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    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.

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  1. Is it okay to be angry at God when he will not answer a prayer for a living wage full time job?

    FATHER JOE: It is okay to be upset with the situation as long as you do not despair. You can pray for God’s help, in terms of what you should do (actively looking and ingenuity) and that prospective employers should open their hearts to charity and justice; however, God’s grace knocks on doors and rarely bashes them open. Getting mad at God serves no purpose. Going into a tantrum will not get you what you want. Indeed, it may even ill-dispose you to proper prayer because of a lack of genuine humility. God wants us to be child-like, not childish. It is my conviction that God always answers prayer. The problem is that we do not always like the answer.

  2. Dear Father, is it wrong to use Tarot cards for purposes other than divination? If one had a motive not to tell their fortune or tell the future or have any contact with the occult but simply try to understand or reflect what is occurring in their own unconscious mind. Thank you for your time. I am new to the faith and was simply curious.

    FATHER JOE: Tarot decks were invented purely for gaming and were only later appropriated by occultists for fortune-telling. They are still used in many regions for card playing games. However, it would be a sin to employ them for any acts of superstition. I am unsure what you mean by trying to tap into the unconscious mind. Pseudo-science may come too close to the occult and if such is your true intent then I would recommend avoiding them.

  3. I am 62 years old. I recently went to confession and the priest would not absolve my sins. I attend Mass every day and receive Communion. I am wondering if the fact my sins were not absolved, does that mean I shouldn’t be receiving Communion? Examination of my conscience I feel like I should be able to receive; however, I wonder if I am really off track. I told the priest that this would be my last confession and he offered to bless me and I refused his blessing.

    FATHER JOE: Something is missing from your comment that makes answering your question impossible. A priest would not be capricious in granting absolution in the sacrament. Priests rarely refuse absolution. Usually it occurs when there is a defect in regards to an amendment of life. When a person comes to confession, he must be contrite and desire to change his ways. For instance, how can a priest absolve the sin of adultery if you are currently living in a relationship of adultery? How can a priest absolve the sin of fornication if you are cohabitating with the person with whom you are intimate? Technically, if a person cannot receive absolution, they are not disposed to a blessing either. One must be in a state of grace. If you remain in a state of mortal sin, you are still obliged to attend Mass but would not ordinarily be invited to take Holy Communion. Traditionally, a person who takes Holy Communion while in mortal sin commits the grievous sin of sacrilege. (Admittedly, there is some debate about this matter due to the interpretation given Amoris Laetitia by certain theologians.) If what I have written here does not apply to you then I would be curious as to WHY you were refused absolution. Peace.

  4. Hi Father, I tutor at a middle school for my work-study job at college. All the tutors are supposed to throw a party for the kids we tutor in December. But since they are from a public school, we can’t have any religious decorations, so it’s going to just be a “Happy Holidays” instead of a Christmas party. Would it be wrong for me to participate in this party since I am Catholic and believe Christmas is all about Jesus? And would it be wrong to make decorations that are just secular decorations, rather than religious decorations that truly reflect the true meaning of Christmas? Thanks for your help.

    FATHER JOE: It would not be wrong to participate. Decorations and music aside, there might be an opportunity for a subtle witness, like saying to children, “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!”

  5. Dear Father, I have been in a same sex relationship for 20 years and married in a civil union about 2 years ago. However this is a relationship of financial support and general friendship. There has been NO sexual activity for at least 15 years. However we do present ourselves to the community as married. Would either one of us be able to convert? Thank you. Sasha

    FATHER JOE: Technically, if you lived in a sisterly relationship, conversion or reception into the faith would be possible. The one possible hurdle would be the issue of scandal. While it is not uncommon for women to live together in platonic relationships, the two of you went public two years ago by entering into a civil union or a relationship acknowledged by the state as analogous to marriage. Would you be required to renounce this union in public? I really do not know and will have to inquire of the chancery about such situations. It is not something I have encountered, given that these civil unions are relatively new.

