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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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4,200 Responses

  1. Why did God create humans with physical attributes, yet he operates on a plain where we can not see, hear, touch etc. While I understand the bible says we are made in his image, that implies God is physically like us yet, we can not physically hear God, see God, hold God’s hand, etc. he operates on an entirely different plane. Even Jesus referred to the father as essentially other-worldly. Thus, this limits our faith to exactly that, blind-faith. It almost seems unfair to be created in a manner where we must act via blind faith, faith is almost illogical by the way our senses are designed to operate…by the way, I am not a disbeliever, I would say I am someone who wants to believe God, who prays and asks for help with my ‘disbelief’. I am the doubting Thomas, yet here I am. Something else, I want to consider…are we making God in our image out of desperation or to make sense of the chaos that seems to be humanity, meaning do we say God will be like this or that vice what he may really be? He makes it very tough to believe in something we can’t see, hear, touch, etc in a body that is built on using its senses! Thanks Father for any thoughts…


    It is argued that our first parents had a friendship with God that was not impaired by his being a pure Spirit and our being a composite of matter and spirit. However, sin forfeited that relationship and now all is seen dimly as through a veil. Just as the body has its human or material senses, does not the soul also possess certain spiritual abilities and gifts? Indeed, when we pray there is a movement of the soul in its knowing and loving that reaches out so as to be enveloped by the divine.

    Speaking as a Catholic priest, I would say that your interpretation of Scripture is false. Indeed, you are wrong here on a fundamental level. First, the reference to image is not connected to any physicality. Angels are pure spirits and they are also made in the image of God. We are not entirely creatures of flesh and blood. Neither are we ghosts hidden in the machine. Living human persons are composed of flesh and blood but unlike the animals or strictly material things our substantial forms or souls are more than shared patterns in the divine mind. Our souls are individualized, immaterial and eternal. Because of sin we will know death, the separation of bodies and souls; however, we are also promised restoration, resurrection and glorification in Christ. The soul has no parts to break down. It cannot be extinguished. A complete human person is neither a (dead) corpse nor is it precisely a (detached) ghost— but is an embodied soul.

    Second, given the powers of the soul we can speak of the human person as made in the image of God. Albeit in a finite manner, we can both know and love. We have intellect and will. Human knowledge is self-reflective (spiritual self-awareness) or bends back in upon itself in a way that is impossible for animal or machine intelligence without souls. Human love is also made to complement and to reach out to the one who is pure Love. It mimics or participates in divine creativity— love makes possible life. Finally, within the scope of material creation, there are beings who can become aware of God (through moral reflection and growth) and who desire his friendship in a fashion that reflects his own knowing and loving us. It is in this that the meaning of image is discovered— it is found in relationality. We are made for God. We are called to know him, to obey him, and to give him glory in this world and forever in the next. We have a precious capacity to know him and our purpose as the stewards of creation. The basis of the Decalogue and the two-fold commandment of Christ reflect the moral implications of being made in the image of God. The love of God must spill over into our love of neighbor (who is also an expression of God’s creativity). We are to love God wherever he is found, even as the divine presence that sustains all life.

    God is the one Word that contains within himself everything. We employ many words as finite expressions of our own rational self-reflective nature. Our ability to comprehend the abstract and to use symbols signifies a level of deliberation that parallels or shares in the divine reality. Similarly, God has given us an ability to love that embraces the absurdity of the Gospel— to love those who hate and hurt us. Men and women come together in love and new human beings are created. We are made, in a secondary or dependent sense, co-creators with God. Christ loves us by embracing the Cross— in his resurrection the love of God conquers death and he offers us a share in eternal life.

