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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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4,126 Responses

  1. Dear, Fr Joe.

    This is a bit of a weird question but is it a mortal sin if you tried to do a mortal sin but then found out that what you were trying to do was physically unpossible?

    FATHER JOE: I do not even want to imagine what you were trying to do. Remember that we can sin in though, word and deed. Desiring to sin and attempting to do wrong still constitutes sin. If the matter is gravely wrong then the sin would still be mortal.

  2. Father…is it a sin to watch videos on YouTube that do not come from their original source? In other words, let’s say I wanted to watch an old TV interview with my favorite sports figure. The interview originally aired on ESPN, but it was uploaded by Joe Schmo. There are so many videos on YouTube that were downloaded and uploaded by people who are not the original owners of the content. I have even seen documentaries that are no longer available for purchase uploaded on to YouTube. YouTube will remove videos that have copyright infringement if it is reported. Some of these videos have been on there for several years, though, and have never been removed.

    FATHER JOE: The responsibility on a site like YouTube is pretty much with the owners of the website. It is too difficult for the viewer to discern whether each and every video has proper backing on the site. Many television news organizations even encourage clips of their reporting as a form of free advertisement. Similarly, a documentary might be shared on YouTube in a valid way but you as a viewer are not privy to the fact that Joe Schmo is sometimes the owner of the material that appeared on HBO or on video. YouTube today is both a paid and a free service. Organizations that do not want their programming on YouTube are in constant communication with such sharing sites and they also use search engines (not just Google) to find and in some cases to remove their material. There are many problematic issues about uploading videos, even personal ones, to the internet. I think the gravity in terms of wrongdoing is with those who purloin material to which they have no rights. Of course, there are even legal fights over material that has passed into the public domain. As an avid old time radio collector, much material in the past would have been totally lost if it were not for fans seeking to preserve old shows. When a matter is somewhat dubious, you are probably okay with looking at a video online. If the material is clearly stolen, like the latest Star Wars movie presented with mono sound and blurry video; it would be more ethical to pass it by and to spend a few dollars on a legitimate Blu-ray copy.

  3. Hey, Father. I’m 14 years old and will be confirmed in about a month. I’m in a state of mortal sin and need to confess my sins before confirmation, but I’m afraid to confess the things I did. I’m also afraid that if I don’t confess, I won’t receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit until I confess, even though the confirmation would still be valid. Any advice on what to do, I could use the help?

    FATHER JOE:

    What does it mean to be confirmed? The faith speaks of confirmation as the completion of one’s initiation into the Church. The Eastern churches follow the ancient pattern of making it the anointing following infant baptism. The Western churches separated it from baptism, allowing the bishop an opportunity to give a sacrament to most if not all of God’s people. This separation has given the Catholic in the West an opportunity to claim in a sacramental way the faith that was given to him or her as a child. The faith of the apostle’s creed is affirmed and there is a renunciation of Satan. We used to speak of the sacrament as an opportunity to embrace an adult faith and to become a soldier for Christ. My father scared me when I was confirmed. After I had received the sacrament, he turned to me and said, “You know what you have done, don’t you?” I said, “What?” He continued, “Now that you are confirmed, you can go to hell.” I was taken aback by his words. What he meant was that for now on I would be judged by God as an adult, not a child. Children commit venial sins. Adults are the ones who go to hell. The more we have been given, the more for which we will be held accountable.

    We live at a time when Christians are mocked here at home and increasing martyred around the world. Are you prepared to be a sign of contradiction? It is time to step up and to be courageous. The issue is more than a fear of confession but about cowardice in being a Christian. Put in other words, the question is less about confession and more about whether you truly want to be a confirmed believer.

    We have believers who are professing their faith in Christ and their membership in his Church while knives are being held against their throats. Meanwhile you are afraid to tell the priest that you inappropriately touched yourself, or looked at dirty pictures or took something insignificant that did not belong to you. Grow up! Let me say it again. Grow up! Everyone watches these made-up superheroes at the movie theaters when we need real-life heroes of the faith in the church pews. If you are afraid to admit personal faults to a priest who loves you in Christ and who wants to shower you with mercy and grace; then how will you fare when we must face all the evils of men and the hordes of hell? The time of decision is now. There is no moment to waste. Whose side will you be on?