  6. Hi, Father,
    My husband and I went through RCIA together, and are now members of the Catholic Church. Previously, we had been Lutheran, and had been married in a Protestant ceremony many years ago. This is the only marriage either of us has ever had. Is our marriage now recognized as a valid Catholic marriage? If not, what must we do to make it one? Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: If two baptized Lutherans marry in a Protestant ceremony, the Catholic Church assumes that it is a true marriage. Now that you are Catholics, there is nothing more you need do as the bond is already viewed as a sacrament.

  7. Hi,
    What exactly is full consent for mortal sin? What if you feel serious pressure, and in the moment you feel you have no choice but to commit the act? However, your life isn’t being threatened and no one is going to torture you for not doing it. For example, what if you were forced to go to an invalid wedding because you are still living under your parents roof and whatever they say goes. Or, what if you are in the middle of a conversation, and you realize what you are saying is seriously sinful but you keep saying it because you feel you can’t stop mid-sentence.

    FATHER JOE:

    This question has been asked before. Remember the three elements of a mortal sin:

    1. Grave Matter (the action is immoral or intrinsically evil);
    2. Full Knowledge (you know it is wrong); and
    3. Sufficient or Deliberate Consent (you freely choose to do it).

    Sin is not an accident. It is volitional. Coercion, addiction, fear, etc. can damage the will. Modification against the consent can affect the gravity of the sin. A child does what he is told to do… where is the deliberate consent in that? That should already be clear. As for saying something stupid, simply stop talking. That is the best way to handle that.

  8. Hi Father,

    Would like to ask if supporting gay people/gay rights is a sin?

    I don’t personally encourage people to be gay, mainly because of the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

    However I feel like some of the nicest people are gay, and some of the worst people are Christians?

    Some of the things we say/do to them is really hurtful and terrible. It makes me question why our attitudes to others lack love, and I feel like this is not how God would want us to treat others.

    Anyway I know for these homosexuals, they are facing a lot of discrimination and also facing challenges of their own.

    Especially for Christian homosexuals, where they are not very accepted, and even mere attraction might feel guilty and sinful to them.

    Anyway, I used to be strongly against homosexuality as to me, it was 100% unnatural.

    That was until the guy I loved told me he actually liked guys, and also I have seen the love between my gay relatives.

    They were so loving and sweet together, that it feels more wrong to tell them that it is a sin. Their love looked so pure, and normal.

    It was then, that I felt like I am able to emphatize with them.

    I’m not saying the Church is wrong, and neither am I saying that being gay is right. There is still no conclusion.

    I am just wondering if it is okay to support the LGBT community, but not encourage it?

    For instance, is it okay to ‘like’ and ‘share’ homosexual articles/groups on facebook and such, or will it be anti-christ for me to do that?

    All along I have avoided any involvement with the LGBT community on social media, as I felt like ‘liking’ such articles might be sinful in God’s eyes as it might be seen as encouring the act?

    But now that I am able to emphatize with them, I would like to support but not encourage them, and i’m wondering if my actions will be not pleasing to God?

    Please advise. Thank you Father.

    FATHER JOE:

    There is a misnomer in your question that requires a response before anything else. Many things labeled as “rights” are in fact, not rights but rather moral license. Women are gifted with abilities and talents for which they deserve the same opportunities and restitution as men. Women do not have a right to murder their children in the womb. Certain people may suffer from various disorientations, however they are still worthy of human respect and acceptance in the human family. Homosexuals do not have a right to either marriage or to civil unions. Ethnicity and various cultures may be accidentals but they are also gifts that enrich our society. White supremacists do not have a right to oppress or to enslave people of color. Immigrants may not have the privileges of citizenship but they are owed justice in regards to human rights.

    The distinction you make is false. Christians are composed of people who are both “gay” and “straight.” The struggle we have is in regard to values that come to us from Scripture and natural law. Christians are commanded to live out the two-fold commandment of love toward God and neighbor.

