ask a priestSex, marriage and relationships

Ask a Question

My questions

My following questions

Browse by topic



0 +



A Xt3 Member asked at 6:50am on October 15th 2017
Dear Father.

If someone has gender dysphoria and shows up dressed as the opposite sex, is it okay to address them by their new chosen name and use their preferred gender pronoun (ie she/her, if the person was originally born a man and vice versa).

Or is it giving tacit approval to that?

Many thanks


0 +

Hi Mark, the first requirement for all Christians is to love Jesus in our neighbour, especially in the one we regard as the 'least.' If I get that right, then the particular behaviour in any circumstance will follow, since I'm asking - as your question shows you're asking too - how can I love Jesus in this person who experiences himself or herself as transgender.

I'd be inclined to think of how Jesus responded to the woman caught committing adultery. Everyone surrounding her treated her as a sinful object, to be disposed of by stoning her to death. But Jesus went straight to her heart and saw her as an extremely vulnerable human being who'd been looking for love in the wrong place. And he took the risk of not treating her as a public sinner, knowing that those around him were only too keen on catching him out if he didn't agree with stoning her. Having asked her if anyone remained to condemn her, she replied, 'no, Master,' and he simply said, 'neither do I, go and sin no more' (see Jn 8: 1-11).

But before saying that, he'd built a relationship with her. And maybe that's what we have to try to do with the transgendered person who comes our way. Because only if they experience our genuine love for themselves as persons will it ever be possible to open up a dialogue with them to the point that we could encourage them to change their wrongful lifestyle. So I'd be inclined, if you're able, to suggest calling them by whatever term they want to be called.

It could be quite a different situation if you were in a position of authority, say a school principal, responsible for a sports activity, and so on. Then you might have to take a stand, since other people involved could be scandalized by publicly accepting their position. This is a very thorny question, and I'm not trying to deal with all these other situations here. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (81)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +



A Xt3 Member asked at 9:59pm on September 25th 2017
I plan to marry my filipina girlfriend but she tells me that her sister was married in August 2017 and we will have to wait a year to get married or one of us will die within a year. I do not want to wait. I know this is a supresticion from my research but she is stedfast in her belief. We want to get married in the church in Butuan. I would like the church's view on this superstition. I will be in Butuan in October and it would be great if we could get married as soon as I complete conversion to Catholicism. I need an opinion from the church. Please reply

C Fleegal

0 +

Hi Chester, you're quite right, such a belief is mistaken - God has his plans for each one of us and they're not dependent on whatever beliefs people may have. At the same time, such beliefs are hard to shake, and there's a saying that it's better for people, including yourself and your fiancee, to do something that's less than perfect (we're not talking about anything sinful) together, than something perfect in a way that divides you.

Given your fiancee is convinced of this belief, wouldn't it be a sign of your love for her to cheerfully go along with her fears and wait till next year? Being right isn't everything! And your letting her win this 'argument' is a good sign that both of you will be able to build a lifelong relationship based on mutual respect. As you know, Jesus has said that where two or three are united in his name - that is, ready to love one another to the point of being ready to die for the other - there He is among them. And that continued presence of Jesus among you will be at the heart of the sacrament of matrimony uniting you. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (416)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


Right to Refuse: Interracial Couple & Same-Sex couple

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:04am on September 15th 2017
Hi again Father,

I have been talking to someone about the plebiscite on marriage and in our discussions, he brought up the refusals of service to same-sex weddings from religious businesses. I said these people weren't discriminating against people but activities and that conscientious objectors in other areas of service aren't forced to violate their beliefs.

In response he said to me, "So how would you respond to a business owner who refuses service to interracial marriages? He isn't discriminating based on race because he will happily serve a black and white person themselves, he just won't serve at an interracial wedding because he disagrees with that. Owner is also refusing to serve the 'event' of an interracial marriage."

How should I respond?

0 +

Hi Miguel, I'd be inclined to ask just where and when this refusal to provide services (I'm presuming hotel reception, flower supply or baking a cake) for an interracial couple actually happened. Is it a recent event - if so, I'd be surprised we haven't heard about it in the media, which are rather find of publicizing these kind of situations. Even in the US, where there's been no legal prohibition of interracial marriages since 1967. That objection seems to me at least 40 years out of date, as there's no way such a refusal would be allowed in the US today. As far as I know, once Australian Aboriginals were granted citizenship in 1967, there could have been no legal prohibition of interracial marriage here either.

For a Christian, as St Paul puts it several times, we're all one in Christ Jesus (see Gal 3:28). But Paul also very clearly regards gay or lesbian activities (the Church is careful to distinguish between a gay or lesbian orientation and gay or lesbian sexual activities) as sinful (Rom 1:26-27). That's why there's a difference between an interracial marriage which doesn't go against Christian morality, and a gay marriage (presumably including sexual relations) which does.

