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Waiting on the HHS Mandate & the Church

Obama's HHS Mandate

Statement of Archdiocese of Washington
in Response to the Finalization of the HHS Mandate

June 28, 2013 – After almost two years and over 400,000 public comments, the government today finalized the HHS mandate. We have begun to review the 110-page final rule to determine whether or not it addresses our longstanding concerns. Our review and analysis of the complex rule should help us answer important questions concerning who determines which institutions are religious and, therefore, exempt, who is forced to have this coverage, and who must provide it. The new regulations are being closely studied and a more comprehensive statement will follow at a later date.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan:  “Although the Conference has not completed its analysis of the final rule, some basic elements of the final rule have already come into focus.”  He said the U.S. Conference of Bishops “has not discovered any new change that eliminates the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts.”  He argues that the HH Mandate still threatens the Church’s ability “to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.” 

A FEW PERSONAL COMMENTS

We are still waiting anxiously for the response of the U.S. Bishops to the latest accommodations in the HHS Mandate from the Obama administration.  The deadline of August is rapidly coming upon us and what happens next could be devastating to our hospitals, schools and charity works.  It troubles me that the Catholic Health Association acts unilaterally without regard to the decisions of the USCCB.  The latest version of the mandate exemption is being studied by our shepherds and yet the CHA has already come out in support of the measure.  This is not new given that they supported it even when the bishops did not a year ago.  I am just a poor priest, but my reading of the mandate makes me think that this latest revision is merely another round of the shell game we suffered before.  There is still nothing on the table for commercial operations that have a mission paralleling the Church’s.  Individual Catholics and those having businesses must participate.  There is the plight of notable Catholic organizations like EWTN and the Knights of Columbus.  The administration staunchly insists that employees MUST have free birth control pills and coverage for abortifacients and sterilization.  When it comes to the question as to who will pay, the government is creative but consistent:  whoever pays, it will NEVER be the person who wants sex but not pregnancy.  The administration will officially redefine the meaning of the marital act, bloodying the hands of all with the sacrifice of innocent children.  Saying that we will not have “to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage” is a legal fiction.

Distinctions are being made that are somewhat hard to follow.  First, there is FULL EXEMPTION from the contraceptive mandate.  This is in regard to Internal Revenue Code, Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii), which “refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”  Second, there is the NON-EXEMPTION in reference to non-profit faith-based groups not directly affiliated with the Church, such as certain hospitals, schools and charities.  These groups are being offered an “accommodation.”  Third, there is NON-EXEMPTION with no accommodation.  This would include large apologetic efforts, television, radio stations, and even small operations like a privately own Catholic gift shop.  This group would be treated as any secular operation and would have to fully comply with the mandate.

It is thrown into the faces of the bishops that most Catholic women have used or are using artificial contraception.  In other words, the administration is saying that Catholic women are more in sync with President Obama and HHS Secretary Sebelius than with their bishops.  How can the bishops then speak on their behalf?  The bishops counter that even if all lay Catholics dissented, they would still be obliged to uphold Christian faith and morals.  The Affordable Care Act will deliver contraceptive services, including those prescribed by a medical provider, “without charging cost sharing, like a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible.”  Organizations like Planned Parenthood must view this as the ultimate anti-Christmas; instead of a special birth, they will celebrate the avoidance of birth with a fortune in free-bees.  Of course, nothing is really free.  Someone always pays.  Already the agenda of the HHS on behalf of so-called reproductive or preventative services, as well as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered health issues, is costing the American tax-payer billions of dollars. The 2013 HHS budget is $80.1 billion!

The HHS has not budged an inch.  It is dedicated to the promulgation of free contraceptive services without cost-sharing while posturing that concessions have been made to non-profit religious organizations.  But saying it does not make entirely it so.  Even if it were completely true and reserved to non-profits, it would demand that those who operate for-profit religious operations must forfeit their religious liberty and rights of conscience.  That is a dangerous and despicable double or even triple-standard.  Churches are fully exempt, other non-profit religious organizations have an accommodation and for-profit companies (even religious ones) have no protection at all.  The Church should speak out for her rights and for those of others, both organizations and individuals.  Concessions from tyrants when others suffer, as we have seen in Latin and Central America, can taint the witness of the Church and make us bedfellows with the oppressor.

In any case, reserving ourselves to religious non-profits, we are told that churches that object to contraceptive coverage on religious grounds would “not have to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage for their employees or students.”  This sounds good. Similarly, we are told that the definition of a religious employer no longer insists upon the following details:  (1) Have the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) Primarily employ persons who share its religious tenets; and (3) Primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets.  This seems to answer many of the concerns of Cardinal Dolan and Wuerl.  But wait a minute, then are the contraceptive services still available and who pays?  Is this administration really going to sit back and allow a large number of Church employees to go without contraceptive coverage?  I suspect that soon after the mandate takes effect, select people who work for the Church in various capacities will come forward in a staged manner to demand the “same rights” that are given other Americans.  The convoluted and unclear language will be exploited and the Church will be further painted as anti-woman and anti-choice.

When speaking about non-exempt non-profit religious organizations, we are told:  “Under an accommodation, an eligible organization does not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage.  At the same time, separate payments for contraceptive services are available for women in the health plan of the organization, at no cost to the women or to the organization.”  Who makes these separate payments?  Is it the insurance carrier itself?  These self-certified groups must notify the health insurance issuer and these plans “must then provide separate payments for contraceptive services for the women in the health plan of the organization, at no cost to the women or to the organization. As explained in the final rules, issuers will find that providing such payments is cost-neutral.”  Cost neutral, are they serious?  If such were really the case then we could have all insurance carriers supply contraceptives with no business, government and employee co-pay.  But it is not true.  Insurance companies are already starting to complain.  In any case, some religious non-profits are self-insured.  This issue remains unsettled.  What insurance carrier is going to come forward and just take upon itself the financial burden of contraceptives without other more traditional coverage and money from health plans?  It makes absolutely no business sense!

Money from the religious employer and payments from the employees fund the various health insurance plans.  It goes into a single pot.  There is a string of probable culpability:  money is passed from the Church employer (matched by the employee) to the insurance carrier to the supplier of the offensive services.  I suspect that churchmen are arguing about the question of remote culpability.  However, this still seems very immediate to me.  Even if the funds come only from the employee’s matching contribution— that money originated with the salary/benefits of the employer.  Does government expect insurance carriers to come forward and to offer such services without payment or contract selection from the non-profit religious organization?  I doubt that will happen.  Compliance is literally getting someone else to do the dirty work for us.  Cardinal Dolan sees the problem when he states that the revision “seems intended to strengthen the claim that objectionable items will not ultimately be paid for by the employer’s premium dollars,” and yet it remains “unclear whether the proposal succeeds in identifying a source of funds that is genuinely separate from the objecting employer, and if so, whether it is workable to draw from that separate source.”  If there is only one plan, then nothing has changed:  the religious employer will be funding abortion inducing drugs and contraception.  Groups that think this is acceptable are guilty of muddled thinking.  Segregating the funds in the books is merely an accounting trick.  The moral problem remains.

Self-insured operations will have a “third party administrator” to “provide or arrange separate payments for contraceptive services for the women in the health plan of the organization, at no cost to the women or to the organization. The costs of such payments can be offset by adjustments in Federally-facilitated Exchange user fees paid by a health insurance issuer with which the third party administration has an arrangement.”  Okay, we are back to the days of “voodoo economics.”   It is argued that no reimbursement is necessary because the decreased pregnancy and birthing expenses will offset the benefits from contraception.  Contraceptives may be cheap and yet when that gal from Georgetown paraded her fake $300 plus dollars a month bill for contraception, the administration was cheerleading how expensive it was!  They want it both ways and I doubt “for-profit” insurance companies are going to give away anything for free.  The money will be moved around, but someone else is going to pay for it.  It might be called “administrative fees” or some other euphemism, but it will still be money trading hands for immoral services.  Back in 2012, a national survey of pharmacists found that most thought this idea was ridiculous and would not work.  The government is going to take fees (a tax) from the insurance issuer which it will return to pay for the contraception, abortifacients and sterilization.  They are going to pay them with their own money!  Congratulations to the Obama administration, it has invented the perpetual motion machine!  But wait a minute, it never worked before, why will it work now?  Making payments to one insurance carrier and pretending that magical money will come down from another to pay for the objectionable coverage is ridiculous.  It is utterly detached from reality.

Further, who pays the third party administrator who acquires outside coverage?  Does that not make him or her part of the religious operation?  Is this person not operating for the religious entity or in the Church’s name?    The problem of self-insured entities is not cleanly resolved by the change in the mandate.  If the insurance agent pays out, even if selected by a third party, is the religious employer still guilty of enabling immoral services?

While not necessarily under the direct supervision of a bishop or religious order, the non-exempt non-profit organizations are an integral element of the Church.  The formal dedication of a “third party” administrator to handle the claims for contraception is still a bad solution. It is like someone hiring a hit man and saying, “Take care of the problem but spare me the details.  If you are caught, I will deny even knowing you.”  We would be hiring someone to sin on our behalf, to maintain clean consciences.

The Church cannot preach and teach one message from the pulpit and in our schools and then do the opposite on such an important matter.  Such hypocrisy would bring down any such house of cards.  I suspect that some in the government administration precisely want this to come about.  They have tried one tactic and now here is another.  Throughout there has been one common thread:  the redefinition of the Church.  The administration wants to redefine the Church as something akin to HHS itself.  It wants to compromise our voice and moral witness, converting us to the cause of a secular humanistic modernity.  Already, the administration is counting on the fact that most Catholics currently regard the Church as outdated and out-of-touch.  This is a test after many years of moral and political passivity.

Speaking about the multiple standards of full exemption, an accommodation and no protection at all, Cardinal Dolan said that the bishops “are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole – not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives – to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”  We are still dealing with the very definition of what constitutes the Church.  The Church is not merely a house of worship or our hospitals, schools and affiliated charities.  Most of the Church consists of the laity.  They are the main ones who seek to evangelize and live out their Christian discipleship in the world.  The Pharisees in Christ’s time took for granted that they could satisfy the demands of the Law while the average believer because of the demands of the state and his need for bread could not.  Bishops and priests would share the same posture if they preached something that they knew that the government would not allow our Catholic “business” men and women to live out.  The laity are also part of the Church, and the largest part at that.

The administration will not allow employees to opt-out of the program.  The CHA does not seem to understand this fact.  Maybe they do not want to admit it?  However, even if such were permitted, it bypasses an important objection, that such a “reproductive choice” is offensive in itself and we do not want it covered for any employee, the spouse or teenaged children.  You can say that you “opt-out” but can change your mind at any time.  There is one plan and it still includes the offensive services.  This opens up several frightful possibilities.  Even if the employee is a faithful Catholic, his or her family covered by the family plan remains eligible for the immoral services.  With or without parental consent, the employee’s daughters could get free abortion pills or get sterilized under the new plan.  I suspect schools will now be able to pass the condom costs, with the addition of birth control pills, to the insurance providers of parents or guardians.

Everything about this provision in the mandate speaks to our hedonistic culture of death.  If we really cared about women and families, the emphasis would be upon prenatal care and helping parents with the rising costs of child delivery and health.  But it is deemed cheaper to kill children in the womb.  Ours is a world that worships the barren womb and medicates against the child as if the baby were a disease.  The administration would have people mutilate themselves and take poison to murder the unborn.  Instead of rewarding sacrifice and genuine responsibility, we enable selfishness and moral degeneracy.

There has been much talk about the rights and choices of women under the HHS Mandate.  Less discussed is the fact that it covers men as well.  Male contraceptives are not as readily available, given trust issues, but the word is that more are coming.  Further, there is the issue of men having vasectomies.  This whole topic just gets more complicated and serious with scrutiny.

The only really good solution would be for the Obama administration to scrap the provision for what they call “preventative” services.  If people wanted they could shop around and get coverage in private plans; I suppose the government could subsidize these.  Unfortunately, that would mean that tax dollars would continue to be used for offensive services.  As soon as morality clauses in religious-based contracts were enforced with firings over revealed abortifacient use or involvement in condom campaigns, I am sure we would be back in the courts.  While we do not and cannot police the lives of people who work for us; nevertheless, they parade their sins on Facebook.  Returning to the matter at hand, real exemption means that the bishops and Church organizations should have no involvement whatsoever with insurance bookkeeping gimmicks or third party administrators.  But the government has a decadent culture on its side and will not bend. Strangely, even some religious people who disagree with the Church on contraception also feel that this is an important religious liberty battle.  I have heard the elderly complain that there is not enough money for their life-saving prescriptions; they wonder, how then can the government find money to give compromised women free birth control pills!  They cannot believe it.  Admittedly, it is quite bizarre.  The administration does not even want co-pay with the delivered contraceptives and abortifacients, something one must still do for blood pressure and heart medicine.  This illustrates the moral sickness and sex-on-the-brain attitude of the HHS and this administration.

