• Our Blogger

    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Alex on Masturbation & the Conditi…
    William McCarthy on Ask a Priest
    kimmyscave on The Vice of Vainglory
    Mary C on Ask a Priest
    Kathryn Majumdar on Ask a Priest

Loneliness & Possible Self-Absorption

downloadQuestion

I am single, 40 and very lonely. I feel invisible. I have no friends but enjoy making general small talk, especially with people I meet either at the supermarket or as I commute to work or at church. If anyone tries to get close or wants to visit my home I brush them off.

Since I was a child, particularly in my teenage years, I spent a lot of time talking to myself using a mirror. I still enjoy doing this although I would rather have another with whom to talk.

Were any of the saints lonely?  How can I handle being lonely as a Catholic without giving in to despair and suicidal thoughts?

Response

Despite suggestions to the contrary, it is not always unhealthy to talk to yourself. But if such behavior becomes excessive and/or replaces real human communication and relationships, then it would be regarded as wrong or even sinful. Self-absorption is not genuine spiritual growth in the Lord. I am told that mirrors present a particular issue because extended use for such purposes might signify schizophrenia or some other ailment of the mind. As believers, we should also avoid any undue preoccupation with perceived images, real or imagined. (Some become obsessed with faces in the leaves of trees or images in clouds… treating them as ghostly appearances or omens.) The fairy-tale of Snow White references the evil stepmother seeking secret knowledge about beauty in her bewitched mirror. The mirror was literally under demonic influence. The practice of scrying into mirrors, water or crystal balls is frowned upon by the Church.

At forty years of age there is no way to regain the years and opportunities that are lost. If you need to see a therapist, do so. If you want friends then you have to seek the courage to make them. Libraries have reading groups. Parishes have fellowship associations. The public sector also has activities and opportunities to pursue. You want more than faceless online associations. There are also other lonely people looking for friends with whom they can talk and have fun and with whom they can pray. Take the chance. It will also help your spiritual life. God wants us to love him, both directly and in our neighbor. Build a circle of friends. You may not agree about everything but that is okay. Unlike the face in your mirror, these faces will have hopes, dreams and experiences different from your own. There is a world to know and to share. Put down the mirror. Turn off the computer. Take the risk of meeting new people and having new experiences— be ready for surprises. God bless you.

Salvation, Christ & the Unborn

downloadQuestion

If Original sin affects all mankind and the only way to cleanse it is through baptism, would not that then imply that those not baptized carry Original sin and are forbidden from entering heaven? Following that train of thought, if the Catholic Church believes that unborn children are in fact alive human persons does that then imply that babies which pass away as a result of stillbirth cannot enter heaven since they are unbaptized and still carry Original sin?

On a related note, if I as a Christian believe that life begins with “sentience” or “personhood” as opposed to consummation, can I still consider myself a good Christian, particularly if I support a woman’s right to abortion during the first trimester (when the child is not alive at all)?

Response

Strictly speaking, Original sin is not a voluntary sin but is a moral corruption that is contracted. It is a child’s state of the soul before Christian baptism. We inherit a fallen nature from Adam. Separated from God, we cannot save ourselves and we are left devoid of the original grace and holiness that our first parents enjoyed. Sin breached our friendship with God. The redemptive work of Christ restores this relationship. The sacraments, beginning with baptism, bring the paschal mystery of Christ to bear upon our souls. We have a fallen nature and suffer from concupiscence. Baptism brings spiritual regeneration; however, while there is forgiveness for Original sin, the effects have yet to be undone.

The question you ask is essentially this: can a person be saved apart from baptism and faith in Christ?

The Second Vatican Council teaches that everything necessary for our salvation “subsists” in the Catholic Church. This speaks to her membership but we are also reminded, as in the Good Friday liturgy, that the Church prays for Protestants, Atheists, Jews, Moslems and others. We would only do so if we thought that such intercession might be heard by God. The Orthodox Christians have authentic sacraments and are a “church” albeit defective. The Protestants are ecclesial communities that love the Lord and possess baptism, the Scriptures and so much more as an inheritance from Catholicism. These are saving elements.

