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.
Dear Father Joe thank you so very much for you reply. It really helped me feel better and understand more. My son has been attending religious services in jail and I encourage him to pray. We talk about how prayer can help but he still has the feeling “God hates me for everything Ive done”. I keep telling him that isnt true. There are things in your message that may help him so I will read and discuss that with him when he’s allowed to call. Thank you again Father Joe and thank you for being here to help, and thank you for your prayers. Kathy
Father: I read a lot on this website about Catholics marrying divorced non Catholics outside the church. But, some of these non Catholics were never baptized in any denomination.. My stepfather, although being divorced, converted and married my widowed mother in a Catholic ceremony as a result of a term I have not heard since Vatican II Council . . . . “The Pauline Privilege.” Is this yet another historic tradition disregarded by this council?
I may add that I am so very and sadly “lost” in New Church. I simply can not relate to the Novus Ordo Mass! Being a former seminarian and VERY steeped in the historic Traditional Latin Mass of the Roman Rite, I am not “at home” in New Church.
I was not aware that my scope was quite so narrow. Catholics and non-Catholics alike might be married and/or divorced. Subsequent marriages or relationships with others pose serious questions.
Yes, it is increasingly true that many non-Catholics are not baptized at all. Turning directly to your query, you note that your stepfather was such and that while divorced he was able to marry your widowed mother in the Church. Evidently, even if before Vatican II, the case was taken to the Tribunal or Church authorities [cc. 1143-1147] and the prior “natural bond” was dissolved according to the Pauline Privilege in favor of the faith (he converted) and with the sacramental marriage. Conditions for such dissolution must be met:
1. The original marriage as a natural bond must involve two unbaptized persons.
2. There must be a baptism by one of the persons only! If both were baptized then the natural bond immediately becomes a sacrament.
3. There must be a separation from the still unbaptized person. In the United States and most jurisdictions, a civil divorce is also required so that the subsequent marriage can be recognized by both the Church and state.
The new marriage (as a sacrament) dissolves the old one (natural bond).
If all three of these conditions are met, the newly baptized person can enter a new marriage, and the new marriage dissolves the old one. Church authority must, however, verify that the conditions have been met. The priest cannot do it on his own initiative.
What confuses this process is that it must be proven that neither of the earlier spouses was baptized. It is often uncertain. The Scriptural mandate from St. Paul also noted that the pagan spouse often refused to allow the other to become a Christian or to practice the faith in peace. This element especially comes to light in the Petrine Privilege. This is similar to the Pauline Privilege but with the exception that one of the spouses was baptized and the other was not. The case must also go to the Pope. The Petrine Privilege is rarely used as formal annulments are often much quicker and more easily handled.
I can sympathize with you about the changes and I think that is why Pope Benedict XVI believed in freedom for both the older and current rites of the Church. We have several parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington where the traditional Latin Mass is regularly celebrated.
If Jesus wanted people to abstain from sexual relations, why was I given reproductive organs?
FATHER JOE: This reminds me of the joke, “If God did not want us to get drunk then why did he give us alcohol and the ability to drink?” What God gives us must coincide with both natural law and divine positive law. Husbands and wives have a duty to each other and to God that includes the marital act (sexual relations). The pleasure attached is to insure propagation and the future of the human race. Similarly, drinking and eating are human operations but we are also called to moderation. God gives us limits. Pedophilia, bestiality and incest are sins against nature. Fornication and adultery are sins against one another and violations of the marriage covenant established by almighty God. There is no imperative that everyone must be sexually active. Some are celibate because of choice or circumstance.
I have a question about the sacrament of confession, as on Saturday I went to confession and today I realized that I didn’t mention a sin because I didn’t pay much attention to it and didn’t think about it to much, which is to have arrived late to some masses including the Saturday mass where I later went to confession, has that sin been absolved and so am I able to attend communion.
FATHER JOE: Any sin you forget to confess is absolved. You may take Holy Communion.