    We have an obligation to the truth as well as to others in compassion. Sometimes we are compelled to practice a hard or tough love. We want our brothers and sisters to be happy and we want them to go to heaven.

    What would you regard as discrimination? There is a genuine disagreement along these lines. Should they be treated fairly in terms of secular employment, housing and education— yes, I would say so. Should homosexual relations and unions be regarded as equivalent to marriages and heterosexual union— no, I would argue that such is contrary to the divine plan. It is for that reason that the Church uses the word “disorientation.” We would not attack the person, but we would argue that certain acts are immoral and sinful. Given that revelation and creation are what they are; we do not have the authority or power to change matters. This is not something that can be truthfully legislated or judicially approved. It is beyond the jurisdiction of human beings.

    Homosexuals might feel guilty but they are not guilty until they actualize or live out the disorientation in sexual acts.

    No matter how you and I “feel” about it— no matter if it seems unfair— it remains what it is— wrong, sterile and frustrating to the natural ends of human sexuality and union.

    The Church is all for love. The problem is identifying love with homosexual acts.

    You write: “They were so loving and sweet together, that it feels more wrong to tell them that it is a sin. Their love looked so pure, and normal.”

    Looks can be deceiving.

    Sin does not have to be violent or lacking tenderness. But it is still sin. Such a leniency would also negate the sins of heterosexual fornication and adultery. It is not the proper measure of right and wrong.
    There is a conclusion to all this. God has the last word.

    You write: “I am just wondering if it is okay to support the LGBT community, but not encourage it?”

    I do not know what that means. Further, the homosexual community no longer wants mere toleration. They are increasingly demanding full acceptance and advocacy.

    As for social media, if the articles are obscene or promote sin, then yes, there would be a problem with your involvement. If they are merely an appeal to stop the hate, then that would have a place in every believer’s agenda.

    Their social media is often linked to photos that I would categorize as vulgar. Why that is the case, I cannot say. Have they desensitized themselves or do they want to throw such images into the faces of others? I cannot say.

    I would steer clear of such things. People should not primarily identify themselves by their orientation. There is much more that makes us human and people with intrinsic value.

  9. Hello Father,
    My birthday is this Friday, but I know Fridays are supposed to be days of penance(no meat), so would it be a sin to have birthday cake or ice cream with my family on Friday? Should we eat something less dessert-y like yogurt parfaits? Thanks for your help!

    FATHER JOE: Unless you are in the UK, then I would simply say enjoy your birthday. If in the UK, as a local priest. Peace.

  10. I have been married for over 23 years and it has been a sexless marriage. We are all devout Catholics and i am a good person who loves his wife and children and would never cheat on them. I am very attracted to my wife, but because of physical problems we have not had intercourse for over 15 years. I am not selfish, so I never force myself on my wife or even ask her to have any type of sex with me. Unfortunately, I am very attracted to my wife and cannot satisfy my sex drive. I have tried to just stay celibate in all ways but it is impossible, so i have turned to pornography and masturbation being that it is the only type of sex I can have being that my wife does not show any interest in sexual intercourse or any type of sex with me. Is this a sin being that I basically will not be able to have any sex in my marriage unless it is though pornography.I have been able to refrain for nearly two months now but i am losing the battle and it is very difficult. Will I be punished or my family be punished If I am not able to refrain much longer ? I have confessed this twice in confession. thanks

    FATHER JOE:

    First, does your wife actually suffer from a medical sexual dysfunction of is it simply a matter of her not wanting sexual relations with you?

    Second, your wife should seek to resolve her issue so that she can respond as a wife to your needs as a husband.

    Third, as a husband you are perfectly within your rights to request and to expect sexual relations with your wife. The marital act is about more than pleasure, it is a duty that furthers fidelity, the life of the family and renews the marital covenant in Christ.