  4. Hi,

    Is it wrong to go to a Hindu wedding in a temple? I have a feeling it is, because it involves supporting the worship of false gods, in the sense that by showing up for the wedding you are endorsing what is happening there.

    FATHER JOE: Given that the marriage would be valid— likely not involving a Catholic— then you could attend such a service. However, you are right that the Catholic should not participate in any of the rites, songs or prayers. Indeed, you might quietly take out your rosary and pray for the couple during the service. While not a sacrament, the Church might recognize such a bond as a natural marriage (given unbaptized persons).

  5. I have suffered with scrupulosity in the past and have come a long way. I was wondering, some people make impulsive decisions in their head like “if the next newspaper article has to deal with the economy I know you probably want me to do this God.” Or “God, if the time on my clock ends with a 5 I will take that as a sign I should do this.”. This is very impulsive and not thought out. Does God work like this or should we ignore this impulsive thoughts that God definitely wants us to do something based on this. I doubt it but I don’t want to be disobedient to God if he actually is communicating with me.

    FATHER JOE: What you call impulsive is really a problem with giving untenable interpretations to detached associations. There is nothing that connects an article or the time with divine providence. Divine signs are much more obvious. I am not a doctor and thus would be the last person to give answers about personality disorders and psychosis. If such things fill a person’s daily thoughts then I would urge him or her to see (or to continue to see) a psychiatrist or professional counselor.

  6. Fr Joe,
    I just came from confession and I remembered something that I don’t think I’ve ever confessed. I used to watch “Suits”, a lawyer show. I really liked it, but they used the Lord’s name in vain quite a lot. It bothered me, but I still watched the show. It had fornication and other things like crime in it, too, but I figured real people do these things, so watching a show where they are represented wouldn’t be sinful unless it induced me to that lifestyle, which it did not.

    Now I wonder if it was sinful to watch 7 seasons of that show. And if so, is it grave enough to be a mortal sin and preclude me from communion? I tried to remember to mention it during confession and ask, but I didn’t. Perhaps I need to start making a list and bringing it with me.

    FATHER JOE: I am unfamiliar with the show and so can make no moral assessment. There are many entertaining shows today that are unfortunately spiced with unnecessary elements. Probably for most there is no sin or at most a venial transgression. However, I must offer the corrective that the level of vulgarity and obscenity in television programing seems to be on the rise. Programs that demean the human person constitute sinful matter. Pornography is regarded as mortally sinful. That which was almost universally condemned is now finding its way into our homes. There is an effort to make such trash mainstream or normative.

  7. Hi Father,

    I got my permit a while ago. During the eye test, my eyes became kinda cross eyed at one point, so I closed one eye and just read w/ one of ’em for that period. Now I’m worried ’cause that seems a dishonest way of getting a permit. So now I’m like “Do I have to get a new one?”. I’m pretty sure my eye are fine and I could see the letters my eye just became cross eyed at one point. Is there a catholic teaching for why I should get a new one or not use the one I’ve got?

    FATHER JOE: I am sure the people who devised the test took such eventualities into consideration and that you did indeed pass. You are probably dealing with too intense a scrupulosity about your actions. Scrupulosity is often linked to a heightened sense of anxiety in regard to obligations and toward what is right and wrong. Self-reflection and prayer can help you root this out of your life. We all second-guess ourselves sometimes, especially about major matters; however, we should not sweat the small things or to allow the self-doubt to destroy a sense of joy for life.

  8. Hi Fr Joe,

    As Catholics, do we believe that we only have to be free from mortal sin when we die to make it to Heaven and receive salvation? What about our imperfections or tendencies to fall into the same sin or sins?

    If a person dies immediately coming out of Confession, but has continued struggles with gossiping, stealing, telling lies, judging others, sins against chastity, or some combination of these as an example, would they still go straight to Heaven? Or, even if we are free from mortal sin and have recently left the Confessional, if we have those imperfections, would we end up in Purgatory first?

