christmastime, is God's answer to your question - he comes Himself, as vulnerable to terrible things (Herod's massacre of the innocents, and later his Son's passion, crucifixion and death) as any human being as ever been. Yet his transforming love is stronger than death, and in Jesus, and through him, for all of us, he recreates our fallen world, with the promise, in his Risen Son, of our own resurrection through suffering out of love, to live eternally in the new heavens and the new earth. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Confession, Reparation and OCD/Scrupolosity

in topic "Sacraments"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:23pm on December 19th 2016
Hi Father

I have been away from the church for a long time but his year I made a general confession. However I am finding a lot of problems. I am also suffering from OCD and scrupolosity and I am having treatment for these conditions. One of the problems I am facing is that of reparation of sins. During my life I told some lies/exagerations/inaccuricies about people. I have confessed such sins and have been given absolution but will I have to tell the individual that I lied to the truth about another person in order that my sins to be forgiven? If I fail to tell the person that I have lied to the truth about another person will I be guilty of another sin? The problem is that four or more years have passed from when I lied and it is a bit difficult to talk to certain persons and telling them that in that particular occasion I have not told the truth about the other person. The problem is that many of them are not exactly clear cut lies; they may be a bit exagerated, I may have left some information out or I lied about a person without the intention to harm him/her. Some of the persons may also not know the person I lied about or may know him and have no connection with him/her. Some may have some connection.

My great problem is that of how to tell another person that I lied to about the other person. Just imagine contacting a person in person or by e mail and then telling him something that I may have said about another person; things which he may have long forgotten or just don't care about them. I am finding this extremly difficult to do. I have tried to amend my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations and in a case it was a success, in another I think that I have been largely ignored or with little success but in another I was told that I was saying that because I have something in mind such as some trickery or for some other obscure reasons. The problem is that you cannot just contact a person and telling him/her that some years ago I have told them a lie/inaccuracy/exageration about a person and not being looked as I am not quite well mentally. You just can't force such things since I feel that I will look very strange and awkward. I have told about these problems to my wife (which is very religious) and she told me that I am not obliged to contact such persons about my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations of time ago. She also told me that what I have said about certain persons was probably true; which probably she may be right but I have changed a bit the truth. She then turned very worried and promptly contacted the psychiatrist which he adjustd my treatment. I know that currently I am suffering with OCD and scrupolosity but I think that I need also some spiritual direction.

I strongly feel tha telling the truth will not make any difference to the persons that I lied on. Maybe the persons that I lied to may look at the other person a bit more favourably although I dont' think that it will have any serious positive effect. Some years have also passed. What is your opinion about my problem? Do you think that I should stop thinking about this problem and look forward?

Thanks and Kind Regards


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Hi James, no confessor would ever require a person who'd lied to go back and confess to the people the lie was told about. Maybe if it was the kind of lie called perjury, where I swore in court something that involved another person being wrongfully accused of a crime, I'd be bound in duty to do all I could to right that wrong. Or if I lied about a person's competence, saying that this or that person was a qualified surgeon or engineer, whatever, where that person might do serious injury to others.

We could do greater harm to our relationships with this persons if we in fact owned up to lies we'd told about them. Much better to pray for them and trust that God will make up now for any injury done them in the past - if indeed there was any injury caused them, which doesn't sound like it from what you've written.

But sometimes I may have seriously wronged others, who have perhaps died since, or at any rate can no longer be contacted. How can I make it up to them? In these matters I remember what a famous Jewish philosopher called Martin Buber wrote about this: 'the wounds of the order-of-being can be healed in infinitely many other places than those at which they were inflicted.' In other words, by trying as best I can to love the people I'm with now - since Jesus is in every one of our neighbours - I am also loving the Jesus in the person I may have wronged, and I can trust it to Jesus to 'pass on' that love to the other, whether they've left this world or are far removed from me now. Very best, Fr Brendan
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