That doesn't ever mean that I consider myself morally superior to anyone else. As I was saying in my homily last Sunday:

'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 merely 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.'

Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (124)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


Is Allowing Divorce a Redefinition of Marriage?

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:12pm on September 9th 2017
Hello Father,

I have been watching Catholic talks on marriage. One speaker gives examples of important pillars within marriage that are under attack. One example is that the life-long union aspect of marriage was removed through no-fault divorce.

The speaker says that marriage before no-fault divorce would probably be best as the statistics in everything were much better. He does say that during this time people needed serious reasons for divorce (abuse, abandonment or adultery) which meant the divorce rate was so low.

My question would be, if marriage was reverted back to the way it was, wouldn't it still be a redefinition of marriage since it allowed for divorce? Would we then campaign for no legal divorce at all? If so, wouldn't this be the opposite of separation of Church and state?

I 100% agree with Catholic teaching on marriage and the talks were really good but I was trying to think of questions an opponent might bring up so I thought of this but couldn't really give a good answer.

Thank you

0 +

Hi again, Miguel, I think the basic point here is the clear distinction between Church and State, as Jesus put it, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21). So whatever laws about marriage the state makes, they don't touch the nature of Christian marriage, which is always a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, which is open to the generation of children.

It's true, as you say, that legalized divorce, and especially no-fault divorce, very deeply affects how people perceive marriage as no longer a lifelong commitment. The reality is that the society surrounding us can either support marriage - as it did in most Western countries until divorce became easier and more acceptable to many. Or it can undermine marriage, by offering divorce as an easy way out of difficult relationships.

The Church has never said that a couple can't separate - which may be necessary due to seriously abusive behaviour or infidelity by one of the spouses. But, following Jesus' words against divorce, 'what God has joined together let no man put asunder' (Mk 10:9), the Church can never approve remarriage, once the first commitment is understood to have been a valid one.

In Ireland many Christians campaigned against the introduction of divorce, which was explicitly forbidden by our 1937 Constitution. But the grounds of that 1986 campaign had to be put forward in terms than anyone, Christian or non-believer could accept - especially the huge impact on children of divorced couples. Now, while Ireland's divorce rates are not as high as neighbouring countries, they're currently around 4,000 a year. Since divorce is allowed in almost every country in the world except the Philippines, I don't think you'll be coming across that many opponents in this matter.

Of course the Christian answer to a divorce culture is the witness of happily married couples and families - I've heard of couples with young families volunteering to live in some African countries where polygamy is practiced, since it's less by preaching than by the example of their lives that people are won over to the Christian vision of marriage in the light of the Trinity. As St John Paul II notes in his 1994 Letter to Families:

'In the light of the New Testament it is possible to discern how the primordial model of the family is to be sought in God himself, in the Trinitarian mystery of his life. The divine "We" is the eternal pattern of the human "we", especially of that "we" formed by the man and the woman created in the divine image and likeness' (S6).

Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (102)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


Right to refuse: Divorcee Re-marrying vs Same-Sex Couple

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:48pm on August 22nd 2017
Hi Father,

As the postal vote for same-sex marriage is coming up, I have been hearing more debate around the topic.

One objection to Christians who oppose same-sex marriage is "it seems hypocritical for a Christian baker to make a wedding cake for a divorcee who is re-marrying and refuse to serve a same-sex couple's wedding cake because both actions are condemmed in the Bible".

How should one respond to this?


0 +

Hi Miguel, I'd be inclined to reply, 'it seems hypocritical to make arguments that are so strange it's hard to imagine them happening (like the one you mention) instead of discussing the real issue. That is that to apply the word 'marriage' which has for thousands of years referred only to committed relationships between a man and a woman to same sex relationships gives the word a new meaning - is a lot harder to understand than saying say, that in the name of equality, all sports should be called cricket.

Then the SSM lobby should be asked, why do some gay activists, once they've achieved their goal of having gay 'marriage' legalized, go out of their way to force their views on those who disagree with them. A week or so ago, Christine Forster, a Sydney councillor, said it was ridiculous to think such things could happen. I'm Irish, and over the last two years, married couple Ashers, who run a small bakery in Belfast, Northern Ireland were targetted by gay activists who ordered a cake with 'support gay marriage' and two Sesame St figures, Bert and Ernie on it. When, as the activists expected, they politely declined, they were immediately sued, lost their case in court, and effectively put out of business, with legal costs well over $200,00. The UK's most well-known gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell said that the

"verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression [and could set a] dangerous, authoritarian precedent. Although I strongly disagree with Ashers' opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose. The judgment opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial."