    Another way I think to ask is, in order to be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven, do we need to be free of Mortal sin at the time of death AND be free of all attachments and tendencies to fall into repetitive sin? Or do we only have to be free of Mortal sin?

    Thank you,
    Lauren

    FATHER JOE: All the poor souls in purgatory are free from mortal sin. After death, the fire of divine love purifies them from venial faults, the residual tendency to sin and the temporal punishment of sin. They are made perfect for heaven. Confession makes possible the forgiveness of sin and the gift of grace, both actual and saving. However, the absolution does not make us spiritually perfect— just forgiven.

  9. Hi Father,

    I’ m trying to increase/improve my knowledge of the Faith; so that I may be able to defend it better and teach my children better. Do you know of any website that provides lessons that can help me?

    FATHER JOE:

    Go to the horse’s mouth. You will find the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH at the Vatican website:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

    The Supreme site for the Knights of Columbus offer many informative $1 booklets. Many of these can be read as pdfs online.

    https://www.kofc.org/en/cis/index.html

  10. I hope this is an appropriate forum for such a detailed question- I am hoping for moral guidance. I live in an apartment and my next door neighbor did illegal construction which seems to have resulted in asbestos in my apartment. The asbestos might be due to background levels or it might be from the construction dust that repeatedly entered my space- that is being determined. As a breast cancer survivor, this has been a source of great anxiety for me. Anyway, during the construction (which is now over), I hired somebody to do asbestos testing and subsequently learned that, not only did this person run the test completely incorrectly according to the State, but that they are also unlicensed (I’m told that licenses are required for asbestos testing).  I am very disturbed when I think that the possible asbestos contamination could have been caught months ago had this person been qualified. I spent alot of money with this person and in general because of this construction. Somebody had suggested that I tell this individual that they should either refund me the money I spent with them (atleast for the asbestos test) or I will report them to the Department of Labor for operating without a license. I was considering doing that until I wondered about whether or not that was extortion?  I would think it is; but, in a sense, I’m just asking for my own money back. However, giving an ultimatum like that seems like it could be sinful. Would that be a mortal sin?
    Thank you, Father!!

    FATHER JOE: It seems to me that you are asking the wrong questions. Given a possible issue with asbestos, it was the responsibility of your neighbor or the landlord to do the required testing. Why is it that you had to hire someone? What were your criteria (written) when he was employed? Unless the person purported to be licensed and qualified for asbestos, then the fault rests with you. There are various types of licenses and certifications for private contractors or handymen. It seems to me that your grievance is not with the contractor you hired but with your neighbor and his construction. But, are you sure that it raised asbestos levels? Who is giving you all the negative information that is troubling you? If the work resulted in collateral damage against you personally (your health) then it is your neighbor whom you should address.

  11. i confess every week and attend mass 4 times a week ( i work full time) and pray for more than an hour a day. i am a counsellor with families of children who are dying. My husband left me and took our daughter who is 4. Why won’t God stop me from drinking i’ve asked.

    FATHER JOE:

    I am not sure what you mean. Are you implying that since you pray, go to Mass and help others that God should bless you with a happy life and sobriety?

    It is wonderful that you do many good things; but there is no bargaining with God. The measure of the cross may vary for each of us but the command is the same: take up your cross and follow the Lord. You may have a genuine addiction or the drinking may be a symptom of your personal struggles. Ultimately, you do not stop because you have chosen not to do so. God will help you, especially if you surrender yourself to his providence and power. However, to do that one has to let go of any anger and resentment. We live in a broken world and the best of us are wounded healers. We try to make a difference but there is much in the way of loss and pain with which we must learn to live.