    It is within this appreciation of being made in the image of God that we can speak of the fall and original sin as well as our redemption in Christ. Creatures made in the image of God, both human and angelic are given a fundamental freedom. While neither was given an immediate full awareness of the absolute good, so as to preserve freedom, both men and angels were given a choice. Each angel as a species unto itself was immediately judged in a particular fashion. The angelic hosts were fragmented between the good angels and the bad ones or demons. When it came to humanity our first parents signified one species. The punishment upon us would be universal. Their response would affect the future developmental trajectory of all mankind. Abusing their freedom, our first parents rejected their friendship with the Creator. While their image with God remained, they forfeited their “likeness” to God in their estrangement and the loss of saving grace. Given the infinite nature of God, the dishonor was one that humanity alone could not make reparation. Unlike angels who exist outside of temporal and spatial considerations, we as material ensouled creatures within time and space are given an opportunity for reform and salvation. God enters human history through the incarnation so that Jesus as a divine person but also one of us (with a complete human nature) could repair the relationship by his fidelity unto the Cross. It is in faith and the sacraments that we who are made in God’s image are also restored to his likeness.

    If you mean distant or aloof, then I would have to disagree in your assessment that Jesus spoke about his Father as “other-worldly.” Again and again, he emphasized his unity and affinity with him.

    “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

    “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:20-26).

    Jesus never forfeited the beatific vision by his incarnation. He was always aware of his own identity and his unique relationship as the one Son of God. He never mistook his foster father Joseph for the heavenly Father. We are drawn to the Trinitarian mystery through faith in Christ and his gift to us. Christ’s power is the third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Divine LOVE makes possible life— over the waters of creation in Genesis— in the partnership with husbands and wives— in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his victory over death.

    While certain Protestants speak of “blind faith,” this is utterly rejected by Catholicism. Christ is the Light of the World. None who follow him need to be spiritually blind. Ours is a faith seeking understanding. It is not irrational. Indeed, all the various areas of truth complement each other. We have the Bible and the universal catechism. We have the wisdom of the saints. Each of us has his or her relationship in faith with Christ. We have the Church. We are not alone. We have many guideposts to the truth.

    Sadly, you do not speak as a convinced believer. Indeed, from the very first you seem to lean more toward the atheist than the theist camp. You even seem to acknowledge your agnosticism at the end of your comments when you write: “It almost seems unfair to be created in a manner where we must act via blind faith, faith is almost illogical by the way our senses are designed to operate…by the way, I am not a disbeliever, I would say I am someone who wants to believe God, who prays and asks for help with my disbelief.”

    You ask questions more readily read from outsiders than one within the Christian camp. Wanting to believe is a preliminary step but vast gulf spans the distance between such a stance and the person who truly has a personal and communal faith with God and his merciful love. Jesus is not merely a historical figure, but becomes a real friend with whom we walk and pray. Indeed, he shows us how to pray… “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….”

    Ours is no anthropomorphism, although we often use concrete analogies to better appreciate that which is shrouded in mystery. We can know and love the Lord even though we can never exhaust the divine mystery. We can use our senses, expand them through technology and ponder creation through our many rational abstractions. But there remains more than we can see, even in the physical universe. We can employ the most sophisticated mathematics and physics so as to understand specks of truth about the nature of creation— but still it is just the barest scratching at the surface of what constitutes reality. Atheism would narrow the focus for understanding. Faith opens up many more doors and windows to both seeing the truth and to a saving encounter.

  2. THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS – We appreciate the gesture!

    7:30 a.m.

    Pope Francis is grieving with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community following the massacre at a synagogue, denouncing the “inhuman act of violence” and praying for an end to the “flames of hatred” that fueled it.

    Francis led prayers for Pittsburgh on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, a day after a gunman who had expressed hatred of Jews opened fire in the synagogue during Sabbath services, killing 11 people.

    Francis prayed for the dead, injured and their families and said: “In reality, all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence.” He prayed for God “to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies, reinforcing the sense of humanity, respect for life and civil and moral values.”

    Francis has frequently spoken out against religiously inspired violence and has denounced the easy availability of guns thanks to weapons manufacturers, whom he has called “merchants of death.”

  3. My husband has been complaining that he feels I don’t show interest in him…he flirts and gets nothing back. Frankly, it is because I don’t know how to flirt…it makes me feel stupid. I found some “adult” emojis in the app store while I was surfing, that are less adult than they sound by the name: mostly flirty and maybe a bit naughty, but except for a few of them, nothing really risque. I bought the app ($3) thinking this might help me flirt with my husband. Then I got to wondering if this is sinful….a few of those emojis actually were risque (one has feet like you’d see out of the end of the blanket, but there are more than 2 pair) …even though I wouldn’t be using those, would me buying that app be considered buying porn in some sense? They aren’t pictures of actual people, just cartoon drawings, and mostly not of people at all, just smiley faces making flirty faces and in suggestive poses. Is this a valid concern, or am I being ridiculous?