    As for pornography and masturbation, these are not only sinful but signify a violation of marital fidelity. The use of pornography might be categorized as a form of virtual adultery or even virtual prostitution (when money is paid for materials or services). You participate in the exploitation of other human beings to appease your lust. You are imagining and taking pleasure from the bodies of others when you should be “one flesh” with your spouse.

    Not only are you sinning, but if your wife is refraining from the marital act for “no good reason” then she is also committing mortal sin and is an accomplice to your misbehavior. Your timidity in failing to demand what is your right has spiritually harmed you both.

  11. Margaret you are fearfully and wonderfully made! My heart truly breaks for all people suffering from such confusion. Please trust in the Lord, trust that He made you exactly as you are and that you CAN be happy and fulfilled in your role as a daughter of God. I suspect that you have been through some trauma or rejection in your childhood and that can contribute to gender dysphoria. Please do not give in to your flesh. I will pray for you Margaret, and I hope that you will come to realise the Truth. God bless you.

  12. could you explain the meaning of the word MIZPAH and how and when it can be used… thank you

    FATHER JOE:

    http://www.aquinasandmore.com/blog/the-origins-of-the-mizpah-medal/

  13. Can a priest come to a dental office and offer Mass there? I accuse you of no faith because you don’t want to do what the evangelists do.

    FATHER JOE: Is this a real comment or one of those automated AI spamming programs that seek to mimic real human beings? The comment is nonsensical. Priests can sometimes offer Masses in homes and/or nursing facilities. But if he is functioning outside his parish, he must be given permission from the pastor of that jurisdiction.

  14. Hello Father, you need to know that I am not Catholic— I am Baptist. However, I have attended Catholic services or Mass on occasion while in the army 27 years ago. I want to know something from you and the Catholic Church. Once you have received your salvation, can you say or do anything to cause you to lose it.

    I know what my Bible tells me (the King James Version). I know how Baptist Christians look at this; but, how does the Catholic Church see it? What does a Catholic bible say about this?

    FATHER JOE:

    The “once saved, always saved” teaching was not held by any Christian churchmen for the first fifteen hundred years of the Church’s history. It was an interpretation that originated with the Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). One of the earliest documents in the Church’s history is the Didache from around 70 AD (older than parts of the New Testament). There would not be a complete and authorized Bible until the fourth century.

    [16] “Be watchful for your life. Let your lamps not be quenched, nor your loins ungirded; but, be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. You shall gather together frequently, seeking what is befitting your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not perfected at the last season.”

    Catholicism would argue that once a person is baptized, you can never be baptized again. Baptism washes us from original sin (of Adam and Eve), cleanses us of personal sin, makes us temples of the Holy Spirit, incorporates us into Christ’s Church, adopts us as spiritual sons and daughters of the heavenly Father, and imbues us with both actual and saving grace (the latter makes us inheritors of the kingdom of Christ). Faith is a crucial element, although different from many Baptists, we define this faith as accepting Christ as our Savior and living out our discipleship with obedience and charity. (It is here where the discussion of works usually enters into the discussion). We also regard saving faith as both personal and communal. It is because of the communal or corporate dimension of faith that parents and godparents can make a profession for children in baptism. (It is understood that initiation is not complete until Confirmation and the reception of Eucharist. At Confirmation, we make our own the very same faith profession that was made for us as children.)

    Catholicism admits that genuine faith can sour and that a person might fall from God’s good graces. Certain Protestants argue that if a person falls into serious sin after claiming faith and/or baptism, that the faith was not real or a deceit. The problem with this thinking is that even influential Protestant evangelists and ministers, with thriving faith communities, have been caught in devastating sins like adultery and theft. The Protestant theology is left with only a few explanations: (1) the Christian minister was never a true Christian at all (but that puts into question his calling and the authenticity of his congregation); or that (2) the Christian minister has saving faith and it can never be forfeited (no matter if he patrons prostitutes, commits adultery or even performs murder). Catholic theology would contend that the person had faith but it was corrupted. Such a person would not need baptism again. However, he or she would require genuine contrition or sorrow of sin to be healed and restored to a righteous relationship with God. Repentance is an ingredient in every believer’s life, for small sins and for the large ones that damage our relationship with God.

