Year of Youth 2018

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Is Grinding a sin?

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:52pm on April 15th 2018
Is the form of dancing,grinding a sin? I just don't get a lot of direct answers for dating and relationships, circumstances vary but acts are either a sin or they aren't. So is it?

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Hi Zachary, it's probably better to approach the question of grinding in dancing by reminding ourselves of Jesus; comment on sexual sins where he;s said that anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart (see Mt 5: 27-28). And St John Paul II, commenting on this explains that the 'heart' of a person is themselves as God sees and loves them, that is, God loves us completely for our own sake, not for anything he can get out of us.

So that's the standard Jesus sets out for us: not even to look at a person of the opposite sex for our own pleasure, since then we;re using them, not loving them for their own sake. If the kind of dancing you;re speaking about involves some kind of sexual stimulation, then it seems it;d be very difficult for either dancer to avoid falling into what Jesus calls adultery of the heart. He's not asking us to repress our love for the opposite sex, but to upgrade it to the kind of love that lasts forever, the most romantic love there is, where each person loves the other just for themselves. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Divorce, remarriage and communion

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:13am on May 5th 2018
A friend who is Catholic has been divorced and remarried. The first marriage was not annulled or dissolved other than by divorce. There are children of the first marriage. The second marriage was in a registry office, not a church. Her understanding of Catholic teaching is that if she is remarried following divorce she cannot take communion unless she refrains from a sexual relationship with her new husband. Is this true? Since she actually DOES take communion is she putting a priest at risk? Or is her second marriage simply not recognised so she can just carry on?

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Hi Karen, your friend's understanding of Catholic teaching is quite right - since her first marriage wasn't annulled (of course I don't know if an annulment might be possible, it's something she might look into), from the viewpoint of the Church she's not married to the man she's now civilly married to. So she shouldn't receive Communion unless they are, as the Church puts it, living as brother and sister.

Still, there are many ways other than in the Eucharist where she can meet Jesus, including by attendance at Mass - where she can make a spiritual communion, in each neighbour she meets, in her children, in her present partner, in the various sufferings that come her way, in the Word of scripture, in her prayer, and so on. Keeping her in my prayers, in what's a very difficult situation, very best, Fr Brendan
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Can I book a trip for an unmarried couple?

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:46pm on March 7th 2018
Hello Father,

I work as an independent travel agent, and my distant cousin recently reached out to me asking for me to help her book a trip to take with her boyfriend. They want to stay in the same hotel room. I do not know for sure if she is living with her boyfriend, or whether or not they are waiting until marriage for sex, so I don't want to judge, but I am assuming that, due to the fact that they want to stay in the same room, they are in the least, not being completely chaste. But again, I do not know for sure. Would it be a sin for me to plan this trip for them?



Thank you for all your help!

Nicole

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Hi Nicole, a long time ago, St Augustine argued against adultery being included in the civil law of a country, since he felt that such sins were best dealt with for Christians in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I'm not saying your question is the same, but I think there's a basic common sense here: that it's not up to a travel agent to get involved in the moral lives of their customers (always excluding situations which are against the laws of most countries, like drug dealing or child abuse).

And many countries have laws against discrimination, so there's a possibility a travel agent would be open to civil action for denying their services. (I'd rather not try to deal here with the much more obviously difficult matter of providing services for gay couples, where sometimes Christian bakers and other service providers are deliberately targetted in order to provoke legal cases.) So I would advise you to go ahead and make the booking for the couple. It would be different if you had a good relation with your distant cousin, which would allow a non-judgmental conversation which might lead to a conversion -but that type of dialogue can't be started outside a pre-existing mutual respect for one another. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is this cohabitation and is it a sin?

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:00pm on March 3rd 2018
My boyfriend and I have been dating for 4 years. We have been unofficially engaged for half of this time (I say unofficially because there is no ring involved due to lack of money, and he wants to ask my dad before I publicly announce things - we also had to finish school and such). But we are very serious about each other and we are both Catholic.

I moved out of my parents house two years ago and asked my boyfriend, who had been living in an off campus house of all men - and it was absolutely horrendous - to live in my apartment with me. There were ground rules of course.

1. We always had roommates who were fine with it. We were not to live alone.
2. No sex or anything until marriage - something we’d already agreed on and something we have kept since.
3. Obviously no one was required to stay if they found better living arrangements elsewhere.