Dear Father Joe I need your help. My son is in jail now and I am constantly praying for him and I put my trust in God as to the outcome of his two court cases. My question is since my son got clean from drugs 14 months ago he had met a nice girl 8 months ago and things were going well until they started to go wrong quickly. Father Joe Everyday for days and days I prayed to God ” please don’t let my son or his girlfriend physically or mentally hurt each other and if they can’t get along please help them peacefully separate. My second prayer I prayed every day was “please don’t ever let my son go back to using drugs especially Heroin”. Well father on Christmas Eve morning my son was arrested for physically abusing the girlfriend after a heated argument instigated by up the girlfriend. He was arrested and went to jail for a month and got out. Unfortunately he went back to her in hopes of things changing. That same day his girlfriend told him that she cheated on him sexually twice when he was in jail. He was so devastated . He tried to remain calm but his emotions got the best of him . No he did not hit her again he went out and bought heroin and started using again. He told me the pain was so bad in his heart he couldn’t stand it so he killed the pain going back to heroin. He got arrested again and is still in jail. My question is why if I prayed everyday to God that these would not happen why did they happen. Why did God not listen or hear my prayers for these things to not happen?? Thank you. Kathy
Your son is still free to make his choices, even if they are bad ones— even if they bring you pain and are detrimental to him. Similarly, the girl with whom he became involved was not as nice as you suspected. They were two broken people who made matters worse for each other. He was arrested for physically abusing her and she physically cheated on him during the short time of his incarceration. The latter was a factor of his going back on drugs. Now he is back in jail. The truth be said, he was not ready for any kind of romantic relationship. Dependence is not genuine healing.
Incarceration might protect others from him but it sounds that he needs continued rehabilitation and counseling. He probably also needs spiritual conversion. Has a priest or minister seen him? Have you or someone else offered to pray with him? If he could find strength in the Lord then maybe he would stop trying to find it in other sinners or in drugs? He needs a genuine conversion experience. Changing one’s life means changing one’s identity. But is he ready for such a transformation? It starts with acknowledging our weakness and shortcomings. Sometimes it means accepting the fact that we are not good persons. This discernment is hopefully followed by contrition and repentance. We regret what we have done, especially that which hurt others. Next there is a renewed faith where we embrace the mercy that showers down upon us from the Cross of Jesus. We open ourselves to forgiveness and grace. There is an amendment of life. We make reparation for sin and take up the yoke of discipleship. We trust that we do not walk alone.
You prayed that your son and his girlfriend would have a healthy relationship. You also prayed that he would stay off drugs. You did as good mothers should do. The problem is that those for whom we pray must be properly disposed for the graces that come from intercessory prayer. While all prayer is answered, prayer is not magic. God’s providence is often mysterious and those we love often resist his spiritual intervention in their lives. Do not give up on him. Can he have a copy of the Gospels in jail? Pray with him. Beseech him not to give up on himself. I will keep you all in prayer.
I am looking to become a priest, but I think I have a sexual attraction towards other men. The Bible says this is wrong, but I really want to become a priest because I feel the Lord has called me. What should I do?
FATHER JOE: You “think you have” such an attraction, implying you do not know? Talk to your local Church vocations director for guidance and possible counseling. Priests, as you must know, promise life-time celibacy.
Father Joe are there any circumstances in which a person can have the Eucharist in a blessed monstrance in their home to venerate always? I know of a nun who has one in her appartment. She is a Spiritual Director.
FATHER JOE: No, the Church does not allow this. It is possible that the nun has a reliquary (that looks like a small monstrance). It would not contain a host but the relic of a saint.
Sorry to add this on father, I also cannot remember if I have confessed indulging in pornography before. I am unsure whether to confess this again, or if this becoming scrupulosity? I am becoming quite worried that many confessions I have made in the past have been incomplete, though not deliberately, if so, I would have then committed the mortal sin of receiving holy communion?
FATHER JOE: You cannot accidentally commit mortal sin. Mortal sins by definition must be deliberate. You worry too much. Let it go.
Hi Father, I have a number of questions about mortal sins and confessions.
I have confessed a number of mortal sins, but did not realise until now that it is better to include how many times I committed each or for how long. I cannot remember exactly, and I do not think the priests have asked me in the sacrament. Does this mean I have not been completely absolved? Should I confess these sins again next time I go to confession? I am worried that these grave sins have not been forgiven as I have given incomplete details.
I think I may have influenced a friend to take up contraception, as I was aware she was risking being pregnant. Is this a mortal sin? I cannot remember if I have confessed this before but I am anxious of leaving it out at my next confession.
FATHER JOE: You have been absolved. As for your friend, you write, “I think… I may have… influenced….” Your scrupulosity is serious. You may need counseling about the problem. It distorts the moral life and destroys the joy that comes with faith.
