Sunday, October 31, 2010

The catholic church sold indulgences and were historically corrupt. How do you know it is right?

Question: Hey Peter, I saw your blog and I think it's great! The one question I have that isn't really answered up there is this. Why Catholicism? I know I'm really firmly rooted in my Faith, I just don't really know what Faith that is, if that makes sense. Basically I guess just hearing about how corrupt the Catholic Church was and in some cases still is makes me wonder. I definitely believe in the Bible and that everything actually happened, it just seems like the Catholic Church has taken advantage of people and been hypocritical at times, at least from some of the conversations I've had with some of my Protestant friends. Maybe I just don't have the facts right? Take the example of indulgences. What I've heard from a fairly reliable friend was that the Catholic Church used to sell them, telling people that they'd go to Heaven sooner or at all as long as they bought these indulgences. Is this true?

Answer: Excelent question. I sort of did deal with that question, under the headimg "How do I know I am right"- However, that article does not address the historical aspects that you ask about.

This question is so complicated, with so many facets, that my answer will be long, and will likely only serve to raise more questions.

I think it should be first acknowledged that the Church does indeed have a scandalous past- and indeed, present. The Church is full of sinners, and their is corruption in every level. This does not necessarily mean that what they believe is wrong... don't judge the medicine by who it fails on, but by who it works on. Somehow the Church mannaged to produce Mother Teresa and John Paul II and Padre Pio.

Some people would sort of sidetrack the issue by saying the Church was really not that bad. Often you'll hear the Church described in say the crusades or the inquisition, in an eroneous (some times even maliciously eroneus) manner. When you hear this stuff, look up the real history- people like to repeat the most scandalous stuff! Consider that the Church was not only a spiritual, but also a worldy authority- and so there was a lot of money and power to be wielded by bishops, which would attract corrupt people. Looked at in their historical context, these things make a bit more sense. (I sometimes wonder if the Church won't some day be frowned upon for not doing enough to stop abortion...) But, we really did sin in the crusades, and arguably even more so in the inquisition.

So, I think we have a responsibility to do 2 things- first, learn about the mistakes we have made in the past. (For this I suggest you get some cds from Mastthew Arnold, They are fantastic!) Secondly, we need to see that the Church is infallible, not inscrutible.- that is to say that it cannot make an error in teaching, though the Pope or even the church as a whole can sin.

As for indulgences... I'll explain the teaching first, and the abuses you refered to later.

This is a hard teaching to grasp, in large part because we have a protestant mindset nowadays. We read the Bible like protestants, we seperate the spiritual world from the physical world, like protestants, we think that we can do nothing to work towards our own salvation (Phil 2:12-13), like protestants. Alot of Catholic do not even realize that they are doing this.

Protestants do not believe in purgatory, in part because it is not explicitly biblical, and in part because it does not agree with their idea of 'justification'. Luther essentially taught that we are 'justified by faith (Rom 3:28)'- meaning, by his definition, declared just by believeing in Christ. Catholics understand both justification and faith differently. We think justification means we are actually made just rather than just declared just, and that this is a process. It is by faith insofar as we have to trust God that He will do what he says he will do in us, and so we have to cooperate with grace- the thing that sancifies us, or makes us just.

So because it is a process, and not just a one off thing (this one off idea gives protestants all kinds of problems, as they then have to wonder about 'once saved always saved', etc)- I say, because it is a process, if the process of sanctification is incomplete in this world, we have to complete it in the next.

So this is what your friend meant by 'getting to Heaven faster'- the purification process gets sped up. However, people who would have otherwise gone to Hell, could not have changed their destination through indulgences.

The seperation of physical and spiritual plays in, because protestants do not understand things like sacraments and relics, or even statues, because they effectively don't get how the physical realm is linked with the spiritual realm. In fact, they don't even understand sex! This is why they don't see that birth control is wrong. Interestingly, most protestants still believe in water with baptism, but they don't know why besides that Jesus said to do it that way. The Catholic understanding is that a sacrament is a physical sign of a spiritual reality- that it effects what it signifies. In other words, a physical thing has a spiritual effect. You can see how this makes no sense to the protestant mind set.

Lastly, they do not think that the Church has any real authority. The Catholic Church claims to have authority from Christ to 'bind and loose',(Matt 16:19) which means (in part) to release graces and make decisions about them! This idea is totally ludicrous to the protestant mind set- just as the idea that the Church has the authority to forgive sins is ludicrous. I should point out though that Jesus' contemporaries thought it was ludicrous too(Mark 2:1-12)- yet Jesus did it, and gave authority to his diciples to do likewise. (John 20:23). The Church does not presume to have this power- rather it is invested in them through Christ.