The necessity of baptism emerges in the words of Christ (John 3:5 & Mark 16:16). He tells his apostles to go out to the entire world and to baptize with water in the name of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19-20).

Your question really references those who are not Christian and thus not baptized. Vatican II made reference to the plight of non-Christians (Jews, Moslems and seekers of “the unknown God.” Lumen Gentium 16:

“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

Lumen Gentium 14 states:

“[Jesus] explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence, they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”

Note the qualification. Those who KNOW that the Catholic Church is the true Church and who still refuse to enter it bring dire judgment upon themselves. But, most that do not join do not have this insight. Ignorance may be an important factor. The Church is bound to proclaim the Gospel and to dispense the sacraments. The Church is the great sacrament of encounter with the saving Christ. This is what we know and this is what Jesus has entrusted to us.

Nevertheless, God can save whomever he wills and is not necessarily restricted to the sacraments. That is why we do not condemn or judge those outside the strict or juridical confines of the Catholic Church. The truth remains that none are saved apart from Christ and none are saved apart from his mystical body, the Catholic Church. We as Catholics do not believe that once saved one is always saved. Instead of such a view of “blessed assurance,” Catholics believe that with baptism we are called to a faith that is lived out in obedience and charity. If this saving faith be sustained then we have every right to hope for our ultimate salvation. In other words, faith can sour, people can commit mortal sin, and even baptized Catholics can go to hell. It should be mentioned that the Church has also accepted two extraordinary cases of baptism outside the normative formula: baptism by blood and baptism of desire. They are technically not baptism but make possible similar effects and saving grace.

The early Church would know several centuries of harsh persecution. It was the age of martyrs. Catechumens preparing to enter the faith were sometimes tortured and executed by the Roman authorities. The Church always embraced them as her children since they died to uphold the faith and surrendered themselves with Jesus. This was baptism by blood (see Matthew 10:32 & Luke 9:23-24).

Somewhat controversial among certain authorities in the Church is baptism of desire. A basic truth has to be properly nuanced. Christ gives us a universal call to salvation. He desires that all would be saved. Nevertheless, this must be distinguished from the heretical position that all people are saved in actuality. This would signify a false religious indifferentism or universalism. Hell is real. Not all will be saved. I would refrain from entering the debate as to whether more people will be in heaven or hell. I would leave such matters entirely to divine providence. Like the late Frank Sheed, we can pray that the devil is lonely. The saving effects of the paschal mystery of Christ (his passion, death and resurrection) cannot be contained by human history or locked into any one place. The very created order of the universe has changed. Thus, so the argument goes, even those who have not heard the Gospel may yet be saved. Gaudium et Spes 1260 states:

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”

The missionary mandate remains. We cannot trust that one might somehow find their way into heaven without the explicit help of the Church. Further, Christ alone is the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one is saved apart from Christ. He is the only bridge to the heavenly Father. Pope Benedict XVI was wrongly criticized by the Jewish community when he reiterated the Catholic teaching that Jews in heaven will have to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior— the true Messiah. Upon this point, the late Cardinal-priest Avery Dulles even corrected the USCCB document on relations with the Jews, our elder brothers and sisters called by God. There are not two covenants. There is one covenant and it has been fulfilled by Christ.

We should never water-down the importance of baptism and the graces we receive. There can be all sorts of speculation about how others might be saved, but we can have certainty in the efficacy of Christian faith and the sacraments, beginning with baptism. If we really care about others then we will never be silent in proclaiming the lordship of Christ and his desire for us to be in unity with his new People of God.

