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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Feel free to submit a new question or concern in the comment box below.  Various topics and questions are archived here for easy retrieval.  Please be courteous.  Comments are moderated so please be patient in waiting for them to appear and for any responses.  God bless you!





4,239 Responses

  1. When getting married is it Canon Law that the couples parents are interviewed? Is it after a certain age of each person that the parents don’t have to be interviewed? If so what age? Or is this at each Diocese discretion?
    Thank you


    The regulations from local dioceses as well as bishops’ conferences and the mandates of civil law are really where we find the emphasis upon parental interviews and needed consent. Universal Church law simply speaks about the minimum age for marriage. It seems maturation in the Western world is much delayed from the past and even from what it is in parts of the Third world. Various dioceses can mandate the need for parental consultation and consent. Often such rules merely parrot the local civil laws. As in most places in the U.S., no consent is required after young people reach 18 years of age.

    The old 1917 code specified the minimum age for marriage as 12 years of age. The current code [CIC 1083] raised this to 16 years of age for boys and 14 for girls. Pope Francis recently raised the age for girls to 16 as well. The changes made by the Pope would have little effect in the U.S. as the marriage of 14 year old girls would generally be regarded as illegal. Indeed, the abuse scandal involves young people of such ages. I am not sure many priests today would concede to witnessing marriages of underage couples, even with parental consent.

  2. Hi Fr. Joe,

    I am writing to request your help in understanding the way that I should observe Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. I understand that I should to go to Church, spend time in Christian reflection, and refrain from labor. Also, it’s a good time to do works of charity and spend with family if possible. Are there things that may be restful and relaxing but improper or sinful for Sundays? For example, would it be wrong to also spend time with hobbies, watching tv, going to movies, leisure reading, attending sporting events, causal shopping, etc? Thank you for your time and help.

    FATHER JOE: The appreciation of this question has changed over the years. When I was a boy most stores were closed on all or part of Sunday. The issue with shopping, movies and even sporting events was that it required others to work. Today, the demands of employment require that many must work on weekends or forfeit their jobs. While there should be an emphasis upon worship, rest and family time, the Church would leave the particulars of the day to the individual believer. The Church gives few details about how to treat our Sundays, beyond participating at Mass. The Code of Canon Law stipulates that we “are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body” (canon 1247).

  3. Fr Joe,
    I stepped in it again. My mom was by the house and we were talking. She is so miserable. She is resentful and angry. Not entirely without reason, but it was basically a tirade, venting a litany of resentment. I asked if she was still seeing her therapist and she said no. Then I asked if she was going to mass, and she said she hadn’t been in months. I encouraged her to go and got the old “ what good is that going to do me?” I expressed concern that she was so miserable she sounds suicidal ( not the least because she said that if it was an option she’d blow herself away). She then said she wouldn’t do that because she doesn’t want to go to hell. Whereupon I said that she’s afraid of hell, but is willing to commit a mortal sin every Sunday by skipping mass? Then she lashed out at me, saying she didn’t think she was committing a mortal sin by not going to mass, she doesn’t get anything out of it (nothing applies to her) and she’d appreciate it if I didn’t throw that up to her again. I said that the catechism disagrees, and she said “well, I guess I’m just not catholic, then”.

    I texted her later and apologized for being disrespectful, just that I get great comfort from the church and I love her and want her to be happy. No response.

    Am i guilty of breaking the 5th commandment?

    I am truly concerned about her, and believe that regularly attending and participating in mass could help. She says that she prays daily, “almost TOO much” and mass doesn’t apply to her. I don’t know what to do. In any case, I giess I do need to know if I meed to confess what I said as breaking the 4th commandment.

    Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: Concern about your mother and efforts at intervention break no commandments. We sometimes stumble in regards to tact. It is also hard to help those who are not open to any assistance or moral correction. Keep your mother in prayer.

  4. Fr Joe;
    This may be scrupulous, but I have a horror of profaning the sacrament, so here goes:

    I brushed my teeth before mass and wiped my face on a towel. However, during mass I licked my lips and tasted mint. Does that count as causing the blessed sacrament to come in contact with something profane? I assume the residual toothpaste was then on my tongue. I tried not to do it again, but did, unthinking.

    Also, since I found out recently that we aren’t supposed to chew the Blessed Body, I have been trying to stop this practice (I was told by a priest in college that we were definitely SUPPOSED to chew, so that’s why I had been). But I forgot and bit down once, then realized and stopped myself, but felt some caught in my molar. I worked really hard with my tongue and saliva to dislodge it. I meant to check my tooth before eating anything else, but with conversation in the car on the way home, I forgot and didn’t remember until I had eaten pizza for dinner.

    Did I profane the sacrament? Do I need to go to confession before I go to mass again?

    FATHER JOE: Um, about the toothpaste . . . yes, without doubt, scrupulosity. The paucity of matter makes the whole issue insignificant. Indeed, when added to the anxiety about having Jesus between your teeth . . . the problem in conscience may be clinical, demanding professional help. Some forms of the Blessed Sacrament will not easily dissolve in your mouth. It is not the sacrament you profane, but rather the human condition.

  5. Hello, Father!
    Am I a bad Catholic and not in good stance with Church teachings if I consider death penalty to be justified in some cases today?
    Pope Francis has even changed the point in Catechismus.

    FATHER JOE: Given the current confusion and transitional status of the teaching, you would still be regarded as in good standing.