So, amazingly, the Church has the authority to release graces, and to set conditions for the release! Moreover, another thing protestants don't understand, is that one persons suffering can benefit another, and so we can become a source of grace for each other. So I can meet the required conditions, achieve an indulgence, and even transmit those graces to the soul of another. Today is Halloween... in 2 days it is "All Souls Day". Within a week of all souls day, I can gain a plenary indulgence (get out of purgatory free card) by going to confession, attending Mass, praying in the graveyard, praying for the intentions of the Pope, and having no attachment tio sin. I can get another plenary indulgence every day for 8 days, and get 8 souls out of purgatory! (Again, I must reiterate, the reason this idea seems so incongruent with your ideas about God and your soul is because you are already thinking like a protestant, not like a Catholic. You'll notice, however, that the Catholic mode of thinking can make much better sense out of Jesus' death on the Cross and how it saves us.)

Historically, however, abuses set in. It stands to reason that if you can gain indulgences by saying certain prayers or going on a pilgrimage, likewise you could get them by giving money to charity. And it may be that that charity would be, say, the building of a Church. Around Luthers time, St Peters Basilica was being built in Rome. Pope Leo X offered indulgences to people who gave alms to rebuild St Peres. People started effectively selling indulgences, and pocketing some of the money. It should be noted that even before this, Popes had been trying to reign in abuses like the sale of indulgences... so it would be somewhat misleading to say 'the Church sold indulgences', since really it was people in the Church and not the Church per se. You cannot 'sell' anything blessed, because that is the sin of simony. Likewise, you can't sell the blessed sacrament, or graces. Indulgences for alms should not be seen as puschasing grace, but rather as being rewarded with grace for generosity. But agian, people abused it and 'sold' indulgences. Anyway, this was one of the major things that outraged Luther and started the reformation.

As it stands, the Church affirms the idea of indulgences, but recognizes that the practices at that time were abusive. Shortly after the reformation started, the council of Trent was called, and they looked at this whole practice. They said that only the magisterium could 'publish' induilgences, and eventually added that these could never involve any fees or financial transactions.

So, there you have it. Indulgences is one of a miriad of historical examples where people are outraged by partial information and understanding, but if you do the research, you find that the Catholic position actually makes sense- even if people in practice abused principles found in theology.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Should I wear purple on purple day?

Question: K so this morning brought a dilemna my way and I wanted to know your opinion on it and the decision I made. So today is like wear purple day to stand up for those boys who committed suicide after coming out about being gay and then being bullied about it. Where my dilemna lies is that although as Catholics we do not think suicide is the right choice so we would support an anti-suicide thing, we also don't believe it is right to be gay. So do we support this purple thing or not? Yes I feel bad for those people and it wasn't right for them to be bullied because of their sexuality and it wasn't right for them to committ suicide, but I also don't think it's right to be gay. Kinda difficult. I sort of talked to a friend about it this morning because I didn't think as a Catholic I should support it, and she agreed, but was that the right call? Let me know what you think.

Tough question. I think that if you wear purple it would suggest to people that you support "gay rights", and thus that you are endorsing homosexuality. On the other hand, while as Catholics we think homosexuality is sinful, we do not think homosexuals ought to despair. Suppose there was a similar day as a consequence of, say, prostitutes who felt desperately trapped in their prostitution, and so commited suicide. If we wore, say, Red, on that day, to show our solidarity, I don't think it would be seen as an endorsement rather than as an indication that we want to be there for, and help and love the prostitutes. Whcih is exactly how we should be for the gays! (To be clear, we should also make the distinction that it is not bad to be gay, but to have gay sex. Heterosexual sex is also wrong in many circumstances!)

So, what we somehow have to do as Catholics is clearly communicate a stance that we are supportive and loving of the homosexual person, while still regarding homosexual actions as sinful. Like Christ when He spoke to the woman caught in adultery, and said "Go and sin no more." He clearly loved her, much more so than the religious radicals who were all too happy to condemn her for her sin, but did not endorse or encourage her sin.

I never heard that it was wear purple day. I think at some level I would say that yes you should wear it, coupled with some symbol of Catholicism (crucifix, etc) but then have the courage to stand up for what is true and to tell people what you think when asked. The problem is for the homosexual they are only recieving 2 messages; One, that they are OK, and their whole identity is homosexuality, therefore they are little more than their sexual drives. The other that they are perverted and despised and damned. The truth is somewhere between those 2 extremes, and frankly the only place for hope is in the truth. We have to get the message out!

I think too that the gay community deliberately wants to polarize the argument- if everyone who does not endorse them appears hateful and 'homophobic', then in the name of tolerance everyone will be too scared to take a stand. We have to somehow outsmart that trap!

I guess this answer is probably longer than what you were looking for, and still vague. I'm of two minds on the subject, and have been sorting my own thoughts as I type! I don't have any purple myself, so it's not an issue for me, but I would suggest that whichever way you chose to go, you're probably good, provided you're prepared to speak for truth!

How do I know I am right?

