Questions & Answers
about Authentic Catholic Teaching
there are several sins that are not forgivable. This may
at first appear to impugn the goodness and mercy of God, but a clear
understanding of the nature of these sins will reveal it to be quite
Holy Mother Church teaches us that sins are divided into two distinct (but not always mutually exclusive) categories:
Sins of Weakness:
these sins are incurred through our sensitive appetites,
that is to say, our physiological desires. 1 Such
sins concern our susceptibility to sins of the passions such as
sexual desires and our inherent weakness in governing them
according to right reason and revelation.
Sins of Malice:
these sins are incurred through the will.
The latter is far more serious, and concerning serious matters, always Mortal.
clear, let us first understand the distinction between Mortal and Venial
Sins — which have figured largely in our holy Catholic Faith for over
2000 years until the past 50 years (following Vatican II and its deeply
defective implementation) in which these distinctions have been virtually
expunged from Catholic vocabulary, especially at the pulpit and even
in the Confessional. This is a grievous omission, detrimental to the
individual soul and to the Church as the Body of Christ. Mortal sin
is the spiritual death of the soul to God. It is the most grievous of
all evils because it totally separates man from God Who is the source
of his life and Who is the End (Omega) for which he was created.
The best description of a Venial Sin comes from the Baltimore Catechism:
“Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance; or in matters of great importance it
is an offence committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will" Venial sin predisposes us to the far greater danger of Mortal Sin.
The matter must be serious.
The assent of the will must be present following sufficient reflection
The sin must be committed
Lacking any two of these three criteria, renders the sin less than Mortal. This does not make the sin Venial, nor of little consequence. The sin may yet be grievous, but not Mortal, and will, like any sin (yes, even venial sins) require Sacramental absolution by a priest at Confession.
Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost
(to maliciously predicate
evil of what is manifestly divine in the works of the Holy Ghost.
To deny the manifest presence of God and attribute it, instead,
to the evil one.) 1
Despair — of ones ability to be saved by God, or
God’s ability to save ones soul ... given the gravity of
the sins it has committed. This is the refusal to acknowledge the
power, benevolence, and mercy of God, believing
that God is either unable or unwilling
to forgive us our sins. Both are contrary to revealed truth set
out in Holy Scripture. It is both a denial of omnipotence
of God and the inexpressible mercy of God. One sets up
oneself as the ultimate Judge — not God.
In this sense, it is self-condemnation.
Final Impenitence persevering in, and unrepentant of, Mortal
Sin up to the moment of death). This, too, is self-condemation.
Obstinacy in sin — the deliberate rejecting of the means
to salvation through a determined preference to sin at the known
cost of ones salvation) This is a disposition of the soul in
life, and especially at the time of death. God will not violate
our free will. The choice to remain in sin, and,
eo ipso apart from God, is ours alone. In this sense,
too, it is self-condemnation.
Presumption (upon God's mercy, goodness, and forgiveness, such that one assumes that he will attain to salvation in any event — no matter how sinful, vicious, and dissolute a life one may lead. In a word, it is Heaven considered as an indefeasible right, as ones natural due given divine goodness upon which he can count despite doing nothing on his part to cooperate with God in working out his salvation)
1 “I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I work, I understand not. For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do. If then I do that which I will not, I consent to the law, that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, that which is good. For to will, is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good, I find not. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. Now if I do that which I will not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I have a will to do good, evil is present with me. For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans7.14-24)
2 “Amen I say to you, that all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and the blasphemies wherewith they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin. Because they said: He hath an unclean spirit."(Mark 3:28-30: 28)
I have been dating my boyfriend for almost 4 years now. At the beginning of the relationship I had a certain way of thinking similar to that of the average immoral society. However throughout the years I’ve come across people (i.e. priests, books, family members, etc) whom through their share wisdom they have change my way of thinking, and I’m very thankful to God cause now I'm more aware of the Truth. I'm rather more conservative now. With that said, this 4 year relationship was not pure at all or as how relationships are intended to be by God’s laws. Today I've come to realize that my current boyfriend is not the ideal man I would like to marry (if I marry) nor is he the ideal man that I could like for my children (if I have any). We are very different in mind, but I continue to think that I would have not change if I had not met these wise people. It was an unintended confession that opened my eyes as a matter of fact. Nevertheless, I still have certain unexplained feelings for my boyfriend and I’m still with him but I know that if indeed I wanted to remain with him forever, there are many things he would have to change first. I feel in no authority the right to change him or ask changes of him even if they are for his own good, especially because when I ask of such changes he comments that he is not changing for God or because he sees it wrong but because he does not want to lose me. I fear that later in life he'll hate me because I made him give up things that feel so “natural" or “okay to do" for him (i.e. pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, degrading sarcasm, etc). I have given him my standpoints on such subjects (and we don’t agree in perspectives) however hes told me he would stop and that he had actually stopped. When I made my decision for a chaste life, he thought I was simply talking about sexual intercourse and indirectly still wanted at least other acts that are sexually pleasurable and completely against God. I gave into his thoughts and this non-sexual intercourse pleasurable acts for sympathy and afraid of losing him. To begin with my actual questions, on the one hand I don’t want to break up with him because I did notice minor changes in him to living a more moral lifestyle. However, I fear I will succumb into sin (as already did in the past) if I continue with him. How do I know that God didn’t make us (me and my boyfriend) meet so that I could help him move towards God as the people that I came across helped me (which I believe was no coincidental). I am very confused and I tell God that I would gladly help but I am not strong enough, I am still working in my own conversion to a true Catholic. I still don't understand many things. I have begin to pray more so than before and inclusion I have began to pray the rosary at nights. Am I just to blind and not know how to decode God's answers, or does it just prove that I don't have enough faith? What is my duty as I try to become more spiritual when I can't even show enough mercy (from the passage of God’s Will: It is to be merciful, just as God has shown you mercy.) or forgive (Is to forgive perfectly...as He himself has forgiven you)? Do I simply not know how to love, since I can’t accept him (my boyfriend) with his faults? My final question is, where do I draw the line in my current state with as far as being merciful, forgiving and being patient, it seems to me that Jesus would never draw the line, is that what I must do as well, just tolerate everything so that he (my boyfriend) does not fall? Am I being selfish by leaving him just to seek my own salvation for fear that by being with I will fall into sin and his ways of thinking?
I must add on that I’m in a long distance relationship, we have not engage in pleasure but I think it is because he is not here. In other words I cannot say for sure I won’t fall again into his askings when he comes back. For the same reason I do not want to go to confession, because I’ve confessed about it twice already and I don't stop and I feel like a hypocrite towards God. After confession I feel completely enthusiastic and decided to stop the sin, but I fall once I’m with my boyfriend.
Thank you very much for listening and please do respond, anything would be grateful.
Name not disclosed
First, I wish to thank
you for writing such a candid and trusting letter — this took great
courage … and the prompting of God Who alone stirs your heart to do
so. It is such a humbling realization to find that God Himself knows
us — little and sinful as we are - — and comes to us asking not just
for a place in our heart … but for our very heart! And so He has come
to you. “You have
not chosen me: but I have chosen you”
(St. John 15.16).
He comes to you and now He sues for your love — your love in return for His. You are “the beloved”. He has set His heart upon you, and as any lover, He loves you with a jealous love, wanting you, desiring you for Himself above all, before all — and so great a Lover is God that He would keep you for Himself alone, as “the Love of your life.” That is to say, He wants your love pre-eminently and above all other loves. In a word, Little One, you are beginning to realize what you have yet to crystallize in your heart, to come to terms with in your mind: the astounding realization that He, God, is in love with you. You are “the beloved”.
You recoil at the thought! “God … GOD … is in love with … me?! How can that be? I am sinful.” Yes, that is true. “I am unworthy!” Yes, that also is true. But you are also the imago Dei, you were created in His own image — and so deeply within yourself you possess the inimitable beauty — and lovableness —of God Himself. But the image has been marred by sin, the mirror reflecting God (the imago) has been bent, abused, distorted … by the world which has had its way with you. It is so battered, so covered in the opacity of sin, that you no longer see Him clearly when you look deeply within yourself. Instead of God, in Whose beautiful and unmarred image you have been created, you see what the world, what sin, has done to you, and you turn away in shame. This is not what God wanted for you. In fact, He now comes to you as Christ came to Veronica on His sorrowful Way to the Cross: you see the battered image of God, scourged by the world, and in a silent pleading He looks upon you, asking you without so much as a word, to place the fabric of your life to His bruised and disfigured face — and when you clean it of the abuse of the world, it is beautiful to behold — and what is more, the fabric of your being now bears the image of God once more upon it.
Know this first, Little Sparrow: you are now being asked to respond to God Who first set His love upon you. It is the reason for all your questions and all your confusion. And until you respond to it in fullness, He will sue you, seek you, all the days of your life. Why? Because he loves you. Can He do otherwise with whom He loves?
I will answer your questions, Little One — but not as the world would have me answer, for the world is equivocal and wishes to keep what it renounces, it wishes to reconcile sin with sanctity, to keep, in a word, both what God wants and what the world wants. And the two are opposed. Prior to his real conversion, and while yet striving with the flesh and its desires, Saint Augustine famously uttered: “O, God … make me chaste! … but not yet.” This is the way of the world, the way of sorrow from which God called St. Augustine through the unceasing prayers of his mother, Saint Monica.
You are ambivalent in your feelings toward your boyfriend — and for good reason. You have sought to satisfy his desires, largely in sexual terms. But I do not see him attempting to satisfy your desires: specifically your desire to be chaste. This is understandable: he cannot have both — so he himself chooses one: his own desires — not yours. That is not love. Love does not seek itself. It seeks the beloved, and the good of the beloved in all things. This is what it means to love. Did he really love you, he would seek the desire of your heart: to be chaste; and not the desire of his sexual satisfaction. He would be willing, even eager, to do what makes you happy — as you have been too eager to do what makes him happy at the expense of your own unhappiness. Yes, I understand that sexual desire is often mutual, even if it is against ones will. This is to be human. And so you have fallen into sin, much to your unhappiness. But do not despair, Little One. Despair is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
You have gone to Holy Confession with sincere sorrow in your heart and a firm purpose of amendment. How beautiful this is. You had received Actual Grace and forgiveness. “BUT”, you say, “I went out and did the same thing again! — and went to Confession again — and still sinned again!” O, Little One, there are none among us who have not — even among the greatest Saints. However many times you fall, get up, daughter of the Most High God! Get up and return to Him through the Sacrament of Confession. Again and again and again until you sin this way no more. God will give you the grace you need to succeed. You must pray for it and work very hard toward it. Sanctity always comes at great cost — especially to what is weak and human within us. But its beauty exceeds all others! You become like unto your true Lover Who is God, and Who is sanctity itself.
The salvation of your boyfriend’s soul cannot be purchased through sin, Little One. No matter how tender your heart, you cannot bring your boyfriend to God through sin. It is not possible, for God is holy. You cannot choose a sinful act in an attempt to arrive at what is holy — either for yourself or for another. Nor are you being merciful to your boyfriend by acquiescing to his sinful desires: to the contrary, Little One (who are so precious to God!) you are cooperating with him in sin which is evil — and which leads him away from God. It that real mercy, my child? To lead another still further away from God Who is his greatest good, though he may recognize it not?