    FATHER JOE: Flirtation and affection between spouses should be immediate and of a quality that affirms dignity. Spoken words, embracing, gentle teasing, etc. is what it is about. It has nothing to do with emojis and apps. Given your intimacy as spouses, why would you focus upon a device that puts distance between you?

  4. My non-catholic wife is attending Reiki course…I know that it’s an occultist practice and not compatible with catholic faith. She knows that I dislike such things but still secretly registered herself on a Reiki course and told me day before attending. What would be the right thing to do to handle this situation?

    FATHER JOE: You are correct that it is incompatible with Catholic/Christian faith. Your wife is her own woman. There is not much more you can do. Regularly offer the Prayer to St. Michael against any possible demonic spirits. Love her and pray for her.


  5. Why are candles lit in Church (not during Mass)? Is it to honour the Saints or to ask them to intercede with God for us? Are candles lit in the name of/in honour/memory of ordinary people? Is prayer less effective if one does NOT light a candle?

    Thank you,


    FATHER JOE: Votive candles are lit as sacrificial offerings attached to prayers. Candles are sacramentals like rosaries, holy cards and statues. They are not strictly necessary for prayer. Given that the heart of Christian faith is the INCARNATION, the Church traditionally associates spiritual action with material things, i.e. candles, rosary beads, scapulars, religious medals, holy water, etc.

  6. Is it wrong to use the word “divine” to describe something that’s not related to God, such as “these chocolates are divine!” I was wondering whether this is a sin against the second commandment.

    FATHER JOE: Words can have many meanings. I suspect in this case it is just a descriptive adjective to express joyful satisfaction.

  7. Hi Father Joe,

    I’m sorry if I annoy you but I have a question about something. Is it sinful to say a Hail Mary or say other prayers to Mary? I’ve heard that many people accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary. Is that true? Isn’t saying “Hail Mary” basically saying “Praise Mary” isnt that worship? If not when does it cross the line to worship? Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: The word “hail” was a salutation common in the ancient world, used much as we would say “hello.” The angel is extending Mary greetings from heaven. Not all worship is divine worship. Honoring Mary subtracts nothing from God. Indeed, God is honored by our recognition and acts of love toward the one who is the mother of Christ and given to us at the Cross as the mother of all the redeemed (on the level of grace).

  8. Hello! A couple of years ago, my grandma made a racist comment. I was with my mom and aunt. I didn’t say anything to my grandma because I feel like I would have felt out of place. My grandma may have some racist tendencies because of the era she grew up in. But she is like a very holy, Catholic person. I don’t see my grandma too often and I don’t really talk to her on the phone. Is it my obligation because of fraternal correction to tell her racism is wrong? I’m not sure she does it intentionally. Is praying for her enough? I’ve heard from the New Advent website that sometimes not fraternally correcting can be a mortal sin if all of these conditions exist:
    “the delinquency to be corrected or prevented is a grievous one;
    there is no good reason to believe that the sinner will adequately provide for himself;
    there is a well-founded expectation that the admonition will be heeded;
    there is no one else just as well fitted for this work of Christian charity and likely to undertake it;
    there is no special trouble or disadvantage accruing to the reformer as a result of his zeal.”

    FATHER JOE: Biases are taught and often hard to overcome. Some grow beyond them but struggle with bad language that became habitual. Your grandmother is most likely aware of racial bigotry as wrong and as a sin. Offer to pray with her for a society that is more just and tolerant of differences. Personal and social change sometimes takes time.

  9. Hi Fr. Joe,
    Are souls separated from God in Purgatory? Or, is God there with them too? Is the experience of Purgatory similar to what Hell is like, except that in Purgatory, there is a chance of making it to Heaven…..and in Hell there is no chance? Thank you.