  12. Hello! I have a “unique” question. Can a Godfather designation be annulled? Here’s the situation. My best friend was murdered. He has a teen daughter, whom I am now helping to care for… but the young girl’s Godfather is her father’s murderer! Oy. I researched, and read that Godfather designation cannot be annulled after Confirmation… and she was just confirmed last year. Is that a strict rule… or could I petition the girl’s parish priest and/or the archbishop for an exception? I’m in New York City. The girl lives with her Godmother now; and I would like to replace the murderer with myself as her Godfather. Any advice? Thank you! 🙂

    FATHER JOE:

    There is some confusion on your part. Sometimes it is not possible for a godparent from baptism to also serve as a confirmation sponsor; in such cases another person can be chosen. However, that in no way negates or annuls the godparent who witnessed the baptism. The role of godparent is permanent. That is one of the reasons why we urge parents to use great care in the selection of godparents. If married the bond should be recognized by the Church. They should practice their faith by participating at Mass and living a moral life. Parents should never deliberately seek to create a spiritual relationship between their child and someone in mortal sin, no matter how close a friend or family member they might be. Of course, none of us have crystal balls to read the future. Hence, the dire situation you describe.

    You might serve the role of an honorary or unofficial godfather, praying for the child and making sure that she is properly watched over. Similarly, you can ask for her prayers as one who cares about her. While it is probably too much to ask the girl; you might seek to keep your friend’s killer in your prayers. As terrible as the situation is, grace can change the hearts of the worst sinners. I do not know what if any communication there will be with the killer; but hopefully, he will find remorse and pray for the man he killed and the little girl whom he has deprived of a father.

  13. I went to confession on Thursday afternoon to prepare for first Friday. I noticed that each of the people ahead of me were in and out of the confessional in less than a minute. Each had a curious look on their face.

    When I entered I had intended to confess face-to-face. But as I walked around the partition the priest said to “go to the screen” which I did. Before I kneeled the priest began and then said “what are your sins?” I not begun with the statement of when my last confession was.

    I was taken aback but began. After I had finished with two of my transgressions, the priest began telling me that tomorrow is first Friday. Then he said that many people had taken time from work. Then said my sins were forgiven. Then mumbled “one Our Father” (as penance) and was finished. No Act of Contrition.

    I had not finished my confession. I was very confused and unsettled, feeling unfulfilled for not having confessed all of my sins.

    I left the confessional, said an Act of Confession and left the church.

    I understand that my confession and absolution were valid, yet It took me time to come to terms with this. Never have I had such an experience.

    I got the feeling that the priest wanted to be sensitive to those who might have left work to go to confession. But I don’t know if that was the reason. Or perhaps because Spanish is his first language.

    I thought briefly that I should call the pastor but decided against that and went on.

    Is this confession experience unusual? Leaving me without the opportunity to fully confess was/is troubling.

    FATHER JOE:

    I wish I could say that such is entirely unfamiliar news to me but such rushed confessions are not unusual. I cannot know for sure what his reasons were but I suspect it had to do with a line of penitents and limited time to hear confessions. As a confessor, I often urge penitents to make a decisive examination of conscience, accentuating the most grievous sins. It is recommended that venial sins be confessed but unlike mortal sins such is not mandatory. Some penitents wander in their confessions mixing venial and mortal sins. Others want to give their trespasses with all the sordid details. The confessor wants to hear the mortal sins and if there are none the venial sins but just with sufficient details so he will understand their gravity. He does not want to hear an hour of random thoughts or the full story behind every sin. The confessional is not spiritual direction or ministerial counseling. If a person wants that they should make a special appointment with the priest.

    A rule of thumb is that confessions should move at about five minutes a person. I can remember panicking years ago when I found myself abandoned by the other confessors (after an hour) just before a whole new line formed at a penance service. Alone I went about six hours hearing confessions. There are situations where penitents have sacrificed their lunch hour for Mass and confessions. The priest desperately does not want anyone to leave without absolution. They have come in good faith and he prays that penitents appreciate the situation and are willing to move with him so that no soul will be left in mortal sin.

    Another such practice in these situations is to lead those who are waiting or in the church with a communal act of contrition that would not need to be repeated in the confessional. Is it possible that you missed it? I can also sympathize with the priest’s use of the screen. Face-to-face not only makes it harder for the priest to forget the sins of others but slows down the sacrament of penance.