If babies should die without baptism, we entrust them to divine mercy. In days gone by we spoke about the possibility of limbo, a scholastic theory about a place of natural happiness but ignorance of God. The universal catechism says nothing about limbo. Our Lord called the children to himself. He says the kingdom belongs to “such as these” (Mark 10:14). We are also reminded of the Holy Innocents martyred in Christ’s stead. They are counted as saints. Maybe all children as reflections of the Christ Child share in their reward? The Church urges parents not to delay in having their children baptized. Jesus just never explicitly speaks about the urgency to baptize babies. Of course, the Bible tells us that whole households were converted to the Lord and baptized in the early Church. This no doubt included babies. The faith of parents was seen to suffice. We are connected. We are a family. Ours is both a personal and a communal faith. The universal catechism states:

“As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. … All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (CCC #1261).

Turning to the subject of abortion and miscarriage…

Catholics believe that the incarnation began at the annunciation with the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. We also believe that Mary is the Immaculate Conception, preserved from sin from the very first moment of her existence in the womb of St. Ann. An argument for personhood based on sentience could arguably lead not only to abortion but infanticide and euthanasia. Indeed, a eugenics program might classify those with severe intellectual defects as non-sentient, and thus target them for mass extermination.

If sentience were defined as the age of reason, one could arguably terminate six year old children. I suspect you would not so loosely define it but the can of worms would still be opened. Catholicism would rather argue for personhood based upon the general humanity of the embryo. You are what you are throughout your developmental trajectory. Just as Jesus was God and man, as an embryo or even as a single-celled zygote, so we can speak about the humanity and personhood of all conceived of women. Everything genetically that will make us who we are (the whole organism) is present from the beginning— although immature. Even apart from religious teaching, Catholicism would philosophically renounce any argument for personhood based purely on current or immediate biological consciousness. Rejecting a stark mind/body dualism, we would stress the innate capacity to eventually develop into what we regard as a rational being. In other words, when it comes to people, “the tree is in the acorn.”

The Church would contend that if you support first trimester abortion, you are still involved with the murder of human beings. As for the religious element, we believe that those children have souls. No matter whether the physical life is terminated by therapeutic or spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), the child’s soul survives. We intercede as a Church for these children. The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen composed a prayer of spiritual adoption for children threatened with abortion. We earnestly try to save them. Failing that, we commend them to God. As for your personal question, think about it this way: can you kill children and still regard yourself as a good Christian? Could you even do so if there were the slightest chance that you were wrong in your opinion and the Church was right?

Celibacy is Sacrificial Loving

downloadQuestion

I promised God twelve years ago that I would live a celibate life as an act of penance. Twelve years later I have kept that penance, albeit for one day when I slipped and for that I went to Confession.

Today I was tempted to lust.  Instead of sinning, I looked at a very graphic picture of the passion of Christ and then prayed twenty minutes for world peace and prosperity.  This made it possible for me to say no to lust.

I know monks pray and fast. I pray three hours daily for humanity.

Can my celibacy be offered to make my daily prayers more effectual, as the monks do with fasting, abstinence and other mortifications?

I am going to repent through celibacy for the rest of my life.

Response

You are going to repent through celibacy?  About what are you repenting?  Do you mean that you desire to offer it in reparation for sin?

Celibacy is a form of sacrificial loving.  It is a precious element of religious men and women who respond to an evangelical calling. The laity can also pursue a life of Christian celibacy but, as with those pursuing religious vocations, it must always be within the context of a life of prayer, service and charity.  This is a hallmark of the celibacy that serves as part of the COURAGE movement founded by my cousin the late Fr. John Harvey for Catholic homosexuals desiring to live a life in conformity with Church teachings.  God will give his grace for such a discipline; however, it is not viewed as something negative but as a positive and virtuous way of discipleship.  Celibate individuals and married couples may both pursue penance and various acts of mortification.  Celibacy itself should be embraced as a joyous gift, not reduced into a difficult means to degrade and to abase the flesh.