The Marriage Crisis

I regularly follow the wisdom on Msgr. Charlie Pope’s blog for the Archdiocese of Washington.  Recently, he posted on the following question:  “In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions of this week, are we coming to a point where we should consider dropping our use of the word “marriage?”  A number of Catholic voices are arguing that we should disengage ourselves both with the word “marriage” and from allowing clergy to function as civil magistrates in witnessing them for the state.  Certainly I am sympathetic with what they hope to accomplish.  However, I am already on the record, from past discussions, as opposed to such a retreat.  Both sides can play word-games.  Towards the end, he poses a second question, “Should the Catholic Bishops disassociate Catholic clergy from civil ‘marriage’ licenses?”  Again, I appreciate the underlying reasoning; we want to avoid guilt by association and giving apparent approbation.  My fear is that any such move would be contrary to a well-ordered or structured society (which is a good in itself).  It would also constitute a retreat that opponents in the public forum would exploit.  It seems to me that our laity would bear the blunt of the suffering and challenge that would come from such a move.

thCAB3DHYP

I am not blind to the dire crisis we face.  It is true that marriage as an institution has been largely redefined by our society.  The movement on behalf of same-sex unions is a case in point; of course, if left unchecked it will not stop there.  Next we will see the return of polygamy.  Despite the many scandals faced by the Church, there are even depraved people pushing for pedophilia and pederasty.  There is already a bizarre effort in Australia for a man to marry his pet goat, the degradation of bestiality.  The U.S. bishops reminded us in their failed initiative that marriage is in trouble.  While I am hesitant to criticize our holy shepherds; the fact is that marriage has been in trouble for some time now and we were largely silent.  Contraception nullifies the consummation of the marital act.  Millions of abortions seek to erase through murder the fruit of marital love.  No-fault divorce allows for quick separations and remarriages.  Prenuptial Agreements insert doubt against the vows and a lack of trust from the very beginning, thus making those marriages null-and–void.  Couples fornicate and cohabitate, essentially saying that you do not have to be married to have sex.  Well, when you separate sex and marriage, you also set the stage for infidelity and adultery.  Once sex is disconnected from marriage it is very hard to reattach it with any kind of necessity.  Our society is saturated by an erotic and pornographic media that destroys courtship and sexualizes relationships.  This dilemma is so pervasive that the inner person has lost any sense of propriety or decency.  Viagra gives the old stamina to neglect their coming judgment and condoms give the young license under the illusion of protection.  Wedding dresses that once expressed modesty and femininity are increasing replaced with skimpy gowns akin to those on television dance contests.  Ours is the generation where all rights, even the right to life, are supplanted by the emerging and absolute right to have sex with anyone regardless of promises and unions.  The children are caught up in the middle of this whirlwind.  This is so much so that we even dress our little girls like the prostitutes that walk the street.

Much Ado about a Word

Msgr. Pope makes the accurate observation that the Church and society-at-large mean very different things by the word, “marriage.”  Of course, this is also the situation with many other terms as well.  While language is fluid and hard to control; it can certainly be manipulated.  Look at the word GAY.  This expression for joy or happiness has become the source for giggling when used in old songs.  It has now been exclusively usurped by the homosexual community.  Another word in peril is RELATIONSHIP.  When we hear teens or young adults use it these days, they generally mean a sexual friendship with a certain degree of exclusivity.    The word that most troubles and saddens me today is LOVE.  What precisely does it mean anymore?  We do not want to cast it off and so the dictionary definition gets longer and longer.  Look at how we use it.  “I love my car.  I love my dog.  I love my job.  I love my house.  I love donuts.  I love strippers.  I love my wife.  I love my children.  I love God.”  Then we have expressions like, “Let’s make love,” a euphemism for sex.  We give it so many meanings that the word begins to mean nothing.

What does the word MARRIAGE mean?  Is it just a civil contract to make having sex easier or more convenient?  If that is all it is, it is no wonder that couples are cohabitating without it.  Some states have argued for different types of marriage contracts, one more easily dissolved than the other.  There was even an effort to impose marriage licenses with term limits.  If after five years, if the spouses were unhappy, they could opt not to renew.  The marriages would then automatically expire.  The divorce epidemic, something which Protestant churches pamper by their failure to enforce Christ’s command in Matthew against divorce, has given us what is essentially serial or progressive polygamy, one spouse after another.  Proponents of “open” marriages suggest that couples should still be able to have sex with others outside their bond.  I know one instance where a man lives with both his wife and his mistress in the same house.  The girls share him.  Largely gone is the Catholic-Christian equation that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman who are called to be faithful to each other until the death of one of the spouses.  Marriages are rightly directed toward the good of the spouses and the generation of new human beings, children.  Stripping marriage of its propagative element is to make marriage wholly something else.  Even infertile couples must express their union in that act which by nature is directed to the generation of new human life.  That is why something like condomistic intercourse is intrinsically evil, even in marriage, yes, even among older infertile couples.  Too many couples feign the marital act and live in relationships that are not true marriages.  The large cases of annulments are cases in point.  People can share their bodies like cats and dogs but they are ignorant of the true parameters of marital love and union.  Although a natural right, they have made themselves ill-disposed to the sacrament.  Required six-month waiting periods and marriage preparation are attempts to remedy the dark situation.  However, couples frequently go through the motions and tell the moderators and clergy what they want to hear.  I recall one priest praising a couple he was working with for doing all the right things before marriage.  On the way out one evening, I overheard the prospective groom tell his girl, “What a jerk!”  Later I found out from parishioners that they had been cohabitating the whole time and only went to the priest’s Masses once-in-a-while to fool him about their religiosity.  They spent a fortune on the wedding and we never saw them again.  I heard a few years later they divorced because “they grew apart.”  When Catholics marry outside the Church, in the eyes of God they do not get married at all.  However, Catholics who marry in the Church might also start their unions with deception.  Planting lies today often leads to weeds tomorrow.

I will echo Msgr. Pope in giving the definition of MARRIAGE from the universal catechism:

[CCC 1601]  The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

What are we to do when the definition given to marriage in no way parallel’s the understanding of the Church?

Msgr. Pope proposes that we stop using the word “marriage” and substitute instead, “holy matrimony.”  He explains:

“The word ‘matrimony’ also emphasizes two aspects of marriage: procreation and heterosexual complementarity. The word comes from Latin and old French roots. Matri = ‘mother’ and ‘mony,’ a suffix indicating ‘action, state, or condition.’ Hence Holy Matrimony refers to that that holy Sacrament wherein a woman enters the state that inaugurates an openness to motherhood. Hence the Biblical and Ecclesial definition of Holy Matrimony as heterosexual and procreative is reaffirmed by the term itself. Calling it HOLY Matrimony distinguishes it from secular muddle that has ‘marriage’ for its nomen.”

He readily admits that there are problems with trying to regulate language in such ways.  If I recall correctly, I was among those unconvinced and “perturbed that we were handing over our vocabulary to the libertines.”

We can play word games but our opponents are not fools.  They were not happy with the notion of “civil unions” and wanted “marriage.”  Don’t be surprised that they will also be speaking of their bonds in terms of “holy matrimony.”

Marriage is a natural right.  Opting to use another word is not going to change this fact.  Homosexuals and lesbians can feign marriage and the state might recognize it; but, in truth such unions are a violation of the natural law.  The debate or argument is best sustained by retention of the vocabulary.  We must insist that same-sex marriage is a fiction.  Surrendering the word would only grant them the false sense that they had succeeded in making their argument.

If we cannot even defend a word like “marriage,” then how can we defend all the ideas behind it?  This conflict is not just about marriage; it is a fight over the hearts and minds of people.  So-called same sex-marriage is just one weapon in the enemy’s arsenal.  The goal of our critics is to redefine the Church out of existence.  The government administration wants to become the sole arbiter of marriage; but more than this— it views Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, and Catholic hospitals as standing in its way.  Threats to close would only make them nationalize these institutions and they would argue that such is a “necessity” for “the public good.”  This is the goal of our antagonists.  If American society is to be remade then the Church must either change to insignificance or be destroyed.  This is the fight we face.

Ministers of the State or of the Church

My initial sentiments emerged as an aside to the courageous crusade of Bai Macfarlane against No-Fault Divorce.  The question arose as to whether clergy compromised themselves by acting as witnesses for the state, signing the marriage licenses and returning them to the courts.  Msgr. Pope continues to sign them, he says, out of holy obedience to the Archbishop.  Speaking for myself, I think we would forfeit too much by surrendering this privilege to the state.  I suspect that problems might escalate instead of get better.  Further, if the Church should opt out, would not our couples still have to get their civil licenses before Church weddings? He seems to think not, arguing that they should “in no way consider themselves as wed, due to a (meaningless) piece of paper from a secular state that reflects only confusion and darkness rather than clarity and Christian light.”  I recall arguing with a hippie years ago who regarded the marriage license as just a piece of paper.  In response, I cited that it came along with the Church sacrament and that it also respected the state’s right to regulate marriages as an integral building block to society.  The state is taking a wrong turn with these same sex unions but we should still take advantage of our rights as citizens.  That piece of paper says that as a member of society, I still have a voice and that marriage is an institution that must be acknowledged, regardless as to whether others are given such acknowledgment wrongly (in the past because of divorce and today also because of same-sex unions).  Opting out will undermine a structured society, its institutions, and the protections and rights we take for granted.

I have immigrants in my parish from Asia and Africa.  Their home nations do not give the privilege that our clergy enjoy in being able to witness marriages.  Some of them have only known tribal weddings.  Others have licenses from a judge or notary public.  While they should have immediately had their marriages solemnized by a priest, they put the process off.  Children were conceived.  Time went by, maybe years, and now they all need Church convalidations.  Would we reduce all marriages in the Church to convalidations?

If we attempt to marry people in Church who are not legally married; we will be facing all sorts of headaches.  We would be opening the door to rampant bigamy where people would be civilly married to one person and married in the Church to another— without the recourse to the legal fiction of divorce.  At present the state recognizes all Church unions even though the Church does not acknowledge every civil union.  The last thing we should want is to segregate the Church into her own private ghetto where there are “us” and “them.”  We have every right to a place in the public forum and should fight for it.  Our married couples have every right to the protections insured by law (tax incentives, inheriting property, healthcare and insurance, custodial issues with offspring, hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions for a sick spouse, and sharing a name).  Marrying couples without civil licenses would once have opened our couples to prosecution for cohabitation.  Even if this is a bygone concern, there is still the prospect of scandal.  Some will view “married in the Church” but “not in the state” as NOT being married at all.  The children from such unions could be labeled as “bastards” by our critics.

The Church has a responsibility to be fully integrated into civil society as a constitutive part.  There will be conflicts but accommodations will have to be made that will not compromise our message and mission.  Maybe there is a need for different types of licenses from the state for religious weddings, distinguishing them from civil ones?  Indeed, there are different theologies between the churches.  Some view the clergy person as the one who performs the marriage.  Catholics view the spouses as the ministers of the sacrament to which the priest witnesses.  Episcopalians and others will probably even allow and celebrate same-sex unions.  We may become a minority voice in this society but we should not allow that voice to be silenced.  Taking our toys and going home angry will not fix the situation.  The retreat of the Church would be precisely what our enemies want.  I fear that it would further erode the foundations of our civilization.  Caesar’s empire might be pagan, but the Christian and the Church still have obligations to maintain a society that would protect our rights and freedoms.

I would maintain the status-quo with priests witnessing marriages for the state.  However, there may come a day when that is taken away from us.  We can cope with that when it comes.  Civil disobedience might then take many forms, some of which could be extremely bizarre.  One priest suggested that all our religious houses claim same-sex unions so as to get the marriage benefits and healthcare.  I know one case already where a married couple got divorced but still live together so as to have better retirement benefits.  I suspect that laws will be passed to force couples and the Church to behave.  How far do we want to press it?  Speaking for myself, I really hate retreating.

The Larger Challenge

It is my hope that we will have courageous shepherds and a supportive flock.  I foresee priests facing fines and jail time for hate-speech in regard to teaching and preaching against homosexuality.  After all, the Church’s language about marriage in the recent Supreme Court case was appraised as bigotry.  Hum, we might have to take priests entirely out of the marriage scenario if all our clergy are locked up.  Already, while the Church is currently protected, and we cannot be forced to marry homosexuals, organizations like the Knights of Columbus are not safeguarded.  At this writing the free-standing Knights of Columbus halls in Maryland have been notified that due to their state charters they must rent for the wedding receptions of homosexuals and lesbians.  The pressure is already on.

Our public schools are teaching that any reservation about homosexuality is discrimination.  What will our children then think of their churches?  Must we extract all our children from the public schools?  Who will pay to place them into Catholic institutions?  Homeschooling is an option for some but not for all.  Where are we going from here?  If the government and the media are more successful than the Church in forming consciences and teaching values; then what avenues are left?  The issue is far more complex than any nomenclature of marriage or whether priests are authorized as civil magistrates.  The question is how does the Church function and survive in a non-Christian society?

Catholics did not unanimously support the U.S. bishops in the Marriage Matters campaign.  Indeed, large numbers were vocal in opposition.  We hesitate to name names and are always fearful of our tax-exemption status.  But if we are going to be shunned in a matter similar to racists over the issue of homosexual acceptance; then we will no doubt forfeit such benefits in the days ahead.  I know I sound pessimistic and cynical.  But that is what I see coming.  The Church waited too long to find her teeth.  She is an old dog grown weak from inactivity and abandoned by her pups.  There are wolves coming.  They want the Church out of the way.  Look at the various initiatives of the current administration.  Starting with appointments in religious churches and schools, then forcing churches to violate their basic principles and next pressing upon us what was once an unthinkable depravity— all these are attempts to redefine the Church out of existence.  The president’s view of religion is seen through the prism of secular humanism.  Anything else is judged as extraneous and must go.

There are some who are pawns to those who hate the Church.  Others actually think that they are catalysts for positive change in the Church and society.  Look at all the Catholic politicians who oppose the U.S. bishops and who dissent on Church teaching.  The chief advocates in Maryland and in Washington are baptized Catholics.  Like Msgr. Pope, I have my opinions; and like him, in obedience we both defer to the Archbishop and the national shepherds of our Church.  We share our ideas, pray for courage and know that God will not abandon his children.

