Year of Youth 2018

ask a priestSex, marriage and relationships

Ask a Question

My questions

My following questions

Browse by topic

Search

 

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 (56)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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?

0 +

 
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.)
 Response     viewed (112)  ::   ::  followed (1)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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.

0 +

 
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
 Response     viewed (130)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

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!

0 +

 
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
Read more     Response     viewed (242)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

Transgender

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

Mark

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 (238)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

0 +

 

sukob

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 (550)  ::   ::  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 (288)  ::   ::  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 (213)  ::   ::  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?

Thanks.

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 (472)  ::   ::  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 (257)  ::   ::  followed (0)  ::  Tweet  :: 

More