My boyfriend has his own room, and we do not interact intimately at all. It’s just as if we were back it the coed dorms. We did not buy anything together for the place, it was all separate, so we don’t have any “shared” possessions. We don’t have any other problems like the articles I was reading - I didn’t suggest this to test our relationship or to test drive marriage. It was just a housing arrangement similar to the dorms on campus to get him out of his off campus house until he found a new place, which he did. He is moving out in a couple months with a friend, so this situation isn’t going to last for much longer.
(I did read one thing that said it takes the excitement out of and devalues marriage...but I would highly disagree. We haven’t experienced what marriage would be like and I think by saying that situations like mine devalue it makes marriage nothing more than just living together. And I know it’s much more than that.)

But I’ve looked it up and couldn’t find anything to say in which our situation was actually a sin. I do not think it is, otherwise I never would have suggested it in the first place. But now I’m curious. Is living under the same roof as your significant other while adhering to church teaching a sin? What’s so different to this situation versus say staying at the SO’s house with his parents for two weeks? Or living in the coed dorms? We do not treat those situations differently than our current one.

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Hi Haley, I agree with you, there's no need to manufacture sins where there aren't any, as is the case between you and your boyfriend. You've both been serious about how you're living the arrangement. And since you're going to discontinue the arrangement in a few months, provided you stick to your ground rules (backed up by serious prayer), it's surely not sinful.

But I'd be inclined not to put off your engagement for much longer - getting engaged is a public admittance that you're both serious about marriage, and too many couples delay marriage indefinitely because of money problems. Our parents, or at least our grandparents, were a lot more romantic, and were prepared to start their married life very simply - my parents got married just before the Second World War wiped out my dad's job in Ireland, where he was working for a US shipping company. My mother, expecting her first child just laughed when he came home with the shattering news and said if this is to be a real tragedy it should be snowing too!

At the same time, there can be a slight lessening of say, your boyfriend's sense of freedom, if he feels somehow obliged to you for providing this accommodation. And while you're both doing great just now, living in the same house would seem at be least an added pressure on you both to live according to what the Church requires of couples before they're married. The ordinary wisdom of avoiding occasions of sin is an issue for everyone, including for good-living and practising Catholics. And I think anyone who's followed the various relationship disasters on university campuses would say that co-ed dorms are a terrible idea. Keeping you both in my prayers for a happy marriage in the not too distant future, very best, Fr Brendan
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Silvy

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:02am on February 20th 2018
Hi, thank you for your time. I was just wanted some advice on how I can help a friend who is going through hardship in her marriage. She has been subject to abuse by her husband who is a gambler, alcoholic and drug user. they have two young girls who have witness such behaviour. My friend has told me her side of the story and has indicated that his parents have been a bad influence in his life. They too have a toxic marriage. Unfortunately, her husband a victim of abandonment and has been "feed" his behaviour. Even though she has been a victim of abuse how do I help her through this difficult time. I actually feel sorry for both but I cannot ignore the fact that her husband has hardships and unresolved issues in his life. I Don't want to take sides but I know with God's mercy and grace their lives and marriage can be restored, they need the will to move forward.Thank you.God Bless.

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Hi Silvana,

Luke tells us in his Gospel that when the angel made the annunciation to Mary, she said, 'how can that be, since I know not a man.' We can learn so much about Mary from that. Unlike her cousin Elizabeth, who was considered too old to have a child in the normal way, that wasn't the case for Mary, who was still very young. That's why the only meaning 'I know not a man' can have is that she had decided to remain a virgin.

Why did she do this? Right up to her own time, and in some cultures today still, a woman was considered to be seriously lacking if she didn't bear children. Didn't Elizabeth actually thank the Lord for taking away her reproach - that she is childless - among men - meaning among everyone? Yet Mary, inspired both by the Holy Spirit and by the prophetic strand in the Old Testament that focused on Israel as Bride of God, has chosen to give herself to God alone. That's why she's so disturbed at what the angel is saying to her. But that also says something really important for us today. She's not in any way hostile to men, as her life with Joseph for years while remaining a virgin shows. Still, she's saying something very important to every human being: that to be herself she isn't dependent on anyone else, even when deeply relating to them. Mary has found her true and complete freedom as a person in her choice of God, in her relying on God alone.