Impotence & Marriage

Over the years I have received a number of questions about disabilities and marriage. I am always reminded about one of my first ministerial tasks at the Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia. A 22 year old marine had experienced a training accident which left him a paraplegic. His young and very attractive fiancée was ever at his bedside, holding a hand which could no longer feel hers. He wanted to die. Certainly he did not want to tie her down to a man the doctors insisted would always be an invalid. Her response was to remain by his side and to offer tears of intercession for his pain and their lost dreams. Many years have passed since our encounter, and I am still unsure what might best be said in such a situation. It was not a time to come down on their hopes with a debate about the laws of nature and of the Church. I shared their space, offered them prayers and what consolation I could muster, but I could not take away the depths of their loss.

The marital act open to new life and seeking the good of the beloved is a sign and seal of the sacrament. The marriage covenant is consummated and renewed by it. Cognizant of our nature as bodily persons, the Church is also realistic and pragmatic enough to realize that marriages which shortchange sexual intimacy often fuel the fires of infidelity and alienation. The question here is not simply one of disability, but of the type of disability. Blindness, deafness, loss of certain limbs, etc. pose no such impediment to marriage. Even infertility does not negate the right of marriage if no deceit is present when the vows are made. However, can a person mentally deranged or seriously incompetent get married? No, not if they lack a conscious awareness of the nature and obligations of marriage. A paralyzed person, might be fully aware of the responsibilities of marriage, but be incapable of fulfilling them. The law of the Church in such cases is simply a reflection of the natural law. Having said this, once consummated, a tragic accident of such a nature would not abrogate the bond. The initial consummation, uncoerced and unimpeded by contraception, makes a sacramental marriage indissoluble.

What recourse would a couple have in getting married if one of the members is paralyzed from the neck or even from the waist down? Depending on the situation, the bishop himself may not be at liberty to grant a dispensation for marriage. This would especially be the case if there is no real possibility of recovery and consummation of the bond. Having said this, a very grave concern of the Church would be the use of oral sex as an attempted substitute for the marital act. While permissible in the old morals manuals as a precursor to intercourse, it cannot be sought as an ends unto itself. It falls on many of the same arguments as masturbation and homosexual interactions. Moving on, it is possible that some degree of medication and therapy might restore enough function to fulfill the marital act. In such a case, marriage could be permitted. Further, modern technologies have made available various pump mechanisms (requiring surgery) which would make possible an erection. If there is some transmission of seminal fluid, then again, marriage might very well be permitted. This position is not a reduction of the human person to a gross physicalism but the recognition that our living bodies, inextricable animated by souls, are the real expressions of our identity. Unless forsaken for the kingdom, the needs of these personal bodies– our very selves– cannot be underestimated. Having said all this, there is still another avenue a couple might pursue, although a sexual dysfunction might be coercive in its regard– virginal marriage. They could live their lives promising perpetual virginity along the lines of the Virgin Mary and the good St. Joseph.

Whatever a couple in such a fix decides to do, they will definitely know the Cross. It is my hope that the Church will always show them the redemptive value of joining our sufferings to the passion of Christ. What this world takes away, the next will restore. What this world leaves us, we can utilize for the coming of the next.

Discussion

SIMON:

Father, this is an interesting summary, and thank you for writing and posting. Here is my question. I have been married for almost 20 years. For the past 7, I have suffered from impotence due to diabetes. My wife and I were blessed with 4 children before the impotence occurred, and were always open to children in our marriage. Since becoming impotent, I have respected my wife’s opinion that we are to remain chaste from now on. Although I have tried all available impotence remedies, none work for us. I would never ask her to do anything she is uncomfortable with, but I cannot grasp how we are forbidden from being intimate even though we can no longer have intercourse. I understand that intercourse is meant to be both procreative and unitive. Impotency has removed our ability to be procreative, but why are we no longer allowed to be unitive, not through intercourse (which we would gladly do if it were at all possible), but through oral or digital stimulation? In the case of sterility, couples are encouraged to be unitive without being able to be procreative. This identification of intercourse as the only unitive act for couples suffering from the heartbreak of impotency pains me. My wife cries about the loss of intimacy. How can this be right? Must we lie together every night and never experience any physical love again? At least a priest’s or homosexual’s decision to remain celibate isn’t constantly tested every night by having the object of their desire lying right next to them. They can remove all “near occasions of sin.” Short of moving out of the marital bed, further removing some of the marital intimacy, I have no recourse to lessen the constant reminder and struggle to understand why the Church deems this to be better for us. It does help to get this off my chest. I do not feel comfortable discussing this with anyone.

FATHER JOE:

Dear Simon, I am sorry for the frustration both you and your wife feel. If you have not already, the problem of impotency might be something better discussed with a professional counselor sympathetic to Catholic teaching. When I discuss generalities, it can come across as cold. Certainly, as a celibate priest, I can in no way appreciate the full personal dynamics of such a situation. You are right; there is a vast difference between a man who sleeps alone and one who rests in bed with the female object of his desire and affection.

I am unable to give you the answer or clarification I know you wish to hear. Although I suppose given the nature of your bond, the moral gravity of an illicit act of affection might be lessened.

While impotency prior to a marriage is an impediment, it has no appreciable effect upon the sacrament afterwards, given that there has been consummation, not to mention, children.

While you suggest a parallel with the question of potency without fertility, the pivotal difference is that the mechanics of the marital act remain the same. It is still the type of act that naturally can result in children and to which the male and female bodies complement each other. Such cannot be said where male potency has been compromised and oral or digital manipulation is pursued.

The Church’s understanding of marital intimacy is more than sexual excitement and physical intimacy. It is the bonding of flesh and souls, with one another and with Jesus. Oral sex and digital manipulation might arguably be closer to masturbation than to the marital act. And while there might be some legitimacy when practiced in tandem with the marital act, the Church resists any complete substitution.

However, if you disagree, I would simply suggest that you regularly bring the matter up in confession, out of respect for Church teaching, and do the best you can to live the Christian life. God knows you love each other and any transgressions from weakness and longing between a husband and wife in such a situation would seem to be small matters to be kept between yourselves and your confessor. It may happen one day that some new therapy or medication may cure the problem. We cannot know the future and should struggle to do the best we can in the present.

There are priests out there who might say, go ahead do what you want, it does not matter. But I cannot in good conscience do that. What I can say is do not despair and know that God is infinitely forgiving and understands how unfair and difficult life can become. If we trip from time to time, he will help pick us up.

Finally, there are some wonderful ways to express intimacy that might restore the romantic elements you both knew when dating and in courtship. Candy and flowers always go a long way. Ballroom dancing is making a come-back. Picnics and boat rides are good. Holding each other tight on a porch swing and sharing lots of hugs and kisses is not so bad either… or so I am told. As spouses you can cuddle and flirt and if things get a little out of hand, well God called you together as lovers and in the heat of passion the boundaries might become blurred on occasion.

Trust each other.
Keep faith in God and in his mercy.
Respect the teachings of the Church.
I will be praying for you both.

ROBERT:

Dear Father Joe, I am a young Catholic man (age 24) engaged to be married and have been researching for personal interest “Josephite Marriage” or “White Marriage.”

As I understand it, under Canon Law, a couple where one of the partners is antecedently and perpetually impotent may not contract any marriage.

As I understand it, what a couple exchange in the marriage vows is the right to demand the marital debt from one another (if the request is reasonable and opportune).

In a “virginal marriage” this right is not used by the mutual consent of the couple. This right is mutually given up for the “sake of the kingdom.”

In a “virginal marriage” there is a mutual agreement not to use a right exchanged (the right to the marital debt).

In an antecedently and perpetually impotent couple, the right to the marital debt cannot be exchanged. Hence, there can be no marriage. One cannot exchange what one does not have.

Hence (from what I’ve gathered on the internet), no marriage can take place between a couple in which one or both partners are antecedently and perpetually impotent not even if the non-impotent party agrees to live a virginal marriage. God bless.

FATHER JOE:

Yes, Robert, you are quite right that canon law stipulates that “a couple in which one of the partners is antecedently and perpetually impotent may not contract any marriage.” Actually, Canon 1084 §1 says that it “invalidates the marriage.”

Note, however, that my post was also very tentative, saying that virginal marriage was a course that such a couple “MIGHT pursue” and that “a sexual dysfunction MIGHT be coercive.” I know the prohibition seems absolute on paper, but I have known cases where exceptions were made, particularly if the dysfunction were not absolute.

While confidentiality does not allow me to reveal many details, I can say this much:

1. Such cases were referred to the local bishop.

2. Only after a canonical, medical and pastoral investigation were decisions made.

3. Bishops themselves (in contact with Rome) gave dispensations from the canonical impediment (somewhat controversial because a few of us thought it might be elevating a juridical process over natural law) or argued that Canon 1084 §2 took precedence.

4. Both partners had to make a faith profession and renounce any and all sexual activity for the sake of the kingdom. It was understood, however, that if the problem of impotence should later find medical resolution, that the bishop had the authority to release them from their vowed celibacy.

5. A theoretical conjecture was noted whereby future medical discoveries might restore the partner’s lost sexual capacity.

6. A rather progressive interpretation was given to this law: “If the impediment of impotence is doubtful, whether the doubt be one of law or one of fact, the marriage is not to be prevented nor, while the doubt persists, is it to be declared null” (Canon 1084 §2 ).

When bishops give such a dispensation and/or ruling, and the news goes public, as you might suspect, there is a lot of controversy. This is particularly so because not all bishops would grant such permission anyway. Speaking as a mere parish priest, I have serious reservations about it, myself.

One case that I recall revolved around the fact that the woman was the paralyzed man’s principal caregiver as well as his best friend. It was also taken into consideration that they were engaged before the accident. Being devout Catholics they wanted to be together, but did not want to commit the scandal of cohabitation outside of marriage. I heard of another case, where a couple already had a child out of wedlock (before the incident that caused paralysis), and they wanted to provide a home with both a father and a mother.

The situation and question can became increasingly complicated, as you can see.

Somewhat as an aside, the whole question of impotence and how it is defined often comes up. Some men resort to implants and pumps so that they can have an erection. While this permits them to have sexual intercourse, this does not mean that they have much if anything in the way of sexual pleasure or sensation because of it. Just the thought of such extremes leaves me almost speechless.

The situation of allowing impotent men to marry, for the male is where the gravity rests in our theology, is a serious risk on many levels. People are sexual beings. A young woman married to a paralyzed man would naturally desire sexual congress with her husband; the real danger exists that improper acts might be committed and even adultery. The impotent and/or paralyzed man is also taking a terrible chance, as he may find himself emotionally frustrated at not being able to fulfill his marital duty toward his spouse. They might also commit the sin of invitro-fertilization after harvesting sperm cells. In the past, paralyzed people were almost always refused the marriage rite; however, medical discoveries have made people increasingly optimistic about recovery of some sensation and mobility. I am not sure yet if this current optimism is well enough founded on hard science to recommend liberality regarding impotence and freedom to marriage. If impotence is not reversed, the healthy spouse could readily leave the marriage and seek an annulment on the grounds that there was no consummation. Such cases go to Rome. In any case, this leaves the handicapped man open to abandonment.

Aquinas admitted that sexual copulation was not essential to marriage, thus why virginal marriages are even possible; however, he was quick to assert that marriage gives both spouses the natural right over the other spouse’s body for the purpose of the marital act. A permanently paralyzed and/or impotent man cannot consummate the bond, either in actuality or potency. Nevertheless, the female spouse has a right to that unitive act that furthers both fidelity and procreation.

It should be added that if a man is injured (becoming paralyzed and/or impotent) after marriage and its consummation with the marital act, the couple remain married and must endure with faithfulness and courage the plight that has come to them.

DON:

Please, someone tell me this particular column is a cruel joke, kind of like a news story from the Onion website.

FATHER JOE:

About a tragic subject, for sure, but this page is entirely serious.

MARC:

Father Joe, good reasoning in your discussion; my prostate removal has left me not only with ED but also with the absence of seminal fluid. Periodically, I use injections for an erection which “sometimes” is shared with my wife depending on timing, etc. When this happens, it is used to a good moral use well within Church guidelines. But on many other occasions, there is neither erection nor fluid. My wife and I feel that we need to keep our intimacy strong or the relationship will fade leaving both of us blind to each other’s love. Is oral not an option at our age of 64 and married 41 years? Thank you and confused.

FATHER JOE:

Sexual expression and/or the marital act are precious gifts to married couples. However, if the marital act should become difficult or impossible, then the couple should explore chaste forms of affection and signs of love, as with the initial courtship. Dinner and a movie, snuggling on the couch, holding hands and taking walks, kisses and cuddling, etc. You also have your memories.

LINDA:

I have been told by a priest that artificial insemination is allowed if one’s spouse is sterile by deformity (but not impotent) and that to alleviate the “frustration” of the woman to bear a child of her womb, the Church would not reject this couple or child. Is there precedent for this?

FATHER JOE:

What the priest told you is not true. Artificial insemination is forbidden without exception by the Church. The reasoning is that every human being should come into existence through the marital act. There can be no third party intervention in the act of bonding and mutual surrender of the spouses to each other and to divine providence. There is a precise act that God has instituted for the creation of human beings. Artificial insemination and IVF can create the mentality that children are commodities. Further, Christianity teaches that children are a gift from God; no one has a RIGHT as such to a child.

If a couple violate moral law and defy the Church, the Church would not reject the couple and/or the child. The child is innocent and cannot be faulted for the misbehavior of parents, no matter whether it be through illicit fertilization procedures or acts of rape or incest. The parents can know absolution if they express some small degree of sorrow and subsequent respect for Church authority.