Considering that people all over the world believe different things, and believe them strongly, how do you know that what you believe is right?

I often wrestle with this very idea- and frankly, I do not know that I am right! That said, I would be willing to die for what I believe.

The difficulty is that, we have to make a decision one way or another. Faith is a virtue, not an emotion, subject to our circumstances. That means that by its very nature, Faith is , at least in part, a choice. (It is also a gift, but that's another discussion!)

There is a sense that we should not commit to any one thing being true until we are absolutely certain that it is. The difficulty is, that I think absolutel certainty is impossible- therefore, adopting this philosophy we will live and act as though nothing were true!

We do have to make a choice at some point. Supposing there was a group of people lost in the woods. Each had their own idea of which way was the way, or the best way, out. No one knew for certain. For our analogy, let's suppose that no one was looking for them. The idea that they ought to just sit tight and wait for the way out to become aparent is a mistake. They will die lost. However, if they can apply their reason, determine which idea is most likely true, and follow it- that's probably their best chance.

Here the reasone why I think Catholocism is the most likely thing to be true, thus I choose to believe it and act accoridngly.

1. Miracles: There are some miracles, notably Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miracle at Lanciano, that I do not know what to do with unless I believe that they are true. They only other possibility in my mind is that they are very elaborate and well done hoaxes. (I will not humor the notion, espoused by Richard Dawkins, that the molecules just happened to rearrange themselves in the shroud just such that an image appears there, and all the other anomolies...). The difficulty is, supposing 500 years ago, Juan Diego thought he should decieve people into Catholocism by painting a picture on his robe... how is it that the illusion continues to persist and amaze under scientific scrutiny some 500 years later? Either the Catholic faith is true, or it is deliberately and continually deceptive. Either divine or diabolical.

I have also had personal 'miracles', but we'll leave those where they are for now, since they cannot undergo any scientific or objective scrutiny.

2. Logic. I suspect that if there is a spiritual reality, which by its very nature cannot be percieved by science, than either we would have to guess at it, or it would have to be revealed. Guessing would have no assurance whatsoever, so this leaves revelation.

Here's the difficulty with that. If truth is revealed, then it would have to be revealed by a good and personal God. (An impersonal God would not bother to reveal truth, and a God that is not good may not tell the truth). This immediately eliminates all the Eastern religions, Buddhism or hinduism, for example, which do not hold that there is a good and personal God who would revel 'himself' to us.

The western religions, including Christianity (and the sects- Jehovahs witnesses, Mormons, etc), Islam and Judaism. I will not here get into how Christianity fulfills Judaism,but there is remarkable evidence for that. I would argue however that Christianity- which holds that God is not only good and personal, but moreover is love, which may be said to be a perfection of those qualities- In Christianity, God by His nature suddenly wants to know us, and thus to reveal Himself to us. These ideas are ludicrous to Islam, which holds it as nothing short of blasphemy that Christians refer to God as Father.

So if the only way we could know truth is if God was good and personal, does it follow that the most good and personal God, ie, that of Christianity must necessarily be the right one? I guess not- it's not water tight, but it seems extremely likely to me!

Lastly, within Christianity. Supposing it really mattered to God that we know the truth, and moreover that we are united. (Jesus certainly indicated that this was important.) Either one of 2 things would make this happen. Either God would reveal Himself, and thus truth, to every honest and discerning person who sought Him, and thus all Christians would come to the same conclusions. I think history has demonstrated that this has not happened. The second option is that Christ would make a church infallible- that is, give it His assurance that it would never be wrong. Again, we can see if by history this has happened.

So far as I know, there are only 2 churches making that claim- Catholics and, to some lesser degree, Mormons. As to Mormons, they have also to claim that for several centuries this protection was lifted, and so there was no assurance of truth, and it was only recently restored.

I guess the question is, which Church has never contradicted itself on matters of faith and morals? It should be so remarkably easy to demonstrate that Catholocism has done this... unless it hasn't.

So, the long way around, it comes to this. I do not 'know' the truth, in the scientific, objective sense. I do know my experiences, but those don't weigh much objectively against the experiences of countless others who disgree with me. But in light of history and logic, I have made a decision, and hope to grow in the virtue of faith by living by that decision.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am a girl, with a girlfriend. Does God still Love me?

The thing about homosexuality, when it comes to sex, is that it is not perfectly chaste. This is because sex is supposed to be at least open to children. Since homosexual sex cannot possibly create children, it likewise cannot possibly be chaste. That being said, niether is sex before marriage, since it is not commited. Or sex within marriage using contraception. Or so on and so forth. Any kind of sex that is not part of a loving, commited relationship, or open to life, is sinful. (It gets pretty technical beyond that.... like a man and woman in marriage can have oral sex, but the act must end in intercourse, so that the act is open to life...etc.)