  6. Hello, Father!
    Is it sinful to have a glass of whiskey every night before bed, if it helps me to avoid watching porn

    FATHER JOE: A drink before bed is not necessarily a sin. However, the whole business about it as an alternative to porn is silly and flippant. Mocking a priest who is trying to give advice and help to others is arguably sinful.

  7. Hi Fr. Joe,
    I’m moving and have many old palms from past Palm Sundays. Is there a proper way to dispose of them? Burn them? Hand them over to a church? If I remember correctly, it is not ok to just throw them out. Please let me know what I should do with them. Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: Churches used to take them for burning so as to provide ashes for the beginning of Lent. Otherwise, you can either bury them or take them out into the woods. They should return to nature. It is improper to place them in the garbage.

  8. Father, I’m 18 years old and I want to return to Catholicism, but I have a really difficult time controlling my sexual urges. I’ve never had sex but I masturbate frequently and I know this is a sin. I feel almost like I can’t resist touching myself. How can I avoid committing this sin when it’s a part of my life almost daily? Please help, any advice is welcome. I’m ashamed to admit to the same sin over and over again in confession and I genuinely want to change.

    FATHER JOE: The sexual sin you mention is one with which most juveniles and young adults struggle. Even older people have moments of weakness. First, you are right to recognize it is a sin and desire to have control or mastery over your life. Second, know that conversion and healing sometimes takes time and you need to be patient with yourself. Third, God understands the human condition and is always ready to forgive and to give grace to his children. Fourth, your sexual struggles and identity are elements in spiritual discernment and the development of character. You may find that this struggle will find some resolution one day soon in a holy vocation to marriage. Fifth, the Church calls sinners to herself and you need the graces or helps of the sacraments like confession to be holy. Sixth, while sexual sins tend to be mortal, the sin of self-pollution is often mitigated by immaturity, passion and habit. That is why most confessors urge that youth, particularly young men, make a good act of contrition and receive the Eucharist and go to confession later when there is an occasion to do so. The Lord knows that you are trying to be good. He knows your heart.

  9. P.S. sorry about the typos. It should always be “Carlo.” I was thinking about why his words have such power. Perhaps it is very simple. He did not just say those words, he actually lived them throughout his life. He showed that it is possible, even for young people growing up in today’s world. As the Carthusians say, “the world turns, but the Cross remains.”

    Here is a link with more information about him.


    Thank you Holy Father Francis for declaring him Venerable.

  10. Dear Fr. Joe,

    I welcome any comments you may have on my remarks which follow. I hope my words will help others who are having the kinds of problems I used to have. Also I think I need to make this statement for my own sake, as a sort of apology and repentance.

    I was having some serious difficulties in the past with the way things are going in my parish church, in particular with the liturgy and some of the statements made by priests. I was also learning about Orthodox Christianity and noticed some differences which I thought were in favor of the Orthodox. I considered becoming Orthodox and attended their local church for a few months. It was a fascinating experience. But the more I learned and witnessed, the more I realized I was mistaken about leaving the Roman Catholic church. Therefore I rejected the Orthodox claim that all bishops are equal and that the Pope is not the leader of the one and only Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    However, I still had the attitude that is similar to people who want to return to the pre-Vatican 2 church and who question the authority of the current Pope. So I went to a SSPX church for some time and at first I thought this could be the answer. I loved hearing the Latin Mass. But I knew all was not well. After another few months of fascinating experience, I could not accept them either. I won’t go into details, but in my heart I knew SSPX was in error. I stopped going to SSPX.

    This was a very discouraging experience over all, but it was also very educational. I literally had no where else to go except to return to my parish church. But I still had difficulty in returning for Mass. I was very confused by the situation in the church in general. So I stayed away from Mass for some time. I not only felt spiritually confused, but intellectually as well. I could not even make decisions about various personal and business plans I was trying to formulate. I was really in a bad state and I was handling my problems on my own, without success. I did pray, but all I could pray for was for God to help me and show me the way. Whatever happens, I know God is always watching and listening.

    This story has a happy ending. In the past I had become interested in the story of Carlo Acutis (1991-2006). For those who are unfamiliar, he was an Italian boy who died at age 15 of leukemia. At the time I found out about him, he was already Servant of God Carlo Acutis. There was something about him that greatly impressed me. Because he was so interested in computers, and I am a computer expert myself, we had that in common. I received some information about him, but it ended up in a box with other papers.

    Recently I was doing some sorting of papers and found some of that literature I had received but put away. Unlike me, Carlo was raised as a Catholic, and frankly lived the kind of life I wish I would have lived until I was 15. The more I learned about him, the more I realized that the Roman Catholic Church as it is, with our Holy Father Francis as its Pope, and with all the bishops and priests, and the liturgy we have today, is still the place where such people will be found. We still have the Holy Eucharist which becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We still have the Virgin Mary and she never fails us. We still have the example of all the saints of the past.

    But today we also have contemporary saints, even if they are not yet officially recognized as such, and I believe Carl Acutis is one such saint. I learned recently that he is now Venerable Carlo Acutis. I was so happy when I learned this. This is when something rather amazing happened in my own life.

    Without going into many details, very soon after retrieving the literature about Carlo and going online and seeing some related videos, my confusion about how to use my computer skills vanished. Everything became clear to me. Also I have been healed in a spiritual sense of some temptations which I no longer feel whatsoever. Those chains of bondage are broken. This is the second time in my life something like this has happened. Previously it involved an image of the Virgin Mary which led to turning to her as I had never done before. That was years ago and it helped me in many ways, but I still had some problems to deal with.