MORGAN:

Father Joe, I met my wife in Medugorje. We wrote letters to each other over the years and fell in love. One day she said to me over the phone, “When you find out about me, you will have the choice to come or go.” I didn’t know then what it meant. I had many guesses in my mind. But none were reasonable. Then one night while in prayer I heard what I believe was the Lord. He told me what was wrong with her and asked me if I would love her. I said yes. A few moments later the phone rang and it was her. I told her what was wrong and she was surprised. I also told her that I would love her.

My wife had cancer when she was 2 years old. They took her uterus, vagina and eggs. Everything was taken leaving a scar and a clitoris. There is no penetration.

I went to Medugorje with her again and asked a priest if marrying her was the right choice despite her impotency. He said we could be together as long as we lived as the angels do.

She further went and talked to her local bishop who said marriage in the church was not possible, but we could do a legal marriage to be together so long as we live chastely.

The day we got married, it was not our intention. It was the only day my sister could organize with the judge, April 14, 2006— Good Friday of that year.

We have lived together for 3 years now. My wife does have feeling in her clitoris and I am a fully capable male. If we did do anything, would it be wrong for us to do? Can we get married in the Catholic Church? If not, do we seek this Virginal Marriage from our local bishop and would it constitute as a marriage inside the church?

Also, we ran into a priest who said our legal marriage was wrong, we couldn’t adopt kids, and he tried to make my wife promise we would separate after some time. He said he wouldn’t give her absolution in confession unless she promised to do so. She did not promise it. She came to me in tears.

I love my wife. She has stuck with me through a war, taken care of me, and we both share a cross. I couldn’t see myself with anyone else. Do I need to seek a miracle and if so, how do I do that?

FATHER JOE:

I would suggest that you seek out someone in the diocesan chancery and/or authorities in Catholic medical ethics. Infertility would not prevent marriage. The issue is impotency and the marital act. There are many points here which are unique to your case and would need to be explored by experts, both in medicine and in Church law. I can only speculate, but would it be possible to surgically refashion a type of female genitalia for her? I know there have been cases of men, particularly those with paralysis, who have had pumps surgically inserted to make the marital act possible. Oral and anal sex are disapproved as beneath human dignity and do not constitute consummation of the bond. A virginal relationship would pose no particular problem, but a Catholic marriage respecting sexual intimacy poses important hurdles for you both. Vowed virginal marriages in the Church are fairly rare, and usually require that a couple denounces vaginal sex, not that they are incapable of it.

I am sorry for the suffering you both endure and regret that you feel hurt by the hard counsel of a brother priest. I wish I had more answers for you or those you so desperately want to hear. Even if you should be asked to refrain from Holy Communion, go to Mass each Sunday and pray daily with each other. Yours are not sins of malice. Your struggle is with love, affection and the frailty of the human condition. You will both remain in my prayers.

FRANK:

Father Joe, re: Josephite Marriage, and your previous discussion of it, I fail to understand just what kind of union results from the exchange of promises, (of chastity and fidelity), in a marriage in which one of the principals is irreversibly impotent. Is there a real covenant? One which is just as binding civilly and religiously as in a normal marriage? Can’t understand why the healthy party in such cases can’t just, willy nilly, choose to walk away, without considering the medium of divorce or annulment.

FATHER JOE:

I did say that “a sexual dysfunction might be coercive in its regard– virginal marriage,” meaning that such an alternative would be problematical. The post was originally written some time back and I am not sure I meant a “Josephite marriage,” probably just an analogous spiritual friendship. A true Josephite marriage would imply that a couple freely opted not to exercise their genital prerogatives. Impotence means there is no choice, no potential for the marital act.

LAURA:

I came across this post today when trying to look into this issue as it has been bothering me. I may be wrong, but I thought that in the case of a “properly functioning” couple, John Paul II drew a distinction between oral sex for men and women. As I understand the teaching, since the female orgasm has nothing to do with conception, oral stimulation of the woman is permitted even if not in conjunction with a completed act of intercourse. At least that’s how I have had the teaching explained to me. If that’s the case, I still can’t wrap my head around why, for a couple for whom conception is impossible (i.e. a couple where one partner is impotent), the teaching would be any different. In other words, I didn’t think the “no oral sex without completed act of intercourse” rule was about conception and being open to life, not about mechanics of the act. If the couple would be open to life but for the impotence, I’m not sure how oral sex for this couple is different than the permissible oral sex on a woman in a normal-functioning couple.

FATHER JOE:

I do not recall the late pope making any such distinction that would permit female masturbation. The marital act is defined as that sexual act which is the type of act that is open to the transmission of human life. Pleasure for both men and women is an enticement for intercourse that is required for the propagation of the species. It is also an ingredient in the fidelity of the spouses. While the old moral manuals permitted a certain level of foreplay to facilitate the marital act, as well as manipulation of the female if the male climaxed too quickly, such stimulation apart from intercourse was frowned upon. As far as I know, nothing has changed. I suspect someone taught you wrong. Where is Pope John Paul II supposed to have said otherwise? The late pope gave an emphasis upon spousal fidelity that was sometimes eclipsed by procreation in Catholic thinking; but nothing in his theology of the body overturned basic morality.

LAURA:

I went back and looked at what I had read, and I suppose you are right that oral sex on a woman is not permitted in and of itself. But here is what I read (by Christopher West) that is still not quite what you are saying:

“The acts by which spouses lovingly prepare each other for genital intercourse (foreplay) are honorable and good. But stimulation of each other’s genitals to the point of climax apart from an act of normal intercourse is nothing other than mutual masturbation… An important point of clarification is needed. Since it’s the male orgasm that’s inherently linked with the possibility of new life, the husband must never intentionally ejaculate outside of his wife’s vagina. Since the female orgasm, however, isn’t necessarily linked to the possibility of conception, so long as it takes place within the overall context of an act of intercourse, it need not, morally speaking, be during actual penetration… Ideally, the wife’s orgasm would happen simultaneously with her husband’s [orgasm], but this is easier said than done for many couples. In fact, if the wife’s orgasm isn’t achieved during the natural course of foreplay and consummation, it would be the loving thing for the husband to stimulate his wife to climax thereafter (if she so desired).”

FATHER JOE:

Yes, he is correct. I have not written anything which contradicts this. Onanism is still a sin, no matter whether alone or with a partner. Strictly speaking, this regards the male “spilling the seed.” Foreplay that includes male climax is not foreplay. Rather, it has wrongly been substituted for the marital act. Similarly, after intercourse, the manipulation of the female by the husband so that she might climax has been judged as lawful by moralists.

LAURA:

I recognize that Christopher West is not an official authority in the Church, but if what he’s saying is true, while I’m wrong that female stimulation is permitted as an isolated act, it would appear that oral sex as foreplay is not “frowned upon” as you say, nor is some female stimulation prohibited even after sex (which does not confine it just to the realm of “foreplay”). This is also consistent with what is written in the book “Holy Sex,” written by a number of modern Catholic theologians.

FATHER JOE:

What West writes is okay, however, your commentary is not clear. Foreplay is only frowned upon if the male climaxes without true intercourse. But, as I said, then it is not foreplay but simply oral sex or masturbation. Give me the quote where I am wrong and I will correct it. Peace!

DAVID:

Are implants to treat impotence banned by Church teaching where there are no other alternative treatments to achieve a valid marriage?

FATHER JOE:

Implants, as such, are not banned.

DAVID:

Are surgically implanted pumps allowed as a means of overcoming impotence?

FATHER JOE:

It is a tricky and somewhat controversial business. Evidently bishops will sometimes give a dispensation for marriage after the implantation of such pumps. The argument is that with this intervention the impotence is no longer absolute. I am not sure if all bishops are happy with such a compromise. Particularly in cases of paralysis, it might make the mechanics possible, but the man would still not feel anything. How would this affect their mutual self-donation and bonding in the marital act? There may be little other recourse after marriage. If paralysis or injury brought about such serious impotence in a man prior to marriage, I would probably advise a reconsideration altogether. People are not machines and the flesh is weak. My perspective might seem cold, heartless and cynical. I do not intend to come across this way. But I have seen too many relationships of this sort, between a woman and impotent man, fall apart with the most devastating consequences. Could not such men settle for simple and chaste friendships?

EILEEN:

My question is not related directly to this topic, but I have been searching for an answer and cannot find it, so figured I’d try here.

Thirteen years ago, upon learning that I was pregnant with our sixth child, my husband, against my wishes, had a vasectomy. This nearly broke our marriage and it took a long time to recover. (He was not raised Catholic and is a convert who struggles with the ban on contraceptives.)

Since that time, there have been a few occasions (very few) where during sexual activity he has engaged in self-stimulation along with the mutual activity. Usually, this all ultimately ends up with penetration taking place and the completion of the sex act as it should; but on a couple of occasions, he has ejaculated outside of [the body].

As the ejacula no longer carries sperm, and as the intent at the beginning of the sexual activity was to complete internally, is this a mortal sin?

FATHER JOE:

First, the vasectomy was wrong and sinful for several reasons. It is regarded as a mutilation of the human person and the generative powers. It reflects a contraceptive mentality wherein the openness to human life which is intrinsic to the marital act is spurned. Upon repentance, and where possible, the Church would also recommend repair of the damaged faculties.

Second, there may have been emotional healing, but an important element of the sacramental reality of your marital covenant remained wounded.

Third, given the vasectomy, it would seem that the matter of a ban upon artificial contraceptives would be a “personally” mute point. He has embraced perpetual infertility over periodic sterility. Many lifelong Catholics also dissent upon this matter. He may have been a convert, but did he “convert” enough?

Fourth, while an element of manipulation may be understood as foreplay and preparation for the marital act; such activities must not be pursued in themselves or seen as independent. Human beings are not animals and the marital act should not be reduced to cold mechanics. It is ideally a self-donation and surrender to the beloved. While accidents do happen, we should still be watchful against the sin of Onanism.

Fifth, the intention behind the actions that surround the marital act do have moral weight. However, the fact that the ejacula is deficient or void of sperm does not matter in this situation of self-manipulation or arousal outside the marital act.

JAN:

Erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment has evolved a lot from traditional times. Earlier this problem was believed to be caused by psychological factors only, but now we know better, so have the treatments.

ROSIE:

What do you do when you have been married for nearly 9 years and your husband has never been able to properly [fulfill the marital act]? The cause being diabetes but you didn’t know this until recently. He is able to bring you to climax [through manipulation] but you find this, although better than nothing, very much unsatisfactory. Also you can’t talk about how you feel with him. Also facing the temptation of other males on the scene for which intercourse would be very easy. Is this a real marriage or should it be annulled?

FATHER JOE:

Dear Rosie, I am far from an authority upon such issues and this is a somewhat delicate question. However, there are a few points I would like to note:

First, as a married couple you should be able to dialogue with your spouse about your personal needs in this relationship. It might be hard, but nothing can be done to help the situation unless you work together.

Second, your marriage should go deeper than issues like pleasure in the mutual act. It is important, but you have both entered into a covenant where sacrifices will have to be made.

Third, I would urge you to avoid both actual temptation and fantasies toward adultery. Take the matter of divorce and annulment off the table. You have been married for almost a decade. Fight for your marriage and love one another, “for better or for worse” until death do you part.

Fourth, do not be afraid to work with a doctor who might be able to help you both. Not all physical problems can be overcome, but sometimes situations can be much improved. Peace!

ALLIE:

I have a question. You said, “Somewhat as an aside, the whole question of impotence and how it is defined often comes up. Some men resort to implants and pumps so that they can have an erection. While this permits them to have sexual intercourse, this does not mean that they have much if anything in the way of sexual pleasure or sensation because of it. Just the thought of such extremes leaves me almost speechless.”

And later, you suggested that the woman who had surgery for cancer at age 2 that removed her vagina (and uterus, and ovaries), have surgery to create an artificial vagina. Can you help me understand Church law regarding these types of surgeries? And why have you tied male sexual pleasure as a necessity of the marital act? Especially since, as you pointed out, “Second, your marriage should go deeper than issues like pleasure in the mutual act. It is important, but you have both entered into a covenant where sacrifices will have to be made.”

It seems to me that whatever couples decide upon as being mutually agreeable to bind them together as a couple should be permissible, whether that is allowing impotent couples to come together in intimacy of their own choosing or allowing couples to marry who know that what they currently have in a physical relationship (i.e., paraplegics, etc.) is all they can lawfully have. I should think that the binding thread here is LOVE. Having read the entire page today, it seems to me that the unlawful marriage of the couple from Medjugorie is far more of a loving union than Rosie’s marriage of almost a decade. My heart goes out to all the couples here. You are struggling with much. And I am struggling to understand myself.

FATHER JOE:

The marital act is defined by the Church in light of natural law. Other forms of intimacy and/or sexual congress have neither the capacity to consummate the marital covenant nor any significant degree of fecundity. The general subjective experience (which often includes some degree of pleasure) furthers the good of fidelity between spouses. My emphasis is not directly upon pleasure but upon the capacity of a couple to engage in non-contraceptive sexual intercourse as a requirement for marriage.

As for the reconstruction of genitalia, the morality hinges upon the repair of something impaired, as through accident or cancer. Such repair is not always possible. Further, no such reconstruction should seek to alter the external gender in contradiction to that given at birth and in the DNA. The Church opposes so-called sex-change operations and views such measures in terms of self-mutilation and the unlawful or immoral damaging of physical faculties.