That said... Gods love is unconditional- period. Having a girlfriend does not affect the degree to which God loves you. But I would suggest to you that it is a sinful practice. (I say suggest, because the Church does not teach extensively on dating, or really at all, leaving alot of it open to interpretation.)

So I will tell you my opinion. Any sexual act outside of marraige would be sin- whether hetero or homosexual. Marriage to another woman is impossible. Obviously there is legal marriage, but it is not sacramental. If you get married legally, but not in the Church, than as far as the Church is concerned, it is still 'extramarital'. Our culture does not readily understand this... they think everyone should simply be permitted to do what they want.

But the Church has 7 sacraments, each of which celebrates something Holy. Heterosexual sex actually consumates the marriage, which is part of the reason that it is kept for marriage. It is Holy, and is in fact part of the sacrament.

Since homosexual sex has always been regarded, in scripture and in Church tradition as a sin, what our culture is asking the Church to do is to say "Something that was once sinful is now Holy." This is a blatant contradiction, and the Church claims to be infallible- which means it can never be wrong. If it can never be wrong, or even if it makes the claim, this means it can never contradict itself. If it did, then you would know that it was full of it, and frankly why would you have to believe anything else it said?

The purpose of dating is to lead to marriage- so dating another girl means setting her up to be broken up with. Or deliberately planning to one day live in sin- which would actually be sinful now. What you are doing then is choosing to put her before God.

This is an incredibly difficult thing, and I have no doubt that your feelings are deep and real, if you say they are. However, the longer you are with her, the deeper the feelings will become.

No one knows what exactly 'causes' homosexuality. In fact, it is something that people cannot even speak openly about. If a psychologist, say, proposed a theory about it, other than 'they were born that way', he could be labelled homophobic, and ostracized from his community. In fact the gay movement has effectively used the word homophobic to make sincere dialogue on the issue impossible. Since I published this response on my blog, people may accuse me of homophobia and hate mongering.... that is the degree to which the discussion has been killed.

I like to say that I am not a homophobic, since I do not fear homosexuals, neither do I hate them, neither am I suspicious of people of being homosexual when they are not. People who like to label people like me homophobic in fact show those symptoms towards me- thus I would say that they are homophobophobic.

Be that as it may, homosexuality is like anything else- the deeper you go, the deeper it gets. I do believe that, though you would have a very hard struggle, that it is not impossible for you to leave this relationship, and future relationships with girls. The gay movement will tell you to 'come out', and essentially identify yourself as gay, and act as though this attraction is what defines you. Take your identity in Christ and nothing else!

Consider, I also have attractions to women- besides my wife, even! I sometimes may be in a situation where, nothing sexual is happening, but I know that I am fostering a relationship with a woman. So, because of my state in life, I also have to choose not to allow those attractions to develop. Celibate men and women are evidence of something that our sex crazed culture cannot accept- that it is possible to live a celibate life!

So what's the deal then? Yes, God loves you, as much as anyone else, and more than anyone else will ever love you. But you do have a difficult road ahead of you, especially in the short run. You do need to choose between God and your girlfriend. I will pray for you that you have the grace to make the right choice.

God loves you whether you're dating or not, right?

QuestionGod loves you whether you're dating or not, right?

Answer I think you know already that Gods love is unconditional. This means that no matter what, he loves you. Even if you're Hitler- which I hope you're not.

Dating is also not a sin, as far as I know. I should tell you that I generelly advise against it for teenagers... dating is supposed to prepare you for marriage. But when you're a teenager, more likely than not, the relationship will end in a breakup. So, something that is supposed to train you for life long commitment instead trains you for divorce, because dating couples think that as long as they are excited about each other, they should stay together, but if the novelty wears off, or they start getting annoyed with each other, or one of them gets excited about someone else.... then they should break up. Alot of people get divorces for these same stupid reasons.

That said, if you are in a relationship, use it ot train you how to love. Just don't think of it in selfish terms!

But alot of teens also feel that their value is somehow hinged in how attractive they are to the opposite sex. So if they don't or have never had a boyfriend or girlfriend.... they think they are less attractive, thus less lovable, less valuable, etc. That is a lie! You should know that men actually find women more attractive if they date less. For example, Catherine never dated anyone before dating me. But she is very beautiful- and in her case, it was not for lack of opportunity. The fact that she said 'no' to other guys spoke to her fine quality in my mind!

But your value should never be hinged in some external thing. People take their identity in all kinds of things- popularity, sports, intelligence, faith, wealth, jobs, etc. You should try to take your identity in Christ, which means this....

If you wonder how good you are, or how beautiful, or any number of like questions, ask Christ. If you don't hear Him answer, try to guess which answer He would give. Jesus is truth, so He cannot lie. The fact that we can guess what He would say indicates that we actually already know the truth- but people and our culture lie to us so much, and we repeat those lies to ourselves so much, that sometimes the truth gets drowned out by lies. Choose to speak and believe the truth!