    But now there is this amazing encounter with Carlo Acutis. This may not qualify as an actual miracle, but that is not my point. I found an old brochure I had received about Carlo and put it up in the highest shelf in my bedroom. Now it is as if I can feel the presence of Carlo. I know he is helping me in some way. He has helped me realize how I should think about using my computer skills. He has helped me in the sense that I have been healed of some of my temptations. If I have doubt about something, I can sit quietly in my chair and look at his image and think about him. I ask myself, “what would you say to me, Carlos?” Then the answer comes to me.

    Above all, he has helped me to understand that there is no other place to turn except our own Church. The dissident groups are misguided and in error when they challenge the authority of the Holy Father. They are creating disunity and confusion in the Church. They should repent and stop immediately. They are doing great damage, in my opinion. They should return in every sense to the true Church. This is where truth and holiness will be found. Submit to the teachings of the Church instead of going your own way. Follow our Holy Father Francis.

    I would like to end by quoting Venerable Carlo Acutis.

    “To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan.”

    “Find God and your life will make sense.”

    “God and not me.”

    Simple words, but somehow when spoken by Carlo they have tremendous power. These words are now my guide.

  11. Hi Fr. Joe,

    Would you be able to help me understand how to live out forgiveness? This may seem straightforward, but it’s not for me. With all that I’ve experienced, I struggle with knowing what forgiveness looks like in my circumstance.

    I am married with three older teenage children. My husband is verbally/psychologically abusive, has been unfaithful (and likely is still in a same-sex relationship), and he has narcissistic tendencies. All of this (and much more) has resulted in so many wounds in my heart. My focus is my three kids who have wounds from their father as well. He undermines anything I try to do that is good, even when it comes to the kids. (Two out of three have been confirmed, but that alone is a miracle. My youngest son is supposed to be confirmed this December, but I’m up against great resistance so who knows if it will happen.) I have been abandoned, cast aside, rejected, criticized, and shamed. We have lived separate lives in separate bedrooms for over thirteen years. I’m so angry that he has done this to me as well as to our family.

    I know it’s not necessarily sinful to be angry, but it’s very hard not to let that anger grow to rage sometimes when he is completely mean and unkind/unfair. I admit that I sometimes wish bad things to happen to him so that he would feel the pain that I feel; or, I hope that God’s punishment would come down upon him. He brings me to tears very regularly, and I wonder, how am I supposed to forgive this man (the one who was charged to love, honor, and cherish me… and yet has been the one who has hurt me the most)?

    Forgiveness cannot mean allowing him to keep hurting me and our kids. It is not “okay” how it’s been. But, how do I live out forgiveness with the father of my children when even the sight of him brings me a great deal of pain?

    As an aside, we are in the middle of separating and divorcing. This has proven to be brutal for me, since how dare I want to leave him! I try to ask myself how Jesus would tell me to respond. But, I’m not really sure that has brought me any clear direction. I just don’t know how to live out forgiveness on a daily basis, and I do not like feeling so angry/revengeful/bitter, etc. I want to just let go of it all; but it’s hard when I’m living it day to day.

    Thank you Fr. Joe.


    If he is everything you say then you would be well to be rid of him. No one can oblige you and your children to endure abuse. How does one forgive such a monster? Forgiveness does not make everything okay. It does not take away past hurt and it does not dismiss wrongs. An effort at mercy in a situation like this is not dissimilar from pity. As much as he has done to you, he has saved the worse for himself. Forgiveness does not always mean forgetting, especially when it is not requested and/or accepted. Within the Christian context it would come with prayer that he might one day reform and change his ways. We can but hope he repents before the Lord calls him to judgment.

    Do not be manipulated by him. Speak the truth. If there is anything for which he could be prosecuted then make the charges and allow the authorities to punish him. Fight for yourself and the children. This divorce is difficult but it is of his doing and you must make him pay, to secure and salvage what is left of the family. You can contract social workers and counselors to testify on your behalf. He is dangerous to your well-being and that of the children. He cannot be trusted. Given how he has treated you, what are you really losing? You admit yourself that he has not been nurturing and compassionate. He has made himself an enemy to God and has corrupted his flesh with adulterous and disordered sexual sin. You are not being cast aside . . . no you are escaping to freedom.

    Jesus freed people from bondage to the evil one. Given how you purport to have been tortured by this man, view this break up as an exorcism from the bondage to the devil.

  12. Hi Fr.

    Today I was in a parking lot and accidentally opened my car door and it hit another car. I checked for damages, and given that the other car had scratches on it already, I wasn’t too sure which scratch was mine/if my car door even scratched the car, and then I left. I know this happens quite often in the real world, and I tend to be very careful when opening car doors. Today was just a mess up. I am worried that this might be a mortal sin? I am usually very careful in not hitting other parked cars with my door, but this time it was a mess up. I do tend to have a scrupulous mind. Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: You do not know if you committed any damage or not? If dubious then there is likely no wrong. However, if you clearly damaged someone else’s car— and know you did so— then you were obliged to leave a note and make good on it. Such matters can be either venial or mortal.