You would accept as legitimate “whatever couples decide upon as being mutually agreeable to bind them together as a couple.” However, by extension, this is also the erroneous argument posed by homosexuals seeking the recognition of their unions as a form of marriage. The problem is that the marital act between a man and woman, defined as non-contraceptive vaginal intercourse, allows for no substitutions. One can feign the act, either through choice or because the actual act is impossible, but such neither consummates nor renews the marital covenant. Instead of a virtuous act which brings grace, there would be the commission of sin instead. That is the Catholic view, again based upon divine positive law and especially natural law. Love and friendship are indeed important. But one can have both outside of sexual relationships. Indeed, as a celibate priest, I have dedicated my life to the love of God and to the service of his people. Marriage is not the only sacrament of love. The ordination of a priest is a sacrament of love. Indeed, our common baptism into the family of God is the first and most basic sacrament of love. The right to marriage is not absolute. If it were, we would have to pass out spouses just as we distribute bread to the hungry. It does not work that way.

How Catholic are You?

We can test to see how badly infected our people are with doubt and faithlessness. Here are some sample questions:

1. Do you believe that deliberately missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin, as detailed in the precepts of the Church?

2. Do you believe that premarital sex and/or cohabitation is a mortal sin?

3. Do you believe that a Catholic can get married validly outside the Church and how can this be if it is a sacrament?

4. Are you for or against the legal choice for abortion even though the Church calls it the murder of ensouled human beings?

5. Do you believe that the marital act must always be that type of act that is open to mutual self-giving and the generation of new human life or do you favor the use of artificial contraception?

6. The Church teaches that same-sex attraction is a disorder and that its pursuit is a violation of the natural law and is seriously sinful. Do you believe this?

7. Is the Eucharist a symbolic presence using bread and wine, a nostalgic remembrance or the actual Risen Christ (divinity and humanity, body and blood)?

8. Do you ever go to Confession? Do you believe that the priest has the power to forgive sins? Do we really need the priest for this at all?

9. Is the Mass a real sacrifice just as the death and oblation of Jesus on the Cross?

10. Does it really matter what one believes as long as he or she is a good person? Is one Church pretty much as good as another? Is it intolerant to insist that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established directly by Christ?

11. Do you believe that the Pope as Vicar of Christ has universal jurisdiction and is given the gift of infallibility in teaching about faith and morals?

12. Do you pray daily and if so how do you pray? Do you really think someone is listening? Do you remember the various types of prayer?

Never Mind Your Wishes, We Know Better

In England, doctors would like to make the choice between life and death. Here is a report from back in 2006. It is still relevant today:

A High Court judge on Wednesday refused a request from doctors to turn off a ventilator keeping alive an 18-month-old boy with incurable spinal muscular atrophy. The boy’s parents had opposed their request, arguing that although he was severely physically disabled, the boy could still enjoy spending time with his family . . . The case was believed to be the first in which doctors had asked to allow a patient who is not in a persistent vegetative state to die.

Under England’s NHS, I imagine the doctors were trying to protect their financial interests. It’s certainly not cost effective to pay for the care of the severely disabled. (Never mind that the funding comes from the sky-high taxes of their very own patients!)

In this case, the request was denied, but the fact that the doctors felt themselves within their medical right to make such a request has far-reaching and grotesque implications. How can anyone in England feel safe in the hands of these arrogant holier-than-thous?

Not much of a leap from abortion to infanticide, the slippery slope has already been realized in our own country.

Remember the newborn child with an obstruction in the throat that prevented feeding? Because the child also suffered from Down’s Syndrome and most likely retarded, an easy surgery to correct the feeding problem was dismissed. The baby starved to death.

There have been several similar cases since, and of course, we always have Partial Birth Abortion which is really a form of Infanticide.

The ethicist Singer suggests that infanticide should be allowed at least until about three years of age– arguing that they are not viable without assistance and not “full” persons.

The brave new world resembles the old world more and more every day. The ancient Romans allowed babies to die from exposure and abandonment. If any of you ever saw the old movie HAWAII dealing with early colonization and missionary work, you may remember the scene where the girl baby is thrown off a cliff. I wonder if it would still shock audiences today?

The Slippery Slope of Abortion

Someone wrongly argued the following with me: “And the slope between abortion and infanticide is only slippery if you accept that fertilized egg or a partially-developed fetus is in fact a human being. As most abortion-rights supporters claim the opposite, I fail to see the threat.” The discussion dealt with how artificial contraception degraded into an acceptance of abortion and that now it was reaching the new low of outright infanticide.

Actually, most abortion-rights supporters in the vast crowd make no “explicit” claim at all about the unborn, avoiding the discussion about the beginning of human life and personhood— with the possible exception of bloggers and paid advocates. However, particularly given modern tools for viewing the child in the womb, some die-hard promoters of abortion are admitting “it” is human, but not a person with rights. Others are arguing that the rights of the mother would outweigh even the rights of another person, should that person be unborn and “parasitical.”

Many deal with their pro-abortion stand with an avoidance of the biological truth, the real reason why plastic imitation fetuses are forbidden on network TV news. Obviously, the implication is that they do not “recognize” a life having value there; but many people remain pro-abortion no matter whether the child is in the embryonic or late term stages. The slippery slope is not a theory. It has been realized.

Fetal development occurs much faster than people appreciate and is so often misunderstood. There are no partial human beings. There is a child who grows, just as he would grow outside the womb. Certainly the growth changes in the womb are unmatched by anything after birth; but even a newborn infant only vaguely resembles a mature man or woman. They cannot talk, see properly, or walk. Without constant maintenance, they would most certainly expire within a very short period.

The late Pope spoke about this at length when he talked about a culture of death versus one of life. Concern about the “slippery slope” pervades the encyclical EVANGELIUM VITAE. Indeed, one of the reasons Pope John Paul II objected to the death penalty was because he believed a comprehensive and generous response in the cause for life had to be made against the current climate of death. In other words, a society that murders its own innocent children does not have the moral standing to judge over the mortal lives of convicted felons. We become desensitized to the taking of human life.

I should say that the “slippery slope” applies even if one should think there is only life “in potency.” Embryonic human life has all the components necessary for the formation of “fully developed” human beings. The Church insists that once the soul is infused, the subject is a human person with an eternal destiny. But, even more, the slipping and sliding goes back further to the issue of contraception.

While we certainly do not see the person in the sperm and the woman simply as a receptacle, as did St. Thomas Aquinas, nevertheless, a contraceptive mentality is inherently anti-life. If contraception fails, people will now say, “Well, there is always abortion.” Next, maybe they will say, “Well, the doctor says he has a thirty percent chance of heart disease based upon DNA sampling. Why don’t we just get rid of this one and try again, with the doctor’s help?”

Obviously, even the most hardened pro-abortion advocate has trouble with infanticide, once they SEE and HOLD a child. This was the case in Roe versus Wade when Norma held her baby that previously she had tried to abort. That is why many curse GE for their new viewer that shows the child or fetus, with great clarity. It makes avoidance of the real question increasingly difficult. But what if women should give birth while unconscious? Then doctors or husbands or significant others or just prior standing instructions could order the termination of a new born. As in Partial Birth Abortion, once allowed, what does a few inches in the womb or out of the womb matter? The fact that there were as many as 4,000 Partial Birth Infanticides last year (full term babies) is ample evidence of where things have been sliding.

And what if the newborn is not attractive? I used to help out at a facility for the mentally retarded (or “challenged” as it is rendered today). Tommy had a cleft face. His parents wanted him destroyed but the doctor said no. He was quickly abandoned. He had pins holding his eyes from falling into the cavities where cheeks should have been. He had no nose and only a rudimentary mouth. Everyone presumed he was retarded. He moaned and growled. No one could make any sense of it. His best friend was a boy with Down’s Syndrome called Mike. One day Mike came forward and said that Tommy wanted water. What? It turned out that Tommy was speaking, but so unclearly that only Mike could decipher it. Later, despite the odds, it was suspected that Tommy was not even retarded. When I left, the doctors were taking parts of his body and trying to build him a face. I prepared both of these boys for their first communion. Over and over again, I stressed that the host was Jesus and that Jesus was God. The bishop said that was all they needed to know. They both had value, independent of public opinion, or arguments about the quality of life, or the ramblings of pro-abortion politicians.

I have noticed that sometimes young people fail to appreciate the trail of dominoes we have already knocked over. Maybe age and exposure are important to seeing more of the whole picture?

SLIPPING OR FALLING OFF THE SLOPE?

  • 1930 – Anglicans became first Christian church to permit contraception (condoms).

CASTI CONNUBII is the Pope’s strong response.

  • 1960 – Introduction of the Pill.
  • The so-called sexual revolution.

HUMANAE VITAE is the Pope’s strong response.

  • 1972 – Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion.
  • Series of cases and incidents have expanded so-called abortion rights, partial birth infanticide, and euthanasia.

EVANGELIUM VITAE is the pope’s strong response.

The movement against life is not smooth, particularly since pro-life people are fighting such trends. The slipping happens in fits, stops-and-goes.

I have already gone on too long, but I would like to finish with an extended citation from Msgr. Elio Sgreccia of the PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE at the Vatican:

“It is also said that the argument of the slippery slope is a weak one: in my opinion, however, it shows that its perverse efficiency functions unavoidably because it implies the absence of absolute values that are to be upheld and is accompanied by an obvious moral relativism. It functions in the context of euthanasia as in various other fields of public ethics, regardless of whether it is a question of abortion (in this case, one begins with the case of anencephaly and ends up with the case of the child conceived before a holiday), or a matter of procreation (here, the first step is the request for the legalization of the homologous insemination, that ends up with the matter of the authorization of therapeutic cloning). / Once on the slippery slope, not only the logical slant comes into play but also economic interests, and then the slipperiness becomes fatal and inexorable.”

Responding to an Attack Upon Catholicism

PAUL:  You people are very sick.

FATHER JOE:  You are very angry and judgmental about Catholicism.  Are you a fallen-away Catholic?  Many Catholics find comfort and helpful guidance in Catholic faith and values.  You are too quick to tear down and attack that for which you seem to lack authentic understanding. Sin is the sickness, not religious faith.  You are no better than the people you ridicule.  You are also a weak sinner who needs Jesus and his mercy. 

PAUL:  The Catholic Church has made so many “rules” that do not even exist in the Bible.

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church has rules for good order, but the commandments and the ecclesial precepts find their basis in the Decalogue given to Moses and the two commandments of love from Christ.  We also believe in natural law.  God gave us reason to appreciate the harmony and order of his creation.  Values that reflect divine positive law and natural law are not capricious.

PAUL:  Since when do “men” speak for God or Christ?

FATHER JOE:  As for men speaking for God, such is the witness of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles.  Our Lord, himself, while critical of the hypocrisy of Pharisees, admonished the Jewish people to do as they say and not as they do.  Jesus establishes a new covenant people and gives the Church’s leadership something of his authority.  The Church is entrusted with the Gospel and even collects the books and letters that would constitute the New Testament and the complete Christian Bible.  Men in the Church have also been responsible for the translation of the Scriptures.  Apart from the community, and men wise in the ways of God, you would not even know God’s Word.  If men and women did not pass on the faith, you would not know Jesus or the story of salvation.  The Catholic Church was preaching the Good News before there was a complete Christian bible and while the Gospels were only an oral tradition.  

PAUL:  Where in the Bible does it say one should confess sins to another man, say a few Hail Marys, Our Fathers (and of course put some $$$ in the box!) to be forgiven? PLEASE show me this. IT does not exist.

FATHER JOE: 

Jesus, being God, knew the hearts of men.  Nevertheless, sinners still needed to repent and believe.  Priests have the authority to forgive sins, but few have the power to read souls or minds.  That is why the confession of sins is crucial, making possible an adequate penance and counsel.  The prayers or acts of penance and/or mortification show God our thankfulness for his mercy and make a certain degree of reparation for temporal punishment due to sin.  There is precedent for confession in the Old Testament: Leviticus 5:5, Leviticus 26:40-42, Hosea 5:15, Job 33:27-28, Joshua 7;19, Jeremiah 3:13, and Proverbs 28:13.

Tithing or support for the Church is a Christian obligation; however, it is not normally an element of penance arising from the Sacrament of Confession.  The Lord gives priests something of his authority so that they might perpetuate his ministry of reconciliation. We read in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11:  “Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes.”  St. Paul goes on to write:  “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Another important text is 1 John 19: “If we acknowledge [confess] our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”   There is also James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”  Looking at the Gospels, texts like Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 are important.  Often cited is John 20:21-23:  “(Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

PAUL:  What good does it do me to pray to Mary? She cannot save ANYONE. Only Christ can forgive your sins. Pray to him, not some guy in a fancy box who will then give you his recommended “Penance.” How ridiculous!

FATHER JOE:  Yes, only Christ can forgive sins, but the ministry of Jesus is perpetuated and mediated within the saving community of the Church.  Penitents receive absolution from a priest, but the proper object of the prayers is always God.  Indeed, even prayers to Mary and the other saints, while they invoke intercession and solidarity, are still directed to God.  Those who have already made it to the promised shore continue to love and pray for us.  The graces from the deposit of the saints can also be accessed.  Nothing is lost.  Christ is present and his saving work is active in his Mystical Body, the Church.  Confession is a sacrament that can be conducted behind a screen or face-to-face.  There is nothing ridiculous about this.  Indeed, it is beautiful.  God loves us and gives us all we need for spiritual perfection.

PAUL:  Catholics need to read their own Bible and quit making up their own human rules!

FATHER JOE:  Catholics have wonderful bibles and the Scriptures are proclaimed at and substantiate the Mass and Reconciliation.  Human rules or disciplines in the Church amplify the law of God and give order to our Christian discipleship.  Such is the mandate given to the apostles and their successors as our lawful shepherds.

PAUL:  Please tell me where in the Bible sins are labeled as “mortal”? — MORE Catholic rubbish.