    After the Reformation, Protestant communities moved to the “once saved, always saved” idea so as to avoid any need for the Catholic practice of Confession and absolution. It came along with a rejection of the sacramental system that had come down to us from the early Church and Christ.

    The Catholic Church teaches that faith in Christ is saving. We believe that faith and baptism brings about regeneration and we are made a new creation. Baptism forgives both original sin and all personal sins. However, it is no absolute protection against future personal sin. Catholics view this in terms of transformation. If we are remade into the likeness of Christ then the heavenly Father will see his Son in us and give us a share in Christ’s reward. We cannot save ourselves. Only Christ can save us. Christ and his saving activity comes to us in faith and baptism (indeed in all three sacraments of initiation), as well as in confession, the sacrament of the sick and the other sacraments. Whenever we enter into the paschal mystery of Christ, we are embraced by our Lord’s presence and saving power. We are not saved by faith alone, but by grace alone.

    Ephesians 2:4-9

    But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

    Many of the early Christians believed that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. It was only after some of the “saints” began to die that it occurred to believers that the final consummation might be at some time in the extended future. Believers who had fallen into serious sin after baptism had been spurned by the community. Indeed, those who believed but who failed to remain steadfast and to walk the walk of faith were seen as more liable to God’s righteous judgment. The more you are given the more to which you will be held accountable. The higher you are, the further you have to fall.

    2 Peter 2:20

    For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first.

    1 Corinthians 15:1-2

    Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

    As their numbers grew, and many compromised their faith in the face of persecution, the Church developed second penance. Thus, after confession and mortification (that could last years) — a person might be permitted to return to the faith community. There were cases where these penitents would stretch out on the ground in front of the houses or worship. Those entering would literally walk over them. This humiliation was to demonstrate the level of sorrow or contrition. Eventually, employing the power of the keys given to Peter, the Church permitted an easier form of forgiveness and restoration to good standing. The Church’s sacrament of penance as celebrated today would be the end result. A person was configured to Christ in faith and baptism; however, sanctifying grace was necessary so that we would be transformed into the likeness of Christ. There was a better realization that one had to grow in holiness. While faith and baptism was a definite demarcation, our discipleship was also a process. While a person who professed faith in Jesus became a Christian, this did not prevent falling into serious sin and/or betrayal of the Lord and his people.

    The work of salvation accomplished by Christ takes place in human history; however, the power and presence of our Lord cannot be contained in any one moment. That is why we speak of salvation as a gift that comes to us in the past, in the present and in the future. The Bible shows as much in the language employed; if we read the Scriptures in a contextual way, then this truth becomes apparently clear.

    Philippians 2:12-16

    So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

    Romans 10:9-11

    … For, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. For the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

    If we remain steadfast, then we can truly take solace in “the sure and certain hope” of our salvation in Christ. We would affirm salvation— past, present and future— however, some may have dark moments in the walk as disciples. If we return as contrite sinners, then we have every reason to hope. This is the Catholic alternative or take on what Protestants often refer to as “blessed assurance.” It is vital that we cooperate with grace and “persevere in prayer.”

    Romans 12:11-12

    Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.

    Catholics make a distinction between mortal sin (breaks our relationship with God) and venial sin (damages our relationship with God). If we reject friendship with God, even as a Christian, then we forfeit eternal life and the reward of heaven. If we love the Lord but struggle with our weaknesses, then we will under purification as we approach the fire of divine Love. We must be perfected to stand in the presence of God. We must be made holy as he is holy. This process begins in this world. At death, the children of God are told not to despair, because God will finish what he has started in us.