Dear Fr Joe,
Thanks for the new posts on your blog. I was a bit worried you were not well after your long break from posting on the blog.
Much love and prayers.
Hi Father, I am a Catholic and my boyfriend whom I wish to marry is a divorced Lutheran. I received a confirmed annulment to be with him. His father is his minister and he says he cannot get an annulment because they don’t believe in them and it would go against his beliefs. Neither one of us will convert to the others’ religion. My priest said my parents could not attend our marriage in a Lutheran church, I could not receive communion and would be living in grave sin. Does this mean I would go to hell if I married him without him getting an annulment? We love each other so much and can’t imagine our lives without each other. I told him I love God more. He says an annulment is a man-made contract and God did not create it. Please help.
FATHER JOE: No matter whether he believes in annulments or not, if he wants to marry you (in truth) then he needs to seek one. It is divorce that is man-made. Marriage is a covenant that lasts until death. That is God-made. An annulment is an attempt to discern whether or not God regards a marriage or prior bond as genuine and binding. Annulments are not guaranteed because we do not have the authority to separate what God has joined. An annulment seeks grounds or impediments that might make the substance of a bond null-and-void. An attempt to marry your boyfriend (without an annulment) would constitute adultery because the Catholic Church still regards him as married to another woman. The issue of judgment we leave to almighty God. As for the sacraments, the Church traditionally teaches that a person who receives the Eucharist in mortal sin commits the grave sin of sacrilege. He should want to explore an annulment for your sake. He would not have to change his religion to do so. Indeed, he does not even have to believe in the process to do so for your sake. If he is obstinate about this matter, and if you truly love God more, then your choice should be clear. Break off the relationship immediately. If he loved you as you say you love him, then he would not hesitate to file an annulment case. / FYI, if his first wife were Lutheran or Protestant, then he would indeed need to apply for a formal case annulment. If she were baptized Catholic, then he would only need a simple declaration of nullity because of a lack or defect in canonical form.
If a person is married in Las Vegas are they considered an adulterer if they have an affair (being that they aren’t married in the eyes of the church)? Is that considered a sin?
FATHER JOE: Adultery applies if there be a valid bond or if there be a bond regarded as genuine. If you are intimate with someone married to another person, then you have committed adultery. Adultery is a sin but the term is also used by the legal establishment. In this case, it would be applied by the courts even to bonds witnessed outside the Church. In any case, fornication or any sex outside of marriage is also materially understood as mortal sin.
My friend and I made a silly bet that quickly turned sour. We had bet on the circumstance that if I were to win, he would surrender his soul for all eternity. It was all fun and games until I actually won. I had grown up Catholic but now I am afraid that I will not get into heaven. If I don’t do anything bad with his soul, do I have to repent? Also what happens to my friend now once he doesn’t have a soul?
FATHER JOE: More than your bet is silly. You cannot own the soul of another. As persons, we are corporeal-spiritual composites. If a body surrenders the soul or “gives up the ghost” then the body becomes a corpse. You can only separate your friend’s body from his soul by killing him. A body cannot live without a soul. That soul would then suffer purgatory or heaven or hell. The resurrection of the dead means that our souls will be rejoined to our bodies and there will be a final judgment. We will not be ghosts forever. The classic story of Faust is about how the devil can corrupt souls. This places a person in mortal sin. We forfeit sanctifying grace. The relationship with Jesus and his Church is broken. You may have both committed serious sin by playing with the occult. Mortal sin makes a person spiritually dead. You both need to repent and find the mercy of Christ.
When I was 20 I came home to my girlfriend I loved very much and she was crying in bed. I remember asking her what was wrong and she told me she was late for a couple months. I was sad because she was upset and I asked her if she wanted to keep it or get an abortion. She chose the abortion. It was my option plus I paid for it, trying to be a man.
Am I right that I am damned! I think if I could go back I would and have had the baby. I feel horrible. This was when I was 20 and I am 37 now. I still feel bad. Am I damned, Father?
She was 2 maybe more months along and we were so in love. Later on in life I met her again and she had a little girl. She told me she regretted the decision as well, but I just couldn’t commit again after all that happened. Am I damned, Father?