FATHER JOE:  For someone who argues “sola scriptura,” you seem to be in great ignorance of biblical truths.  It is sad that someone who claims to be a Christian would insult learned believers who take their faith seriously.  The Bible teaches degrees to sin.  All sin, even “venial” or lesser sin, is disobedience and a failure to love as we should.  However, certain sins are most grave and bring upon us the sentence of death, in other words, these are “mortal” sins which kill the soul and breech our relationship with God.  The Old Testament admits to degrees of sin (see Genesis 18:20).  The New Testament amplifies this truth (see John 19:11).  Just as our Lord could raise the dead, the absolution in the sacrament of penance can restore a contrite soul back to life.  “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 John:16-17).

PAUL:  Just step into our church, sit down and let us read you a few verses, then we’ll pass the basket around again for a few more of your hard earned dollars… I have been to Rome and viewed all the wealth the Catholic Church has managed to gather from “devout Catholics.”

FATHER JOE:  Participation at church is more than just going through the motions.  Most parishes and Catholic pastors struggle to be good stewards of the resources given us by God’s good people.  We do not preach a prosperity gospel but witness in a way that brings the truth to ignorance, healing to the hurting and hope to the oppressed.  The Church is a treasury of the Western world’s history and culture.  But she is also the refuge of a billion people in this world and many more in the next who count Jesus Christ as both their personal and corporate Savior.  The Pope intervenes annually for the poor and collections are taken the world over to cover the shortfall.  Would you have us sell all our churches for secular condos and for shopping malls?  Your bigotry betrays your reason.

PAUL:  My wife was refused entry into the famous “Vatican” because her shoulders were not completely covered. Christ said bring ALL sinners, He has no Dress Code for his house! I found it very funny how a young girl in line ahead of us (most likely 8 years of age and obviously a virgin) was allowed in without her shoulders covered at all, yet a married woman was not! MORE Catholic B.S.!

FATHER JOE:  The dress code for the Vatican and meeting the Pope is well documented.  The problem was that you and your wife did not respect the Holy Father enough to make proper preparations.  Comparing the status of an adult woman with a child and then making a comment about her sexual condition shows the great depth of your spiritual sickness and moral depravity.  All churches have dress codes of one sort or another, the same for synagogues and mosques.  Would you have churches allow people to enter with vulgar tee-shirts or naked?  As for our Lord, he told a parable that you have evidently forgotten:   “But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14).  Every Mass is a sacramental participation in the heavenly marriage banquet.  Our dress and posture should show the proper respect, not simply to the Pope, but to almighty God.  Tell your wife to cover up next time.   

PAUL:  NO ONE could ever convince me that this cult called Catholicism is true followers of Christ. The weak minded will believe ANYTHING these “men” tell them and empty their pockets if they are convinced it will get them to Heaven.

FATHER JOE:  If you believed Catholicism was a cult then why would you even try to enter the Vatican?  Were you up to no good?  The weakness of argument and mind is yours.  You throw out straw man arguments that are parroted from old anti-Catholic sources.  I hear a lot of prejudice and anger speaking, but little in the way of reasoned argument.  Typical of your type, you falsely characterize Catholic beliefs and then you attack what you yourself have fashioned.  No one can buy his or her way into heaven.  The Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  Jesus is the anointed one or Christ.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

PAUL:  All people really need to do is READ THE BIBLE THEMSELVES and understand that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!

FATHER JOE:  The Bible was once used in arguments for slavery.  You cannot use the Bible like a moral manual.  However, I will admit the there is much in the Scriptures, particularly in the message of Christ, which stresses the inherent worth and dignity of all men and women.  St. Paul makes mention that in Christ there is neither free nor slave, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female… all are called to the saving grace of our baptismal faith.  Man was made in the image of God.  The forgiveness of sins restores our full likeness.

PAUL:  Just because some guy wears a fancy robe (and a KKK hat) doesn’t make him (or her) any “holier” than anyone else on this planet. Nor does it give him (them) the divinity to make some “new heavenly rules”!

FATHER JOE:  The racist KKK is also historically anti-Catholic and you are mouthing many of their old slanders against the Catholic Church.  The robes do not give our shepherds their authority.  It is given to them by Christ.  They share in the apostolic succession that keeps us in both historical and spiritual unity with Christ.  The apostles passed on their authority and we still proclaim the ancient faith.  Christianity did not begin as a book religion.  As I have written before, the Church was proclaiming the Gospel and baptizing new believers even before there was a New Testament.  The Magisterium does NOT invent new heavenly rules.  Rather, the Church passes on what she has been given.  The problem is not that Catholicism added anything; rather, it is that anti-Catholic fundamentalists like you have subtracted out elements of the faith given us by Jesus Christ.

PAUL:  Personally I follow the guidance delivered by The Bible, not a bunch of men and women who think they are “cleaner than the rest” because they supposedly don’t have sex (let’s not talk about the altar boy molestation that has occurred time and time again and mostly hidden or covered up by the Great Catholics!)

FATHER JOE:  The scandal of abuse by clergy is indeed a terrible business.  But most priests are good men who love the Lord and try to make a positive difference in the lives of the people they serve.  Speaking for myself, my one great ambition is to go to heaven and I would like to take a few of my friends with me.  We have different roles to play in the body of the Church.  We need each other.  We all need Jesus.  Priests do not imagine themselves as “holier than thou.”  Even the Pope regularly goes to confession.  We acknowledge in the sacrament, and at the beginning of every Mass, that we are sinners in need of a redeemer.  LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.  CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON US.  LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.  A priest who hears confessions and offers absolution is humbled that God would make him into an instrument of healing and mercy for others.  The priest Confessor counts himself as the first among sinners.  He is not perfect either.  That is why all priests are to be guarded about hypocrisy and self-righteousness.  As for the Bible, you speak as if I and all Catholics are ignorant about God’s Word.  That is not true.  Of course, we could all know it better.  I think you have a long way to go before you can make a claim upon teaching biblical truth.  Why do I say this?  Not only do you show your lack of biblical formation again and again, you demonstrate nothing of the heart of Christ’s message.  There is nothing of charity in what you say.  Without charity, you have nothing.  I tell you this because, even though you have upset me, I am required to forgive and share the sacrificial love of Jesus.  I want you to be in good standing with the Lord.  You do not seem to have any awareness that attacking the Church, which is all the Christian people and not just buildings or clerics, you attack Jesus Christ.  

PAUL:  Jesus said it is good if a man CAN abstain, he never said you MUST abstain to spread his word, another Catholic “invention.”

FATHER JOE:  No, it is your invention.  One does not have to be a celibate priest in order to spread God’s Word.  The Roman Catholic Church prefers a celibate priesthood, although various Eastern rites of the Catholic Church have married clergy.  Our deacons are also given Holy Orders and the vast majority of these Catholic ministers are married men.  They witness marriages, perform baptisms, offer funeral services, work as chaplains and bring Holy Communion to people.  They do the very things we see Protestant ministers doing and more.  We also have religious brothers, sisters and members of the laity who teach the faith and proclaim the Gospel by word and witness in the larger community.  Further, there are growing numbers of Catholic lay evangelists, who are married and single.

PAUL:  I have also never seen anything in the Bible that said masturbation is a “Mortal Sin.” Wow! I guess this means that about 99% of all men will rot in Hell— ANOTHER Catholic rumor.

FATHER JOE:  Do you have a hang up about sex, Paul?  Sexual sins are serious because we are corporeal beings.  Our bodies are not robotic appendages or extensions, but are intimate elements of our identity as persons.  Masturbation as a sin constitutes serious matter, but all good confessors also give weight to issues like habit, passion, an erotic society and media, etc.  Anything that takes away freedom necessarily affects the consent.  As a priest my concern about any of the sins is not to steer people toward hell but to direct them to heaven.  You may have passed over into the dark area of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.  I would plead that you be careful about this.  The Old Testament and the rabbinic tradition placed a great emphasis upon fertility and the blessing of posterity.  Masturbation is a trespass against this good of God.  Masturbation or Onanism is condemned by God (see Genesis 38:9).   Complicating matters further, it is a matter of course that masturbation is inextricably connected to lust and adultery in the heart.  Such is also condemned by God (see Matthew 5:28-29).           

PAUL:  I am sorry, but the God I believe in would rather a man touch himself then take advantage of another.

FATHER JOE:  This is why I am worried about you.  Men can struggle with chastity and still not take advantage of others.  The lines of dichotomy that you draw are false.

PAUL:  All the Catholic Church wants is MORE Money. You have to make your monthly payment to get to their heaven…

FATHER JOE:  Up until a few months ago, I was driving a 1995 used car.  Now I have moved up to a 2002 used car… still nine years old!  I wear shoes until there are holes in them.  I think I live fairly simply.  Compared to the Protestant ministers in my neighborhood, I am probably the poorest man among them.  Most Catholic priests would be in this category.  Yes, we ask for donations, but to pay the bills.  We also feed the poor and help those who are hurting.  Money is raised not to buy anyone’s way into heaven but to help relieve the hell that people suffer here on earth.  You have it all wrong.  Your false judgment against “all” the Catholic Church is nothing less than a sin.

PAUL:  I went to Catholic school for the first five years of my education. It finally reached a point where my mother could not afford the tuition. She was told by the clergy that she would go to hell because she removed my sister and I from the school… Pretty cool huh? What a bunch of sickos….

FATHER JOE:  Given how you have misrepresented so much else, I have a hard time believing what you write about this anonymous priest.  The poor man may have had a bad day or what you say is an exaggeration, but such a tale is hardly a good reason to turn against the Church.  I was turned down for Catholic school entirely.  Sister told my mother that I was “sickly and stupid,” and so I went to public schools all the way through High School.  I failed first grade and the public school teacher wanted to send me away to a special school for “retarded” children.  Yes, that was the word she used.  Another teacher came to my rescue and helped me to stay in the school the following year.  I did not give up on life or learning.  Neither did I turn away from the Church.  I became a priest.  I am sorry that you did not have such strength of conviction or faith.

PAUL:  Oh and one more thing (sorry, I forgot!). The God I believe in would rather a couple use a condom to prevent the spread of disease and an unwanted child. There are enough sick people and starving children on this planet.

FATHER JOE:  Men and women are not simply animals in heat.  The marital act is non-contraceptive intercourse between a husband and wife.  Regardless of age and fertility, it is that TYPE OF ACT that is open to the generation of new human life.  Condomistic intercourse is not the marital act.  Not only is it closed to the gift of children, it also places a barrier between the spouses in terms of their mutual fidelity.  The natural law is circumvented in regards to the giving and receiving between spouses.  They are to surrender everything they are to the other and become one flesh… not one flesh divided by a piece of latex.  This is not simply a mechanistic reservation, condomistic intercourse is an entirely different TYPE OF ACT from the marital act, an act that renews the marital covenant, a covenant elevated by Christ to a sacrament which points to his unity with his bride, the Church.  If marital couples are faithful to each then there is no chance of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.  As for the contraceptive intent, it is the handmaid of abortion.  You display this slippery slope in your language about “an unwanted child.”  No child should be unwanted.  Once we start thinking like that, we become enemies of the Gospel of Life proclaimed by Jesus and the Church.  If couples hate, or do not want children, then they should not get married.  Couples who are not married have no right to the sex act.  Our Lord prophesied during his passion about such an attitude as you display.  “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?’” (Luke 23:27-31).    

PAUL:  Sex is a wonderful experience shared between two people in love. But according the Catholic’s way of thinking you need to have a newborn at least once a year because birth control is a MORTAL SIN… How stupid is that?! They just want MORE Catholics to send them more money!

FATHER JOE:  The marital act is indeed a beautiful expression of love between a husband and wife; however, not every form of sexual expression is legitimate or worthy of our humanity.  But I guess you have a problem with any restrictions.  Once again, though, you falsify the Catholic stance toward the propagation of the species.  Natural family planning can help couples space births and to have children.  As long as it is used unselfishly, such family planning has value.  Artificial contraception is deemed immoral but there is no Church requirement that people reproduce like rabbits.  Next, you connect the matter of sex to money… the two topics that seem to obsess you.  The Church embraces millions upon millions who have little voice except that of the Church seeking justice.  She does not write them off or give preference to the rich.  Indeed, despite how they tax the resources of the Church, the late Pope John Paul spoke about the vast multitudes of the poor as the true treasure of the Church.  The Church has a preferential option for the poor.   

PAUL:  I pity you all for being so brainwashed. But then again look at the other cults of the world (including the one run by Jim Jones) who have convinced weak minded individuals to follow them!

FATHER JOE:  You would compare the Church to a cult where a madman murdered his followers?  The Church does not brainwash people or seduce weak minds.  But the enemies of the Church do precisely this, and it appears to me that you are one of their victims. 

PAUL:  Stand up for yourselves people and pray. God WILL listen to you. Some people do need a little guidance along the way but NEVER believe things “men” speak of. There is no need to obey rules made up by a cult intent on controlling your life. Read your Bible and you will learn what GODS will is, not some guys making up the rules as they go…. Catholicism = The Earth’s Greatest Cult (good luck with that!)

FATHER JOE:  Our good Catholic people do pray, sometimes standing and sometimes on their knees.  Catholics are increasingly knowledgeable of their bibles and have the wisdom of the saints, the Church fathers and theologians and biblical exegetes.  We are not afraid of learning.  Ours is an informed faith.  These sources of Christian doctrine are far more reliable than that of one ignorant and angry anti-Catholic fundamentalist.  You offer no reasons why anyone should follow you over the 2,000 year old institution established by Christ.  Do you belong to a church or are you a cult of one.  If Catholics read the Bible and study their faith, then the ignorance, prejudice and treachery of men like you is immediately exposed.  Catholicism = Christianity, pure and simple!  