  13. Father, I know there is spiritual warfare going on. In my life, I noticed from time to time I am much more tempted in certain matters especially sexually than I have been in recent years. It is alarming at times but I think part of my problem is maybe I have given myself too much of a leash so to speak and come close to mortal sin or maybe headed in that direction where it is more and more hard to resist sin. My question is, with respect to combating sin and fighting against evil, was wondering when it is appropriate for a person to seek further help maybe by deliverance prayers or even the advise of exorcist? I guess it scares me that I have been more tempted than I was in the past (again, Maybe it is because I’ve given myself too much of a leash) but would want to resolve the problem before (God forbid) I could fall into sin.

    FATHER JOE: Only bishops can send out exorcists. Much is made of deliverance prayer but in truth most of the traditional Catholic prayers perform this function. We beseech God in the Lord’s Prayer to “deliver us from evil.” Many congregations recite the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after Mass. Say your prayers, go to confession and ask God to bring strength to your life where you are weak.

  14. Hi Father,
    I just have a question about the whole transgender pronoun issue.
    I’m a teenage girl (15 going on 16) in a non-Catholic family. My mother is divorced and currently dating a transgender ‘woman’ (aka man) who is militantly anti-Catholic and pro homosexual.
    I’ve been calling him ‘she’ ever since I met him last year, however as I’ve gotten stronger in my faith I’ve been thinking a lot about this and whether it’s a sin to call him ‘she’ and refer to him as a woman.
    On the one hand, it is lying. Also, it is affirming his disorder and possibly will cause scandal by me, a Catholic, seeming to affirm transgenderism.
    However, I am worried that if I did call this man a ‘he’, it would push him even further away from the Church. I really want him to come to Christ and I will do whatever I can to help him… however, I’m not sure if affirming his disorder is the right way to go because compromising the Faith to win converts has never worked. Also he’s so far from Jesus as it is I can’t do much more than pray for him. He hates, and I mean HATES, the Church.
    There’s also the very real possibility that he may get violent with me if I call him ‘he’ to his face. He is somewhat mentally unstable and has a history of anger issues, plus he’s twice my size. If it is a sin, I will stop doing it no matter the consequences, but I just wanted to point that out.
    Also he very likely would forbid me from attending Mass and practicing my faith. My mum wouldn’t stop him, she’s given him all the authority of a father over me and has a similar disdain for Christianity anyway.
    I’m just really confused and trying to figure out whether or not this is a sin. I love God and I don’t want to offend Him in any way, but I also don’t want to push other people away from Him.


    Are you the only one in your household trying to live a Catholic faith? You are a young teen at an age where you are very vulnerable. If your mother has compromised herself with a transgendered man then this places you into a precarious and perhaps even dangerous situation. The person claims to be transgendered (man pretending to be a woman) and yet he is dating your mother (another woman). Does he see himself as a virtual homosexual or lesbian? It sounds to me, especially given the anger factor, that this man is seriously disturbed and confused regarding human sexuality. While I cannot say more about his character, this would make me fearful about your safety and the possibility of assault. At this point in your life you must place your own wellbeing before his. Where is your actual father? If still around somewhere, does he know about the situation? Would living with him be a better solution? You really have me worried about you. If your mother’s current partner wants to be called “he,” “she,” or “it” then I would just give them the chosen designation and try to stay out of his way as much as possible. Be careful how you dress around him. Lock your bedroom door. Try not to be alone with him. I will keep you in prayer. Stay safe!

  15. Hello Father! My question is can an adult be baptized without going through RCIA. My daughter’s boyfriend has not been baptized.

    FATHER JOE: There must be some religious formation, either private or through the RCIA. An exception would be the deathbed, but that option might be rather drastic for your daughter’s boyfriend.

  16. Hello Father,
    I had written this question before but lost it.

    I come from a very traditional African family, but currently studying in France. I am the only Catholic in my family. My family is protestant. My father has two wives, my mother is second. My question is, to what extent are children supposed to be involved in their parents marriage, beliefs and actions? for example my mother wants my brother and I to pay dowry on her behalf because my father didn’t want to finish the cultural process, My father has resolved not to do it for reasons I don’t know. I have no problem supporting her financially with the matter but I find the culture practices emotionally draining; i I often hear from them comments like this “If this practice is not done then children won’t be successful in life.”

    I want to grow deeper and mature in faith without being tired to culture fears. While at the same time loving & honoring my parents. How do I go about this father?

    FATHER JOE: First, unlike Islam, I know of no genuinely Christian faith that would permit a man to have two wives at the same time. He has compromised Christianity for tribal cultural elements. Your mother may imagine herself as his second wife but in truth she plays the role of a mistress. Second, you are under no obligation to pay a dowry for your mother. Such a matter in old Europe and in parts of Asia was an obligation of parents, particularly the father of the bride. However, dowries have largely disappeared from the Western world and you are not her parent and the marriage has no standing before God and the Church. Do not be manipulated by their empty superstitions. You can financially help your mother but should do nothing to lend legitimacy to her immoral bond with your father. If feasible, my recommendation would be for her to leave the man that you call “father” as the relationship is adulterous and imperils her soul. You are free to share what I had to say as a Catholic priest.

  17. Dear Father,

    First of all, my apologies if my question is out of place.

    I’m a writer working on a fantasy novel that takes place in a fictional universe that co-exists along with ours (like Narnia). One of my main objectives in the story is to be realistic. According to the lore of the story, Catholicism spread in parts of this fictional universe. Is it wrong if I create fictional Saints that existed in this fictional universe? Is it wrong even just to claim that some parallel universe co-exists with ours when it’s not mentioned in the Bible/tradition? How would the Church explain the existence of such a universe?