There's a lot more than could be said, for example the 2015 court case against Archbishop Julian Porteus in Tasmania, again brought by a gay activist, because the archbishop dared to put into print Catholic teaching in homosexuality. That case was later withdrawn (I'm sure because it just wouldn't look to good at the time, and not because there wasn't a case in terms of Tasmania's notorious Anti-Discrimination Act).

I'd be inclined to ask those folk you mention what they propose to do to prevent a tsunami of such legal cases if the Yes vote in the SSM plebiscite wins and SSM is legalized in Australia. Already Catholic adoption services have been forced to close down in the UK and the US because of such legal challenges. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (255)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


Same Sex Realationships

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:25pm on June 17th 2017
I'd like to ask if being in a relationship with the same sex is okay. I was recently in a relationship with a girl, and I find girls attractive. I want to know if this is okay. I've been hearing different things like it being okay or being bad and sinful. Please respond to me as soon as possible.

Thank you.

0 +

Hi Katelyn, thanks for sharing your question.

It all depends on what you mean by relationship - if it's a normal friendship between two girls, there's surely nothing wrong with that. Girls have many things in common, and it's a relief to have a friend of the same sex who understands us without any sexual element coming in.

A sexual relationship between two people of the same sex is wrong for much the same reason as a sexual relationship outside marriage between two people of opposite sexes. It's the reason Jesus gives when he says, 'anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart' (Mt 5:28). What 'lustfully' means here is, to love another not for themselves but for what I can get from them.

Jesus also says, 'I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you' (Jn 13:34). In other words, for anyone who wants to follow Jesus, we're asked to love right up to the level of that 'as' - where for Jesus that meant, being ready to die for us. So a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex would be wrong since by its very nature it focuses on the sexual element. I'm sure you would like to follow Jesus, and his 'commandment' - which is really his appeal to our better nature, to love each other the way God loves us, that is, seeking nothing for ourselves, loving each other purely, that is, for their own sake. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (158)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


same sex marriage

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:06pm on May 24th 2017
Is it wrong to attend the wedding of a family member who is gay? If so, what do you tell your young children who love thier uncle? We are Catholic and our children are being raised Catholic, but their father wasn't raised catholic, but has converted a few years ago, and thier uncle and the rest of the in-laws aren't Catholic.

0 +

Hi Joan,

Thank you for your question. You will find an answer from previously submitted questions on the topic here:

1. Attending a Same-Sex Wedding

2. Attending a Marriage of People of the Same-Sex

We will keep you, your children and your family in our prayers.

God bless, Ask a Priest Moderator
 Response     viewed (283)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +



A Xt3 Member asked at 1:21pm on May 15th 2017
Shalom Father.I've a question.Is masturbation always considered mortal sin?thanks n God bless

0 +

Hi Christopher, yes, masturbation is mortally sinful since it's a misuse of one of one of the most sacred functions of our bodies. Already in the Old Testament it was condemned as seriously sinful in the actions of Onan, so it was also called the sin of onanism. When hearing confessions, I often spell out some tips for avoiding falling into this sin: i) to rely completely on God, saying, you God are everything, I am nothing. That's what St Paul meant when he said, 'when I am weak, then I am strong.' When I don't depend on being the great Apostle Paul, but only on you, God, then can I overcome this temptation. ii) Watch for one of the most common tricks the Devil uses with us. When we're being tempted he says, you might as well go on, you've already committed a sin! But one of the reasons Jesus allowed himself to be tempted by the devil for 40 days and nights was so that we'd recognize him, the Tempted One, with us in our temptation, and with him learn to overcome it. iii) Another tip: watch out for how we may try to fool ourselves, by letting in 'small' temptations without immediately resisting them. The devil can see that we want to have our cake and eat it--we want and don't want to sin at this moment. But by allowing these missed opportunities to pass us by (a bit like a player avoiding difficult tackles in some tough contact sport), we're signalling to him that we're not really focused on God. So those little compromises sooner or later lead us to slide into sin. Hope that's a help, very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (251)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


Couple obligations

A Xt3 Member asked at 8:23am on May 5th 2017

According to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church we should not deny our spouses intercourse if they so wish. But in the case when I feel tired, am I still obliged to satisfy my spouse? If one of the spouses does not feel like to have intercourse why should we oblige him or her? Does this not mean that to please one another one of the partners may be obliged to do things against his or her will? And if you deny your spouse sex is it a mortal sin that needs to be confessed?