    One might imagine purgatory as the very approach to heaven. Hope does not cross over from the grave. It is a terrestrial virtue. Like faith it can only take us to the gates of heaven. As with heaven, faith and hope has been utterly brushed aside in favor of an all consuming love. This love is fire. All the souls of purgatory are guaranteed the acquisition of heaven. None can turn back. The shadows that make faith possible are eliminated by the intense brilliance of the burning love. The poor souls know the truth, about God and about themselves. The love of God purifies and purges. Every moment in purgation brings them one step closer to heaven. They are made ready… made perfect.

    Oddly, the fire is probably a mere speck in hell (that keeps the damned in existence). Unfortunately the damned spurn the burning love of God and the healing that it portends for the saints. The demons and damned humanity experience it as an inferno and as a presence they hate.

  10. Hello Father Joe, I have a question for you. My sister lives in Missouri, and dying from cancer. My family called for a Priest to come and Pray with her, they also asked him if he would Bless her house but he refused to Bless her house. Why would a Priest deny a blessing of a house?

    FATHER JOE: It may simply be a matter of availability for the priest. The minimal requirement for home blessings is that the residents are practicing Catholics in good standing with the Church.

  11. Is it appropriate and or recommended to bless a bible?

    FATHER JOE: A bible can be blessed although it is already sacred given it is the Word of God. Remember, though, that blessed items can be given away but they should not be sold.

  12. I recently read that some vaccinations are grown in the cell lines of aborted fetuses. I read this article but I am having a hard time understanding it https://www.ncbcenter.org/files/1714/3101/2478/vaticanresponse.pdf
    Specifically I am concerned with the hepatitis A vaccine which does not have an alternative made without the use of stem cells. I am going to be traveling to the Holy Land and this is one of the vaccines that are recommended for travelers. I just want to make sure that my understanding is correct that I cannot morally receive this vaccine.


    This question arises periodically and it is always difficult to answer. I must say from the first that I am not well-versed in the particular vaccine you mention. We had a similar situation years ago where the late moral theologian Dr. William May contended that the original material was so old and needs so great that a vaccine might be taken, although source material extended back to an aborted fetus in 1969 from the UK.

    We must make a few distinctions:

    FORMAL COOPERATION – The moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person by sharing the evil intention. This is always illicit or wrong.

    MATERIAL COOPERATION – The moral agent cooperates (directly or indirectly) with the immoral action of another person without sharing the evil intention. This is sometimes illicit (but can be mitigated by factors like double effect).

    The answer that we will seek is under material cooperation. Dr. William May distinguished between proximate and remote cooperation. Immediate or direct cooperation is necessarily proximate. Mediate or indirect cooperation is either proximate or remote. As to active or passive cooperation, the obligation to avoid passive material cooperation may not be absolute when it would be difficult or cause hardship. Clear as mud?

    There is an obligation to take recourse to alternative vaccines if they exist. However, if failure to take the problematical vaccines exposes people to extreme dangers to health, they may also be used on a temporary basis. The avoidance of passive material cooperation is not obligatory when there is a grave reason.

  13. Father Joe, your response is exactly what I feared. This poor man is suffering because of the time we are living in. In addition to what you mentioned, he is the president of a Catholic high school and a grade school. I don’t know what the children are being told at school, and I fear what they are hearing in the community and at home. Thank you for your response.

  14. Hi Father Joe,
    Today I read some comments from Pope Francis, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. The headline read, “Abortion is like hiring a hitman”. I believe that many women struggle with the emotions and regrets of having had an abortion, often at very difficult and desperate times in their lives. It often is a woman’s single and biggest source of regret. Coming to a place of self-forgiveness can take years or can be an ongoing daily battle.
    I pray for Pope Francis every day, and often find him to be full of mercy, caring, and compassion. But this statement really has me feeling heavy hearted. Twenty years ago, I found myself hopeless, helpless, abandoned, and defeated. Can women who have had abortions be victims too? I hope that Pope Francis did not mean to be so harsh. Do you think he was just trying to emphasize the stance against abortion and not so much against the women who have had one? Yes, abortion is always wrong, but isn’t there mercy for women who have repented, received God’s forgiveness, and sought to understand the circumstances to make such a devastating choice?
    I’ll be honest, I love Pope Francis. But this statement really has me hurting and feeling shame again, emotions that have taken me years to work through.
    Thank you Fr Joe.