    As a history graduate and practicing Catholic, I’m very knowledgeable on all kinds of Church history/tradition, and as a Catholic who comes from one of the Eastern Rites (Maronite) I’m also familiar with the different rites of the Church, and also with Orthodoxy. It’s not unreasonable to assume if a parallel world existed and had Catholic converts in it that at some point in it they would develop they’re own rites while still adhering to Canon law and are still in communion with the Pope.

    My main question is, is it wrong on a doctrinal or even a moral level to write about such hypothesis? Is it a disrespect to the Saints to make saints of my own (whose actions and lives are worthy of Sainthood as defined by the Church). Is it disrespectful or even blasphemous to go against reality and claim that a parallel world exists? I want to be as respectful as possible. But please do keep in mind that this is all for the purposes of a novel and thus entertainment purposes. I do also want it to be a way to introduce people to the Church and show them our beautiful history, tradition, and most importantly, faith.

    If there’s no problem with any of these ideas, how do you think the Vatican would interact with the Catholics of this parallel universe? Would they have semi-autonomy like the Eastern Rites? Would there be a separate office in the Vatican in charge of handling relationships with them?

    Yours in Christ,


    The Church has rendered no view about the absolute scope of creation. Competing string theories suggest as many as seven or more parallel universes; however, unlike the side-by-side universes found in the fiction of DC comics, there is no guarantee that we would find organic life in all of them or other earths with incremental changes from one to the other (infinite earths). It is possible the natural laws that we take for granted would vary. We just do not know and I am unsure how far we can trust the mathematics. It has been suggested that playing with our timeline might create divergent timelines with their own history; but here too, there is a presumption that time travel could go in reverse. As far as we know, it is a one-way street, always going forward. Anything else would challenge the faith’s understanding of divine providence. Despite the clamor of certain empirical scientists against the propositions of faith and philosophy, there is no hard data or visible evidence for the existence of parallel worlds or any kind of subspace. The latter would be crucial with theories of bending space so as to get around the restrictions of space-time and the speed of light. Giving all this as qualification, the Church would not concern herself with a matter of fiction unless doctrinal or moral truths were questioned and/or reversed.

    The problem with a parallel world with the Church has to do with the unique and eternal value given the incarnation. While the title escapes me, I recall a science fiction work where aliens appear in our world by traveling in a giant pyramid. While they have stumbled on the secret of celestial travel, they are not much more advanced than we are. I suppose it borrows from the speculation as to what would the world be today had Egyptian culture never fallen. Among their slaves is a repressed religion based upon one appearing to a number of witnesses 2,000 years ago and professing a new religion. A slave escapes and takes sanctuary in a church of the Catholic faith. What he describes as his banned religion has elements that are immediately identifiable as Christian. When the aliens demand him back, the pope risks his life by going to the aliens. The book cover has the lone figure of the pope entering the massive pyramid. If I can find the book in my collection, I will post the title. The book gets around the problem of the incarnation by intimating that the risen Christ appeared to his other brethren on other worlds and dimensions. Technically, there cannot be two or more distinct Christs and Blessed Mothers. (I suppose one might argue for some sort of unity between many as we do with the Eucharist; but that would require some fancy writing where each element is absolutely parallel in terms of the life of Christ. Jesus is born and he dies, once and for all. He can never die again. This would make the incarnation like the spokes of a wheel. Each timeline and world would proceed from this singular point. It would likely imply that at this alpha point all the universe was one but that the incarnation shattered what we know as reality, and the providence of God would thus permit various parallel worlds. I think all this is highly speculative but it might suffice as a means to tell a fiction story and to retain doctrinal truths. C. S. Lewis’s Narnia is a fable and no effort is made for hard science fiction. However, here too there is an oneness that might have extended from his appreciation of the Eucharist. Every Mass is an unbloody but real re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. The crucifixion and the sacrifice of the Mass are realized in the oblation of the lion Aslan on the stone table. Of course, the witch (Satan) did not know of the “magic older still” and the table is broken and Aslan is resurrected to life. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy spends two books reflecting upon Genesis. While the people of earth were tested and rebelled, those of Mars remained faithful and did not sin while the couple on Venus are only now being tested. The third book goes to the end of things and is apocalyptic.

    Returning to your proposed book, I suspect the Vatican or the Church would be much as we see it in ordinary history. Rites may vary but much of this is historically conditioned. What if there had never been a break between the East and West? What if Muhammad had never existed or if he had been better received by the Christian monks? Would there be an Islamic branch of Christianity or no Islam at all? Who knows? If any of this worries you, you can share your rough draft with me. All I would ask is a signed final copy when all is done. Peace!

  18. Hello Father,
    I am not a Christian but i have a genuine question about Christianity and I hope someone can answer me. I have an Orthodox christian boyfriend and he constantly tells me my religion is wrong and evil in an angry manner. I always read the bible with him and I always tell him that you’re supposed to be accepting of other religions as long as they’re not forcing it on you. I just wanted to know if according to Christianity it is a sin to discriminate against other religions (islam, judaism, Etc). Could you refer me to bible verses that discuss how christians should behave with people from different religions? Thank you so much for your time.


    While there are similarities, Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are not the same and I cannot speak to whatever attitudes they might have toward those in other religions. Further, the New Testament gives a picture of early Christianity where Catholic Jews are stoned by order of the local Jewish leadership in Jerusalem and the converts in the Greek and Roman world are hunted down for imprisonment and martyrdom by imperial Rome. Therefore it is highly unlikely you would find verses that express a casual sharing of religious views. Every time a believer professes Jesus, he places his life on the line.