Understand this well, Little Sparrow, for I speak from the heart of the Church: Your primary obligation is to save your own soul first! How can you presume to save another soul when you give no thought or effort to saving your own? You cannot. Or can you save another soul at the expense of your own? You will lose both. Please understand this. It is not being selfish! It is our first and foremost obligation! To save our own souls. Did not Christ tell us that we do not do well when we seek to take the splinter out of our brother’s eye — while we ourselves still have a splinter in our own? We must look to our own conduct, our own sanctification, our own salvation first — before we can begin to set about assisting another in saving their own.
I apologize that this letter has been overlong, my Little Sparrow. I sense your pain and confusion and would that your heart be at peace. Remember the words of Our Blessed Lord to Mary Magdalene who had sinned much, and became His most faithful follower: “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
Let us do likewise
God keep you.
I am wondering if you can provide me with guide lines, and some answers to what to me is a moral problem. I would like to know is looting always a sin? How does one differentiate between what would be acceptable and what is not. What is the criteria, what has the Church actually to say on this subject? It is obvious to me that there are situations , usually disasters or tragedies (say fire, flood, etc) where there will sadly be, by the ruthless, an immediate exploitation of the situation to grab, to steal, for the purpose of remuneration (often black marketing) or possession of the actual goods.
One thing in particular makes me raise this point, a supermarket was structurally badly affected by the quake, the walls badly cracked, the building in disarray ... But the building obviously carried a great stock on perishable and less perishable foods. In a situation where people are cut off from water, electricity and food, especially when they have dependent families and are stealing motivated by a desire to support the lives of their children and families ... is this still regarded as a sin? In a situation where the Supermarket became non viable, in other words not able to open for business because of public safety, housing food with sell by dates, and probably ultimately intended to be bulldozed ... is looting in this situation. I find it very hard to believe it is, so I would ask you to try and clarify this point of what is acceptable and what is not.
Perhaps you can give some light on this.
What would the moral theologians say for example ... Is looting always
a sin — that's the question. Thank you.
A.U. England - 02 March 2010
To answer your question in a word: Stealing is always a sin.
When taking something as a matter of opportunity that does not belong to oneself, and with no intention to compensate the owner in any way, one commits the act of stealing which is breach of the 8th Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” In a dire situation necessitating the acquisition of another’s property to sustain one’s life or the lives of others (as long as what is stolen does not in and by the act imperil the life of its lawful owner), it cannot be construed as “theft” since no “good” in the way of anything material is greater than the “good” of life that is preserved at the cost of “matter”. It must be understood in terms of “commensurability”: there is nothing in the way of “matter” that corresponds in value, and is therefore deemed commensurable with, “human life.” There is no correspondence in value since what is material can always be replaced, whereas a life cannot
This, however, does abrogate the 8th Commandment. It is not a matter of so-called “situational ethics” which would attempt to rationalize and therefore justify sin . You will note that we mentioned, in our opening response, the terms “a matter of opportunity”, and “no intention to compensate the lawful owner”. These are the two conditions that make the act of expropriating another’s property to oneself unjust and therefore sinful. The thief steals “as a matter of opportunity”, and not out of “need” — specifically the direst need, which is to sustain life. This acquisition of another’s goods — in the case to which you adverted, a grocery store partly destroyed and left open to the possibility of looting — is still, in this case “opportunistic”, inasmuch as it was an opportunity provided by a disaster —but it is an opportunity for some, perhaps many, that most readily affords the preservation of life. This same opportunity can be availed by a thief who has no pressing need of what is in the store, or perhaps no need at all, but rather sees it as the “opportunity” to augment (not to preserve — and that is key) his own well being — especially at the expense not simply of the lawful owner, but of those who stand in genuine and dire need of what the store contains, and which would not be available to them were the thief to succeed in his own ambitions prompted by “want” (not need) first, and heedless of the “need” (not the simple want) of others. The thief therefore steals twice: from the lawful owner, of his possessions, and from those in dire need, of their lives. Here we see the ugliness of the sin of theft in the starkest terms.
The behavior of the one who takes what does not belong to him to preserve life is motivated by an intrinsic good, whereas the behavior of the thief is motivated by an intrinsic evil. Culpability, or fault, clearly cannot be ascribed equally to each. The former is motivated by a greater good than anything which can be stolen, whereas the latter, the thief, is motivated solely by base intentions completely extrinsic to the preservation of life.
The second, equally important consideration (although subordinate in existential terms) concerns “the intent to compensate”. From this, even the man who takes what does not belong to him to preserve his own life or that of another, is not absolved from the demands of justice which require that what belongs to another be restored to him if taken without his consent. The “just man” — even while taking what does not belong to him, has the intention of repaying to the owner what the owner has lost as a result of his appropriating the owner’s goods to preserve the greatest good of all: life. The exigency does not absolve him from justice, and the just man recognizes this, and firmly intends to repay the owner his losses as soon as time and opportunity affords him. Once the exigency has passed, life has been preserved or sustained, it is the intent of the just man to restore to owner what is rightfully his.
The just man, under such circumstances, neither sins nor circumvents justice.
The “thief”, on the other hand, being of evil will, has no intention whatever of acceding to the demands of justice, and therefore no intention of repaying the owner. He both sins and circumvents justice.
It is the sad reality, given the human condition since the Fall of our First Parents, that what was “opportunistic” soon becomes predatory. The man seeking food (which he does not have and which he needs) will sometimes use the opportunity to steal a television (which he may not have and which he does not need). When the one entering the store for food comes out also with a record player, he is a looter and a thief. There are no “extenuating circumstances” and hence no “situational ethics” (which are, in fact, no “ethics at all) that can exculpate the thief.
In this same Fallen State, man is likely to rationalize his sinful behavior by invoking the perennial problem of the “unequal distribution of wealth” and construing it as an injustice that he is merely “mitigating” or to which he is applying his own remedy. It nevertheless remains that two injustices do not attain to justice.
Just one more point needed for clarification. What if the person who takes what is not his under the "dire circumstances" that you outlined — realistically has no way of repaying the owner? What if he or she is too poor, too old, or even physically unable to pay the owner back? What then?
A.U. England - 03 March 2010
had said in our first reply that, "the just man recognizes this,
and firmly intends to repay the owner his losses as soon as time and
opportunity affords him. Once the exigency has passed, life has been
preserved or sustained, it is the intent of the just man to restore
to owner what is rightfully his.
Full restitution may not always be possible, nor even a restitution “in kind”. The effort is nevertheless made, in whatever measure possible to “the one who has taken”, to compensate the owner of the goods that had been taken. As we say, it may not be “in kind” — bringing, for example, a perishable good like bread back to the owner, since the taker cannot make bread. He can, however, offer the owner his labor as payment — returning to the owner an equal value even if not “of kind”. The labor he offers would equal the cost of the bread to the owner.
On the other hand, he may be so destitute that he is unable to repay the owner in any material way (he may be physically disabled and utterly poor). In such a case he could offer what is of incommensurably greater value to the owner than what he had taken: prayer for the owner that God Himself repay manifold what he had taken and cannot repay. In a word, the taker commends the owner to God to repay the owner what he himself cannot, but which God surely can. If the owner is a just man, then he receives in gratitude the incommensurably greater good that the taker offers him. If he is unjust and unmerciful, he will demand that the taker be imprisoned for his deed (not misdeed), in which case the owner incurs the guilt of mercilessness that calls down mercilessness from God upon himself — and receives no compensation whatever — spiritual or material, for an imprisoned man brings no value to the owner whatever.
We need remember the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: “as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
This is the model of justice and mercy that must be invoked in such situations. As one very devout Nun once put it, “God cannot be outdone in generosity.” What is more, every sin is a greater offense to God than to the person also sinned against, for the first principle violated emanated from God (in this case a breach of the 8th Commandment) prior to its violation against man. There is no sin against a man that is not concurrently and to a greater degree, a sin against God Who is primarily offended.
In the event that the owner or his heirs are no longer available, or no longer exist to be repaid, the debt owed should be repaid to the poor in the “same kind” that he would have paid the owner: by labor or prayer on their behalf since he himself is poor and in need, understanding both the want and need of the poor. The payment, ultimately — because of his own destitution — has, we will remember, been given to God to repay, Who sees and knows the genuine destitution of the debtor and will repay as He sees and knows best, and to whose benefit alone He only knows.
In the way of an aside, we would remind you (because of our uncertainty of your other response) that “Situational Ethics” is abhorrent, and a mockery of genuine ethics. The “Agape” of Paul Tillich is much wanting, abused, and misconstrued. Our selfless love for our fellow man in and for God does not preclude justice, which is a perfection both in God and in man. Love does not abrogate justice. Indeed, justice is a manifestation of love inasmuch as it manifests a perfection of God Who is Just and Loving and in Whom there is no contradiction between the two, but in Whom, rather, the two notions are complementary and mutual.
We hope this answers your second question.
Dear Mr. Editor,
I would be so grateful if you could explain to me, what actually constitutes a lie?
Sometimes you know in life one is placed in a situations where you simply cannot state the truth about a situation or person. Someone's asks you for example. “Do you know that Angela is having an affair”?
It is clear that out and out lying is sinful, but there are situations where you can’t reveal the truth, what then ?
If I say yes I do, then I am actually confirming for the other what may actually be gossip, if I say no, and there are misgivings in the back of my mind, am I telling lies?
I am so averse to gossiping, it is so destructive, and causes so much pain. When an individual is over inquisitive, or trying subtly or less subtlety to extricate information from me, can I then justifiably tell a lie?
It can happen if I say for instance, I really couldn't say, or I am not prepared to enter into this, that it is misconstrued to mean that I am avoiding answering because the question is true, which it is not! And even if it were its not my place to say.
I feel a bit bad because I would be perfectly able to tell a lie to protect another from exposure ... and I have done that in the past.
So what does the Church say about this kind of situation.
It stands clear that if I were asked by a priest, a policeman or someone in a legitimate position I would answer truthfully.
Can you help on this one.
Thank you for your help beforehand.
We will provide you
with two versions of the answer: the one is short, the other a bit
longer, but necessary to completely understand what is involved
the instances you adverted to, for example, when someone asks you,
“is so-and-so having a relationship with so-and-so?” – and you know
in fact that they are — are you compelled to confirm this?
No. Possessing the truth in no way binds us or compels us to publicly disclose it unless public harm were to follow from our failure to do so. This is clearly not the case with gossip which itself is sinful behavior. In fact, to cooperate in the propagation of gossip is to abet the sin itself — something you are never compelled to do under any circumstances.
The most appropriate answer would be, “The affairs of so-and-so are none of my business, and I am surprised that you believe it is yours. Her affairs are her own, just as yours are your own, and whatever her private affairs are they should not be open to public discourse. If you really have a compelling reason to know, why do you not ask her? We should respect her privacy as we hope that she would respect our own.”
A simpler and altogether truthful answer would be, “I do not involve myself in her private affairs. If, for some reason you really must know, I suggest that you ask her.” The fact of the matter is that you not involve yourself in her private affairs, even if certain aspects of them have become known to you inadvertently.