How do we persuade people to love God?

QuestionI beleieve that love is more a matter of will than feelings. So how does one convince another to fall in love? You can set two people up on a date based on similar interests but how do you actually persuade them to love each other...particularly when you think it should be easy if it is simply a choice.

How do you see our role as Christians being carried out in evangelization without being "salesmen" for Christ?


I once made the mistake of thinking that if Love is a choice, than I should reasonably be able to choose who I would fall in love with. I noticed that if I had an interest in a girl, and it was not reciprocated, I could pretty easily get over it. (Looking back, that's probably because I had not invested enough emotionally in the first place....)

So one day, a fairly attractive, Christ seeking woman began pursueing me. I was not interested. Women like to know the reason why, and I think that if I were to offer a reason, it would be jusdging her or based on my pride, and I knew that. She sincerely desired holiness and loved God, and I did find her objectively attractive, so I decided to make a go of it, and choose to love her.

It was an utter disaster. Now I think that there is an element of love, I call it 'spark', which has no rational, and is not really subject to the will (though you can choose to be romantic...) but is kind of- supernatural. I still think the will is very highly involved- even being married now, I can choose to dwell on my wifes faults, or I can focus on her virtues. You can imagine which one will fan the spark into a flame, and which one will smother it and put it out. But the spark itself has to be there.

This causes problems for loving God, if you follow the analogy all the way through. But this is actually a theological question for me anyway. The Bible says "You did not choose me, but I chose you." So how can we choose Christ anyway? This is actually a massive debate among Christians, and the churches teaching on the matter is unclear to me. But I think that it can basically come down to the same thing as with my wife- did I choose her, or did she choose me? We both choose.

I think that if we want people to want Chrsitianity, if we are going to effectively evangelize, we have to do it as lovers, not as salespeople. You can't sell Christianity. You can only tell people how wonderful Christ is and how glad you are to be in love with Him, and hope other people will eventually fall in love with Him too. I already do that with my wife- tell people how wonderful she is, and hope people will love her. (but not as much as I do!)

As a youth coordinator, I kind of 'set people up on dates', if you will, with God- set the environment, create the occaision, then sit back and hope that they meet God themselves.

Should I ditch friends who are a bad influence?

Question: The people I am hanging out with are starting to get into things that I dont necessarily approve of and if I decide to say anything about it they will push me away or ignore me and I dont want to lose them as friends and its really hard for me to just watch them do this. Like I really have been praying
and I still dont know what to do. It's out of my control what they are doing.

The biggest problem is though is that I am the only one who is staying out of the whole mess. Its really difficult because I am the only one who doesn't smoke or get high. And I can say no, I know what to do but I just want someone to say no with me.

I know that i have alot of friends from camp that will be there for me but, I dont have anyone at school to support me. In all honesty I feel so alone. Like I have to do this by mysef and I dont know what to do... so if you could give me some
advice or know someone that goes to my High School that I can hang out with please let me know.

Answer I'll try to think of whether or not there's anyone at your High School that you can hang out with- there must be some other camp people there, I would think! But I do have this suggestion. Why don't you get involved in the youth groups and events happening in Cyour area? That way you will start making more camp like friends that you could hang out with on evenings and weekends- and probably you'll meet some kids from your school that you didn't even know were into their faith!

I know that there are a lot of good people from your church that you may be able to hang out with. Or call the other camp peaople that live in your area- you guys should get together more, form your own group of friends who can support each other.

Are you coming to the Retreats at camp? That's another possibility. We are planning more and more retreats, so that teens don't have to go a whole year between experiencing God, and they can grow more quickly, and develop better friends.

I know you don't want to hear this, but in truth if your friends are dragging you down- then they are not helping you become who you are- you may have to make new friends. Friendship is valuable, of course, but not as much as your faith life! Ask the question, are they helping your grow closer to God, or tearing you away? Do they make you authentically happier, or just sadder? (That goes for boyfriends too, only more so. Is your BF into this stuff?)

I will pray for you lots, and am there for you if you need someone!

Are white lies OK?

Question: If someone asks you how you are and you tell them that nothing is wrong but there is something wrong, is that considered a lie?

Answer I suppose that saying nothing is wrong when something is isn't perfectly honest, but I don't think it is sinful. There are those who value honesty and straightforwardness to the point where they are often causing conflicts, etc. Prudence is the steersmen of all virtues, and sometimes it is simply not prudent to be honest!

That said, I suppose you could just say something like "Oh, I'm just in a bad mood" or "I'm tired" and thus avoid the question without lying!

How far is too Far?

Warning: This post contains explicit language.