    1 Corinthians 3:10-16

    According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

    The Catholic appreciation of saving faith in Christ demands that we live out our faith in loving obedience. Salvation is a gift, but we must be disposed to receive it and to keep it. No one can take it from us but we are still free to cherish or to discard the gracious gift of God. Note the repentance and restoration of Peter and the despair and death of Judas. As a redeemed people, we live in the hope of our ultimate salvation. Christ fills us to the brim with his grace, but like a cup, if we turn it upside down, that which was given would be lost.

    John 15:5-10

    I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

    St. Paul is often quoted in isolated verses to prove the “once saved, always saved” position. But beyond isolated verses, the larger context will not sustain such a view. Indeed, aware of the danger from hypocrisy, the apostle even admits his own need to be steadfast and alert.

    1 Corinthians 9:27

    No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

  15. Let’s say I did something which surprised/startled someone (to which they said “Oh God”.) I know that this person has said this in the past upon hearing something surprising or bad. I think it is a habit for them. This is someone older than me. Am I responsible for not doing/saying anything that might cause them to say God’s name in that way? Is this matter of mortal sin or am I just being scrupulous? I realized that the thing I was doing might result in them saying that, but I continued doing it anyway and now I am worried. I appreciate your help and insight. Thanks.

    FATHER JOE: You said it yourself… you are being overly scrupulous.

  16. Is there a papal rule that says a priest must concelebrate at any Mass he attends or can he attend as just a nephew at a memorial mass?

    FATHER JOE: It is preferred that priests concelebrate, but such is not required.

  17. Father,
    Thank you in advance for taking the time to share your thoughts with me about this.
    I have a dilemma that I am having a difficult time resolving. My wife and I have 4 children and lost one to miscarriage. After the last pregnancy, my wife developed severe postpartum complications and was told by her doctor that another pregnancy could be deadly to her and/or the baby.
    Therefore we decided to use artificial contraception to back up our use of NFP. We made this decision as we felt it would be difficult for us to live celibate like brother and sister without the unitive effects of normal marital relations and furthermore, that this may result in an awkward model of a normal marital relationship to our children and potentially lead to us drifting apart from each other. Furthermore we recognize that due to my wife’s irregular periods, NFP loses some of its effectiveness and failure could be life-threatening.
    Since I cannot confess this due to our continued need to prevent pregnancy through menopause, my understanding is that according to Church teaching, if I die before then, I am destined to spend eternity in hell. I have accepted this fate for myself.
    The troubling issue is that I would like to raise my children to love the Church and the Eucharist, but I don’t know how I can teach them that receiving Holy Eucharist is important if I myself am unable to receive it.
    How do I explain to them and show them that Holy Communion should be the most important thing to them, but model to them that I will not receive it myself? How do I explain that God forgives sins but that I can’t receive forgiveness because I have chosen damnation in an effort to keep their mother safe?
    I have spent hours in the otherwise empty church and also during adoration spending time with God trying to reconcile this (I figure I may as well spend as much time with Him now while I’m alive and I can) but I still struggle with it.
    Do you have any thoughts you can share?
    Thanks.
    Jeff

    FATHER JOE:

    I can well appreciate the dire situation for your wife and family.

    Let me bluntly and somewhat coldly give my analysis, point by point. It is not my intention to be overly harsh or mean-spirited. Forgive me if it seems so. You make a number of pertinent statements (directly or indirectly):

    (1) You are afraid that another pregnancy would be life-threatening.
    (2) You lack the heroic virtue to live as brother and sister.
    (3) You prize sexual pleasure over any right relationship with God.
    (4) You fail to sufficiently recognize that any sin belongs to you both.
    (5) You imply that outward piety should outweigh moral convictions.
    (6) You prefer masking the truth to avoid courageous witness to children.

    Returning to your comment, what do you mean by artificial contraception? Condomistic intercourse would be intrinsically immoral because it changes the act. However, the woman’s natural fertility cycle would be left unchanged. While unspoken, I suspect we are talking here about the pill. (Remember that contraceptive pills are sometimes abortifacients.)

