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multiple marraiges

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:30pm on October 17th 2018
Hello Father,

I'm a Christian (Baptist). Does God's Law consider a woman's marriage valid that occurred when the man was STILL married to someone else (not divorced) at the time? The first spouse was still alive. The second marriage can be legally annulled thru Man's law, but did the second marriage even count in the eyes of God?

I realy feel like God put this woman in my life so I can be happy. The problem is that she's married to a man who was still married to another woman when they got married (she did not know of this at the time). The man (husband) took off and married a third woman and hasnt spoken to my friend in years. There is no marriage and she wants to get it annuled but the lawyer is expensive. If I get involved with her before its annuled, am I commiting adultery?

Please provide any Bible references to support your answer.

Thanks!

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Hi Ray, let me start with the Bible references: in the book of Malachi, God says that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). And in the Gospels, Jesus says:

'Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator "made them male and female," and said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate' (Mt 19:4-6). And: 'Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery' (Lk 16:18, see Mk 10:11-12).

St Paul writes: 'Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives. . . . Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive' (Rom. 7:2-3). And: 'To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) - and that the husband should not divorce his wife' (1 Cor 7:10-15).

None of this means that a couple could never separate - since infidelity, violence or other serious issues, could make it impossible for the couple to stay together. What Jesus and Paul are ruling out is the remarrying of a validly married couple, who remain married to each other even after they're physically separated.

Since you're a Baptist, I don't feel qualified to go into the details of what you should do, but would suggest you consult your Pastor and find out what are your Church's procedures for dealing with what is an extremely difficult situation for you and this woman. If you were Catholic, the Church would have to examine that situation to see if the woman's marriage could be annulled, and if it could be, then you'd need to get a civil divorce as well, before you could be married in the Church. Hope that's not too confusing! Very best, keeping you in my prayers, Fr Brendan
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The Sacrament of Marriage

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:29am on October 24th 2018
Dear Father,

Thank you for taking your time to read this. I have two questions for you:

What does it mean to receive the sacrament of marriage in a Catholic church?

and

How can my husband and I be called to live out the vocation of married life in our relationship with each other, our family and the Catholic community?

Harold and I do try to be a stable family unit in our community.

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Hi Emilysue, one way of trying to understand the beauty of this wonderful sacrament is to think of what the priest says at Mass when he is consecrating the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. When he says 'this is my Body, which will be given up for you,' the word 'body' here means his whole self, divinity and humanity, and 'for you' sums up his whole life, given up for each of us. And when the priest says 'this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,' the word 'Blood' stands again for his whole self, divine and human, from the viewpoint of life, 'poured out for you and for many.' And the 'new covenant' means the new relationship in which all of us are, in Jesus, united with his Father.

So when a couple pronounce their vows, they are each pledging their whole selves to each other in Jesus. And the words said after that, 'for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part' share in the unconditional commitment of Jesus to his New Covenant. Each of the spouses confers that abiding sacramental presence of Jesus in whom they are united forever. Just after they've made their vows, the priest, using the words of Jesus says 'what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' While that sounds like a negative statement, that's only the second part. Because Jesus meant the spouses are bound together like the Father is bound together in an unbreakable unity with the Son in the Holy Spirit. All this happens through the sacrament of Matrimony which each of the spouses confers on the other (the priest, best man and principal bridesmaid are all just witnesses to this).

Pope Francis is very clear that marriage, like priesthood and religious life, is a vocation too, a beautiful and special calling to the spouses from God. And I guess that vocation to witness to the love uniting the Trinity in which they share, is first to be lived out with one another - each one finds their way to God through love of the other, including the inevitable sufferings that come their way. And then with their children, if God has sent them a family. That's a huge part of their vocation, since the very example of a good Christian family is a light in the darkness for others trying to find their way.

But your question shows you're willing to share your family life with others, and that can be expressed in helping other couples, especially those in difficulties, it could be, (obviously only when and if possible), in adopting or fostering children who need the care of a family. Possibly you could think of participating in various family-oriented groups or movements that may exist within reachable distance from where you live.

St John Paul II once said at the end of a huge meeting of the Focolare's New Family Movement in Rome, 'you [meaning each family] must be the Church [that is each family as a little Church], and the Church must be you' [that is, the whole Church must be a family, like yours]. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Does God prevent some from ever marrying?

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:25pm on December 20th 2018
Does God Prevent some people from ever marrying even if it is all they have ever wanted? I feel like God knows how important marriage is for me and that I don't have long for kids, but I feel like no matter how much I ask him to help my relationships or help me find the right person, he never helps. I have always been a good person, but lately I have become a very angry person, and I am starting to resent people who are close to me, who have marriage and children, Why did god help them, but not me. I don't have long to have children, and I would never be able to continue a relationship with the lord if he refuses me of this, because to me it means he doesn't care. So my question is, why does he choose certain people to deprive of marriage and children?