The instance, on the other hand, in which “you tell a lie to protect another from exposure ...”, that is to say, to protect another from deleterious consequences that would follow from your telling the truth appears to be more complex, although it is not. Once again, you are not compelled to tell the truth about what you know explicitly in the terms asked. You are not compelled to make public what is private. But neither must you lie.
On what authority does the asking party have the legitimate power to morally (or legally) compel a truthful answer from you — explicitly in the terms in which it is asked? You had answered the question correctly: “It stands clear that if I were asked by a priest, a policeman or someone in a legitimate position I would answer truthfully.”
If the inquiring part does not possess any of these credentials, they do not legitimately possess the moral authority to compel an answer from you that would satisfy their question. For example, if you were asked, “Does so-and-so engage in such-and-such activity?”, it would be scandalous of you to confirm a presumed evil of that person (presumed, because, were it not presumed but still in need of authentication, it would not be asked of you in the first place). First of all, your own knowledge of all the circumstances surrounding the sin of another is, at best, deficient. You may know that such and such thing in fact was done by that person, while remaining totally unaware of any circumstances extenuating it, or any of the antecedents that culminated in it. As such, you can genuinely and truthfully assert, “I do not know.” You know “in part” and “deficiently” — at least in the definitive terms of the one inquiring who is seeking a “yes” or a “no”.
But you can authentically
provide neither. You are in possession of certain and very likely
superficial aspects of what that person had done, but not
to the extent that you can say with full knowledge and complete
certainty: “yes”. Only the person inquired about can make that final
statement. You really cannot answer the question in the unqualified
context in which it is presented to you. You cannot say, “no”, on
the one hand, because that is not true. But neither can you say,
“yes” on the other, because it is equally not true that you really
“know” all that the person had done, under what circumstances it
was done, and what antecedents led up to it.
You can truthfully answer, “If what you say is true, I suppose that only so-and-so could tell you himself. Ask him.”
If this is construed by the questioner as “avoidance and therefore likely”, then that is the illicit assumption of the one who asks — for which you have no responsibility whatever. You are answering his question — it is not for you to attempt to persuade him to any conclusions. These he makes of himself, in light of, or despite what you say. You have spoken the truth, and should be entirely comfortable with that. The conclusions he reaches are not of your making.
A lie is any defection from the truth, from what is true, from what knows to be true, or the abrogation of what is true altogether.
A lie is always sinful, for it is a violation of the 9th Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20.16 & Deut. 5.20) — extrapolated and widely accepted as a proscription against lying, or untruthfulness in general. To underscore the irredeemable evil inherent in lying, we must look not so much to the Old as to the New Testament; not so much to Moses, as to Jesus.
In the way of one of the few actual descriptions (not citations) of the devil that occur in the Bible, the one Jesus Himself uses refers to the evil one as, “a liar and the father of lies”.
This is a startling statement coming from an unimpeachable source — Christ Himself. It is startling because it completely overthrows the notion that lying can proceed from any benign motive, that lying can be innocuous, and sometimes even unavoidable and necessary as a means to a good end. Jesus tells us something strikingly different.
Note that he describes the devil as he, “quia mendax est et pater eius” — not just a liar himself, but the father of lies, the one who begets lies as a father begets children. As it is the nature of a father to beget children, so it is the nature of the devil to beget lies. He is, in a word, the malignant “pater eius” from whom all lies proceed.
What is more, in another context, Christ tells us that "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit." (St. Matthew 7.18). So understood, a lie, being evil, cannot possibly be the occasion of a good. Its fruit is evil because it is contrary not just to the 8th Commandment, but to Christ Himself, “Who is the Truth”. (St. John 14.16) How then can a lie, any lie, be construed as good when by its very nature it is contrary to (the nature of) Christ Himself?
This is not to say
that all lies are of the same gravity. Very clearly this is not
the case. But because some lies appear to facilitate an apparent
good perceived as greater than the evil inherent in the lie, does
not, even from a benign motive, make the lie not a lie. It remains
what it is: a lie.
Most often, despite our greatest efforts, we cannot overcome the sense of guilt that accompanies every lie, no matter how “small”. We instinctively recognize that, regardless of the apparently good ends that had motivated it, we have made a breach and have sinned. Our own consciences (the voice of God within) convict us in spite of the good end achieved. It is a good achieved at the expense of another good: truth. We attempt to put them on a balance in terms of magnitude or proportion: the more the scale tips toward the good, the more “benign” the lie.
The problem with this is that the scale is not balancing two competing goods, such that the preponderance of the one over the other justifies the choice of a greater good over a lesser good. In either case, the choice will be a good choice, although one may be “better” — that is to say, possessed of a greater magnitude of good — than the other. Literally, such a “balancing act” is justifiable in attempting to determine the preponderance of things alike in nature. One does not place grapes on the one side and apples on the other to determine which is better, or which, by weight (preponderance), yields greater value, still less a diamond on the one side and a bar of lead on the other. This “balancing” is pointless.
It is much the same with evil and good. To
attempt to balance evil with good is to presume that they are like
in nature, and commensurable in value — when in fact they are
opposite both in nature and value since “evil” has no “being”
at all. In fact, it is precisely a “privation of being! Evil
is the absence or deprivation of a good. What we understand
as the evil we call illness, for example, is nothing more than diminished
health — it is a privation of “being healthy”. Were there no such
state as “being healthy”, there would be no “illness”. Evil, in
a word, has no “existence” of itself. It is a diminution of a good
thing, but not a “thing” itself.
God keep you.
I read an article recently by an American priest who said in his opinion a plenary indulgence is never ever gained by anyone. He bases his opinion on the fact that one of the stated requirements to gain a plenary is for one to be totally free from the disposition to sin either venial or mortal. And in his opinion given our human nature not one of us is ever free from this disposition. So is therefore not in a position to gain one of these indulgences.
This disturbed me greatly. And I found myself giving much thought as to whether I am in fact ever going to be capable of gaining a plenary indulgence, which means so very much to me .
One COULD not or indeed SHOULD not be at confession on a daily basis to try and keep oneself free from all sin. The danger here as I see it one could easily develop a disposition to scruples which is a very unhealthy state of mind.
Can I ask you editor to please comment on the article by the priest. In the hope that I will be reassured that my attempts to release a little soul from purgatory and so fulfill the needful heart of my Jesus are not in vain.
09 March 2010
The American priest is, presumably, expressing his opinion as a person and not as a priest, for he is not expressing the authoritative and indisputable teaching of Holy Mother the Church.
That his personal opinion is divergent from, and in conflict with, what the Church teaches — a teaching to which he is bound to assent not just as a priest but as a Catholic, is most regrettable but hardly surprising. What is more, his statements are a scandal to the Church and to the faithful in that they cause confusion among the faithful in regard to genuine Catholic doctrine. The priest is bound to unambiguously teach authentic Catholic doctrine — not to express his “opinions” about matters of the Faith that have been established and are not subject to dispute or question. “What”, the confused Catholic asks, “is the truth of the matter at hand? The Church holds and teaches the unique, profound, and unquestionable value of Indulgences, particularly Plenary Indulgences. But the Church’s representative in the person of this priest, is declaring otherwise. Who is right? The Church and her countless Saints who have spoken clearly over the centuries on this matter — or "Father-knows-best-but-really-doesn’t?” The question is rhetorical. The Church is right and Father so-and-so is clearly wrong.
On what basis does he make the pronouncement, “Given our human nature not one of us is ever free from this disposition (to sin) … and therefore [no one is] in a position to gain one of these indulgences.”? Not in virtue of his priesthood. No priest has the authority to interpret authentic Church teaching to accord with his misguided opinion. No bishop, no theologian, no Catholic whomsoever has this authority. This misguided and incorrect “opinion” does not reflect what the Church teaches, what the Sacred Deposit of the Faith holds, and what Catholic Dogma maintains.
The statement that, “Given our human nature not one of us is ever free from this disposition” (requisite to a Plenary Indulgence) in and of itself reveals a defective knowledge of the norms outlined for the gaining of a Plenary Indulgence, which makes no reference whatever to a “disposition to sin”:
a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work
to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill three
conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion
and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It
is further required that all attachment to
sin, even to venial sin, be absent.”
As you can see, it
stipulates that one must be free from “attachment”
to sin — not from the disposition to sin. The two are quite
different. To be free from “attachment to sin” is not to be free
from the allurement of sin which would constitute freedom from
temptation (something to which Christ Himself was subject in
His sacred humanity in the Three Temptations - St. Matthew
4.1-11). It is not possible to be free from temptation in our
fallen state because we are not free of the Tempter who ever assails
those who follow Christ. (cf. 1 Peter 5.8)
We cannot be free from temptations to sin, (cf. St. Matthew 18.7) but we can be free of our attachment to sin itself. It is within the will of man, even when falling into sin, to have no attachment to the sin beyond the hapless occasion itself. It is of the essence of repentance to resolutely and genuinely express the intention to sin in that way no more — that is to say, to renounce any affinity for the occasion of sin, which, in other words, to refuse attachment to the sin into which one had fallen.
To say that this is not possible is contrary to human experience and history. Many — having sinned and repented — have returned no more to sin. Mary Magdalene was among them. In our own lives we find that we renounce any attachment to a sin that has brought us untold misery. To say otherwise is to deprive man of freedom by holding that he is not free not to sin. But if he is not free not to sin, then he cannot be held culpable for it — for he was unable to do otherwise. In this case, there is no sin and no sanctity, nothing praiseworthy and nothing blameworthy. This is called “determinism”. We are not responsible for our behavior and choices because they are pre-determined for us by our very constitution as human beings, a constitution that does not include freedom in its inventory. What we do, we must do. And if we must do it, and cannot do otherwise, there is no sin, and eo ipso, no guilt.
But this clearly is not the case. In exercising the freedom to disagree with Church teaching (to disagree with what is true — which one can always do, but which is not understood as coherent behavior) Father so-and-so instantiates the very point he repudiates. He is free to disagree, even if he ought not. It is even within Father’s power to renounce his attachment to this error, however compelling he may find it to be. It is within his power to state it no more — even while it may not be within his will. He is even free to hold himself not be free, but in so doing utters an inescapable contradiction. The “mind” of Father so-and-so is not the “mind of the Church” — nor does it accord with human experience and a coherent notion of free agency.
Regrettably, much of what he often hear from the pulpit, you will notice, is not ,“what the Church teaches”, but “what the priest “thinks about” and “the way he look at it”, or “it seems to him” — on a given matter that most often has only marginal relevance to the Gospel reading in any event. We are not in Church, presumably, to listen to the opinions and quirks of interpretation of any given priest — but to the Word of God as the Church sees it … and not as “Father so-and-so sees it.
We hope that you find this answer satisfactory.
God keep you.
Thank you so very much for answering my question on the gaining of plenary indulgences ... I am completely reassured and so thankful to you.
I am afraid that we were brought up with the mentality that when a priest speaks he is speaking with the authority of the Teaching of the Church. Unfortunately we have come to learn that this is not always the case. And that is a great sadness when so many can be influenced by the words of our priests. If they only but realized the potential to educate that they hold in their hands.