A true story I was told once explained this to me. A small group of people were meeting regularly and sharing their experiences of living the gospel. One time they'd taken that sentence of Our Lady's, 'I know not a man' to put into practice in their lives. A woman in the group had a friend, let's call her Edel, who was deeply distressed by her husband's drinking and coming in late. She used to give out to him regularly when he came in drunk. This lady from the group I mentioned had a chat with her. 'Maybe part of the trouble is that you see your own identity as so bound up with your husband's that the life he's living is undermining your own inner peace. But Our Lady had already come to that point of personal maturity that she didn't depend on anyone else for her inner peace or identity.' Edel was really helped by this. Instead of giving out to her husband, when he came in she sat down with him and chatted. No longer feeling judged by her, he opened up to her with some of his own worries. Gradually her husband felt less humiliated by his drinking, and as time went on he stopped drinking altogether. Hope that's a help, very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 4:05pm on February 2nd 2018
Hi,

I have a few questions that have been bothering me for some years. If love is a good wholesome thing (which I truly believe it is!), why do we love people that are not good to us? When I say "not good to us", I don't mean in a physically abusive way, but one that divert us from being close to God. Is this feeling part of my "cross" or just a product of an obsessive mind? Or both? Is this, like you said in one of your replies, a way of being closer to God and Christ through suffering? Or just the influence of negative forces? I have a very hard time understanding this.

Thank you in advance for your reply and insight!

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Hi Catherine, I think the handiest way to approach your question is to have a look at what love is. I've often mentioned, because I think it's a helpful approach, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato's discussion of love in his dialogue called Symposium. There he explores three kinds of love, love of the body, or of outer beauty; love of the soul, or of inner beauty; and love of God, of eternal beauty.

At the end of the dialogue, a rich and powerful politician from Athens offers to repay the old, bald and ugly Socrates for his teaching by offering him a homosexual relationship. Socrates tells Alkibiades he doesn't know what he's doing, that he's offering brass (Alkibiades' bodily/outer beauty) for Socrates' spiritual/inner beauty - a beauty which also participated in divine/eternal Beauty. So love of another person in terms of their physical beauty and emotional attractiveness, is the first stage of love. There's nothing wrong with this: the shock of meeting someone who's outwardly beautiful can be a necessary first step towards arriving at their spiritual beauty.

It's only when that first step is the only step we make, that we'd have to say such love was at best an immature and inadequate love.

Now let's upgrade Plato the way we can find Jesus does (I'm not saying Jesus was thinking of Plato here!), with his statement, ‘anyone looking a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart' (Mt 5:28). What he's saying here is that if I love another person for myself, for my own enjoyment, and not for who they are in themselves, a child of God, I'm not really loving them for their sake, but myself. Again, nothing wrong with loving another in the hope I can gain from that love, but first it has got to be a love of you for you - that's what real romance is.

And then there won't be any contrast between loving another and becoming closer to God. Because my love for you will include my being able to die for you, my losing myself - in other words my loving the other the way Jesus has loved me. Which is why a husband's way to God is through his love for his wife, a wife's way to God is through her love of her husband - each loves Jesus in the other, each is Jesus for the other. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Gays feel unwelcome in the Catholic Church

A Xt3 Member asked at 5:20pm on January 29th 2018
Hello Father. How can we encourage our gay brothers and sisters to approach Jesus through the Catholic church when so many of them feel unwelcome in the church? If Jesus truly came for the sinners, it seems that many homosexuals are distanced from Him because of what they perceive to be an unwelcome climate toward gays in the church. I'm wondering how we can encourage these folks to approach the church so that they can receive the Eucharist and all of the blessings that go with it. Thank you.

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Hi James, I'd like to begin an attempt at answering your question by quoting from an earlier answer of mine on this web-page which I hope will be helpful:

"A few years ago, in Ireland, I was on a radio programme with Quentin Fottrell, a gay journalist, and was asked what about the Church's teaching that homosexual activity is an objective moral disorder. I said that that was the clear teaching of the Church going back to the New Testament, and even to Jesus' only statement about sexual sin, that 'anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery in their heart.' In other words, that any using of another human being for sexual enjoyment is committing a form of adultery.

But I went on to say that when the Church says something is objectively disordered, it's not making a pronouncement about the person's subjective state. For example, if someone is involved in a gay relationship but doesn't understand or realize that it's sinful from a Christian perspective, we can't make a judgment about that person's subjective moral state. So I said to that journalist, Quentin, that you may be nearer to God than I am - which wouldn't be hard - since I can't comment on your personal moral status with God. And it's a big mistake for me, as a sinner, to ever think I'm better than anyone else."