Mr. Sean Hannity vs. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer

I wrote this commentary back in April of 2007. Given that we are coming up to the March for Life in a week’s time, I thought I would repost it.

Mr. Sean Hannity: “I have no problem with birth control. It’s a good thing.”

It was this statement and attitude that was to result in a sad spectacle of dissent on Church teaching and disrespect to a Catholic priest. It should be noted that Mr. Hannity claims to be pro-life, although he makes exceptions for abortions in cases or rape, incest, or for the life of the mother. A rule is only as strong as its exceptions, and thus this really reflects a moderated pro-abortion stance. A child conceived through rape is still innocent and cannot be understood as an unjust aggressor. A child of incest or sexual abuse is still a human being entitled to the right to life. A child’s life and that of the mother cannot be measured on a scale as to which one is more deserving to survive. All human life is incommensurate.

Mr. Sean Hannity invited Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International to the television show, supposedly to discuss the matter of dissent on contraception by high profile Catholics, particularly in the media. It turned out to be a setup forum for Hannity to enact revenge against the priest for questioning his Catholicism and judging his dissent.

Regarding the recent public clash between Mr. Sean Hannity of FOX News and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, I must come down on the side of the good priest. Compounding the matter, the “sometimes” FOX News analyst Fr. Jonathan Morris scolded Fr. Euteneuer and inadvertently aided dissenters on birth control. He said that Fr. Euteneuer “exercised, on this occasion, shockingly poor judgment,” and was mistakenly “brandishing law without palpable love.” However, the truth be said, Fr. Euteneuer hardly got a word in edgewise. I do not think undermining Church teaching was Fr. Morris’ intent, but it has been the result. As one purported Regnum Christi member said, “If a Legionary of Christ supports Hannity, then he must be in the right!” Personally, I think a general clarification from the Legionaries is required and Fr. Morris should be directed to terminate his formal association with FOX News. He was ordained to be a priest for Christ and the Catholic Church, not for Murdock’s neoconservative news propaganda machine. He has compromised himself.

Fr. Euteneuer reveals that he sought a private meeting about the subject with Hannity back in 2004. Nothing came of it.

Even a number of people who disagree about artificial contraception admitted to me that the priest was treated pretty shabbily after being invited upon the television show. There was no real discussion of the matter at hand. The priest was kept on the defensive and given no opportunity for a proper response. Mr. Hannity contended that the priest had no right to judge him and that he should worry about the outrageous cover-up of pedophile priests before coming after him. Of course, Mr. Hannity makes such judgments on his television and radio shows regularly. This was not the real problem, just that he disliked being under the gun, himself. Further, a priest is not any Christian. He is appointed by Christ as a minister of reconciliation. This role requires that he be a judge of souls and that he speak clearly about what is right and wrong.

Mr. Hannity argued falsely that Fr. Euteneuer had not spoken out forcibly about sexual abuse and the scandal of bishops who did not take it seriously. What Mr. Hannity did was to take the attention off him and to move it elsewhere, insinuating that Fr. Euteneuer was being hypocritical. Mr. Hannity also quickly appealed to the fact that not everyone is Catholic, as if that is an excuse for a Catholic in the public forum to renounce an important element of our moral teaching. Such an appeal to relativism is tragic from a figure who purports to be a political conservative. He had apologized for eating meat on a Friday of Lent. Fr. Euteneuer rightly observed that there is a big difference between the inadvertent violation of a Church discipline and the repudiation of a doctrinal or moral teaching, as here touching upon the Theology of the Body and the openness to human life that must be present in every instance of the marital act.

Mr. Hannity asked again and again, more in a rhetorical fashion than in actuality, “Do you know me?” He said he had been in seminary and had studied Latin. When I heard this I began to scratch my head, so what? The news anchor was becoming incoherent in his tirade against the priest. Were we suppose to give him a gold star for being an altar boy? Fr. Charles Curran, the great dissenter on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc. also went to seminary and studied Latin…such things did not make him right or insure that he had the mind of the Church about all matters.

NOTE: When challenged by Fr. Euteneuer, Hannity made a big deal out of being a former altar boy and “seminarian” who studied Latin. Actually, his “seminary” training consisted of attending a boys’ Catholic High School called St. Pius the X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale, NY. Most of its graduates, like Hannity, were not headed for the priesthood. He was a college drop-out and his “theology” courses were nothing more than high-school and grammar school catechism.

Let us cut to the quick, Mr. Hannity is a neo-conservative in the political arena who leans toward liberalism in the area of Catholicism. It is fine and good that he has urged his children to be chaste and celibate until marriage. He might be anti-abortion, and about this we should all be pleased, but he is not consistent given his stance in favor of certain exceptions and artificial contraception. He even went so far as to mock the priest with what he saw as an inconsistency on Catholicism’s part, a so-called Church-approved birth control, i.e. contraception, Natural Family Planning. But, of course, NFP is not true contraception, it is simply periodic abstinence based upon a knowledge of the body and how it works. It is a way to regulate or space births. Further, unlike the pill or condom, NFP can be used to help couples get pregnant, since they know the times of maximum fertility. If one were to use NFP in a selfish way then it could also be turned into a sinful practice. One may space births but not turn against the meaning of the marital act.

The priest was able to squeeze in the truth, under the mantra of Hannity’s unending assault, that a majority of those who have abortions do so because of contraceptive failure. Artificial contraception is indeed the handmaid to abortion. This is what the priest knows and what Mr. Hannity refuses to admit. It creates a contraceptive mentality which fuels the holocaust of abortion. Nothing was said about the fact that certain forms of contraception are also abortifacient. But, as I said, the interview was not a civil exchange of ideas, but an opportunity to malign a priest who wanted to help Mr. Hannity to be consistent and to insure that Catholics know that contraception is a grievous matter not to be flippantly handled.

In writing to Fr. Jonathan Morris, who chastised a fellow priest and gave solace to Hannity, Fr. Euteneuer writes:

The question that comes to mind is an obvious one: if you are a Fox analyst on Catholic matters, wouldn’t you have been the one to have had those “private conversations” on birth control with Mr. Hannity? How about discussions on his abortion exceptions? When you told Sean “in person” that you “disagreed with him,” was it on the issue of birth control? If you had done that, I applaud you, but your powers of persuasion may need a little honing—Sean has only gotten more vocal on this issue over time. If you did not speak to him about his public dissent, then I ask you, “Why?” While we are on the subject, have you also analyzed and disagreed with Bill O’Reilly’s perfectly horrible disdain for the Holy Father and the Church that you represent?

The church sex abuse scandal was not just about homosexual and predatory priests. It was about clerical negligence and silence on issues that not only affect people’s souls but also ruin people’s lives. It is highly unusual that you or anyone else would want a priest to be silent on issues that affect the salvation of souls. We used to recognize “admonishing the sinner” as one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and I consider my admonishment of Mr. Hannity to have been done in that spirit. I might also add that in doing so I have fulfilled my duty as a priest which is a requirement for my salvation.

Further evidence that Mr. Hannity suffers from a poor faith formation as a Catholic is the following notation at the HLI site:

Mr. Hannity is not backing down, saying on Monday’s radio program that if he were excommunicated he would call the Rev. Jerry Falwell and ask to join his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.

No one, of course, is talking about excommunication; that is just his continuing hysterics about this matter. But note that he would join a Baptist Church, no doubt because of their “political” conservatism, but one that is silent on a weighty moral matter like artificial contraception. Doctrinal differences between them and Catholics are enormous. He would reject the Pope, much of the deposit of faith, and the sacramental life, particularly the Eucharist, to maintain his dissent. He would embrace a Protestant sect and forever turn his back on the sacrifice of the Mass and the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament in exchange for grape juice and loaf bread. Even a knowledgeable Catholic excommunicant, if his faith be real, would want to come home to the sacraments and to the true Church established by Jesus Christ.

ADDENDUM

Fr. Jonathan Morris

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,258291,00.html

As I watched a fellow Catholic priest spar with you on the March 9 edition of Hannity and Colmes, I hung my head in shame and sadness. My colleague in religion (whom I’ve never met) used the public airways and Internet to call you a heretic and hypocrite. Because he chose to do this in a public forum, I want you and your viewers to know, publicly, that as an analyst of this television network, I believe this good priest, who does great work, exercised, on this occasion, shockingly poor judgment. I consider his willingness to give his personal opinion about your status within the Church inappropriate and ill-considered, to say the least.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,258501,00.html

While Fr. Thomas Euteneuer and I may disagree on how best to attain this lofty goal in certain venues, like on a secular television network, we are of one heart and mind on substance.

The Father Cutie Scandal

cutie9Given the recent publication of Fr. Cutie’s self-justifying book, I thought it worthwhile to publish these revised reflections at my BLOGGER PRIEST site:

There are some critics who contend that the scandal in Miami with Father Alberto Cutie is providential. While God can certainly write straight with our crooked lines, I would stress that he never directly intends evil. There I have said it. I have used the big “e” word, EVIL. I am not judging anyone’s soul. However, I can make a judgment upon scandal and the actions of people in the public square that might lead good Catholics astray. I am not entirely sure what happened with Father Alberto Cutie. He appeared on the news with details we did not need but which have further confused and complicated matters. Now he writes a “tell all” book which attacks the teachings and disciplines of the Catholic Church.

He insisted that for twenty-one years he absolutely preserved his celibacy intact and was not sexually intimate with anyone. That is fine and dandy. But then, what happened? During one TV interview he said he “believes” he has fallen in love. He said he “believes” that God might be calling him to marriage. He said he “believes” that celibacy is a good thing and does not want to be the poster boy for married priests. He denied a sexual relationship, told one interviewer he had been intimate with the woman in the photographs, but not sexually and yet he apparently said in another news program that he had been sexually intimate with her. He said that he did not go out of his way to make trouble for the Church. He said that he and the woman he cared about were almost alone on the beach and that they were not there long. But the compromising photos were taken, despite attempts at stealth. Okay, but still he sought to hide a romantic relationship to which he had long ago given up any right to have.

He preached and gave one message in his parish and on radio and television; but he lived another. Had he been an ordinary parish priest, there would have been a local scandal, but it would not be international news. It would not be the stuff of tabloids and anti-Catholic videos. After he was censured, this priest continued to speak about the matter in public. The problem grew. He gave countless interviews in both English and Spanish. He just would not stop talking. He still has not stopped.

A Reflection on Celibacy

What can we say to the enemies of compulsory celibacy for priests? Priestly celibacy is not outdated. It is a powerful sign of contradiction that neither the devil nor the hedonists of the present age can stand. They malign it as a fantasy or cover-up for hordes of homosexual and/or pedophile clergy. Priests forgive the sexual transgressions of other men and women all the time. However, if a priest should fall, there is only recrimination and exile.

There is nothing wrong with men and women expressing love to one another. It is natural and beautiful. But sexual congress belongs to the state of marriage alone. Priests like all men can make mistakes; but, unlike most men, the majority of priests in the Roman Rite are pledged to a lifetime of celibate love. Yes, while celibacy is a discipline, it is also a manner of loving others, albeit in a single-hearted way. The celibate priest knows a special solidarity with the brokenhearted, the poor, the suffering and those who are alone. His celibacy says that he belongs to the people he serves, without reservation or distraction. He does not belong to another person or even to himself. He belongs to the Church in which he serves. He demonstrates his love for God in how he pours out his life for others.

One early interview was particularly disturbing when it was asked if he would stay or leave the Catholic Church. He admitted that he was currently weighing his options. I was saddened. I thought to myself, if a charismatic priest, regarded by some as the Oprah of the Church, should defect, the harm he would inflict upon the Church could be enormous. He had been instrumental in drawing many people back to the practice of their faith. This scandal could further explode and cause an exodus of souls from the true Church.

He was handsome and seemingly filled with vigor and love of the Church. Such things are contagious in a good way. But hero-worship of any sort, particularly with celebrities, has a dangerous flip-side. They can do much good. But, they are also capable of terrible wrongs and damage. Younger people who easily related to him might now view the rules of the Church as arbitrary and heartless. They might say to themselves, if someone like Father Cutie can no longer tolerate the Church, then why should I?

Critics contend, “Isn’t the Father Cutie scandal just further evidence that it is wrong and dangerous for Catholic priests to suppress their natural desires for sexual intimacy with women?”

The priest in question admitted he had a long-standing serious struggle with his sexuality and need for a wife and family. It may be that he sought ordination without open full deliberation and resolution of this concern with those to whom he was entrusted for formation. He may have been chaste in his behavior for many years but failed to surrender dreams and hopes for a family of his own. The man who would be a priest must let these things go. His hopes and aspirations should revolve instead around his prayer life and his goals and service as a pastor of souls. Men in seminary must also be realistic about their drives. As St. Paul reminds us, it is better to marry than to burn. Priests must also be very wary of their fantasies regarding choices not made and how other men might live. The grass might seem greener on the other side of the fence; but priests must not trespass where they do not belong. They freely embraced celibacy so as to enter into holy orders and become priests. Had they become married deacons, they would still be clergy in the Church. They could have lived saintly lives as laymen. But they made a choice. They made promises. These promises should be kept. Before ordination is the proper time for deliberation and soul searching, not afterwards.

The business about Father Cutie should have no meaning beyond this one poor priest, himself. He is not representative of the thousands of other priests in the United States who have never compromised their promises or their celibacy. The impression from the question is that men cannot be expected to have any semblance of self-control. This is silly and shows just how far our society and its views have been contaminated and distorted by excessive nudity, immodesty, and eroticism. We even dress our little girls like whores and then wonder why there is child abuse. Teenagers have their bellies exposed and shorts up to their crotches. Parents sometimes object but then cannot find decent stuff in stores. Television and movies celebrate fornication and give us scene after scene of simulated sex acts. Pornography has gone main stream and sexual gratification is viewed as a necessary rite of passage. It is into this mix that we find the celibate priest. Mothers want their sons married because they cannot see how a man might otherwise be happy. Fathers want their sons married because otherwise everyone will think they are gay. The truth is that celibacy can be very rewarding and liberating. Celibacy is not a denial of love but a special way of loving.