Thank you, editor, with all my heart. TMC
To the Boston Journal
To whom it may concern,
I am an 18 year old student at University studying Social sciences. Since I have been at Uni I have met quite a lot of Catholics and indeed have had some very interesting exchanges with them, I admire them for their stance on pro-life issues, not only the unborn ,but the whole euthanasia debate.
The Catholic Church just seems to be drawing me...in fact I am thinking of approaching the Catholic Chaplain for instructions.. BUT ..Jack, a fellow student and a catholic, has lent me a Catholic Prayerbook, I have browsed through it and come up against a problem, can you help me? My problem is this that reading through the "Examination of Conscience" there is a list of questions, presumably that I am supposed to ask myself before going to confession?
Well the question concerns ' self pleasuring ", although they call it by another name !
I have the greatest difficult to understand WHY is this regarded by the church as a sin ? I can understand that if I attempted (I will not) to exploit a woman sexually, take advantage of her, that's wrong, I understand too that physical intimacy with another man is wrong, according to Christian ethics, but I just cannot grasp why " self pleasure", is a sin ? It ' feels good ', its not involving anyone but myself, and as it is something that I admit I do frequently, how am I going to get my head around this? I mean isn't this private ?
Perhaps you may be able to advise me, I would feel more comfortable to know why and where I stand on this one before I approach a priest, Thankyou for your kind attention.
Please pray for me because I really would like to learn to love Jesus more
Cheers ! George. Oxford
Thank you for so candid a letter.
Your forthrightness took courage, and addresses a common problem
experienced by people of all ages, not just the young — and both
genders as well.
Masturbartion or Self-Abuse, is intrinsically sinful because it is the enactment of the sin of Lust (which is one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth). We will address the term, "self-pleasuring" that you use, later and in a very important context.
Christ admonished us, “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Saint Mathew 5.27-28)
We see that the act alone does not constitute the sin, but before the act the sin already exists in the heart — which in and of itself is sufficient to qualify already sinful desire as the act of the sin itself. This makes perfectly clear sense: the thought always precedes and precipitates the act. Were there no lust in thought, no act of lust would follow. The act is preceded by the will which gives assent to both the thought and to the actualization of the thought through the deed.
Christ is quite clear about this:
“For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man." (Saint Matthew 15.19-20)
Note that he says “de corde”
— “from the heart” — even before the acts that follow from
them — is a man defiled. This is extremely important to understand.
Every sin proceeds from the heart, from the thoughts, as the motivation
to sin, the willingness to sin. Every act of sexual sin is preceded
by the lustful thoughts which motivate the act. And these are sufficient
in and of themselves to constitute the act, such that the same penalty
applies to the sin in thought as to the sin in deed. What separates
the two are either “occasion” or “opportunity” — either of which
provided would culminate in the physical act.
One must ask oneself two questions:
What in fact is one
entertaining in one’s mind while masturbating? It is, of course,
the sinful act of either fornication or adultery
(or more grave still, a homosexual act).
The next, and logical
question is, were it possible to actualize this fantasy with
the one being fantasized about, would one indulge in it?
The only coherent answer is yes, for otherwise one would be fantasizing about what one really did not desire, and if one did not really
desire this, one would not be masturbating.
It is quite false to maintain
that the act of masturbation hurts no one and is of itself harmless
and victimless. It injures the soul through allowing it to succumb
to sin which of itself is a moral evil with ontological (i.e.
pertaining to “being” itself) dimensions: it either diminishes or
deprives the soul of grace — which is the participation
of the soul in the very life of God — or in the case of mortal
sin, destroys that participation, or ones life in God, altogether.
Is there any greater evil? Sin also injures the Church of Whose
body you are a member. “If one member suffer any thing, all the
members suffer with it.”(1 Cor. 12.26). If one is married, it constitutes
an act of infidelity and adultery against ones wife or husband.
If one is single, it constitutes the act of fornication or adultery.
What is more, it is an offense against the person fantasized about
inasmuch as it deprives that person of his or her own personhood,
reducing that person the status of a mere object to be used to satisfy
ones lust. It is equally a violation of the virtues of chastity
and continence. Most of all it offends God! So we see that masturbation
is hardly a “victimless” sin. I fact, its victims are many, starting
with oneself, proceeding though others, and reaching even to God.
What is particularly interesting in your question is the terminology you use, which I recognize is not your own but which has deep implications itself which are noteworthy. Please do not understand it as a reproach to you in your question at all. It is not, nor is it meant to appear so, but brings to relief a growing problem in the lexicon currently used to address sexual issues.
The term “self-pleasuring” is a neologism (a new and artificially invented word, “made up” is one proper definition) that is really a euphemism (a more agreeable word intended to avoid a disagreeable, offensive, or shame-provoking word that is much clearer and actually proper to the concept or act involved.) I have deliberately provided definitions for the two words, “neologism” and “euphemism” in an attempt to totally clarify the issue and avoid any confusion.
Apart from the grammatical incongruity (one does not speak of “pleasuring oneself” in enjoying a meal, or “self-pleasuring oneself” in reading a book or watching a movie that one finds pleasurable) this neologism is essentially crafted in an effort to present an act or concept fraught with immorality with one that is not. Who, after all, would argue that “pleasure” is an evil in and of itself? In short, if the act or concept itself is not already understood as immoral or offensive, then it would not stand in need of a neologism or euphemism to express it, yes?
It is, somehow, less self-incriminating to express such acts as a euphemisms, and we reflexively understand this. However awkward the term, it is easier (less apt to stir ones conscience) to say that “I self-pleasure myself often” than to say “I masturbate often.” In fact, we are likely to cringe upon making such a completely overt statement. If, however, we wish to liberate this behavior (called, incidentally, “self-abuse” in correct terminology, and not “self-pleasuring”) from a negative moral connotation, we must first seek to morally neutralize it, by inserting it through “acceptable terminology”, into acceptable public discourse. Becoming acceptable in public discourse, the act becomes implicitly acceptable itself.
The entire thrust of this aside is that when we begin calling something intrinsically evil by another name that is not evil we are engaging in nothing short of deception: we begin calling what is evil good. The unpardonable sin of blasphemy, perhaps the most frightening sin of all, occurs when we conflate evil with good and good with evil. (c.f. Saint Matthew 12.22-32)
God keep you.
Please help me ! My life is in a mess, this time I have blown it, that's for sure! I am just turned 17, raised a Catholic, although I haven't been to church for ages. I think church is actually so, so boring! I cant believe that this is happening to me, but I have just discovered that I am already 3 months pregnant! If my parents know this I'm sure they will throw me out. My mom happens to mind what the neighbors will say and all that stuff !
The worst of it is this, I don't even know who the father actually is, me and my friends like to go clubbing and have fun., it could be one of a few guys so I cant even say, its his, or his !
I cant have a baby! I have no job, what have I to offer a child, I want an abortion, in a word I want to get rid of it.
I don't even know why I am hesitating one min I am all ready to grab a taxi and run off to planned parenthood, and the next I feel like maybe its wrong, but is it? the feeling passes but I'm more sure. All I wanted was a bit of fun and I don't see why I should pay for it now and end up with a baby. God wont expect this of me will he?
I mean surely God wont be mad at me if I do this? will he ? People tell me God is forgiving, well then if I go ahead will God forgive me? I really to want this abortion it will settle my problem and I can get on with my life, also its my life and my space isn't it ?After all I may meet an alright guy, and have a baby later on , its not that I'm saying no baby at all, but not now !
So do you think God
will forgive me ? I mean its such early stages, and accept I know
in my head I wouldn't even know I was pregnant, but I am.
What shall I do ? I really am desperate.
Thanks a lot, I hope you don't mind me writing but I just happened to see your answer box on the journal, that's a mystery too, how on earth I arrived at the Journal, I Googled for something else entirely!
Can you put an answer on your site, please do not mail me at this address in case my Mom sees it, as both my folks use this computer. Thanks a lot.
My name is Bernadette and I am a (young) contributor to the Boston Catholic Journal. The editor asked me to answer your question or at least offer you my advice as a woman. I have read your letter carefully and I want to first say that I am sorry that you have to go through this alone — I truly can feel your pain. It is so hard to be a woman sometimes ... I know that I am not you and cannot imagine exactly what you are going through at this moment, but I can certainly relate. At one time or another, many woman goes through what you are now experiencing ... some get the answer that they are looking for, and others, like yourself, unfortunately do not. The decision that you are now faced with is probably one of the most difficult ones you will have ever have to deal with in your life, and whatever you choose to do will have an impact on you forever. I know, it is scary.
I was also (as I am sure you can guess) raised a Catholic, and I am very familiar with the teachings of my faith. The values that have been instilled in me since childhood still to this day, like yourself, affect many of my decisions and thoughts. I am not married, either, and if I found myself in your situation I could not even fathom the idea of having and affording a baby. Every woman who has found herself in your situation had probably never anticipated the possibility of having a child out of wedlock. Given all the "easy" solutions to really tough questions — especially if you are a woman — that are thrown at you so off-handedly today, obviously the first thought that would enter a woman's mind is that the easiest solution would be to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood makes it look so simple ... so "right" ... and with no consequences! A few hundred dollars and the problem is gone. Right? It would seem to be a simple fix to a big problem. Almost all women have this exact thought when faced with this decision. Even though they think about it, I just know that, deep down, many would never be able to go through with it if it weren't presented to them as an easily available, totally acceptable, and entirely guilt-free experience that is "every woman's right", right? Somehow, despite all the slick slogans and glossy brochures passed out in high school, I could never bring myself to see an abortion as a solution I could live with — simply because there is a child's life at stake, and that little baby has absolutely no voice of it's own.... their life and death it out of their hands.
Thankfully, I have never been in this positiont, but I know that these are the thoughts that you are having at this moment. I, too, would probably question whether or not God would ever be able to forgive me if I went through with something like that.... Surely He would understand that now is not the time! I can't afford it! I am not ready! He has to know this, right?! But the truth of the matter is, that He does know this, He knows everything, and He knows that you and I know that it is a terrible sin to have an abortion, because after all, it is a little baby we are talking about. HOWEVER, He also knows your pain, and knows that you are now faced with a very difficult decision, which is why, I believe, God wants me to help you figure out your options and what you can do. Now we (because hopefully you will accept my help and advice... because I am more than happy to help you with this, today, tomorrow, whenever..) must figure out what options exist.
In my opinion, you have three options. However, I do not think that "option number one" is the right one for you. Option two may be, but based on your letter and what you have said about your parents and your situation, it might not be the easiest. I think that option three has your name written all over it :)
1) Abortion — easy? Kindda. The right choice? I hope you will come to realize, no, it is not...Not simply for the sake of the baby, but for your own sake. Abortions may seem easy, but in fact they are VERY complicated. Many women who have abortions have a VERY difficult time coping afterwards. Whether it is because of the sickness the follows, or the mental and emotional damage. It is hard to face the fact that you have 'terminated' a pregnancy. The words are tough to swallow, and many women mentally suffer after the operation. They wonder if they will ever be able to get pregnant again, wonder if they could have managed a baby, if their lives would somehow be better, they have a difficult time actually SEEING children. If you do the research, the truth is not very pretty.