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Hi Abby, I don't think I'll be able to answer your question, since it's one of the biggest questions of all - why do innocent people have to suffer? You can imagine all through history there have been millions of people who have asked that question too, Why me? And your own question has been asked again and again by women who have not found a partner they could share their lives with and with whom they could have a family.

About 12 years ago, I got to know a man. Vern, who was suddenly struck, I think it was when he was in his late 30, with multiple sclerosis. That immediately cost him his job, and soon after, his wife abandoned him to the care of his mother. In the care home where he lived, he wrote poetry, sang songs (as long as he could) for the other patients, and one poem, this not particularly religious guy wrote, stuck in my mind. He entitled it: 'Are you listening, God?'

I know you are powerful, mighty and strong

but personally I think

you got this wrong

or did you?

Vern knew there was no cure for the kind of MS he had, but that 'or did you?' indicated for me that he'd reached a level of acceptance.

Just as another great friend of mine, Eddie, found he had muscular dystrophy from when he was about 7 years old, the most serious kind that normally meant those suffering from it died about age 17. Still, Eddie had found a way to go beyond his suffering, a way that showed itself in his remark about a seriously depressed student I'd brought to have a chat with him. After the student left, Eddie said to me, 'it's a pity he doesn't understand that you don't solve problems, you love them.' I didn't quite get what he meant for a while, but realized that Eddie knew his 'problem' couldn't be solved (in fact he died at 31, living nearly twice as long as he was expected to) but that he'd come to accept it.

And I'll draw on what he told me to pick up your question again. Eddie had discovered that when Jesus cried out on the Cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' he had reached the depths of his suffering. Worse than the nails, than the humiliations, was his experience of being, it seemed, abandoned by his own Father. Once Jesus said, 'the Father and I are one.' Now that oneness was torn in two, and it seemed his Father no longer loved him.

I'm not asking you to accept that as an 'answer' to your terribly tough experience. But at least you can be sure that Jesus being forsaken - along with his Mother being desolated by the loss of her Son as she stood by him - that both of them are sharing in your own experience of forsakenness by God, and of desolation in the possibility of your losing, having a family of your own. Jesus does go on to say to his Father, 'into your hands I entrust my spirit.' And Mary, through accepting the loss of her Son, becomes the Mother of humanity. My prayer is that they will both come into your heart and help you to bear the tremendous suffering you have spoken about, and I'll certainly keep your hopes for meeting someone who could be your husband in my own prayers every day. Very best, fr Brendan
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NFP while breastfeeding

A Xt3 Member asked at 5:41am on August 31st 2018
First of all, sorry for my English. I'll try to do my best to make myself clear.

The thing is: we understand women's cycles and how to abstain during the fertile windows. But what about the breastfeeding time? It is very common not to have an ovulation and being infertile while breatsfeeding. But when ovulation comes for the first time after birth it's tricky to know the exact time you have to abstain. And it takes some months to be regular again. Should we ban sex of our lives until the regular cycles are back??? It's also dangerous getting pregnant very soon after birth (we already had a miscarrige, because I got pregnant on the first ovulation 6 months after giving birth and my body was not prepared). Now, after my third pregnancy (second child alive) we would like to wait some time to get pregnant again. NFP cant be applied in this case and we dont know what to do.

My second question is: Is the withdrawal from coitus accepted by the church? Which is the moral difference between the withdrawal and condoms?



Thanks!

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Hi Mag, your English is great! I'm really sorry as I'm not an expert on the details of NFP and would hate to be giving you wrong advice in this difficult matter. I think the best thing for you to do is to have a face to face meeting with a female NFP expert - I'm sure many women have had similar difficulties and she should be able to talk you through whatever is recommended in a situation like yours. She may be able to tell you about a method in tune with the Church's teaching that can help to regularize your cycles including during breastfeeding. My mother, who breastfed us all, had several miscarriages too and hope you can find a good solution.

Before going into detail on your second question, just a few Sundays ago you'll remember we had the reading from St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. There, having said to husbands and wives, 'be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,' he goes on to remind us that both belong to the Body of Christ, both are Jesus, and, comparing it to the self-sacrificing love of Christ for the Church, and calls the vowed relationship of marriage 'a great mystery' (Eph 5: 21&32).

It's in this Trinitarian context that St John Paul explained (in his Theology of the Body, S123 & 124) how the act of marriage expresses both the love of the spouses for each other in an act that's never separated from its potential fruitfulness. If this separation happens by withdrawal or the use of a condom (morally there's no difference between them), by their misuse of 'the language of the body' the spouses would effectively be lying to their own true nature and to each other. I'm certain that in your difficult situation Jesus will give you both his grace and support, including in carrying the cross that all true love forces us to carry from time to time. That support will come through his presence among you in the sacrament of marriage and especially in the Eucharist, the celebration of the great mystery of the love of Jesus for us through his death and resurrection. Very best, Fr Brendan
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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

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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
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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?

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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
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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!

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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
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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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