FATHER JOE: First, judgment is always left to God and so I cannot absolutely say how you stand before him. You should certainly ask for God’s forgiveness. Second, if you are a Catholic then you should bring the matter up in Confession. The priest can give you absolution. If a Catholic enables or materially supports a person in having an abortion, it is indeed the matter of mortal sin. If we die in mortal sin, then we are damned. Third, if you knew that this sin carried with it a special ecclesial censure, then you would also be excommunicated from the Church. Most priests today have the faculties or authority to both absolve the sin and to remove the penalty or censure.
We were informed yesterday that our beloved priest will be transferred to another parish. He was very instrumental in the continued conversion of me and my husband’s
faith and he has been a very good mentor to my children. I would like to remember him thru weekly masses and ask for blessings for him in his future. Is it appropriate to have weekly mass intentions for a living, former priest once he is transferred from our church? I’ve never heard of this before but it seems like a good Idea. Just don’t know how the other parishioners would view it.
FATHER JOE: Yes, Masses can be offered for living priests.
I’m in love with a Muslim guy, and I’m Catholic. He is very good to me, and his family is so accepting of me. They do not care that I’m Catholic or want me to change my religion. I do not know what to do or how to tell my parents that he is Muslim. I need help.
FATHER JOE: Dating is one thing, but Catholicism views courtship as the precursor for matrimony. Where is the relationship going? He would not have to convert but the marriage might put him at odds with his religion. Marriage is possible but would require a dispensation. However, much depends upon where you live and the level of toleration from your Moslem boyfriend and his family. Would they recognize a marriage in the Catholic Church? There can be no secondary Islamic wedding. You would also have to promise to do all in your power to have any potential children baptized and raised as Catholics. He would have to agree. Unless these conditions can be met, no marriage is possible in the Church and you should move on. Tell your parents the truth. No one can control the reactions of others. If I were a parent I would be saddened that your boyfriend could not share your faith and pray with you as a Christian. The religions are very different. We believe that Jesus is our Savior and God. Moslems reject this teaching. They are people of the law.
Hello dear Father Joe , I want to ask a question about plastic surgery , if a woman is planning to correct her apperance this way to get her confidence back and get rid of complexes, it is not about pride or demonstration, just a correction for her own confidence , is it sin to have it and spend money on that? Thank you ….
FATHER JOE: Plastic surgery can repair defects and is neither inherently sinful nor always given to selfish narcissism. However, if you are doing so for capricious personal reasons or psychological hang ups, then it could also be very much wrong. Some poor people (probably like Michael Jackson) wrongly seek inner healing by changing the externals. You may need a therapist more than a plastic surgeon. I urge most to accept how God made them and save their money.
Good afternoon, Father. I wish that you help me resolve my five year spiritual confusion and emotional pain. I am a self destructive person, meaning that I take my failures to heart, and I demean my character and dignity every time I mess up, even when it wasn’t my fault. Letting go has become a challenge to me especially, because of a certain experience. I prepared for entrance in a certain committee for four years, and even the official of the committee promised my entering after my relentless work and dedication. When the time had come, however, they could only shrug and ignore me afterwards. I was broken. (Afterwards a member told me the reason was out of bias against my family, which made sense, as the facility was biased against Catholics. My intentions for joining was purely out of the facility’s prestige.) I dreamed, worked, and prayed of entering this facility, and when I was rejected, I thought I wasn’t special, intelligent, or worth anything anymore. I became mechanical, and performed my daily tasks with tremendous weight on my shoulders. I became in denial, and I hid my feelings from my colleagues and family, and after five years, my mask of superficial happiness was removed, and I am feeling as bad as I did five years ago. I attributed my pain to what I believe, my lack of self love and love for others.
How do I let go Properly?
How can I learn to love and be patient?
How can I stop complaining and blaming and hating myself?
P.S. I was told, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
I reaped pain from that experience, and I stopped pursuing things from fear that I will be hurt again and achieve failure once more. Please educate me of the proper way to think about this experience, and how I should approach life. ~ L
FATHER JOE: It is natural to be disappointed when our hard work is not acknowledged and we encounter prejudice. Love should always be an element in our response to the world around us. However, we should also believe in ourselves and seek justice. Do not give up. Fight for those things in which you believe!
Hi joe I was just wondering if someone like me who has maybe committed the eternal sin can Still go to heaven or will Jesus forsake me completely because one day I was extremely mad at God for not getting my way and I was being very selfish and stupid so I started saying how much I hated him and how his Holy Spirit is stupid and how I wanted him to forsake me and just leave me alone forever cause he was no help I repented but then I found out later on that what I said may not be forgiven so I was just wondering what to do thanks have a great day
FATHER JOE: God forgives contrite sinners.