    You should be aware however, that use of artificial contraceptives often negates the use of natural family planning. One cannot both manipulate the woman’s hormonal cycles and then seek to follow what would be her normal body chemistry. In other words, you have really opted out of natural family planning to employ artificial contraception instead. (Irregular cycles usually mean that a woman follows a pattern that is not the norm— there are still signs (temperature, mucus, etc. that can be charted by NFP with 90% effectiveness when couples do not cut corners).

    You desire to maintain the “unitive” effects of marital relations; but what I suspect we are talking about is that you desire and want to maintain sexual relations. The term “unitive” as understood by the Church is compromised when the sexual act is redefined or disoriented. Even if the two of you were infertile, the marital act is defined by the Church as that type of act that is both directed to the fidelity of spouses and which is open to the generation of new human beings. The understanding of unitive is not synonymous with sexual pleasure. It is a particular type of bodily union— it is vaginal intercourse— but in harmony with the marital and procreative ends. This does not mean that you must immediately intend to make babies, only that it is that “type” of act. That is why natural family planning is tolerated. The couple has an awareness of their shared fertility and they space births or avoid pregnancy for sufficient reason and in harmony with how God made them. Note that any contraceptive mentality would even make natural family planning morally wrong.

    You speak about the matter here as if all the moral gravity is upon you. Lacking any amendment of life, you refuse to bring the matter to Confession and have accepted that this decision means that you cannot receive absolution and that you are destined to spend eternity in hell. Please, with all due respect to your situation, spare me your feigned falling upon the sword. There is nothing about hell that can make a claim upon sacrificial love. If this were a case that damned you then it would most likely damn your wife as well. There is no genuine nobility in damning a person whom you claim to love— granting a higher value to a few years in this world (and fulfilling your sexual appetite) so as to burn forever with the lost souls of hell. Sorry, but I do not buy such a pathetic and self-serving rationalization.

    This attitude would signify a false or inaccurate reading of Pope John Paul II’s VADEMECUM FOR CONFESSORS:

    [13] Special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund. In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish cooperation in the proper sense, from violence or unjust imposition on the part of one of the spouses, which the other spouse in fact cannot resist. This cooperation can be licit when the three following conditions are jointly met:

    • when the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself;
    • when proportionally grave reasons exist for cooperating in the sin of the other spouse;
    • when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion).

    [14] Furthermore, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the question of cooperation in evil when recourse is made to means which can have an abortifacient effect.

    [15] Christian couples are witnesses of God’s love in the world. They must therefore be convinced, with the assistance of faith and even in spite of their experience of human weakness, that it is possible to observe the will of the Lord in conjugal life with divine grace. Frequent and persevering recourse to prayer, to the Eucharist and to the sacrament of Reconciliation, are indispensable for gaining mastery of self.

    It sounds to me that the decision here is a mutual one, not one that you are mandating against the will of your spouse.

    What should you do? First, I would suggest that you talk with your pastor, and not to neglect the sacrament of penance either. Second, tell him bluntly what your situation is without any elaboration or attempts at backhanded justification. Third, tell him you have four children, you regularly participate at Mass, and you want to do right but you are afraid for your wife.

    Life is messy and while this is not a forum where I can tell you anything but the objective truth; priests regularly enter the grey areas of pastoral life to work with good people who are sinful and weak. We should not become comfortable with sin but neither should we turn away from divine mercy or feel that we are beyond redemption. I have known struggling souls who regularly bring such sins to the Confessional. They know they are doing wrong, they want to do right but they feel stuck. Sometimes it takes time to heal. See your priest, find your courage, trust God and know that God loves you. Now show that you love him, too.

  18. Father, I’m struggling greatly. My entire life I have felt I was born in the wrong body, that I was meant to be male. I struggle to dress myself and bathe because the sight of my body is so repulsive. I have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, as well as a host of other things. My dysphoria has led me to attempt suicide in the past, and I worry that if I attempt again, I won’t survive. I’ve prayed long and hard about this and consulted many Catholics resources, but I cannot imagine myself being alive a year from now as a woman. The thought turns my stomach. The thought of me as a man, however, is clear, and feels warm and comforting, much the same way I feel at Mass, like everything is as it should be. Please advise.