    FATHER JOE: It is not my place to tell the Pope his business but he does often seem a bit rash and abrasive in his ordinary public statements.

  15. A local priest went to our bishop to self-report an immoral act between himself and an adult woman. The bishop released a statement reporting this to the media, stating the priest was repentant, no minors were endangered, and there is no suggestion of any criminal act. The priest is on leave while the bishop determines his future in the ministry. What purpose could there have been to make this public?

    FATHER JOE: This is the type of case that would normally not be made public. However, I suspect the critics of the Church are so angry and aggressive at present that it was thought best to announce the matter before it leaked and the Church was once again attacked for a lack of transparency. Unfortunately, this wrongs the priest and the person with whom he was intimate. Just like other sinners, they had a right to confidentiality under the seal of confession and professional secrecy. While there was a sinful indiscretion, no crime was committed. There is a deviant albeit popular voyeurism that insists that all sins must be exposed and played out in plain view. How will this priest continue his ministry? Given the mass media, will it even suffice to send him to another diocese? Much depends upon how forgiving God’s people might be.

  16. At my parish, there is a women’s club and I saw in the bulletin that they were having an event where an actress is coming in to talk about the history of witchcraft for Halloween. I think this is kind of odd. Is it wrong for that club to be hosting this event? Should I see if I can contact the person in charge and voice my concerns? I don’t want to seem rude or holier than thou, especially since im pretty young. Is it something I am obligated to get involved in or am I looking too far into this?

    FATHER JOE: Not knowing who she is and what she is going to say… I can’t say.

  17. Dear Father Joe,

    Today I was thinking about God and unintentionally called him a swear word and voluntarily finished the sentence. Did I sin?

    FATHER JOE: Deliberate blasphemy against God is sinful. However, you say that you “unintentionally” did so. You must know that with ordinary folks this makes no sense. Do you suffer from a form of mental disease called Coprolalia? If this is the case, then there is no sin because of a lack of control.

  18. Hi Fr. Joe,
    I attend Mass at two different churches. Sometimes it’s due to the times offered at a particular church (one has a 5pm Sunday Mass). The other offers a 7am weekday Mass that I attend 1-2 times per week before work. Both churches had a distinct “feel” with one being more traditional and the other being more exuberant and friendly. Honestly, I like both very much. Sometimes I choose which church depending on my mood that day, desiring a more series toned Mass or a more friendly interactive Mass. I’m registered at one church, but my question is, can I also register at the other church too? Is it wrong to be registered to two different churches?

    FATHER JOE: You should be registered at one church. Some places require that you register at the church where you find your domicile within its juridical boundaries.

    Then, second question. I went to confession before Mass a couple weeks ago at the more traditional Church. My penance was to pray a rosary (with some other instructions that would have taken some extra time to complete a full rosary). It caught me off guard a little since I had never before received anything more than reflecting on something with a few Hail Marys (or the like). The trouble was, my rosary beads were at home, and I didn’t have time to pray a full rosary before the start of Mass. I had never experienced this situation before. Usually any penance could easily be done before Mass. I left the confessional before asking if I could receive Communion before my penance was completed, and I didn’t want to go back in to ask. So, I ended up leaving and going to the other church for Mass the next day after I had time to complete my penance. Does a penance have to be completed before receiving Communion?

    FATHER JOE: As long as there is the intention to satisfy for the penance, you can receive after the absolution.

    Thank you Fr. Joe!

  19. Hello Fr Joe, I am a freshman in college and pledging a fraternity, and I have tried to find out if this is acceptable as a Catholic but I haven’t had much luck finding a solid answer. I really like the guys in the fraternity so far and they respect my beliefs as a Catholic, I also even got one used to be Catholic to agree to go to Mass with me. I feel like the fraternity is a good opportunity to make friends and even evangelize some.