Hi Father I have a very strange question…. My boyfriend left me a month ago, we never ever wore promise rings or anything like that, so I should not have an imprint on my wedding ring finger at all as I have never worn a ring on that finger…. But the last 2 weeks I have on and off found a ring indentation like a tan lime on that finger and it’s really strange. Is this a sign from God? I’m so confused iv been trying to find out why it keeps appearing and disappearing on only that one finger. Is God telling me something? I know i sound crazy, but it’s bothering me.
FATHER JOE: No, God does not work that way. Ignore it.
I am doing an assignment on domestic violence and the how the church responds to it. Just wondering if you could suggest some bible passages relating to domestic violence. I’m also curious as to how I can incorporate catholic social teachings to it.
I will leave it for you to look up Bible passages. I would not want to do the paper for you.
I am always sexually excited and addicted to self-abuse.
FATHER JOE: You may need counseling. Is the issue a matter of chemistry or one of formation? Are you in a wholesome environment? Have you been exposed to pornography? Have you been the victim of abuse? How old are you? Self-pollution can become addictive. It is a turning away from God and others, distorting the purpose of human generational faculties. Often it reflects an arrested maturation. Wholesome friends and constructive activity can be helpful. I would also urge prayer and contrition. Sex is not a recreational toy. Your sexuality and its expression is part of your identity.
Can a Greek orthodox priest or a eastern catholic priest hear confession or give abolution.
FATHER JOE: Yes (given suitable jurisdiction and faculties).
Lately we keep hearing about how to bring divorced people back to the church and what can be done about the increasing numbers of divorced couples. One thing I have never heard mentioned is why the church doesn’t outright tell people that married couples should be respected. Why doesn’t the church tell single people to not go after or start a relationship with a married person. It takes two to have an affair, but all the attention has been on the adulterer and not his/her lover. I just don’t understand this. If priests would start being more open about this we can start teaching the singles out there that no, it is not right to break up a marriage or family.
FATHER JOE: Actually, many of us do preach about the fidelity required in marriage. But people either do not listen to us or are not even in church on Sunday to hear the message. The matter is a level of dissent. Marriages break up because of adultery but sometimes divorced persons wrongly date or just meet people with whom they develop strong relationships. They do not back away or make distance. There is also the matter of cohabitation and fornication. The Holy Father desperately wants to find a way to bring those in irregular unions, particularly with children, back into the fold. My concern is that pastoral discipline should reflect Catholic moral teaching and not seek to bypass the severity of certain sexual transgressions. How can we benefit from the fruits of the Mass and the graces of the sacraments if we are not spiritually disposed to receive them? A number of churchmen are arguing about this. I am also keenly sensitive to those Catholics who did the right thing even when it cost them greatly in terms of romantic yearnings and hearts craving unity. Leniency toward many unrepentant sinners might intensify a painful injustice to those who were contrite and sought a genuine amendment of life.
I did a photoshoot today, it wasn’t a glamour photoshoot a simple one, but there were a few photos a bit more revealing like with a robe next to the bath, or just sitting on the bed,in a few you can see a bit of a bra, I’m not planning to show the more reaviling ones to someone, because I wanted just a simple photoshoot, but since we did the photoshoot in the apartment where were a lot of ideas for the shoot..and how to use all of the space in it, but now I have a dilemma…is it a sin? even if I won’t show the more reaviling photos to anyone or just simply delete them? because I didn’t want a sexy photoshoot or something like that, and when it is considered to be a sin because I’m not trying to seduce anyone or put those photos online..at first I didn’t even think of the possibility of a sin in this case because the idea of the shoot wasn’t to make it glamour or sexy, but now I’m not sure..
FATHER JOE: Given what people wear at the beaches these days, I am hesitant to respond. It sounds like your intentions were pure and there was nothing remotely pornographic. I know nothing about your age and appearance, but I would urge you not to be prudish about either your beauty or your female form. If you think a few pictures might be more enticing than what you would generally share, then save them for your husband or as something to chuckle about when you are 103 and nostalgic about the girl who once was. In any case, a close girlfriend or your mother might be a better one to ask than a priest. Peace!