    FATHER JOE: I would not support any form of chemical or surgical intervention. Rather, I would suggest further work and counseling with mental health professionals. Of course, I would also recommend prayer, asking for humility to accept yourself as God has made you.

  19. Hello fr Joe. I’m the girl that complained about the burden of taking care of my handicapped sister falling squarely on my shoulders. Today I told my mum politely to help me clean my sister up as she had just used the bathroom, explaining that I ve been the only one taking care of her for some time now and that I was getting tired of it. All she did was to tell me coldly that she wasn’t going to do it. How do I handle this sort of thing? I’m tempted to refuse to run errands for her since she could deny me this despite the fact that I’ve been burdened with my sister. I’m so angry right now. I feel taken for granted. I try to support her when my dad verbally abuses her, but her treating me this way is very hurtful. My other sister just got a job and hardly has time to take care of her. So I’m left alone to take care of her all by myself.

    FATHER JOE: How old are you? Are you old enough to move out? You have done well by your sister but your parents are the ones that have to make the hard decisions about long-term care. As long as you are under their roof, I suspect they will take advantage of you.

  20. I wrote to you earlier this year about my abusive husband. We are safe and away from him. I’m struggling with how I’m supposed to forgive him for all the hurt and pain he’s caused. I just can’t seem to bring myself to forgive him.

    FATHER JOE: Forgiving is more than a feeling… it is also a desire that another might find healing. Say a little prayer for him each day. Give it time. Stay safe!

  21. Is masturbation a sin if I’m not thinking of anything?

    FATHER JOE: If you are not thinking and imagining then you are dead. It remains a sin.

  22. Hi,
    I confessed doubtful mortal sin in the past. However, I did not confess with the right details/number of times. I don’t think I did this deliberately because I was so nervous and sometimes I didn’t know that I wasn’t confessing with the right details. Must I reconfess these? Thanks so much!

    FATHER JOE: I have answered this question before. I suspect it is okay. Let it go. Trust God’s mercy.

  23. Dear Father; My wife and I recently moved and have joined a Parish in the Seattle, WA diocese. I’ve noticed that, following Holy Communion, parishioners stand when they return to their places in the pews. In my experience at Mass, I’ve always thought it proper to kneel in silent thanksgiving after having received the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Is standing following Communion now the “right” way to do this (post Communion Thanksgiving). Thank you Father.

    FATHER JOE: I have never heard of standing after communion. Usually they kneel.

  24. Hello Father,
    I have been back to my faith for about two years now. Faithfully going to mass a couple of times a week, adoration daily and confession I try to go every other month. I have had something unusual happen to me about a dozen times during adoration. When saying the rosary my sight has changed. When I’m looking at the Monstrance there is a fog in my central and Peripheral vision. But then when I take my eyes off the center of the Monstrance my sight clears. Then back to Jesus in the Monstrance it’s foggy again. It’s not a bad feeling but a nice feeling. I don’t know what to make of this.

    FATHER JOE: I cannot say what the fog means but I commend you on living your faith.

  25. I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I am looking to move and a place I found with an acquaintance I’ve had for 5 years believes in mediums and sometimes holds readings in their house. I have friends that tell me if my faith is strong enough I will be fine, but in being human, sometimes my faith isn’t as strong as I would like it to be. I pray nightly and still consider myself a new Catholic (I am in my late 20s and went through my local RCIA program in 2015-16). Would I be placing myself at risk in being in a house where evil spirits could be around?

    FATHER JOE: I suspect there would be too much tension over faith for this living arrangement to work out, aside from what might be invoked by your acquaintance’s witchcraft. My suggestion is to keep looking. Does she know that you are a practicing Catholic? She may not want you in her home if she finds out. The power of our faith and sacramentals would impede her superstitious and occult activity.

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