1 +

Hi James, I think the most important thing here is an open dialogue between the couple, so that each learns to respect the needs of the others. Certainly the marriage vow obliges each partner to live for the other, but many couples at their wedding ask for St Paul's hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul tells us that love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

That means the couple should have what's been called 'a pact of mercy,' where each is ready to show mercy to the other, which could include respecting the other's readiness for the act of marriage. If it turned out that one of the spouses wanted to refrain from this act for a long period of time, it might be an idea to call on a Catholic marriage counsellor to see what could be done. I don't think it's all that helpful to either spouse to bring up things like 'mortal sin' here, even though each spouse has a real obligation not to deny the other without serious reason. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (255)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +


Single-Parent Households and Same-Sex Adoption

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:40pm on April 21st 2017
Hi Father,

I was recently speaking with another person about marriage and proposing to them why it would not be in society's best interest to re-define it. We spoke about the importance of children and right to a mother and father but he said to me "How can you be opposed to same sex couples having children and not be opposed to a single mother raising her children after her husband passes away".

I hadn't heard of the argument or a response before this conversation so I was admittedly a bit stuck to respond. How should I respond to this? I know there are many responses to the argument on sterile couples and same-sex marriages but it was the first I'd heard of objecting to a biological mother taking care of her kids on her own due to no fault of her own (her husband passing away).

Thanks for your help.

1 +

Hi Miguel, rather than depend on my own limited knowledge and experience in this area, here's some points from an excellent article by Rick Fitzgibbons, a US psychiatrist with 35 years of experience - you can easily find the full piece, 'Same sex adoption is not a game,' with all the references, at MercatorNet, 18 November 2011. Here are some of the points he made, which I doubt have changed much in the last 6 years:

First, same sex couples tend to be promiscuous. One of the largest studies of same sex couples revealed that only seven of 156 couples had a sexual relationship which was totally monogamous. Most of these relationships lasted less than five years. Couples whose relationship lasted longer incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity: "The single most important factor that keeps couples together past the 10-year mark is the lack of possessiveness," observed two scholars who were also partners, David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison. "Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can be the greatest internal threat to their staying together." (2)

Second, the unions are very fragile. The probability of breakup is high for lesbian couples. In a 2010 report, the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, 40 percent of the couples who had conceived a child by artificial insemination had broken up.(3) Lisa Diamond reported in her book, Sexual Fluidity, that "more than two-thirds of the women in my sample had changed their identity labels at least once after the first interview. The women who kept the same identity for the whole ten years proved to be the smallest and most atypical group." If a woman in a same-sex relationship changes her identity label, the relationship breaks up.

And third, the couple may not necessarily be physically healthy. Dutch research has found that most new HIV infections in Amsterdam occurred among homosexual men who were in steady relationships. The researcher concluded that: "Prevention measures should address risky behavior, especially with steady partners, and the promotion of HIV testing." (4) Research shows that same sex unions suffer a significantly higher prevalence of domestic abuse, depression, substance-abuse disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases.(5) Should adopted children be placed with a couple at risk of a serious and emotionally draining illness?

What's the difference between a child adopted by a gay couple and one brought up by its widowed mother? The child of a gay couple is always the child of a father and a mother, whether naturally conceived, or by IVF. If the couple are male, then the child's mother has been excluded by some legal and financial arrangement from her natural role as the child's mother, while the child of the widowed mother will always have their true mother, and through her, the memory of their father as one who, with their mother, loved the child into existence, and never rejected them. If the couple are female, the child's father has been excluded, but that doesn't mean the child's biological connection with their father is non-existent.

I well remember a woman conceived by her mother whose father had donated his seed through some kind of international service. While that woman ended up being adopted by an Australian couple who were immensely kind to her, she spent years getting the English legal system changed so she could locate her true mother and then her father. I suggest that a child of gay adoption will always feel the loss of one or even both of its parents who have abandoned it - generally for purely financial reasons. But a child of a married couple will be far better able to live with the loss of a parent who never choose to reject him or her.

Again Rick Fitzgibbons on what a mother (including of course a widowed mother) can bring to her child's upbringing:

Among the many distinctive talents that mothers bring to the parenting enterprise, three stand out: their capacity to breastfeed, their ability to understand infants and children, and their ability to offer nurture and comfort.

Social science studies confirm this. Numerous reports indicate that infants and toddlers prefer mothers to fathers when they are hungry, afraid or sick. Mothers tend to be more soothing. Mothers are more responsive to the distinctive cries of infants; they are better able than fathers, for instance, to distinguish between a cry of hunger and a cry of pain. They are also better than fathers at detecting the emotions of their children by looking at their faces, postures, and gestures.

Children who were deprived of maternal care during extended periods in their early lives "lacked feeling, had superficial relationships, and exhibited hostile or antisocial tendencies" as they developed into adulthood.(6) Clinical experience suggests that deliberately depriving a child of its mother, motherlessness, causes severe damage because mothers are crucial in establishing a child's ability to trust and to feel safe in relationships. All cultures recognize the essential role of the mother

If you search the internet for articles critical of gay adoption I think you'll find more recent materials to fill out what I've drawn on here. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (713)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  ::