Outside of the convent experience, a few women pursue lives as consecrated virgins.  There are a few lay organizations where members take yearly promises of celibacy.  Embracing Christian celibacy may not be understood by the world, but it is a wonderful gift.  More than a lifestyle choice, it is a manner of self-donation.  The person centers him or herself upon a relationship with the Lord.  The two-fold commandment of Christ comes into play.  The love of God uniquely spills over into the love of neighbor.  We all need to love.  Christian celibacy is more than not having romantic relationships and/or sexual relations.  Celibacy is a way of living and expressing our love.  I stress this because it is so much more than penance.  If a person saw his or her celibacy only as mortification or humiliation, then it would not be genuine Christian celibacy.  It cannot be embraced only because the person did not find another of the opposite sex with whom to share his body and life.  It cannot be lived out if the person hates himself and does not see himself as lovable.  It cannot be followed in truth if the person is afraid of relationships and would prefer to flee them.  Celibacy requires strength and courage, not weakness and fear.  God does not want us to suffer for the sake of enduring pain.  St. Paul told his listeners that it is better to marry than to burn.  That is why men called to the celibate priesthood consider the work of a priest and his aloneness and celibate love.  If it be too difficult or robs the soul of joy then it is not the vocation and/or the way of loving that God wants for us.

A Single Foster Parent

downloadQuestion

I am searching for guidance. I have been praying about becoming a foster parent and possibly an adoptive parent for many years. I feel that God is really calling me to do this. However I am 35 years old and single. Finding a husband just has not happened for me yet. My feeling is that children need to be raised in a home with a man and a woman to guide them. My fear is that if I never get married then I will never have this opportunity. I would still like to keep my heart open for marriage. Would my becoming a single foster parent conflict with Church teaching?

Response

I know a single woman who adopted a child and was a great mother. More than that, I cannot say because I do not know you. The ideal is a father and mother. But sometimes that is not possible. I have a dear friend who lost her husband early in her marriage and had to raise her children on her own. She sacrificed much but did a masterful job. It sounds like you have a lot of love to share.

Drinking & Sexual Sin

downloadQuestion

Despite being devout early on, as an adult I became intimate with bad women.  Cherished loved ones died.  I knew a period of shameful poverty.  Priests I trusted disappointed me. I developed an alcohol problem, largely to deal with loneliness and a sense of alienation. Today, I am married but still find myself depressed.  While it is wrong, I often wish I could have affairs with beautiful women— caring only about outer beauty and my own sexual fulfillment. I look at porn on the internet, go to confession, swear off it for a while, and then you can guess what occurs next. It happens again. I am tired of this cycle. I want to feel right about myself and whole again. I know this is terrible. But I am trying to be honest.

Response

You can find help for drinking and for grief management, but your remarks also touch upon the human condition and our fallen nature. The Church well understands concupiscence and the struggle with sin. That is why we have easy recourse to auricular confession. We can come to the sacrament again and again. The penitent must have a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment (to earnestly try to avoid sin in the future). Nevertheless, because of habit, loneliness, passion, chemistry, etc. any of us might struggle with certain sins for many years. You should not despair. God knows our hearts.

Question

Given that adultery and masturbation are both judged as mortal sins with the same spiritual consequences, then why not adultery?

Response

The consequences are not the same. In one you damn yourself, in the other you take someone to hell with you.

Catholic Priesthood: Celibate & Male

downloadQuestion

Michele Somerville writes the following in her essay, “Thoughts on Religious Vocations: An Open Letter to Pope Francis I” (05/11/2017):

“I celebrate the possibility that we might soon see more and more married priests serving on our altars. While recognizing that some who are called to the priesthood view celibacy a gift, I know that for many priests, celibacy is not a gift. Sexuality when infused with respect, commitment and love, is a gift from God.”