    Christianity has always been an evangelical or missionary religion— sharing the message of salvation and seeking converts. Throughout much of Christian history, the Church or at least members of the Church, could be quite harsh against those of other religions; however, behind much of this is an element of fear. While Islam might today resent the excesses of the Crusades; we should not forget that Islam once made huge inroads into Europe and violently shut off the routes to the Middle East so that pilgrims might not visit the holy sites.

    As a Knight of Columbus, I am mindful of the witness of our patron in the defense of Catholic Christianity. In Columbus’ day, Muslim expansion was seen very much like the Communist threat during our Cold War. The Ottoman Empire was swallowing up all of Christendom. Columbus was in the center of battle as the Spanish Christians reclaimed city after city. Finally, the followers of the Crescent were reduced to one city. When the triumphant Spanish army processed into Grenada, a great silver cross was raised over the Alhambra, and Ferdinand and Isabella knelt in the city square, giving thanks to God who after 781 years had evicted Islam from Spain. The date was January 2, 1492, and Columbus was there with them. Such historical elements weigh heavily for those Christians who know the legacy of faith. Your friend is Orthodox, and they saw many of their churches sacked and confiscated by the Muslims so as to be turned into mosques. They have known centuries of oppression that the Western Church was able to shake off. I suppose Christianity might have been more tolerant had it not always found itself under attack. Today there has been an escalation in violence from militant Islam and a new martyrdom of believers. What upsets many Christians is that there is often silence or a defensive attitude from the more progressive or moderate Muslims.

    While both Islam and Christianity were bound to clash as missionary religions; the Jews were no way near as evangelical with their outreach for converts. The growth of Judaism was often in the context of established families and many proved quite successful in their niches or European ghettos. While often associated with banking and finance, many Jews became famous in the arts and sciences. While oppressed, many found it possible to live in peace with Christians in Europe; however, this relationship remained tense as prejudices remained. Jewish faith was often wrongly associated with the occult and superstition. The language used by Catholics was heavily pejorative in their regard. They were maligned as the murders of Christ and as the people who killed their own prophets and finally the Messiah. Made the scapegoats for the poverty and ills faced by Germans and other Europeans, the rise of Hitler and the Nazis after the First World War would lead to the horrific tragedies of the holocaust.

    While there were Catholic bigots, such prejudice and villainy was regarded by the Church as satanic in origin. After Vatican II, no longer would we refer to the “perfidious Jews” but to our Jewish brothers and sisters, “the first to hear the word of God.” We would pray that they would continue “to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.” Pope Benedict XVI would remind us to pray that all, even the Jews, might come to a saving faith in Jesus. Today we pray at the revised Good Friday liturgy: “Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved.” We pray for the conversion of all. However, we seek to be instruments of the Holy Spirit in such conversion, not with the sword, but with dialogue and prayer.

    I am not sure what to say about a boyfriend who angrily tells you (to your face) that your religion is wrong and evil. You never identify your religion. Many religions mix truth and error. And yes, there are some faith professions that might be catalogued as wicked or evil. I cannot say if his evaluation is correct.

    Maybe you need to find another boyfriend? Religion is important and it can be either a great support or a hindrance in a relationship. The issue even divides Christians, as when Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants marry.

    Many people do not take their religion seriously enough. Religion is more important than politics and more an expression of one’s identity than any club. It provides the framework in which we see the world and find meaning. Speaking for Catholicism, I can say this:

    (1) Catholics believe that faith and baptism make possible spiritual regeneration where original sin and personal sin is forgiven. We are given sanctifying grace which is necessary for entry into heaven. We are members of the Church, temples of the Holy Spirit and adopted sons and daughters to the heaven Father . . . thus kin to our elder brother Christ who is God-made-Man, Lord and Savior. We are connected to a communion of the saints. Remade into the likeness of Christ we are one in the Lord. The sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, nourish and heal us with the abiding presence of the risen Christ. Sins are forgiven. Our Lord has conquered death and we hope for a share in eternal life. Faith in Christ is measured in terms of obedience and charity. Jesus reveals the face of God, the triune mystery. There in a nutshell is the faith and it is so precious that Catholics want others to have what they regard as their great treasure. It may be that your boyfriend loves you and is struggling with how he might bring you into a relationship with Christ and the family of faith. If there were a marriage then he would logically also want his children to be baptized and to know Christ. It is this element that non-Christians fail to fully appreciate or that they find in conflict with their own beliefs.

    (2) Catholicism at its heart would seek to live in peace with others. But we believe that ours is the true Church instituted by Christ by which men are to be saved. There is no getting around what some might deem intolerant. It was this abiding faith that moved many of the ancient believers to die rather than to betray their faith. If Catholic Christianity is a true supernatural religion (accepting the revelation of the Trinity) then the most one could say for Judaism is that God keeps his promises (one covenant between Christians and Jews) and that they have a natural religion that is the precursor for Christianity. Islam is also a natural religion but would arise centuries later with Muhammad and his amalgamation of Christianity, Judaism and the various local tribal cults.