2) Keeping your baby -- easy? Absolutely not. The right choice? Perhaps ... perhaps not ... Based on what I have read in your letter, your parents would not support your decision to keep the child. You are only 17 and are probably not financially ready to support a child, though there are agencies out there to help (and colleges that offer support and child care if you are planning of furthering your education). The truth is, which I am sure you already know, having a baby is a huge responsibility, one that requires a lot of time, energy, money and effort. However, what you get in return is a beautiful little child that loves and depends on you and doesn't care how old you are or how much money you have. This option is by far the most difficult, and again, I am not sure if it is the best for you, only you can decide that.
Finally, in my opinion, the best option for you:
3) ADOPTION! Easy? Kindda! The right choice? It may be! I think that adoption is perfect for you for a number of reasons:
a) You seem very worried about what your parents are going to think and say. I really think that your parents would probably not be so hard on you. They would not have to help you support the child. They would see that you are making an educated, responsible, and mature decision. They would not have to worry about you and how it would have an effect of your life, because really, it would not be that difficult. True, you would have to carry the baby for 9 months and go to doctors appointments and things, but that is all relatively EASY compared to the last two options! I am VERY sure that if you told your parents that you were pregnant and have thought things over and that you think it is the BEST thing for both you and the child to give it up for adoption, they would be supportive of your decision ... and if they are not, keep reading what I have to say....
c) Obviously, you are worried about yourself and the impact this will have on your life. If you give this baby up for adoption you will not have to worry about how to afford it, who the father is, what you have to offer it, ANYTHING! You can move forward with your life in a few months and feel GOOD about your decision! You did not have an abortion, you let the child live! You can go to college! Get a great education! Get a great job! Meet a great guy! And when you are ready, have a family with the manwho loves you and who wants to support you and the baby! It is absolutely possible! You would know that your child is in good hands and is taken care of and happy.... you never know who they will become or what good things they will do :) Both your lives will be the better for it.
It really is easy to do. All you have to do is contact an adoption
agency. If you need help, I will certainly do some research and
help you find one in your area. YOU get to pick which parents are
right for your baby! You will actually have couples competing for
you! Once you find the parents you think will best raise your child,
THEY will be there to support you the whole way, EVEN IF YOUR PARENTS
DON’T! THEY will often schedule, pay, and COME to doctors appointments
with you! THEY will always be checking up on you! THEY will make
sure you are doing well and have what you need! THEY WILL BE THERE
WITH YOU THE ENTIRE PROCESS, BECAUSE THEY WILL TRULY CARE ABOUT
YOU AND THE BABY. There are soooo many wonderful couples
out there who would DO ANYTHING to have a child of their own, but
cannot. Imagine their pain when they found out they COULDN'T have
a child. I am sure they, too, were questioning God ... “WHY IS THIS
HAPPENING TO ME? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? GOD, DO YOU NOT WANT ME
TO BE A PARENT?!” Now the obvious question is, why WOULDN’T you
want to help them? I hope that you are beginning to see how this
REALLY is the right choice for you.... I hope that you are beginning
to realize that option one is NOT the only option for you, that
there is, in fact, a MUCH BETTER OPTION just waiting for you to
make your move!
I really, sincerely hope that this helped. Please, feel free to contact me directly or the BCJ site if there is anything else I can do to help. Please, do not be afraid to accept my help and know that I am here to help you in whatever way I can. I will certainly keep you in my prayers and look forward to hopefully hearing a response from you soon!
Your new friend,
“My question is about attending the new Mass. I find it very unnerving to attend this Mass as I feel that it is more of a social hour than time I can spend with my Lord and assisting at Mass. Besides I always attended a Mass said in Latin and with people who dressed respectfully for our Lord and women who covered their heads in respect. So my question to you is how do I go to this new Mass not really feeling like I'm attending Mass. I feel like I am just doing this for show.”
First, thank you for the courage it took to ask about the Elephant in the Room that everyone sees and no one wants to talk about. Even our priests. Especially our priests — and more especially our bishops who are too deeply involved in other things of a more ... social nature, and decidedly more pressing than the salvation of souls.
Buy a 1962
Roman Missal (available from
Baronius Press and other publishers), go to page 9, the
“Liturgical Calendar”, find the month and date
of the Mass for the forthcoming Sunday (or weekday), hunker
down in a back pew and open it to pages 889 - 896 (“Preparation
for Holy Mass” BEFORE Mass begins.
If you can find a Missal anywhere from 1900-1959, anything
prior to 1962, then that is to be preferred
When Mass proper
begins, do as the rest of the congregation does (if kneeling
is not practiced — yes, we know, incredible, but it happens
— kneel anyway when you know you should — especially
during the Canon of the Mass when the species of bread and wine
are transubstantiated into the Most Holy Body and the Most Precious
Blood of Christ during the Holy Eucharist, and after receiving
Him in Holy Communion — even if everyone just sits and drapes
their arms over the backs of the pews). You have no obligation
to join in singing that you are “The Light
of the World” (you probably do not esteem yourself to be so,
and neither do I) or, in fact, any other maudlin ditty. At times
of singing, you can quietly read or re-read the Gospel or Epistles
in your Roman Missal — fiercely focusing on them to drown out
the strident singing and the banging of the drums and piano.
Or you could simply close your eyes, intent upon your presence
at the foot of the Cross before which you stand at Mass. This
requires holy focus. Pray to Mary. She will help you. While
it appears that everyone is paying attention to virtually everyone
else except Christ — you are paying attention
to God through either the Readings in your Missal or your place
under the Cross.
Be resolute in fixing your gaze upon the
Tabernacle in which dwells our Blessed Lord, Body, Blood, Soul,
and Divinity. He is there! What do you care of
what others are paying attention to? You may be the only
person there who knows what is really going on behind
the clamor and distractions surrounding you: the very
Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross ... and
you are standing or kneeling at the foot of the Cross.
HE is why you are there! Focus on Him! He is, after
all, intent upon you! When the clamor reaches
a crescendo of self-adulation, remember those who really surround
you most closely: Christ, Mary, and the Holy Angels surrounding
the Altar. They did not come to be entertained by the “Music
Ministry” or to be amused by the antics of the priest. They
came for you. They were waiting for you. And now you are there.
To Whom, then, will you pay close attention? At Whose feet will
you sit? Will you mount Calvary to be with Him under the Cross
... or join the minstrels who would drop their instruments and
fall into awe and silence before the Crucified Who is on that
Cross, and on that Altar before them — could they see Him with
the eyes of Faith. Close your eyes and see Him Whom others
fail to see with waking eyes!
Fold your hands in front of you during
the "Sign of Peace" and humbly bow to any who turn to
you, front and side, without turning around. This is not impolite.
It is acknowledging them, if they are so disposed (and not all
are comfortable with the handshake: it is a physical contact
which not everyone welcomes, myself included, and for many women
it is a breach of modesty to grope for the hands of everyone
around them. Many a man — although, of course, none will admit
it — welcomes this opportunity to have “physical contact” with
a woman he finds attractive, and not all grasping of hands is
entirely chaste in the heart of the one insisting upon it. This
is not prudish. It is an uncomfortable truth. Humbly and slightly
bowing in the context of the Mass is a much deeper sign of respect
than a superficial handshake. How many talk, laugh, blow kisses,
hug, or run across the aisle to greet everyone possible
— and even have brief conversations in the process (“How is
John doing?”)! And how many of these people will not so much
as acknowledge one another — whom they had embraced with such
affection in Church... on the street! The rubrics of the Mass
do not specify the method or means of conveying
the “Sign of Peace” ... and the “V” waving of the fingers
in all directions has a long history of political overtones
that, in my opinion, has no place in the Mass. Not all Catholics,
especially older Catholics, were “Flower Children” of the 60's.
Fold your hands reverently before you
as you go to Communion, heedless of the indifferent carriage
of others. You know Whom you approach. And you can, if it is
physically possible to you, you can also genuflect on one knee
and bow your head before you arise to receive Him, the King
of Kings. Do not be ashamed to honor Him so. He promised to
those that were ashamed of Him on Earth, that he would be ashamed
of them before His Father in Heaven and His holy Angels. (St.
Matthew 10.33). Saint Francis of Assisi, the man recognized
to be the most Christ-like of all men, did not consider himself
worthy to hold Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist in his hands.
For that reason he never became a priest. I would urge you,
as our forefathers had done for over a thousand years, to receive
Him in Holy communion on your tongue, knowing that Father Francis
himself did likewise. It is an act of utter humility and
After Mass, do not flee as the others.
What have you been given? Ten lepers approached Christ to be
healed, and only one returned to give thanks (St. Luke 17.12-19).
Do likewise. Go to Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the
Altar after Mass and give Him thanks and praise. The gift you
were given is far greater than the gift given the lepers. Christ's
very self! Body and Blood!
Remember that on Calvary there were many, and even some among them gambled beneath Him. Do not be ashamed to do as Mary did, and not the cruel soldiers. Go to Him. And do not judge the crowd around Him at the foot of the Cross at Mass. We see appearances. God alone sees the heart. Some there are who love much and suffer much. Do not disdain them because the crowd is loud around them, too — even as the crowd was loud and scornful as Christ hung on the Cross and only Mary and John remained.
Yours is a question
that deeply vexes, even unsettles, Catholics with a deep sense of
the sacred and an earnest desire to worship God alone in a manner
due His Divine Majesty. Even this very term “His Divine Majesty”
is seldom, if ever heard, in the New Mass. Somehow, it offends our
sense of democracy; the “progressive” notion that, not only are
all equal before God (bishop, priest and laity alike), but
that God Himself is trespassing upon our cherished sense of
a presumed , if politely unstated, equality with Him. Catholics
no longer “do transcendence”. God is imminent in us all —
rather than transcending us and everything. In celebrating
ourselves we celebrate Him — or so we are urged to
believe. The logic is sound ... even if the premises are deeply
flawed — in fact, completely untrue. In philosophy, Modus Ponens
always produces a sound logical argument — that is to say, the
form of the argument is always valid even if the terms
themselves are ludicrous.
This loss of transcendence, aptly supplanted by a suffocating sense of imminence (indwelling) is a major factor contributing to our loss of the sense —and Presence — of God. Christ is no longer the Light of the World: “We are the light of the world" as the ditty goes in virtually every parish and quite nearly at every Mass. God is an interloper in His own House; a disruptive Guest with a Divine attitude Who presumes to eclipse this “light" by momentarily distracting us from ourselves during that brief moment of Transubstantiation that we politely accord Him before resuming the celebration of ourselves and the absolute certainty of our salvation. We are the tenants who have evicted God from His own House, much as the tenant farmers in the Gospels.1 It has largely ceased to be the “House of God” and has become “Our Faith Community”, our “Our Prayer Space”, terms as bizarre and disconnected with the continuity of the Church as the practices that most often occur within them. The focus is “We”, “Ours” ... in a word, the apotheosis of the self over God.
Think of the stultifying term, “We are Church” ... apart from its ungrammatical format (languages that use the definite (“the”) and the indefinite (“a”) article use it to articulate a distinction between things specific (“the house”, meaning this particular and unique house) and things general (“a house” meaning any house apart from distinguishing features specific to it). This is no quibbling with words, however silly and foreign they may sound. It is a deliberate divesting of the Catholic Church's unique role as the means to salvation instituted by Christ Himself. 2 Think of “We are Government.” Which government? What kind of government? Of what country? Is it the government of an empire? A republic? A democracy? A regime? There are no distinguishing features to which we can appeal. It is a senseless and meaningless utterance, because the statement lacks anything definite that we can predicate of it. It is not “the Church”, or even “a Church” ... it is just, well, ... “Church.”