Fr John Harvey, OSFS, founded a group called Courage, aimed at Catholics who had a gay orientation, to help them to live chastity. I'd strongly recommend his Homosexuality and the Catholic Church: Clear Answers to Difficult Questions, and the much longer The Truth About Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful - you'll easily find details about them on the net.

Without going into detail here, the Church in its various statements about homosexuality has always spoken of the need to treat gay people with the love Christians are bound to show everyone. If they're trying to live a life of chastity, of course they can receive the Eucharist the same as any person who's not homosexual, who, after a fall, confess their sin, makes a firm commitment to do all in their power not to sin in that area again, and receives absolution.

Since it's not possible for the Church to change the clear teaching of the New Testament on homosexual activity, a person who has a gay orientation and acts on it without repenting, can't be admitted to the Eucharist. Andy Warhol, one of my favourite US painters, was gay, regularly attended St Vincent Ferrer's church on Lexington Ave, E65th St New York, but didn't receive the Eucharist as he knew that was incompatible with his gay behaviour. He also volunteered his services to the church's outreach to the poor. In fact, Fr Harvey strongly advises those gays who had been active and are now striving to live purity, to turn to charitable works as a way of breaking away from the selfishness we all suffer from. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Singleness

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:36am on December 24th 2017
Hello Father,

I am a women in her 30s who has never been married. Year after year I have prayed to God to help me find a husband. I feel like I am disappointed in relationships over and over and now I am watching everyone have the life I desired, marriage and children. I am at the point I am suicidal and considering ending my life because I feel like I am going to be alone and never have my own children. I have prayed through the years and feel I have not been helped. Does God want me to be sad and alone? Why is he helping others and not me?

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Hi Abby, many thanks for your questions, I hope by sharing what some others have said about the single state, at least a little light can be thrown on what you ask.

Claire Lesegretain is a journalist for Catholic French newspaper La Croix, who's calling on the Church to do more to minister to the large number of single people: 'This is the Church's blind spot. It's there, very present, but nobody talks about it. We don't see them,' Her interest in this issue comes from her personal experience, since she also struggled with her faith and her own celibacy in her mid-30s. 'I did not see the meaning of celibacy as a Christian. What does the Lord want from me?' she wondered then. She felt both social and personal pressures. For many, she said, these pressures become sufferings.

'There is the question of fertility: who am I serving, who am I useful for? As a Christian, we were raised in the idea of giving ourselves, of loving one's life. And to whom am I giving my life?'

Up to the Second Vatican Council, the Church put forward two vocations - religious life and marriage. But even before that, figures like Chiara Lubich, who founded the Focolare Movement, rediscovered that there's a deeper vocation than priesthood and religious life or marriage - the vocation to choose God-Love as the source of and reason for, our lives. I could choose either priesthood or marriage and not choose God first.

Lesegretain says Mary Magdalene, who poured perfume on the feet of Jesus, can even become an inspiring example for singles: 'For a single person who suffers from not being able to love, the most precious perfume is his heart and his capacity to love. Rather than moping into sadness, what the Lord is proposing is to come and lay down that capacity to love on his body, in the intimacy of the relationship with Christ, she added. 'To be single is to have a very pure, very expensive perfume, which has a lot of value. And the Church needs this perfume, this treasure.'

There's also a book by ethics professor, Jana Bennett, book Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life, which she explains like this:

My direction comes from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 7, where he famously advises Christians to be as he is - that is, as a single person unattached to wives and husbands.

Yet when we look more closely at that scripture, we can see that Paul addresses quite a diverse crowd of people. He speaks about being never married, divorced, widowed, engaged, and so on, too. And he writes that these ways of being single are also ways Christians are part of the church.

So, following Paul, I decided to explore what gifts single people, in all their variety, might offer to the church. In each chapter, I focus on a different single "state of life". Each chapter also draws on the life and writings of a Christian who lived that state of life and who took seriously that all of us are called to a life of discipleship in Jesus' name. So, for example, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the widow whose writings provide some of the discussion in my chapter on widowhood.

Jana goes on to say that 'the incredible importance of vowed religious life doesn't negate the fact that many people simply experience the impermanent states of singleness as a fact of life. Spouses do die, often unexpectedly; never marrieds do fall in love and consider whether to marry someone; single parents exist in all kinds of ways.'