Lately I've been asked several questions by young adults. I'm going to name things by their name since you seem to be okay with that from what I saw in the presentation. Can you help me to define:

When speaking about the 4 bases in physical intimacy (1st-kiss, hug, 2nd touching, 3rd, orgasm stuff, 4th intercourse), 3rd and 4th are definately for marriage and should lead to 4th base. Is 2nd base okay? Girls wonder if it's okay for guys to touch their breasts if their relationship is mature, yet not married yet.

Also, sleeping in the same room together.

The guys say they need some leaway/ range to grow in their intimacy on the physical level in the relationship, they seem to have a plan of steps. Girls are satisfied with step one, unless they have worldly values and want to experiment or jump to 4th base quickly.

Especially the young adults in their 30s, they seem to rationalize that they are mature and can be trusted, so sleeping in the same room, touching/caressing, laying on top of eachother, etc is okay. Any clarification in this matter would help.


The thing about Chastity is that it is about an attitude or a virtue, not about a legalistic rule. The result of this is that I can't give a hard and fast rule that works for everyone. Chastity is about an expression of love, which cherishes the others sexuality and protects it, both before and within marriage.

The problem with fore play is that it's supposed to come 'before the play.' Kissing and touching obviously cause arousal and lead to heightened desire for sex. It is not really intended with pleasure as an end in itself.

When a couple engages in this kind of behaviour, it automatically triggers the hormonal response in them- oxytosin in the woman and epinephrine in the man. The result of this is an increase in bonds and pleasure, and motivation to go further, and a dimminishment of inhibitions. All of these things are great within a marriage, but are destructive outside of marriage. If a couple is in a casual relationship and they continue to cause oxytosin, for example, to be formed, this relationship will hurt more when broken. It still sends a message to the brain of both parties that this relationship will last forever, because any actions which induce those hormones is intended to be in a relationship that lasts forever.

In short, every couple will have to determine for themselves where the line is that they will not cross, but that line should be based upon their bodies response to an action. As soon as the action is 'turning them on', or sexual in nature, it has crossed the line. I have serious doubts that there are many out there who can french kiss without crossing that line. When I was engaged, that was the boundary I set with my (now) wife. In time, I had to add that we would not even kiss on the lips, since for us that was arousing, and made it more difficult to keep our other resolutions.

Anything you save for marriage will be special between you and your spouse. (My wife never kissed anyone before me.) Anything you make common with other relationships will take away. I suggest that if a couple is in their thirties, and feels that their relationship is at a level that is mature enough that this would be apropriate, they ought to ask themselves why then they have not gotten married. If they are dedicated for life, then they should make it official before God and their families before acting like it is official at home.

I don't think it is wrong for guys and girls to sleep in the same room, but never just one of each. That is too compromising, and tiredness also takes away inhibitions. Chastity is something to be guarded. (I speak from personal experience on this.)

Catholic teaching on this is so profound that no gloss over regulation will be satisfying. I highly recommend "Good News about Sex and Marriage" by Christopher West. In it he summarizes the teaching, and it has a handy glossary for specific questions.

If abortion is made illegal, what then?

I'm curious what your thoughts are about this abortion question. It's just something I came across tonight that I've been playing around with in my head.

So the question I would have for my pro-life friends is about policy. What specific policy recommendations do you call for? If doctors continue to perform abortions once it has been made illegal, what charges do you intend to bring against them? What crime do you think a woman ought to be charged with if she seeks an abortion? If you believe that women are “victims” of abortion, do you see them as emotional children who cannot be held accountable for their actions? Do you think penalties should be enhanced for women who seek more than one abortion over the course of their lifetimes?

(Excerpt from

Thanks for the thought provoking question! I may throw that out to my pro life friends as well. Actually, I think that strategically it makes more sense to talk about consequences than about just outlawing it. It shifts the debate to actually assuming that it should be illegal.

I think that what we need is an overall culture shift. In a relativistic culture, it is seen as moral because it is legal. To make abortion illegal would be to make it, to some degree, socially unacceptable, and force people to ask the question as to why it is illegal, and what it is about human life that is so worth protecting. So honestly, I don't think we would go straight to huge consequences- but start small. Here's the road map I would propose;

1. Stop paying for abortions through health care. Force it to be privatized and get it out of our hospitals.

2. Make abortion illegal- in so doing, we would close the abortion clinics. Doctors who continue to perform abortions would lose their licence, and could be charged in all the ways that doctors who practice illegal medicine or practice medicine without a licence, including jail time if necessary. (Restrictions on term length would have to be established by the courts, and we'd allow the courts to decide the particulars in each case.) During this phase, it would still be legal to go to other countries to get abortions, but due to the unavailablity in our own country this would be unlikely. (This is the present situation in Ireland, although the EU will probably force them to change it.)

3. Work to change the culture so that the very concept of abortion is morally repugnant, just as slavery or racism is. In time, people promoting abortion could be viewed with the same disdain as those who promote racially based slavery. Later there could be a discussion about limmiting freedom of speech on this topic, however that's a little totalitarian. The same abuses presently in place wherein you could be charged with promoting hatred for speaking against homosexuality could happen here, and in my opinion we don't want to go there.