Equally noteworthy, apart from what church it is (which we cannot answer), is whose church it is. It is no longer God's Church — it is our Church. Even if we no longer know what it is, we at least know who it belongs to. It belongs to us ... not God. It is our Church. In fact, its only distinguishing feature is that, whatever it is, it is ours. — and not Christ's. It is us! “We are Church!” For 2000 years (minus 40) it was the Body of Christ of which He is the Head. 3
Is it any wonder, then, that at the New Mass, the Novus Ordo (still valid despite its being trivialized and much abused. See the heresy of Donatism which holds that the Sacraments are invalid, and even the Mass itself, if the presiding priest is unworthy) we celebrate ourselves — rather than worship God. The focus appears to be upon everything and everyone — from the show-host priest striding jestingly in the aisles, to the miserable cacophony of pianos, drums, trap sets, cymbals, guitars, and the most dismal “folk music” (think Joan Baez and Cat Stevens) that ceased to exist 30 years ago everywhere except in the Catholic Church, to the divas inviting your applause, and Kiddie-Hour at the Altar — everyone and everything ... except Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrifice (absolutely the most central feature of the Mass, apart from which there is no Mass; a now "antiquated" notion which is no longer spoken of — let alone emphasized — in most “modern” Catholic Churches.)
In short, we have not lifted ourselves to Heaven, but dragged God down the Earth — and like our priests, He, too, has largely become rather “one of the guys” ... with a cameo appearance in the Most Holy Eucharist.
We deign to favor Him with our presence at Mass ... smug in our certainty that He is keenly aware of the sleep-in, sports event, or other social obligation that we have sacrificed for Him — and of which He is surely, and most appropriately, not only cognizant but deeply grateful.
Yes, the sacred nature of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is often trivialized ... and by many unknown. But you know, LH.
In short, yes, you and I can survive the appalling lack of reverence at so many Masses. We must ... because Christ Himself must. Day in and day out.
Mother Teresa held that the most effective means of conversion is personal example. It starts with one. And beholding the beauty of the one, another comes to know this beauty also.
God keep you.
1 St. Matthew 21.33-41
Saint Matthew 16.17-19
2 St. Matthew 16.17-19
3 Colossians 1:18
What does God say about pregnant single mothers? To marry or not to marry? I have 8 siblings, 6 of them are girls and 5 of them are married. From all five of them, I cannot say I would prefer to have one marriage over another, I’d prefer not have a marriage at all. All including my mother, have set an example it appears to be as having to be the one to make more sacrifices in the relationship for the sake of the children having their fathers near them (of course they all say they love their husbands still). However, I asked them one day (just the sisters), “Not counting the children, would you do it all over again. Marry the same guy and put up with everything?” All said no except one. As a girlfriend of the father of my coming baby, I am already not willing to put up with many things I see in him. I fear he isn't ready or rather doesn't want to give up on a lot of things that expectant fathers should give up on. But now I fear that perhaps I am being a little too demanding of a partner, in comparison to other girls or even my sisters. I am having trouble wanting to just settle for the norm which constitutes of: the man is a man and he is allowed to have his “manliness” with the society given definition. The women lives to serve her children and husband. My mother had a very rough life, and for many years I refused to believe that she was born to live all that suffering, now I have stop questioning or commenting on her life, I just accept it since it is her life and pertains to her only. However, I don't know that I want to spend a life next to a man and hoping and praying for the day that he will change. We don't share values, goals, and even our morality judgment is very different. Of course because we come from different backgrounds. The other day I shared with him how I needed and wanted to go to confession and to this he replied, “What did you do?” I chuckled considering that we both participated in the sin of sex and now are pregnant. I love this coming baby and I don’t regret it, but I do regret having sin or even with who I sinned with if that makes any sense. I acknowledge my sin, and if this cross of mine commands me to get married than without hesitation I will pick it up and carry it.
P.S. Perhaps you recall of me writing to you earlier. And I took your advice and left the relationship. And well time later he looked for me again and I fell like the common “in-love” girl or rather “in-lust” (I don't even know now) and well now I have a brought a new innocent life into our problems. I don’t even know how to tell my baby that I’m sorry.
I will answer your first question before addressing others. You ask, “What does God say about pregnant single mothers?” To marry or not to marry is another question; one for which I will offer my own suggestion, and the reasons for it.
So, “What does God say about pregnant single mothers?”
The answer to this is unequivocal and clear, and so God tells you at once and forever:
“I love you, and I love the life within you that I have created. I Alone am the Giver of Life, and I have chosen you to cooperate with Me in bringing this life — that I have willed — to being. That your will and My will are one — that the child shall live and be loved — is itself a sign of blessedness, for holiness consists in this: that your will be perfectly one, perfectly in harmony, with My will in all things. It is nothing more and nothing less. In this state of holiness you will find happiness, and apart from it you will never find peace, for you will never possess real happiness. Why? Because always I will your good, in this life and in the next; I will what is perfectly good for you, and what is perfectly good for you will bring you happiness. There is no happiness apart from what is good, yes?
Oh, there are things pleasurable and they bring you momentary fulfillment, but not happiness. Happiness endures. Pleasure passes. Happiness and pleasure are not the same at all, My Little One. Some pleasures are good, and some are sinful, according to your state in life. Sexual pleasure is good — within the Sacrament of Marriage, but sinful outside of it.
But you know this already, my daughter — and in the Sacrament of Penance you have come to Me before. What had you found, my Little One? Mercy, compassion, and forgiveness … yes? And now you would flee Me … fear confessing that you have sinned the same sin again? Do you not remember my Only Begotten Son telling Saint Peter who had asked, “Lord, how many times should we forgive our brother? Seven times?” To which My Son answered, “Nay, seventy times seven times!” In other words, as often as forgiveness is asked, it is given — as long as the heart of the penitent is truly sorry — and even if she falls into that sin again and again through human weakness, and knows and expresses true sorrow again and again, she is forgiven! Do you think I do not know your weakness and frailty, I Who had created you? Was not My Son, in His Incarnation, like unto thee in all things except sin? He Himself in His sacred humanity intimately knows the weakness of men.
What you are really asking Me, it appears, is this: “Do I still love you, as a woman, and now as a mother, outside of wedlock?” In your heart of hearts you already know the answer to this also. Yes! Not a whit less, and even the more! — because you have, apart from your soul that is precious to Me, a new life within you! A life that I have given and that you have not spurned! You love whom I love: the one I have created within you! Love you less? No! All the more! Not for your sin, but for your love — your love of Me and of the child I have given thee, that I have entrusted to thee, that you may teach the child to know Me, to love Me, and to serve Me in the world, and to be happy with Me forever in Heaven. This is the charge I have given thee. This is the purpose of the child conceived within you.
Think, my Little One! I know the end of all things … you do not. I have willed and created life in you. Do I do anything without purpose? Anything that is not totally good? I knew your child long before you were aware of this life within you!
Have no shame, Little One. Remember that My most perfect creation — Mary — first conceived My Only Begotten Son before she was married! And now I have conferred upon thee the greatest dignity, the most sublime vocation: that of motherhood!”
God Himself, then, answers your first question, and now I will attempt to answer the questions that follow it.
In speaking with your married sisters, you said that, apart from the children, “had they to do it all over again, all, save one, would not have chosen to marry.” It appears that in their marriages there is a lack of mutuality, of sharing, giving and taking in turn, in which the husbands are not solicitous of their wives needs, being preoccupied with the fulfillment of their own. I think that this perception is fairly common — and, regrettably, cuts both ways. In many ways we would like something of a “designer husband” and “designer wife” that we could tailor to our changing desires. Traits and features could be added or detracted to suit us as it pleases us best. Snip away this trait, add that, change one, transform another — and when they are old and less to our liking to discard them altogether. It is man and woman, husband and wife, as mere commodities — and not as the absolutely unique and unrepeatable persons, human beings, that they are — and none of them is perfect … nor are we.
As to the indifference of the husband to the wife, it would be well to carefully read about the mutual duties and responsibilities of a man to his wife, and of a wife to her husband, especially in light of the example that Saint Paul sets before us, of Christ’s love for the Church, and the Church’s love for Christ. (Ephesians, 5.21-31). The husband loves his wife as his own body, ever ready to deliver himself up for her as Christ did for the Church. Saint Paul states it more succinctly, “He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.”
Now, to the vitally important question — a question that you alone must answer: Should you marry, or not marry? It is now five years that you have had a relationship with this young man. I have re-read your first letter very carefully, and I will point out a few very important things that you had said within it, in May of 2010, and which appear unchanged to this day, and will likely remain unchanged.
For four years it has been thus. It is now a year later and remains so — even given the fact that you carry his child. This does not portend well. Perhaps I had told you in my first letter to you that you can only change yourself — not another. Personality traits are particularly intractable almost impossible to extinguish or alter. It is hoping to “design” another person to be other than whom they are. Yes, we want all men, all women, for Christ and His Holy Church! And everyone is invited! But we ourselves, as utterly unique as they are, cannot presume to hope to bring them to Christ or His Church at the cost of our own souls and our own salvation. It is our duty first and foremost to seek the salvation of our own souls — for they alone are totally within our grasp and amenable to our will in a way that the souls of others are not. This is not selfish. Christ Himself told us that we dare not presume to remove the speck in our brother’s eye until we have first removed the splinter from our own! No?
We would that we could bring all men to Christ — and this is a holy desire. Ever we must strive to. And yet it is not given to us to choose whom we bring to God, and away from sin. Most often our example is sufficient to inspire another to seek what we have found, the happiness that comes with faithfulness to God. But it is something that must be freely chosen by another, and all our efforts are in vain if we deceive ourselves that we can change another who is either indifferent or antagonistic to our Faith … by marrying them! This endangers your own soul — and as importantly, the soul of a child who may never come to know God or the beauty of the Faith of Holy Mother Church by being exposed to the influence of one who knows neither, or disdains both.
From what you have written, my child, nothing has changed in this young man to make him worthy of you. Because you bear his child (that God willed … not the man) does not obligate your marrying him at all. Some young women feel that a child is an impediment to the prospect of a future relationship and real love. This is not the case at all — I can testify to that personally from my experience with many young men and women who have met subsequent to the mother’s having a child by another — women who have married worthy and honorable men who have taken the mother’s child as their own.
You have done the most loving thing imaginable in keeping and loving this child within you. You will blessed in him or her. Your happiness will be multiplied, not your sorrow. Cleave to God and place yourself under the mantle of Mary Most Holy — both will accompany you, and assist you — and love you, and your child — all the days of your lives.
God keep you.
It is only three letters.
Why, in your opinion, do people say, or sign correspondence with
“God bless” rather than “God
It is an incomplete utterance. “God bless” ... who or what? And why eliminate the “you” that is implicitly or presumably intended to follow it?
Let us look at a few examples to illustrate the point:
Would we not wait for the utterance to be completed with a pronoun (you, me, him, her, it)?