I'd add that Our Lady, who is traditionally associated both with the vocation of religious virginity and of the married state, also lived, since the death of her spouse, St Joseph, lived as a single woman, probably for most of her later life. Yes, she was the Mother of God, but the longest part of her life was lived without Joseph and without her Son. Yet, no one was more at the heart of the Church, preventing it from becoming just an organization, and helping it grow as a family, than her.

God surely has a plan of love for you - in my own limited experience I've known quite a few women who are single who have found their place in an ecclesial movement like Focolare - and there are many of those groups. Even if you prefer to remain on your own, maybe wake up some contacts with Church groups - if they're not in your parish, maybe in larger and more active parishes near you. Very best, and assuring you of my prayers, Fr Brendan (I've used two interviews from the Crux website for this answer, Philippe Vaillancourt, 'Forgotten Catholics: French author speaks on single people, celibacy,' 10/11/17 and Charles C. Camosy, 'Finding grace in singleness: How being single is still part of the Church,' 14/8/17.)
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Drug addiction

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:47am on December 4th 2017
My niece is addicted to drugs. I tried to help her in all ways including money for about 15 years now. She is into some dangerous stuff and I don't want her bringing any of this on my family. I want to completely cut her out of my life but it makes me feel guilty like I am a bad person.

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Hi Diane, I think there's two different things here. Firstly, there's your duty to protect your family from the bad effect your niece could have on them. From anything I've ever heard, money is never a help to an addict, it's generally only a means to getting more drugs. What's often called 'tough love' would say that love for the addict shouldn't fuel their addiction.

That gets me to the second thing, which you know a lot better than me. That is that your niece is one of those Jesus called the 'least' of his brothers and sisters. You've already been loving Jesus in her for all those 15 years, and I think you're not going to stop loving her, even when you take whatever steps you must take to protect yourself and your family.

It takes two to tango in any relationship, and she's almost certainly not able to enter into a mature relationship with you - just using you as a backup isn't an adequate way to relate to another person. If you keep in your heart all the kindness and love you've shown her all these years, you'll remember that whatever steps you have to take to bring about that necessary separation doesn't mean you're loving her less.

Rather, it's not just helping your family, you're also helping her - by not allowing her to take advantage of others. And because you're doing that out of love, who knows that later she'll remember that, and it'll be at least one beacon of hope for her in the future. I remember a man speaking to thousands of people at a meeting years ago - he'd been an addict, and because of him, some of his children had become addicts too. But somehow he'd overcome his addiction, and was telling the audience, never to give up hope on us addicts. So you'll keep on praying for her recovery and put her in the heart of Jesus and Mary. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Cohabitation

A Xt3 Member asked at 8:29pm on November 12th 2017
Good afternoon from Canada,

My question is about cohabitation. My girlfriend lives in a 3 bedroom house with her sister and her sister's husband. Seeing as I already spend most of my days with them, share and cook meals with them and leaving only to sleep at the end of the night in a room (no access to kitchen) rented less than a kilometre away, I brought up the idea of renting the third room from them. My girlfriend brought up the issue of cohabitation. So three questions arise:

1. What is cohabitation in definition to the Catholic Church?

2. Are we crossing any boundaries by spending time at the house, cooking and sharing meals everyday leaving out sleeping in the house?

3. Are we crossing boundaries by me renting the room?

Thank you so much once again for taking time to answer my questions and those you respond to everyday. May God bless you and the work that you do.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

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Hi Romell, I'll try to answer your 3 questions in order:



1. Cohabitation would mean a couple living together as man and wife before they were married.

2. Since spending time at that house your girlfriend shares with her sister and brother-in-law doesn't seem to be causing any trouble, I can't see anything wrong with it.

3. But I think your renting a room there might make things more difficult for you and for your girlfriend-the very fact that she mentioned 'cohabitation' is enough of a red light. While at the moment, you mightn't feel it's putting yourself or her under pressure, you just never know what could happen in the near future.

But (and of course I'm not in a position to meet you face to face) I have a question too-which is, if you and your girlfriend have become so close, meeting each other every day, why don't you both get married?

I think putting the question in terms of crossing or not crossing boundaries is the wrong way to go. The real question, in terms of genuine Christian love is, how can I love my girlfriend the way God loves her-for herself alone? At your wedding ceremony, I hope not too far in the future, you'll be promising to love your bride 'for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.' That means, to love one another without conditions, ready to lay down our lives for each other. And it's in that context that all our questions are best placed. So, wishing you both very well for I hope a happy marriage in the near future, if that's at all possible, Fr Brendan
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