The priest promises perpetual celibacy but even married men promise a fidelity to a spouse which will require periodic chastity. Those who follow Natural Family Planning would understand how one must be creative in love, perhaps reverting back from time to time to the romantic and chaste acts of courtship during fertile periods. Celibacy is not merely a matter of priests suppressing their sexuality; rather, it is redirected to a love of God and a love of neighbor in sacrificial service. Priests, who say their prayers and stay busy, have neither the time nor the interest to pursue an exclusive relationship. If men in general cannot be expected to control themselves, then what happens when a spouse is sick or incapacitated or away? If the husband has military duty abroad or the wife has to travel back home to care for an ailing parent or there is an extended business meeting, would the man control his sexual urges or be compelled to commit adultery? If his wife is sick and cannot have sex with him, does he necessarily turn to her pretty nurse as a proxy? An over-sexed society suffering from an epidemic of fornication, perversion, adultery, pornography, prostitution and child endangerment can hardly speak in a credible way about priestly celibacy and marriage. The trouble with these fallen priests is not the Church but the fact that they themselves are formed and affected more by the fallen world around them than by the Gospel. Secularists and hedonists criticizing priestly celibacy are like inebriated boozers telling teetotalers to take a drink.

Where Does a FIRED Catholic Priest Go?

Before he made his jump, I read one critic who argued that Father Cutie could defect to the Episcopalian Church, get married and continue his parish and media ministry. I wrote: “Yes, he could do this, but he might forfeit his soul in such a move. The moral state of people who were raised in the Episcopal or Anglican Church is one thing; the state of those who abandon Catholicism to join their ranks is another.”

The original Protestant reformers may have paid a terrible price in their break from Rome. They should have known better. The same cannot be said for those who were raised in the Protestant traditions. This is all they know. Those elements of Catholic faith preserved after the break may very well be meritorious for our Protestant brothers and sisters. However, those very same elements may convict former Catholics who were supposed to remain steadfast within the body of the Church and in the profession of all that we believe as true. Ignorance of the truth does provide some measure of excuse. Catholics in general and priests in particular, would have a more difficult time. They were one with the true Church. They professed its faith and received its sacraments. The conviction from the Fourth Lateran Council, Trent and in the margins of Vatican II cannot be escaped: there is no salvation outside the Church. Those who know, perfectly well, that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and then refuse to join or leave its ranks, might lose their place in the heavenly kingdom. In addition, the Holy Father has insisted that Protestant churches are ecclesial communities but not churches in the full Catholic sense. The Anglicans like to see themselves as a branch of Catholicism, but this sentiment is not shared by the successor of St. Peter. There are serious questions about apostolic succession and its priesthood and Mass. Non-Catholic communities suffer from many dire errors in teaching. Yes, the Episcopalians have married priests, but they also have openly gay clergy and (women) priestesses. They tolerate abortion, sodomy, fornication, contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc. I doubted Father Cutie could stomach such a so-called church for long; I guess he is proving me wrong.

Father Alberto Cutie Defects to Episcopal Church

I grieve for the Church. It was bad enough that Father Alberto Cutie was living a secret life. He seemed more apologetic about being caught than about having his scandalous doings with his lady-friend photographed on a Florida beach. But next we are told that he joined the Episcopal Church. My heart droped at the news.

The wayward priest spent his designated “retreat” time hanging out with his girlfriend. He did not even try to reform. We have all been deceived. While he asked forgiveness and said that he did not want to be the poster-boy for married priests, he has abandoned the true Church entirely. He has done the very thing which he promised he would not do. He has brought both Church doctrine and discipline to ridicule. He has hurt the faith of simple people. Given his popularity as a pastor and as a widely-known media priest, the danger of his defection is incalculable. Who knows how many will follow him out of the Catholic fold?

The Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade should be deeply embarrassed by his disrespect to the priest’s legitimate bishop, Catholic Archbishop John Favalora. Bishop Frade was not Father Cutie’s true spiritual father, but rather of a robber who came to steal from the flock. In this case, he did not get away with sheep but with the shepherd. Ecumenism was dealt a serious set-back. I was surprised not to see lightning bolts from heaven about this travesty. The good Archbishop would have us pray for his prodigal son in the hope that he might return to the fold.

Quickly defecting after the news of his infidelity broke, he was unwilling to give the matter the proper amount of time and distance for sober reflection. I have to wonder how much of this was premeditated. There was even speculation that his girlfriend may have had some prior involvement with the photographer on the beach. But I think it is reaching to suppose he was setup to force his hand. Regardless of the machinations behind the scenes, the blunt of the blame must be borne by Father Cutie.

Although supposedly orthodox in his teachings, this latest act shows quite the opposite. He broke trust with his bishop and brother priests but now refers to Episcopalian priests as his “many brothers… [who] serve God as married men and with the blessing of having their own families.” This act sickens me. Episcopalian priests may be good Christians, but he sees no difference between the authentic priesthood of Catholicism and the empty shell of Anglicanism. He is not the first. But, almost every one of them abandoned Roman Catholicism, not for deep-seated doctrinal reasons, but because of the desire to bed a woman and still retain a public or ministerial persona as a spiritual guru.

Catholicism receives many Episcopalian priests into her ranks, but they are drawn by doctrinal permanence over fluctuating instability, moral absolutes over relativism and humility coupled with obedience to God and his Church over a selfish and earthbound liberalism. Those who become Catholic often sacrifice much in the way of salary, standing and home. While a few married Episcopalian priests have been ordained in the Catholic Church; many have sacrificed their ministries entirely to be a part of the Catholic family. They placed a higher premium on divine truth than upon a capricious religion easily swayed by the fads and fashions of the day.

How could he give advice about faith and relationships to others on television, radio and in writing when he was so personally messed up? People came to him for life-giving water; but he was really an empty well. Many of his supporters seemed more “on his side” than in harmony with the mind of the Church. He made disciples, inadvertently I suppose, less for Christ and his Church and more for himself. Sometimes I think the Church should rotate clergy in media settings. Left too long in front of the camera or on the radio– and a personality cult frequently develops. We should not hero-worship our clergy. If a popular priest should fall, he might take many souls with him. This business with Father Cutie has re-ignited the married priest debate even though most active priests prefer the status-quo in favor of compulsory celibacy. Who knows how dire this will continue to be for the Church in Miami?

A television station showed parishioners of St. Francis de Sales Parish marching around their church in support of their former pastor. Evidently they did not care that their pastor had broken his promises and had lived a lie. When interviewed they compared Father Cutie’s transgressions favorably against the terrible crimes of pedophiles. The real comparison is with good and faithful celibate priests.

The situation was intensely precarious. Later it became a great deal worse. The woman was identified as Ruhama Canellis. She stood by his side at Trinity Cathedral where they both entered the Episcopalian church. The Episcopal bishop and priests in attendance dressed up for the event. They pulled all the stops. Even priestesses were in attendance. He was planning to marry his lover and to become an Episcopalian priest. He has now realized these aspirations. I suppose it is fitting. King Henry VIII stole the English people from the Catholic Church so that he might divorce and remarry. Canellis is a divorced woman. Did Father Cutie miss the class in seminary on basic Christian morality? Are not fornication and adultery still sins? This should matter to them both. In addition to these concerns, he is now a renegade Catholic priest. If he accepts Protestant teaching, and plans to expound upon it, then he will be a heretic as well. He is digging a big hole for himself. My fear is that thousands might fall into it with him.

Well, it is a sad thing, but if the Episcopalian church wants our rejects then that is their trouble. Look how quickly they grabbed this fallen priest. We would have taken more time with one of theirs. His legitimate Catholic bishop was not even notified about his reception into the Episcopal “church.” That shows how little respect Father Cutie had for him and the ROMAN Catholic Church. The Episcopal diocese should be ashamed of itself. But given the current fragmented status of the Episcopal communion, are they even capable of shame? This was all quite sleazy and I suspect it was in the works for some time. I have no respect for men who do such things.

Father Cutie described his new faith affiliation as “a new family” and yet we do not subscribe to any form of religious relativism. Father Cutie disowned his family. That should be the real headline. All churches are not the same. The Holy Father was clear. The Catholic Church is the true Church; Orthodoxy is a defective church; and all Protestant groupings are ecclesial communities, but not properly CHURCH. Many Protestant communities claim no priesthood or Eucharist; Episcopalians claim both but the Catholic Church judged their orders invalid and their Eucharist as false.

SEE APOSTOLICAE CURAE (Pope Leo XIII, 1896)

They are not a branch of Catholicism but a foreign misbegotten creature that has delusions of grandeur while feigning a pedigree it does not really possess.

What clouds the issue is the presence of former Catholic priests in the Episcopal community. They are still priests, even if in mortal sin and excommunicated. Father Cutie says that he will continue to proclaim God’s Word; but what is a Catholic priest apart from the Catholic Church? Will he preach the Word of God or the word of Cutie? Father Cutie is rejecting the Pope, the authority of his lawful bishop, the seven sacraments as clearly defined by Catholicism, our view of priesthood, our moral teachings on sexuality and marriage, the prohibition against divorce and remarriage, and the basics of Catholic ecclesiology. Will he be happy? Can he close his mind and heart to the many differences we have with Episcopalians? He will be obliged to accept women priests, gay bishops and same-sex unions, a tolerance for abortion, artificial contraception and divorce with remarriage. He is leaving the Church of commandments for the church of anything goes. He says, “I will always love the Catholic Church.” But, he did not love her enough. The Church was his bride. Now he has traded her for two paramours: the divorcee and the mistress church of Henry VIII and Cranmer the despoiler.

The Pope, Condoms & Stupid People

The devil must really be laughing today. He delights in ignorance and sin. He  assuredly has had a hand in the miscommunication of the Pope’s words on condom use. The Pope seemed pretty clear to me in his opposition. But Satan delights in dissent and the numbing of consciences.

WHAT DID THE POPE ACTUALLY SAY?

The Holy Father responded to a series of questions in a book entitled LIGHT OF THE WORLD by Peter Seewald. An over-sexed world latches upon a few remarks about condoms and reads far too much into them.

When asked about the Church’s view of condom use, Pope Benedict XVI replied: “It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution.”

The Pope answered: “In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”

He grants that the use of condoms might reflect the first stirrings of a MORAL SENSE and the desire not to harm or kill others through the spread of infection. He is not giving approval to condom use, merely to a movement away from selfishness and irresponsibility to a more mature regard for the needs and rights of others. Notice that he says this might be the “first step.” Later steps would have such a person come to awareness that condoms are an insufficient answer and that marital monogamy and/or abstinence is the way to go.

He clarifies this with an example: “There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes. But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”

The Pope is very clear, despite misrepresentations in the news media, that condom use is “not the proper way” to deal with the HIV epidemic.

The popular misunderstanding of his remarks reflects this papal assertion: “Becoming simply fixated on the issue of condoms makes sexuality more banal and exactly this is the reason why so many people no longer find sexuality to be an expression of their love, but a type of self-administered drug.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The remarks from the Holy Father have been sensationalized and misconstrued. The Church’s moral stand on condom use has NOT CHANGED. Condomistic intercourse is always and everywhere intrinsically immoral.

The press seems to think that the Church has changed its moral teaching, at least allowing male prostitutes to use condoms. Some idiots are actually complaining and questioning that if male prostitutes can use condoms then how about female prostitutes and those who live and act like prostitutes? One writer was upset that condoms were now permitted to all except married couples. But the Pope did not say that condoms were okay; indeed, he argued quite the opposite. He merely says that such usage might indicate the beginnings of a moral reflection. What they are actually doing is still condemned as a matter of mortal sin.

Cynics might argue that if you are going to sin then sin wisely. But the Church will never recommend sinful behavior, even to avoid other evils.

God save us from stupid people!

We pray to the Lord… LORD, hear our prayer!

I doubt you will hear this petition any time soon in our churches, but among faithful learned Catholics, it is certainly a plea we make in our personal prayers.

Media analysts and even governments need to be added to this plea. A similar ignorance led to an Islamic uproar over the Pope’s academic remarks back in 2006 in Regensburg, Bavaria when he urged a disavowal of violence as a dictated in the Koran for forced conversions. Protestors proved his point by murdering a nun and chanted, “Death to the Pope!” The Pope makes a subtle qualification about condom use and extremists on one side demand “further” compromise and on the other, chastise the Holy Father for heretical deviation. Even the Spanish government ridiculed the Pope for not going far enough, and yet the papal responses represent no retreat from the moral law. The Pope does not have the authority to declare right something which is objectively wrong. Pope Benedict XVI carefully nuances his words and many today do not have the intellectual savvy to parse his statements.

A United Nation’s top AIDS official said, “This move recognizes that responsible sexual behavior and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention.” It was nothing of the kind. The Pope still rightly condemns the use of condoms as an unacceptable solution. Activists in South Africa judged the statement as a “step in the right direction.” But I repeat, there has been no change of direction. Other enthusiasts for condomistic contraception wrongly rejoiced that this will allow for population control. The Holy Father will most certainly have to offer a grade-school-level explanation of his words to these thick-headed fools. Otherwise, they will spread the lie that we shall see Church approved artificial contraception. Indeed, some voices in the press are talking about this as I speak.

God save us from stupid people!

God save us from the manipulation of truth and the oppression of Satan!