    How much a part of you is your faith? Does it express your basic identity? I so, then you boyfriend hates something that makes you who you are. This is serious and why the Church generally prohibits mixed religions when it comes to marriage. Further, discrimination is often reciprocal. Not all religions are the same. Not everyone can be right. Even if marriage should prove impossible; it is important that we find ways to live together in this world as friends and in peace. Christians should have the same freedom to worship and to share their faith in the Middle East as we allow Moslems to have with their temples and faith in the West. Judaism remains a true religion like Catholicism in that Abraham is the father in faith for us all. If there were no Judaism then there would be no Catholicism. Every Catholic is a spiritual Semite.

    While my answer may have rambled somewhat, it is not regarded as a sin for Catholicism to discriminate against other religions. While we would acknowledge religious liberty, there is never a denial of our view about the uniqueness of Catholicism and its values.

    If there are any pertinent Scripture verses then this is it:

    Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’”

  19. Dear Father Joe, is every sin of sexual impurity a mortal sin? I saw on the catechism that it said on 1285 that every act of sexual impurity is a mortal sin. I’m a little bit confused because I remember someone saying if it’s small it’s a venial sin?

    FATHER JOE: Your citation [CCC 1285] has nothing to do with sexual offences and must be a mistake. I cannot say which passage you actually meant. CCC 2352 states that “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.” All sexual sin is serious given that we are corporeal creatures fashioned by God. The sexual powers are only properly directed to the fidelity of spouses and the generation of children. However, a distinction must always be made between the grave matter and the understanding, freedom and will of the person. Coercion can be both internal (as with an addiction or emotional distress) or it can be external (as with manipulation or threats).

  20. Fr. Joe
    I have a family dilemma. My baptized Catholic 24 year old daughter got engaged to a non Catholic 40 year old man. She told us she has no plans or desire to marry in the Catholic church or any other church. My wife has made it clear that if this is her desire, she and I will not be attending this event. This will tear our family apart if we do not go. What are your thoughts on this issue?

    FATHER JOE: This question is regularly asked and I am hesitant to answer it. Whether or not you go must be your decision, weighing your attachment to your daughter with how you want to make a statement of faith. Our religion is clear, unless witnessed by a priest or deacon; her marriage will only have civil standing. In the eyes of God and the Church her “attempted” marriage will be both illicit and invalid. Given that she has evidently broken with the Church, this is of little importance to her. As a priest I have suffered the rebuke of family and friends because as an official witness for the Church, I am forbidden (even if not in clerical attire) to be present at the weddings of Catholics outside the Church. As members of the laity you would not be under the moral mandate that binds me. However, you must do what you can to avoid giving scandal. It should be understood that if you are present for reasons of preserving family harmony, that your presence should not be interpreted as giving acceptance or credibility to the union. Definitely you should not take part in the ritual or ceremony. Afterwards, encourage your daughter to return to the faith and to seek counsel from a priest so that there might be a convalidation.

  21. Hi Father,
    I went to my daughters house this weekend and we went to a Beautiful catholic church with her. The priest said the Eucharistic prayers and prepared for communion backwards facing the altar instead of the people. I was thrilled that they did not speak in Latin however the Eucharistic prayers were not the prayers I was used to nor we were provided in writing the prayer. They were basically the same except what the priest usually say last came first and that the Priest says first came last hopefully you’re following. I was surprised because I thought that Vatican II sated priest were to turn around and face the parishioners? I was told that Pope Benedict had to change this when he was Pope ? I knew special Masses was ok but not the every Mass in a parish. Also 8 altar servers all boys male lecturer and extraordinary minster was male. The Rosary was said ahead of mass it was led by a man. I am sure their is no rule that you must have anything but males but it makes me sad. You would think with all this Tradition people would not leave church early but they had option of kneeling to receive communion or standing and only two ministers it was taking a very long time and people were walking out just as much or more than any church I have been in. I have had plenty of of kids in the back of a church to have a good idea. Please explain what the cannon law is on Mass please.
    God Bless

    FATHER JOE: I suspect that you and Emily attended St. Luke’s, a Catholic parish within the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Originally an Anglo-Catholic parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, they were received and confirmed into the Catholic Church on October 9, 2011 by the Archbishop of Washington, Donald Cardinal Wuerl. They fully uphold the teachings of the Church. Their liturgy is celebrated according to the Divine Worship Missal [promulgated in 2015], which beautifully integrates traditional Book of Common Prayer language and prayers, (Elizabethan English and Anglican prayers), into the liturgy. As such, they are in full communion with the Holy See and fulfill the regular Sunday obligation. This past August they moved from DC to St. Ignatius Church in Fort Washington/Oxon Hill.

  22. Hello Father. I’m a teenage girl and I’m going to college this year. I’m a little worried about the possibility of meeting boys and whether or not that will lead me towards sinful behavior. Is it a sin to kiss someone on their lips? I’m afraid that when I find a significant other who I feel strongly about I’ll feel tempted. Why is it a sin to do what feels natural and right (for example, acting on our physical urges).
    I also have another question about contraception in marriage. My friend’s mother is a devout Catholic and she has 8 children. What happens if a couple only wants a few children, or can’t afford a large family. Should they refrain from intimacy completely? Wouldn’t the frigidness of chastity in marriage ruin a healthy relationship?
    Thank you for answering my questions, Father.


    More than a possibility, you will meet boys in college. It is not always a sin to kiss on the lips but neither should kisses be given away too freely. There are many physical urges that can become sinful. We all need to eat and drink. But some overeat and others become addicted to alcohol. Animals tend to pursue their urges with little self-control. Human beings have souls and are defined as rational animals. We can make judgments about when and where and to what extent certain actions should be pursued. This is important to our health and general well-being. Sexual expression also has its time and place, within the sacred covenant of marriage.