    The main problem for me is that it is technically a secret society I think, which also means they have a secret ritual where they dress in dark robes and light candles and such. The guys all tell me it’s just tradition and it “literally means nothing,” and that it is not in contradiction with being a Christian, as many of them are Christians at least to some degree.

    The president told me he thinks the founders were Catholic (which I am not sure of). I feel like this is just a technicality that is tripping me up, as I don’t see why I would need to tell anybody about these secret things, and even if I did I don’t think they would really care, and even if they did it’s not like they can do anything to me. I feel like this shouldn’t be tripping me up as I want to join the fraternity, but I just wanted to make sure, thank you!


    The Church would make distinctions between organizations that are secret societies and those that have private or secret initiation rituals. Given that the initiation degrees of the Knights of Columbus have valuable lessons, they are supposed to be kept confidential. However, our works and much of what we discuss at meetings can be disclosed to the public. Just as the Knights are not regarded as a secret society, it may be that your fraternity is not considered such either. A problem with an organization like the Freemasons is a past history of seeking to undermine the Church and prayers or rituals that conflict with Catholic devotion and faith. Catholics are still forbidden to join the secret society of the Masonic Lodge. I do not know much about your fraternity, but it may be that it does not strictly satisfy the definition of a forbidden secret society. Not knowing its name or more details I cannot say. While I cannot give you a definitive answer, it sounds like boys merely having some fun.

    I have deleted your reference to the initiation promises as your fraternity might want to keep them confidential. They are very similar to those used by other fraternities, like Delta Upsilon which publishes theirs and renounces secrecy.

  20. Dear Father,

    I recently moved to the Las Vegas area. Today I went to Mass at a church where a Bette Midler music video was played during a break in the homily from a Deacon.

    Oh, but before the concluding prayer, two members carried out a gold-colored rotary drum so the Priest could spin it and select a name in the raffle to win a St. Francis statue. The “winner” need not be present to win.

    Did I mention when the Gifts were brought forward by two youngsters they were not received by the Priest. Instead, the two kids placed them on the altar.

    Also, Holy Communion was given with actual bread which (to me) was different.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen anything like that before. I actually felt a bit uncomfortable.

    FATHER JOE: Are you sure it was a Catholic Church, and not a Protestant one or a Catholic breakaway community? Bette Midler is popular with some ministers but no matter how moving, it is still secular music. Raffles and gambling has no proper place in the liturgy either. While it might attract some, such a practice will turn off many more. You are correct that the gifts should be received by the celebrant. While the shapes and the thickness of hosts for Mass sometimes vary, it must be unleavened wheat. The use of other ingredients, like honey, will invalidate the sacred matter.

  21. Hi Fr Joe,
    I rarely, actually almost never, receive both the body AND blood of Christ at Communion. I’m not typically a ‘germ-a-phobe’, but when it comes to drinking out of the same cup as the whole congregation, it is definitely unsettling to me. I have tried to put this hang-up of mine out of my mind and focus on the moment, receiving the precious blood of Christ. But, when I take my sip from the cup, I can’t help but feel a bit of disgust thinking what germs have been shared. And then, I feel horrible that I’ve felt this way given the gift that it is.
    Should I work to overcome my hesitation and perception of sharing the cup? Or should I just let it go and just receive Communion, accepting that this is just the way I feel about it? I wish it didn’t bother me this way. I’ve been told that there is very little chance of spreading germs by sharing the cup this way, but that doesn’t seem to help.
    Any thoughts or advise?
    Thank you!

    FATHER JOE: There is no necessity to receive from the chalice. The host contains the complete risen Christ… body soul and divinity. I would not worry about it.

  22. Dear Fr. Joe,

    Hi, it’s me again. I would just like to ask a question. I have a bad habit of saying God’s name in vain and I am working to stop it. Is using God’s holy name in vain a mortal sin? Some say it’s blaspheme but other say it’s veniel sin becuase it considered profanity. What is your view on this? Do you think using God’s name in vain a mortal sin or veniel? Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: Using God’s name can either be venial or mortal. It is a form of blasphemy. Many routinely use God’s name as an expletive and they find it is a hard habit to break. Others tend to say something bad in great distress or pain, as in the proverbial striking one’s finger with a hammer. Others would use it as a curse and it is here that it is most probably a mortal sin. As an attempt to break away from such usage, there are a few who have resorted to uttering blessings or prayerful aspirations instead. They catch themselves in the process of using God’s name in vain and change it by saying something like, “God save us!” or “Jesus, Mary, Joseph… save souls!”