Some we have asked fully understand what is meant to follow the ellipsis (“God bless ...” which, of course, is “you”) but still find it oddly dismissive or abrupt. To our surprise, however, most commonly, people see in it an attitude of spiritual laxity or even of spiritual arrogance. Others suggested that the person saying it simply thought it somehow implicitly “cool” to leave out the pronoun, resulting to something much more akin to a slogan.
Why is “YOU” Absent (not, that is not a grammatical error — I am not asking why you are absent)
The absence of “you”
appears to diminish the importance of person: more precisely,
the person to whom it is said, or to latently imply their spiritual
inferiority (while emphasizing their own superiority)
since it did not require so much as an acknowledgement of their
“person”. Others experience it as an “offhand” remark without any
real substance, or as loosely spiritual in a very generalized context.
So why do people deliberately
omit the “you”?
Upon hearing the deliberately abbreviative “God bless”, somehow the word insipid comes instantly to mind. Why bother saying it at all? Somehow it appears to confer a sense of benevolence on the part of the one one who utters it (after all, they are blessing us ... kind of ...); and we are the perceived recipients of their benevolence. Why save all 27 milliseconds ...?
Theft: “A few years ago I took some money
from my workplace which I intend to give it back with interest.
Am I obliged to expose myself to the owner after I return everything
even if he doesn't know?
The short answer: no. You may secretly restore, in good conscience, what you had taken. The money is restored to its rightful owner, and if he would have earned interest on it, the interest as well. You have been guilty of injustice to your neighbor, but your sin was against the 7th Commandment and therefore against God Who Alone knows. To God you acknowledge your sin and express your sincere sorrow in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) It is not necessary or even prudent to reveal your sin to your former employer. You owe your former employer restitution; you owe God sorrow and reparation through penance. You have borne the pain of guilt — which all sin incurs — by the prompting of the Holy Ghost and the divinely inspired desire to make amendment.
The full answer:
It suffices to restore what you have unjustly taken. We emphasize unjustly because it can often be the case that what you have taken did not belong to your employer after all, but was due you in all justice. For example, if you were hired to do one thing and other, totally unrelated obligations were exacted from you by your employer solely because, since you were in his employ, it would cost him nothing to have you do what he would have to additionally pay someone else to do — but was unwilling to pay you for it since you had the ability to do it, although it was not in the job description to which you agreed when you were hired — just because you could do it, or had an unrelated skill set that was to his advantage without paying you commensurably for it — then it would be your employer who was defrauding you. He would be taking from you income that you would have earned had you employed this skill set in its proper venue. He would also be depriving the individual suitable to the required work of legitimate income by greed (using you to save him money that he would have to pay another through a properly defined and fulfilled job description. One does not hire an accountant and have him also (in addition) do janitorial work or sales work as well simply because one would save money by having one individual perform unrelated work that required others. In a well-known Biblical verse, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out thy corn on the floor” (Deuteronomy 25.4).
In other words, pay a man for his work. If your employer was unwilling to hire someone else necessary to do the "other and necessary" work, but demanded it from you without compensating you accordingly, he was unjust, opportunistic, greedy, or all three. You did the work: you deserved the appropriate pay. You did not take what was not yours in justice. You did not (presumably) take more than was justly your due which he would have had to pay another had you not done it. If you did the work, you earned the pay. He did not lose any money. Had you not done it he would have had to pay someone to do it — and very likely at a different (higher) rate of pay than what he was paying you for another job altogether.
Does this, then, condone “stealing?” Of course not. The 7th Commandment stands. One is guilty of the sin of theft if one takes what is not one's own. If the employer retorts that it was taken without his permission then he must equally recognize that what he had demanded of you was likewise gained by him without your permission and in an overt breach of the terms of limitation inherent in your employment. He had no right to demand work of you that you did not either implicitly or explicitly agree upon. In a word, he "stole" your employment and the same act of theft that demands restitution by the thief applies in both cases, were you to take what was not yours in due justice. He is obligated to repay you — whether he wills to or not.
If you take what is your due, you are not stealing. The manner in which it is taken — specifically, without his knowledge — is what we find troublesome. Whether or not he would agree with the means is as unlikely as whether or not you would agree to be defrauded. We cannot presume to know his disposition, but we can presume to know yours: to be justly compensated for work demanded and not agreed to. In any case, it is certain that you are not a thief, and it is equally certain that he is defrauding you.
If, on the other hand, your motive was simply to overcompensate yourself in violation of the terms of your employment while remaining totally within the terms of your job description, the the motivation was avarice or greed on your part, and depending on the sum taken, it was a sin either venial (if what was taken was frivolous) or mortal (if what was taken was much) in nature, for which you alone are accountable before God.
If you did something praiseworthy at work are you obliged to tell your employer? You may have other motives for telling him or her, but you are not obligated to do so. If you did something blameworthy, neither are you required to disclose it either: you must only redress it and make restitution. The spiritual dimension of your act is between you and God Alone. Your Confessor will tell you this. If he does not, then you must do what he directs you to do, for God gives the priest this faculty. In a word: go to Holy Confession and obey the priest in the penance he gives you. He sits "in cathedra Christi" in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance. We do not.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
There is the need for clarifying some confusing terms, even those as apparently simple as “time” and “eternity”.
God lives in an eternal present: all that was, is, and ever shall be, is before Him as “present”. Why? Because God created time. As Saint Augustine tells us, it is not logical for us to ask, for example, “What did God do before He created time?” If time did not exist before He created it (and it did not, for then we can make no sense of the concept of “eternity”) then before God created time there was no “before” or “after” — these are temporal concepts; they are words we use given the matrix of time. It would be much like asking, “If there was no such thing as time what would have existed before it?” We cannot answer that question because we need temporal terms to respond to it: we need to invoke the concepts of “before”, “after”, and “during” (duration is a discrete measure of time). In other words, without “time”, there was is no “before”, “after”, and “during”. Time is understood by the very terms that define it: past, present, and future. We cannot speak of time apart from any of those terms.
But time belongs to “the world” or “this present life on earth”. It does not pertain to eternity which is a perpetual state of presence (there are no “befores, “durings”, or afters” — just the present: “what is” … even as that incorporates what was in this world and is no more in this world, or what is in this world but has not always been in this world, and what will come to be in this world but will not always be or have been in this world.”
Christ Himself said that God is the “God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to Him." (St. Luke 20:38). How can this be if they are no more? Or elsewhere: "For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4) and “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 St. Peter 3:8).
Succinctly put, “time” as it pertains to God is not time as it pertains to men. He lives, as we said, in an eternal present. We live ever in the present and understand things as “past” and “to come”. Even as we utter a word it becomes “past” — it becomes what we “said” in the split second that it leaves our lips but are not now saying in the present moment. But all that was “was”, “is”, and “ever will be”, is present to God as “now”. It is a profound mystery (which is to say that it exceeds the ability of reason to comprehend it. Reasoning has its limitations).
But more to your point: the priests that are providing you with spiritual direction are simply telling you that God always answers our prayers — but the answer is sometimes “No. I have something even better for you in mind”, or “Not yet. A better time is in the offing.” As a good Father He Alone knows what is best and what is best for us, just as a good earthly father knows when to say “no” to a child’s request who does not understand the implications of his or her request, or who postpones what the child asks for because it is better for the child although the child does not see it now. Yes?
This is why God does not always answer our prayers immediately, or even in the way that we would like Him to. What He gives us is always better. How little we know! How little we foresee! In that vast interconnection between ourselves and all other human beings in the world, we cannot possibly even pretend to know that what we desire and ask for is what is best, or even good, although it may appear so to us.
Trust in God Who sees all ends. We do not.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Can you guys offer some information or resources on how to create a catholic home, how to live our traditional Catholic Faith in the family while raising catholic kids?
Thank you for your letter to us concerning creating and maintaining a Traditional Catholic home (the Catholic home life prior to the devastation of the decadent 1960s … and, sadly, the evisceration of Catholic life following Vatican II). We do not ascribe to the nonsense that such Catholic families are no longer possible or never really existed. They did — and they do.
While we do not presently have any resources on our website (which will likely soon change in light of your letter), we can at the moment suggest that you visit: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/07/guidance-for-young-parents-how-to-raise_31.html
We will keep you posted on this topic which is more vital today than ever.
In the meanwhile we will offer a few suggestions:
You, as a father, will have the most important role in setting the example for your children, especially your sons. If your sons see that Dad is a manly Catholic, unafraid and unashamed to express his Catholic Faith in the home and even, when called for, in public discourse, they in turn will be very likely to follow your example. People — even children — are not converted through intellectual arguments … but by EXAMPLE: they see another doing something remarkable and good — and are deeply impressed. They want to be like them!
This is especially true of what children observe in your behavior when they know that you do not see them watching you. We cannot stress the importance of this. A child unexpectedly opening his father’s bedroom or office door at home and finding father in prayer on his knees will say more to the child than years of lectures on the importance of praying. A mother found lying in bed or sitting in a chair praying the Rosary when she thought the children were out a play will strike them more forcefully by the example she sets than by her words encouraging them to pray the Rosary.
In you, T.O., they will first encounter Christ … or not. In your wife they will see Mary … or not. They will understand the Fatherhood of God (which He has participated to you) and the Motherhood of Mary (which is the exemplar for perfect motherhood) through each of you. Please read a short story submitted to us at http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/teach-him-a-lesson-he'll-never-forget.htm .
Say grace before every meal — in the house or at a restaurant: if you are ashamed to acknowledge God … they will be, too. If you have that strength, they will acquire it, too.
When you pray, make the Sign of the Cross slowly and reverently — the half-hearted, rote, and careless motion of your hands say much about what is truly in your heart: if you teach them reverence by example … they will become reverent. If you show them that it is no cause for shame to make the Sign of the Cross in public at a restaurant … they will not be ashamed … of Christ. Children are incredibly perceptive! They can see through any short-cut you devise and will recognize insincerity.
There should be a Crucifix in every room of the house (not the silly “Children’s Crucifixes” of pop culture that do not depict Christ crucified) and beautiful pictures of Mary and statues of Saints special to you.
Pray with your children every night before bed — again, prayerfully, not quickly as though simply to “get it over with”. The Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Glory be — and teach them when they are old enough (which is fairly young) to say them in Latin also. If you need to learn these prayers in English and Latin, contact us: http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/basic-catholic-prayers-in-latin-and-english-in-audio-format.htm and we will send you a CD.
Always bless each of your children
at bedtime: it is your
right as a father, and your duty as a Catholic. One such
prayer is the following:
Say: May the blessing of Almighty God be with you:
The Father ✝ (Making the Sign of the Cross over them)
And the Son ✝ (a second time Making the Sign of the Cross over them)
And the Holy Ghost ✝ (a third time Making the Sign of the Cross over them)
May the peace of Jesus Christ be in your mind ✝ (trace the Sign of the Cross with your thumb over their forehead)
And the love and praise of God the Father be on your lips✝ (trace the Sign of the Cross with your thumb over their lips)
And may the joy of the Holy Ghost be in your heart✝ (trace the Sign of the Cross with your thumb over their hearts)
May you always walk in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Francis and Saint Clare (or whichever Saints are dear to you)
And all God’s Holy Angels, Saints, and Martyrs
Now and all the days of your life
Forever and ever.