    While all teens and young adults should use caution in college; females in particular are the most at risk. Young boys are not yet mature men and are often at odds with their own biology. Good boys do not even fully trust themselves. Many young girls experience date-rape. It is important for women to set the parameters for dating or courtship. A woman should demand that men would treat her with courtesy and respect. Otherwise, the young men will often take matters as far as they can go. Women are also struggling with biological changes and hormones. However, given that they are the ones that nature has chosen to get pregnant; it is imperative that they demand moral virtue and discipline of the men with which they keep company. This sounds old fashioned but the current culture that pampers fornication has also opened doors to contraception, abortion and adultery. We are told by Scripture (see Matthew 7:15-20) that “you shall know them by their fruits.” There will be many prophets from among peers and professors in college. Be alert. You will make mistakes but try not to make those that would damage or destroy future hopes and plans like marriage and family life. That which is given away too readily will be judged as having little value. Be a woman of good character and faith.

    Catholicism defines marriage as openness to children. There is no demand that couples have as many children as possible. However, they should always be open to this gift even as they are responsible in their roles as spouses and parents. The Church permits natural family planning as a means of both getting pregnant and for the spacing of births. While some abstention is in the mix, there are also other ways to show affection and love outside of the marital act. Indeed, while some might regard sexuality as basic mechanics; Catholicism would view it as part of a larger template of love in an intimate relationship between persons. Courtship and romance should never cease for lovers. Theirs is a companionship that includes sharing a home and filling it with children— with a profound self-donation in the marriage bed— with walks in the park, sharing meals and watching sunrises and sunsets— with laughing and crying with each other— and with kneeling side-by-side in churches while saying prayers. If you are a believer, then you want to share your body not with many men but one man. You want a love that will last a lifetime, a person with whom you can share both the joys and sorrows of life, and ultimately the person who will be your helpmate in becoming holy. It is love that will bring you together. It is love that will take you to the gates of heaven and the marriage feast of Christ— as saints.

  23. Fr Joe,
    I’m supposed to go to mass tomorrow. We watched a movie about Mary Queen of Scots tonight. During that there was a scene where she and her husband have sex. He wasn’t into it and she was obnoxious about it so she could get her heir. Anyway, here I sit, wondering if that falls in the realm of demeaning the human person or pornography, thus making me ineligible for communion? I dis not know this scene would be there, and I didn’t pick the movie for that purpose.


    You might do well in the future to check out the movie reviews at the Catholic News Service sight. Mary Queen of Scots (Focus) –is classified as “L” or “limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.” The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film as “R” or “restricted, under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.”

    If you feel that you gave bad witness or crossed a boundary about decency and modesty, then make a good act of contrition, go to Mass and take communion, and mention the film when you go to confession. Over the years, despite money spent, I can recall a number of times when I walked out on a movie that proved morally offensive. What stops a person from turning off the television or changing the channel or taking out the video disc? In any case, I have not seen the film and cannot say much more about it.

  24. Hi, Fr Joe. I’m asking this for my upcoming confession. I feel like I committed a mortal sin but I can’t remember if I actually did it or not. Should I confess it?

    FATHER JOE: Sometimes I have to wonder if the questions that come to me are legitimate or whether there is a level of scrupulosity that borders on ridiculous. Not only are you in doubt as to whether something you have committed is a mortal sin; you are asserting that you are not even sure that you did it in the first place. How could you even begin to confess something that you likely never did? Are you subject to false memories? Do you regularly have hallucinations? I will refrain from saying anymore for fear of being uncharitable.

  25. Dear Fr. Joe,

    I am sorry if this question sounds like I am being scrupulous. I went to confession today. Everything seems normal and the priest’s advice was to pray the rosary. I mention this just to say the priest seemed orthodox. The absolution words were all what I have heard hundreds of times before, except at the end instead of saying “…and I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” he said “…and I FORGIVE you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Was this a valid absolution, and if not should I be concerned that my sins were not forgiven. Thank you for your ministry.


    The question is not about being scrupulous but serious about the sacrament. When giving the absolution in English the word “absolve” is part of the formula. The priest does not have the authority to change it. Are you sure that you heard correctly? Maybe he added words so that you would understand what he was doing for you? Certain Episcopal priests and Lutheran ministers will also offer a sacramental if not the sacrament of penance. Because Protestant theology has a problem with seeing the priest act “in the person of Christ” many of their ministers will say that “Jesus forgives you” or that “your sins are forgiven.” They are affirming the mercy of the cross as a past event. This is very different from the Catholic understanding that the particular priest is personally empowered to forgive sins here-and-now.

    You went to confession in good faith and I would not worry about rushing back to another priest. Repeat what you feel you need to repeat the next time you go to confession. There are many ways by which sins are forgiven but you are still entitled to the sacrament and its graces. If you are certain that the priest changed the formula; you might speak to him outside the sacrament. The problem with speaking to another priest is that in such situations a priest cannot defend himself. Many of us take a rigorist position regarding the seal— that the priest should not speak about anything that goes on during confession. However, if he is routinely altering the formula then some form of intervention might be necessary— not to say what he is doing or not doing— but to remind him and all priests that they must keep the absolution formula intact.

    Extending the right hand and making blessing with the sign of the cross at the end…

    “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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