  14. Hello Father:
    I’m afraid this question requires a bit of development to get to so please bear with me. First, I am a revert to Catholicism, aged 62. I was raised Catholic and have been baptized, confirmed and had the Eucharist. In my teens I left the church and apostasized as an agnostic and then an atheist. As you can imagine, I built up a great many sins, many of them mortal. I returned to the church about 5 and a half years ago and finally worked up the courage to have confession. I had a partial confession about 1 3/4 years ago but it seemed inadequate even though I was not trying to hide anything and planned on returning to confess the remainder of my sins. I decided recently that the best approach was to search the depths of my memory and consult guides to making a good confession to make sure every evil I had done was exposed to and destroyed by God’s mercy, including the sins I had previously incompletely confessed. So far so good. I spent many hours compiling a list of about 50 mostly double sided pages that probably includes at least 700 separate particular items. I decided that it was best to just bring it all forth in detail so I could pray for the blessed erasure of memory and leave all this filth fully in the past and move forward without worrying about falling into scrupulosity. I then found a church near me that had confession between 3:30 pm and 4 pm. on Saturday. I looked at the bulletin and noted that mass was scheduled for 8 am that morning. There was nothing in the bulletin about Saturday evening mass so I thought this was perfect as Father would probably have enough time to hear my full confession which would have taken over an hour to read. About 25 minutes into the confession, Father interrupted and said that he had to begin preparations for 430 mass. He then said that it was obvious that I was contrite and wished for forgiveness for all my sins which is definitely true! I want to start a new life in Christ and develop in virtue. He then asked me if I was repentant of all the sins that I had confessed and said he would give me absolution for all the sins which I had not confessed which included many more mortal sins. I said yes, I definitely was sorrowful and wanted absolution so I said the prayer of contrition and he absolved me with penance and I left.
    Father, I would never question God’s mercy in such a matter since Father speaks in persona Christi and it was his judgment that I be forgiven. But I had many mortal sins that I wanted to confess and did not have an opportunity to do so specifically as the Church spells out that each one must be confessed. Logically, I want to accept that I am forgiven all past sins but this just seemed inadequate and incomplete. Is this a gift of generosity from God because He knows in my heart that I long for forgiveness? Did the priest err in forgiving me this way? Should I make an appointment with a different priest at a different parish and let him know the confession will take some time and go through this all again, knowing that, for sure, the requirements of the church will have been met? Or do I simply accept Father’s judgment and let all of my worry go, trusting that I am simply forgiven even though emotionally I am troubled by this matter? The Father who heard my confession was spoken of highly by a lady who went to him for confession and he is an older priest with many years experience. I guess I just feel that I got away with something here and I am not sure if it is a gift from God or a compromised confession. Please help!

    FATHER JOE: I think the priest may have been overly generous in giving you 25 minutes. Did you tell him you had fifty pages of sins to read out? I would have stopped you there. Priests do not need all the sordid details. The Church asks that as much as humanly possible the penitent should give species and number. There are only so many types of sins. The worst of sinners can only give an approximation as no one walks around with a number counter. If you wanted spiritual direction or special counsel then it is best to make an appointment with the priest. Given what you say in your comment, I suspect that you already suffer from scrupulosity. When time runs out or sins are forgotten, the sacrament of confession absolves all sins. You are forgiven and need to trust the priest’s absolution. I do not know absolutely what he gave you for a penance, but I would have added that you need to burn the documented sins and erase any copies. Go in peace and know that God’s mercy endures forever.

  15. Hi father thanks for reading my question; I have a question that I have long been embarrassed to ask because it sounds like a dumb question but here goes: in the Book of Jude Chapter 1 verse 23 when it speaks of hating even “garments stained by the flesh,” I have always interpreted this literally as well as metaphorically, that we must discard or destroy any undergarments stained by bodily emissions of a sexual nature. I have always second guessed it, however, as this would mean a great many men would have to completely change their wardrobe frequently. Is this interpretation correct, or am I being too literalist/technical with my undrstanding? Thanks again for your time.

