Year of Youth 2018

ask a priestSex, marriage and relationships

Ask a Question

My questions

My following questions

Browse by topic

Search

 

0 +

 

William LeMaire

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:41pm on July 30th 2018
Why is the Roman Catholic Church forbidding the use of artificial contraception? I can not find anything substantial in the Bible that states that only natural family planning is allowable.

Thanks. WJL

0 +

 
Hi William, I'm sure you've often said the Nicene Creed at Mass. Most of the articles in the Creed, while of course they correspond to what has been revealed in the New Testament, aren't found with the same clarity in the New Testament. One of the key words there, 'consubstantial' isn't in the New Testament at all, and some of the Council Fathers at Nicea (325 ad) objected to it precisely because it wasn't in the New Testament. But the Council Fathers realized that they couldn't resolve Arius' questioning of the nature of Christ without going beyond but not against what was written in the New Testament.

You could make a similar point regarding the notion of 'transubstantiation,' which again was a term needed to indicate beyond doubt the real presence of Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the appearance of consecrated bread and wine.

As you know, the Vatican Council's Constitution on Revelation, Dei Verbum, points out that 'sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others' (10). So, for a Catholic, the Church's teaching in faith and morals has from earliest times been required to go beyond what is written in the Bible. Certainly, the famous incident of Onan (Gen 38:12-14) has been referred to by Christian leaders, including Luther and Calvin, as a clear condemnation of a form of contraception. Much earlier, the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

(c. 80ad), among a list of prohibitions for Christians, says: 'You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure abortion, nor destroy a new-born child. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods....' Commentators connect 'practice magic' and 'use potions' with artificial birth control.

Just because something isn't explicitly condemned in the Bible isn't an argument for it's being morally acceptable-no more than contraception does the Bible condemn abortion. But just as there are clear Biblical texts on the humanity of the unborn, they obviously imply that abortion would be morally wrong. Similarly, there's all the texts in Genesis, Tobit, Osee, the Song of Songs, on the beauty of the marriage relationship, culminating in the presence of Jesus at the wedding of Cana, and St Paul's comparing of the love between a married couple to the love of Christ for the Church (Eph 5:32). Of course, these profound reflections on marriage as participating in the love of the Trinity for humanity (fully explored in St John Paul II's Theology of the Body) don't explicitly condemn the use of contraception, but they explain why not a single Christian Church or Community did other than regard the use of contraception as gravely sinful until the Church of England's declaration at the 1930 Lambeth Conference.

I've already written a longish reply to a similar question of yours a month ago, so I can only humbly ask you to look a lot further than the Bible for the Church's reason for regarding contraception as morally unacceptable. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (17)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

Can a good man find love?

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:53am on July 21st 2018
I am a guy who is overly sensitive as far as guys so. I get emotional and even teary-eyed at times. And I miss family and don't really do casual dating. Looking for something only for the long run. And I feel lonely most of the time. People advise me to Go out there and just date casually, but I can't bring myself to do that since I get attached. I'm definitely the commitment type, not the playboy type. Have a great career and good stuff going on otherwise. But no chic's ever fallen in love with me, especially once they have seen my vulnerable side. Is there any hope for me?

0 +

 
Hi Jibin, a friend in Ireland used to say that getting a partner in marriage is like getting a job, it's a full time job! You mention being lonely most of the time, but if you're not involved in some Catholic group, like St Vincent de Paul, Legion of Mary, or whatever is on offer in your local church or churches nearby, I'd suggest joining one of these groups.

Obviously only if there are people of the opposite sex more or less in your age range, not much point joining the local Golden Years Group! In Ireland there used to be a Catholic dating service, and if there's one near you, that might be worth a try too-two great friends of mine met through that Irish dating site for Catholics, and for many years have been happily married with a family. Or it could be something as simple as joining a church choir, which can be a good way of meeting a Catholic woman who may also be looking for a partner in marriage.

The value of these kind of groups is that it's often through volunteering with others to help those in need that people get to know each other-and even to come to appreciate the unique person maybe hidden behind a more vulnerable exterior. All the qualities you mention-being vulnerable, emotional, with a career, are just what many women are looking for, so I can't believe there isn't someone out there who will respond to you. But you'll have to make that first step of reaching out-despite all that's said about women's liberation, in our society, the man may still be expected to make the first invitation needed to begin a friendship. Keeping you in my prayers that soon you'll meet the person God would like you to marry. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (12)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

Is Grinding a sin?

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:07pm on May 23rd 2018
There’s going to be a school dance soon and I know there’s gonna be a lot of grinding/twerking. I feel like it’s assimilated into our society now, it’s such a common thing. More directly related to my question is, is grinding a sin if you want to see if you and a girl have a connection, or is it a sin at all? Thank you and have a good day!

0 +

 
Hi Ryan, whenever I'm asked is this or that a sin, I don't want to answer the question put in that way since it doesn't seem to be much use in training our consciences, where what's a 'sin' can come across as something imposed from outside like a police regulation on underage drinking!

Isn't it better to remember the only time Jesus referred to sexual immorality, when he said that 'every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart' (Mt 5:28). As St John Paul II explains, 'heart' means the full depth of the person as loved by God. Now God loves each one of us for our own sake, not at all for what he gets out of us (speaking for myself, I've been a dead loss, if I weigh my sins against any good I may have done, so I'm badly in need of God's mercy!).

The activities you mention seem more in the direction of mutual masturbation than expressions of the kind of self-sacrificing love for the other that Jesus is asking from us when he asks us to 'love one another as I have loved you' (Jn 13:34). That's the only genuine and Christian 'connection' we can have with anyone, and I'd say that we'd be only fooling ourselves if we thought that through the activities you mention we're actually connecting with another person at all. Rather, we're primarily aimed at 'connecting' with our own pleasure - which is certainly what we could call sinful. So why don't you be sure that whoever you dance with shares the vision of life Jesus has given us, because that way you're finding someone you could one day discover could be your partner in a lifelong marriage. Very best, Fr Brendan
 Response     viewed (114)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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?

0 +

 
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
Read more     Response     viewed (475)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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?

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (174)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (245)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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.

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (222)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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.

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (215)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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!

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (197)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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.

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (331)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

More