“As a feminist Catholic, however, I feel conflicted. I know that Your Holiness has affirmed Saint John Paul II’s teaching that the door is closed on the discussion of ordaining women, but we are a Church of miracles and I continue to pray for the day girls holding their mothers’ hands at Sunday Mass will no longer have cause to feel somehow unfit to answer the call to ordination. I am no expert on my church but I love to read and I know that almost always the choice to silence opposition in questions of justice is a response driven by fear.”

What are your thoughts about this?

Response

Our Lord works in conjunction with his Church, not in conflict with her. Men called to the priesthood in the West are given the gift of celibacy from Christ. The issue is what they make of it. God would not call men to ministry and then abandon them when grace is most needed. Those who do not have the gift of celibate love are not called to Catholic ministry as priests. The preference for celibacy is not capricious.

The learned authority Father Laurent Touze argues that celibacy has a close link to priesthood which the early Church recognized. When married men were ordained, it was generally expected that they would practice perfect continence. He contends that the Latin or Western rite will never change its practice because there is an integral relationship between the presbyterate, episcopacy and celibacy. When asked about exceptions and the Eastern model, he explains:

“Historically because there has been a manipulation of texts and I believe a bad translation that the Eastern Church, which has separated from Rome and has recognized that what they had declared contrary to tradition, could be accepted.”

The Church came to appreciate that exceptions could be made, for the Eastern churches and for men who come to the priesthood from other traditions (like the Anglicans and maybe the Lutherans) but a married priesthood would never be regarded as normative.

I would concur that sexuality is a gift from God. Further, while the Church deplores pornography and lust; she celebrates in the arts the beauty of human design and urges a holy passion in the various wholesome relationships that make up human existence.

Marriage does indeed bring certain important insights. Nevertheless, celibate love also brings with it a single-hearted love for the Lord and a profound sense of being a sentinel for the People of God. The Church presumes that this way of loving best fits the vocation of priesthood. It is for this reason that I would oppose a move toward optional celibacy. Indeed, the rule should be truly absolute.

Christian feminism must have a healthy regard both for the human condition and for the truth— both from nature and revelation. The usurpation of the priesthood would not be a genuine feminism. It would make no more sense than attempting to make the roles of mothers and fathers interchangeable. Equality here is not an equal sign. Rather, it is a profound complementarity. We have different roles to play. Men become priests to minister as servants of God and his community. We have priests for the sacramental forgiveness of sins and for the unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. The altar-table is a nuptial banquet table. The priest is an icon that signifies Christ the groom. The assembled Church is his bride. A priestess at the altar would signify a bizarre sacramental lesbianism.

In any case, too much has been made of the Pope’s recent few words about married priests. The Church has long held the possibility of ordaining a few upright but elderly and stable married men if necessity dictated. This is not new. There will not be any wholesale welcome for married men to enter the ranks of the priesthood. Given Pope John Paul II’s infallible declaration, there will be no women called to priesthood either. A vocation or calling must be confirmed by the Church. Not all men are so called and many discover that they are mistaken when they think they hear such a calling. All women who imagine they are called to priesthood are in error or have been deceived. The Church has spoken and the Church has every right to regulate her own sacraments.

Many critics wrongly urge a movement away from objective truth and toward a convenient subjectivity that would give the edge to modernity. We cannot do this. The sources for Christian doctrine would be brutally compromised. The edifice of the Church, her claims, her ministries, etc. would tumble down like a flimsy house of cards. The Pope is not God. He can interpret but he cannot fashion wholly new doctrines or reverse those of the past. Space is permitted for a certain organic growth, but our hermeneutics must always embrace continuity and development, not rupture and demolition. The Episcopalians have women playing priests and along with this concession has relinquished much of the traditional Christian kerygma regarding faith and morals. We want the Church that goes to heaven, not the church of anything goes.