  23. Hi Father Joe. My fiancee and I are struggling with the Church’s requirement to annul past marriages. Problem: I have several; very very embarrassed. I don’t want to deal with a tribunal, ex wives, judgments, etc. I want to hide under a rock rather than deal with this. No never abandoned a marriage or abused anyone, but still hugely embarrassing. She has about 1 month to finish a US Visa to come here and marry. An annulment, if I can force myself to do it, could take much longer or be denied. My vote is to just go to the Justice of the Peace and get it done. God knows very well neither of us abandoned a marriage or are now married. She says we will be punished by the Church for the rest of our lives for doing this and won’t be able to do communion, etc. Question: Can the “irregular/lack of form” marriage be made whole somehow after the wedding? If so, how? We are about to give up on our marriage plan. Very sad. Thanks. G

    FATHER JOE: The ideal would be to have the former bonds annulled and then to marry your fiancée before a priest in a church. You are correct that annulments take time and they are not assured. However, you may not need several formal annulments. Such an annulment is required if a Catholic marries in the Church before a priest. They are also required if two Protestants marry in any setting. If you or a prior spouse were Catholic, and you did not marry in the Catholic Church, then only a simple declaration of nullity is required because of a lack of canonical form. You would still need to collect a copy of the marriage license, divorce decree and baptismal certificates. Given that you are civilly divorced, you could legally marry your fiancée before a civil magistrate like a judge or a justice of the peace. However, the marriage would not be recognized by the Church. While there is discussion about allowing people in irregular or adulterous unions to receive the sacraments; many feel that the problems would be insurmountable. A person must be spiritually disposed to the sacraments and open to grace. Couples in mortal sin need to be reconciled but such requires both contrition and a genuine amendment of life. If you should attempt a marriage before a civil authority, you would still need to pursue nullification of prior bonds before an ecclesial tribunal. Only after a decisive and affirmative decision could the new bond be convalidated before a priest and deacon and two witnesses.

  24. My professors often upload things for us to print and read that I’m sure are violating copyright. I know that is considered theft. What should I do? Should I not be reading them? Am I obligated to pay restitution?

    FATHER JOE: The responsibility is that of your professors. Do not be quick to judge. It is my understanding that there are certain legal provisions for teachers in various academic settings. Concentrate on your studies.

  25. Dear Father Joe

    I have a question as to whether there is a difference of opinion as to whether a person has to confess mortal sins that he has genuinely forgotten to mention in a previous confession during a later confession?

    My problem is that I have committed many mortal sins in the past, and I have made several attempts at sincerely confessing all of them; It’s not so much that I definitely believe I have omitted to confess them, but that after a period of time, I cannot remember either way if I have confessed, or not.

    I have been told by a couple of catholic priests that there is no need to mention mortal sins in a subsequent confession if there has previously been a genuine attempt to confess all mortal sins, but most of the online advice as to this issue seems to be in conflict with what I have been told by the two catholic priest I have personally approached about this issue, in other words some people believe the answer to my question is affirmative, others seem to state negative.

    (Please note that I am asking this question not to subject the sacrament to misuse, but because my conscience directs me to make a complete confession in the correct manner).

    I would appreciate any spiritual advice you can offer on this matter.

    Thank you for your time.


    There is no difference of opinion. Mortal sins forgiven but unconfessed through general absolution or because they were forgotten during a prior confession should later be shared with the priest, with the proviso that they are already absolved. If you sincerely believe that they were confessed then the matter is resolved. Human memory is not perfect. But we should be wary of self-deception.

    This is not a matter of personal opinion. It may be that the priests with whom you spoke did not understand or they have judged you as scrupulous and do not want to amplify a problem. They may also know you so well that they know what these sins are based upon your current struggles. Mentioning the same sin in the present might suffice for the sin committed in the past. Priests need enough details to judge souls, but they do not want too many details.

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