    FATHER JOE:

    The text is as follows:

    Jude 1:21-23: “Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.”

    I think you are eroticizing the passage by associating it with seminal discharge. We as believers are to put on Christ. We are to wear the wedding garment for the reception of the Lamb of God. Sin and faithlessness is to be viewed as so severe that one might imagine anything in close proximity as soiled by sin. It is another instance of a hyperbole that we so often see in ancient writers and in the statements of Jesus. The likely literary connection is Zechariah 3:2-5: “And the angel of the LORD said to the adversary, ‘May the LORD rebuke you, O adversary; may the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clad in filthy garments. Then the angel said to those standing before him, “Remove his filthy garments.’ And to him he said, ‘Look, I have taken your guilt from you, and I am clothing you in stately robes.’ Then he said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ And they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with the garments while the angel of the LORD was standing by.” The godless corrupt or ruin everything they touch. No matter how terrible the sinfulness, God is merciful and can save and transform us.

  16. Hi Father. After a couple of minutes after Communion, I noticed that I might have spit up some residue from the Eucharist. Not totally sure though. If ever that was indeed residue but if it was, is this a cause of alarm?

    FATHER JOE: When I was a child there were a number of times when I so fretted about the real presence and worthiness that I would throw up. I even had a preferred bush on the parish property when I became sick. The process of digestion destroys the matter and when the accidents of bread are no more, the substantial presence of the risen Christ also disappears. Further, we are also dealing here with a paucity of matter (often discussed when fasting). We show respect to the sacrament but God certainly understands the human condition.

  17. Is it ok to donate organs after death? I am a cradle faithful Catholic. Thanks.

    FATHER JOE:

    The short answer to your question is YES. Catholics are permitted to donate organs after death; indeed, this is regarded as a noble act that acknowledges something of the solidarity that should exist between us as fellow human beings living in community. Having said this, Church ethicists do raise a few concerns. First, the donor or appointed proxy must give explicit consent. Second, the donor must truly be regarded as deceased. This second point is often a matter of some argument.

    Acknowledging competent authority, the Magisterium gives the responsibility to doctors and scientific researchers to determine to precise moment of death. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences defines clinical death as follows: “a person is dead when there has been total and irreversible loss of all capacity for integrating and coordinating physical and mental functions of the body as a unit” (1989).

  18. Father, you tell me if this is weird 1 I had a nightmare 2 My living room smelled like blood we checked everywhere but could not find the source 3 When we where in the car a engine symbol popped up the cars stoped working 4 My Cousin vomited 5 My Grandpa was sent to the hospital Father when the engine sign came up first we took it to a repair shop and the engine symbols was there we we went to drop the car Of for repair but this time the engine symbol that pops up in our car turned off and the car started I told my sister and uncle not to play this scary game but they did not listen Father please suggest what I do.

    FATHER JOE: You have listed a series of coincidences and then speak about a scary game— what game? Phantosmia or olfactory hallucinations can be caused by many things. It is also possible that a rodent has died in your wall. Life is filled with its ups and downs. I doubt there is any supernatural agency playing with your engine light. My suggestion is for you to ease up, say your prayers, have your car maintenance and move on.

  19. Can Catholics go to bars or a club? I’m a college student and am 21, and so I want to go to this bar near me just to have fun, but drink moderately. Does it look bad for me to be there though if other people see me there who know I’m Catholic? I’m just not sure. Thanks for your help.

    FATHER JOE: There are bars and then there are bars. Even priests may go to bars, especially if there is a restaurant section. I often patronize an Irish institution, with a fully operating bar, regular Irish singers and a mouth-watering Jameson steak. There is a bar in the city that has a program called Theology on Tap where Catholic speakers talk about the faith to young adults. (Obviously, if it is a seedy hook-up place or catering exclusively to gays or offering immodest entertainment, it would be off-bounds.)