I am often amazed that some of the loudest critics have little in the way of theological learning and yet they claim a special divine enlightenment that has been denied Pope John Paul II and 2,000 years of sacred tradition guided by the Holy Spirit. While critics of Church teaching and practices often feign humility, what we really witness in their demands is a frightful hubris that moves most if not all dissenters. Instead of faith seeking understanding, we discover human fancy making demands upon faith. The voices labeled as “conservative” are demonized and yet they are the ones who are truly orthodox. They realize that we cannot force the hand of Christ. If it is not the will of Christ that women be ordained, then to do so would forfeit both the priesthood and the Eucharist. The more liberal voices do not care. They claim fidelity to the Catholic faith while in truth they have made themselves the enemies of this holy religion. Reformers of the past would make a break and start new denominations. Today they remain under the Catholic tent, working quietly behind the scenes as agents for the enemy. If there should be schism, it will not be because of men like Cardinal Burke. No, it will be forced upon us by those who have betrayed the faith and seek to covertly dismantle the Church. These so-called women who claim to be Catholic priests are a case in point. They are no longer Catholic at all. They are Protestants using the Catholic designation to which they no longer have any right to employ.

Critics of a celibate priesthood and those demanding the ordination of women are frequently dissenters on other matters.  There is also the tendency to name-call and to abandon a reasoned discourse.  If you oppose homosexual or lesbian marriages and sexuality then you are mean-spirited and homophobic. If you oppose abortion then you hate women and would rob them of their rights. If you oppose women’s ordination then you are a bigot who would violate justice. If you favor obligatory celibacy for priests then you oppose healthy romantic love and probably have something to hide.  It is all nonsense.

Regarding the priesthood, it is purely a gift. No one can demand it as a matter on any social justice agenda. It is given to a few celibate men and to no women. We all benefit from the priesthood by participation in the liturgy and the life of the Church. Most women involved with work in the Church have no desire to be priests. They can make a positive difference without ordination. They run our rectories, teach in our schools, form our children in the faith and do so much more. The priesthood is a special call to service but it is baptism that is our call to holiness.

Healing After Abuse & Misfortune

downloadQuestion

I really need your advice. My girlfriend has endured hell her entire life. Since birth she has known nothing but pain and torment. Her mother was emotionally and verbally abusive.  Her stepfather, with her mother’s knowledge and consent, repeatedly ambushed and sexually assaulted her for years.  Not long after her biological father won custody and took her from that bad situation, she was raped by a stalker.  As a result of the assault she contracted a life-long case of oral herpes. Her ex-boyfriend verbally threatened and beat her.

She is now twenty-two years old and suffers from a mild schizophrenia and sociopathy, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and instances of self-harm.  Despite all this, she still finds ways to laugh and smile.

She wants to believe but given her difficult past it is no wonder that she has lost her faith.  While it might seem a small matter given what she has gone through, last night was the last straw for her.

Her beloved cat, Samus, for whom she had a very special bond and close connection, was hit by a car and killed. She loved that cat.  She is heart-broken.  She says she feels like she is being punished for a few moments of happiness.  She asked me a question I could not answer.  “Why would God let these things happen to her?”  I do not know what to do. I love her.

She said that she is willing to convert to Catholicism should we decide to marry (she was raised Mormon). How do I show her that God is with her? Is there a way for her to know that God loves her and wants her to be happy?  How do I help her find faith?  What should I do?

Response

Speaking in a general way, we are all born in a broken world where there is both natural and moral evil. The faith tells us that sin brought suffering and death upon us. However, as believers, we believe there is hope in Jesus who comes to heal, to forgive and to restore our unity or friendship with God. The question of pain finds its response in the passion and death of Christ. While we are not protected from this brokenness, we have one in Christ who shares in our woundedness. We need to acknowledge this profound solidarity with Christ who transforms the Cross from a sign of defeat to one of victory. Christ is our sin-offering, the faithful oblation that restores honor to God and atones for the infidelity of our first parents and all the sins of the world. Love conquers death. Christ dies that we might live. He offers us a share in his life.