This does beg an interesting question. Abortion is murder, by technical definition. In time I suppose the laws could reflect that, and the woman who has committed an abortion could be subject to the same consequences as the woman who murders her born baby. But I think that is so distasteful to our culture that we'd have to start smaller, by just treating it as an illegal medical procedure. Doctor is consequenced, patient is not. That would resolve most of the problems. I think the consequence to the crime has to reflect the culture the woman is in, so we have to change the culture before we can swing the consequence.

It makes me wonder. Is arguing that abortion is 'murder' (or even 'genocide') an effective technique, or is it so extreme as to be easily discredited by our oponents and therefore unlikely to ever effect policy?

Does God reject people if they reject chastity?

Questions; A while ago I had a conversation withfriend of mine from Church and we got to discussing chastity and how we each felt about it. We’ve both been to a few talks about chastity and so we both know the church’s general view of the issue and we were just talking more in depth about it.

I told her about how I have chosen to remain chaste until I’m married and how that is a very important decision to me and she told me her feelings about it. Now she is very religious and proud to call herself Catholic. She loves Jesus and comes to church and Youth Group events and in general loves God. The big thing though that she does not personally agree with is the chastity and contraceptives issue. She understands the Church’s position on it, but she just doesn’t agree with it.

This doesn’t mean she is sleeping around (she is still a virgin) but she has a boyfriend whom she loves very much and wants some day when she feels their relationship has matured more to have sex with him. She explained to me how she looks at it. She said that even now in her relationship with him, she wants to show him how much she loves him and that she wants to share herself with him. Her and her boyfriend have talked about it quite a bit and he is very non-pressuring about it (he is not religious, but he respects her own views on faith). He has told her he is prepared to wait until she feels ready. She told me that if/when they do have sex she is not going to go to confession asking God to forgive her for what she has done because she does not feel that she would have done something wrong.

I was generally left not knowing what to tell her. I don’t think any less of her because of this decision of hers, and I feel that God wouldn’t love her any less, but then how would God feel about it if he wants us to remain chaste until marriage? I know that no one knows how God feels about things, but I was just wondering how the church would view this. Would it reject her because of her decision? I just didn’t know what to tell her.

Interesting questions!

First off, God never rejects us because of sin, so you're right in saying God does not love her any less. Some people with good intentions talk about how our sins hurt God, but in truth they do not hurt Him dirrectly, it just 'hurts' Him to see us hurting oruselves.

God created sex in such a way that the more you have it, the more in love you will be. In women it causes the formation of a hormone called oxytosin, in men epinephrine. These hormones basically communicate a message to the body saying "we will be together forever, no matter what." If a relationship breaks, it is more devastating because of this. People will try to stay in unhealthy relationships because of the bond that is formed. It can also create a mixed message, because you essentially commit to each other and if you are not actually commited, it creates tension which often leads to the end of a good relationship. So your friend will want to have sex to express love, but in so doing will actually threaten the survival of the actual relationship!

In other words, sex is a physical expression of the marriage commitment. When you have sex you're saying with your body "we're married." But if you're not married, you're lying- and you're turning what should be the most intimate gift of self donation and love into a lie. You're essentially settling for a counterfit- sex in marriage is way better and can be way better than sex outside of marriage!

Sex is actually part of the sacrament- it is that holy. We say that a marriage is not 'consumated' until you have sex. So sex outside of marriage is sacriledge.

The reason God (and as a result, the church) demands that we keep sex for marriage, and that every sexual act be open to life, is becaue God wants every sexual act to have the fullness of meaning and openess and love, and he does not want people settling for a mediocre and superficial sexual experience. God gave us sex as a profound gift, but instead of recieving it as a gift we take it and trample it and cheapen it, in an effort to consume the goodness, either pleasure or love, out of it, instead respecting it and its power.

The difference between premarital sex and the sex God intends is similar to the difference between swimming in a wave pool, and swimming in the actual ocean. One is only a cheap replica, and as a result, the thrills are only cheap replicas. She should expect more!

Here's what I suggest, practically speaking. No matter what, listen to her, respect her, and love her. That consistency will eventually be a witness even if she does not listen to your words. But challenge her to take very seriously the choice she is making, including taking the time to read what the Church teaches and why she teaches it. I suggest she read "Good News about Sex and Marriage", by Christopher West. In fact, since her BF is so respectful, and since the choice essentially indicates a commitment to each other, he should read it with her, and they should discuss it! Heaven forbid they should rush into something based on a sense of 'readiness' and then discover they regret it!

God Bless! Don't forget to pray. As with all things in Christianity, logic only carries you so far, true conversion comes from grace, and grace comes through prayer.

What is the catholic teaching on Divorce?