  20. Dear Fr. Joe,

    My nephew is in confirmation preparation but he has been disruptive and acting up in class for the past year. He says he doesn’t want to be confirmed because he is gay and it would be hypocritical to be confirmed as he has no intention on practicing the faith. He has not attended Church in a few years. My sister is at wits end and there is no father in the picture. He does not listen to me. My sister thinks it is best to have him confirmed because at least he will have the Sacrament, but I am thinking maybe don’t have him confirmed this year and delay it until next year. Any advice you can give would be appreciated and please keep my family in your prayers.

    FATHER JOE:

    You do not mention the age of your nephew. Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, youth are usually confirmed in the eighth grade. The reason I mention this is that a sense of sexuality requires a certain level of maturation. Do you think he is genuinely a boy with a same-sex attraction or would you suspect that this is a symptom of anger in not having a father-figure in his life? Could there have been some trauma to make him suspect that he is gay?

    The Church regards same-sex attraction as disorientation; but we do not regard the disorientation as sin, only homosexual actions. The Catholic Church affirms persons and calls them to chastity and holiness of life. If he is gay, he should know that there are many homosexuals who love the Church and find a home in her. They practice their faith with weekly worship and regular service to the needy. They witness to a wonderful celibate love. Often called out by bigots in our society filled with hate; they demonstrate the mercy of Christ and the measure of genuine and sacrificial love.

    I believe that parents can require minors to go to Sunday Mass and to take religious educational formation. However, after the age of reason, no one can mandate or require a person to receive the sacraments. Confirmation is a sealing of a person in Christ. It is the conclusion of one’s initiation. The person receives a fuller share in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of God. It cannot be forced or given against a person’s will.

  21. Dear Father Joe,

    Recently I came across some website about Sign Language. I learned something useful. Some anti-Catholic sites have shown photographs of the Holy Father and other Catholics using what they say is some kind of Satanic sign. It involves a hand signal in which the index and little finger is raised. According to the anti-Catholics, this is a symbol of Satan worship.

    No doubt this has disturbed many people. But on the sign language site I learned this is Sign Language for “I love you” and apparently it is in this sense that the Holy Father and others use it. I offer this as an example of the anti-Catholic lies that are told on many websites. I hope this helps some people who believe these lies.

    FATHER JOE: There are always people who are deceitful and prejudiced. Be mindful as well that words (written, spoken or signed) use language and it (along with its symbols) can be corrupted or change in meaning. Just as the word “gay,” meaning “happy” has come to refer to homosexuals, the signing of “I love you” has been conscripted by certain Satanists and atheists to mock God and/or to refer to the “f” word that demeans the marital act between husbands and wives.

  22. Greetings Father. I was wondering if there are “3rd orders” or whatever they may be called which do not rule out marriage. I am not considering the Knights or anything which involves politics. Just some organized community consisting of Catholics who like to get together and pray, etc. I actually joined some kind of Carmelite group (Brown Scapular) but it’s hard now to even find out anything about them. The only local priest who was involved has retired and is hard to contact. Are you familiar with them? One goal I have is to make friends and possibly find a woman who is a dedicated Catholic and wants to marry and have children. This is surprisingly difficult these days. I want to avoid socializing with anyone who is not a loyal Catholic. In any case, thanks for any suggestions.

    FATHER JOE:

    One would not join a Third Order to meet nice girls. That misses the whole point.

    A few clarifications: Actually, the Knights of Columbus are forbidden to bring partisan politics into the chambers where we meet. As with the Church, we take positions on marriage and human life which reflect the Gospel and teachings of the Catholic Church. We do not endorse or actively support any candidates for political office, even those who are Knights, themselves. The Brown Scapular is associated with the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

    A number of Catholics have joined the Focolare movement. But be mindful that this can mean temporary vows of celibacy (no active courtship). Some organizations like Opus Dei are very active in the social arena. Communion and Liberation is another such effort. The Neocatechumenal Way has become increasing popular in New Jersey and in parts of Washington, DC and Maryland. They have a strong missionary thrust. There are various Third Orders but they will require affiliation to an order or religious house. There are obligations to pray and to serve the community. One must be called to share in their particular charism. Here are a few Third Orders:

    Oblates of Saint Benedict

    Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites

    Third Order of Saint Dominic

    Third Order of Saint Francis

    Secular Franciscan Order

    Third Order of St. Norbert

  23. Fr Joe,
    You answered my question about counseling bs spiritual direction, thank you. I was married in the church. The priest asked us as we were going over our questionnaire about birth control and I said I had just taken care of it. He looked at my fiancé and asked if that was ok with him. He said “yes” and that was the end of it. I don’t fully blame him or my mom (long story). I was an adult and should have been in faith formation for adults or something. The fault lies with me.