Referring to your friend in particular, there is a mystery as to why some seem to have more than their share of sorrow and abuse. Terrible things can happen to us and she needs to know that the fault is not hers. No one has the right to abuse and torment others. Even though a few years have passed, I would urge her to notify the authorities about the abuse and her mother’s enabling her step-father to hurt her. Sexual abuse against young people is a crime that cries out for justice. It is also my hope that the stalker who assaulted her was caught and punished as well.

It is common that those who have been wronged earlier in life often gravitate towards men who are also abusive. I do not know why this is. I suspect that victims suffer from a lack of self-worth and tolerate more than they should.

Bad things happen to everyone. It is not just her. But it is past time for her to take control of her life and to demand that others treat her with respect. It may be that God sent you into her life to assist her in finding a new direction and hope. I would urge you to move slowly on the question of marriage and possible conversion. Give her time to heal. She has known way too much pain and intimidation. Now is a time of rebuilding and finding hope. Has she received counseling? This is also something about which you can support her; but do not become a crutch for her. You want to be a friend, a fellow partner, and a beloved. Help her to find herself and her strength. Do nothing to instill dependence. You want to enable her to stand tall— not feeling sorry for herself but appreciating her gifts and ready to live, to fight if need be and to love.

You can invite her to pray and worship with you. But, whatever you do, nurture her freedom and sense of dignity. Peace!

Forgiveness after Fornication

downloadQuestion

Does God really forgive fornication? I cannot believe that I went all the way with it.  I have repented and brought it to Confession, but I am still deeply troubled.  I cannot forgive myself.  I have many difficult thoughts about going to hell.

Response

You should not question the efficacy of the sacrament of Penance and the priest’s absolution. If we come to the Lord with contrite hearts then we are disposed to divine mercy. Christ can forgive anything. If almighty God can forgive us our sins, then who are we to doubt his power and not to forgive ourselves?

The Spread of ISIS Terror into Asia

phil

ISIS now has a foothold in the Philippines. Pray for our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Mortal Sin & Masturbation

downloadQuestion

I found this on the internet:  “Mortal sin always requires three essential elements: grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent of the world.”

Response

No, not exactly. You made an error in your research or at least made a typo at the end of the list. The three elements for mortal sin are as follows: (1) grave matter (the act itself must be seriously wrong); (2) full or sufficient knowledge (the person must be aware of what he or she is doing and the severity of the act); and (3) deliberate or willful consent (the person must freely will the act or plan to do it).

Beware that there is much on the internet than cannot be trusted.

Question

I am still not clear about the sin of masturbation.  Is it always considered a mortal sin?

Response

When we speak of certain things as mortal sins, we are usually addressing the first part of the definition of a mortal sin, grave matter. Most sexual sins, given the integrity of the human body, constitute grave matter or the “matter” for mortal sin. However, ignorance or a lack of consent can render such a sin as venial or as no sin at all. For instance, you cannot sin while you are sleeping and dreaming. There is a lack of full consent. Your faculties are hampered. Some people are delusional or have a very low intellectual capacity. If they do not know what they are doing then they cannot sin. I have known adults with the minds of infants. They might touch themselves for pleasure but there is no sin because they do not really understand what they are doing. The defect can also come in the consent or will. Coercion or force militates against mortal sin. Juveniles often go through a growth period of hormonal fluctuation. The passions and chemistry become difficult to control. Such teens, who try to be good but fail, are probably committing venial sin even though masturbation is grievous in matter. Other factors like depression, addiction, loneliness, stunted maturation, the erotic saturation of society, etc. can also make modesty and sexual control difficult. One has to discern in conscience if one has committed a mortal or venial sin in masturbation. If one knows that it is seriously wrong, freely does it and does not care what the Church says about it then the person has probably committed mortal sin. The sacraments help us and give actual grace in overcoming sin, especial habitual sin.