Go to Mass as a family every Sunday
(a Tridentine Latin Mass whenever possible — this is very important
given the lack of reverence and the inane homilies prevalent
in nearly all “Novus Ordo” Churches and offer yourselves and
your children up to God in union with the Sacrifice of Jesus
Christ at every Mass (uttering, “I die with Thee, O Christ
on Calvary!” as Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen exhorted
We hope that these few suggestions are useful to you, T.O.
As something that treats of the subject of creating and maintaining a truly Catholic home is presented on the Boston Catholic Journal, we will let you know.
We humbly ask you to pray for us.
God keep you
A few years back I took money from my workplace and I would like to pay them back with interest but the problem which I have is that I don’t know exactly how much money did I take because I didn’t take note of it and now few years have passed. Really I am concerned about it because truly I would like to give them back but I don’t know how much...... I am also very afraid that God will not forgive me since I forgot how much money did I take and I might give back less than the amount I actually took ...What does the church says in this regard please?
It is not possible to judge each case of theft according to one univocal standard because the economics underlying the loss and recovery of money has too many variables to which to apply a single standard. Perhaps this is the beauty of the simple Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”. Period.
Historical inflation and deflation must be configured into properly determining the amount due to repay at any given time — to replace what had been stolen, and remains unavailable to its rightful owner over a specific period of time. Often this is too complex to calculate.
According to Dollar Times the value of $1.00 stolen in 1990 is worth $1.84 in 2016. If stolen in the year 2000, its current value is $1.39. This does not account for any interest that may have been accrued over that time period. Also see http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=1&year=1990
Can any of us recall all our sins? No. Theft is one sin among many and according to the amount and the circumstances it is either a Venial Sin or a Mortal Sin. It does not matter if the person from whom you stole it is wealthy and the amount taken is, relatively, insignificant to him. God is not a respecter of persons. We are very creative in excusing our sins. However, I think that we can safely agree that stealing $1.00 from a billionaire is more of the nature of a Venial sin, than if we had stolen it from someone who earns $10.00 a week and has a family to provide for, in which case it would be a Mortal Sin. This is NOT relativizing sin: it is putting it into perspective.
As to fearing God, your fear is misplaced in this case. God sees the heart, the intention of the person. He is not an accountant, eager to see that you give back precisely what you had taken. In stealing you had sinned against your employer and it is in the realm of possibility that you can pay him back exactly what he is owed, including interest. But you forget that in stealing, you had sinned against God — above all! How can you pay Him back? You cannot! Do you think that He is sitting on His Holy Throne angrily tapping His foot, as it were, and impatiently drumming His fingers as He watches you … waiting for you to pay Him back for what you cannot possibly pay back in your offense against Him? That is as absurd to Him as it is to you! What He does see is your heart, your intention — your genuine effort to do what is right, to make amends for your wrong-doing, and to restore what you had taken as much as is possible to you given your own unique situation in life. You may not be able to pay it all back! But when you have given all that is genuinely possible for you to give, He will not “penalize” you because you still come up short. You will say to Him, “I am sorry.” He will say to you, “You are forgiven. Go and sin no more”. He is like that. Go to Confession and be cleansed and healed of this sin and its burden. The priest will guide you more. But THAT is the place to start: Holy Confession.
God is forgiving of our sins. He is just, yes — but He is merciful, loving, and kind. He knows that we are just ashes and dust and the gift of life that He alone has given us. He knows that we are weak and inclined to sin — but He also gives us the grace to do what is holy, right, and just — in other words, the means to avoid sin.
We hope this is helpful,
and commend you for your just efforts to repay what belonged — and
still belongs — to another.
Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2412 — “In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner.”
2454 — “Every manner of taking and using another's property unjustly is contrary to the seventh commandment. The injustice committed requires reparation. Commutative justice requires the restitution of stolen goods.”
God keep you
Dear Mr. N,
D. must have been a remarkable man to be remembered so fondly by one who worked for him.
The important aspect to remember in a Catholic funeral is summarized below:
“The most important aspect about Catholic funerals is that they express the Christian hope in eternal life and the resurrection of the body on the last day. Every component of the Catholic funeral rites should express these fundamental beliefs and hopes. Our funeral rites are not “a celebration of life,” as they are referred to sometimes, but a privileged opportunity to return to God the gift of the deceased, hoping to usher them into paradise with the aid of our prayers. Our love for the departed is expressed after death, above all else, in our prayer for them.” (https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Article/TabId/535/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/22189/Planning-and-Understanding-the-Catholic-Funeral.aspx) Also see http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/eulogies-not-permitted-at-catholic-funerals.htm
No Mass is a “celebration” of a person’s life, and enumerating what good they have done. We know their goodness. We remember it. A Funeral Mass is an act of both Corporal and Spiritual Mercy: we commend, through our prayers, and especially through the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is itself the greatest, the consummate prayer on earth, the soul of D. to God — his Creator, his Beginning and his End. The Mass is not about what D. did or how good he was; it is about what Christ did and how good He is as we have seen it expressed in D.’s life.
No act we ever do in life surpasses what Christ did — and it is our hope that He receive Declan into Heaven, into the Mansions Christ prepared for him from the beginning. Our prayers, committing Declan to God, will be to Declan far greater and far better than anything we ever could have done for him in a eulogy. In the end, it is not what Declan did, but what Christ did for D. — and we can never enumerate this, or even begin to express it in a eulogy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Declan was the greatest possible good for him. Before Christ hanging on the Cross (for D.) eulogies are superfluous.
D. must have been a fine man. May he be in Heaven and intercede for us by his prayers for us, just as we interceded for him in our prayers for him. This is called The Communion of Saints ( http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/the-communion-of-the-saints-and-the-kingdom-of-god.htm ). We are still with them, and they with us.
May Jesus Christ console you in the loss (for a time) of your friend D.
If you get there (Heaven) before we do, ask D. (whom we sincerely hope is there) to pray for us (who sincerely hope to be there). And you yourself remember us also.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Is pirating music, videos, software, or other electronic data a sin? And, if so, is restitution due or does simply deleting the data constitute amendment? If not, would restitution still be due in the event that the pirated data was sinful in nature such as, bad music, pornography, etc? In Jesus and Mary, R.
In response to your
question concerning the pirating of digital media of any sort (software,
movies, music), despite our excuses that it is not a physical medium
but mere data, it is still the sin of theft. Pornography is a class
of its own since it is inherently sinful to produce, distribute,
sell — and most especially watch, for it nearly always leads to
sins against the 7th commandment and often (legitimate) spousal
contention, addiction to the grave sin of lust, adulterous fantasies,
masturbation, and even family breakups. It is almost always followed
by shame and guilt — and both are appropriate. Few men have not
indulged in this vicious vice. But all feel shame and guilt. That
is the voice of God within you calling you back from what is mortal
to your soul, to Him, to repentance, and the firm amendment to sin
that way no more.
The theft of digital media — in our opinion — is far more easily remedied than the vice of pornography. You can either delete the medium (and its executable in the download) or destroy the disc if it is a current or commonly used application. If it is “sun-downed”, or no longer in current or common use, it is no longer marketed by the developers and therefore no longer a source of revenue to them and — in our opinion — legitimate to keep and use since you could no longer purchase it from them.
In any event, we would recommend your going to Confession. The advice and penance the priest gives you will be sufficient to make satisfaction for the sins.
We hope this is helpful to you, R.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary
To the editor:
Should I pray for everyone, regardless of not knowing the state of their soul when they died? Because why should I pray for someone who’s in Hell? D.R.
Your question is particularly
pertinent in these evil days when men seldom pray for our dead —
or are no longer encouraged to do so since Vatican II. It is an
odd state of affairs, since we ourselves will one day — perhaps
soon — be in dire need of the prayers of the living (Remember the
Communion of Saints?).
Many, sadly, are smug — even insolent — concerning the consequences
of their sins (most importantly in understanding sin as an abhorrent
and unspeakable offense against God — for every sin is first and
foremost a grave offense to God Who is Holy). The consequences
of sin are also a scourge to both the sinner, and to those against
whom he sinned.
In most cases — even among, if not especially among — Catholics, the notion (let alone the gravity) of sin is of little consequence or concern. We hear little about it in the post-Vatican II Church, especially in any homily. How this must delight the Evil One! Even the present occupant of the Seat of Saint Peter tells us that “all are saved” (see: http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/consecration-of-russia-and-much-much-more-by-francis.htm ) and go to Heaven. But this is not what Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, and Holy Mother Church taught us for the 2000 years preceding that most regrettable Council of 1963 (-1969). Please consider reading http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/a-hell-of-a-situation.htm
To answer your question in light of this, your practice of praying for the dead (whomever they may be) is what the Church calls an “Act of Spiritual Mercy” (as distinct from “Acts of Corporal Mercy”, such as giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, teaching those ignorant of the Faith, comforting the sick) and is a pious, good and holy practice to be commended to all Catholics.
We do not know the disposition of any given soul at the moment of death. Only God. Remember the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Saint Matthew 20: 1–16). Up to the moment of death, conversion to Christ and His Holy Church is possible. Again, read Saint Matthew 20: 1–16.
It may well be your prayers offered for the most obdurate and unfortunate of souls — that will lead him to conversion and salvation just at the time he most needs it. It is important to understand that whatever his disposition is, it is irrevocable at the moment of death. He then enters into eternity where no change is possible, and he will either be received into Heaven, Purgatory, or cast into Hell.
Many people are uncomfortable
with this truth — and fearful of it — but it is what Christ Himself
enunciated and taught us on many occasions in Sacred Scripture —
or Christ is a liar.
But Christ is not a liar! He is “the Way, the TRUTH and the Life” (Saint John 14:6)
Neither you nor I can determine if a certain soul is in Hell (and there are many, many, there!) — if the soul for whom you pray is in Hell, then God will apply the merit of your pleading to another (perhaps in Purgatory) who is not in Hell.
One day, you will be greeted by many, many, people whom you do not know in Heaven — but who know you … for by the suffrage of prayer that you offered for them they now enjoy eternal beatitude with God.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary
To the editor:
Can a Catholic have communion at an orthodox Christian Mass? B.
The following Eastern Catholic Churches are in full communion with Rome, and each administers the same Seven Sacraments reciprocally. The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is equally valid in all those listed below. So yes, you can receive Holy Communion at Eastern Catholic Churches.
Albanian Greek Catholic Church
Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church
Armenian Catholic Church
Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church
Chaldean Catholic Church
Coptic Catholic Church
Eritrean Catholic Church
Ethiopian Catholic Church Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
Greek Catholic Church of Croatia and Serbia
Hungarian Greek Catholic Church
Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
Macedonian Greek Catholic Church
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Romanian Greek Catholic Church
Russian Greek Catholic Church
Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Slovak Greek Catholic Church
Syriac Catholic Church
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
West Syriac Church of Lebanon
Eastern Catholic Churches are distinct from Orthodox Churches which are not in full communion with Rome. Apart from differences largely in discipline and liturgy, the two Churches diverged to the point of Schism in 1054 concerning what is called the Filioque (L. “and from the Son”). The Roman Catholic and the Eastern Catholic Churches believe that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son, whereas Orthodox Churches maintain that Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father only.
Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in Rome