Question: What does the church say on divorce? I know that a divorced person cannot get remarried in the Catholic church, unless they get an annulment. Is that the only standpoint of the church?

If you get an anulment, it actually means you were never really married in the firstplace. The marriage is 'anulled'- as in null and void. This happens if you did not enter into the marriage 'fully, freely, faithfully, open to life'. People often lie in their vows- like when they say they will welcome children, but they have no intention of having children, or they say they'll be faithful, while planning to cheat. For a sacrament to be valid, certain conditions apply, so just like if you lie in confession you don't actually get absolved, if you lie in matrimony you don't actually get married. In other words, for Catholics, there is no divorce!

It may be permissible to split up, like say if the situation is abusive, etc. However, you are not divorced. This means, you can't remarry- or even go on dates, etc, which would be unfaithful. If you need a legal divorce, (so that your 'spouse' is not your legal next of kin, has no decision making power in case of an accident, etc.) that can also be done, but you are not divorced by the Churches standards.
(Often abuse can be grounds for an anulment.)

I see why God hates divorce- it destroys a family. The whole reason God made marriage and sex in the first place is so we could have families and learn about self sacrificial love. Divorce is extremely selfish, and most often parents do not realize the long term effects that it has on their children.

St Rita is good to pray to, because she was in an aweful and even somewhat abusive marriage, but she stayed faithful and prayed for her husband and eventually he converted.

What if I marry someone, contrary to Gods will?

Question: I believe that God has a plan for us all that will lead us to be what God made us to be, however we often stray from that plan. I also believe that marriage is meant to be a lifelong bond and unity between a man and a woman. So what happens when a couple gets married and that isn’t in God’s plan for each one? CanGod’s plan can’t change to incorporate the new marriage that happened?

Answer: I believe that God is constantly reworking His plan. Some people have what (I believe) is the mistaken idea that saying God has a plan is like saying we're predestined. I think Gods plan for our lives is not so written in stone- He wants to see us fulfill our potential, but every time we mess up, a new strategy must be laid. It's like a coach having a plan for a team.

The thing is, God wants everyone of us, and deliberately wills each one of us, right?

But some of us were concieved by rape. Frankly, I'm sure all of us have at least one ancestor concieved in sin, which means none of us would even exist if not for sin! Even Jesus had ancestors concieved in sin. Does this mean God wills the sin?

So, Gods will is not so inflexible. I sometimes wonder if maybe I really was called to priesthood. But either way, I've made a vow to my wife- so Gods will for me now is that I be a faithful husband and father.

Would hGod “condone” the married couple divorcing if that puts them back on the path that God had set for them?

Answer: God hates divorce- He would never condone it. In the Bible Jesus made one exception, that divorce was permissible in the case of 'unchastity'. Most people think this means that if one spouse cheats on another, its OK- but scholars say it means that if your marriage is not sacramental, therefore not valid, or common law- basically if you're living in sin, then you can break the 'marriage'.

When you make a vow before God to be faithful to your spouse, there should no longer be any doubt about what Gods will for your life is. His will now is that you are the best spouse possible, and you partner with the other person to gro9w closer to God.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How do I put God before my other relationships?

Question: So you know that we always say that God should come first. And that he's the number one thing and all. And I totally agree with that.
But recently, I've found myself really attached to someone and putting them before God and anything related to that. I mean...what do you do? You're married and have kids, and I'm sure you love them like...ALOT. But how can you put God before them? In a manner?

Answer A very good question! If Catherine ever said to me (and I am confident that she would not) "choose me or your God", I would have to choose God. That is to say, that even if it meant losing her- and the kids- I would never abandon my faith. Neither would I allow her to compromise me by getting me to sin- suppose she was a mob boss and she wanted me to be her hit man. Or more likely, suppose she wanted me to start using contraception- since that is contrary to Catholic faith, I would sooner have to abstain from sex!

In your situation, supposing that this other is in fact a guy, you can easily see how he might intentionally or not pressure you into sinfulness. I had a dating relationship like that- had to end it.

Day to day, though. My prayer life ought to be my number one priority.

Good advice is to decide which things are your priorities, put them in a list, and make decisions accordingly. So for me, I would say faith, family, jobs, health, intellect, friends. Notice entertainment does not come into the list at all- funny how so often I will put it before family or prayer or exercise!!!

So in short, putting God first is making the decision that He is your highest priority... Then acting accordingly. Make prayer time more important than speaking with this person. It does not mean you have to spend more time with God.... Mother Teresa, as I understand, spent a whopping 3 hours in prayer each day. But, that still left her with a healthy 12 hours to work with people. Everything we do, even facebook, should be for God. But setting asside some quality time- ie prayer time- is essential to keeping the link and priority in place. And secondly, do not allow any relationship to lead you into sin. If ever a relationship is doing that, you may be forced to sacrifice that relationship for the only one that will really matter.