    My question here is, what kind of penance should I be doing? What would appropriate penance look like in a practical sense? We already give heavily to charity, both religious and secular, so that is almsgiving, correct? I pray daily and go to confession often. I just don’t know what is appropriate penance. What is too little, what is too much? What is woefully inadequate or just Insulting? I could easily go either too easy or too hard, because I do like to eat (and lose my mental agility when I don’t… fasting = bad for work days), but I tend toward scrupulosity, and can see myself attempting something stupid. And then I could get discouraged real quick like.

    FATHER JOE:

    Penitential practices are an expression of sorrow for sin, an effort to make reparation and to appease justice (temporal punishment due to sin). Prayers given to you to say after confession are regarded as penance. Many things constitute penance. Like what? Here is a random listing:

    • Special prayers, especial on the behalf of those for whom it is hard to pray;
    • Weeping over your sins, reflecting upon the price Jesus paid;
    • Telling someone wronged that you are sorry;
    • Seeking to heal rifts in families as a peace-maker;
    • Fasting and abstinence;
    • Intercession to Mary and the saints;
    • Humbly embracing abject servile works;
    • Giving time, talent and treasure to our parishes;
    • Charity work or donations (alms);
    • Sacrificing things in which you take pleasure (certain foods, drink, entertainments, etc.);
    • Offering unavoidable pain and anguish with the passion of Jesus;
    • Temporarily putting aside modern technology like phones, television, tablets, computers, etc.;
    • Taking a vacation from social media;
    • Pursuing some form of traditional mortification and/or asceticism (taking time away or a retreat); and
    • A more intense concentration upon the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

  24. Hi Father,
    I was reading in Luke about the firstborn male coming from the womb being consecrated. My three part question is this: is the firstborn male to come out of the womb always consecrated even today? I have 7 brothers I was the firstborn but a female. Does that make my firstborn brother consecrated to the Lord? Or does this only apply to the firstborn child?
    I hope so, my firstborn brother claims to be an atheist and this would give me even more hope for all my siblings who have fallen away from their faith. To God be the glory.
    Than you for your answer.

    FATHER JOE:

    The ceremony of consecrating the firstborn as we see with the presentation of Christ in the temple and the purification are not practiced by Christian communities. There are blessings for women who have given birth, loosely connected to this mystery because of the Hebrew concern about the issue of blood. The sacrament of baptism (for any and all of the children) is the manner by which they are initiated and given sanctifying grace. We enter into the mystery of our redemption by the Cross of Christ, the one who is the only Son of the Father. This supplants for us any presentation and ritual circumcision. Women were not traditionally part of the Jewish rite. However, the reformed Jewish traditions today do have parallel ceremonies for males and females.

    The Jews beseeched a special sanctification of the firstborn as he is the one who opens the womb and shall inherit what his father possesses. This emphasis flowed from the story of salvation, literally the plagues upon Egypt and the exodus. Remember that the firstborn of Israel were spared while the firstborn of Egypt were destroyed. This made this child special and set apart as belonging to the Lord and his service. A sacrifice was made where a clean animal is substituted for the oblation. This redemption of the firstborn still generally takes place among the Jews thirty days after birth.

  25. HI Father,

    Thanks for your response to my question about sexual arousal.
    Would their be any difference if the arousal was stemming from a homosexual inclination?
    The reason I ask is because of what the catechism says about homosexual attraction being intrinsically disordered. I’m guessing your answers cover this too though.

    Thanks

    FATHER JOE: Given that the activity is not directed toward any kind of romantic or intimate encounter, there may be little to no culpability.

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